the story: A computer malfunction leaves Worf, Troi, and Alexander dealing with, well, a fistful of Datas.
similar to: "A Piece of the Action" (original series), "Bride of Chaotica!" (Voyager)
my thoughts: Finally! Worf and Alexander spend quality time together, manage not to fight at all, and it's not only an enjoyable experience, but it's a Star Trek classic, in the tradition of the screwball "A Piece of the Action" (the planet of gangsters!) and "Bride of Chaotica!" (the Paris/Kim production gone horribly awry). Thanks in large part to a healthy dose of Brent Spiner playing, in the end, every character on the holodeck except the Klingons and Durango, I mean Troi.
Putting Brent Spiner aside for a moment, "Fistful" is a wonderful opportunity for Marina Sirtis to stretch as well. Her turn as the mysterious gunslinger, who sidles into Alexander's program well after he and Worf have, completely in-character, is her best turn outside of the later "Face of the Enemy" and First Contact, a welcome sign that she's a far better actor than most of her material lets her be (seriously, Troi has some of the worst material in the whole franchise, her and Crusher; this was not the series to argue female empowerment in the franchise). It's the kind of turn that comes out of nowhere, except Troi's proximity to Worf's family, which by the end of the series reaches its climax (and then vanishes). It's one of the most enjoyable performances of the series.
But there's also Spiner to consider. Like the later "Masks," having him perform multiple guises is a recipe for instant gold. His later, limited film work in character roles (chiefly, Independence Day and Out to Sea) stems directly from these episodes.
Usually, when the franchise dips into different genres, the results justify it (see also: "Heroes and Demons" from Voyager and "Our Man Bashir" from Deep Space Nine). "Fistful" is one of the more straightforward of these. Forget the technobabble nonsense that makes it possible. The rest of the episode makes that pretty easy, especially when Data begins exhibiting his Wild West reflexes in his ship-board duties. Sit back and enjoy.
criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)
Brian Bonsall (Alexander)