Friday, July 31, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Datalore"

While I hate to sound like a broken record, “Datalore” is another episode I have mixed emotions about. Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad.

I like the episode overall. The back story of Data and Lore’s creation hints at elements of Frankenstein, one of my all time favorite novels. Although Data refers to his home colony’s primary purpose as scientific, it seems much more like it was a farming community in which Noonian Soong hoped to work on his positronic brain idea in obscurity. Lore was created first. It sounds like the colonists were upset because his ability to completely adapt to human customs sparked off a superstitious concern within them, so Soong turned him off and created the less human Data instead.

The script cannot decide whether to play up the irony that the colonists dislike seeing all their bad qualities demonstrated by a perfect machine or to play up lore’s obvious psychotic issues. The former might have been more interesting. But the latter happened. At least at this point, Lore acts like the typical over the top insane villain that the original crew often ran up against in TOS. I suspect this element of his personality was Roddenberry’s handiwork in the script. Lore chewed more scenery than a billy goat with a tapeworm, too. Cretainly that was Roddenberry’s touch.

I complain about Lore’s psychosis because he could have been so much more had he followed through what the plan he originally offered to data. lore was trying to tempt Data to go off and absorb the knowledge of thousands of alien beings. What he wanted was power and later, when he reaches his peak in “Descent,” he is a much more entertaining character. (Thanks, Ronald D. Moore.) But here, within just a few minutes, he reverts back to being a cold blooded killer for no discernable reason. He is just in cahoots with a genocidal, flying snowflake. We do not know if he gwts anything out of it besides the pleasure of killing.

I can overlook the weaker points of Lore’s debut because he will become such an iconic character. It could not have been easy for Brent Spner to play both him and Data off one another, particularly when lore was pretending to be Data. He does look like he had fun with it, though.

What I do have a hard time with is the general stupidity of the rest of thecrew. Why is it when lore admits he lied about being created second, it does not raise any almsman them? Why is it when “lore” is deactivated, they just leave him on the floor without any security? Sure, he is deactivated, but they do not know if his differences from Data might include some sort of failsafe awakening. Why is it that wesley believes “data” is just practicing lore’s facial tic and then has the stupidity to comment he would have thought he was Lore if he had used a contraction. (Which Data uses when he tells Picard, “I’m fine,” at the end of the episode, yet no one catches it, either.) no one’s suspicions are raised when Wesley pints out he is not the real data even though he suddenly has the ability to speak to the crystal entity, calls Riker by name rather than his usual rank, and misunderstands Picard’s, “Make it so.” What the heck kind of clues do these people need? They all treat Wesley like garbage even though he was right all along and offer no apologies when the situation is resolved. The main characters do not come off well in “Datalore.”

One really good point in closing is “Datalore” is Roddenberry’s final writing credit for televised Trek. Anything that marks his ebbing influence on the show is good in my book.

Rating: ****(out of 5)

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