Written by Joe Menosky and Hilary Bader
Directed by Patrick Stewart
The Enterprise locates the science vessel Vico, which had been sent out to explore an area of space known as the Black Cluster. The ship has suffered horrific damage and an Away Team is sent to investigate what happened to it. A boy is discovered among the wreckage of the Vico, the only survivor. The android Data (Brent Spiner) rescues him from where he is pinned.
Timothy (portrayed by Joshua Harris) tells his version of the events – that the Vico was attacked. He also develops an attachment to Data, which Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) believes is perfectly natural in the beginning.
Meanwhile, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) try to figure out exactly what happened to the Vico to cause the horrific damage. Their investigation brings in discussion of the Breen race which is talked about in the same vein as the Romulans and Klingons were previously, although they haven’t been seen until this point, although they’ve been mentioned several times.
As time goes on, Timothy adopts a personality similar to Data and calls himself and android. This is somewhat believable, as someone who has been through something so traumatic would want to deny his feelings, however it comes off as a bit too rushed and contrived. The story doesn’t seem to flow in that direction, but instead the writers seem to be rushing the story in the direction they want it to go.
The main story of Timothy unnaturally identifying with Data is really not enough to hold up the episode, and the secondary story of what happened to the Vico – while more interesting – is not enough to bolster the sagging first story. By this point in the fifth season, fans have seen too many stories like this and there’s nothing original about what is happening to the Vico. I felt as if I’d seen the story of the crew finding a ship damaged or with some (or all) of the crew dead in space so many times already that it didn’t grab my interest in the least.
In the case of the Data and Timothy story, it’s definitely not enough to fill a full-length episode. There are many moments of their interaction that feel forced or gratuitous, as if the writers added in scenes after the fact when the film time ran short. Joshua Harris is another poor child actor chosen by the casting agent, although he is somewhat better than the child actors seen in Disaster.
Spiner does his best with the material given, but it seems at times as if he is bored. Again, I believe it’s because so much of the material in his storyline was filler and served no real purpose, rather than moving the story along.
It’s a shame that Patrick Stewart drew this episode in his rotation as director. His previous directorial effort in the series, In Theory, was also a mediocre offering by the writers, and also involved trying to take Data in a somewhat different and more challenging direction. I don’t blame Stewart as the problem is the writing, although I think there was a bit of room for improvement in some of the scenes.
It doesn’t take much to realize that there’s more to the story than what Timothy is saying, but it only comes out to the crew once the Enterprise is put in peril. Unfortunately by then the story has been dragged on a bit too long and I just didn’t find myself caring anymore. Hero Worship can easily be skipped over in the series without missing out on anything important to the characters.