I have been watching the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I had forgotten how much I love it. However, one thing is distracting me: the writers are getting Data completely wrong. Living with Gene gives me a unique perspective on a supremely analytical mind, so I know how Data ought to be behaving. A few examples of writerly screw-ups:
Data and slang
Data is constantly confused by human slang, even though he is supposedly a walking multi-language dictionary. Picard uses the word “snoop” and Data is completely lost. Is snoop not in the dictionary? W00t is word of the year, for god’s sake. I know from watching Gene that a true android is only baffled by illogical proverbs. For example, “safe as houses” and “right as rain” will completely stall Gene in a conversation. “Houses aren’t necessarily safe,” he will insist. “What’s so right about rain?”
Data’s idiosyncratic use of language
Data likes to preface his questions with the word “query.” True robotic lifeforms know better, and imitate Dwight from The Office with “question.” Even Gene, who is much cooler than Dwight from The Office, shamefacedly admitted to prefacing a question with “question” during a work meeting.
Data’s imitation of human customs
Over the course of the series, Data tries out various human customs in an effort to understand our freakish, pointless ways. He paints a picture. He adopts a cat. He has sex with security chief Tasha Yar, who was nominated “most likely to appear in a pirate catchphrase” in the Enterprise yearbook. Gene, being superior to Data, effortlessly engages in many human pastimes, but knows better than to adopt a cat, whose disease carrying innards and spore-laden fur will only harm his quality of life. Also, he has never, to my knowledge, done sex with that Yar girl.
Data and contractions
Data is best known for his inability or unwillingness to use contractions. He says “cannot” for “can’t,” “do not” for “don’t,” and so on. This is the best way to tell him apart from his more human android brother, Lore. (It also helps if you have the logical capabilities of a toddler, because Lore is completely different and goes around acting like a twitchy psychopath. But the Enterprise officers usually take forty minutes to an hour to figure out these little deceptions.) Gene, by contrast, is completely able to use contractions. It is actually his apparently human girlfriend who goes around writing blog entries with few or no contractions in them, occasionally using the word ‘whom,’ and generally acting like a twitchy psychopath. I invite you to draw your own conclusions. Don’t feel bad if it takes you the full hour.