“Friends With the Sparrows” Notes

ST:TNG The Sky's the LimitContains spoilers for story

Since there are so many specific continuity references here, I’ll do these notes the way I do my novel annotations, with page-by-page references and discussion.

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247 Ktarians are either the species seen in TNG: “The Game,” with double-lobed foreheads, or the species of Voyager‘s Naomi Wildman, with small horns in the center of the forehead.  It is possible that two species share the planet or star system, and that “Ktarian” is a national identity rather than a species name.  (There are all kinds of online theories about the species having two variant forms or that there are two unrelated species of the same name; I think it’s simpler to assume that people of different species could share a common cultural or political identity, in the same way that people of many different ethnic groups call themselves American.)  Which kind of Ktarian is featured here is left for the reader to decide.
I was trying to make it ambiguous whom Troi was going to see, implying that it might have been Worf.  Did anyone fall for it?
248 Here I try to address something the series never explained: how Deanna Troi could read emotions over a viewscreen.
249 The Enterprise-D was destroyed at Veridian III in Generations.  For the circumstances of how Picard regained command after losing his first ship, see my novel The Buried Age.
Note that, while there are two other stories in the anthology with no scenes aboard either Enterprise (“Thinking of You” and “Suicide Note”) and one where it only appears in brief flashbacks (“Ordinary Days”), “Sparrows” is the only story in the anthology which takes place when no starship Enterprise even exists.
Sofia Borges was named in honor of Jorge Luis Borges, whose short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” deals with the epistemology of language and thought.
250 The criticisms Borges raises are based on those raised in online analyses such as Raphael Carter’s Darmok Dictionary (which is where I learned of the J. L. Borges story) and the “Darmok” analysis on the Tenser, said the Tensor linguistic blog.  I first came upon similar critiques in a series of letters published in Starlog Magazine, but I no longer have the relevant issues.  The suggestion that vocal intonation and sign language convey additional meaning beyond the spoken words is my own, as far as I know.
251 The theory of universal translator operation offered here was first alluded to in my SCE/Corps of Engineers novella Aftermath.
Picard discovered the “genetic program” underlying the evolution of all humanoid species in “The Chase,” based on the research of his mentor Professor Galen.
I don’t really have to explain the Rosetta Stone, do I?  Big stone tablet found at Rosetta in Egypt, same text in three languages, let people decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics for the first time?
Arachne was a woman who got turned into a spider due to Athena’s jealousy of her superior weaving skills.  (Pretty odd thing for a deity to get jealous about.  Of course, we Trekkies know the Greek gods were really alien colonists — see TOS: “Who Mourns for Adonais?”)  Cleaning the reallllly filthy Augean stables was one of the Twelve Labors of Herakles (Hercules).  He diverted a river to do it, so he didn’t actually do any mopping.  Of course, he probably had to do extensive repairs on the stables afterward…
The contact tales mentioned are those proposed by Dathon to Picard at the beginning of “Darmok.”
252 For discussion of James Cook’s death, see p. 211 of my Orion’s Hounds annotations.  The cultural and ritual factors underlying Cook’s death are discussed by historian Greg Dening in his essay “Sharks that Walk on the Land” in the book Performances (University of Chicago Press, 1996).
259 Dr. Soong was Data’s creator, and the creator (much later in life) of the emotion chip.  Lore was Data’s “evil twin” brother, who stole the emotion chip from Soong in “Brothers.”  Data retrieved the chip in “Descent.”
262 The title of “contact specialist” is my own coinage from The Buried Age.  On TNG, Deanna’s shipboard role went beyond normal psychological counseling to diplomacy, alien contact situations, xenoanthropology, and the like.  I therefore surmised that she was trained both as a counselor and an expert in alien contacts, essentially performing a double duty.  This is a precedent for her role as “diplomatic officer” aboard the starship Titan in that series of novels, including my Orion’s Hounds.
Betelgeusians appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and are given cultural development in my novel Ex Machina.
The question “Mirab-his-sails-unfurled factor what, sir?” is borrowed (with slight rephrasing) from the Tenser, said the Tensor “Darmok” essay (see p. 250 note).
263 Data’s first memory was of being discovered and activated on the planet Omicron Theta by the crew of the Tripoli.  He is describing a sense of rebirth.
The Satarrans erased the crew’s memory in “Conundrum.”
Lwaxana Troi, Deanna’s mother, frequently describes herself as “Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed.”  I assumed the “Daughter” title would apply to any female member of the house.  But in A Time for War, A Time for Peace by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Lwaxana describes Deanna as a “Granddaughter of the Fifth House,” conflicting with Data’s description of her here. It is possible, even likely, that Lwaxana was putting her own spin on things.
“The Dancing Men” is a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Antianna and Hoshi Sato’s translator breakthrough are from the Star Trek: Enterprise novel Rosetta by Dave Stern.  Sato’s invention of linguacode was established in ENT: “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part 2,” while linguacode itself was established in ST:TMP.
264 Ambassador Denin is named in honor of Greg Dening (see p. 252 note).  The Tamarians’ ritual use of talismans pinned to clothing is from “Darmok.”
Menos of Kyjo is named in honor of Joe Menosky, author of “Darmok.”  Uzani and his army were mentioned in “Darmok.”  I have added a bit more information, including the name of Uzani’s kingdom and another story associated with him.
265 The Tamarians’ history is based on that of Polynesian culture (again, courtesy of Greg Dening’s writings).  The Shesshran are a species I introduced in Ex Machina.
266 Other than “a dog with a bone,” all of Data’s allusions here were made up for this scene and have no established backstory.
Shantil III was established in “Darmok” as the home of the titular myth.  How this myth could be in the Enterprise‘s databank when nothing else was known about Tamarian culture was a mystery that I attempt to explain here.  The Promellians were established in TNG: “Booby Trap” as a spacefaring civilization wiped out a thousand years before the series.
Phineas Tarbolde of the Canopius [sic] Planet was established in TOS: “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and referenced in DS9: “The Muse.”  The Gestes of Andor are my own coinage, though Andor is not, of course.  Gestes are heroic deeds in epic literature.
267 Data is paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Othello, Act V, Scene ii, roughly l. 1-86.  “Othello with a light” and “Desdemona in her bed” are actually paraphrases of the stage description from the beginning of the scene (at least in the Riverside Shakespeare version); after all, Tamarian is a language based on images and scenes rather than actions.  “Shaka.  When the walls fell” is, of course, a famous line from “Darmok,” the Tamarian phrase denoting failure and regret.  This is the one occurrence of a stock Tamarian phrase within this Othello paraphrase; I included it because of its commonness in Tamarian speech, as well as its popularity as a meme among Trek fans.  “Down, strumpet!” and “Not dead?” are direct quotes from Othello’s dialogue, and do not quite fit the known patterns of Tamarian grammar.  But then, Data is not quite coherent at this point.
Data’s “off switch” in his lower back was established in “Datalore.”
The “Zinda” phrase is entirely from “Darmok.”  “Callimas at Bahar” is also from the episode, seeming to denote contrition or reassurance, and I have added a bit more to it.
268 Chenza’s court was mentioned in “Darmok” and elaborated on as “The court of silence.”
Here I actually get to fill in details about the infamous Shaka: I postulate that he was the king of Utomi, and his walls fell in an invasion by Makova’s army, leading to the destruction of the city.
Data was infected by an Iconian virus in “Contagion.”
269 Data’s brain was established as “positronic” in “Datalore.”  The concept of a positronic brain comes from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and after, and doesn’t actually mean anything.  Asimov, a biochemist with no computer-science knowledge, just coined “positronic” as a more “futuristic” equivalent of “electronic.”  But since positrons are the antimatter equivalent of electrons, they wouldn’t be able to fill the role of electrons unless the entire computer were made of antimatter.  How Data’s “positronic brain” actually works is one Trek tech conundrum I have yet to attempt an explanation for in my Trek fiction.  But then, electronics was always my weakest subject in physics.
Free associations galore!  “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships…” is a quote from Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, also quoted by Trelane in TOS: “The Squire of Gothos.”  It refers to Helen of Troy, whose beauty led to the Trojan War and the burning of Troy (Ilium).  (Asimov is generally credited with coining a unit of measurement called a millihelen: the amount of beauty required to launch one ship.)  This leads into an image of the sacking of Troy, the “great quadrupedal animal” being the Trojan Horse.
Next, we jump to the similar myth of Shaka’s city falling to its enemies, and here we get what you’ve all been waiting for: exactly why the walls fell.  It’s your classic hubris situation.  The poor guy can’t catch a break.
From there, we shift to a paraphrase of Joshua 6:20 from the King James Bible: “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.”
The bearded figure playing the trombone is Commander Riker.  That becomes a red-alert klaxon, bringing us to the crash of the Enterprise from Generations, and Data’s infamous use of profanity in that sequence.
In case it’s unclear, it’s Geordi who says “His cognitive destabilization is accelerating” and Deanna who replies.  Geordi then shakes his head, his VISOR glinting.  Then back to Deanna, telling Data to focus.
270 Tasha Yar’s death is from “Skin of Evil.”  Tasha and Data slept together in “The Naked Now.”  Ard’rian McKenzie was a colonist attracted to Data in “The Ensigns of Command.”  He zapped an aqueduct with his phaser in that episode.  He almost shot Kivas Fajo with a disruptor in “The Most Toys.”  Crosis the liberated Borg let Data experience hate in “Descent.”
272 Palwin of the Fields is, of course, an homage to the late, great Paul Winfield, portrayer of Captain Dathon.
Delphic proclamations are cryptically prophetic ones.  The oracles at Delphi inhaled volcanic vapors, affecting their mental state, and the resultant gibberish was interpreted as prophecy.
274 Data is quoting Hamlet, Act I, Sc. iii.

In writing this story, I was walking a bit of a tightrope between what I wanted to say about Data and what canon insisted upon.  I always felt it was ethnocentric to assume that Data had no emotions just because his responses were not recognizably human; as Deanna discusses on p. 260, Data’s responses could be defined as a distinctively android kind of emotion.  (This discussion was based on a scene I originally wrote for a TNG spec script.)  The emotion chip felt to me like an easy fix, a way to facilitate his misguided pursuit of human mimicry over his exploration of his own unique identity.

To a degree, the later movies helped with this, for they essentially abandoned the emotion-chip storyline: in First Contact, Data could turn it off at will; in Insurrection, there was a throwaway line saying he hadn’t taken it with him on the mission; and in Nemesis, its existence was totally disregarded and Data was his old self. These developments have been explained elsewhere in Trek fiction: how Data gained the ability to turn off the chip is explored in an installment of the TNG: Slings and Arrows eBook miniseries, and its permanent removal prior to Nemesis was explained in A Time to Be Born and A Time to Die by John Vornholt.  In this story, I tried to set the stage for those progressive steps away from the emotion chip by having Data learn not to define himself, his worth, or his ability to grow based on the presence of the chip.  This let me get across some of my own dissatisfaction with the idea of the emotion chip.  However, I tried to establish that he still valued the chip and what he could learn from it, in order to stay reasonably consistent with previously published tales such as A Time to Be Born/Die and Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang.

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