Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Datalore”

“Datalore”
Written by Robert Lewin and Maurice Hurley and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 1, Episode 12
Production episode 40271-114
Original air date: January 18, 1988
Stardate: 41242.4

Captain’s Log: Because the Enterprise is passing near Omicron Theta, the planet where Data was found, Picard decides to stop by and check the place out. Riker takes a team down to the planet—which has no life readings at all, not even plant life. Data leads them to the spot where the team from the U.S.S. Tripoli found Data, lying out in the open. Data has the memories of all 411 colonists downloaded into his own brain, but of the colonists themselves, there is no sign.

La Forge finds a secret door in an outcropping that leads the team to a huge underground complex. There is plenty of equipment, but still no life readings. Each revelation awakens a memory remnant in Data, including that some of his functions were tested in one of the labs they discover.

Data remembers one section as being Dr. Soong’s workstation—Dr. Noonian Soong, a premier roboticist who failed to create a positronic brain, then disappeared (points to the script for name-checking the late great Isaac Asimov when mentioning the positronic brain). Data recalls that Soong came to the colony under an assumed name. Apparently, he finally succeeded….

La Forge finds a storage area that contains the disassembled parts of another android that looks just like Data. Data wishes to reassemble the android, so the parts are taken back to the ship. Crusher and Chief Engineer Argyle work in tandem to put this other android together. Data reveals to Crusher that he has an “off switch” that can render him unconscious for a set period of time.

After assembly, the other android awakens, calling himself “Lore,” and claiming that Data was made first, deemed imperfect, and Lore was built as an improvement. Lore also has an odd twitch.

Lore shows considerably more emotion than Data, and Data figures out quickly that Lore was, in fact, constructed first. The colonists were totally freaked out by him, and petitioned for Lore to be disassembled. Dr. Soong constructed Data as an android that would be less human than Lore was.

The Enterprise soon determines that the colony was wiped out by a crystalline entity that feeds on organic life. Data was safe because he is inorganic.

In the guise of teaching Data more about being human by drinking champagne with him, Lore slips Data a mickey—proving that having a positronic brain the size of a planet still means you fall for the oldest trick in the book—and switches outfits.

Lore comes to the bridge disguised as Data just as the crystalline entity that wiped out Omicron Theta approaches the ship. Lore pretends to be Data and claims he can demonstrate the Enterprise‘s power by beaming a tree to the side of it and having the ship’s phasers destroy it—an unnecessarily complicated plan that Picard inexplicably goes for. Lore’s intent is to let the deflectors drop for transport, thus allowing the entity to destroy the Enterprise.

The Crushers—having been kicked off the bridge for Wes’s insolence in stating the blindingly obvious that Data isn’t Data—awaken the real Data and, rather than summon security, instead confront Lore alone, and nearly get themselves killed. However, Wes beams Lore into space, thus ending the threat.

If I Only Had a Brain…: This episode provides us with TNG‘s first major retcon, as it’s announced that Data cannot use contractions—this despite the fact that he has used contractions repeatedly since “Encounter at Farpoint.” He even uses contractions once or twice in this episode. Once the second season kicks in, Data’s inability to use contractions becomes more codified, but in this episode the plot point makes very little sense given how Brent Spiner had been talking for the last dozen episodes….

Still, we also get Data’s full backstory: being constructed by the disgraced robotocist Dr. Noonian Soong at the Omicron Theta colony, with Lore having been built first, and then luring the crystalline entity to the colony to destroy it right before he’s disassembled. More such backstory would show up in later episodes, among them “The Schizoid Man,” “Brothers,” “Silicon Avatar,” “Inheritance,” “Descent,” and Star Trek: Nemesis, all of them building on what was established in this episode.

The Boy!? Wes sees Lore shortly after he disguises himself as Data, and notices the use of contractions and the facial tic. When he tries to explain his suspicions to the bridge crew—admittedly in a particularly ham-handed manner—Picard and Riker seem far more interested in admonishing Wes than actually doing what’s best for the ship. However, Wes gets to save the day again, beaming Lore off the ship before he can shoot Data with a phaser.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Lore beats the crap out of Worf in the turbolift to show how tough he is. Why crying “emergency close” closes off all options isn’t made clear. (Why didn’t the security guards get the doors back open? Why didn’t Worf yell “emergency open”?) But hey, Lore must be tough, he can beat up the Klingon….

Welcome Aboard: With Spiner doing double duty as Data and Lore, the only guest is Biff Yeager, returning as Chief Engineer Argyle, the only member of the First Season Chief Engineer Derby to appear twice (having previously been in “Where No One Has Gone Before“).

I Believe I Said That: “Shut up, Wesley!”

Said by Picard, Crusher, and even Wes himself. (Not to mention half the viewership for much of the first season….)

Trivial Matters: This would be Gene Roddenberry’s last script credit on Star Trek before his death. He named Data’s creator after the same World War II buddy—Kim Noonien Singh—after whom Khan from “Space Seed” and The Wrath of Khan was named. In a nice touch, Star Trek Enterprise would establish an ancestor of Soong’s named Arik (also played by Spiner) who got involved with the Augments, the genetically engineered descendants of Khan’s people. The similarity in names could easily be explained by the Soong family’s connections to the Eugenics Wars.

Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang

The novel Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang does much to bring together the various artificial intelligences seen in Star Trek over the years.

Make It So: What a dreadful episode. While it’s important in the grand scheme of things in what it establishes about Data’s background, the episode itself is horrendously bad, from the clumsy script to the embarrassingly inept body-double work.

The crew’s trust of Lore—allowing him free rein of the ship, Data leaving him alone in his quarters—is absurd, and the inability of anybody other than Wes to notice that Lore has disguised himself as Data strains credulity to the breaking point.

Lore asks Data, “And you want to be as stupid as them?” and it’s a legitimate question, given how stupid the humans in this episode act. The crew of the Enterprise are all dumb as posts in this one. Data falls for Lore putting a mickey in his champagne, and Riker and Wes fall for the “he senses you, you must leave” ruse. I was half-expecting Lore to tell Riker his shoelaces were untied. And then, despite Lore-as-Data referring to the first officer as “Riker” without rank, which Data never does, and not understanding what Picard means by “make it so,” Picard agrees to his Rube Goldbergesque plan and lets him go alone to the cargo bay. When Worf’s security detail is taken out, nobody else on the ship notices, and when the Crushers awaken Data, the three go alone to the cargo bay without telling anyone else.

And then in the end, the crystalline entity just—well, leaves. Very anticlimactic.

The best that can be said for the episode is that Spiner’s teeth marks are all over the scenery when he’s onscreen as Lore.

 

Warp factor rating: 4.


Keith R.A. DeCandido has a new novel out: the Dungeons & Dragons tome Dark Sun: Under the Crimson Sun. You should buy it. Really. You can follow Keith online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

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