Jun 16 2011 12:55pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Datalore”

Data and Lore“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.

1. don3comp
I have to confess, I don't remember the episode being =that= bad (it would have looked far worse to me had it been part of any other season). I remember enjoying Brent Spiner's double performance and finding the Giant Snowflake--I mean Crystaline Entity--visually attractive. However, the "bad prototype-good 2nd one" concept had already been used on "Knight Rider" a few years earlier, with KARR and KITT.
2. don3comp
"(Roddenberry) 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..."

That's touching: "we're such good friends that I'm going to name a villain and a mad scientist after you!" =chortle=
rob mcCathy
3. roblewmac
sorry guys I sort of like this one. After "The Maltese Hologram" and "When will you settle down and marry a nice SPACE?" I think I will take the one with confilct.
4. Mike S.
This one does have a lot of holes, but Brent Spiner's super acting saves the show, IMO (he'd take it up another notch in "Brothers" a couple of years later). If you didn't like this one, I can't wait for next week, when we get "Angel One," which might be my least favorite of the entire first season (lots of competition there). At least the Bynar show is coming up soon (runs neck-and-neck with "Conspiracy" as my favorite Season 1 show).

I'm also beginning to think that it was this point in the season where Denise Crosby started to get pissed off. Other then the beginning of "Hide and Q", she really has not had anything to do since "Code of Honor", and I thought that the pilot was written to eventually make her the breakout character. Why she didn't lead the team to follow Lore is beyond me, although she at least didn't get her butt kicked.
5. Christopher L. Bennett
The main thing about "Datalore" that deserves praise is the splitscreen work allowing Spiner to interact with himself as Data and Lore. It was really cutting-edge stuff for its day, actually anticipating the kind of splitscreen work that earned high praise in slightly later films such as Dead Ringers and Back to the Future Part II. Things like having Lore put a glass down and Data pick it up in the same shot, for example.

But yeah, the episode does have a lot of problems. The basic storyline doesn't really add up. Nobody knew who built Data, but as soon as they found the lab and heard the name Noonien Soong, they instantly recognized him as the only roboticist working on anything like Data? (The silliness of it became further compounded when Spiner was cast as Soong in "Brothers." You'd think the fact that Data looked exactly like the young Soong would be a pretty big clue who built him.)

And I could've done without the "positronic brain" nod. Sure, a nice literary allusion, but it makes no scientific sense. Asimov (a biologist) just chose "positronic" because it sounded like a more futuristic equivalent to "electronic." But it basically means a computer with antiparticles in its circuits, which if it's made of matter would pretty much be self-annihilating.

In the episode's defense, it didn't actually say that Data was incapable of using contractions, just that he "tend to speak more formally than Lore." His avoidance of contractions was presented as a personal habit, not an absolute mental block. Blame later episodes like "The Offspring" for misinterpreting it as a complete inability to do something as simple as formulating a contraction. (Although it is true that he used contractions routinely before this episode, and even once or twice in the early parts of this episode.)
Keith DeCandido
6. krad
The splitscreen work was cutting edge, 'tis true, but the body-double work was clumsy and obvious, particularly after Data fell to the floor in his quarters and most especially during the fight scene in the cargo bay. Surprisingly inept camera work from director Bowman, who would do much better three years later in "Brothers," even though he had to have the same guy in the room three times over instead of two.....
7. Chesssara
Once or twice in the early parts of the episode?? How about at the very end!! When he tells Picard: "Yes sir, I'm fine"??????

But you do have a point in that in this episode at least it seems that the idea was that Data merely spoke more formally than Lore....

You know, I also remembered this episode as being better that it is....this time around the holes and sheer stupidity of people who ought to know better was painful to watch, i.e. Picard agreeing to the plan, no one reacting to Lore addressing Riker as just Riker, Worf getting trapped like that and no alarm being sounded by the rest of the security team that something was going on...painful!

Still, as others have said, at least it serves to establish Data's background and Spiner's work is wonderful.

Gosh, I can't wait for this season to be over and we get to episodes that don't make me cringe!
rob mcCathy
8. roblewmac
it seems so STUPID to have such an advanced android that can't use contractions.
9. euphbass
It seems to me that this re-watch is turning into nothing more than a Star Trek bashing excercise. Yes, it was cheesy, but you've got to just suspend your disbelief and go with the flow - enjoy it! And maybe try and find a few more positives, rather than focussing on the negatives?
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
euphbass: I'm a huge Star Trek fan. Been one since birth (earlier, if my mother, who was pregnant with me while the third season aired, is to be believed). Written more than a dozen Trek novels, several short stories, a dozen more novellas, a few comic books, edited the monthly Trek eBook line for 8 years. I adore Star Trek. And in particular I adore Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seriously.

But the first season just wasn't overall that great and had tremendous flaws. Did you read my reviews of "Where No One Has Gone Before"? Of "The Big Goodbye"? I really liked those and said so. Some weaker episodes I still made an effort to find those positives -- like "The Battle" and "Hide and Q." And we've still got "11001001" and "Home Soil" (which I actually liked quite a bit despite its problems) coming up, and they were excellent.

With "Datalore," I found almost nothing to enjoy. The only thing I really liked was watching Spiner go nuts as Lore -- and even then, this performance was pretty subdued compared to his much superior outings as Lore in "Brothers" and "Descent." And the rest of it just didn't work for me, especially given, as I mentioned, how stupid the crew came across in the episode. I really like the TNG characters, and I really don't like watching them be dumb as boxes of rocks.

Trust me, once we hit the second season, you're going to see a lot less bashing -- simply because there's much less to bash.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
11. Jeff R.
Don@1: The 'prototype version that is evil, largely due to an increased desire for personal freedom coupled with a wide amoral streak' is a bit older than Knight Rider; it goes all the way back to the Lilith myth...
rob mcCathy
12. roblewmac
I submit my friends that it's not that bad a trope to use with Data After all there had to BE a prototype making him evil is a fun idea.
13. euphbass
I really like the TNG characters, and I really don't like watching them be dumb as boxes of rocks.

I can empathise with that! I do wish the writing was better (it's worrying when I realise I could write some of the episodes better, and these guys were being paid to write them - did they not have editors?) but I guess I find it very easy to put aside these things and just enjoy it as Star Trek and almost use my imagination to "correct" it as I watch it. I am probably the most tolerant film/TV viewer ever though - things almost everyone else says are rubbish I invariably enjoy hugely as fluff - loads of fun, hardly Oscar winning material!

Also, I probably have a bit of a defensive reflex with people criticising Star Trek (people being almost all my contemporaries when I was growing up, and an awful lot of people I know now) - I took a lot of stick for liking it, and even as an adult I don't generally admit to it much because of the strange looks I get, or the overt criticism of it that always seems to ensue.
14. CaptHart
Sorry for the necro posting but I'm catching my way back up to current episode and was suprised that no one had pointed out the following:

Per the MemoryAlpha definition of holodeck, "A holodeck combines transporter technology with that of replicators, by generating actual matter, as well as projecting force fields to give the objects the illusion of substance." Given that, a replicated snowball that could leave real H2O on Picard and could leave the hologrid confines is feasible and not necessarily a bug in the code.
15. Ensign Jayburd
This episode is really only useful insofar as it gives us Data's backstory. Yet another example of a first season episode with a great idea, but poor execution. But I have to love it anyway, because it led to "Brothers" which is one of my favorites.
16. Big Joe S.
I dissent. This episode is good storytelling. Picard is very legitimately interested in Data's background-and wants to give him a chance to explore that. And Data has that chance to get to know who he is. Omicron Theta is just spooky enough as an empty house. The premise that there was a predecessor to Data that had humanity (and indeed, human fallacy-Lore is a depraved maniac-and indeed was made too human in that he shares that depravity). And the crew has to confront that possibility-what if Data was made too human and is just as depraved as, say, Michael Ross or Robert Schulman or Son of Sam. I think it is a reach to say that Lore could drug Data with champagne-but, it further elucidates Lore's depravity. And the Crystalline Entity is an interesting lurking co-villain-one that we would find out is not truly a villain. But there is a real risk there. Ron Jones does a masterful job with a great score-especially with Lore's theme. And, there is something comedic about Wesley being the only one to recognize and Picard and Riker bumbling about there. Oops!!!
I actually really enjoyed seeing this ep on the big screen in the Theatre with LeVar Burton last July. The episode came to life beautifully both visually and otherwise on the big screen. And it's strong in a weak season.
So, I respectfully dissent.
17. Electone
Being a 1st Season fan, this one became a bit of a surprise upon rewatch. Perhaps it was just the fun of seeing Spiner play both roles and his delicious delivery as Lore, but I was blinded as to how ridiculous the crew behaves in this one.

Why can't the crew realize when Data is not really Data? In "The Schizoid Man" I can slightly understand the crew (especially Picard) not cluing in right away that Ira Graves had invaded Data's body because: 1. No one knew Graves had the technology to accomplish this, and 2: They all thought Graves was dead.

But here, it's almost like you want to take a baseball bat and hit them all over the head. Calling Riker "Riker", not understanding what "Make it so" means, etc. etc. HELLO?!?

Ah, never mind. At least we get "Shut up, Wesley!".
18. ellisk
This episode doesn't have a single redeeming characteristic. It is one of the top ten worst episodes in all of Star Trek. Every line in it is stupid, and the actors, well aware that they have found themselves in a stinker, are universally wooden. Don't even think of telling me that Spiner's performance as "Lore" redeems this episode in any way. Spiner mugs up Lore to such a degree that from the very instant he opens his mouth, a viewer is completely certain that Lore is a villian, and that takes all of the suspense out of the episode. The instances of stupidity are almost overwhelming, almost inconceivable, almost unimaginable. No one suspects Lore of impersonating Data, even with Wesley repeatedly yelling at them about it? Suddenly Lore/Data can communicate with the creature, which bears a striking resemblance to the creature shown in the schoolkids drawings (with terrified stick figure people fleeing for their lives), yet Picard assents to granting him transporter control so the ship can lower the shields that are repelling the murderous creature, and Lore/Data can replicate a tree out in space and destroy it with the ship's phasers? Excuse me, what? I could sit here typing for the next hour about how utterly absurd and ridiculous this entire episode is from top to bottom--every line, every situation, every behaviour--an lazy insult to the intelligence of a four year old--just simply totally awful from beginning to end.
19. jkpetrich
I find it interesting.... when you watch Spiner as Dr. Soong on Enterprise, it is very similar to Lore here. Lore is convinced that cybernetics are superier while Soong thought Augments were. THAT is something that is kind of frightning and may give another reason as to why Lore was shut down. They both had the same dangerous ideas.
I know thiat this is, again, a retcon, but something interesting to think about.
20. Altair
It was frustrating to see how blind the crew was, 'cept you Wesley, when they've encountered many personalities in their travels worthy of well-founded suspicion. The only thing I can think of was how implicitly the ship trusted Data and perhaps extended that same sense of trust, to their peril, to Lore. Lore was an OK premise but I understand the commenter who mentioned he was overacted (and I'm a big Spiner fan).

What I didn't like were the double enemies that were in league. That Lore could communincate with the crystalline entity was never explained so it seemed very far-fetched. If one or the other served as the antagonist of the episode it could have offered a bit more insight and maybe made the threat, who/whichever it was, more believable. Or feature them both but don't make Lore the summoner. Having the Enterprise, or any protagonist, face more than one threat can be done well, but this seemed cheap.

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