``The Quality of Life''
Stardate: 46307.2
Rating: ** 1/2

Edited Length: 45:29
U.S. Airdate: November 29, 1992
Nielsen Rating/Rank: [13.2/1]

Guest Stars
Ellen Bry: [Dr. Farallon]
J. Downing: [Transporter Chief]

Co-Producer: Ronald D. Moore
Line Producer: Merri D. Howard
Producer: Peter Lauritson
Supervising Producer: David Livingston
Supervising Producer: Frank Abatemarco
Co-Executive Producer: Jeri Taylor
Executive Producer: Michael Piller
Written By: Naren Shankar
Directed By: Jonathan Frakes

[end credit]
Executive Producer: Rick Berman

[closing credits]
Co-Producer: Wendy Neuss
Story Editor: Brannon Braga
Story Editor: René Echevarria

Majel Barrett: Computer Voice


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Extended Synopsis (by Tim Lynch) ------------------------------------

The Enterprise arrives at the planet of Tyra 7A, where Geordi is inspecting the completion of a "particle fountain," a possible new mining technique. The scheduling and implementation problems of the fountain, however, quickly prove overwhelming, and a disaster is averted only with the help of an exocomp, a tool invented by the station's Dr. Farallon. The exocomp is designed to be a problem solver, and it not only replicates the tools it needs to do its jobs, but adds on new circuits in its own brain when encountering an unfamiliar task. It's a great breakthrough, and Picard agrees to Farallon's request for a 48-hour delay to use her exocomps to finish bringing the particle fountain up to full strength.

Unfortunately, this also falls prey to problems. One of the exocomps leaves a plasma conduit and "refuses" to return, apparently malfunctioning and burning out its command circuits. This proves fortunate for the exocomp, as the conduit exploded very shortly thereafter, but puzzles the examiners, who find large numbers of brain pathways that do not appear to have any impact on job performance. Farallon dismisses it as a malfunction now rendering the exocomp useless and returns to the station. Data, however, continues researching, and finds that approximately two hours after the exocomp burnt out its own control pathways, it rebuilt them once the danger had passed. After some thought, Data concludes that the exocomps may very well be alive, and urges Farallon not to continue using them.

Farallon protests, and at a hastily convened conference no immediate conclusion is reached. However, all parties do agree to test Data's hypothesis by recreating the situation where the "malfunction" occurred and seeing if the exocomp truly has survival instincts. In a test where a simulated disaster is set up for the exocomp to find while conducting a repair, the exocomp fails to flee on cue, thus convincing nearly all parties that it is, in fact, not a living being. Farallon returns to her work, leaving the one "defective" exocomp with Data. Data, however, continues testing, and when a conversation with Dr. Crusher distracts him from bringing the exocomp back after a "failure", he finds that the exocomp didn't fail the test at all. Rather, it saw right through it, realizing the "disaster" was a sensor glitch; and not only did it finish the initial repair, it repaired the sensors to correct the anomaly.

Before he has a chance to inform others of this situation, however, another mishap befalls the station, calling for its evacuation. Unfortunately, both Geordi and Picard are trapped on board it, with radiation levels rising rapidly. With time too short to send a shuttle or properly configure a photon torpedo, the only chance appears to be programming all three exocomps to beam into the particle stream and then detonate, shutting down the fountain. Data strenuously objects to this, but is overruled; and Farallon goes so far as to disconnect their command pathways just in case they malfunction and attempt to shut down.

Data responds to this by locking out the transporter controls, and refuses to release them even under threat of court-martial. In the end, Riker grudgingly agrees to reconnect the pathways and give the exocomps, if they are alive, the choice of whether to act or not on the situation. They choose to help, but not by destroying themselves. Rather, they beam into the station and absorb enough power from the core to open a "window" through which Picard and Geordi can be beamed. Two of three are subsequently saved, with the third remaining behind to hold the window open for the others. Farallon agrees not to exploit her creations any longer, and Picard informs an apologetic Data that risking all to fight for the exocomps' rights was "the most human decision you've ever made."

Highlight Listing:
"The Quality of Life" - Data risks Picard and Geordi's lives in order to protect another "living" machine.
Advertising Headline:
DATA'S DILEMMA! Data must choose between saving Picard and protecting a fellow machine!
TV log listing:
Data endangers Picard to save machine on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

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Andrew Tong

Technical design, graphic design, interactive features, HTML & CGI programming by Andrew Tong. || All materials Copyright © 1987-1995 by their respective authors. || Document created: January 28, 1995 || Last Modified: November 09, 2010