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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old April 29 2014, 09:58 PM   #1
alpha_leonis
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Why was Data never promoted?

I was just recently rewatching "Encounter at Farpoint", and noticed (for the first time) that for Dr. Crusher's first scenes down on Farpoint Station, she was wearing Lieutenant Commander's pips -- which became full Commander once she arrived on the Enterprise. Assuming this was not just an error by the costuming department, it would appear that Crusher's promotion took official effect at the time of her arrival on the Enterprise.

That got me thinking about the other characters and their promotions: Worf and LaForge were both promoted twice during the run of the series (including the movies -- then Worf got another promotion during his time on DS9.)

Picard and Riker were both offered promotions to Admiral and Captain respectively, a couple of times during the series (that they both refused -- Riker finally accepted his promotion at "Nemesis".) Even Wesley became an acting Ensign during his time on the ship.

That leaves Data as the only main character never even to be *offered* a promotion, at any time from Farpoint to Nemesis (disregarding Yar and Pulaski, of course -- neither of whom was on board long enough to get promoted.) I'm wondering why that would have been, when he repeatedly demonstrated his competence in multiple ways?

I'm aware of the obvious "anti-android prejudice" argument, but I'm not sure I agree with it. "Measure of a Man" was a great episode, but I disagree with the entire premise behind it. Data had graduated the academy, received the rank of Lieutenant commander, and got assigned as the second officer of the Federation flagship already, *before* the show even started. It's a tough sell for me to believe that all of a sudden he started facing a glass ceiling.

A couple of thoughts on my end:

1. He doesn't have the ambition (or at least he didn't, before the emotion chip was installed.)

2. He's so exceptional at what he does as a Lieutenant Commander, that he's literally irreplaceable (therefore he can't be promoted out of a job that he's doing too well to quit.)

3. He's theoretically immortal, so he doesn't *need* to be promoted, at least not as quickly as his human shipmates. Compare to Vulcans like Spock and Tuvok -- their species is long-lived enough that they can have multiple careers. Tuvok even left Starfleet and came back, serving as "just" a Lieutenant at the age of more than a century -- more than double the age of his human commanding officer. (At the other extreme, I could see a short-lived but fast-learning species like the Ocampa being rushed through the Academy in the matter of months, with the ability to make Admiral after only a few years, due to the nature and necessity of their species.)

Other thoughts?
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Old April 29 2014, 10:19 PM   #2
Timo
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

As per "Datalore", Data spent three years as Ensign, then 12 years as junior and senior Lieutenant. Since he graduated in 2348, and "Datalore" is in the 2363-64 season, we may deduce that Data was last promoted immediately before "Encounter at Farpoint" and thus wouldn't be in a hurry for the next promotion.

Data's Ensign years are above par - LaForge seems to have done five, for example. His Lieutenant years compare badly with competition, but those would be the ones when he was under the command of people who saw no reason to support or encourage him in the field of ambition. After teaming with Picard, Data might have started working towards the next promotion at a somewhat higher pace, but as said, his LtCmdr rank was very recent and the seven years of TNG might not have been enough to accumulate the required promotion points, years at rank or whatever.

The real mystery is why Data doesn't move up or forward after TNG. It's not a matter of lack of ambition any more, or lack of support from on high, or a matter of glass ceilings (because Picard would be in a position to get Data through those at least up to the next rank, simply by having the android under his command). I guess we can deduce that Data himself decided not to actively pursue a fast-paced Starfleet career; we know that in certain timelines, he moved on to a civilian career. So I'd agree it's the "Vulcan" thing there, the "sense of no hurry".

That leaves Data as the only main character never even to be *offered* a promotion
In-universe, we wouldn't know whether he had been offered one or not...

In any case, promotions aren't "offered" as such. Career moves are, and in Starfleet, those often either involve promotion in rank, or are considered promotions in themselves. Riker was offered command and captaincy of various ships, but actually that doesn't mean he was offered the rank of Captain (check e.g. the wordings in "Icarus Factor" - no mention of promotion in rank there!).

Timo Saloniemi
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Old April 29 2014, 10:50 PM   #3
JirinPanthosa
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

Are we looking for production reasons or in universe reasons? As he was already 2nd officer it would be difficult to advance him in rank without moving him to a higher position on the ship which would involve Picard or Riker leaving.

In universe, I don't think anti-android prejudice played a factor because Picard has enough pull in Starfleet that if there was any resistance to giving him a deserved promotion he'd be able to demand Data get it. And after Redemption his ability to make command decisions is beyond question. But Data has a tendency to just do the job he's ordered to do efficiently, which as we learn in Tapestry is not the sort of behavior that gets you on the command track. You have to stand out and perform beyond expectations, and be a bit arrogant in your ambitions. Data only behaves like a commander if he's thrust into that position, in which case he performs it very well. But he doesn't naturally elicit attention for said behavior.
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Old April 30 2014, 12:54 AM   #4
Zippo and Flask
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

Timo wrote: View Post
As per "Datalore", Data spent three years as Ensign, then 12 years as junior and senior Lieutenant. Since he graduated in 2348, and "Datalore" is in the 2363-64 season, we may deduce that Data was last promoted immediately before "Encounter at Farpoint" and thus wouldn't be in a hurry for the next promotion.

Timo Saloniemi
We could cite "All Good Things..." in support of this argument due to the fact that Data is wearing Lieutenant, Junior Grade pips during the "in the past" segments.

However, one wonders how he skipped over the Senior Grade completely.
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Old April 30 2014, 05:41 AM   #5
Avro Arrow
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

alpha_leonis wrote: View Post
I was just recently rewatching "Encounter at Farpoint", and noticed (for the first time) that for Dr. Crusher's first scenes down on Farpoint Station, she was wearing Lieutenant Commander's pips -- which became full Commander once she arrived on the Enterprise. Assuming this was not just an error by the costuming department, it would appear that Crusher's promotion took official effect at the time of her arrival on the Enterprise.
Good catch! I had never actually noticed that before either.


Timo wrote: View Post
The real mystery is why Data doesn't move up or forward after TNG.
One could suppose he might have been promoted to full commander when he actually took over the first officer role as per Nemesis... but he died before that could happen. If so, then based on your 2363 date for his promotion to lieutenant commander, he would have spent 16 years at the lieutenant commander rank.

Zippo and Flask wrote: View Post
We could cite "All Good Things..." in support of this argument due to the fact that Data is wearing Lieutenant, Junior Grade pips during the "in the past" segments.

However, one wonders how he skipped over the Senior Grade completely.
I thought that was just a production error in AGT? Encounter at Farpoint always had him with lieutenant commander pips.
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Old April 30 2014, 12:51 PM   #6
Timo
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

Perhaps Data was experimenting with sloppy dressing that day? C.f. the way he experiments with sneezing...

Timo Saloneimi
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Old April 30 2014, 01:12 PM   #7
Robert Comsol
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

I think it mostly depends on Data's ambitions. Being in a familiar environment with people he was familiar with and still learning probably mattered more to him than a promotion.

We saw in "Redemption II" what happened when he got transferred to the Sutherland.

Unable to "connect" to its crew he was forced to pull rank at almost every moment. Surely he understood that he still lacked certain capabilities to deal with other Starfleet officers than those on the Enterprise-D.

Bob
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Old April 30 2014, 01:36 PM   #8
AgentCoop
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

^In Redemption, Data only really has trouble with Hobson, who was a d-bag. That doesn't necessarily indicate a larger problem of Data being unable to connect with the crew.
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Old April 30 2014, 01:56 PM   #9
Timo
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

There was the group dynamic of the bridge to be considered: XO Hobson had the undivided attention and respect of the others (played, IIRC, by relatives of the actor), and Data never made an attempt to circumvent Hobson and address the rest of the crew directly - except, of course, by giving them task-specific commands.

Any other approach from Data would of course have been deeply unprofessional and furthermore doomed to fail due to the group dynamic, and we have every reason to think Data understood that dynamic perfectly.

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Old April 30 2014, 02:49 PM   #10
Kevman7987
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

Maybe Data never got the promotion to full commander because he was never able to order holographic Geordi to his death like in that test Troi had to take?

Asimov's laws of robotics and all that?
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Old April 30 2014, 03:34 PM   #11
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

^ Well, Data (not being a blue-shirt officer) never had to take that test in the first place.

@Timo: Where'd you get the idea that the other Sutherland bridge crew were played by relatives of Timothy Carhart?
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Old May 1 2014, 12:14 AM   #12
Armored Saint
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

The purpose for Data as character was his quest for humanity, so a promotion wouldn't have been especially useful. At least, it had been considered for the future (imperfect ),
AgentCoop wrote: View Post
^In Redemption, Data only really has trouble with Hobson, who was a d-bag. That doesn't necessarily indicate a larger problem of Data being unable to connect with the crew.
As third in command on the Enterprise, I suppose he had to deal whith a lot of different officers (newly assigned or simply not used to work with him on a daily basis).
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Old May 1 2014, 12:20 AM   #13
urbandefault
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

If Data wanted to be promoted he would have had to transfer to another posting. In his position on the E, he had hit the glass--or transparent aluminum--ceiling.
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Old May 1 2014, 07:26 PM   #14
Timo
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

@Timo: Where'd you get the idea that the other Sutherland bridge crew were played by relatives of Timothy Carhart?
The TNG Companion mentions that "Terry" and "Keith" were his brothers. The first-name basis so prominent in the episode is probably not intended to indicate actual family relationship, but it's clear the bridge is a "family" in the figurative sense, and Data is intruding. Perhaps long missions with little crew rotation, as witnessed on the E-D, are the norm for big ships like this?

If Data wanted to be promoted he would have had to transfer to another posting.
Why? We haven't heard of a rule that would call for the Chief of Ops Dept to be of lower rank than the XO. And there certainly isn't any rule about the COO having to be of some specific rank and having to quit if promoted.

Data would in any case be junior to Riker in service years at Commander rank, hence no threat to the hierarchy of the bridge. Time-at-rank defines the command relationship when rank pins suggest a tie.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old May 1 2014, 07:43 PM   #15
Mark_Nguyen
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Re: Why was Data never promoted?

I prefer to think that IN GENERAL, rank an position on a ship are commensurate with the relative importance of that ship in the fleet. For whatever reason Riker was a full Commander, whereas IN GENERAL a first officer of a starship tends to be a Lieutenant Commander in rank (In the TNG era, we have Sisko on the Saratoga, that guy on the Odyssey, Cavit and Chakotay on Voyager, etc.). Because the Enterprise was a flagship of the fleet, it follows that the XO could be a higher rank so as to make a chain of command easier, or as indicator of seniority, or even an indicator that this guy SHOULD be a Captain if he'd had any ambition himself..

Similarly, Data was always the second officer, so making him one rank under Riker makes a certain logical sense. Otherwise you're a full Lieutenant or Lt. Commander if you're a department head, have seniority as such, etc. I'm sure that IN GENERAL, Starfleet positions dictate you can't be above a certain rank for a given position unless you've been there forever or have earned it (or in the case of the medical / psychology position, have a rank that you can ameliorate only if you can order Geordi to his death).

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