Star Trek: The Next Generation – Brothers [4.3]

Data suddenly comes under control of a homing signal that brings him to the secret hideaway of his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, which endangers an emergency medical mission that the Enterprise was undertaking.  The signal also brings Lore to them, who has survived his previous encounter with the Enterprise.  Soong has brought Data to him to give him a new emotion chip, but Lore intercepts it, and escapes after mortally injuring Soong.  The Enterprise is able to find Data, and Data says goodbye to Soong before the medical mission is completed.

Written by Rick Berman. Directed by Rob Bowman.

Previous Episode: FamilyNext Episode: Suddenly Human

In spite of some overly broad narrative strokes, Brothers continues the strong showings of the fourth season of the series.  The episode gives Data some very rich material to work with, significantly opens up his backstory, marks the return of Lore (in his best appearance before or since), and sets up some pretty major (though lamentable) developments for Data later on.  Brent Spiner pulls triple duty, playing all three principle rolls of the episode (after being out of the picture the previous episode).  The effect is pulled off through very well done direction, editing, optical effects and photographic tricks.  But all of that would be for naught if not for the strength of Spiner as an actor, which is hard to question.  Indeed, the episode rises and falls on his performance.

The interactions between Data, Lore, and Soong are the most genuine and “human” we’ve seen on Next Generation since, well…since Picard and his brother in Family, one episode previously.  But before that, it was quite a while, if ever.  It’s a long way for the series to have come, after an almost complete lack of real connections between characters for the first few years of the show.  Now if only they could achieve this sort of connection between regular characters on the series.

That said, Lore’s motives are a little confusing.  One moment he’s acting like a petulant teenager, ready to storm out in a huff.  The next he’s being deliberately cunning, and using a secret transporter hidden is in his fingernail to escape.  When exactly did he decide to impersonate Data?  Was it only when Soong announced his emotion chip “gift”?  And why does he want the emotion chip anyway, when he has emotions already?  Does he only kill Soong because the chip drives him crazy?  What’s going on?

Oh well, the strength of the material between Spiner, himself, and himself is so strong that it makes this and other weaker aspects of the story easy to ignore.  Nonetheless, I am going to mention some of them:

For example, where did little Willie Potts manage to get ahold of something that he could eat which would not only poison him, but require quarantine to avoid threatening the entire ship?  Riker blames the boy’s brother for this, because of his practical joke, but really what sort of child supervision is that?

Also, Enterprise and its crew turn out to be pretty inept at preventing Data from taking over the ship (although to be fair, he is pretty clever about it).  People keep shouting out warnings to him instead of just shooting him, even though he is clearly acting in a hostile manner, allowing him to set up force fields and to reprogram  transporters.  And if Data can imitate Picard so perfectly to confuse the security-conscious computers, what’s the keep someone else from doing it?

And you feel like Data should be trying harder to get in contact with the Enterprise, and to stop Lore, who he knows attempted to murder Soong and succeeded in killing his whole colony.

But in the end, all of these points are really beside the point.  It’s a good episode that makes great use of Data and takes his character significantly forward.  The rest of the cast doesn’t get much to do, but they all do well with what they have, especially Gates McFadden.  And Adam Ryen as little Willie Potts turns in a good performance.

Shout Out to the Past:
Noonien Soong has been referred to numerous times, and of course Lore has appeared previously, in Datalore.  There are also references to the Crystalline Entity from that episode, as well as to the Pakleds from Samaritan Snare.

Setting up the Future:
Lore will return at the end of Season Six, in Descent.  The emotion chip will return at that point as well, and go on to play a significant part in the first two Next Generation movies.

Noonien Soong will return, after a fashion, as well, a few seasons later.

Guest Cast:
• Adam Ryen, who plays Willie Potts, was the voice of Cody in The Rescuers Down Under.

• James Lashly plays Ensign Kopf.  He will reappear as Lt. Primmin in a couple of early episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine

• Interesting life support failure protocols…Picard, Riker and Data all evacuate via three different turbo lifts, with the crew apparently split up between them.

• There is discussion of saucer separation, which is definitely talked about more often than it is seen.

• Brent Spiner does a good job with his little android twitches.  With his role as “possessed Data”, Brent Spiner really plays four parts in this episode.

• The quarantine is funny.  Dr. Crusher can touch him with her bare hands, thanks to her force field thing, which presumably removes the infection from her hands when she pulls them out.  You’d think you could maybe deal with the infection that way.

• I read somewhere that the visual readout of Data’s super-complex security lockout is not the same as what he actually says out loud!  This lack of internal continuity just ruins my ability to enjoy the show!

• Oblivious that I was, I did not realize that Noonien Soong was played by Brent Spiner until well after I had seen the episode

• Effective that they make Soong so much shorter than Data

• Why did they make Soong’s name so similar to Khan Noonien Singh?  I always found this unnecessarily confusing.  Kind of like how there were two Vulcans on the original series named “Sarek” and “Surak”.

• Good line from Beverly:  “Make sure it goes well.”

• Soong plays with a toy dinosaur.

• There is something not too impressive about having characters repeating commonly known quotes / jokes / myths from our own culture – eg. Crusher telling the doctor joke, Soong telling the story of Michelangelo

•  Interesting line from Soong:  “What’s so important about the past?  People got sick, they needed money.  Why tie yourself into that?”

• Soong saying that having children gives humans a sense of immortality…is a bit of a leap

• The presence and arrival of Lore is a great and effective plot twist

• Good response from Lore about Soong dying, very well played by Brent Spiner.

• Cool idea from Riker about tricking the Computer

• I thought Data had already figured out that Lore was lying about Data being a “less perfect” android.  Oh well, maybe I’m remembering it wrong.  (It’s a horrible thought that I might have to go back and watch these episodes again to get

• A bit of an Isaac / Jacob / Esau vibe going on here, with the two brothers at odds and Soong having only one blessing to give them.  Except this time, it’s the older son who steals the blessing from the younger.

• The computer should think all three of us are Data.  I just hope I don’t beam back looking like Data.

• Data and Lore are so similar that Soong cannot tell him apart, even though their circuits are so different!

• Brent Spiner is credited during the end credits for his roles as Dr. Soong and Lore

• This episode is the first writing credit for producer and Star Trek overseer Rick Berman

Crazy Talk:  Captain Riker (Huh?)
This episode would have worked fine without Picard.  He doesn’t do anything but stand around and look gruff and uncomfortable that he’s lost control of his ship.  He’s not even instrumental in solving the problem – it’s Riker who figures out how to trick the computer.  The only issue is that you want this episode too early in Riker’s tenure as Enterprise commander:  it’d end up making him look like a bit of an idiot, losing command of his ship so quickly.  The only reason Picard escapes without looking like a fool is because Data is quite clever, and because Picard has built up a bit of cred in the three years of the show so far.

Dialogue High Point
Well, it certainly wasn’t the last line, when Dr. Crusher says, “Brothers forgive,” with a bit too much heartfelt emphasis.  Instead, it came just a bit earlier, as Data holds his dying father…

Data:  You know that I cannot grieve for you, sir. 
Soong:  You will, in your own way.

Previous Episode: FamilyNext Episode: Suddenly Human


4 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Brothers [4.3]

  1. I had actually assumed there was some intentional, if never discovered, connection between Soong and Singh. Maybe Soong was a genetically engineered super human with the mental ability to create true artificial life. That would be quite the plot twist.

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