Thursday, 26 June 2014

Data Overload

07:30:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , , , 2 comments
There are weeks when the blog's theme causes a vast blank space to enter my mind, and then there are weeks - like this week - when an idea arrives almost instantly. And (because great minds think alike) it connects with Vicky's post from yesterday.

*             *             *

I've written a lot about the Sundays of my childhood. I guess they are the easiest days to recall because they followed a pattern: activity, Sunday Lunch, activity, bath and an episode of a 1960s television programme. When my sister and I offered up grumbles about there being no colour in those programmes, or laughed at the terrible special effects, my Dad would simply state, "It's  a classic. They don't make them like this anymore."  Whether it was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants or Star Trek: The Original Series, his response was always the same.

That same sound bite now spills from my mouth when I'm watching one of the 'classics' of my generation - almost impossible for the vocal cords to resist the sentiments of nostalgia.

*             *             *

Just over a year ago, after searching Netflix for a new TV series to watch, I decided (without intention of watching past episode one) to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was the start of what my boyfriend calls "an addiction" - working my way through each available series before starting from the beginning again. Currently, stuck on a cliff-hanger at the end of Season Six, I estimate I've probably watched all episodes up to this point at least four times. I can recite the opening monologue in time with Patrick Stewart and bore Shaun (who has only inadvertently watched occasional episodes) with analysis of characters, plots and themes.

Among the many episodes there are a few which a return to more frequently. Usually these episodes centre around Data as he explores and attempts to be more human. There are many human behaviours and characteristics that Data experiments with. From writing himself a new (and rather amusing) subroutine for small talk to attempting to learn about humour on the holodeck, Data forces us to re-examine and question what it actually means to be human.

One of the more central aspects of human identity that Data explores extensively throughout the series is creativity. Through the playing of music, acting, painting and even the writing of poetry, Data (the android incapable of feeling) engages with (sometimes more successfully than others)the very activities that enable us to express.

My favourite Data moment has to be from "Schisms" (Season Six, Episode Five) where Data gives a poetry recital to other members of  Enterprise crew.

Throughout the ages, from Keats to Giacomo, poets have composed odes to individuals who have had a profound effect upon their lives. 
In keeping with that tradition, I have written my next poem in honor of my cat. I call it, "Ode to Spot." 

                Felis Catus is your taxonomic nomenclature, 
                An endothermic quadruped carnivorous by nature. 
                Your visual, olfactory and auditory senses 
                Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defences. 

                I find myself intrigued by your sub-vocal oscillations, 
                A singular development of cat communications 
                That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection 
                For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection. 
                A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents: 
                You would not be so agile if you lacked its counter-balance. 
                And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion 
                It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion. 

                Oh Spot, the complex levels of behaviour you display 
                Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array, 
                And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend 
                I none-the-less consider you a true and valued friend. 

                Lieutenant Commander Data

Thank you for reading,



An impulsive berk said...

Data became the comic element of the series but he didn't start out that way did he? I love how the series evolved, with each character being allowed to reveal more if their past and surprising us.

My personal favourite character was Q for his ability to turn up on the bridge on a whim and make fun of humanity's ignorance and Riker - always worthwhile. There was a string spiritual and ethical element to the series too, picked out through Deanna's abilities and Q's presence. And Picard was the philosopher. Classic fantasy I guess but constantly imaginative.

High five fellow Trekkie!

Christo said...

Wondered when one of the Dead Goods would get around to Data, and might have know n that it would be you, Lara.
Thanks for quoting in full the "poem" from a truly interesting episode, and beginning to examine from Data's neutral but willing to become positive point of view the nature of unity and the purposes of creativity.
I'm surprised that being his rational self Data was not permitted to quote a great Ameican intellectual T S Eliot that we creatives are really "only whistling in the dark" to keep up our spirits when we are sure of our own mortality and not always convinced by the comfort of religious belief.
Thanks for writing interestingly about Star Trek - science fiction in America has been the path to publication of so many terrific U. S. authors.