OVERALL RATING: B-. ACTING: Spiner, A-. WRITING: C-.. DIRECTION: C.
THE SHOW: The story of Data's evil twin brother Lore, which, according to Larry Nemecek, in "The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion," was suggested by Brent Spiner himself, has a troublesome writing history, beginning here, and, in fact, eventually produces three of Star Trek's worst-written episodes ("Brothers," and "Descent, Parts I & II"). This episode and the others about Lore are only just barely tolerable as pieces of writing. It is one of Star Trek's worst failures, as a series, that Spiner's amazing versatility as an actor is wasted on such bad writing.
It is not the idea that is at fault. The story line itself is an interesting one. It goes like this: the brilliant and reclusive Dr. Noonian Soong had created two androids; in creating the first one (named Lore), Soong discovered that the inclusion of an emotions program produced an evil personality, leading Soong to create the second android, Data, without emotional capability. The episode "Datalore" represents part one of this four-part story which is presented intermittently over the course of six production seasons. In this episode, Data visits his home planet--a devastated landscape, totally stripped of vegetation, animals and humans--and discovers the various pieces of another android hidden in a cave, in Dr. Soong's secret laboratory.
There are children's drawings on the wall, indicating some sort of past holocaust. (We're never sure who drew them--perhaps Data himself, or his brother.) The second android's parts are taken aboard the Enterprise to be re-assembled. There is an officers' conference about this, in which Captain Picard suddenly becomes sensitive to the delicacy of the topic they are discussing, from Data's point of view. The android-in-pieces is discussed as an "it." Data corrects them--the android is a "he," a "him." It is "complete" in all its parts, and is a male being. Picard apologizes. It is a special moment in an otherwise indelicate and heavy-handed script.
Lore is re-assembled and re-activated. At first, one cannot tell him apart from Data. He seems docile; he acts like Data; he enjoys learning about the Enterprise; he is Data's identical twin. Eventually, we begin to see differences--Lore has a sense of humor; he has his own motives, which are not benign; he begins to chide Data for his loyalty to Starfleet, and for his inadequacies, such as his inability to use literary contractions and to understand humor; he tells Data the lie that Data was created by Soong first, was deemed to be inadequate, and then Soong created Lore, a being superior to Data.
In fact, what happened was that Lore himself was flawed. His circuitry could not handle the emotional capability that Soong had given him; he allied himself with an extremely destructive, interstellar being called the Crystalline Entity, which attacked Soong's colony. Lore had to be shut down and disassembled. Soong then created Data.
Come to think of it, there is one other affecting moment in the episode, also involving Captain Picard and Data. Picard calls Data in, and diplomatically asks him a question about his loyalty. Is he now loyal to his brother Lore? Data assures Picard that he remains loyal to him and to Starfleet. Although the scene, as written, lacks any preliminary build-up to this question, it is nevertheless well-played. (Picard has no obvious reason to ask the question. The potential disloyalty of Data is something only the viewers know about, since only we have been privy to the scenes between Data and Lore.) The scene concludes with the revelation (to the viewers) that Picard has been talking to Lore, not Data. Lore has fooled Picard.
As the story progresses, and Lore's evil plans begin to reveal themselves, Spiner provides stark contrast between the personalities of the two androids. Lore is a brute, who viciously kicks Data in the head when he is down. He is an egomaniac, who is proud of his superiority to human beings. He has a psychotic sense of humor. He is also beginning to malfunction. Spiner provides the visual clue of a facial tick, which afflicts only Lore.
Spiner does an excellent job in the double role. Lore is irredeemably bad, and convincingly so, and yet, at a number of points, we begin to see Lore's logic. (If you are more powerful than human beings, why play footsy to Starfleet? Why not exercise your power?) It is a difficult acting job. The difficulty lay in the necessity of the script that Lore be very bad, in order to justify the conclusion (Data's destruction of Lore.). The temptation would be to overdo the part. Spiner doesn't overdo it, but, boy, does he come close! (It is very shocking to see someone who looks just like Data kicking gentle Data's head.)
The contrasting role of Data is also difficult. In the face of Lore's questioning, Data begins to look a little dense. His gentleness and bland unemotionality begin to look like stupidity--only just. It is a very subtle shift, that lasts only for a moment. Then we are back to reality. Of course Lore is wrong. (Isn't he?)
While the concluding scene is dramatic, shocking, well-acted and well-executed, and provides a certain emotional satisfaction, it nevertheless does not provide sufficient answers to all that has gone before. The writers choose a comic-book ending, which is consistent with the story--yet, the story has raised other, more stimulating questions about androids and about Data, which go begging. In the early scenes, when Lore's body parts are first discovered, and we visit the laboratory where Data was created, both our scientific and our personal curiosity are aroused. Who is Data? How and why was he created? How does he work, really? With all of Soong's computers and files available in his lab, why doesn't Data search for the secret to android emotions, which he would so dearly like to have?
It seems quite incredible that Data and other Enterprise scientists would simply leave all this behind--Soong's whole laboratory. It is also not quite credible that Enterprise scientists can put Lore back together so easily. It took a cybernetics genius a whole lifetime to create two androids. When Soong had disassembled Lore, would he not have made it very difficult to put him back together? And if he didn't--if he just left the parts of this murderous android lying about, for anyone to discover--why did he do this?
Star Trek writers will try to answer some of these questions, in later episodes--episodes which are even more unsatisfactory than this one. The central problem in all of these Data-history episodes is that actor Brent Spiner, through his sheet dramatic ability, creates a more complex, subtle and sympathetic character for Data than Star Trek writers are able to handle. The writers of the Data-history episodes (such as "Datalore," "Brothers," and "Descent, Parts I & II") don't seem to grok what Spiner has created (nor the audience's reaction to it), and apparently haven't noticed what other Star Trek writers have done to develop this character between Data-history episodes.
The writers and directors of other full-blown Data episodes, and of Data subplots and small scenes throughout the series, do far better with complex-subtle-sympathetic Data than do the writers/directors of his history and origins--a curious fact. It's as if the topic is just too big for Star Trek writers. In episodes such as "Brothers" (in which Dr. Soong appears, played by Spiner), the writing is hopelessly garbled and overdone. We see the seeds of this problem in "Datalore"--plot glitches, huge unanswered quertions, gross rather subtle effects.
A further problem with the writing of the Data character is that the interaction between Picard and Data--which is based, I think, on the natural affinities of the actors and their roles--is the heart of this series, much like the affinity between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in the original series, yet the producers and writers of Star Trek TNG don't seem to get it. They don't play to it. If anything, they avoid it. Aside from one or two superb episodes, such as "The Measure of a Man" (Season 2), a few teasers, and a bit of by-play here and there, the obvious chemistry between these two actors and their characters is strongly downplayed, or is completely ignored.
The intellectual content of Picard's and Data's interaction--Data's quest to become more human, Picard as mentor of that quest, their discussions of what it means to be human--is far more interesting than the Data-Lore story. Lore is merely evil; we are relieved when he is gone. What we would like to have are Data's thoughts about this momentous event, and Picard's perspective on it--because these two have already created, by the middle of Season 1 (and, indeed, by the middle of this episode, "Datalore"), sufficient character-chemistry for the audience to be expecting such a discussion.
The Picard-Data relationship is also more interesting than the somewhat fake and absurd relationship of Picard and the demi-god "Q" (in other episodes) In Data, we have a true demi-god--a being with the strength of ten men, and the intellect of ten Einsteins, seeking genuine understanding of human beings. In "Q," we have merely an imp, a trouble-maker, a plot device--however well John de Lancie plays it. The potential for a deep exploration of the human condition, via the Picard-Data interaction, is simply thrown away, time and again--as it is here, in Data's return to his planet of origin and his discovery of a twin brother, about which Captain Picard has absolutely nothing to say.
If Picard had provided comment, had asked penetrating questions, and had remained at Data's side, overseeing the introduction to the Federation of this second android, the episode could have been far more satisfactory.
TERGIVERSATION METER READING: -2. One can see why Spiner would suggest an evil twin brother--an actor's dream. He gets to deepen the Data character, by contrast with Lore, and also gets to portray "bad seed" Lore. The material is a bit retrograde (Cain and Able all over again), which would naturally appeal to a clown like Spiner. The trouble is that the writers don't take it anywhere--not even to comment on humanity's replication of its own evil. The story therefore lies in the unconscious like a dormant nightmare--unexamined, undiscussed, lacking in scientific or philosophical exploration. There is some value in merely showing this nightmare of the "bad Data"--portraying it, bringing it to consciousness through images. But the Picard perspective (a philosophical perspective) is lacking. It therefore serves mostly to undermine, rather than promote, a humanistic view.
Tergiversate (tur-ji-ver-sat): 1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate. 2. To change sides; to defect; apostatize. The Tergiversation Meter scale runs from -5 (very defective) through +5 (unambiguous, true blue philosophical humanism with no negative subliminal messages).
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