Fri
Feb 1 2013 5:30pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Inheritance”

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance“Inheritance”
Written by Dan Koeppel and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 7, Episode 10
Production episode 40276-262
Original air date: November 22, 1993
Stardate: 47410.2

Captain’s log: The Enterprise is assisting Atrea IV with a geological disaster. The planet’s molten core is cooling to the point where it’s solidifying. According to the two geologists who report on board—Dr. Pran Tainer and his human wife, Dr. Juliana Tainer—Atrea will become uninhabitable in thirteen months.

La Forge and Data propose to drill holes through the crust to the pockets of cooling magma and use plasma infusion to reliquefy it. After the meeting ends, Juliana approaches Data and reveals that she was once married to Noonien Soong and worked with him on the creation of Data on Omicron Theta. She’s his Mom.

They sit in Ten-Forward, and Juliana tells Data about his earliest days—what she calls his childhood—when he had difficulty with his motor skills, and during which Soong constantly tinkered with him. They deactivated him, wiped his memory of his “childhood,” programmed him with the colonists’ journals—and then the crystalline entity attacked before they could reactivate him. Soong’s escape pod could only fit two, so they had to leave him (and the other colonists, obviously) behind.

Data has a revelation of his own: not only that he met Soong, but that he died. Juliana is saddened by the news, more than expected. She and Soong divorced shortly after they relocated on Terlina III, as she couldn’t stand the life of isolation they were leading.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Being a cautious sort, Data insists on corroborating Juliana’s story before engaging in any mother-son bonding. He does find evidence that Noonien Soong and Julianna O’Donnell took a four-day trip from Omicron Theta to Mavala IV, matching one of the things Juliana told him, but that’s not much to go on. Soong never mentioned Juliana when they encountered each other, but La Forge points out she probably broke his heart. Also, Juliana has no motive to lie.

This brings Data around, and he tells Juliana, “I would like to get to know you better, Mother.”

Juliana tells all kinds of stories—the arguments over what sex to make Data and whether or not to give him the ability to be creative, how Data had trouble initially with being polite or modest—and Data shows her his quarters. While there, he plays Handel for her on the violin and shows her his paintings. He also tells her about Lal.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

They configure the phasers for drilling, and then they fire. Data’s calculations were perfect. (On the bridge, Pran expresses concern with trusting a machine without double checking his work; Riker defends Data’s skills, and smugly points out how well he nailed it when the phasers drill successfully.)

Juliana asks to join Data on the viola for his performance of the Handel piece for the crew. After they rehearse, they discuss procreation, and she reveals that, after they were forced to dismantle Lore, she resisted the notion of creating another android.

She also reveals that there was room in the pod for Data, but she made Soong leave Data behind because she was scared that he would become like Lore. Guilty, she runs from Ten-Forward.

Later on, after they’ve used the phasers to set up a magma pocket, the Tainers beam down with Data to the pocket to set up the plasma infuser. As they do so, Data asks if Juliana would have left him behind if he was a biological son of hers, and she says she would not have. Data believes that it means she values biological life more than artificial life, but Juliana explains that dismantling Lore was the hardest thing she ever had to do because—despite everything—she loved him like a son, and she couldn’t bear the thought of having to do that again. (The question of why, if there was room for another in the pod, they didn’t take any of the other colonists along with them is never addressed.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

That night, Data and Juliana perform for the crew, having left Pran and another Atrean to continue the work of setting up the infusers. Afterward, Data requests to look at Juliana’s medical records. Crusher is reluctant to do so without a good reason, and Data can’t provide one yet—he’s only willing to say that she may not be what she appears to be.

But before they can go any further, he’s called to the transporter room. The magma pocket had a cave-in. Pran and the other Atrean were injured. They have to finish setting up the infusion before the pocket collapses completely, so Data and Juliana beam down. The infuser was damaged, so they have to reprogram it—while the pocket suffers seismic activity up the wazoo. They reprogram the infuser, but a tremor dislocates the transporter pattern enhancers so that they can only reach it by jumping a huge distance. Data makes the jump just fine, but the impact severs Juliana’s arm—

—which reveals that she’s an android. She’s also unconscious.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

They beam back and Crusher and La Forge examine her. She was designed to fool people into thinking she’s human. Even as they look her over with her inner circuitry exposed, the sickbay biobed still reads her as human thanks to sensor trickery in her circuits. Crusher isn’t sure why she’s still unconscious, though, as there’s no damage to account for it.

Data is not terribly surprised at this revelation, as he’d been suspecting it for a while. He tells Riker that her eyeblinks were in a Fourier pattern that is the exact same pattern Soong programmed into Data to make his eyeblinks appear random. He also noticed that her performance in Ten-Forward was note-for-note, pitch-for-pitch exactly the same as that of their rehearsal.

La Forge finds a holographic interface module in Juliana’s cranium, which isn’t linked to any other systems. Data plugs it into the holodeck to reveal an image of Soong at middle age. This interactive hologram was programmed by Soong to answer any questions about Juliana that the person who found it might have. When Data identifies himself, it activates a subroutine specifically designed to respond to him in case he was the one who found Juliana.

There was a real Juliana O’Donnell who really did marry Soong and really did help create Lore and Data. But she was injured in their escape from Omicron Theta, and fell into a coma by the time they reached Terlina III. So he created an android and was able to transfer her memories into the machine. When she awakened, she thought she had simply recovered from her injuries. She never knew she was mechanical. But eventually she left him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Soong programmed her to fall unconscious if her android nature was ever revealed. As soon as he puts the chip back in her head, she’ll wake up as if nothing happened. She was programmed to live a long life and die at a particular old age. The holographic Soong begs Data to let her live out that life.

Data consults with Picard, Troi, and Crusher about what to do, as he is very conflicted. Eventually, he decides to let her believe she is human.

The infusers do their job, and Atrea is saved. Before Juliana beams away, Data promises to visit her on his next leave, and he finds a way to tell her that Soong loved her.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Atrea’s magma is cooling to the point where it’s no longer liquid. Seems to me that this would cause a lot more catastrophic damage than the increased seismic activity offhandedly mentioned by the Tainers, but whatever. The Enterprise of course fixes it with magical 24th technology just in time for the executive producer credit.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: While Crusher and Picard feel that it would be better for Juliana if Data told her about her android nature, Troi is the only one who argues in favor of obeying Soong’s wishes, as she’s believed herself to be human all along, and the revelation would be incredibly traumatic. It also would rob Juliana of the one thing Data has wanted all his life: to be human.

If I only had a brain...: Data figures out that Juliana is an android, using evidence that only he can possibly notice. He also eventually takes Troi’s advice, being given two choices (hey look! a machine with a binary problem!) and goes for the humane one.

What happens on the holodeck, stays on the holodeck: Soong went to great lengths to make Juliana seem human, including an interactive holographic message in a bottle to explain in case her android nature was exposed. Because he’s just that awesome.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Soong and Juliana married in secret, because her mother didn’t approve of him. They eloped on Mavala IV, with a Klingon and a Carvalan as their witnesses. Soong created the android Juliana so well that she eventually left him just as the original would have.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

I believe I said that: “He was worried that the sexuality program he designed for you wouldn’t work.”

Juliana confirming that Data being fully functional was totally a feature, and not a bug.

Welcome aboard: Fionnula Flanagan makes her second of three Trek appearances as Juliana Tainer. She played Enina Tandro in the Deep Space Nine episode “Dax,” and she’ll play Vulcan Ambassador V’Lar in in the Enterprise episode “Fallen Hero.” William Lithgow is relentlessly mediocre as Pran Tainer. And Brent Spiner, having played an elderly Noonien Soong in “Brothers” and a young Soong in “Birthright Part I,” gets to play a middle-aged Soong here.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Trivial matters: Juliana Tainer returns in the novel Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang (which, I would argue, has one of the three or four best Star Trek novel covers ever) and the Cold Equations trilogy by David Mack, and those novels also feature more of Soong (and Lal, for that matter).

Tainer mentions that there were three prototypes created before Lore. One of them, B-4, will be seen in Star Trek Nemesis.

This is the first time the planet where Data met Soong in “Brothers” was named.

Amusingly, given his artificial nature, Data has had as many or more family members appear on screen than anyone else in the main cast: his father (“Brothers”), his brother (“Datalore,” “Brothers,” “Descent”), his grandfather (“The Schizoid Man”), his daughter (“The Offspring”), and now his mother. He’s matched only by Picard (mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and father) and Worf (brother, foster mother, foster father, son, and foster brother, who will appear three episodes hence).

The manifests that Data looks over while searching for records of Soong and Juliana’s trip to Mavala IV includes several references to various members of the production staff and crew, among them Alpha Echevarria IV (after the episode’s co-writer), Lauritson’s Planet (after co-producer Peter Lauritson), Gamma Towles II (after script typist Daryl Towles), Coopersworld (after electrician Brian Cooper), and dozens more.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Make it so: “In every way that matters, she is Juliana Soong.” I want to like this episode a lot more than I do. It’s a retcon that actually works—there’s nothing in the various bits of Data’s backstory we’ve gotten in “Datalore,” “Brothers,” and “Silicon Avatar” that precludes the notion of Soong having a partner and wife, although at least some mention of her totally switching disciplines might not have been untoward. (Seriously, cybernetics is a totally different field from geology. Not that it’s unrealistic at all—people change vocations all the time—but at least a mention would’ve been nice, instead of television’s usual portrayal of all scientists being the same.)

Ultimately, the episode just slogs through. It’s a lot of people sitting around talking about things that happened a long time ago. The fact that the always- wonderful Brent Spiner and the ever-radiant Fionnula Flanagan are doing the talking ameliorates the problem, but only to a degree. It isn’t helped by yet another bog-standard TNG technobabble problem which is mostly there as background noise, not to mention a waste of a character in Pran Tainer. The latter is especially frustrating, as they set up a possible conflict with his request of Riker to double check Data’s work because he doesn’t trust machines, and then do absolutely nothing with it when his wife is revealed to be one as well.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

Having said that, Data’s dilemma at the end over whether or not to tell Juliana the truth is a compelling one, and Spiner plays it beautifully—as do Sir Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, and especially Marina Sirtis, serving as Data’s chorus.

But if ever an episode cried out for flashbacks, this was it. There’s a reason why the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell,” and all this episode does is tell. A really good hour of television could have been constructed from showing Data’s “childhood” on Omicron Theta, witnessing Soong and Juliana’s arguments, observing Juliana’s agonized decision to leave Data behind. This, sadly, was not a good hour of television.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Inheritance

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido has a bunch of short stories currently available in More Tales of Zorro, Tales from the House Band Volumes 1 and 2, Liar Liar, Apocalypse 13, V-Wars, and the new release Defending the Future 5: Best-Laid Plans. He’s also got two short story collections due out this spring: Tales from Dragon Precinct and Ragnarok & Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet.

28 comments
Exhibit A
1. Exhibit A
You missed a major family member for Worf: his son, Alexander. Also, am I correct that Worf's first foster brother you refer to is Jeremy Aster? Because the link leads to Sins of the Father.
Exhibit A
2. DavidEsmale
After this episode it always bothered me when I would hear concerns (either voiced from Brent Spiner or others) about about Mr. Spiner's ability to continue to play an unaging android when he as a human being had obviously aged. This episode provided the perfect medium for Data, the character, to make that a non-issue.

He's always wanted to be more human, and his 'mother' is arguably the most advanced android constructed, to the point that even the biobed thinks she's human. Why not have the character incorporate elements of the technology of his 'mother' into himself.

Yes, I know that sounds somewhat macabre...but still.
Keith DeCandido
3. krad
Exhibit A: GAH! Thank you for catching that.

Thinking about it, Jeremy Aster is pushing it, but the point still stands, so I just replaced Jeremy with Alexander. Still five for Worf. (If we ever saw or heard of Jeremy again, I might have reconsidered.)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Exhibit A
4. RobinM
Mother's save up the most embarrassing stories to tell your friends what ever century you're from. Jeremy shows up in at least one of the tie-in fiction books. I can't think of the title off hand.
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
@2: When Geordi mentions Julianna's aging program, he actually does say, "Not only does she age in appearance like Data, her vital signs change too." (Emphasis added.) So they actually did toss in a throwaway reference to the idea that Data was already made to age like a human, in order to explain away how Spiner had aged over seven seasons. But then the writers of Insurrection totally forgot it (easy to overlook just two words) and had Data say he was completely unchanged since he first went online.

I thought the episode worked pretty well, mainly because of Flanagan. Although I do remember wondering why Pran Tainer's reaction to his wife's secret was unexplored.

As for Data's "family," I guess I can accept that Soong was his "father" and Lal his "daughter," but calling Ira Graves his grandfather is a stretch, since he was just Soong's mentor. At most he's more of a godfather. And while the real Julianna could've been considered his mother, the android would technically have to be his sister, wouldn't she? Although she has the mind of his mother, so, uhm... it's complicated.

Keith, a small typo: "Ambassador V’Larin" should be "Ambassador V'Lar in."
Sarah Holland
6. SarahHolland
I'm trying to recall where I read one comment about this episode -
Juliana leaves Soong, right? So he tracks her down, de-activates her, places the chip in her head - and then just heads off again.
Keith DeCandido
7. krad
RobinM: Jeremy showed up in two tie-in novels, and I wrote one of them. :) It was Diplomatic Implausibility, and he was also in John Vornholt's Genesis Force.

Christopher: thanks!

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
Jeremy Aster also appeared in issues 25-26 of DC's TNG comic written by Michael Jan Friedman. The story had a subplot featuring the Rozhenkos, Alexander, and Jeremy back on Earth.
Exhibit A
9. RichF
I thought Data's "dilemma" fell short in one way. Soong programmed the android Juliana to shut down if her android nature was discovered. If Data tells her the truth, what's to stop her from shutting down again? Did they remove that program from her? Did the program have a limit of one incident? This detail wasn't explained.
Alan Courchene
10. Majicou
Fionnula Flanagan later played Eloise Hawking in Lost, which could be considered related to Trek through Bad Robot (adopted sister?)

And a plug for the novels KRAD brought up--seriously, folks. Give 'em a read if you haven't. I knew early in Cold Equations when there was a description of basically Los Angeles from Blade Runner that it was likely to be a good 'un.

A thought about Pran Tainer: maybe even the writers and crew agreed he was as aggressively bland as KRAD feels, so they didn't think a scene of him reacting to the reveal would be worth the screen time.
Heather Dunham
11. tankgirl73
"I'm trying to recall where I read one comment about this episode - Juliana leaves Soong, right? So he tracks her down, de-activates her, places the chip in her head - and then just heads off again."

Yes, I was about to post the same sort of thing. I can only fanwank that he did it when he knew she was about to leave him... but then, why wouldn't the hologram say "she was about to leave me when I made this program..."? Or, if he knew she was planning it and it wasn't a sudden surprise, why didn't he try harder to keep her? The hologram talks about her leaving him as though it's something that happened in the distant past and he's torn up with regret over it.

To be honest, I didn't notice this when watching the ep -- but it clicked when I read the recap for some reason.
Lee VanDyke
12. Cloric
krad:

Doesn't Arik Soong also count as a family member, from the Enterprise episodes "Borderland," "Cold Station 12" and "The Augments?" He'd be Data's great-great-grandfather, I believe.
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
@11: Well, the Soong hologram wasn't just a recording, but an interactive simulation that could adapt to input. So perhaps it was aware that those events had already happened and phrased its explanation accordingly.
Jay Hash
14. JYHASH
The only good to come of this episode is that with Data's mother still "alive and kicking", we have a perfect out if Data ever was to be successfully resurrected in the TNG novels. The glimmer is there in B4, and I'm sure that Juliana Tainer would be able to help that along (actually a basis for a story I was writing for "Strange New Worlds" before it was canceled). One thing I was hoping at some point would be shown was her at a public funeral for Data, because after "Nemesis"it just seems like he's kind forgotten, and pined over in small ways, but didn't get a hero's funeral like he deserved. But alas, 'tis nothing but a fanfic dream now.

Aside from her use in secondary media, Flannagan was an excelent choice and counterpointed Spiner beautifully, but there was just a bit much of necesary willing suspension of disbelief needed for her to be an android and not know about it. I mean, heck, when someone with a body piercing goes through a metal detector at the airport they go off. You'd think in all of her travels around the galaxy, at some point someone would've done a full body scan and said, "Hey lady, you know you're an android?". Just seems a bit implausible if she doesn't have someone to sidetrack her when she becomes close to figuring it out. I know there's the "sensor trickery" going on, but what if something disrupts that camoflauge field? What if Starfleet technology gets so good as to cut through that inteference? And gods forbid she gets all hyothetical about existence, then she'd really be in trouble. I'm sure I'm making it broader than Soong had programmed her, but if the random thought "what if I'm a robot?" goes through her head and she just switches off, I'm sure she'd have known by the time she was found by Data...
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@14: You really need to read the Cold Equations trilogy that just came out. That's all I'll say about that.
Joseph Newton
16. crzydroid
This episode made me think of What are Little Girls Made of? from TOS, naturally. I wonder if there was inspiration from that episode there, or if it was just a coincidence.
Jenny Thrash
17. Sihaya
Any engineer can be a mother, but it takes someone special, like her robotic doppleganger, to be a Mom.

I always wished that Troi had advised Data that there was more than one question to deal with when it came to informing Juliana of her nature. Everybody was arguing about how Juliana would feel about finding out she's not who she think she is, but nobody asked how she would feel about being lifted from the obvious guilt she's felt all these years over leaving Data behind. The reason her story about leaving him is so messed up is that it didn't happen that way - she probably never got to make the decision to leave him; she was too sick. Soong got her out of there ASAP, going so quickly that he left everything and everyone behind, laying Juliana across both the second and third seat of the escape craft. He was racing against time, and he unfortunately lost. When Soong created Juliana's replicant, he reprogrammed her memory of the escape to exclude her injury, leaving her with no choice but to believe that she'd willingly abandoned her child. It can't have helped her marriage at all, seeing her dead kid's face every day and thinking that it was accusing her.

Anybody else notice that Data's story is a reverse Superman? His planet is being destroyed, and his father creates a craft that shoots he and Mother away, leaving the super powered son behind, in a state of suspension.
Mike S2
18. MikeS2
But if ever an episode cried out for flashbacks, this was it…. A really good hour of television could have been constructed from showing Data’s “childhood” on Omicron Theta, witnessing Soong and Juliana’s arguments, observing Juliana’s agonized decision to leave Data behind.
Flashbacks would have been great. I wish you hadn't said that, it knocked the episode down even further in my opinion. Ditto for exploring the husband learning his wife is an android.

What if the episode has a much earlier reveal, with a greatly compressed technoplot. Then after the accident Data hooks himself up to Juliana in sickbay and is shown his childhood memories -- Data seeing it from her point of view. Not literally, maybe first 'through her visual inputs initially' to establish the perspective, but then drawing on memories shifting seeing it like an observer. Maybe before, just before the jump across the chasm, she had told him "I'm so sorry, it's why I didn't try to see you, I just had so much guilt..." and then Data sees her leaving him behind and then regretting it as soon as the shuttle pulls away from the planet. Then he encounters the hologram Soong, who startles Data by talking back to him and explaining that he put herself in her programming for someone to find. (Too bad the Soong's laboratory set was a one-time creation—the initial visual inputs could be seeing Soong leaning over Juliana with a perspective like a Myst book.) Meanwhile, on the ship the husband is coming to terms with his wife being an android, and he meets Data in the end and they decide what to do before waking Juliana.

I think the seventh season really led into and must have inspired "All Good Things..." They had one last season of TNG, and they kind of frittered it away with these "What if Data had a mother?" "What if the warp drive was polluting the universe like a car?" episodes. The brilliance of going back to "Farpoint" wasn't just bookending, but captured the feeling: We could have done things different, but we did what we did, plenty of good in there and anyway it's over now -- if the metaphor wasn't clear, the third cut being to closer to the end of characters' lives.

Making some of TNG's last episodes like this one could have inspired that.
Exhibit A
19. Sanagi
Data recognizing another android by their blinking patterns is maybe my favorite bit of technobabble in the whole series. Because of course Data would notice that.
Exhibit A
20. Ashcom
@6 & 11 - I don't see that this needs to be a plothole. Wherever I travel in the world, my laptop will still pick up security update for software the next time I connect up to wifi. I'm pretty sure that by the 24th century, the Federation will have worked out how to do this on a "subspace" scale.

I never really enjoy retcon episodes, or ones where the Enterprise has been sent to a planet with a problem to which Geordi and Data almost instantly come up with a solution that has eluded the combined finest minds of that planet's population. But that said, I didn't hate it.
Andrew Love
23. Andy Love
I'm trying to recall where I read one comment about this episode -

Juliana leaves Soong, right? So he tracks her down, de-activates her, places the chip in her head - and then just heads off again.
I read that comment in Phil Farrand's "Nitpicker's Guide" book; perhaps you did too.
Heather Dunham
24. tankgirl73
#22 I love that fanwank... she had automatic wifi software updates. Brilliant. Perfect.
Exhibit A
25. Sypher
Personally, for purely irrational reasons, I love this episode. I worked for me, despite everyhing you mentioned. Though, reheating the planets core, which so many scifi series suggest, doesn't actualy do anything because it doesn't fix the lack of movement in the deeper layers of the crust. Which is what's causing the problem to begin with. Also, these processes takes thousands of year. But whatever. I still love this episode.

I would content that the problems brought before it are minor enough to elevate this episode to a six, if only for the emotional through-line of Data working so strongly.
Jay Hash
26. JYHASH
@15: Urgh, Ok. Gotta get through the rest of the "Typhon Pact" stuff first. I was in the middle of "The Struggle Within" and then when I got laid off, it took a back seat, but I'll get back on the horse, plow through so I can read David's new books. I already bought them, they're just sitting on my iPad...
Exhibit A
27. ark
What I don't get is how Juliana could go through the teleporter without anyone noticing that she was android. The teleporter has to identify her physical make up correctly or she won't get reassembled correctly.
Rob Rater
28. Quasarmodo
Regarding Data's family, shouldn't B-4 be listed as a second brother?
Exhibit A
29. Dan Koeppel
Hey, I am the writer of that episode...or co-writer (I wrote the story and co-wrote the script with Rene Echevarria). I think your criticisms are pretty spot on; there are so many things that make making a "perfect" script difficult...but I do think it is a good episode, if I say so myself - though maybe I'm not qualified to say so, since it is the only television I've ever done (I'm a journalist and non-fiction book author by trade).

It was sheer luck and the fact that I'd been a Star Trek fan since my own childhood in the 1970s and had a buddy who worked on the show that allowed me to pitch this story, which - as others have pointed out - takes a bit from "Blade Runner" in its narrative dilemma. It remains the piece of work I've done that was the most fun for me in over three decades as a professional writer, and also the one with the biggest audience: more people have seen that one TNG episode than have read all my books and magazine articles combined! I still get residual checks, too, though they're rarely for more than twenty bucks.

- Dan Koeppel
Exhibit A
30. Anthony Pirtle
I thought it was a good story as far as it went, but I wouldn't give it more than a warp 6 simply because it should really be a big effing deal that there's an android superior to Data running around, instead of just a family dilema.

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