Star Trek’s Weirdest Episode Inspired By Sci-Fi Cult Classic

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Would you believe that one of the craziest episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation had the same inspiration as the ambitious HBO series Westworld? That HBO show was, of course, based on the 1973 movie of the same name. Less than two decades after that film debuted, Paramount gave us the TNG episode “A Fistful of Datas,” and while this Star Trek episode is more silly than serious, it echoes Westworld in several fascinating ways.

A Fistful of Datas Takes Star Trek To The Wild West

If you’ve never watched “A Fistful of Datas,” you might wonder how a Star Trek show set in the 24th century would emulate the old west setting of Westworld. It involves the ship’s fantastic holodeck, which Worf and his son Alexander are using to recreate a Wild West scenario in which they (and later, Deanna Troi) are the law.

They just wanted a fun adventure to keep young Alexander entertained, but after a freak accident puts some of the android Data’s records into the computer, these futuristic sheriffs must deal with evil holograms wearing Data’s face and a holodeck whose safety settings have all been disabled.

The Exact Same Premise As Westworld

hbo westworld

When it comes to how often this Star Trek episode channels Westworld, there are almost too many ways to count. One is the narrative itself: in addition to the general Western decor, this is an episode about modern characters using futuristic technology to bring the Wild West to life. This is the basic premise of Westworld, though its characters are using machinery rather than holograms to create an immersive adventure.

Droids That Don’t Know They’re Droids

Digging a little deeper, this Star Trek episode also channels Westworld via the conceit that the holodeck characters wearing Data’s face don’t know that they are artificial beings in an equally artificial setting. The later Westworld show would explore the disturbing metaphorical implications of this from the androids’ perspective. However, the Star Trek episode, like the movie before it, mostly focuses on the unexpected existential threat of “harmless” recreations suddenly turning deadly.

Trapped In The Wild West


That brings us to perhaps the biggest similarity between this Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and Westworld: inevitably, those who came here for a harmless Wild West romp find themselves trapped inside a fight for their lives.

Before you start yelling, I’m aware that getting unexpectedly trapped inside the holodeck is something that happens constantly in The Next Generation (just ask Picard about his adventures with Moriarty). However, when it comes to similarities to the Westworld film, it doesn’t get more in your face than trapping some visitors in elaborate Wild West sets and having them fight a bunch of evil androids out for blood.

Better Than Everything After Westworld Season 1

If you’re a big fan of Westworld and have never watched this Star Trek ep, then you should know the Trek writers mostly play this premise for comedy. In other words, you shouldn’t expect this to be a dark and serious homage to the original movie or you will be sorely disappointed. However, here’s a cold comfort: I can guarantee you’ll like this episode better than the disappointment that was the last couple of seasons of Westworld.