The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was of varied quality but one of the better episodes was Datalore.
Every character got an episode to explore their characters and show the audience who this new crew were in those early days.
In DataLore, it was the turn of everyone’s favourite android who wished to be human. Directed by Rob Bowman who would helm many of the best episodes and written by Gene Roddenberry and Robert Lewin based on a storyline by Borg creator Maurice Hurley and Lewin. Originally broadcast on 18th January 1988 it set the standard for what makes a great Star Trek episode and remains one of the stand-out stories of its time. Brent Spiner is a tour de force in the dual role of Data and his wayward brother. It had been established that Data had been found with no memory of how he came to be.
The Enterprise stops off at Omicron Three where Data was found. They discover a hidden base wherein lies an exact duplicate of Data. Returning it to the Enterprise they reassemble it and discover it is another Soong android by the name of Lore. He looks exactly like Data and the story used the evil twin theme to good effect. However he has differences to Data. He shows emotion, can use contractions and is plagued by a facial tic. The crew discover that the colony was destroyed by a huge space dwelling crystalline entity that can strip all life from a planet as seen in the future episode ‘Silicon Avatar’ where Data meets his mother. Taken by Lore’s charm and personality plus the fact that orphan Data has found a family member, the crew welcome him in but it transpires that he was the one that brought the entity to the colony to consume. And he isn’t finished yet. He takes Data’s place and summons the entity to take the Enterprise itself.
Only Wesley Crusher realizes what Lore has done which climaxes with the two brothers battling it out in a spectacular fight where Lore is beamed into space and presumed destroyed. However he would return alive and well in future episodes ‘Brothers’ and the two part ‘Descent’ where he teams up with the Borg. But it is Datalore that we see how evil Lore actually is. It turns out that Doctor Soong created Lore first but he terrified the other colonists and was disassembled leading to the creation of Data, a less scary android. This episode sets the standard for all other Lore stories and gives Brent Spiner the chance to play a different version of the lovable Data.
Lore is truly vicious and the violence level shoots up here. The scene where Lore drugs Data and manages to switch places with him is riveting. Lore kicks Data in the head repeatedly to expose his positronic brain and give him the facial tic that will convince the Enterprise crew that it is Lore. It is a gripping scene as Lore’s plan takes shape and he summons the crystalline entity. Wesley is ignored by the officers and this seemed to be a common complaint in the first season. Lore gives himself away three times on the bridge masquerading as Data yet no one picks up on it. He fails to recognise Picard’s ‘make it so’ command, reveals he can talk to the entity which Picard comments on and calls Riker by name which Data would never do. And he uses a contraction in describing the crystalline creature which only Wesley hears but no one believes him. It did stretch credibility somewhat and was a justifiable criticism. Earlier in the episode Data revealed a secret to Doctor Crusher played by Gates McFadden about having an off switch. It is something Data has told no one. After all if you had an off switch would you tell anyone? When he reveals it Doctor Crusher pulls him on it but he dismisses her concern which again should have aroused suspicion.
But it is Crusher that goes with Wesley and beings Data back. He and Lore face off in the aforementioned battle where Lore is beamed off. But the writers take a last chance to show how evil the android is by threatening to burn Wesley before his brother’s eyes before shooting the Doctor setting fire to her arm. And when Data flings his brother onto the transporter pad and Wesley beams him out, Lore fires once more but he and the shot are thrown off the ship. With that the crystalline entity flies off having lost its link with the Enterprise. It is a tense, well paced fight that has you on the edge of your seat helped by great performances and Ron Jones’ exciting background music. However, plot logic went out the window here somewhat. Since we know Data doesn’t breathe, why would the Enterprise crew assume Lore was destroyed simply by beaming him into space? These guys can be thick at times.
DataLore is fondly remembered and rightly so. It establishes much that would be revisited and expanded upon in future seasons. We learn about Data’s creator, Doctor Noonian Soong who would appear alive and well and in hiding in the episode ‘Brothers’ where he is murdered by Lore to prevent Data getting his emotion chip. This plot line would have echoes right into the movies starting with Generations. As I said Lore would return again to cause mayhem with his quest for power and becomes a cult leader for a group of Borg that have been cut off from the Collective. He is manipulative on a grand scale and knows what buttons to push in humans and the like. In ‘Silicon Avatar’ we learn even the crystalline entity was a victim of his schemes when the Enterprise crew manage to establish a form of communication with it, discovering it had no comprehension of the lives it was destroying when it fed on planets. The fact that Soong downloaded all the colonists’ memories and journals into Data is also revisited in this episode when a grief stricken mother who lost her son in the attack tricks her way onto the ship and destroys the entity just as the crew manage to talk to it.
Now it has been released in high definition on Blu Ray, we can enjoy the story all over again.