Star Trek: The Next Generation – Datalore [1.12]

Returning to the destroyed colony where he was originally found, Data and the Enterprise discover and reactivate an identical android known as Lore.  Lore reveals himself as the one who led a destructive Chrystalline Entity to the colony which led to its destruction, and now threatens to do the same to the Enterprise.  Data and Wesley are able to stop him, and beam him off the ship, apparently destroying him.

Teleplay by Robert Lewin & Gene Roddenberry.  Story by Robert Lewin & Maurice Hurley.  Directed by Rob Bowman.

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Comments: This is the first episode of Next Generation that I had not seen in its entirety prior to now.  It started off very well, building an effective mystery story as Data and the others slowly piece together what happened to his “home colony.”  The earlier portions with Lore are well done also.  There is no real attempt to maintain much suspense that Lore might turn out to actually be a bit eeevil, but Brent Spiner does a good job creating the character and making him sufficiently distinct from Data that it’s a lot of fun to watch.  The problems in the story really come to play at the end.

I always thought that people’s complaints about Wesley Crusher and his role in the series were overplayed, but actually after reviewing half of the first season, I’m finding it pretty tiresome watching the series put Wesley in a position where he is more intelligent and more creative than pretty much everyone else around him.  Here, it is only Wesley who notices that “Data” is really Lore (presumably because he caught his use of the contraction “isn’t”), in spite of the fact that Data starts acting really strange and demonstrating knowledge that he didn’t have before.  But even more irritating than that is Wesley’s complete inability to communicate even a simple idea to the Captain without sounding like an idiot, and when he finally does, everyone else’s complete, absolute, persistent refusal to listen to him.  It’s so frustrating, and makes Picard, Riker and everyone else just look like morons.  Sure, we all like seeing Wesley told off, and even told to “Shut up, Wesley!”, but the line (from both Picard and Wesley’s mother) is so incredibly inappropriate, and really makes them both seem mean and incompetent.

Even when Dr. Crusher is convinced by her son and actually proves to herself that he is right, there is no indication that she actually tells anyone.  Instead she takes her son to confront the dangerous super-powerful android, where she cleverly sneaks up on it with her phaser drawn, but fails to actually shoot him, instead getting herself easily disarmed and then shot.  Now I like Beverly Crusher as a character a lot, but this story doesn’t do her or anyone any favors.

There’s no exploration of what the Crystalline Entity is or why it’s doing what it’s doing, or even really of why Lore is doing what he’s doing.  I guess that’s okay though, since both will appear in later episodes.

There are a lot of other confusing pieces of illogic here as well.  Why has no one returned to Data’s home colony since Data was discovered?  Why wasn’t there some sort of investigation as to what happened to all those colonists?  Why are there still plants on a planet with no vegetation for something like 20 years?  How come nobody ever looked at Data’s head and said, “Hey!  This guy’s got a positronic brain, just like crazy old Dr. Soong said he’d invent!”  For that matter, if Noonien Soong is so famous, how come nobody has noticed that Data looks just like him?  (Although fair enough, that idea wasn’t introduced until much later in the series, so at this point they just hadn’t thought of it). And what is going on at the end?  Lore wants to trick the Enterprise into lowering its shields by beaming something into space so the Entity can eat everyone.  Data and Wesley stop him and then they themselves beam Lore into space without ever lowering the shields.

So much frustration, especially in the last 15 minutes, really robs the enjoyment of the rest of the story.

Anticipating the Future:
• Lore will return a couple of times.  The next time will be in Season Four’s Brothers.

• The Chrystalline Entity and a lot of reference to the destroyed colony will also appear again, in Season Five’s Silicon Avatar.

 Guest Cast

• Bif Yeager returns from Where No Man Has Gone Before as Chief Engineer Argyle, the only chief engineer from the first season to make more than one appearance.

Observations

• Data trying to sneeze at the start is pretty funny.

• Why does Wesley go and get Data rather than just calling him over the intercom?  This is just one of many logic errors – see comments, above.

• We get huge amounts of backstory from Data, including the fact that he was found 26 years ago, and what we presume is a rough rundown of his Starfleet career.  Also introduced is Data’s off switch.

• Data tries to tell a joke to Dr. Crusher.  It falls flat, but it’s a nice character moment.

• Lore is the fourth Brent Spiner character on the show (counting Data playing other characters himself)

• Geordi says “Bogey” at one point, which sounds a bit strange.

• This episode has the beginning of what TV Tropes terms, the Worf Effect.  That’s when you have someone prove how tough they are by beating up your show’s tough guy, and this happens so often that they stop seeming tough.  We’ll keep an eye out for this.  Here, Lore makes pretty short work of Worf.

Dialogue High Point
I like the fact that if we’re going to introduce an “off switch” for Data, that some justification is given for the fact that we haven’t heard of it before.  Data says

If you had an off-switch, Doctor, would you not keep it secret?

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