Written by Gene Roddenberry, Robert Lewin, Maurice Hurley, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Rob Bowman
Here is another first-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which showed so much promise, but fades quickly due to its flaws.
The Enterprise returns to the Omicron Theta star system where the android Data (Brent Spiner) was “discovered” years earlier in what was once a thriving Earth colony. While exploring the now lifeless planet, trying to figure out exactly what caused the extinction of all life there, the crew stumbles upon what appears to be another android, disassembled.
Once reassembled by Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Chief Engineer Argyle (portrayed by Biff Yeager), the android informs him that his name was Lore. The colonists soon became jealous of his perfection and had him shut down and disassembled, he tells them. Following that, the “less-than-perfect” Data was created.
What Lore fails to tell them is that before he was shut down, he found a way to communicate with a Crystalline Entity which travels the universe feeding off of intelligent life forms. This is what cause the complete erasure of life on the planet since Lore summoned it as revenge on the colonists.
Datalore is the first episode which prominently features Data. We learn a great deal about him and how he came to be in Starfleet. Brent Spiner does a tremendous acting job as both androids and saves this episode from complete mediocrity. He manages to capture the essence of each character distinctly and portrays them in very different – but excellent – ways. He differentiates the physical characteristics as well, making them almost appear different.
Evil twin stories are fairly common, but this is a new twist. The beginning premise is fairly good, but it fails terribly near the end. Once again, it is Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) who saves the day and is the only person on the entire ship who figures it out when Lore impersonates Data. Why did the Star Trek writers do this so often in the first season? I honestly have no good explanation for it, but constantly having the whiny teenager be the only person who can solve the situation and the adults reluctant to listen to him wears thin after the first episode. Had Dr. Crusher instead figured out the fact that Lore was impersonating Data, the episode would’ve been quite a bit better. This wouldn’t have required a major re-write, either.
This is the beginning of the thrust of Data – and Brent Spiner – into the spotlight. As time goes on, a criticism leveled by Star Trek fans is that it becomes too much the “Picard and Data Show”. Watching this episode and Spiner’s acting ability, I think he earned that focus by giving such great performances.
While there is an amazing special effect where we are shown the Crystalline Entity, the set for the planet is disappointing. When the away team beams down to the area where Data was first discovered years earlier, it is very obvious where the entrance to the colony is. Yet they have to act as if no one has any clue of where to go to enter.
The flaws in this episode bring it down to mediocre, unfortunately. It could have – and should have – been much better. Still, a mediocre episode of Star Trek is better than a great episode of a lot of other shows.