Written by Rick Berman
Directed by Rob Bowman
This is an episode that marks a turning point for the android Data and gives his portrayer, Brent Spiner, a chance to show off his fine acting abilities. Unfortunately, because the episode involves quite a bit of dialogue and very little action, it seems to plod along quite a bit.
Due to an onboard medical emergency, the Enterprise is trying to reach a nearby Starbase for its medical facilities. At this point, Data seemingly malfunctions and takes over the vessel, redirecting it to a distant planet and locking out control from everyone else on board.
After he beams down to the surface, we find out that Data’s creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, is still alive, but dying and has “paged” Data to return to him. Data does not remember how he got here and wishes to contact the Enterprise. Soong ignores his requests. Soon, another figure appears. Soong’s page has also brought Data’s brother “Lore” back as well. (For the background on this, see Star Trek: The Next Generation – Datalore).
Soon the “family” is bickering. Soong is somewhat apologetic to Lore, and Data is informed of Lore’s lies to him during that first encounter. Soong has one special chip that will help the android function with emotion which he intends to give to Data. However, Lore manages to thwart that plan, then departs abruptly.
Brent Spiner portrays three roles here: that of Data, Lore, and Dr. Soong. The makeup used on him for Soong is so terrific you really wouldn’t know it is him. He also gives each of these characters separate, distinct personalities which also makes it easier to differentiate between them. Although Lore and Data are both androids, they seem to carry themselves very differently, and yet it is not in a way that would seem unbelievable for an android. I have to give him plenty of credit because this could not have been easy to pull off, and the episode is worth it to fans for this fact alone.
This whole set-up of Data taking control of the Enterprise and the rest of the crew being unable to stop him takes up the first fifteen minutes of the show. It seems that everything the crew tries to take back control of the vessel, Data is able the thwart. To me, this is a serious flaw that Starfleet should deal with. If they didn’t know he was capable of this before, I would think that following these events he would either be removed from a situation where he has the access and ability to create a similar situation. However, it’s written off with barely a shrug.
The rest of the crew is left trying to figure out what to do while the focus is on Data. Eventually, they do figure out a way to track him and get down to the planet, but it felt like it was done in a way that was necessary for the point of the story, not a natural flow. Soong stays on the planet alone, so we also have no closure to that situation either. I can’t imagine one of the greatest cybernetic scientists being left alone on a planet, his vast knowledge untapped.
Non-fans will be confused and, frankly, not interested at all in the story. Fans should see it for the further development of Data’s character and Spiner’s great acting ability. However, it’s not one that you’ll enjoy viewing over and over again like so many other episodes.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Suddenly Human
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Family
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