Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise explores Data’s home planet, Omicron Theta. They find his brother, and the dark secret he carries.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser promises this will be an interesting episode. Data’s home planet, the one where he was made! He’s busy practicing sneezing at the moment, but still this is the first time we will get to uncover the mystery of his origin. Plot A is about Data and Lore and the crystalline entity, there is no plot B. The planet is completely lifeless, except they discover Dr. Soong’s secret lab where all the magic happened. The big reveal is, of course, that there is a disassembled android in his lab, and they return to the Enterprise to assemble him. The first half of this episode is very good, with good use of the cast and Spiner’s ability as a character actor is showcased in the second half. The final 15 mins aren’t very good though: Lore gives himself away almost immediately, first to Wes then to Dr. Crusher, but somehow the rest of the crew are too dumb to catch on. The final moments of the episode are not that satisfying either, it could have been done so much better.
Favorite Scenes: All of the initial scenes on the planet are pretty compelling, most of the credit for which goes to this episode’s director, Rob Bowman. We finally get to see a little of the advanced 24th century technology in the scenes where they are assembling Lore, which is also nice. Maybe the best scene is that first exchange Lore and Data have in his quarters. You learn everything you need to know about Lore there: he’s obviously much more human than Data but a bit too slick, and he starts putting down Data in a way that he wouldn’t challenge but that the audience would dislike.
Use of Cast/Characters: Marina Sirtis had this episode off. Brent Spiner takes center stage in this episode, of course. He gets a lot of character development and does a terrific job of creating the malevolent character of Lore, and proves he can play two disparate characters simultaneously. Picard doesn’t do a lot in this episode, but he does have a couple of good scenes. One of my favorite scenes with him is where he expertly takes control of the uneasiness the crew feels toward being reminded that Data is a machine in a conference meeting–his delivery strikes just the right tone and makes you think “Yep, that’s why he’s the captain.” There’s also a nice little scene where Picard and Data are discussing Lore in his ready room and he makes a mistake, and Data’s gentle correction again strikes just the right tone. Worf’s primary purpose in this episode seems to be getting his butt kicked by Lore. Wil Wheaton gets screwed again in this episode. “Shut up Wesley!” is probably a line the haters of Wes must have loved. He comes across as obnoxious even though he’s actually just trying to report his misgivings regarding “Data” which any idiot would’ve picked up on if they talked to him. Geordi’s visor gets used, but once again, nothing useful is really gained from this. Tasha doesn’t get much more, she has one scene where she contributes anything. Dr. Crusher has some lines but she’s not really doing anything. Riker does come across like he’s a bit more comfortable with command in this episode, particularly in the early scenes; later on he resorts to that hands-under-the-pits gesture which works against him so well.
Blu Ray Version: The crystalline entity baby! They couldn’t find the original file that contained the special effect for the entity, so they decided to use modern-day special effects to re-create it, and the results are fantastic. Fantastic! I’m one of those people who are pretty picky about staying true to the original in most cases, but the new entity looks very true to form and is a pleasure to watch. Pause it at about the 34-minute mark and just soak it up. When Lore is sifting through the Enterprise database, pause and frame advance it and you’ll see an alien that looks a lot like someone flipping us the finger.
Nitpicks: Picard hesitantly asks about Data’s loyalties now that Lore is around, then after Data’s affirmation he says, “Thank you, I was certain of that.” Then why did you ask? Why in the heck is Lore–a new android with unknown intentions–being allowed on the bridge and sitting at the Ops station? Data even says that Picard hasn’t approved him being there yet–Riker is right there, why did he allow it? When Tasha later asks how much they can trust Data the whole bridge crew should have understood why she was asking it. Whenever anyone is explaining anything of course, they are always explaining it to the audience, not really to the other characters, so I guess this can be excused by letting the audience know that as security chief she needed to ask. Still, it’s overplayed. The worst thing though, is the ridiculous idea of beaming a tree(?) next to the entity just to shoot it? Even when I was 12 that sounded dumb and made no sense! Finally, what the heck is Picard doing down in the cargo bay with a dangerous android on the loose? Isn’t one of the philosophical shifts of TNG that the captain needs to not jump into dangerous unknowns?
Overall Impression: This episode is ok. Wil Wheaton hated it, but I suspect that’s at least in part to how his character is treated here, which would frankly tick me off too. Lore is pretty fun to watch, and he does in fact show up later on in the show in a much better episode. This is an average episode that could have been a lot better, but at least it’s a step up from the majority of installments in season one. I do want to give kudos to some of the risks that the writers were taking here. Lines like “Are you prepared for the kind of death you’ve earned, little man?” where he threatens a kid, and “back off, or I’ll turn your little man into a torch.” Actually setting Dr. Crusher on fire? That was pushing things for 1987, and if they’d had to answer to a network it probably wouldn’t have made it through. There are several flaws in this episode but it’s not actually terrible–it probably could have been, but between Spiner’s acting and Bowman’s direction there are some good moments. I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This was the 12th episode aired, but the 13th episode made. Lore was originally supposed to be a twin “sister” for Data, and a love interest. Brent Spiner was the one who suggested the evil twin idea, which does sound better than android incest. This was the last episode written by Gene Roddenberry. The final line about the Enterprise being overdue for a refit would occur in two episodes, for 11001001. Data’s quarters are seen for the first time in this episode. This is the origin of Data’s “off-switch” which would feature prominently in what is the finest episode of season two. According to Wil Wheaton the producers hadn’t decided if Data can use contractions or not (which is why you see him doing it on and off this season), and evidently didn’t want to be pinned down even now. So Brent stood up and said he wouldn’t shoot the scene until the powers-that-be made a decision and stuck with it. We also learn Data is approximately 26 years old, as that is how long ago he was discovered. The split-screen technology here to actually have Brent Spiner talking to himself was pretty avant-garde at the time, and it worked well enough that they would use it in the future.
The original crystalline entity is also the first time TNG ever used CGI. The very first instance of it was in The Wrath of Khan, for the Genesis Project. We won’t see CGI again until Galaxy’s Child in season four. Want to see the crystalline entity in action? Watch Silicon Avatar.
Missable/Unmissable? This is one of those episodes that I’m on the fence about. For continuity’s sake you probably should see it because both Lore and the crystalline entity show up later in the series, and Brent Spiner does a good job here. However for the casual viewer there’s not nearly enough here to rate it as essential viewing. If you have a choice though, watch this one instead of the next episode, because it sucks.