Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Brothers

This week's Star Trek TNG look-back is a Brent Spiner special. Enter Data, Dr Soong and Lore...

This review contains spoilers.

4.3 Brothers

The Enterprise is diverted to a Starbase due to a medical emergency, involving loveable scamp Willie Potts (never met him before) who has been infected by parasites he ate while unsupervised after an altercation with his brother Jake. Riker and Troi discipline Jake the only way Starfleet knows how – a severe talking to in a conference room – before asking Data to take him to sickbay to see his brother. But mid-trip, Data flips out and begins acting automatically to seize control of the Enterprise.

After changing the course, gunning the throttle and disabling life support to the bridge, Data proceeds to give himself total control over the ship while the rest of the senior staff collect in Engineering looking helpless and throwing around desperate plans. “Prepare to separate the saucer section,” says Picard, perhaps forgetting that the saucer section – which he plans to leave under the control of a crazed robot – is home to hundreds of innocent families and Sickbay, which is where the kid they’re trying to save is.

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Although they attempt to outwit Data, his pocket-calculator brain is too smart for them and the ship is taken way off course, leaving poor Willie Potts in danger from death by parasite. The ship arrives at its new destination, and Data automatically beams down to the planet where he encounters a mad Professor that looks just like he would, if he was wearing a prosthetic old-age face over his real face.

The madman breaks Data out of his trance and reveals that he’s Dr. Soong, Data’s creator. It was he who called Data through the use of a special homing pigeon device that no-one has ever noticed before. Good job Data didn’t walk past any magnets on the way, really.

On the ship, Jake and Willie refuse to reconcile, while the crew attempts to figure out how they’re going to stop the younger sibling from dying of the brain worms. Picard is very irritated now, presumably because of how everything has gone right back to normal after a Borg invasion and he’s secretly got PTSD.

As Soong and Data discuss the reason for his existence (vanity, basically) who should arrive, but Lore. Last seen floating in space, Lore’s pigeon-signal had also activated. Soong, excited to see his evil son, reactivates him while ignoring Data’s pleas for sanity, insisting that Lore is a good boy really. Lore immediately starts arguing with everyone, and just before his robo-son storms off Soong reveals that he’s close to death. He’s called Data there to give him an emotion chip. Unfortunately, because he didn’t know Lore had been rebuilt, he doesn’t have anything for him. No wonder Lore’s so angry all the time.

The next morning, Lore does exactly what he always does. Steals Data’s clothes and pretends to be him. Soong unwittingly installs the emotion chip in Lore and having double emotions sends him even crazier. He fatally wounds Soong and flees into the night. Worf and Riker arrive, having regained partial control of the ship, and Soong explains how to unlock Data’s repressed memories of the ship’s password so that they can all go home. Then he dies. Good job he did that after telling them the password secret, really.

Back on the ship, Data restores command of the ship to Picard and they make it to Starbase 416 so that Willie can have his parasites removed. No-one gets upset at Data for endangering them all (again) and even Jake and Willie are happy together. Data notes this, and Crusher tells him that “brothers forgive”, as Data pauses to consider whether this mantra applies in his situation. Probably not, to be honest.

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TNG WTF: Dr. Soong has a Tyrannosaurus skull in his lab. Why!? Though perhaps more importantly, why not?

It seems like it probably shouldn’t be that easy to lock down the Enterprise. I get that Data is near-unique in being able to synthesise Picard’s voice and have massive familiarity with the Enterprise’s systems, but surely there’s an override in there somewhere?

TNG LOL: Picard tells Riker and Worf to head to Deck 2 and see if they can break through Data’s security. You know, to the deck with no life support. Yeah, that’ll go well. I guess if Riker won’t take a new job, Picard will have to find new, more inventive ways to get rid of him.

To Boldly Go: The Enterprise is diverted to Starbase 416 after cutting short a 2-day liberty on Ogus II. In naval terms, a liberty is a day off work where you technically remain on-duty. So just to keep that straight, after the attempted Borg invasion, the Enterprise crew took shore leave on Earth then raced to Ogus II so that they could have the weekend off.

Who’s That Face?: This episode doesn’t bother with guest stars, not when Brent Spiner can play everyone. Lore, Dr. Soong, Data – and if go back and check, you’ll find that Worf, Wesley and Troi are also being played by Brent Spiner in this episode.

Time Until Meeting: 30:35. Uncommonly late, probably because they spend the first half hour of the episode trying to figure out how to override the lock on the conference room doors.

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Captain’s Log: It covers relatively similar ground to the previous episode, but to be fair, a return for Lore was overdue and it was enjoyable to see Dr. Soong in the flesh –partly because it gives Data a few answers about his existence, but mainly because we get to see him really throw his acting around. Of the three characters, it’s Lore who he realises the best. The way he turns arrogance into helpless denial when Soong reveals that he’s dying – while retaining the character of Lore – is a great turn.

That said, the B-plot doesn’t quite come together properly. It’s thematically on point and it gives the crew a greater reason to be worried that Data has flipped his lid (again) but the resolution is rushed in the extreme (Lore kills Soong, escapes unharmed, Jake and Willie are cured and reconcile offscreen) and the final point – “Brothers forgive” – is trite at best. What, exactly, are we supposed to ruminate upon there? Especially given that Lore won’t appear again for another 3 years.

Still, one thing this episode does do is remind you that Lore could be a great Trek villain – something that wasn’t quite realised in his last appearance, and will be absolutely realised in his next one. In his first appearance he was cartoonishly evil. This time around he gets a more rounded portrayal as a version of Data who’s essentially unable to control his extreme emotional reactions, and as a counterpoint to the innocent, emotionless android we’re familiar with, it works brilliantly. I’m sort of thinking that Lore should’ve been the villain in at least one movie, instead of the chancers we ended up with.

Read James’ look-back at the previous episode, Family, here.

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