Data lets his love for his cat out of the bag
In the teaser of the sixth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Schisms,” Data entertains (if that is the word) an audience of his shipmates in Ten Forward with a carefully constructed, emotionally lifeless, inadvertently hilarious tribute to his pet cat.
Data is correct: The ode is a venerable poetic tradition.
Odes date back to ancient Greece, when poets composed them to praise the winners of athletic competitions.
During the Romantic era of English literature, such poets as John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed odes that were more personal in nature, expressing insights they received from the natural world or intense emotional experiences.
But despite Data’s best efforts, his “Ode to Spot” simply misses the mark.
As Geordi later tells him, Data’s verse was “a tribute to form” but didn’t “evoke an emotional response”—unless Riker’s “anticipation of [Data’s] denouement” counts!
According to The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion by Larry Nemecek, staff writer Brannon Braga hoped “Data’s bad poetry” would recur frequently in the series (p. 221).
It didn’t, but “Ode to Spot” had an encore of sorts in the episode “A Fistful of Datas,” when Riker’s PADD accesses it instead of the play he and Dr. Crusher are rehearsing.
Even though Data’s efforts wouldn’t land him the post of Starfleet poet laureate, his recitation of “Ode to Spot” remains a favorite scene among TNG fans.
Maybe it makes us feel better to know even Data, superior to humans in so many ways, has growing edges to work on. Or maybe it reminds us it’s always worth the effort to communicate love for our friends.