Written by Dan Koeppel, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Robert Scheerer
In Inheritance, the Enterprise travels to the planet Atrea IV which is on the brink of a natural disaster. Their mission is to coordinate with the planet’s scientists to try to avert it. One of the scientists, Dr. Julianna Tainer (portrayed by Fionnula Flanagan) claims to be the android Data’s “mother”.
It seems that Dr. Tainer was once married to Data’s creator, Dr. Noonien Soong (both parts are portrayed by Brent Spiner). As Dr. Tainer relates cute anecdotes about Data’s “childhood”, Data tries feverishly to recollect anything about her or find any record of her existence on Omicron Theta.
As the two work together they grow closer, and Data asks why she never sought him out. She admits that it was she who urged Dr. Soong to leave Data behind on Omicron Theta after the attack by the crystalline entity. Her heart was broken by what happened to Data’s “brother”, Lore, and she feared a similar ending for him.
The story could have been good in so many ways. The story has many points that draw in the feelings adoptees often have when they locate and first meet their birth parents. Data’s need to know certain things and ask some hard questions rings true as does Dr. Tainer’s guilt and fear.
Spiner is good as he tries to search for information logically, without emotions. This has been an issue before with emotional inflection coming through when it shouldn’t, but Spiner nails it quite well this time. His inflections while studying her convey his skepticism of her claims. Flanagan is a good guest star. She comes of as a sweet grandmotherly type as well as being quite intelligent. It’s not as if the mystery of her existence will be something viewers pick up on the first time they watch this, and it also makes sense on repeated viewings.
The problem is the pacing of the show and the script which has so much more potential. It creates a good premise and a sort of mystery, then drops it and plods through for a while as the two attempts to bond and spark Data’s memory. If the pace of the original premise was kept up instead of getting bogged down in showing viewers the bonding moments Data and Dr. Tainer shared.
The other problem is that there just have been way too many shows focusing on Data. Watching it again after a long time of not watching any Star Trek: The Next Generation, I didn’t mind it so much, but if you’re watching the show even at a pace of an episode a day, it will wear on you fast. During the last season, there were many character-driven episodes. They aren’t bad when interspersed with other shows but too many in one shot tend to leave the viewer wanting some good action and space duels.
*** SPOILER AHEAD ***
When they have to jump while trapped during a cave-in, Data learns she is Dr. Tainer is actually an android. Dr. Soong created her after his real wife died. He programmed her so she wouldn’t know she was an android. Why does she show emotions and Data doesn’t? The answer seems to be that he created her after Data. But it just doesn’t ring true that this “woman” could have made her way in the universe for so long without anyone realizing she was an android. No medical exams?
*** END SPOILERS ***
In the end, Inheritance isn’t a bad episode, but it’s nothing spectacular. Most of the regular cast is missing in action for the episode or relegated to supporting roles. Data has so far had a father, daughter, and brother so I have to wonder why they felt the need to have another family member come out of the woodwork. It has the feeling of being filler to meet the allotment of the final season and it seems that much of the episode is filler as well.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Force of Nature
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Parallels