Star Trek The Next Generation: Datalore

Haven't I seen you some place before?
"Captain's log, stardate 41242.4. Our last assignment has taken us into the remote Omicron Theta star system, home of our android crew member Lieutenant Commander Data. Although we are due at our next assignment, I have decided to visit Data's home planet for a few hours in the hopes of unraveling some of the mystery of his beginnings."

I remember liking this episode the first time I saw it. I didn't think it was brilliant, just reasonably entertaining. But that was a long time ago. A very long time ago.

The biggest problem with this episode is that everyone is made to act like a complete idiot in order for Wesley to once again save the ship. Lore is a terrible actor and it is blindly obvious that he is impersonating Data. Keanu Reeves in dark glasses and pink dress could've done a more convincing job. I mean, how hard is it to understand a simple instruction like "Make it so"? And yet, somehow, he manages to fool everyone. Everyone, that is, apart from Gene, I mean Wesley, who sees Lore for who he really is, foils his plan and (*rolls eyes*) saves everyone from being eaten or whatever by the Crystalline Entity.

Speaking of which, what happened to that thing? Once Lore is beamed off the ship it is just sort of forgotten about. This is something that destroyed all life on an entire planet. Surely that is something the crew should keeps tabs on? You know, see where it is going and maybe stop it from destroying another planet. It is rather careless of them to just let it go and move onto their next adventure. The thing destroys planets, for Spock's sake!

This is the series' first big Data-centric episode, taking us to his home planet, exploring his origins and even introducing his evil twin brother (who is also the most successful part of the episode). This episode was originally meant to centre on a female android, who would've acted as a love interest for Data. It was Brent Spiner who suggested the evil twin angle instead. And why not? Evil twin stories are one of the benchmarks of science fiction and fantasy (and soap operas). They're also a lot of fun for television actors, allowing them the opportunity to cut loose and play something other than their regular roles, and Spiner is obviously having some fun here as the more jovial Lore.

Watching these early episodes again, it it clear the writers still haven't got a grasp on Data's character yet. Some of his lines and actions come across as very un-Dataish (he's practically smiling when Lore is first discovered). At this early stage he's still very much defined by his Pinocchio complex, something I have never much cared for. Too often it results in some of the series' most cringe-worthy moments. The opening scene in his quarters, where he practices sneezing, is one of them. The whole thing is just embarrassingly bad. It made me want to leap into the television, wrap my arms around Spiner and reassure him that things will indeed get better.

Commander, tricorder readings indicate this set cost less than those tacos we had for lunch.
Notes and Quotes

--In a further demonstration of the crew's stupidity, they sit Lore down on the bridge and show him how the ship works despite knowing nothing about him. The original Enterprise crew did something similar with Khan and look how well that turned out.

--Seconds before everyone beams down and starts talking about how lifeless Data's home planet is, we hear Riker give a log entry about how lifeless Data's home planet is.

--When I was watching the scenes of the crew exploring the abandoned colony complex, I couldn't help but notice how similar the background music was to Jerry Goldsmith's score for Alien.

--'Datalore' was the final Star Trek episode for which Gene Roddenberry has a writing credit.

--The script for this episode was constantly being rewritten, even after filming started.

--Troi doesn't even appear in this episode, while Worf, Geordi and Tasha are little more than window dressing rather than flesh and blood characters.

--In this episode it is established that Data cannot use contractions, despite using them in earlier episodes.

Picard: "Shut up, Wesley!"

Dr. Crusher:"Shut up, Wesley!"
--It's worth repeating.

Lore: "The troublesome little man-child."

Two out of four evil twin twitches.


Dustin said...

They do catch up with the Crystaline Entity in a later season, but yeah, let's just send it on it's merry way to cause whatever destruction that it wants to.

"Shut up Wesley" reminded me of this video:

Billie Doux said...

I liked most of the first half, and didn't like the second half. As you said, Mark, it just falls apart when you try to apply logic to the story.

This one again feels like TOS, and not in a good way. I kept thinking of the androids in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" They even re-did a scene from "Where No Man Has Gone Before", where Gary Lockwood was reading the library computer superfast.

Oh, well. It was still interesting to see where Data came from. *Hugs* Brent, it does get better.

drnanamom said...

Great review. It is funny how time changes the way we view things. I think we have been privy to some fabulous sci-fi writing and filming and these early episodes suffer by comparison.