Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
The Enterprise visits Data’s home world in an effort to learn more about Data’s origins. While there, they discover another android similar in appearance to him, but disassembled. They bring it aboard the Enterprise and assemble it.
Once conscious, the android reveals that his name is Lore. He is just like Data except that he was programmed with human emotions. Unfortunately, one of those emotions is ambition. Lore tries to take over the ship and feed its inhabitants to a malicious crystalline alien. He nearly succeeds in getting everyone killed after incapacitating Data and impersonating him while awaiting the crystalline entity’s arrival. The ship is saved when Wesley recognizes that Lore has incapacitated the real Data and is pretending to be him. Wesley and his mother re-start the real Data. Together, Data and Wesley transport Lore to the crystalline alien. Once it has Lore, the crystalline alien leaves the ship alone.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Captain’s Log: Stardate 41242.4
The Enterprise is in the remote Omicron Theta star system, home of Data. Picard narrates that he has decided to visit Data’s homeworld in the hope of unraveling some of the mysteries concerning his beginnings. Data is not on the bridge and the bridge officers speculate that the moment might be bigger for him than they expected.
We find Data alone in his quarters, practicing sneezing. He is not succeeding. Wesley crusher enters and asks him if he has a cold. When Data asks what a cold is, Wesley tells him that it is a disease humans used to get. Data says that humans still sneeze for other reasons and he cannot seem to do it correctly.
Wesley asks Data why he is practicing sneezing so close to his home world. He asks if he does not find his home world interesting. Data says he finds his home world more than interest – however he also finds sneezing interesting. Wesley then informs him that Picard wishes to see him on the bridge.
On the bridge, Yar reports that Data’s home planet is a Class M planet (meaning it supports life) but that the censors are finding no life on the surface – not even vegetation. Picard tells her that the crews who found Data on the planet reported farmland. Data arrives on the bridge and his home planet appears on screen. Riker asks if he has memories of farmland there and Data says that he does. Data reports that he has the accumulated knowledge of the 411 people who lived on the planet but not their memories. Riker is set to lead the Away Team to the planet. Picard says that he wishes he could lead the team but Riker notes that Starfleet would not approve Picard leading an away team where an entire earth colony once disappeared. Picard tells Data welcome home as he leaves for the transporter to join the away team.
Riker narrate’s a first officer’s log. He says that Data’s world is completely lifeless. He wonders what could have killed everything on an entire planet. La Forge, part of the Away Team, believes that everything on the planet must have been dead or in the process of dying at the time Data was found. Data notes that they are in the location on the planet’s surface where he was found. Yar asks Data if he knows why he was given the colonists’ memories and Data states that he believes it was done hurriedly but he knows little more. Data shows the team the exact location where he was discovered. His first memory was opening his eyes and seeing the party that discovered him. He tells Riker that the team that discovered him believes their presence activated him.
Geordi tells Riker that the hollow where Data was discovered was artificially discovered – though it was done in a way as to appear natural. Data says that this awakens a memory remnant and that the fear of discovery, on the part of the colonists, led the colonists to store information inside of Data. Next, Geordi finds a hidden doorway and opens it. The team goes through it. Through the door, the room into which they enter appears overtly man-made and technological. However, Yar notes that there are no life readings inside there, either. They walk through the room, and into and down a hallway beyond it, until they come to another room behind automatically opening double doors. Inside are computer screens which appear to be active.
Riker notes that the colonists’ laboratory is extremely well equipped. Data sees a work station and says that it was occupied by Dr. Noonien Soong, though Data believes he traveled to this colony using another name. Geordi tells us that Dr. Soong was earth’s foremost expert in robotic science. Yar tells us this was true until Dr. Soong attempted to create a positronic brain. Riker finishes Yar’s story by saying that after Dr. Soong failed completely, he disappeared.
Riker sends Yar and Worf out to explore the rest of the complex while he, Data, and Geordi study the laboratory. They find a mold which appears to have been used to create Data. A moment later, Yar sends a message to Riker. She tells him the installation is big enough to house hundreds of people but all that she can find are empty beds. Geordi then tells Riker that he has found a storage area. Inside the storage area, they find a head. Other than the hair, it looks just like Data. The Starfleet android asks whether it might be another version of himself or possibly a brother. Data then suggests to Riker that it needs assembling. Riker notes that they do not know whether it can become alive and Data replies that it is important to him that he find out. Riker promises Data to take it back to the ship with them.
Aboard the Enterprise, the crew begins work assembling the other android. We see numerous body parts lying on the table and a team of Enterprise scientists assembling it. Dr. Crusher tells Data, who is watching the assembly, that Picard wants him at the debriefing meeting. Before he goes, Data asks the Enterprise’s chief engineer whether he believes the other android will function and he is told that the other android appears to include all of the components that Data has in his own body.
In the debriefing meeting, Data meets with Picard, Riker, and Geordi. Initially, the humans awkwardly ask Data – who they treat at a living person – about the assembly of the other android. They find it difficult to do so without implying that Data is not alive by inference. Finally Picard tells the room that legitimate questions need not be asked apologetically. Picard states that everyone in the room is a machine and that the humans are electro-chemical in nature. Riker gives Picard a picture that they found in the laboratory. It was drawn by a child. He tells that in addition the one they found in the lab, several children in the colony did similar drawings also. Dr. Crusher speaks to the briefing room through the intercom and tells Picard that the team working on the android very much needs Data’s help. Picard sends him.
Data shows Dr. Crusher a button on his side that functions as an on/off switch. The Chief Engineer notes that assembling the other android will be much simpler once they can see how Data’s own circuitry is connected. Data quietly talks to Dr. Crusher and notes that if she had an off switch, would she not also keep it secret? She says that she would and she promises not to tell anyone about his off switch.
The engineers use Data as the example for assembling the other android. After, we see Data awake once more. The Chief Engineer reports to Picard and Riker that with Mr. Data’s help, the assembly went well. However, he also notes that there are no signs of consciousness in the other android yet. As Picard speculates as to which android was made first, the other opens his eyes and tells Picard that Data was made first. He then states that they found Data to be imperfect and that he was made to replace Data. The new android, with much more visible human emotion than Data, tells the crew that they may call him Lore.
Later, Picard and Data discuss Lore privately. Picard states that he is troubled that Lore described Data as imperfect. Data reports that Lore has abilities similar to his own. He also notes that Lore’s use of language implies he was given memories similar to his own.
Data goes to the bridge and finds the bridge officers explaining to Lore the intricacies of how the Enterprise operates. Riker tests Lore by giving an equation regarding a hypotenuse and Lore begins answering it before pretending not to know the rest. Data breaks up the study session and tells Lore that he will be taught more once the Captain has approved his being on the bridge. Lore asks if he has committed an offense and Wesley replies that there are many rules on Starships to learn. Worf asks Data if he was ever so desirous of pleasing humans and Data says no. Lore explains that he was designed with pleasing humans in mind – such that he enjoys doing so. Data and Lore leave the bridge together.
In the hallway, Data points out to Lore that Riker’s hypotenuse question tricked him into revealing that he knows more than he has thus far let on. Lore replies that he did not realize Riker was so clever and states that he will be more careful next time. Lore promises to be worthy of his brother Data’s teaching and he warns Data not to be jealous of his ability.
Alone in a lab, Data asks Lore for everything he knows about Dr. Noonien Soong.
Lore: Ah, good old often wrong Soong.
Data: [long pause]
Lore: A joke, brother. Actually, he was a genius by human standards.
Data: But he destroyed his own reputation by making what seemed like wild promises about his positronic brain design – almost all of which failed.
Lore: Promises he later proved to be true.
Lore tells Data that the positronic brain design made both himself and Data possible. Lore asks Data if he will soon get a Starfleet uniform and Data explains how many years it will take him to earn one as he did. Lore replies that the Starfleet system is based on limited human ability and he further accuses Data of thinking as a human.
Data asks his brother if they can discuss which of them was made first and Lore says he should not underestimate Data. He notes that he lied in saying that Data was made first. He admits that he was made first and that he was made so perfectly that the colonists became envious of him. Lore admits to living with the colonists until they petitioned Soong to make a more comfortable and less perfect android.
Lore: In other words, you.
Lore then goes on to brag to Data about how much better he is with human speech and with human jokes. He offers to help Data become more human. Data confesses to attempting to be more human and failing. He then also admits to Lore than he will have to report the details of their conversation to Picard. Lore tells Data that he assumed as much when he began studying his brother. Data gets up to leave and Lore asks if he can use the ship’s computer to learn more about humans and their customs. Data says yes but that he must also give a clear and detailed account of what happened to the colonists where they were both found and Lore promises to provide such a report. Data says he has duties to perform unless Lore needs something more.
Lore: I have more than I dreamed possible, brother.
As dramatic music plays, we see Lore scanning through information about the ship itself at alarming speed.
Later, Picard narrates about Lore’s report. The drawings they found, combined with the android’s report, allowed the scientists aboard the Enterprise to determine the colonist were killed by a crystalline being which feeds on life. It is apparently capable of stripping all life from a living world. Riker asks Picard whether he finds it likely that the crystalline life form might be real and Picard responds that given how little of even their own galaxy has been explored that he finds it at least possible.
We learn that Data is watching Lore closely on Picard’s orders. Yar asks Picard how much they can now trust Data. Picard replies that he trusts Data completely.
Lore pours a drink that looks like champagne. He places something inside the drink covertly. Data enters. Lore tells him that lesson number one in becoming more human is observing human customs. He offers Data the champagne glass. Lore, holding his own champagne glass, toasts their discovery of one another. Data drinks and immediately begins to look ill.
While Data struggles, and leans over, Lore continues on. He offers a toast to Dr. Soong for giving him human ambition to match his mind and his body. Data collapses. Lore then offers a toast to the great crystal entity with whom he learned to communicate.
Lore: Before Dr. Soong disassembled me, I earned its gratitude by revealing the way to the colonists. Can you imagine its gratitude when I give it the life on this vessel?
On the bridge, Worf tells Riker that Commander Data is transmitting on a sub-space channel. Riker sends Wesley to look in on Commander Data discreetly. Wesley enters. Lore, posing as Data – including a clothing switch – explains the other android lying on the floor by stating that Lore suddenly attacked him when Lore discovered that the crew was using censors to keep track of what he is doing. Wesley notices that “Data” has Lore’s facial tick. “Data” covers by telling Wesley that he has practiced Lore’s tick and he asks if he has it right. Wesley suggests that he cease imitating Lore because it might cause him to suspect that Lore was imitating Data. Wesley further points out that Data also used a contraction when speaking with him which is something that Lore might do if imitating Data. “Data” agrees. “Data” then sends Wesley back to the bridge to inform the Captain that he will come to the bridge to make a report on this incident. Wesley leaves.
Lore (posing as Data) takes a censor from a drawer and applies it to Data’s unconscious face – causing the real and still unconscious Data to exhibit the same facial tick. Lore then turns the censor on himself and he removes his own facial tick.
Aboard the bridge, Dr. Crusher asks Wesley how Data said he immobilized Lore. Wesley tells her that Data said he turned Lore off. Lore (posing as Data) enters the bridge. Dr. Crusher asks Data whether he did or did not swear her to secrecy about his off switch and “Data” tells her that he changed his mind on that subject.
Lore (as Data): A change of mind, doctor. If I cannot trust the bridge crew, who can I?
Suddenly the Enterprise’s alarms sound. Geordi reports an unidentified bogie approaching. Riker states that he cannot believe anything is overtaking them so quickly and “Data” says “beautiful, isn’t it?” Both Crushers look at him suspiciously. Riker then says that this is the crystal image Lore described. Picard sends “Data” to question “Lore” about the cyrstal entity. Wesley abruptly stands up and recommends not allowing “Data” to roam the ship freely. Picard scolds Wesley for failure to properly address a senior officer. Riker steps in and says that he has guided Wesley’s training and that he is at fault. He offers to escort “Data” and Wesley to interview “Lore.” Dr. Crusher, who seemed earlier to share Wesley’s suspicions re: Data, remains silent.
Lore pushes a button on the still unconscious Data, causing him to twitch. “Data” warns them that he cannot control Lore and suggests that he interview him privately. Riker tells “Data” to bring “Lore” to the bridge once he is conscious. Riker and Wesley leave. Lore taunts the unconscious Data after they leave.
Lore: And you want to be as stupid as them, dear brother? [kicks him in the head]
Riker reports events when they return and Wesley interjects that he believes Lore is pretending to be Data. Picard is angry and states that he asked for Riker’s report. As Picard is lecturing Wesley, the crystalline entity begins emitting some type of energy at the Enterprise.
Lore returns to the bridge. He asks Picard if he can talk to it. Picard is finally suspicious, noting that Data has not previously told them that he can talk to the entity, but allows “Data” to speak to it. Lore identifies himself to the entity as Data and informs the entity that the humans here are powerful – capable of destroying it. The entity stops its attack. Data requests that they procure a living object, such as a tree, and take to the transporter room. Riker replies, questioning whether the plan is to beam the object to the entity. “Data” replies to Riker, yes, but does not use his title. He says that they can use phasers to destroy the object proving to it that they are dangerous.
Picard says “make it so” to “Data.” Data replies “sir?” and Picard says again “do it.” He looks confused as “Data” leaves. Once Data leaves, Wesley again tries to warn the Captain.
Wesley: Sir, I know this may finish me as an Acting Ensign…
Picard: Shut up, Wesley!
Picard tells Yar to send a security team to follow Data and let him know what he does. Dr. Crusher, silent this entire time, finally speaks up and asks Picard, “shut up, Wesley?”
Wesley, furious, speaks up again.
Wesley: And since I am finished here sir, may I point out…
Dr. Crusher: Shut up, Wesley!
He does not shut up and he goes on to say that everything he has said would have been listened to had it come from an adult officer. He requests permission to return to his quarters. Picard agrees and sends Dr. Crusher with him.
Worf leads a security team and finds “Data” in an elevator. After Worf steps in, Data shouts “emergency close” leaving himself alone in the elevator (I think it’s called a Turbolift on te show) with Worf.
Lore: [mocking] Now show me your warrior fierceness.
[Worf strikes him and “Data” shrugs it off.]
Lore strikes Worf twice with such force that it knocks Worf into a wall and renders him unconscious. Lore smiles.
Dr. Crusher and Wesley go to the real Data still lying unconscious on the floor. They turn him back on. Dr. Crusher asks him how badly he is hurt and he replies that he will function sufficiently to stop Lore.
Data, Dr. Crusher, and Wesley sneak up on Lore while he is communicating with the crystal entity. Lore advises the entity that a moment will come soon when the deflector shields will be down. He advises it to move in at that time. Suddenly Lore realizes the real Data is creeping up on him.
Data: How sad, dear brother. You make me wish I were an only child.
Lore: Then why this wonderful gift? The troublesome little man child. [To Wesley] Are you prepared for the kind of death you’ve earned little man?
Dr. Crusher steps out with a phaser pointed at Lore and warns him not to take one more step toward her son.
Lore: Ah, motherhood. [Takes the phaser away from Dr. Crusher easily.]
Lore tells Dr. Crusher to leave immediately and he says that if she does so, he may not hurt her son at all. He then shouts at her to go or he’ll be shrieking by the count of five. Data tells Dr. Crusher that he will stay with Wesley. By five she is running out of the room. Lore shouts at her to wait and offers a small payment for her son’s misdeeds. He fires at her and she dives. This gives the real Data an opportunity to attack him. Data pushes Lore back toward the transporter by throwing large barrels at him. Data shouts at Wesley to man the transporter device. Once Lore is on the transporter, Data shouts “Wesley now!” and Wesley beams him away.
Moments later the Enterprise security team storms the room.
Wesley: Lore is gone, sir. Permanently.
On screen, Riker points out that the crystal thing has begun to move away. Picard orders Dr. Crusher to go to sick bay at once. Picard asks Data if he is alright. He tells Data to get rid of the twitch on his face and to put on the correct uniform.
Picard asks Wesley if he is willing to return to duty. Wesley says he is. Picard tells him to do so and to let the bridge know that all is well down there.
Picard: Number one, have you ever considered whether Mr. Data is more human or less human than we want?
Riker: I only wish we were all as well balanced, sir.
This was a great episode. Lore is by far the scariest bad guy we have seen on the show so far. Well done, Brent Spiner. From the moment Lore opened his eyes, Spiner managed to project into the character a malevolence that was hard to define, initially, but became increasingly obvious the more Lore spoke and acted. Once he was overtly a bad guy, it did not detract from the feeling that he was dangerous and evil.
There is something just a bit more frightening about a more relatable bad guy than the various all-powerful godlike baddies we have seen for most of this show so far.
Early on, I suspected that the gag to start the episode, about Data attempting to sneeze, and failing at it, would come back up. I imagined Wesley figuring it all out based on fake Data executing a real sneeze. Alas. Missed opportunity.
I did not know early on how I might feel about a Data-centric episode… but I loved it. More please.
Let’s talk about everyone else.
Picard: Once more, he proves to be an empty suit. I cannot believe how his reputation in my mind is not living up to his “leadership” on the show. Almost half of the episodes in Season 1, so far, would have ended in the death of everyone on his ship but for underofficers (Wesley Crusher in particular) saving everyone in spite of him. I guess it’s appropriate that this episode ended with no apologies for Wesley Crusher at all. I’d probably be too embarrassed to give that one publicly, too. Pretending that his mistake in not listening to Wesley did not almost lead to the death of everyone on the ship is probably the way to go.
Dr. Crusher: The inept doctor of the ship might have saved everyone a lot of trouble if at some point she had spoken up regarding her own misgiving re: Commander Data. But she did not. She sat silently on her own suspicions while her teenage son bravely stood up to Captain Empty Suit and tried to save everyone on the ship. AGAIN. Her one saving grace in this episode was that she listened to the only competent person aboard the ship – her son – when he asked her to disobey the inept Captain Picard’s orders to escort him to his quarters.
Riker: He didn’t have much to do in this episode. But Riker clearly noticed “Data” acting strangely a few times, including the failure to address him by his title. Riker let it slide – despite the ship’s acting Ensign telling everyone that Data was an imposter.
Yar: Nice job, Chief of Security. You failed again. You let Worf get beat up. Then you failed to track down imposter Data until *after* the teenager on the ship dealt with him first. How many times do you get to be completely incompetent on Picard’s watch and get away with it? Apparently the answer is limitless for Tasha Yar.
Wesley Crusher: He is the only competent person on the entire ship. He’s better at engineering than the engineers. He appears to be better at security than Yar. I worry that if he goes to Starfleet, they will somehow make him into an imbecile.
Crystalline alien: This was not great but it was likely pretty good for a mid 1980s TV budget. It did not really need to do anything other than to exist on the Enterprise’s viewing screen. I suppose we might revisit it in future episodes if/when Lore returns to wreak more havoc.
Overall, this is one of the best episodes of Season 1 – even if most of the adult characters continue to be ludicrously bad at their respective jobs. Brent Spiner as Data makes this a must watch episode and show. The more he gets to do, the better.