Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Datalore"

***

Air date: 1/18/1988
Teleplay by Robert Lewin and Gene Roddenberry
Story by Robert Lewin & Maurice Hurley
Directed by Robert Bowman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise visits Omicron Theta, the colony where Data was found 26 years earlier, and investigates the mystery surrounding the colony's disappearance. They find the world to be drained of all life forms. They also find the living quarters and laboratories of the colony's residents, now all empty — as well as a disassembled android virtually identical to Data, and proof that famed scientist Dr. Noonien Soong was among the colonists and constructed these androids while living there.

"Datalore" is particularly worthwhile for the valuable and definitive backstory it offers regarding Data's origins. The story even cites Isaac Asimov in its dialog explaining Soong's dream to realize the "positronic brain." When the crew decides to assemble and activate the other android, they discover he is actually Data's "brother," Lore. He's an intriguing individual — similar to Data but different in many key ways — and the plot's progress gradually reveals Lore's penchant for villainy and his relationship with the crystalline entity, which feeds purely on life. Lore helped "feed" it the Federation colony all those years ago. Brent Spiner memorably creates two distinct individuals within the confines of similar android templates. Lore's villainy is intriguing right alongside Data's equally intriguing loyalty to Picard and Starfleet.

What hurts the episode, however, is that no one is smart enough to realize the obvious. None of the crew except Boy Wesley realizes that Lore is impersonating Data — and when Wesley (who is always somehow more observant than the silly adults) brings this to their attention, we get helpful lines like, "Shut up, Wesley," which lead to even more helpful lines of would-be teenage rebellion when Wesley complains about the officers not listening to him. Quite simply, this is annoying material, continuing in season one's trend of Wesley's child status as a plot device. Meanwhile, all the adults look terminally clueless.

Still, the episode shows more promise (and is more memorable) than many season one tales, with a battle of dialog and wits between Data and Lore, which culminates in a physical fight and Lore being beamed into space.

Previous episode: The Big Goodbye
Next episode: Angel One

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23 comments on this review

Mario - Sun, Jan 1, 2012 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
-- DATALORE

I agree on many things in your reviews, but I just don't get why "Datalore" has such a high rating (compared to other episodes). While I agree that Spiner did an excellent job, the rest of this episode is just horrible.

The moment Lore gave Data that glass of champagne it was obvious that he was gonna switch identities. Just not why, so Lore had to tell the unconscious Data (the audience) his plan, which felt terribly conceived.
The behaviour of all of the crew members after that was so incredibly stupid and unplausible that it almost hurt my head. It kinda felt as if the screenwriters think that their audience is equally dumb.
I was expecting that Lore would kidnap Wesley after he had that nervous tick, which by the way was so painfully obviously just there so that Lore would involuntarily give away his identity. Oh, but he had such a great excuse for that - he was just practising the nervous tick of Lore. Why? I don't know. I guess the scene where Data practised sneazing should lend credibility to that. But it didn't for me because that scene in itself was stupid and unplausible.

The part before the switch was better, but not great or even good. Lore is better with human language and the best example that the writers could come up with were contractions? So Data can remember an incredible vast amount of information but can't - or cannot - handle contractions? Come on...
The backstory of Data was not very convincing either, in my eyes. Nobody ever asked Data before if they could study his circuits? I don't buy that. Aren't they supposed to be explorers, to have scientific curiousity?

Some things I liked about this episode, e.g. Lore kicking Whorf's ass, and... well...
Will - Sat, Apr 14, 2012 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
The main thing I thought was dumb about this episode was, what happened to the deflector shields lowering when Lore's transport was made and allowing the Crystaline Entity in. The fact that the deflector shields have to be dropped to make a transport is a fact, so why did beaming Lore off the ship not allow the Entity past the shields. Furthermore, why did the Entity just leave? It certainly seemed capable of disabling the Enterprise's shields should it really want to.
Corey - Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
Lore mentioned when talking to the Crystalline Entity that the Enterprise had weapons capable of destroying it (presumably its photon torpedoes). I think it's quite unlikely the Entity could drop the Enterprise shields before itself was destroyed.

I agree with the plotholes mentioned in the first post. In addition, had the officers been thinking ahead, they should have asked what was the next move? e.g., just like Scotty in the ToS episode of the crazy guy impersonating Kirk, Scotty would say Bishop to Queen's Bishop 3, and he wouldn't allow transport unless the correct code was given. Likewise, they can have arranged in advance a code, just in case there was confusion on who was who. Lore wouldn't know the code and hence Wesley would be validated...still a fun episode despite all this though.
Rikko - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - 6:47pm (USA Central)
I agree with the 3 posts before mine.

The score seems to be a bit higher than deserved(2 and a half stars seems about right, or even just two stars).

What we have here it's a typical trend of TNG S1, imo. The first half of the show presents a very interesting premise that could either be awesome or terrible, and then you have the second half that doesn't deliver one bit. Think about The Last Outpost.

The plot is always predictable (and the audience is way ahead of the characters, which is a bad thing), Wesley saves the day more often than not, and the bad guy is obviously evil but nobody notices it until the last minute.

The same trick of "everybody is oblivious because we wouldn't have drama otherwise" will surface again in Heart of Glory (but that episode it's MUCH better, at least).

Oh, and btw this comes from a guy that loves Brent Spiner and Data. This could have been his very first episode as the main guy, but sure isn't his brightest.
xaaos - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
"Shut up, Wesley"

Classic! Wes is becoming more and more annoying by each episode.
Van_Patten - Wed, Oct 31, 2012 - 6:02am (USA Central)
I agree with Rikko that this one is pegged slightly too high in terms of ratings. The Enterprise visits Omicron Theta, site of the Starfleet colony where Data was found, and discovers clues as to his mysterious origin.

Leaving aside the implausibility of this colony not having been thoroughly excavated and the Lore prototype evading discovery for all that time, the story is one of the better outings to this point. It utilises an old cliche (the evil brother) but it does, as Jammer suggess provide useful back story on Daa, and uses the skills ozone of the better ensemble members , Spiner so at least looks plausible.

However, the comparison Rikko makes with 'the Last Outpost' makes is very apt. I don't think the second haf of the episode is sunk by hokey gyrating and overplayed dialogue but the writers seem to have removed the main characters ( other than Wesley) brains for the 15 minutes or so that Lore steals his identity. The climatic scene with Lore and Data facing off is good, and as I say , Spiner who is this episode's real focus ( First time this season) is excellent but the glaring hole in the plot drops this, once more to 2.5 stars for me - Oh, look which episode's up next - Happy Days....
DPC - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 8:26pm (USA Central)
Why is it TNG season 1 has some solid ideas, let down by so many random elements?!

This is one where two things ruin it:

a) poor direction (e.g. Data's contractions are all over the place and yet nobody notices, even after Lore is dealt with, the first thing Data does is make a contraction... only "We'll Always Have Paris" would show Data being worse with contractions, and emoting...)

b) WESLEY WONDERBOY once again is elevated beyond all realism, and it's not "elevation" when the adults are deliberately dumbed down to show the distinction!

and

c) the head Data picks up looks like the remains from a new wave mannequin thrown out in 1982, as it looks nothing like Brent Spiner's head! Or nose...

Lore is a great idea, but the execution is excruciatingly bad. Only Wesley picks up on what is appallingly obvious, which is bad enough...

They chose this episode for a TNG Bly-Ray feature filmfest celebration?! Bad move...


The score is awesome (Ron Jones made TNG better than what it could have been), but for "Datalore" the score - as was said by others here - is too good, given the claptrap scribbled out on paper. The concepts deserved more, the direction needed to be tight(er), and the writing should not have dumbed down everyone just to make WESLEY WONDERBRAT save the day again. (Wesley would be humanified for season 2, thankfully...)
Jonathon - Tue, Dec 4, 2012 - 5:53pm (USA Central)
Wesley is so annoying at this point that even his mom is telling him to shut up :D

and yet, he's right every time!
Jay - Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - 4:23pm (USA Central)
a crazy device that can both cure and create facial tics?
Jay - Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
As for Picard, he's dumb as a bag of nickels here...it would only prudent to at least consider the possibility that Wesley was right from the gitgo out of an abundance of caution.
Shawn - Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - 1:27am (USA Central)
I agree with all Jammer said. I enjoy the fact that we got some background info on one of my favorite characters Data. Brent Spiner plays both Data and his brother Lore well. That alone to me is also worth 3 stars at least. I also agree with Jammer about the things that hurt this episode like none of the adult starfleet officers not seeing the more than painfully obvious of Lore impersonating Data and only boy genius Wesley is seeing it. That is probably why Wesley Crusher is one of the most hated characters probably in the history of star trek. I agree with some people on here too that said that Picard and his mother Beverly Crusher tells him to "Shut Up"! *L*.
Nick P. - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
OK, something has always bothered me about the Data backstory, perhaps someone can help me.

So the story we are lead to believe is that Lore lured the Crystalline entity to Omicron theta where is killed everybody, then a starfleet team, shows up later and finds data and history continues. But wait a sec, why when tehy beamed down to the planet did Geordi say something like "the team that found data reported farmland"? HUH??? I thought the crytalline entity destroyed everything?

Further, why was Lore there at all? he claims he was taken apart because the colonists didn't like him, but then how did he contact the crystalline entity? Also, Did Noonian Singh KNOW Lore did this? Why didn't he tell anybody, wouldn't that make him an accessory to genocide? If he didn't know why would he take him and data apart? What is this guys deal? Why did he leave and then go to an equally destroyed world?

One other thing, why did Lore "tic" on the bridge when he used the "ticker-taker-away" thing not 10 minutes earlier? I thought his tick was fake the whole time anyways? Why did he never tic any time after that?

BTW, I actaully kind of like this episode, those are just the things that really bother me.

@Will, you are not entirely correct. The rule in Star Trek is that you cannot beam "beyond the shields" when shields are up. They are certainly allowed to beam inside the ship and the immediate radius of the shields themselves. There is no reason to assume they beamed Lore outside of the shield radius.
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 2:31am (USA Central)
I think the idea is that Lore had sent messages to the Crystalline Entity to lure it to Omicron Theta before he was deactivated. There are a few more details spread out among later episodes (I'm thinking "Brothers," "Silicon Avatar" and "Inheritance") about what Soong knew/didn't know and what happened to the colonists exactly, but I forget. The specifics of what happened before the Crystalline Entity's attack are a little hard to parse from "Datalore" itself, because Data doesn't really know what happened and Lore is lying half the time.

I don't know why there would be farmland when Data was found though.

To be honest I don't really understand how the Crystalline Entity was supposed to work. Apparently it was slow enough that children had time to make drawings of it killing people and their parents to proudly display it? (I mean, what?)

--

This episode works really well for me until the last couple of minutes -- not just the Wesley material, but also the Data-Lore confict being reduced to a fight in the cargo bay.

I actually think that the crew's trust of Lore, and relative 'stupidity' when dealing with him and difficulty recognizing the clues that "Data" is Lore later on, is because they are made so uncomfortable by the whole situation of confronting how much they don't know about Data. They are made uncomfortable by Data being a machine, and there are several scenes in which crew members (especially Picard) find themselves tripping over words, pronoun usage (he vs. it), generally struggling to know how to respond to someone who they should treat both as Data's only "living relative" and as a potentially dangerous machine. Picard puts Data on the case of tracking Lore but otherwise people mostly stay away from Lore in part because I think they want to err on the side of respect for Data.

For Data, while he catches Lore lying pretty early, and is increasingly skeptical of Lore's version of events, I don't think he really can imagine that Lore's evil/duplicity is so great that he is a genuine active threat to the whole ship, or that he has to worry about drinking drugged champagne. Lore preys on Data's desire to become human to manipulate him.

I actually don't know whether "Datalore" itself is particularly good or if I just know enough about Data's backstory (pieced together from here and other episodes) that this episode plays with more depth than is in the episode by itself. I think the thing that gets to me about the Data/Lore situation is that Lore's existence calls into question Data's entire quest. Data's desire to be more human is so close to how Data defines himself, and Lore is "more human" and is a monster. But it's even more twisted and complicated than that. Data is *specifically* a version of Lore, designed to be less threatening to humans. Lore was evil, but there is also a suggestion (probably more in "Brothers," I think?) that Lore developed his disdain for humans in part because of how humans reacted to him. Data's desire to become human takes on a darker light when we realize that Data's viewing himself as somehow less than human in important ways may have been a way of compensating for Lore's excess in the other direction. And Data is blocked in his programming from becoming too human, his greatest desire, because of this sins of his "brother."

Anyway, this episode only hints at many of these issues, but somehow it all seems there in Spiner's performance. The ending is dumb, but 3 stars sounds about right.
Grumpy - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
William B, you mount perhaps the best defense possible for this episode. The only other bright spot I'd add is that the corridor outside Soong's lab had cool lighting.

The timeline of the colony's destruction is complicated not only by the "farmland" reference in this episode but by Soong's knowledge of the CE in "Brothers." If he knew about a planet-eater, why didn't he warn anyone? Was it so important to fake his own death?? Meanwhile, "Silicon Avatar" confuses the timeline another way, depending on when the colonists contributed their knowledge to Data. If it was after Lore's disruptions (and presumably the colony didn't last long after Lore's betrayal), then Data should've had their memories of Lore.

A thorough untangling of this timeline would also have to explain why Soong was in such a hurry to escape that he left behind his life's work. One-man getaway shuttle? Somehow I doubt it.

But the bit with the children's drawings might still make sense -- if the pictures were based on Lore describing the CE to them. Indeed, Lore's horror stories might've been the last straw before the colonists demanded his deactivation.
Grumpy - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
CORRECTION: The reason for Data's abandonment was given in "Inheritance."
Paul - Wed, May 8, 2013 - 10:21am (USA Central)
I watched this one for the first time in years last night and totally agree that the timeline of what happened on Omicron Theta makes no sense. The only way it works is:

1) Lore somehow contacts the crystalline entity around the time Data is being completed and summons it to Omicron Theta.
2) The entity appears at Omicron Theta and takes quite a while to do its thing, allowing the children to draw pictures of it. There's never any stated reason for this, but I suppose it's possible. Maybe it didn't know how to consume human life at first? Maybe it was waiting on orders from Lore?
3) Soong disassembles Lore, maybe because he knew Lore summoned the entity and knew why?
4) Soong and Julianna leave the planet -- maybe in a hurry? Maybe Soong left to escape from the colonists, who were mad that Lore summoned the entity? That would explain why they'd leave Lore behind. Maybe they left Data behind so Soong would show his doubters wrong? Of course, why he wouldn't make it clear who built Data is a mystery. Or maybe they were just in a hurry regarding Data, too? The second choice wouldn't explain why Data was left where he was, though. Could Soong have somehow controlled him remotely after leaving?
5) The entity attacks, killing all the colonists. Then, it leaves.
6) Shortly thereafter, Starfleet arrives and the dumbest crew in space finds only Data and not the underground complex, allowing the Enterprise to discover it 26 years later. This might be the biggest plot hole, really.

Even if you grant the creators those items, there are some problems with this episode. The scene where Riker, Geordi and Tasha (!) tell Data about Soong is just ridiculous. In 26 years, you figure Data would have researched dudes who'd worked on androids. This could have easily been fixed by Data saying, "Dr. Soong was one of the scientists I have studied trying to learn more about androids. I have even noted a resemblance in our appearances."

The Wesley stuff is also annoying, mostly because it's written poorly. Why wouldn't Wesley pull Riker or Geordi aside and explain everything? Bringing it up in front of Lore on the bridge adds to the implausibility that the bridge crew would be so dense.

All that said, this is one of those Trek history episodes that's worth watching. It suffers from a lot of first-season problems, but it's better generally than a lot of what we saw early on. You can see TNG STARTING to evolve.
Grumpy - Wed, May 8, 2013 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
Paul, I agree with what you say... except for one detail:

"I have even noted a resemblance in our appearances."

Your hindsight is showing! At the time, the producers didn't know what Soong looked like. When an actor was needed for "Brothers," they were originally going to hire Keye Luke, who you must admit looked a lot more Chinese than Brent Spiner under any amount of makeup.
T'Paul - Mon, May 20, 2013 - 9:01am (USA Central)
Yes, have to admit I was amused by the drawing of the Crystalline Entity with people running from it with "scared" expressions... Hmm, perhaps this might mean something.
T'Paul - Wed, May 22, 2013 - 7:08am (USA Central)
Still though, I think this is one of the heartier episodes of season 1, provides some good background development on Data, has some good crew interactions, all in all one of the more decent offerings of season 1, and foreshadows what TNG would become in later seasons in terms of the crew and the types of situations they face. It would have been nice to learn a bit more about the entity and the colony.
SkepticalMI - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
The fact that everyone on the ship grabbed the idiot ball for the last 20 minutes really prevents this from being a highly ranked episode for me. Think about how much better it could have been if everyone suspected or even knew that "Data" was actually Lore. Especially if Data never told Dr. Crusher of his off switch, no one could know for sure. And since Data/Lore is much stronger and smarter than the rest of the crew, it would be difficult for Picard to simply apprehend him. It could be a nice game of wits trying to stop Lore. Certainly a lot better than everyone shouting shut up Wesley.

MattyP - Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - 6:20am (USA Central)
Another weird moment - Worf finds subspace chatter originating from Data/Lore's quarters, so Riker's solution is to send Wesley (???) to check it out. What the heck?
Entilzha - Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - 2:07am (USA Central)
Another point to add to all those already mentioned:

The solution was to just beam Lore off the Enterprise and leave him floating in space?

He's not deactivated and I'm sure he can send some kind of signal that can be picked up, or just be noticed, by a space vessel flying close by. Not only would it enable Lore to resume his hostile activities, but if picked up by enemies of the Federation, his tech and knowledge can be used - imagine him in the hands of the Cardassians or the Romulans. It's very naive and sloppy solution by a crew who already behaved stupidly through most of this episode. I'm guessing not the smartest of writers were on board for this one.
chrisx - Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
"The solution was to just beam Lore off the Enterprise and leave him floating in space?"

Maybe the Entity grabbed him right after he was beamed off and went away.

Did anyone notice Lore in the final bridge scene saying "Riker" instead of "Commander Riker" or "sir"? Shouldn't this raise any suspicions for him not being the real Data?

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