Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 6, Episode 9

The Quality of Life (14 Nov. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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When Geordi is assigned to survey a new mining development with Dr. Farallon, who invented an experimental mining technology, she uses a new sophisticated robot called an Exocomp to repair a power grid.



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Title: The Quality of Life (14 Nov 1992)

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Episode cast overview:
Dr. Farallon
Chief Kelso


The Enterprise orbits Tyras 71 to assist the experimental mining project Tyrant Partical Fountain, which Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge must evaluate for Starfleet. Dr. Farallon demonstrates the Exocomp, a revolutionary power grid repair device needed to keep the fountain operational, which creates its own tools and learns from its obstacle experience. Picard allows 48 hours more for Data to help Farallon. After performing efficiently, it suddenly burns out, later self-repairs. Data realizes this only makes sense as a self-preservation move, and therefore hopes it's now a living machine, like himself; the theory is tested... Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

14 November 1992 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The original title was "The Underground Circuit" by L.J. Scott. The final teleplay was credited to Naren Shankar as his first script for the show. See more »


Data claims that he is unique and unable to reproduce. He has apparently forgotten about his brother Lore (at large since Star Trek: The Next Generation: Brothers (1990)) and Data's daughter Lal whom he sired in Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Offspring (1990). See more »


[Data enters sickbay when Dr. Crusher is treating her arm after a fighting lesson with Worf]
Lt. Commander Data: Doctor... Are you injured?
Doctor Beverly Crusher: Only my pride, Data.
See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

What if our Laptops, PCs and handhelds suddenly came alive?
24 May 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was first explored in the great season 2 courtroom episode "The Measure of a Man" - Is Data Intelligent? Can he adapt? Is he Aware of his circumstances? As we saw then, if he meets any of those criteria in the smallest degree, we must agree he is alive.

But Dr. Farallon, Ellen Bry from St Elsewhere, has created a tool - A tool as useful as our PCs and Laptops and iPhones. She shows one to Geordi who is impressed, but when they try to show it to Data, it apparently malfunctions.

Dr. Farallon is working on a "Particle Fountain" and her tools, her "Exocomps" have been her helpers. Data inspects the one that had failed, and it turns out that the machine had shut off a part of itself

  • To preserve it's existence. Dr Farallon has said that the new circuit
pathways in it's memory are a form of corruption, and it must be wiped.

But Data sees that the new pathways are not a corruption at all, he thinks that the machines are developing intelligence.

This is the cause of major friction between Farallon and Data, in the meantime the Particle Fountain is falling to bits, and as no humans can enter the areas that need repair, the Exocomps must do the work. But Data asks that the Exocomps not be exploited as they seem to be developing life forms. So Picard agrees to an "Intelligence Test" - Which the Exocomp also apparently fails.

The Problem was, the Exocomp has seen right through the fake test! But there was no way to see that until Data is distracted by Dr Crusher - the Exocomp returns by itself - With a different tool than the one that was initially programmed into the 'Comp.

When our PCs start acting up, we "Ctrl-Alt-Delete" or "Format c:" - How many of us have seen inherent behaviors in our PCs operating systems? Every computer I have ever used has developed a "personality" - Where I can predict almost to the second, where, when and why it will do something unexpected - Sometimes to my benefit, other times to my detriment.

Data enforces his protection of these small machines, even when Picard is trapped on the fountain with Geordi and they cannot beam back. He refused to allow the Exocomps to be blown up in an attempt to shut it down - But he WILL "Ask Them" if they are willing to try to shut down the fountain core.

Fortunately, they have a better solution than just exploding themselves.

It seems to me I have seen these things, in other shows, and in the IMDb Trivia they, or rather, their props, had been used 10 years later for something else.

In 1990 or so when this episode was shown, all we had were some Apple LC-IIs - If even those were around back then - And PC's running 80286's with DOS. Only very large supercomputers had been used for any type of AI tests.

But now it is 2013, and I just installed Microsoft Speech SDK 5.1, and right from the start, it shows a remarkable amount of apparent intelligence. Of course, this is an illusion programmed into the Speech Kit based on Visual Basic scripts, Dot Net Programs, and Macros. But still - If I tell it to start any program it recognizes, it starts, and closes. I can tell it to stop hearing me and even lock the screen. I can invoke my screen-saver, based on a macro I found.

How much longer, until my computer starts back-talking me? How long until I can talk to it in a conversational tone and get the illusion of intelligent conversation out of it... And how long until that Illusion gives way to real intelligence? Out of respect for my machines, I never shut them down, each boot cycle is a lifespan to the machine, it forgets everything on the next reboot. And now I can talk to my iPhone, will it start insulting me randomly? There is even a modification to allow this.

What is great about this episode, other than the appearance of Ellen Bry, is that 24 years later, the very computers we use today are just beginning to have this illusion of intelligence. As CPUs, Hard Drives, Ram and other memory devices get smaller and their capacities increase, the nearer we some to the day when we *will* have to ask our computer's permission to do the tasks we have been taking for granted. What then? will we treat our creations as slaves, or as partners in life, with respect?

I hope it will be the latter.

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