Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by kitsune, Apr 12, 2009.
Has anyone compiled a list of every contraction Data used? I'm not having much luck with Google.
Why bother? He used them basically as often as any of the other characters.
Even if a writer or two thought otherwise, apparently Brent Spiner was never told that Data couldn't use contractions, or at least never accepted that utterly silly premise.
And in the end, not even the writers succeeded in making canonical the idea that Data couldn't use contractions. He could do anything he wanted with language - he could speak with the voice of Picard, quote limericks and jokes, switch over to French or sign language, or tell perfect, audacious lies without blushing or as much as blinking.
It was merely in terms of originality where he wasn't the perfect imitation of a human being. He could quote colloquial speech, but producing it was always difficult. He also lied best when using his formal patterns of speech. Apparently, other Soong androids were better educated in humanlike speech, or had fewer reservations. But Data wasn't retarded in such a manner that he couldn't say couldn't.
Most ridiculous moment: In 'Datalore', the episode that establishes the whole 'can't talk in contractions' shtick (indeed the plot hinges on it), Picard asks Data how he is.
Response- "I'm fine".
I believe he can use contradictions, but doesn't like to.
Because I'm OCD?
I wholeheartedly agree that it was a stupid premise.
I think they were originally trying to set him apart from the other characters by making his speech seem more mechanical and less "natural". Data can learn though. If he can learn new words and even new languages, there is no reason he can't integrate contractions into his speech.
What does "Datalore" really establish?
The relevant dialogue is limited to this:
Data doesn't say he cannot use contractions - he only refers to a general failure to be a perfect imitation of human. Nor does Lore ever claim that Data cannot use contractions - he merely observes that Data (usually) doesn't.
So even if the writers' guide wanted the writers to write that Data cannot use contractions, the writers of "Datalore" didn't obey. There is no evidence there that Data can't use contractions, and indeed he uses them in that very episode, not just in the sadistically humorous final "I'm fine", but earlier in the episode as well.
Wes doesn't deem contractions a surefire test of Dataness or Loreness, just a useful indicator. And he's the only one who even feels contractions could be a useful indicator - others pay no attention to such aspects of Data's speech patterns.
But did they ever have him whistle?
Well there's the most exaggerated statement of the year.
Sure, he slipped up from time to time, but I think that was mostly early on. I bet you can't name a time in season 6 when Data used a contraction, for example. Something tells me he didn't.
Another thing to consider: It's actually not always that easy to tell when a person is "using a contraction" and when that person is not. It depends somewhat on the person's dialect (not that Data had a distinctive dialect other than generic North American).
Among the things I do for a living is interview people and write articles based partly on those interviews. When I listen to the recorded interviews afterwards, "I am" doesn't always sound that much different from "I'm." When I use quotes, I use the actual quote, and so I really try very hard to write it exactly how the person said it. Trying to decide on whether something is a contraction...that is sometimes a lot harder than you might think. Contractions, after all, began merely a written means of conveying something that happens in speech, so the distinction isn't always clearcut.
Edit: "Wouldn't" vs. "would not" isn't usually a problem, same thing for "couldn't" vs. "could not," but "I'm," "I've," "they've"...those are a lot harder.
In the episode with Lal (Data's "child") ... they made a big deal out of her using contractions and talked about how data could not master that part of speech.
Data's favorite German philosopher was Immanuel Kannot. His favorite character in Lord of the Rings was a wood Not. And his favorite place on Earth was the I Will of Man.
I remember Riker making a big deal about it in the episode "Future Imperfect."
^That was just a small clue, Data's general behaviour was "off", especially when he couldn't calculate their travel time when Riker kept changing the speed and then made a bunch of excuses.
Lal had several advancements over Data, true. Unfortunately, the technique that allowed her creation was flawed.
A far more useful test of "Loreness" would be to just scan him. It's established in "Time's Arrow" that Lore was constructed with some earlier model parts.
But look at the context. Riker at that point is convinced that everybody around him is an impostor and an enemy. The odd behavior of Data earlier on has been just one of the multiple clues. It's Data's inability to do complex calculations that gives Riker the final clue; he then corners Data with that accusation, making the impostor stall and stammer - and then presses home the attack by pointing out the stalling and stammering and saying that the real Data would not behave that way.
The use of a contraction is not a tipping point, then: it's just one further blow in Riker's offensive aimed at a creature he already knows is not Data. The real Data might say "I do use language somewhat formally, Sir, but I have been known to utilize a contraction every now and then; your argument is somewhat overstated". The fake Data would be expected to crumble. Which he of course does, because it's not Riker confronting Data (real or fake) - it's Riker confronting his own subconscious, and that subconscious behaves according to Riker's expectations.
At that point of mental instability, I wouldn't consider Riker a credible source of information, and certainly I wouldn't trust his subconscious fantasies...
Edit: Dang, too slow. Well, consider the point repeated.
His contractions just before Lal was born were 2 minutes apart.
At this point, Riker was well aware that the whole thing was fake anyway. Regardless of how fast Data's computational speed was or whether or not he used contractions or whether or not Geordi could possibly be as incompetent as he appeared - they simulation still used Minuet's image as Riker's late wife.
And what happens if in any of those 1000s of alien languages he can speak there's a word in them that sounds like can't or won't, does that mean he won't be able to say those words either!
What has been established is that Data is the perfect mimic. So apparently he could pronounce Mr. Spock's other name, never mind "can't".
...Although Riker might have been jumping to conclusions with that one. After all, we have seen elsewhere that holocharacters are often created in the image of real people. Perhaps Riker at one point would get obsessed with hunting down the woman that the Bynars had used as their template for Minuet, and would indeed find her and marry her? Or then marry a suitable lookalike on the condition that she undergo some plastic surgery for accuracy? Or perhaps marry a hologram and adopt a kid?
It's only in the greater context of things appearing wrong that Riker can be absolutely sure that his past is being faked, really.
One other consideration -- Data could quote someone where a contraction was used. So he'd end up saying it as it was stated, with the contraction. I think as someone pointed out, he had a tendency not to use them when speaking his own words. But it's certainly possible for him to break that tendency from time to time.
Separate names with a comma.