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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Datalore

by Wil Wheaton, posted Dec 3rd 2007 11:21AM
dataloreTitle: Datalore
Original Air Date: January 18, 1988
Teleplay by: Robert Lewin and Gene Roddenberry
Story by: Robert Lewin and Maurice Hurley
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Episode: S01E013
Stardate: 41242.4

Synopsis: After dropping off a bunch of Human Horn for Lurr in the Omicron Persei system, the Enterprise cruises into the nearby Omicron Theta system, to pay a visit to Data's home planet.

Omicon Theta was once a farming colony, but all the colonists -- and everything they once grew -- were all gone when Data was found. Oh! A mystery! Riker leads an away team to the planet's surface in an effort to solve it. (In a scene that was cut from the final episode, the USS Mystery Machine showed up, and captain Fred said, "Dang." before it flew away to the Scary Old Amusement Park galaxy.)

They make their way to the exact spot where Data was discovered: it's sort of a hollowed out area beneath a bunch of rocks, where Data tells them he was found wearing nothing more than a layer of dust. Before anyone can make a saucy reference about 'The Naked Now' to Tasha, Geordi's Visor reveals that the rocks aren't naturally hollow, and the "wall" opens up, revealing a twisty maze of passages, all alike.

After a bit of exploring, they find themselves in the lab of Data's creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. Riker, Geordi, and Tasha all join forces to be sort of an Exposition Voltron, informing the audience that Noonian Soong was the Earth's foremost neuroscientist, until he tried to build Asimov's positronic brain and failed. Everyone thought he did the walk of shame off the planet, but it turns out he just moved to Omicron Theta to continue his work until he got it right. (Coincidentally, on Omicron Gamma, there's a group of former Microsoft employees still working on an MP3 player).

Riker sends Tasha and Worf out to scout around, while Geordi and Data stay with him to search the lab. They find some of the things used to build Data, including several pieces of an identical, unassembled android. Data wants to put it together and activate it, so he can love it and keep it and pet it and call it George, and Riker agrees to let him do it. Hey, what could possibly go wrong? It's not like it's going to be his evil twin brother who eventually ends up selling out Starfleet and humanity to the Borg, right? Damn right! They take the various android bits back to the ship and get to work assembling them while Data watches. It's very, very creepy.

Picard, who has apparently had a falling out with the ship's communicator, has Dr. Crusher tell Data he wants him in the observation lounge for a debriefing. When he gets there, Geordi wonders if they'll know how to turn this new robot on. It's a fair question, but before Picard can send Riker to get Tasha to come and answer it, he reminds everyone that, though Data is a machine, so too are humans biological machines. Slim Goodbody drops in for a little song and dance, and everyone has fun while learning.

Riker kills the party, though, by showing Picard a child's drawing of several sadfaced little kids running away from some sort of crystalline, oh, I don't know, entity, or something. Riker says that there were a whole bunch of these pictures in the lab, all drawn by different children. Hmm . . . a bunch of different children drew essentially the same picture of something big and scary that made them all sad. Gosh, do you think it has anything to do with the disappearance of the colonists?

Before they can examine the mystery of the children's drawing, Dr. Crusher calls the observation lounge to ask for Data's assistance. Picard looks a little bothered, but it's tough to tell if he's annoyed that Data has to leave the meeting, or that Dr. Crusher used the ship's communicator.

In any case, Data meets up with Dr. Crusher and shows her his on/off switch. As he describes it and says, "An android alarm clock!"

Then he smirks, and hopefully asks, "Is that amusing?"

Dr. Crusher remains serious, and slowly shakes her head "no." It's the first genuinely laugh out loud moment of the episode, and the last time we'll be laughing with 'Datalore' instead of at it.

After a brief encounter with soon-to-be ex-Chief Engineer Argyle, Dr. Crusher promises Data that she'll keep the existence of his mysterious off switch to herself. Data asks her if she would want people to know about her off switch, if she had one. She laughs, and nervously glances at a bottle of Jaegermeister in her office.

A little while later, the mystery android has been fully assembled, and is such a good match for Data, Picard wonders aloud which one of them was made first. The mystery android springs to life and says that Data was, "but they found him to be imperfect, and I was made to replace him." Oh, snap! He says his name is Lore, and we get a commercial break to think about that.

When we come back, Data and Picard are in the ready room, talking about Lore. Picard keeps referring to Lore as "it," which totally harshes Data's mellow. Data tells Picard that by calling Lore "it" instead of "him," Picard suggests that Data could fit into the same category. Picard apologizes, and extracts a loyalty oath from Data, just to be sure that he's not going to grow a goatee and get all Mirror Universe on us later. (If I may be sincere for a moment -- and only a moment -- it's actually a wonderful scene, and though this issue will be exhaustively examined in 'The Measure of a Man', it's great to see how Patrick and Brent bring this scene to life. I now return you to your regularly scheduled snark.)

Back on the bridge, Lore is getting a tour of the ship's controls, and really sucking up to everyone, including Wesley, who is in full-on spacenerd mode. When Data comments on Lore's obsequiousness, Lore says, "Because I was designed to be so human, my brother, I enjoy pleasing humans." Data fails to point out that this is something they have in common, while Tasha studiously avoids making eye contact.

Over the next few scenes, Data and Lore get to know each other. Data tells Lore a little bit about the ship and her crew (including this totally not gay observation about Wesley: "He has a child's body, but we have found him to be much more.") and Lore pretty quickly reveals that he's a complete dickwad.

He also gives Data a Scientology recruitment speech, and reveals that he lied when he said Data was built first. The truth is, Lore is the big brother, which doesn't make sense; Lore's such a dick, he seems more like a middle child, but maybe that's because I'm a big brother and -- hey! Got your nose! Stop hitting yourself! Why won't you stop hitting yourself?! Er, sorry. Maybe it does make sense after all.

Lore gives Data a whole bunch of shit about the way he talks, his efforts to be human, and even sings a little song that's centuries old. Data thinks nothing of this and leaves Lore alone in his quarters to have unrestricted access to the Enterprise computer, as long as Lore thinks about what he's done and writes a five paragraph essay explaining himself to the captain. Yeah, that's not going to lead to any shenanigans.

A few minutes later, Picard catches up to the audience and tells us that all those children's drawings were of the thing that killed the colonists. I'll spare you the two pages of exposition that follows and share this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors! Also, Tasha's security console was designed by Dick Cheney and can track the movements of every single being on the Enterprise, including Lore. Data leaves the bridge to go see exactly what he's up to, and Tasha, speaking strictly as chief of security, wonders how much Picard can trust Data, now that he has an identical twin running around. Everyone on the bridge looks at her like she farted, and Picard tells her that he trusts Data implicitly. (Jesus Christ. The crew gets bent out of shape when she does her job, but doesn't care that the Enterprise has a surveillance system that makes 1984 look like Freenet?)

Data catches up with Lore, and Lore shows Data how human he's become by deactivating Data not with his simple on/off switch, but by slipping him a Mickey in a glass of champagne. While Data struggles to stay awake, Lore reveals his devilish plot to give the lifeforms on the Enterprise to the crystalline entity . . . just like he did with the colonists on Omicron Theta! (Anyone who was surprised by this loses a million geekpoints.)

Back on the bridge, ECHELON tells Worf that Data is transmitting something on a subspace channel (apparently Starfleet can develop the most intrusive surveillance system in the universe, but they can't make it any more accurate than Homeland Security's no-fly list) so Riker looks around the bridge, sees all the commissioned officers he has available to him, does a quick scan of the ship's manifest to see who's on duty . . . and decides to send Wesley Freakin' Crusher to "discreetly" sneak a peek at Data. Worf says, "Uh, excuse me, Commander, but since I'm kind of in the security department and all, and I'm a big old Klingon, shouldn't maybe I go check this out?"

Riker replies, "I'm not going to lie to you, Worf: we all know that if there's anything funky going on down there, you're just going to get your ass kicked. So I'm sending the Boy Wonder and his giant brain instead."

Wesley jumps up from his console and shouts, "Wheee! I'm in Starfleet!" as he skips to the turbolift.

Worf growls, but inside he's secretly grateful that he's staying safely on the bridge.

Lore, disguised as Data, is contacting the crystalline entity when Wesley shows up, and discreetly checks up on him thusly:

Wesley: Hi Data! Look at how totally in Starfleet I am!
Lore: Hello, Wesley! I am not Lore, I am Data! Look at Lore who is on the floor while I, Data, am standing here doing nothing suspicious!
Wesley: Wow, that sure does look like Lore! Neat! I'd better not call security or anything since nothing suspicious is going on here. Oh, before I leave, here are all the reasons I, and everyone else on the ship would suspect that you were actually Lore, disguised as Data, contacting the crystalline entity so it could come and eat our brains.
Lore: Hey, it is not unreasonable, I mean, it is not going to eat your eyes.
Wesley: Hey, did you know that in Starfleet? I talk to the captain! I think I'll go talk to him now! Wheeee!
Lore: Thanks for dropping in and observing that there's nothing suspicious going on here. Run along now, you little scamp!
Wesley: Wheeee!

A few minutes later, Lore, having traded facial tics and uniforms with Data, arrives on the bridge just in time for the crystalline entity to show up, and this is where the episode, which had so much promise at the beginning, and had been dangerously close to veering off course for the last fifteen minutes, sets a course for planet Shark, and jumps right over it.

Wesley, who was sent to check up on Data, does what any smart Starfleet officer would do: report to his captain that something fishy is going on with the damn robot, and suggest that maybe they shouldn't trust him.

Picard, the captain who recognized Wesley's intellect and promoted him to acting ensign, and Riker, who chose Wesley over everyone else on the ship to check up on Data and presumably report back on what he found, not only ignore Wesley's concerns, they actually tell him that he's out of line for expressing them! Oh, sure, Picard sends Riker and Wesley with "Data" to check on "Lore," but it's not enough to overcome their confirmation bias, even when "Data" starts acting entirely out of character, they still leave "Lore" -- who they believe has attacked Data and is a danger to the ship -- just laying on the floor in Data's quarters. What the hell? Did all the Redshirts have the day off or something?

A few moments later, when the crystalline entity that killed an entire planet starts attacking the ship, their first response isn't to blow the goddamn thing up, but to let Data simply talk to it! Look, we all know that Picard likes to talk for pages at a time when the ship is in danger, but this is just insulting to the audience. It gets even worse when Data suggests what is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever in the history of Star Trek: use a cargo transporter to beam a large living thing, like a tree or something, out into space, and then destroy it with the ship's phasers. Because, you know, the Enterprise has decks just filled with large trees. (This is the best the writers could come up with? Did someone have to catch a bus or something? I mean, come ON!)

"Data" leaves to bridge -- after making it clear that he doesn't know what "make it so" means and arousing absolutely no suspicions from Picard -- and Wesley decides he's had enough of this bullshit.

"Sir," he says, "I know this may finish me, but --"

And Picard, the captain who recognized Wesley's intellect and promoted him to acting ensign, responds with three words that follow me to this day: "Shut up, Wesley!"

Trekkies around the country gasp in delight as an episode that was veering into 'The Last Outpost' territory suddenly has redeeming value. Basement printing presses, silk screens, and button-makers go into over drive as entrepreneurial fans do what they do best. The convention market is flooded with the resulting merchandise, and children are still attending college today from the sales.

Finally, Wesley points out that everything he said would have been listened to if it came from an adult, or a competent writer. Picard considers this retort momentarily, and sends him to his room. Then, for good measure, he sends Dr. Crusher to keep an eye on him.

Meanwhile, Worf accompanies "Data" to the cargo bay. Somewhere between the bridge and the turbolift, he gets hip to what's going on, but when he tries to stop Lore, Lore kicks his Klingon warrior ass with one punch. (See, Worf? You should have listened to Riker and stayed on the bridge!)

In a scene we don't see, Wesley convinces Dr. Crusher to go with him to Data's quarters to show her that "Lore" is actually Data, because the next time we do see them, that's where they are. At Wesley's urging, Dr. Crusher turns Data on (bow chikka bow wow) and the three of them head out to stop Lore. Alone. Without calling security. Or telling the captain that what they've discovered. Or, really, doing anything that makes any sense at all. Well, that's okay. Surely the ship's incredibly advanced security tracking system, which we've seen in action several times this episode will alert them, right?

*cricket*
*cricket*

Once in the cargo bay, they catch Lore in an intimate moment with the crystalline entity: it turns out his totally unsuspicious plan to beam a big old tree out into space was just a pretense to lowering the shields and allowing the entity to swoop in and eat everyone on board. (Uh, Lore? It's probably going to eat you, too, stupid.) Before they can consummate their craigslist hookup, though, Data cockblocks him, Lore shoots Dr. Crusher with her own phaser, and there's some WWF-style wrestling between Data and Lore before Data launches Lore onto the transporter and Wesley beams him out into the giant plot hole that's opened up when the crystalline entity doesn't leap through the lowered shields to eat everyone on the ship. Instead, it just . . . leaves. Yeah, that's right, it leaves. The giant fucking crystalline entity, the one that destroyed all the life on an entire planet, just takes its football and goes home because Lore isn't there.

There are some hugs, some pithy dialog from Picard, and this once-promising episode comes to a merciful end. But not before Data, who we now know is incapable of speaking in contractions, tells Picard, "I'm fine."

The historical record is unclear, but this may be the moment when "facepalm" entered the modern lexicon.

Quotable Dialog: "How sad, dear brother. You make me wish I were an only child." - Data, ensuring he won't get any more Christmas cards from Lore.

"Lore's gone, sir. Permanently." - Wesley, trying real hard to be an action hero. And failing.

"Shut up, Wesley!" - Picard, giving voice to Trekkies everywhere.

Obligatory Technobabble:

GEORDI
And Helm control are here, with
the ship's heading given in
measurements, we call them
"degrees" with three hundred-sixty of
them in a full circle this way.

LORE
... Then you say "mark"...

GEORDI
On the nose!

WESLEY
Which separates it from another
three hundred-sixty degree full
circle like this... on a right
angle to that one.

LORE
So by ordering a heading so many
degrees this way, and so many this
way, the ship can travel in any
direction. All three dimensions.

Behind the Scenes Memory: I have two, both related to Brent Spiner. First, I remember shooting on the bridge early in this episode, and the writer's still hadn't worked out if Data was going to use contractions or not. My memory on the actual discussion is very hazy, but I recall a bunch of producers, writers, and Gene himself coming to the set and all standing around the Conn and Ops consoles to discuss it while the entire crew tried to look busy. Data had already used contractions in previous episodes, and it seemed like such a flimsy plot device to separate him and Lore, I thought it was silly, but I was only 15 and knew enough to keep my big mouth shut. Brent, however, didn't. He refused to shoot the scene until they made a decision and stuck with it. I can't say that I blame him.

This episode was a ton of work for Brent. Whenever he switched roles, he also had to switch costumes, which I recall being time consuming and tedious. However, that was nothing compared to dealing with the guy they got to double Brent when both characters needed to be on screen at the same time.

I don't remember the guy's name (It wasn't Guy Vardaman, a dear friend of mine who was my stand-in and Brent's photo double for the entire series after this episode) but he was someone's friend, or a relative, or maybe even worked in production in some capacity. He seemed nice enough to me, but he drove Brent crazy. Whenever he was playing Data or Lore, he moved like a break dancer doing the robot (you can see this when Data and Lore walk together down the corridor after we first see Lore on the bridge) and what started out as comical quickly became annoying. I think the guy was really into playing an android, and his enthusiasm got cranked up to eleven, but by the end of the week, pretty much everyone wanted to deactivate him and sell him to the nearest Jawa.

This reminds me of something Jonathan told me about casting for Lal when he directed 'The Offspring': "You don't realize how brilliant and subtle Brent's performance is until you watch a bunch of other actors try to pull it off . . . badly."

The Bottom Line: Not all first seasons can be as compelling as Lost or as satisfying as Heroes, and at the halfway point of our first season, we're inconsistent enough to irritate loyal fans and alienate new viewers. Our last episode, 'The Big Goodbye', had great crossover appeal, and it's likely that a number of new viewers tuned in to watch another episode. After 'Datalore', I don't know how many of them returned.

The pitch was awesome: "We find Data's evil twin brother, who he never knew he had." Sure, there's nothing original about the evil twin story, but that doesn't mean that it can't be told again in an interesting way, especially with a cool character like Data, played by a great character actor like Brent Spiner supported by a brilliant dramatic actor like Patrick Stewart. How could they screw up this story this badly?

I think it comes down to lazy writing that has things happen because they're supposed to happen, rather than having them happen organically. The characters are credulous when they should be skeptical, the audience isn't surprised by anything after the second act, and there are story problems that should have never gotten past the first draft.

Personally, I hated the way they handled Wesley in this episode. He's already on his way to becoming a hated character, and the writers cranked it up to Warp 11. It was stupid of them to have Picard give him an adult responsibility, and then dismissively treat him like a child when he carried it out. It undermines both of the characters; how is the audience supposed to take either of them seriously? Maybe the idea was that Wesley would prove Picard wrong, with a big payoff at the end when Picard apologies or something and their relationship grows as a result. But all we get is one line in the cargo bay when Picard says, "Can you return to duty?" Really? That's it? How about, "Hey, can you kiss my ass, Captain? How does that work for you? I was right about everything, bitch!"

Erm, sorry.

It's not all bad, of course. The art direction in this episode is some of the best we've seen so far. When Dr. Crusher works with Argyle to put Lore together, it's one of the first times we got to see some really awesome technology on the Enterprise. Sure, we'd seen some spiffy visual effects in other episodes, but this was the first time we got to see just how advanced the Enterprise D was.

I loved 'Datalore' when I was a kid, and I was looking forward to watching and reviewing it as an adult, but it does not hold up at all. All the actors did the best they could with terrible dialog and writing, and Brent does a fantastic job creating distinctly different characters in Data and Lore, but it's not enough to save the episode. If I'd been a new viewer in 1987, this could have been the episode that put me off of watching Next Generation entirely.

Final Grade: D

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Rhaenys

I have the similar experence you have with Datalore.
When I watched it for the first, 4 of 5 years ago, I thought it was great.
Now I'm 20, and I can see all the script holes.
But i still like it a bit, because of Lore and Data.
Wesley... This is the only one episode in which I really can't stand him. He is not my favourite character (Data is), but I don't hate him.

Interesting reviews. I hope there will be more of them.

February 03 2008 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bailey

I was 10 when this episode aired, and mostly I remember how very creeped out I was by Lore. Brent Spiner infused that whole performance with something sinister, and I remember just sitting there boggling that Data and Picard were arguing over whether Lore was an "it" or a "he" and totally ignoring the fact that he was over in the corner radiating evil.

February 03 2008 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vampirajen

another thought has popped into my head when i watched this again. there is something of a missed oppertunity here. in the episode it is set up to show wesley being right and everyone else being wrong, but at the end it just doesn't pay of at the end. in 'where no one has gone before' i kind of get the feeling that picard promotes wesley a little bit reluctantly, like he's only doing it because of what the traveller told him. if there was a little bit of forward planning (and yes, i know that didn't really happen on telivision back in the day) they could have shown picard realising that it was the right decision all along because wes was the only one who was seeing what was going on.

January 28 2008 at 5:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zeropoint

I love these reviews, Wil. Every single one makes me laugh til I cry.

I just had to comment on this one, though. Specifically... Slim Goodbody? *Slim Goodbody*? It actually took my brain a full fifteen seconds to hook an axon to the neuron holding my memory of that guy so I could get the reference. I haven't thought about that dude (or his definitely ungay bodysuit) in over twenty years (which was probably the last time anyone else thought about him, either).

Great, great stuff. Honestly, when you get through all seven seasons (in a bozillion years, I know), think about putting them all together for posterity in bookified form. I'd buy it.

January 27 2008 at 3:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason

You know when B-4 was introduced that did make Lore into the middle child.

January 06 2008 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dempsey

"I will name him George and I'll will..... Gosh it's hot."

I live in India now. I've been saying "Gosh it's hot" but nobody laughs. A cultural reference in the wrong culture.

Thanks for another great recap. I 2nd the motion: Hurry up and get to season 2.

December 21 2007 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alan

I admire your generosity in these reviews. Most of the rest of us would make the reviews about Wesley if we were in your situation - but you give us real reviews with a bit of behind the scene insight that no one else can offer. And I like the Johnathan Coulton reference.

December 15 2007 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pilson

I was wondering how much the writer's strike affected these episodes. It hadn't happened yet obviously, but it was in the works as a Plan B, and all writers who read about the latest union meeting knew what was going on.

Also, would love to see a bar graph comparing, time of strike with suckage of episode. Was there a correlation?

Hrm.

December 11 2007 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mstjedi

Just when I was ready to give up on this, I see you've given us another great review. Thanks, Wil!

December 11 2007 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Juliette

Fun and funny. Everything you say is true, but I admit that I've always enjoyed this episode anyway and try to tune out the problems even to this day (hard though that is).

I love your sense of humor about the scene, but I hated "Shut up, Wesley" because it demeaned two characters I liked a lot (and seemed so out-of-character for the self-disciplined, patient, and kind-but-firm, Picard.

And, yes, writers made a lot of people hate Wesley, but some of us kids loved the idea that someone our age was in space, outshining adults, (and being taken seriously by them!), and successfully holding his own in an adult world. To me, you were "representing" as Wesley, living out a child's great sci-fi fantasy, and it was cool.

I'm glad you mentioned Data's use of a contraction at the end, but why did they leave it in? Why not change the part that said he NEVER used them? That bit at the end made you think Data was thrown out the airlock and Lore was the one left, even though he obviously wasn't.

I'm surprised Gene Roddenberry didn't insist on getting rid of such a glaring inconsistency. Why didn't Brent complain, since he realized consistency was so important with that? Unless I'm missing something, that's the most glaring bit of inconsistent ST writing I can remember.

Anyway, another enjoyable read. Keep up the good work! And...thanks!

December 08 2007 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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