Sunday, June 20, 2010

Star Trek TNG: Datalore

This episode, and the one following it, "Angel One," are two that I've been dreading reviewing. They both made me wince, but for slightly different reasons, albeit the writing on both is absolute wretched. The horrible truth about "Datalore," which revolves around the ancient Indo-European "divine twins" myth, is that Brent Spiner's kick-ass performance as Data and as Data's brother Lore is phenomenal, and the episode is absolutely worth watching for that, but the script is mind-numbingly poor. It's got to be difficult to be an actor and handed a script like this, and know that you're pretty much powerless to change it.

The basic plot is fairly simple. The Enterprise is returning to the outpost where thirty or so years ago, Data was found, outside, naked and covered with dust. The planet was, at that time, an agricultural colony, with over a hundred settlers, all of whom contributed their memories to Data's embedded store. Yet the planet is completely barren of all life; human, animal or vegetable. Near the spot where Data was found, LaForge, with the aid of his visor, discovers a concealed lab, which, it turns out, belonged to Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. Inside the lab they find a carefully preserved disassembled copy of Data.

Data of course, wants to take the parts home and reconstruct the android, which he does with the able assistance of Dr. Crusher and Chief Engineer Argyle—in the process, explaining the location and function of his "off" switch to Dr. Crusher. Lore turns out to be an Evil Twin. He lures an intelligent and voracious crystalline entity, the same entity he lured to devour all life on the planet, to the Enterprise, and slips Data an unknown poison via champagne, then pretends to be Data. Wesley, unlike the bridge crew, isn't fooled, announces that Lore is Evil and not Data, and is roundly criticized by Picard in what is now a third-time-motif, in that Wesley is of course absolutely right. Lore attacks Worf, threatens Wesley, is stopped by Data, and beamed out to the Crystalline Entity by Wesley. I have, of course, skipped lots of stuff, and even more truly bad writing and bogus dialog, but you can read all about it here.

Lore, as An Evil Twin, fucntions much like the Welsh brothers Nisien and Efnisien in the "Branwen" branch of the Welsh Mabinogi, or any number of others. There's a sub-motif in the myth that involves the sacrifice of one twin; in the mabinogi of Branwen, it turns out the Efnisen "not peace," the Evil Twin, ultimately chooses to sacrifice himself, while Nisien ("peace") lives. It doesn't work quite that way in terms of Lore and Data, but you'll have to watch the entire run of TNG to discover the twist. Interestingly enough, it was apparently Brent Spiner who suggested the "evil twin" twist for this episode.

Wil Wheaton's somewhat scathing but perceptive and funny review of "Datalore" is here. I suggest that before reading it, you watch his performance at PAX reading it, here.

The official trailer for "Datalore"

The previous episode was "The Big Goodbye"; the next episode is "Angel One."

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