I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
A young boy plays a prank that seriously injures his brother. The Enterprise tries to race home, but Noonian Soong, creator of Data (and other androids) summons Data to provide him with an emotion chip. Data hijacks the ship and uses it to get to Soong. Soong’s summons also called Lore, however, and Lore arrives bitter that there is nothing for him. He steals the emotion chip and fatally injures Soong. The crew of the Enterprise arrives to get Data and they get the boys to a space station to save him. Data sees their reconciliation as a sign of hope for himself and Lore.
There is a lot of great story building for Data in this episode, as we find out more about his origins and the ways in which he and Lore are connected. It’s kind of an exciting premise too, as it makes us wonder what other “triggers” could be planted into Data, who really seems unstoppable when it comes down to it.
But this point leads to some of the difficulties with the episode as well. I think we as viewers have to wonder whether Starfleet would be even more worried about Data than they’ve shown so far. The interactions with Lore consistently portray him as crafty and evil (or mad?), but it is also hard to see him consistently making mistakes that undermine him later.
The juxtaposition of the two stories of two brothers is interesting, though I think it could have been used with even more effectiveness throughout. It was good plot device that wasn’t used as well as it could have been.
Grade: B “Great backstory building for Data, but some problems in the execution.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was interesting to see the development behind Data’s character and ‘family.'”
Guest Grade- J.W.’s Mom -and Comment: B+ “It seems that objectivity should be paramount in a scientist and Dr. Sung is shown to be lacking in it. He’s too emotional.”
The Enterprise rescues a human youth who was among a crew of Talarians–a warlike, xenophobic people. It turns out he was captured on a raid some time ago and a Starfleet Admiral is his grandmother. They decide they must return him to his human family, but Captain Endar, a leader among the Talarians views the boy, Jono, as his own son. The crew of the Enterprise tries to integrate Jono into human society with limited success as Endar threatens to escalate into war to retrieve his son. Picard finally decides that the boy’s choice to identify as Talarian and son of Endar must be respected.
Honestly, on later reflection I think I liked the episode a little more than the grade I initially gave it (see below), but I have a policy of going with your initial gut feeling on such things (just like multiple choice tests–don’t second guess yourself!). Anyway, as Season 4 continues its focus on familial relations (what with “Family,” “Brothers,” etc.), we here have an episode dedicated to the drama of adoption, identity, etc. It raises numerous interesting questions of right and wrong regarding cultural norms and practices, and surprisingly has a satisfying feeling at the end (rather than a contrived one).
Picard’s interplay with Jono has moments of comedy, but sometimes feels a bit overdone. It was great to see much of the main cast talking with Jono and to see the escalation of the possible conflict. The pacing is a bit slow, and there seems to be some relative naivete regarding yanking Jono from his culture and slapping him into human society whence he came. Troi, thankfully, shows some awareness of this but doesn’t fully pursue it.
It’s a good episode that maybe just doesn’t shine as much as it could because of a few minor flaws.
Grade: B “A solid premise with some minor flaws.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It presented an interesting dilemma for Picard and company.”
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