Star Trek: The Next Generation: Brothers   Rewatch 
December 25, 2020 6:18 AM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Data delves deeper into his family lore.

That old wiki, that Memory Alpha, it's a shrine, something to be cherished:

• Rick Berman's initial story did not involve Lore. The character was added at Michael Piller's suggestion, who believed the story needed an additional jeopardy element. Berman found writing the episode was profoundly enjoyable; this is one of his favorite episodes.

• This was the final episode to be directed by Rob Bowman, who had been the show's lead director during the first two seasons.

• On playing Dr. Soong, Spiner commented, "I didn't have a clue as to who the character was. He was just a generic old man. It wasn't until I saw the makeup on my face that I knew what to do. At least seventy-five percent of that performance was due to Michael Westmore. He put the idea onto my face, and I suddenly understood." He added, "People started treating me like I was old, even though I had worked with them for three years at that point. Everybody was treating me with so much more respect, because I was a man who had lived a long life. And the older I acted between scenes, the nicer people treated me. It was incredible."

• James Lashly (who plays Ensign Kopf in this episode) later plays George Primmin in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "The Passenger" and "Move Along Home".

• The emotion chip stolen by Lore is a major plot device in the TNG two-part episode "Descent" and a minor plot device in the movies Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection. It is also referenced in the TNG episode "Inheritance".

"I, uh… I never felt too comfortable… living anywhere without a… prearranged route of escape. I admit I, uh, I wouldn't have guessed I'd be running from a giant snowflake."
- Dr. Soong, referencing the Crystalline Entity

"Brothers forgive."
- Dr. Crusher, to Data

Poster's Log:
Full disclosure, I skipped this one on this rewatch. Lore + Data + Dr. Soong is Brent Spiner overkill for me, and anyway, I've seen this one often enough to have a pretty clear memory of it, including its good parts. It's effective insofar as it supplies Data backstory and, more engagingly, underscores how terrifyingly powerful Data and Lore are; it's ineffective insofar as the story is necessarily clunky (even downright fragile) in order to set up the Spiner-Spiner-Spiner scenes, and Soong's makeup makes him look like some sort of transporter-accident TOS-Klingon/Son'a mashup.

Lore will return in season 6.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If you enjoyed the song stylings of Lore herein, behold Brent Spiner's album, in case you didn't know it existed.

My headcanon for Willie Potts is that he grows up, moves to Cestus III, and joins one of its baseball teams, because what else could he possibly do with a name like that.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I found this oddly unsatisfactory in its structure, especially after the last ep's great family stories. Data and Soong had some nice moments together, but then Lore shows up, goes full-bore Lore, and steals the emotion chip and gets away, not unlike Joker stealing the wheel off the Batmobile, to keep it topical. And then... we don't hear from Lore for two seasons. Pacing, people!

But the real payoff of the episode was Data's starshipjacking, which was thrilling in the way that only seeing a good guy break bad and really pull out the stops can be. It's a more-sophisticated but closely-paralleling version of Spock's similar ship heist in "The Menagerie", also dependent both on the officer's command access and his own formidable abilities, and even using a vocal impersonation; the source of Spock's recordings are unknown, possibly digital forgeries, but Data has that ability built-in, not unlike The Terminator. (I'm pretty sure that he's already done a spot-on impersonation of Picard, but I can't remember the episode.) The comparison also holds in that he's doing this at the behest of a living legend who's seen better days. (Speaking of which, WRT the makeup job, it's not perfect--and the conversion of TNG to HD has something to do with that, I'm sure--but it's light-years ahead of the makeup for Mark Jameson in S1's "Too Short a Season", so there's that.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on December 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

• The emotion chip stolen by Lore is a major plot device in the TNG two-part episode "Descent" and a minor plot device in the movies Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection.

My sense was that Insurrection was, for whatever reason, mashing RESET on Data's characterization as hard as it could - after having Data's emotional state being integral to the previous two films. Did they actually mention the chip there?
posted by StarkRoads at 10:02 AM on December 25, 2020

I don't enjoy this episode. The sick brother plotline seemed completely tacked on and took up way too much time, which probably led to editing issues with the Data/Soong/Lore storyline (the only explanation I can come up with for it not making any sense at all).

So they have room in the arboretum for a plant that carries a super-deadly infectious disease, of course they do. Of course. And they have no room on board for the antidote. Do they not calle stuff like this out in the writer's room?

They let kids stay on the Enterprise while both their parents go on sabbatical? Come on guys, you could have come up with a better reason the kids were unsupervised.

Lore already has emotions, why does he want Data's chip? To give him extra emotions? Better ones? Just general feeling of entitlement only goes so far, it doesn't really make sense for him to want this thing.

Soong makes a big point about Data and Lore being practically identical--but when Lore wants the chip he backpedals awfully fast for a 200-year old man--no, no, it won't work on you!

It probably was better to have whatever ridiculous hijinks that must have occurred during Soong's nap take place off camera than on. Data is being all super suspicious of Lore, but 20 minutes after Soong's head hits the pillow, Daa's like ""oh, no, I have a speck of dirt on my uniform right where my sleep-button is? Please clean it off Lore!". So they wisely decided to just skip all that, but it's such a narrative contrivance, might be a sign the story needs some major rewrites.

Lore's singing is just creepy, I don't know if it's supposed to be funny-eccentric, or menacing, or what. I see the song was written in 1877, maybe they just wanted something in the public domain.
posted by skewed at 11:30 AM on December 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

So they have room in the arboretum for a plant that carries a super-deadly infectious disease, of course they do. Of course. And they have no room on board for the antidote. Do they not calle stuff like this out in the writer's room?

Didn't the deadly plant-fruit incident happen off-ship? Picard's opening Captain's log narration mentioned having to cut shore-leave short so they could warp-speed off to the medical facility.

I'd mostly forgotten about this episode. While I know I will get tired of TNG episodes that turn into The Brent Spiner Show, I'm not at that point yet, so, I enjoyed the triple-Spiner performance. Aside from a couple shots where the eyelines were wonky, it really was pretty seamlessly done. The plot doesn't hold up to much scrutiny (would Data really be able to resume his duties so quickly after proving himself such a massive security threat? what exactly was the sick-bay medical force field doing?), but the episode was enjoyable as I was watching it.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:49 AM on December 25, 2020

Eh, crew members proving themselves massive liabilities and suffering no consequences is kind of TNG's whole thing. Isn't that right, Mr. Crusher?
posted by phooky at 12:49 PM on December 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was almost afraid to say something because I have such negative feelings about this episode; it's heartening to know I'm not alone. Jesus, the mugging.

My friends gave me the music CDs related to this series, including Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back. I didn't know how to tell them that I couldn't stand Spiner's voice. A few years ago I had to put all my CDs in the garage because I don't have room for hundreds and hundreds of the things inside anymore, so it's buried somewhere out there. I really should put it in the Goodwill donation bags.

(Speaking of First Contact, btw, I noticed a while ago it's the only movie that's not listed in FanFare. I thought about doing a post for it, but I didn't feel like I'd do it justice compared with the great posts you guys put together. Just an FYI, since we're talking about the emotion chip and all.)
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:10 PM on December 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seriously, why do people keep leaving their kids on the Enterprise while they get on with their lives elsewhere? Are parents less attached to their children in the 24th century? 40+ starships just got aired out by the Borg, the Enterprise is nearly destroyed at least monthly, and they’re like “Let’s go travelling or be in charge of Starfleet Medical for a year, kids’ll be fine (and definitely won’t have any kind of issues around abandonment).”
posted by rodlymight at 8:17 PM on December 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

would Data really be able to resume his duties so quickly after proving himself such a massive security threat?

Well, he'd just been instrumental in preventing the entire Alpha Quadrant from being assimilated, so I'd assume that he's got some markers left over from that. And no doubt he was also extremely cooperative afterwards in breaking down how he'd taken over the ship, and helpful in changing protocols to prevent a similar exploit from being performed again. Still, though, this goes back to something that I said WRT "The Measure of a Man": part of the logical argument for trying to see what made him tick would be the possibility of just such a scenario as this, which should have been projected after their first encounter with Lore.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:15 PM on December 25, 2020

Some Star Trek CCG cards from this episode are encoded upon my neural net:

First Edition's premium Fajo Collection set included Dr. Soong, who can reprogram Lal and your generic Soong-type Androids at will while providing Cybernetics x2 for best use of your Cybernetics Expertise, the only such card in the game.

In Second Edition this provides the flavor for Unscientific Method, a pretty nice dilemma which kills one of your opponent's guys and THEN makes them pass an attribute threshold to proceed. Nasty. This is pretty much of a direct copy of a First Edition card with a different image source.

There's also a Second Edition version of Soong himself, androids are a bit less useful in Second Edition because you have to keep some in your hand to activate the abilities of those in play, but not bad.
posted by StarkRoads at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Having Riker look after Wesley when his mom was gone wasn't completely absurd, since Wesley is an adult, acting crewmember, and his mom was a senior officer. Makes a bit less sense for the ship's XO to be in charge of unaccompanied minors in general, though.
posted by ckape at 11:59 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

would Data really be able to resume his duties so quickly after proving himself such a massive security threat?

Starfleet is amazingly forgiving. They gave Picard his command back after Wolf 359!
posted by rochrobbb at 6:25 AM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah it seems like “being suborned by some force that takes over your body” is something that happens frequently enough that there’s a standard form to fill out when it happens.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:45 AM on January 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

You know what does bother me about this episode? We've had several previous plots about how Data doesn't fully understand how he works, and neither does anybody else, and that's been presented as a problem... and then Data is given the opportunity to go through his dead dad's secret hideout and gather up all the information he can find, and he totally declines to do so? Like I know they had a time-based emergency to take care of, but he could have gone back! Maybe he could have cured Lal!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

This episode doesn't really work for me. The structure of the narrative is ultimately pretty unsatisfying as a story - it feels pretty incomplete, like there's a part two that we're missing to actually bring it to a conclusion.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:40 PM on October 15, 2021

Those damn children. If only they could have been erased by an exotic radiation leak….
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:25 PM on March 25, 2022

« Older Star Trek: Discovery: Su'Kal...   |  Movie: Black Christmas... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments