In which the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.
Memory Alpha says: Enterprise explores Data’s home planet, Omicron Theta. They find his brother, and the dark secret he carries. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
Of course I’ll have a lot to say about this one, because it’s the first really Data-centric episode, and to me TNG is a show about Data. It also introduces one of my favourite characters, and one I feel is sadly underused, Data’s villainous older brother Lore. In the early planning stages, the new android was going to be female (a gynoid, really) and a love interest for Data (so, um, presumably not his sister, although I suppose if you want to be really rational about it it’s not exactly incest if there’s no DNA or shared experience of a familial relationship involved) but Brent Spiner suggested the ol’ evil twin routine.
In doing so, he made a rod for his own back, because playing both Data and Lore involved a lot of costume changing, mental gear shifting and of course shooting every scene in which both appeared twice (three times in the excellent ‘Brothers’ where he also plays their father Noonien), with extensive use of body doubles and suchlike fooferaw. As far as I know, it’s because this was exhausting for him that we don’t see very much of Lore, and that makes me sad because, especially after ‘Brothers,’ I find Lore a really fascinating person (and his swan song, ‘Descent,’ peeves me both because it diminishes Data morally and it has Lore develop a sudden case of Supervillain Syndrome that seems a trifle jarring).
If I may, I wish that Nemesis wasn’t about Romulans and Remans and poor Tom Hardy playing a shitty clone, I wish it were about a final showdown between Data and Lore. Brent Spiner wanted Data to die so he could be free of the role, okay, do that, but without the idiocy of having Data replaced by B4 who is played by Brent Spiner. Have Lore and Data ultimately both die, in a sort of mutual nemesis arrangement (only they can destroy each other), but Data’s programming and memory live on in a resurrected Lal. Don’t try to make it like Spock; make it like Dax, with the essence of Data continuing in a new identity. There should still be a part for Ron Perlman, though, because I freaking love Ron Perlman.
Failing that (you know, given the lack of time travel to enable me to change bad movies), I wish we could have an animated continuation of TNG, as there was for TOS in the 1970s, for which nobody would need to get into costume or makeup or a girdle (Frakes), they would just do the voices (Gargoyles and Patrick Stewart’s performance as Lord Yupa in the Disney dub of Nausicäa make it clear that they are all awesome for this) – and the series could move around to anywhere in the post-TNG, DS9 etcetera world, pick up on any of our old friends, show how Data re-emerges through B4, see how O’Brien’s doing teaching at the Academy, show Tom Riker rebuilding his life after getting out of jail, revisit some weird shit from TOS like Balock or Trelane if they felt like it, make crossover Sherlock Holmes/secret agent holodeck adventures for Data and Julian Bashir, the adventures of Wesley with the Traveller (now that’d be some weird shit) – and there should be several episodes all about what Lore got up to in between episodes, exploring the seedy underbelly of the Alpha Quadrant.
I’m so full of good ideas, everyone. THOSE ARE COPYRIGHT BY ME, OKAY? IF THEY TURN UP ON TV AND I DON’T GET ANY MONEY I’M GOING TO BE MAD.
But anyway, now it’s time for ‘Datalore,’ which does have some good ideas in it, but also some really weird stuff, and is Unfair To Wesley.
There are a lot of 4s in the stardate Picard reels off at the beginning. They’re approaching the Omicron Theta system, where Data came from, and although they’re on the way somewhere, Picard wants to stop in for a few hours in the hope of learning a bit more about Data’s mysterious beginnings. I know vast distances are involved, but you’d think that in the twenty-plus years Data’s been around, most of that time serving in Starfleet, someone would have gone and checked up on the old homestead, at least to see if, you know, there are any more like him. Have they seen ‘I, Mudd’?
Data is not currently on the bridge – Wesley is keeping his chair warm for him, though, and Geordi announces that they’re twenty minutes from OT, so Riker tells him to slow down and prepare to orbit ‘Data’s planet,’ as if he owns the place. He’s puzzled that Data isn’t present, and Picard, sounding amused, explains that he said he wanted to be alone – ‘perhaps this is a bigger moment for him than we thought.’
When Wesley goes to check on him, though, he finds Data practising sneezing. His pained anticipatory ‘aah… aaah’ is actually pretty good. It’s the ‘choo’ where he falls apart. I would like to know if Data has also tried burping and farting, or if those are a bit too rude for one as polite as he. You know, I once snurped. Sneezed and burped simultaneously. It was one of the most disconcerting sensations I’ve ever had. The burp went through my nose. I’m a weird sneezer anyway; instead of one big ah-choo I produce a rapid-fire series of ‘ah-TSU! TSU! TSU!’ mini-sneezes, often described as sounding like a cat. Usually six or seven, but I’ve got as high as ten in dusty conditions.
Presumably dusty conditions still make people sneeze even in the 24th Century, but Wesley asks Data if he’s got a cold, which people don’t get any more and Data probably couldn’t get even if he snorted rhinovirus. At first, Data doesn’t know what a cold is, which seems like a bizarrely large gap in knowledge. I want to go and find out whether anyone ever mentions having a cold in the Sherlock Holmes books, but I am too lazy. He tries again, and Wesley interrupts to ask how he can practise sneezing when they’re arriving at his home planet – isn’t he interested?
More than interested, fascinated, Data says; one might say he is agog, but he also finds sneezing interesting. I’ve always found Data’s tendency to impartial multitasking rather endearing. In this scene I notice that the tight Spandex onesies were really not very conducive to the actors’ dignity, because, if I can put this delicately, Data does not have a cold, but I think Brent Spiner is feeling cold. Anyway, Wesley tells Data that Picard wants to see him on the bridge… because Picard would rather send Wesley on a walk than just touch the badge on his chest that would let him speak to Data directly. If the idea is to keep Wesley usefully employed and have a little break from him on the bridge, I can sympathise.
On the bridge, Tasha reports that although Omicron Theta has an M-class environment, there are no life signs, not even vegetation, which Picard finds odd because the crew that found Data reported farmland there. Data arrives and Riker invites him to ‘take her into orbit.’ He says a simple ‘No thank you, sir,’ and stands beside the two senior officers looking out the viewscreen. As the BGM swells up, though, he suddenly walks forward, staring out at the planet that’s filling more and more of the screen, his mouth slightly ajar, and Wesley and Geordi both look up at him curiously. Data seems to realise he’s behaving oddly, looking back and returning to stand beside Picard and Riker.
You know how you notice stupid things sometimes? Brent Spiner’s hair is very slightly messed up in this shot. He has a little tuft sticking up. I want to pat it down for him (my family get mad at me for my tendency to tidy other people’s hair, but at least I don’t lick my hand to do it).
Picard, Data and Riker discuss the expression ‘Home, sweet home’ and memories, and Data says his memories confirm the farmland detail. However, the colony was principally concerned with science.
Tasha speaks up to say that she doesn’t see how Data can contain the memories of four hundred and eleven people, and he explains that he doesn’t actually have the memories of all their experiences – only ‘the knowledge they had accumulated.’ This idea doesn’t work too well for me. How do you separate the ‘knowledge’ in a human mind from all the rest, the sensory memories and emotions? Most of us don’t have full synaesthesia, but we do have very associative minds, which is why you can use sensory triggers like smells to evoke memories. My knowledge, for example, of what the word ‘brittle’ means, is inextricably associated with my mother telling me that I could try to keep the little green plastic donkey cocktail decoration from my milkshake at the Melbourne Travelodge’s restaurant forever, but it probably wouldn’t last because that kind of thin plastic is very brittle. I may know what ‘brittle’ means in other words now, but I can’t help thinking that if you take the cocktail donkey away, the memory of the shiny transparent green plastic that looked like a jewel to me, and the thoughts it inspired in my six-year-old mind about the nature of ‘forever’ and what will and won’t last, the rest won’t stand.
I am aware of how stupid the words ‘cocktail donkey’ sound. I wish it had been a cocktail monkey, like the one in Clockwatchers.
If the sensory memories and emotions were there but Data just couldn’t understand them or access them, that might make more sense. Or if he actually means they just loaded their journals and records into his brain, not their memories at all.
He explains that he is ‘quite deficient’ in some areas of human experience, such as sneezing, which surprises Picard and tickles Riker. Geordi announces that they’re entering ‘close parking orbit’ and Picard tells Riker to choose his away team, which he does by turning towards the back of the room and silently pointing at about three people, like ‘you, you and you.’ Picard tells Data this must be an exciting time for him (if you say so, sir), and he’s tempted to lead the away team himself, except his first officer would object. Riker points out that he’d object because a whole colony vanished down there (and everyone seems remarkably unconcerned about that at this stage, with a considerable lack of ‘Why did they vanish? Could the cause of their vanishing still be down there?’-type thoughts). He gives Data a friendly pat on the arm as he says this. As the away team heads to the lift (Riker apparently picked Geordi, Tasha and Worf – despite the fact that Geordi was at the front of the bridge when he was pointing to people at the back of it), Picard says ‘Mr Data? Welcome home.’ I notice Tasha smiles about that as the lift doors close.
Planetside, there are a lot of dead trees, and as Riker narrates, not even ‘soil bacteria’ are alive. What could do that to an entire planet? Geordi, oddly, reports that the soil looks ‘almost completely lifeless,’ which implies that there is still something alive in it, and I want to know what. Riker asks Data if this is the location recorded by the Tripoli, the vessel that found him, and he confirms that the contours of the landscape match the farmland he remembers (or that the colonists knew, because I don’t think he’s speaking from personal memory here). Geordi (who I think is supposed to be analysing the soil with his visor) estimates that this was farmland twenty to thirty years ago, and Data points out that he was discovered 26 years ago. So youuuuuung. Goddamn, it’s bothering me that he’s younger than I am now, and has a much cooler job. Geordi believes everything on the planet was already dead or dying by the time Data was found.
Data points out that he was found about twenty metres away, and leads the way. As they go, Tasha asks him if he knows why he was given the colonists’ memories, and he replies that although he’s always felt (felt?) it was done hurriedly, he doesn’t know the reason. He shows the others where he was found, lying on a square stone slab that has been cut out of a more natural-looking (well, polystyrene-looking) rock face, with ‘nothing but a layer of dust.’ The first thing he can remember is opening his eyes. He seemed to be remotely activated by the same device that sent a signal to the Tripoli.
Geordi reports that the hollow in the rocks is as artificially formed as the slab, but camouflaged to look natural. This triggers a ‘memory remnant’ for Data – the colonists hid here from something, and in fear of being discovered, stored their important information in him (then put him outside? What? Why?). Anyway, Geordi finds some kind of trigger (he says ‘Yeah, thought so,’ which amuses me) and the secret door in the rock swings open. They all go in, finding an artificial corridor, and Riker finds a light switch. Tasha reports no life signs in here either. Everyone strolls along the corridor until they come to a round door, which Riker opens by pushing a button – he’s good with switches and buttons today!
Tasha walks through first, I guess because she’s Security Girl and wants to assess the room (although she’s just walking the same rather casual way she did in the corridor, not scanning around to make sure the place is clear of threats). As the BGM swells up to tell us this is important, the camera pans around a laboratory with all sorts of equipment, the instruments’ lights still (or again?) shining. Data and the others follow Tasha in and look around. Data has only ‘a vague impression’ of undergoing function testing here. Riker notices a display of children’s drawings, and suggests that they were posted by proud parents.
We get a close-up on the drawings, all four of which feature a glowing, multi-branched star-like object descending low to the ground and human figures running away from it. In one drawing, some of them seem to be getting levitated up towards the star. One picture, signed ‘John (initial I can’t read),’ shows distinct cartooning talent and a surprisingly sophisticated use of perspective for a kid. Anyway, the figures in the drawings are obviously afraid, so it makes sense that Data says the subject matter feels ‘familiar and dangerous,’ but he is not sure what it is. The only other thing he can remember is an impression that a particular workstation was used by ‘Dr Soong.’
Riker asks if he means Noonien Soong, and Data, who keeps remembering more than he says he does, says that he was known by that name here, but travelled to the colony under another. Geordi exposits that Noonien Soong was Earth’s foremost robotic scientist – until, Tasha chips in, he tried to create a positronic brain as described by Asimov. He failed completely and disappeared, Riker continues – so he must have come here to try again. (Actually, it’s not surprising he would fail to create a ‘positronic’ brain, since Asimov was just making up a word that sounded similar to ‘electronic’ but implied that it was the next step up from electronics. Still, if scientists and engineers didn’t go around trying to really create things that science fiction writers made up just because they sounded good, we wouldn’t have all sorts of cool technology today.)
(Here I have to stop and really wonder why Data’s dad was given a name that sounds so similar to Noonien Singh, the Khan of the Eugenics Wars. Enterprise actually ended up tying this back in a reasonably clever way, implying that the Soong family were closely involved in eugenics long after they fell out of favour and his name may have been a tribute to the GE superman. It still makes about as much sense as naming your kid Adolf when your family name happens to be Hilter. What kind of shit did he get at school? I guess my main point is that the Soongs are a strange, strange family – and while Noonien was in many ways a nice man, we’ll come to see that he was also a profoundly odd one. You know, I also wonder why, once Data knows Dr Soong was his father, he doesn’t start using Soong as a surname. Does he just like being mononymic?)
Data has been written up in several bio-mechanical textbooks – he said so in ‘The Naked Now.’ How is it not known that his brain is positronic, and why would people not have linked that to what the most famous roboticist in the world was trying to do? Anyway, Worf and Tasha go off to have a look around while Riker and the nerds stay to explore the lab some more. Riker pushes some more buttons and opens a cabinety thing that contains what appear to be clear plastic moulds for a man’s face and chest – and the face mould matches Data’s features exactly. He looks very perturbed. Tasha calls to say the installation is big enough to hold hundreds of people, but it’s empty. (She and Worf have apparently determined this in about thirty seconds.)
(The face and chest moulds were, of course, cast from Brent Spiner – and I have read that the person who put the plaster on his chest didn’t think to shave the skin first, so he got an involuntary and rather painful chest-hair-ectomy when they removed the hardened cast.)
Geordi has found a door to what he thinks is a storage area. (Data very carefully sets down the face mould before going over to look.) It’s full of swirly dry ice, which pours out and clears away when Data presses the buttons to open it. Inside, in bits, each nested in a cutout of foam, is another identical-looking android. To my enduring amusement, the section from the waist down to just above the knees is presented with, um, its back to us. Clenched.
So last week someone said ‘dick,’ albeit meaning detective, and this week we get to see a bare bum, albeit an extremely pale one not currently attached to anyone. And people think standards are falling.
Riker asks ‘How many more Datas are there?’, and Geordi, with absolutely no supporting evidence, says he thinks it’s just these two – well, ‘that and the real Data.’ Data steps forward and carefully picks up the detached head, which has no ears attached and considerably more bouffant hair than his, and marvels ‘Can this be another me? Or possibly my brother?’
Riker says, in a somewhat repressive/dismissive tone, that he honestly doesn’t know, but Data is absolutely enraptured and says ‘He needs assembly.’ Riker repeats ‘He?’ which is kind of insulting, given that Data is just as much of an ‘it’ as what they’re looking at, and points out that they don’t know if this android can ‘become alive.’ Data needs to know for sure, since he never thought it possible that he’d find someone else like him.
Riker says ‘Understood. We’ll take it back to the ship with us.’ Because even he is not totally invulnerable to Data Kitty Eyes – even if he does insist on calling his colleague’s apparent brother ‘it.’ Sinister electronic chords on the soundtrack, which is reminding me oddly of the score from Labyrinth. How you turned my world, you precious thing!
Picard narrates that they’ve moved on from Omicron Theta and are trying to assemble the other android and make him go. For no reason I can understand, the hands and feet have been put into glass jars containing light blue liquid. Were they pruny? There is a montage of that bore Argyle and other goldshirts – and a blueshirt – assembling the parts while Data stands at a distance and watches, not actually participating. This seems like an odd choice. I would have expected him to be right in there, hands on. I also note that Lore has some very noticeable seams across his shoulders and down the sides of his torso, and wonder if Data has those too or has smoothed them off.
Beverly, who I guess is there to take care of the bio side of bio-mechanics, approaches Data and tells him ‘Signal from the Captain. They need you at the debriefing.’ Is Data’s commbadge broken this episode? Why is everyone else giving him his messages? And why have they gone ahead to assembling the new android before having a debrief about his discovery? Data asks Argyle for his opinion – does he think ‘he’ will be able to function? Argyle says ‘it’ seems to have all the same components as Data, not that they know all the details of how he works. (That’s a very non-commital answer.) Beverly pats Data’s shoulders fondly (it’s Pet Data Week) and tells him that they have their ‘top specialists’ working on it. Who’s that, really, given that they haven’t got much of a clue how Data works?
There’s an odd bit now, as Argyle and Beverly awkwardly try to ask Data something that they don’t state directly – they wouldn’t try to disassemble him, of course, but if they should need to compare his construction with the new android’s… Data seems to know what they mean and nods before he leaves. What are they asking him? To take his clothes off and let them have a look? And it’s odd that they seem embarrassed about it. Argyle might since he’s an engineer, but Beverly is a doctor; she must ask people to take their clothes off so she can examine them all the time. It’s not as if they’re asking just for fun, the way you or I might.
In the conference room, Picard is sitting jauntily on the table (ew, man, sometimes people eat off that table, I’m pretty sure it was redressed for the ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ with the Klingons in The Undiscovered Country), anviliciously telling Riker that bringing the other android on board was the right thing to do. As Data enters, Picard tells him that if his ‘duplicate’ works, it could answer a lot of questions. Data’s reaction to this interests me – he opens his mouth slightly as if he has something to say, but doesn’t speak, nodding instead and closing his mouth before sitting down beside Riker. He seems to feel very uncomfortable. He will soon have reason to, as ‘No Boundaries’ Riker promptly asks him if the other android has a dick. Well, okay, he asks if it has ‘all your… parts,’ but he says it with such loaded pauses that it’s hard not to assume he’s asking about privates. And honestly? Seriously? When Data was sitting down, Riker was looking at his lap. Fortunately Data is more pure of mind than either Riker or I, and calmly answers ‘Completely, sir.’
Geordi, who seems embarrassed (maybe because he knows how what he has to ask is going to sound after bloody Riker’s pervy question), asks ‘Will we know how to turn it on?’ Data seems to be about to answer that, when he’s interrupted by Picard briskly saying ‘All right.’ He announces that ‘legitimate questions about any of this need not be asked apologetically.’ He tells Data that he feels uncomfortable about aspects of his duplicate, although Data certainly hasn’t said so; I suppose Picard noticed his awkward manner as I did, but I think he’s jumping to conclusions. Data might be uncomfortable because other people are making a big deal of what he thought was a happy discovery – their reactions are telling him it’s weird when he thought it was just nice, and he must be the one in the wrong, since they’re the humans. Boy, look at me project my own social awkwardness onto Data.
Picard goes on that ‘we’ feel uncomfortable too, and for no logical reason. Riker doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Riker never feels uncomfortable. Riker just wants to see him an android’s dick. But anyway, Picard, taking that middle-school principal tone that he sometimes uses, says that if it feels awkward to be reminded that Data is a machine, they should remember that ‘we’ are just a different kind of machine. And I’m sure your use of ‘we’ is not making Data feel more awkward or different at all. He suggests that they handle this as they would anything else. Geordi, sounding relieved, says ‘Agreed, Captain’ and Riker beams and knocks on the table, which I guess is manbear for ‘Hear, hear!’
Picard then hands over to Data, who says ‘a good starting point’ may be the question of why he was given human form. Starting point for what? What’s the purpose of this meeting again? Wouldn’t a debriefing mean that the three from the away team describe the trip to Picard and answer his questions about it? Anyway, Data, you were given human form because your father was kind of a narcissist, but not without reason; you are awfully cute. Geordi, though, suggests that it was to make it easier for humans to relate to him, and Picard adds that his designer may also have been trying to show that human-shaped robots (HE’S NOT A ROBOT) need not be ‘clumsy or limited’ in their performance. ‘You certainly operate as well as we do, Data.’
‘Better in some ways, sir,’ says Data, whom I love partly because it is impossible to patronise him. He may be the only person extant who has neither low nor inflated self-esteem. His self-esteem is exactly where it should be. Picard looks discomfited and hopes they are not still talking about ‘parts.’
Riker chooses this moment to actually drag them back onto something resembling topic, handing over one of the drawings from the lab. He’s still harping on the idea that they were displayed by ‘proud parents,’ but suggests that it could be a link to the disappearance of the colonists – perhaps the star-like object is just imaginary, but several children did similar drawings. Riker is keeping a studiously open mind as to whether the drawings mean anything at all – although they are obviously DOOM-LADEN and should raise far more suspicion than they do. If Worf were here, he’d want to shoot the drawings. Can’t we find a happy medium?
Beverly’s voice comes over the intercom, telling Picard that ‘at this point we very much need Mr Data’s help.’ There is an exchange of uncomfortable looks around the table before Picard says ‘He’s on his way, Doctor.’ He continues to look thoughtfully at the drawing while Riker and Geordi sit there wondering when they can go back to work. Well, Geordi wonders that, Riker wonders if ‘so can I see its dick?’ is a legitimate question or one he should ask apologetically. Note also how Data’s best friend didn’t ask him if he wanted him to come along.
In the room where Lore is being reassembled, Data discreetly shows Beverly the off-switch in his back, guiding her to feel it through his uniform. He says it operates almost as a switch, but I would say it operates exactly as a switch, and I think maybe Data learned his definition of ‘almost’ from Geordi. Apparently Beverly can feel some ‘small projections’ on his back. Can we all just think how lucky it is Tasha didn’t accidentally hit that while she was hitting that? Data says those bumps are ‘an android alarm clock,’ and asks hopefully ‘Is that amusing?’ Beverly gives him a stony-faced shake of her head, and he explains that those time how long he remains unconscious. Not amusing, but it’s a decent analogy.
Argyle comes over and asks Data if he’s certain about them using these something devices. I really can’t hear what the adjective is – it sounds like ‘cheating.’ Data assures him he will feel nothing, and Argyle says ‘marvellous.’ They want to see how Data’s circuitry is connected, I suppose so they can hook up Lore’s in the same way. Once Argyle walks away, Beverly tells Data ‘I won’t mention it to anyone. You have my word,’ implying that he asked her to keep it a secret before we entered this scene. Data asks her, if she had an off switch, would she not want to keep it secret? (It’s significant, I suppose, that he says ‘would you not’ instead of ‘wouldn’t you,’ but that’s a can of worms we’ll open later.) Bev guesses she would. Anyway, that explains why Data was whispering.
In the next scene I guess Data and Lore have been moved to sickbay, where they are both lying unconscious (Lore is fully assembled by now) on beds with gadgety covers over them and magnifying panels in the tops. Oh, hey, nipples again! Jesus. Anyway, this helps Bev and Argyle see where everything joins up, and she closes the incisions in their chests.
Riker and Picard arrive at the sickbay, where Riker is doubtless disappointed to see Data has got his onesie back on. Argyle reports that looking at Data’s guts helped, but there are still no signs of consciousness. Data is making funny birdy motions with his head, perhaps because he just woke up, and Riker gives him an odd look. He says ‘It certainly is a good match for Data, sir,’ and Picard, oddly, says ‘Do you think so?’ IT’S THE SAME ACTOR. Picard wonders aloud which one was made first, and Lore opens his eyes and starts his new life by telling a lie: ‘He was.’ Data looks very startled, and Labyrinthy synth music starts on the soundtrack, as Lore continues ‘But he was found to be imperfect, and I was made to replace him.’ Then his face produces something between a wink – towards Data – and a twitch, the whole side of it scrunching up. Data continues to look startled. Lore adds ‘You may call me Lore’ and smiles. Third cut to Data making the same reaction face, and scene.
As the Enterprise steams on through the stars, we join Picard and Data in mid-conversation in the ready room. This is an example of an awkward convention of screenwriting, where people talk as if it wasn’t possible for them to ask follow-up questions to the dramatic revelation at the end of the last scene. Picard is troubled by ‘it’ describing Data as ‘imperfect.’ Data says that human language often gives him trouble, and ‘imperfect’ might just mean that Data lacks some abilities Lore possesses. Picard thinks the point is whether ‘you and it’ possess roughly the same capabilities. Data very gently and politely calls him out on the use of ‘it,’ saying it implies that he is also a ‘thing.’ Picard apologises, and they get on with it with no hard feelings, and we ignore the fact that it would have been perfectly reasonable back there to say ‘Pleased to meet you, Lore, and what do you mean by “imperfect”?’
Data says that Lore’s use of syntax and grammar – and oh, let’s not forget that the use of syntax and grammar is going to be a key point in this episode – suggests he was programmed with similar human memories to his own, and that they are about equal in physical strength and mental abilities (he does not say how he can tell – have they done tests?). Picard, then, has to ask ‘a very serious question,’ given what a close relationship the two appear to have – which Data anticipates, saying that his loyalty is to Starfleet, ‘and to you, completely.’ Aw, he is such a sweet boy. Come on, really, Jean-Luc, did you think he was going to say ‘Stuff you now, I’m going to run away with my brother’? Picard thanks him, and says he was certain of that, though if he was certain, why did he ask?
As Data leaves the ready room, he finds that Lore is sitting in his chair on the bridge, getting a lesson in helm control from Geordi and Wesley. Riker is watching approvingly, hugging himself the way he does. I really like the fact that Lore has been dressed in the same colours as Data, in a dull gold wraparound jumpsuit and a black turtleneck. Worf comes over and watches somewhat less approvingly, but that could just be his face. (Tasha is staying up the back behind the big wooden horseshoe, studiously not thinking about threesomes or even sandwich hugs.) Data watches this with an unreadable expression.
Lore quickly catches on to how the ship is navigated, reeling off an explanation with a delighted smile, and Riker adds ‘And the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle?’ Lore smoothly begins ‘Is equal to the sum of the square of the two – ‘ but stops himself and ruefully says ‘Something, which I once heard but never understood.’ Either he just realised it’s not in his best interest to appear to be more than a lovable innocent, or he didn’t want to look like a Wizard of Oz dork. He wink-twitches again, and they are interrupted by Data stepping forward and saying ‘All of which you will learn more about when the Captain has approved your being on the bridge.’
Lore asks ‘Have I committed an offence?’ and Wesley says, greasily, ‘You will find there are many rules aboard starships that must be learnt.’ I’m not even going to blame Wesley because he’s a kid, but Riker, Worf, Tasha and Geordi have been standing here the whole time letting Lore be on the bridge without clearance, and who brought him up here anyway? Letting a noob do something he shouldn’t and not warning him is kind of a dick move. Are they setting him up to be in trouble with Picard?
Lore smiles and says ‘You’re very clever, Wesley,’ and here’s where Brent Spiner found the right place to use his creepy smile from the pilot. I presume that Lore’s take on the situation is that they are setting him up, and Wesley has just gone onto his personal shit list. Lore goes on, ‘I now have duties to perform, correct?’
Worf asks ‘Were you ever this anxious to please, Data?’ in a tone that suggests he finds eagerness to please highly suspect.
Data answers ‘Never,’ which doesn’t seem like him at all. He says he judges Lore superior in that desire, and Lore blandly says ‘Because I was designed to be so human, my brother; I enjoy pleasing humans.’ But arguably, Data does too – he constantly looks for their approval and tries to elicit positive reactions from them, as when he adjusted Geordi’s shaver for him, or hoped Beverly would be amused by his alarm-clock analogy. He doesn’t have a very positive reaction to what Lore says; one of his eyebrows goes up skeptically. Geordi, though, thinks Lore calling Data ‘my brother’ has a nice sound to it.
Data says, ‘You consider it… important to please humans?’ Lore, with a great face-shrug: ‘It’s not important?’ Data says enigmatically ‘There are many things of importance, some more than others.’ I do not know what he’s on about, although I suppose he could mean that doing the right thing is more important than making people like you. Or he could mean, get out of my chair and stop sucking up to my friends, interloper. Anyway, he gestures for Lore to go with him, and they leave via the lift, Data casting a look back over his shoulder at his friends. I really like how his ambivalence is shown, going from his awe at the thought of making a family connection to finding he actually doesn’t like his brother all that terribly much, especially when this means he’s not the special one any more.
As the brothers get out of the lift elsewhere, Data calls Lore out: Commander Riker’s question tricked him into revealing that he knows more than he was letting on. Lore responds ‘Mm. He didn’t seem that clever. I’ll be more careful.’ Data does not react at all to the implication that Lore is deliberately hiding the truth from the others, he just steams on:
‘You tend to underestimate humans, my brother. Praising young Wesley on the helm, for example -‘
‘A child!‘ Lore says, with a scornful gesture, and Data has a very awkward line that while Wesley has a child’s body, they have found him to be much more. I am also not sure what Data’s line about underestimating humans means. Wesley is very clever, cleverer than you’d expect a fourteen-year-old to be. Lore recognised that. So? Lore humbly thanks Data for that information, and says ‘You do care about how I perform. I pledge to be worthy of your teaching, my brother.’ Then he wags a finger and smirks, ‘Try not to be jealous of my abilities,’ before walking away, leaving Data looking as if he would very much like to have a snappy comeback.
In Data’s quarters, he starts Googling, and Lore asks what he’s looking up. Dr Noonien Soong. ‘Ah,’ says Lore, grinning, ‘good old “Often Wrong” Soong.’ Data gives him a Look and he says ‘A joke, brother.’ Well, it wasn’t even as good as the alarm clock line. I am distracted by the fact that Data appears to have some red lacquered boxes on a shelf in the background, and I want to know what they are.
Actually, Lore continues, Soong was a genius ‘by human standards.’ Data points out that Soong had destroyed his own reputation by making wild promises about his brain designs, almost all of which failed. Well, except for the two currently residing in their rather attractive heads, as Lore points out with a tapping on his temple (and a rather gratuitous ‘knock knock knock’ mouth-noise). ‘Our beloved father,’ he concludes in a distinctly ‘welp’ tone, before asking if he will soon have a uniform like Data’s.
Data, perhaps wanting to assert his superiority in something, gives Lore a breakdown of how he got it – four years at the Academy, three as ensign, ‘ten or twelve’ as a lieutenant (oh, honey, I hate to tell you, your career advancement ends here, because Riker is just going to sit on his huge ass directly above you, stifling your opportunities for promotion because he just loves getting called Number One in a rich, mellifluous RSC voice) – which Lore calls a system designed to compensate for limited human ability. He says Data is starting to think like a human (well, thank you!) but they are completely different from them. He asks if Data can be truly satisfied with only the knowledge and memories of a few hundred colonists, when he could collect the knowledge of ‘hundreds of millions of life-forms of every kind.’ You know, in a parallel universe, Lore got picked up by the Borg instead of the Pakleds, he was presented to their Queen, they fell head over heels in love and lived happily ever after, and the rest of us were completely fucked. That’s the universe where Riker’s beard is everywhere. Honestly, I ship it. Let’s call it Lorg.
Actually, I think Data’s knowledge and memories gained through his own experiences mean a hang of a lot more to him than what he could ‘collect’ from anyone else. Anyway, talking about assimilating people gets Lore so worked up he twitches a bit more, just to reinforce for us at home that he’s a bit unsound. Data asks, simply, ‘How?’ and Lore says they’ll discuss that ‘in time.’ Data decides it’s time for a little more calling-out, and asks whether they will also discuss the issue of which of them was made first. Lore smarms (standing next to a mirror, nice) that it would be foolish to underestimate Data. Yes, he was built first, but Soong made him so human that the colonists became ‘envious’ of him. Well that doesn’t make sense; why would they envy your possession of qualities they already naturally had? I do buy that you are much more human-like than Data, because you are clearly much more emotional (and must have stolen that stupid chip out of pure spite and sibling rivalry).
‘You lived among the colonists?’ Data asks in wonder, and Lore says yes, until they petitioned Soong to make ‘a more comfortable, less perfect android. In other words, you, brother.’ I really like the variety in Lore’s smiles; the current one shows a deep-seated resentment tinged with irony. He really is an interesting person. As with ‘Hide and Q,’ Deanna is not in evidence this week, and I would love to know what sort of empathetic readings she would have got off Lore. Would she have rumbled him faster than Data does?
Now Lore gets some lines that really irritated Brent Spiner, and have irritated a lot of viewers since, because they’re completely inconsistent with how Data was portrayed to date. Lore points out that he uses human speech more easily than Data, and can use contractions. But as I’ve been pointing out with nerdy attention to detail, Data has been using contractions roughly a couple of times per episode since this show began. He doesn’t use them as often as most human speakers, and has a more careful, formal manner than average, but he not only can use contractions, he’s capable of adapting his mode of speech completely to fit in with a roleplay character, Sherlock Holmes, or his wiseguy role just last week. That degree of flexibility in the way he uses both his vocabulary and his tone and pitch of voice is completely inconsistent with not being able to say ‘don’t’ and ‘can’t.’ So it’s lame. And if I may quote for a moment,
‘The man who was talkin’ to the dog
Looked at the dog an’ he said: (sort of staring in disbelief)
“You can’t say that!”
“IT DOESN’T, ‘n YOU CAN’T!
I WON’T, ‘n IT DON’T!
IT HASN’T, IT ISN’T, IT EVEN AIN’T
‘N IT SHOULDN’T . . .
He told me NO NO NO!
I told him YES YES YES!
I said: “I do it all the time . . .
Ain’t this boogie a mess!”‘
That’s enough Frank Zappa for an episode with android butts in it. But the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe. Lore decides to mock the way Data talks, and sings a snatch of ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,’ a song which has mildly irked me since childhood because I have never heard anybody who actually says potahto. Then, as long as he’s burning his bridges with the only person in the universe who has any reason to care about him, he decides to rip on him for being humourless. Poor little Data muses that this is true; he keeps trying to become more human and keeps failing. Well, my darling, maybe, like your father, you’ll succeed if you just try enough times.
Lore asks him if he realises, ‘brother,’ he can help him become more human (which is a wild change of tack from his earlier assertion that Data thinks like a human and they are completely different). Data, who is getting as close to ticked off as he gets, asks ‘And do you realise, Lore, that I am obligated to report all of this to our ship’s captain?’
Lore smarms that he assumed as much when he began ‘studying’ Data. Then, as if the whole conversation in which he revealed himself to be a complete prick never happened, he asks to use his computer to learn more about the ship! And Data agrees, just telling him also to use it to write Picard a report about his life among the colonists! Oh, Data, I really hope everything sensitive is password-protected. Lore is totally going to read your diary and write insulting comments in the margins, then copy the pages about what happened with Tasha to the all-staff email list. Data tells Lore to write everything he knows about what happened on Omicron Theta, and Lore smugly promises ‘a report of great detail and accuracy.’
And Data, as if the whole conversation in which Lore revealed himself to be a complete prick never happened, smiles and thanks him, then says he has to go to work! Lore, again, gets into Data’s chair, as Data turns back before leaving to ask if there is anything else he needs. Lore smarms that he has more than he ever dreamed possible, and Data leaves him alone in his apartment.
Oh Data, you know I love you dearly, but you’re a chump. An adorable, alabaster chump.
Lore swivels his chair like a Bond villain and starts speed-reading from the computer screen, with a happy little smile playing about his lips. (He’s so pretty.)
Picard voiceovers that from a combination of the children’s drawings and Lore’s report they’ve worked out that a huge ‘crystalline entity which feeds on life, insatiably ravenous for the life-force found in living forms, capable of stripping all life from an entire world,’ and can you say life a few more times? was responsible for the destruction of the colony. It sounds like it’d be a good villain for a reboot of Sailor Moon. But it needs to be a princess, too.
Tasha asks how Data and Lore survived, and Riker says that Lore was disassembled at the time and Data ‘wasn’t yet alive.’ Um, or they’re androids, and the crystalline entity only feeds on biological life? Either way, Picard reasons that he was left outside because he was in no danger, and would be found by the first Starfleet crew to respond to the signal the colonists transmitted.
Or the first anything crew to respond to the signal, because how could they know it wouldn’t be the Ferengi looking for loot or the Orions looking for slaves? I like the idea of Data being raised by the Ferengi; they would turn him into the universe’s most powerful and devious accountant, but he would always have a complex about his little runty ears.
Tasha says that this was Dr Soong’s way of leaving behind proof that his experiment worked. How did the other four hundred and ten colonists feel about that?
Riker asks Picard how believable he finds ‘that crystal thing,’ and Picard says that with so little of the galaxy explored, it’s at least plausible. Tasha moves over to her workstation and asks Data if he’s expecting Lore to come to the bridge, as he left his quarters ‘some time ago.’ I have no idea why she even looked that up just now. I also don’t know why Beverly is hanging out on the bridge, but there she is, chatting to Data. Data asks Tasha ‘To go?’ and it just isn’t believable that someone who asks a fragmentary question like that can’t use contractions, either. Tasha says he went to deck four, and Worf chips in that he examined some tools and materials that Data explains were used in their construction. He claims this is no more sinister than a human looking for some antiseptic ointment, but he should check it out. Beverly asks, surprised, ‘You’re watching everything he does, Data? Is that the act of a brother?’ He’s his keeper, I guess. Also, Lore is hella shady. It turns out that the surveillance is on Picard’s orders, I suppose since Data reported that pricky conversation to him. What a good thing Tasha and Worf kept such a close eye on the surveillance that they didn’t report Lore doing anything until ‘some time’ later.
Tasha turns to Picard once Data is gone, and says ‘Speaking strictly as security chief, how much can you trust Data now?’ Wow, there’s a loaded question. Picard doesn’t answer immediately, and Geordi and Wesley both turn around with worried looks on their faces. For Data’s two best friends, these two don’t seem to have been spending much time with him during a difficult situation. Picard eventually says that he trusts Data completely, but everyone should realise that that was a necessary and legitimate security question. Tasha smiles and thanks him, because I guess she feels validated by her father figure.
Back in Data’s quarters, Lore is pouring champagne (is it Chateau Picard?) and adding fizzing powder from a small phial to one of the flutes. He hides the phial when Data enters, and announces ‘Lesson number one in becoming more human: you must observe all human customs.’ He does, dude; you’re not teaching him anything. Lore explains that drinking champagne is a ritual for important events. He gives Data the doped glass and offers a toast ‘to our discovery of each other – may it fill our lives with new meaning.’ They each sip from their flutes, and Data makes a little face as if the taste is unpleasant. He tells Lore he has some doubt about the value of human customs, but his voice falters on the last word, and he realises something very strange is happening to him. He starts to wobble and leans his hands on the desk in front of him, as Lore decides it’s time for his villain monologue.
‘And let us toast also Dr Soong, who gave me the full richness of human needs and ambitions, a perfect match for my mind, my body.’ As he finishes that wackadoo little comment, Data passes out on the floor. This fascinates me. What kind of chemicals can affect Data in this way? Can he get drunk, too? (Other than by the method established in ‘The Naked Now,’ obviously.)
‘And let us toast also the Great Crystal Entity, with whom I learned to communicate,’ Lore goes on. He kneels over Data’s prone form and pointlessly tells him that, before he was disassembled, he earned the crystal’s gratitude by revealing the way to the colonists. ‘Can you imagine its gratitude when I give it the life on this vessel?’
Um… what form will that gratitude actually take? What does Lore need or want that the crystal can give him? If his motive is simply to strike back against humanity for rejecting him, that’s strong and clear. The gratitude element muddies the waters. Is it just that it makes Lore feel special? And – and – how did he learn to communicate with a big vampire crystal that flies through space? That doesn’t sound like something that just happens by chance. Did it put out feelers, or did he? Was Omegle involved?
On the bridge, Worf notices that ‘Data’ is sending a subspace transmission. Riker thinks it has to do with his research into Dr Soong’s background, but thinks they should make sure. So, because he is treating Wesley like the cabin boy this week, he sends him to go and check, ‘discreetly.’ Please note that they do not monitor the transmission to see what it says.
And this is a time when it would make more sense to send Geordi, or even Worf. In a potentially touchy situation full of unknown quantities, he’s going to send a callow kid instead of an experienced adult officer, much less a security person. Chump number two.
In Data’s room, Lore, now wearing Data’s onesie (that’s the quick way to get a uniform like that), sends the Entity a voicemail, saying that it can identify him as ‘the machine named Data.’ He wink-twitches again, then hears the door chime. He lets Wesley in, and here we can see that Lore really isn’t all that much of an evil genius, since he has dressed Data in his clothes but then simply left him lying on the floor for anyone to see.
Doing a pretty fair imitation of Data’s mild, earnest manner, he says ‘Glad you are here, Wesley,’ and explains that ‘Lore’ suddenly attacked him and he had to switch him off. Wesley quite reasonably asks why he would do that, and Lore says it was because he discovered he was under surveillance. He twitches again, and I wonder what actually causes this tell in Lore. Is it just that telling lies or thinking about doing bad stuff (mmm, bad stuff!) causes some surge of emotion that affects him physically? I do like the fact that he has a twitch because it reminds me of Bishop’s line in Aliens about the older series Ash belonged to, ‘The A2s always were a bit twitchy.’ Anyway, Wesley doesn’t need to be unusually clever to find all this suspicious, and Lore tries to cover by saying he has been practising ‘his facial tic.’ This does tie in nicely with the sneezing practice from earlier, to allay Wesley’s suspicions, it’s just that Lore shouldn’t know about the sneezing practice.
Wesley advises ‘Data’ not to imitate Lore, and weirdly says that if he’d said ‘we’ve’ instead of ‘we have, I might have suspected you were Lore.’ Lore agrees that ‘I do use language more formally than Lore’ (if they had just stuck with this instead of making out that Data couldn’t speak in contractions, it would have been so much better – make it a habit rather than an inability) and sends Wesley back to the bridge to tell the Captain, because again, they couldn’t use telecommunications technology, they have to send messages by boy. Wesley ‘aye sir’s him and leaves.
Lore touches his face self-consciously and goes over to a drawer, from which he removes a small instrument of Gallifreyan manufacture. He uses this to scan Data’s face, making his cheek spasm (Brent Spiner does this very believably), then goes over to a mirror and runs the sonic screwdriver over his own face until the twitching stills. He smiles at himself happily. Lore has a nice smile sometimes.
What is the idea here, by the way? That Data’s facial muscles are calibrated correctly and Lore’s weren’t, so copying Data’s settings fixed the problem? Has he had a twitch all his life, or is it the result of his inexpert reassembly by Beverly and Argyle?
On the bridge, Beverly is still hanging out as if she doesn’t have an office of her own, but she’s actually going to have a useful idea so I’ll allow it. She asks Wesley to tell her again how Data said he immobilised Lore. Wes says ‘He told me he just turned him off, Mom – Doctor.’ (Aw, okay, Wesley is cute at the moment.) As ‘Data’ enters the bridge, Bev calls him out on keeping his off switch a secret. (For an episode in which so much calling-out is done, it’s faintly tragic how few of the right questions are asked. Lost had this problem a lot of the time too; they even tried to suggest with one conversation between Sayid and, I think, Charlie, that the Island exerted some sort of curiosity-dampening field. As long as I’m talking about Lost, Lore would identify so hard with the Man In Black.) He says he changed his mind; ‘if I cannot trust the bridge crew, whom can I?’
Geordi reports ‘a bogey coming in on a five o’clock tangent,’ which sounds so archaic. They pop their shields up just in case and send out a friendly greeting. The bogey is gaining fast, and appears on the viewscreen as, perfectly recognisably, the crystal star from the children’s drawings. Lore can’t help himself, and murmurs ‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ causing Wesley to look at him in shock and concern, and absolutely nobody else to register that Data just said something completely out of character (commenting on beauty, not just using ‘isn’t’).
So the crystal is chasing the Enterprise through space. In the next shot, though, the crystal is just gently rotating in place and the ship is hovering near it. I know you’re scientific explorers, but sometimes you are allowed to say ‘fuck it’ and stand off to a safer distance. Geordi enters the bridge and Picard asks him ‘Did you get a direct look at it?’ because once again their highly scientific method of finding out about weird objects in space is to have Geordi take a gander at it through a plain window. Geordi technobabbles a bit about the electromagnetic spectrum, and basically he doesn’t know what it is.
Picard calls ‘Data’ forward and asks him if he can control Lore enough to question him. ‘Data’ says he’ll need to examine him to be sure, and at this point Wesley feels he has to say something. He swivels his chair around, gets up bravely and says ‘Captain, recommend you do not let – him – roam the ship freely.’ Bravely, but kind of stupidly. Wouldn’t it have made sense to say this to Picard where ‘Data’ couldn’t hear him? Wesley’s use of ‘him’ also makes it ambiguous whether he thinks Data has gone bad, or suspects the truth, that Lore is imitating Data, so I don’t know how many Cleverness Points to award him here.
Lore brushes this off as Wesley being ‘alert and responsible,’ and invites him to come and see everything he does. ‘Not if I have a choice,’ Wesley says, seeing that it’s not wise to be alone with this dude. (He doesn’t explain himself to Picard, though, which would be sensible.)
Picard scolds him for being cheeky to an officer, and Riker piles on too, saying that Wesley will show the proper respect and he’ll accompany him to make sure of it. Well, that’s sort of a win for Wesley, because he doesn’t have to be alone with Lore and he’ll have a witness if he tries anything funny. It’s also amusing to see Riker’s Stern Dad manner. He can’t really pull that off pre-beard. And nobody worries about the fact that Wesley, who normally thinks Data is super cool, has developed an aversion to him. And because Deanna isn’t there, she can’t pipe up on his behalf, saying that he’s honestly worried rather than being snotty.
Back in Data’s quarters, Lore is trying to manage the situation so Wesley and Riker don’t approach Data too closely. He talks a fair bit of nonsense, actually, first expressing relief that his brother is ‘still unconscious,’ then pointing out that he’s still twitching even while unconscious, then warning the other two to stay back in case ‘Lore’ senses they’re near. While unconscious?
Cunningly, Lore now clicks the switch in Data’s back repeatedly, so that he spasms but can’t wake up properly, as he ‘questions’ him. He makes out to Riker and Wesley that ‘Lore’ wants to attack them and he can’t control him if they stay, and urges them to leave – he’ll bring a full report of what he says to the bridge. The chumps accept this and leave, because there is no such thing as restraints, and it hasn’t been established as far back as TOS that Federation ships have brig cells with force-field doors. Lore drops poor little Data and straightens up, saying ‘And you want to be as stupid as them, dear brother?’ (He has a point.) Then, for sheer devilment, he kicks Data hard in the head, twice (in one kick shot, it is visibly the dummy head used in the finding-disassembled-Lore scene earlier, so I’m glad they got another use out of that), tearing a flap of skin from his forehead so we can see the blinkenlights inside. Lore makes creepy blissful faces, so I guess he’s been wanting to kick Data in the head for a long time.
Wesley and Riker return to the bridge, where Riker reports that he swallowed Lore’s story entirely. Wesley, still trying to get a grown-up to listen to his concerns, suggests, absolutely correctly, that Lore is pretending to be Data. Picard growls at him for speaking up when he asked for Commander Riker’s report – and this is Picard, the guy who habitually asks for everyone’s opinions before making a decision, and praised Tasha for questioning whether Data could be trusted. It’s OOC and it’s stupid. Picard actually seems to be winding up to take away Wesley’s ‘acting ensign’ status when he’s interrupted by Geordi drawing his attention to the crystal, which is floating closer to them and making their shields spark. They go to red alert and prepare their weapons as Lore arrives on the bridge, having to hang onto the sides of the lift doors as the ship shakes.
‘No, Captain! Let me talk to it,’ he says, and Picard remarks ‘You didn’t say you could do that.’ The ship shakes again, and he seems to think that’s reason enough to let the android try. So Lore gets on the horn, identifies himself as Data and advises it to stop its attack. Picard frowns suspiciously at him, but he is not suspicious enough. Data warns the crystal that ‘the humans here are powerful, capable of injuring or even killing you.’ Which… do they know that? The crystal takes his word for it and backs up, and Geordi murmurs ‘Now I call that communicating,’ and it’s so lame. Why do you give Geordi all these lame lines, writers? And all ‘Data’ did was talk to it in English, as any of them could have done.
Lore now suggests a demonstration for the entity – he wants to use the large transporter in cargo bay 3 to beam ‘a large pattern’ such as a tree into space near the entity. I presume he’s going to take that from the arboretum, and this seems like a good way to elicit a bitchkrieg from Keiko. Then they’ll zap the tree to disintegrate it, ‘proving we are dangerous.’ In the course of this he addresses Riker as ‘Riker,’ not as ‘sir,’ and when Picard tells him ‘Make it so,’ he repeats ‘Sir?’ and Picard has to say ‘do it.’
Now all of that, including the intimidating nature of the plan, the less respectful address of Riker and the failure to recognise his own captain’s catchphrase, should have made everyone really suspicious, right? But they just let him walk off the bridge. And when Wesley gets up to protest again, saying that he knows this may finish him as an acting ensign, Picard dismissively tells him ‘Shut up, Wesley!’
It’s awful. It’s unfair to Wesley, for one. I know he can’t be trusted around flowerbeds, but nobody has any reason to consider him foolish, insubordinate or unreliable. This looks even worse to the viewers because several season one episodes were shot and aired out of order (hence the arbitrary disappearance and reappearance of Deanna), and it was just last week for us that Wesley was instrumental in saving the damn day when the man now telling him to shut up got his ass locked in the damn holodeck.
And for another thing, it’s just objectionable to portray Picard as being this mean and rude. ‘Shut up,’ seriously? And having the fourteen-year-old ‘boy genius’ be the only one who sees through Lore’s frankly rudimentary deception both gives Lore a lot more fiendish-intelligence credit than he deserves, and makes the qualified, experienced, commissioned grown-ups on the bridge look like total dumbfucks. I think they’re even dumber here than in ‘The Naked Now.’
Were the writers desperately over-compensating for giving Wesley too much glory in earlier episodes, having just started to receive viewers’ negative reactions? Backlash always goes too far, doesn’t it? And even then, any effort they might have made to give viewers the satisfaction of seeing a disliked character put down is undone by the fact that Wesley is vindicated by the end of the episode, so what the hell is the point of beating the poor boy up?
Anyway, Wesley sits down, probably feeling a lot like crying, and Picard shows some vestige of common sense by telling Tasha to take a security team and see what ‘Data’ does. Beverly, who is perhaps keeping Deanna’s chair warm for her, cause that’s where she’s sitting, repeats incredulously ‘Shut up, Wesley?‘ You and me both, Bev. Picard says ‘Doctor’ in a tone that implies ‘You can see he’s being unreasonable.’
Wesley, since he figures he’s fucked and it doesn’t matter what he says now, makes one more attempt to have his say, and Beverly tells him to shut up, too! The kindest explanation I can think of is that she doesn’t want him to make things worse for himself, and is hoping that if he’ll just sit tight for now, they can do some damage control when Picard is in a better mood. In which case, ‘Stop digging, Wesley’ might have been a better thing to say.
Alternatively: before putting roofies in Data’s champagne, Lore added stupid-jerk-making drugs to the crew’s tea and coffee supply.
Poor Wesley presses on and declares that everything he’s said would have been listened to if it came from an adult. Actually, Wes, everything you said would have been listened to if you’d said it in any other episode. This episode is just crazy and hates you. Wesley then requests permission to go to his room, which I guess spares his parental figures the bother of yelling ‘Go to your room!’ Picard agrees, and tells Beverly to go with him. She asks icily if he’s ordering her off the bridge, and he, in a more conciliatory tone, says he’s asking her to keep an eye on her son.
Which, of course, is disrespectful to both of them.
In the corridors, where the red alert sirens are going, Worf, Tasha and some guy who looks hippy in a onesie stride along. Sadly, it is not O’Brien. Worf walks into the turbolift, and for no reason, Lore is waiting in that particular lift. He snaps ‘Emergency close!’ and the doors shut behind Worf, cutting him off from his pals. He draws his phaser and Lore slaps it out of his hand. He smirks at Worf and says ‘Now show me your warrior fierceness.’ Worf responds with the old Captain Kirk two-fist club, right across Lore’s jaw. Lore’s head snaps around, but he calmly turns back with a bland smile and Worf looks really unnerved. Lore gives him a good hard punch in the chest and he doubles over, the wind knocked out of him. The android pauses a moment to enjoy the effect and then backhands him, knocking him into the wall of the lift, where he slides to the floor, thinking ‘I’m bad at this.’ Lore looks very happy, because that was almost as much fun as kicking Data.
Finally, someone listens to Wesley, as he has persuaded his mum to come to Data’s quarters and take a look. She says, though, that she shouldn’t have let him talk her into this, and come on, Beverly, how much of that tainted coffee have you had? You’re usually Wesley’s strongest advocate. Anyway, Wesley sees that the android on the floor is injured, and insists that it’s Data. ‘I heard you know how to turn them on,’ he says, which must have been a tough line to get through without giggling when you’re a fourteen-year-old boy. Bev reprovingly says that ‘this is very serious,’ and he bitterly says ‘So just tell me to “shut up, Wesley,” and I will.’ She tells him he’s being very unfair as she feels under Data’s back and presses the switch.
Data sits straight up, looking absolutely freaked out. Beverly ineffectually feels his head, Wesley updates him on the situation, and I notice that some of his makeup has rubbed off on the black turtleneck. Bev asks him how badly he is hurt, and he tells her he will ‘function sufficiently to stop Lore’ as he presses the flap of his forehead back into place.
In the cargo bay, Lore is happily greeting the crystal entity over the radio as Data opens the door for himself, Wesley and Beverly. (Oh, and none of them seem to have made a call to the bridge to report what they’ve discovered or what they’re doing about it. Commbadges just don’t work this week.) Lore apparently couldn’t hear the door open, as they quietly sneak in while he goes on talking to the crystal, telling it that when he beams an object out, the deflector shields will go down briefly and it can make its move.
He turns and sees Data, who, with a surprising amount of sanctimony, says ‘How sad, dear brother. You make me wish I were an only child.’ Lore steps away from the transporter console, smiling, and peers around, spotting Wesley, and asks ‘Then why this marvellous gift? The troublesome little man-child! Are you prepared for the kind of death you’ve earned, little man?’ He’s wonderfully creepy. Beverly is sneaking up behind some cargo containers with a phaser, and she pops out now, warning him off. (It’s no ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’ but it’ll do.)
‘Ah,’ Lore beams, ‘motherhood!’ He grabs hold of Data, shoves him into Beverly and grabs the phaser while they’re entangled. Then he threatens to ‘turn your little man into a torch.’ I don’t think phasers do that. ‘I promise him exquisite pain unless you obey me too, brother.’ I don’t think phasers do that, either. I mean obviously Lore can kill Wesley, but I guess he just wants it to sound more villainous. Beverly entreats Data to move away. He reluctantly backs up.
Lore makes a further claim for his being ‘completely human’: ‘It includes kindness. I give you your life, Doctor. Go, quickly, and I may not injure your son at all.’ Data promises Bev he will stay with Wesley, and Lore shouts at her to go, ‘or he’ll be shrieking by the count of five.’ I think Lore thinks he’s holding one of those illegal bastard disruptors from ‘The Most Toys.’ He counts down and she runs for the door. Lore gloatingly thanks Dr Soong for his ‘human qualities,’ then tells Beverly to wait: ‘A small payment. For your son’s misdeeds.’ He shoots her in the arm, for no intelligent reason, because this gives both Data and Wesley an opening to move – Wes runs off and Data attacks Lore, while Beverly runs down the corridor with her coat sleeve on fire, so I guess phasers DO do that, at least to frumpy blue doctor coats.
Lore and Data fight, via the magic of a wide shot and a stunt double, and throw barrels at each other like Donkey Kong. Wisely, they do not let this go on too long. Data shouts ‘Wes! The transporter!’ and as Wesley scuttles to the console, he throws Lore onto the pad. ‘Wesley, now!’ he shouts, and as Lore gets to his feet and fires the phaser, Wesley pushes the button and Lore, along with the phaser beam, disappears. Hey, that’s very ‘The Most Toys’! Data and Wesley look at each other, and Wesley catches his breath.
Oh, and that does mean that the shields were lowered as something was beamed out, which was the signal Lore gave the crystal entity to move in.
The supposed grown-ups arrive now, phasers drawn (Beverly has taken off her burnt coat and seems absolutely fine underneath it). Wesley turns and, perhaps with a tiny bit of smugness in his heart, announces ‘Lore’s gone, sir. Permanently.’
Which is also dumb, because there is no reason to think Lore can’t survive in space.
Beverly runs and hugs Wesley, and Picard tells her that now they know he’s safe, she should go to sick bay (because the sleeve of her uniform is burnt? I dunno, maybe she has a blister under there?). Riker reports that ‘the crystal thing’ is moving away. For no reason.
Data steps forward, and Picard asks him if he’s all right. Data says ‘Yes, sir. I’m fine.’ AND TWITCHES. (Which, incidentally, he had not done in between being woken by Beverly and now.) Picard crossly tells him to ‘get rid of that damn twitch and put on the correct uniform,’ which is a dandy thing to say to a man who just discovered his long-lost brother is a murderous sociopath and had to beam him into the endless night between the stars. He’s lucky Data can’t mind. Then he tells Wesley he can go back to the bridge and get on with his job. I think Wesley is just glad things are back to normal, but Picard doesn’t breathe one word of apology for not believing him when he was absolutely right and they were all in terrible danger. The stupid-jerk-making drugs have not worn off yet. He tells Wesley to ‘let the bridge know that all is well down here,’ and did the writer of this episode not know that they have communicators?
Picard and Riker watch the crystal receding in the transporter console’s monitor, and Riker says that without Lore it had no way to reach them. This makes no sense. Picard briskly says that they are overdue for their computer refit. The Enterprise is a few months old! How often do ‘refits’ happen? As they go to the door, he asks Riker if he’s ever wondered if Data is less human or more human than they want. Riker replies that he only wishes they were all as well-balanced, and Picard jauntily says ‘Agreed!’ and they prance out!
WELL, IF YOU WERE THAT WELL-BALANCED, MAYBE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SO DUMB ALL THIS EPISODE.
No, wait, Data was dumb as well.
THIS EPISODE IS DUMB.
But Lore is interesting and I will always want to see more of him.
And you can bet I’m going to be watching extra hard to see if Data uses any more contractions after this episode – besides that final ‘I’m fine.’
GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT.
Okay, I’m finished ranting now, and I’d like to know what my dear friend O’Brien did this week.
‘I drank too much jerk coffee, lost twenty IQ points and spent the evening making fun of Worf for being a big girl’s blouse. It was actually quite good fun.’
Next time we return to DS9 for ‘Vortex,’ about which I remember absolutely nothing right now!