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The Trek Nation - Datalore

Datalore

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 25, 2007 - 9:34 PM GMT

See Also: 'Datalore' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is sent to investigate the disappearance of the colony on Omicron Theta, which occurred at about the same time that Data was discovered with the colonists' memories stored in his own positronic circuits. When an away team finds body parts to construct an apparent duplicate of Data, he requests that the android be assembled. The result, a mirror duplicate of Data who calls himself Lore, has a stronger grasp of contractions and human verbal wit, though he also has a facial twitch that distinguishes him from Data. Lore explains that he was built by Dr. Noonien Soong to replace Data, but the human colonists feared Lore's incredible skills and demanded that he be disassembled in favor of the less-realistic prototype. Even though Lore calls Data "brother," Data doubts some aspects of his story - particularly that Lore was constructed first - and eventually discovers that the crystalline entity who killed the colonists was working with Lore. When Lore tries to replace Data, stealing his uniform and giving Data a facial tic like his own, Wesley Crusher recognizes the impostor and alerts the crew. Data fights Lore, who has summoned the crystalline entity. With Wesley's help, Lore is beamed into space.


Analysis: It's hard to say whether "Datalore" is a better episode than I remember or if I'm more forgiving of its weaknesses, knowing that it will be followed by such great episodes as "Brothers," "Inheritance" and the two parts of "Descent." The story has some marvelous aspects for fans, such as Tasha Yar citing Isaac Asimov as the originator of the concept of the positronic brain, and it fits very nicely into the "evil twin" tradition of "The Enemy Within" and Mirror Spock. Plus Brent Spiner gives lovely, subtle performances as both Data and Lore, allowing himself slightly more freedom of movement and facial expression characterizing the latter.

We've heard Data speak several times about wishing to be more human and trying to emulate human quirks, but this is the first episode that's really show-not-tell. From the moment Lore wakes up on the Enterprise, it's obvious that he can express a wider range of human emotion, but it's not clear until later that he's actually feeling them. There's some silly, over the top moments, as when Lore gloats aloud about his joy that Soong gave him the full range of human ambitions and hungers - the story works much better when we see that in practice than hear it declared - but up until that point, the slow development of Lore from a less secure, more expressive Data to a full-blown selfish villain proceeds beautifully.

Clearly Lore has an agenda where Data is concerned, but what is it? Is he just looking for shortcuts, an entry into this human society where another android fits in so well? Is he trying to recruit Data to some scheme left unfinished on the planet? Or is Lore, like Data, simply desperate for a peer, so much so that the potential risks of (re)assembling a living, thinking being with an unknown past and unknown mental state are ignored? At first Data seems less uncomfortable than the crew at having his inner workings exposed, the fact that he's mostly circuits and relays under a layer of pretend skin, though he's not enamored of the news getting out that he has an "off" switch. He comes to suspect Lore even before Tasha Yar expresses security concerns to the captain about whether Data can still be trusted. Yet Data doesn't quite trust his own instincts, for not only Lore but his human friends are always telling him of the nuances of "real" human behavior that he doesn't quite understand. He accepts Lore's invitation to call him a brother with such simple understanding of the concept that it never occurs to him that his "brother" might abuse his trust.

What's lacking in this character development of Data is any sense of Lore's motivations or purpose. He believes that Soong gave him a "full range" of human emotions, so why does he seem to take glee primarily from the darker ones? That he is jealous of Data is clear, yet by summoning the crystalline entity, he threatens the crew without any obvious purpose and without necessarily intending to destroy Data in the bargain. Is it the starship he wants, or to impress a fellow android with the power they could wield if united? We haven't yet seen any evidence of anti-android prejudice, though that will come in time, with "The Measure of a Man," and it's hard to know how much to believe Lore when he claims the colonists' envy was the main reason he was switched off.

It's annoying that no one ever asks Lore these questions, and that he is apparently given the run of the ship's computer without any supervision. Yar is afraid of hurting Data's feelings by asking the captain whether he can be trusted with Lore, but it's the only really smart thing anyone does. You'd think that Troi would sense hostility or at least some sense of emotion from Lore that would clue everyone in, but she's not around, and even Beverly Crusher, who goes poking around inside Data's body to help reconstruct Lore's, can't see the difference once they're both up and running. Naturally it falls to The Boy to figure out that Lore isn't Data, and then first Picard, then his mother, tells him to shut up. There's some suggestion that the purposeful rejection of Wesley's suggestion is to hide from Lore the fact that they're on to him - Riker, for instance, uses it as an excuse to accompany Wesley to Data's quarters - but then Worf isn't remotely prepared for an attack, so the senior officers look pretty stupid.

The status of Data's humanity (and that of all androids) is a big one over the course of The Next Generation, which makes the ending of "Datalore" rather shocking: Lore is beamed into space, something that I simply cannot imagine happening to a human villain (and a moment of utter inconsistency since Lore has just finished telling the crystalline entity that the ship must drop its shields to use the transporter, so the entity can attack just then). We know now that Lore survived this, but it's not clear when it happens that we will ever see him again, and Data's farewell, "How sad, dear brother...you make me wish I were an only child," is too simple and pat. Riker announces in the end that he wishes they were all as well balanced as Data, but the fact that this encounter and its violent ending seems not to have unbalanced him is itself disturbing. Whether Data in fact feels nothing or cannot allow himself to process what he might feel remains unanswered for a long time. Fortunately, this is only the beginning of the lore of Lore.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.