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The Trek Nation - Brothers

Brothers

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 7, 2008 - 9:44 PM GMT

See Also: 'Brothers' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is en route to Starbase 416 for medical treatment for a nine-year-old, who is critically ill after a prank by his older brother went too far. But Data suddenly begins to act strangely. He drives the crew from the bridge by shutting off life support, then changes course and establishes force fields to evade security so that he can beam himself down to an unknown planet. Once he arrives, he is examined by his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, who explains that he summoned Data using a homing device. While Data explains that he has no memory of reaching the planet, Lore arrives, having been drawn to the planet as well by the homing signal. Data explains to Soong that Lore is dangerous, but Soong insists that Lore merely requires fine-tuning; he did not realize that the earlier prototype was still functioning, so he never tried to correct Lore's emotional programming. The dying Soong has a gift for Data, however, an emotion chip free of the instabilities that plague Lore. When Soong goes to rest, Lore deactivates Data and steals his clothes, then fools Soong long enough for the scientist to insert the chip into Lore rather than Data. Soong is distressed, explaining that the chip was designed for Data and won't help Lore, but Lore believes Soong owes him and attacks the old man. When an Enterprise landing party finally succeeds in breaking through Data's security, they learn that Lore has fled and Soong refuses to accompany Data back to the ship. With no time to spare, Riker insists that Data leave at once so that they can get the dying boy to the starbase in time. The boy is saved and finally forgives his brother, which Beverly tells Data is what brothers always do.


Analysis: "Brothers" could have been called "Family, Part Two," since there are such obvious parallels between the two sets of brothers in this week's offering and Picard's conflict with his own in the previous episode. There's a bit more plot in this one, but it feels rather contrived...a young boy believes he has killed his brother, so he consumes fruit that carries a deadly infection which requires that he be quarantined in order to avoid infecting the rest of the crew, though it's never explained why the child believed a holographic laser beam could have killed the older brother, nor how he got his hands on such a deadly plant, let alone who's supervising these kids while their parents are on sabbatical from the Enterprise. The shipboard family drama is given short shrift in favor of the more interesting android story, and is probably necessary not only to drive home the theme about filial relations, but to give Brent Spiner a chance to breathe in between scenes.

Spiner is extraordinary in this episode, so much so that I hope he was paid a guest actor's salary because I routinely forgot that Soong and Data were being portrayed by the same person. There are several scenes where Data, Lore and Soong all interact with one another where there's never the slightest clue that we're watching one actor working opposite stand-ins and green screens; the timing is precise and the emotions seem genuine and spontaneous. It's an incredibly nuanced set of performances, enhanced by first-rate directing and makeup.

Ironically, the most moving part of the story for me is Lore's obvious distress at learning that Soong is going to die. We'd been led to believe that Lore brought about Soong's death along with the rest of the colony when he summoned the Crystalline Entity, so to see him acting so much like a panicked, miserable child is strange yet touching. In many ways the Soong family storyline is much more about Lore's conflicted relationship with Soong than it is about Data's; Data gets to stand to one side reciting, "I am not inferior to Lore," while Lore confronts a man he considers his father about having discarding him in favor of a more perfect son. Even during his last days, Soong considers it more important to try to give Data emotions than to try to give meaning to Lore's existence. Is it important to Soong that Data be perfected, or that Data love him? I really feel sorry for Lore, even at the end; his murderous impulses in this case are quite literally not of his own making, but the result of failed parenting.

Data has no emotions to express, which perhaps does the character a disservice in this episode, when he must nod and leave his creator on the floor (though I really have to wonder why Riker doesn't arrest Soong on the spot for diverting the Enterprise and nearly bringing about the death of a little boy -- what if Soong had decided to summon Data on the eve of the Battle of Wolf 359?). Data gets some twisted comic moments at the start of the episode, imitating Picard's voice so he can create a security code to lock the crew out of the computer - more than two dozen characters - and marching like a machine through the corridors while security teams fall before his security force fields - but his connection to Soong is incomplete, particularly since Soong won't even listen to Data's full story about Lore's crimes before reactivating the first-made android.

It's pretty obvious to me as a viewer that it's Lore and not Data in the Starfleet uniform at the end, but then, we viewers know Data and Lore much better than their creator. The chip designed to make Data feel human emotions seems only to exacerbate Lore's already unstable psyche; he makes no attempt at control or at experiencing the finer feelings that Soong presumably intended to pass on to Data - love, loyalty, pride. Data is correct that keeping Lore alive has made the universe a more dangerous place, and indeed, when any of us next see Lore, the consequences will be deadly, but I can't root for Soong to disassemble him any more than I'd root for the older brother on the Enterprise to be executed if his younger sibling died. The reconciliation is a bit pat, but then, Willie and Jake are children, and in many ways so are Data and Lore.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.