Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Hero Worship"

*1/2

Air date: 1/27/1992
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Patrick Stewart

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The story editors must've been asleep at the wheel to let "Hero Worship" air right after "New Ground" — or at all, for that matter. I mean, didn't we just watch a child-centric character story framed by a technobabble-plentiful jeopardy problem-of-the-week? Both episodes even feature a scene where a child is trapped under a heavy metal beam. (I always love how heavy beams trap people unharmed under them, rather than crushing them.)

Where I could get on board with "New Ground" and its welcome Worf-centrism, I found "Hero Worship" to be completely and totally dramatically inert. It relies on a child guest character we have no connection to, and then uses particularly unconvincing second-rate psychobabble to justify its lame premise. The kid, named Timothy (Joshua Harris), is the lone survivor of a ravaged ship whose crew included his parents, who were killed in what Timothy initially describes as an alien attack. But there are questions about Timothy's credibility. Timothy befriends Data (who saved him from underneath the aforementioned metal beam) and retreats into a manufactured persona (explained by the aforementioned second-rate psychobabble) where he imitates Data's android movements and speech patterns.

I'm sure someone thought the idea of a kid imitating Data would be "cute" and/or "funny." Potentially, maybe, but not as executed. It's mostly just boring (featuring numerous scenes of the aforementioned dramatically inert variety) and goes on for interminable length. There's a contrived scene, for example, where the kid tries to build a model tower by putting up floor supports along one side and then trying to place the floor on top without putting up the supports for it on the other side. He's surprised and frustrated when it collapses, so Data explains his error. (Duh!) Funny how Timothy earlier had no problem constructing the floor beneath the one that collapses. The fact that Data is the one at the center of a story about a child coping with a traumatic loss doesn't say much for Troi's already questionable usefulness as a character with the title "counselor."

The mystery of what destroyed Timothy's ship is solved with clues that are obvious to the audience too long before they are obvious to the Enterprise crew. Overall, this plays as another strike against the series' unlikely notion of having children on board Federation starships, where alien attacks and/or dangerous spatial anomalies abound.

Previous episode: New Ground
Next episode: Violations

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17 comments on this review

startrekwatcher - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
And I can't believe you gave Hero Worship 1.5 stars--it isn't a classic but a solid 3 star outing. Who cares if it is another kid-centered episode?

Timothy was well drawn and sympathetic, the Data/Timothy interactions were realistic/warm/comfortable and what make the episode for me involving, I didn't think the emulation by Timothy of Data was psychobabble--the kid witnesses the death of his parents and the crew of the ship, he thinks he triggered it and hears Data has no emotions so the kid decides to pretend he has no emotions--seems like a reasonable coping mechanism. And Troi did play a role--she guided Data in how to handle Timothy and checked in on them. She just didn't hand it over to Data and washed her hands of it.

Te episode I thought also sported some nice visuals inside the nebula
Nic - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 3:48pm (USA Central)
I'd give this one two stars. The basic idea wasn't bad, but the execution and especially the ending were lackluster. In all fairness though, it was during filming of this episode that the cast & crew were informed of Gene Roddenberry's death. So I can forgive them for dropping the ball.
dan - Sun, Apr 10, 2011 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode, I thought you would give it at least 2.5 stars
jbot - Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 12:15am (USA Central)
I couldn't agree more with this review. In addition to not caring about Timothy as the child-ex-machina of the week, I found myself hating him from the beginning. When he arrives on the Enterprise with a bunch of corny poor-me lines delivered with amateurish sighs and ho-hums, he comes off like the tattle-tale in elementary school who was best friends with the teacher but who the other kids hated. It doesn't help that the entire Enterprise crew is automatically subordinate to his impudence, feeding us more terrible cliches about Timothy's traumatic experience. There's just no substance to this episode to hold the attention. The so-called jeopardy problem of the week isn't even a space anomaly or opponent, but instead pure ignorance by the crew (another strike against the episode). But perhaps this is fitting somehow given the ignorance of the producers in letting this dud air. I was slightly amused by Brent Spiner's reaction at the end when the "cured" Timothy says their friendship is "acceptable" - Spiner looks genuinely shocked, as if to say, "Damn - this kid may be the one to finally activate the emotion of hatred in my positronic brain."
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:08pm (USA Central)
As I stated in the previous review, this episode makes far FAR better of the child-centric psychology angle. Why? #1 Brent Spiner is (as usual) tremendously engaging and compelling. This episode features the wonder and quirky fascination of TOS and earlier TNG. It might be "cute" but it plays into exactly what I remember when I was a kid watching TNG/TOS/VOY, namely Hero Worship. What a kawinkidink.

While we can't live for ever in these fictional and impossible creations of this wondrous universe, it does us a lot of good to imitate them for a while. It rejuvenates the mind and spirit and can be the means by which we cope with our own inadequacies and guilt.

3 stars.
pviateur - Wed, Aug 10, 2011 - 2:50pm (USA Central)
At last! Someone finally points out the obvious ridiculosity of having women and children aboard a starship that week after week is either fighting interstellar battles of in danger of being destroyed by some stellar catastrophe! Thanks Jammer for saving my sanity!

As for Troi's competence as counselor, wouldn't it have made more sense to assign timothy to a human family aboard ship? The normal surroundings of human home life you would think would be a far preferable environment than palming the kid over to a walking toaster/computer.
TH - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
With respect, I must agree with the poster in New Ground who said you had it and this episode reversed. I thought this was by far stronger.

Alexander seemed like a whiny kid acting up because he was a brat. Perhaps that wasn’t the intention, but that’s how it came across. I didn’t get the troubled youth vibe from that episode. In this one though, I totally get the damaged kid vibe. Ultimately the kid lies to ‘protect himself’ (he doesn’t steal and act up, affecting others which has no connection to the problem, as Alexander does). At least he thinks he’s protecting himself because he feels guilt for the death of his parents which he believes he caused. And the crew has to figure this mystery out because ultimately the boy holds the key to saving the ship. Also, the boy’s relationship with Data allows Data to save the ship. This is far better than the previous episode’s child-in-completely-random-jeopardy premise.

Also, as I’m sure there were children of the late-60s who dressed up and wanted to act like Spock, I’m sure there were children of the early 90s who wanted to be like Data. I think the boy’s idolization of Data was believable and relatable (especially since the kid is feeling the immense guilt of believing he killed his parents [and others] – an emotionless android seems like a good shell to hide within). Okay, they took it a bit to the extreme, with the boy pretending to be a robot, but the premise was sound.

It could have given Troi a legitimate ‘something to do’ episode. You make a reasonable point that Troi is somewhat limited from doing her job because the kid will only deal with Data, but I feel like she did have some input. You also make a fair point about the kid building the tower. I put that down to bad direction or execution, as I’m sure they could have come up with a ‘building step’ that the kid could have failed at without making him look completely stupid.
Captain Tripps - Thu, Oct 6, 2011 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
Odd to dismiss something as psycho-babble that's actually common and observable, especially in children (and at times much more severe than this). Then again other posters who liked this episode are doing the same thing to Alexander's burgeoning kleptomania and pathological lying, traits that shouldn't be surprising in an adolescent dealing with the death of one parent and the perceived rejection by the other.

Playing them back to back is a pretty glaring error, tho it's not the first time two story of the week episodes in a row shared similar themes explored with different characters.
Mario - Sun, Feb 5, 2012 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
@pviateur

"At last! Someone finally points out the obvious ridiculosity of having women and children aboard a starship"

How utterly ridiculous indeed! Women on spaceships! They get their food from machines, so what are women good for?

What's next? Women voting or driving cars? Absurd...
John - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 9:04am (USA Central)
Ooo.. Classic Next Gen corny pointlessness.

Good review Jammer but what are the 1.5 stars for?
Nick P. - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
I'm on the side of the "likers" of this episode. I agree completely that this was poorly done and airing right after the Alexander one was stupid. But this was one of the more interesting "sci-fi" premises of the 5th season, and I thought the kid modeling Data did all right. Also, I am of the age where back then I did model this guys (Picard, not data), so i completely bought the premise.

But anyways, the acting in this one was VERY dull. the acting in most of the last 3 seasons was dull. Watch the acting in "booby-trap" or "time-squared", and those were far more believable "in a dangerous void" scenes. I just never bought this crew was in danger in these scenes. But I think that was this cast aging, I thought this was one of the better 5-th season episodes.
Clint the Cool Guy - Fri, Nov 9, 2012 - 8:56am (USA Central)
I just watched this episode again. Gave it another chance, but yeah, I agree it is really weak.

One of the biggets fails in it its depiction of 23rd century school life. Star Trek: TNG was always bad about this, but this episode was one of the worst. Here, Timothy's school looks like a damn preschool!

What, is he supposed to be 11 or 12? Should probably be 5th or 6th grade. But the kids here don't do math or science. Instead, they work on "sculpture" (play with building blocks), and gather around to listen to the teacher read them stories, just like circle time.

Later, they even all sit together on bright-colored, preschool-y looking furniture to sing... "Row row row your boat"??? What 12 year old do you know still sings that? What 5 year old for that matter? Maybe they had just watched Star Trek V, and were doing it as a homage to Spock.

Maybe it wasn't a school at all. Maybe it was an insane asylum. That would explain why at the end it looked like Troi and Data were watching the kid through a one-way mirror.

This to me just underscores the biggest failing of TNG, and that is depicting the Enterprise as just a big cruise liner in space. It's the Love Boat, only with aliens. It's fitting that career women should be on the ship. But kids? Give me a break! This was a lame concept from the beginning, and never got better. It worked better for DS9, since it made more sense. Luckily, they learned their lesson and ditched the kids for Voyager! We won't even talk about the series that came after that...
Josh - Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - 12:49pm (USA Central)
I wouldn't be quite as harsh as others on this episode, but it's still pretty lame. Timothy and Data's interactions are cute and (somewhat) affecting but the pacing of the episode is glacial. The resolution similarly is pat and anticlimactic.

However, I still don't really mind this episode as much as "New Ground", if only because there's little to *actively* dislike about it. I always found the teacher character in that episode grating, and Worf's parenting naivete tiresome. Here we have a reasonable if simple story of a boy who latches onto Data to deal (and avoid dealing) with the deaths of his parents. The problem is that it really goes no further than that. While I don't have any problem with a bit of a downer for an ending, this would have been better as B story or subplot. I should say that both episodes are still far more tolerable than "Imaginary Friend".

Were I to go back and rewrite this episode, there would have been more survivors, and the episode would have followed the challenges of dealing with the tragedy for several characters. An investigation into the destruction of the Vico would run alongside this, but hopefully without the absurd Enterprise-in-jeopardy premise.
mephyve - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 9:07pm (USA Central)
"Captain ... ?'
"Yes useless counsellor ?"
IWe should have the android babysit the boy and do my job for me. After all, who needs his services to solve this mystery?"
"Very good useless counsellor. Make it so."
days later ...
"Captain ... ?'
"Yes useless counsellor?"
"The boy thinks he's an android."
"What do you suggest, useless counsellor?"
"I think we should turn him into an android. After all, I like having Data do my job."
"Of course useless counsellor. Make it so"
Was there a writer's strike that week?
mephyve - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
Wow, I didn't read Jammer's review until after I gave my synopsis. I guess we were watching the same show.
William B - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 7:26am (USA Central)
It's interesting how divisive this episode is -- well, maybe not that divisive, since it seems as if more than half the posters agree with Jammer that this is a bad show. Still, count me among the people who enjoyed it. Elliott, TH and Captain Tripps get it right, IMO. I don't know that the extent to which Timothy takes his android persona is 100% believable, but the idea of a child taking on a new persona in the wake of a personal tragedy is entirely credible, as is the idea of a child identifying with Data (or Spock, or indeed any of these characters) who are so stunningly heroic. If Timothy were an adult, I might be a little annoyed about the non-revelation of the apparent source of his trauma being guilt over "causing" his parents' death, which is quickly dispelled; and yet, it seems to me a good way to get into survivor's guilt and the way human irrationality works to find ways to blame oneself for catastrophes. Imitating Data and valuing rationality is part of, I think, what allows him to recognize that he really was not at fault when a rational explanation is provided for him, and this in turn allows him to re-access his memories of the accident and thus save the ship.

The story perhaps covers some familiar beats with Data, but I think it's a touching story for him as well -- Troi gets it right when she asks at the end if Data is a bit sad and lonely having lost Timothy. Again, Data is insulated from the worst pain because he doesn't have feelings (per se), but he did have a moment in time in which he was less alone. That Timothy not only would eventually stop being like Data but that it was Data's duty to move Timothy away from being like him, eventually, with imitating Data just being a pit stop, helps drive home how much Data believes himself deficient and the way in which this is reinforced. Data's task is to be a mentor to Timothy exactly until Timothy is well enough to realize that he has something Data can never have, and then let him go. Timothy, meanwhile, gives the perspective that Data is better than humans, something which should be said every now and again, because Data is mentally/physically superior in so many ways, even though ultimately emotionally he is a dead end, and Timothy will have to form a new life away from him.

There are significant flaws here -- in particular, there is not even the slightest effort to suggest where Timothy is going to go, and as Clint points out earlier, what is up with that school? Aren't kids Timothy's age supposed to be learning calculus or something? Still, I quite like it. I'd say 3 stars.
Cammie - Wed, Dec 4, 2013 - 6:06pm (USA Central)
I'am only a teen but I myself tend to copy similar traits from Star Trek characters. I copy the way Spock walks with his hands behind his back,I copy the way Data has perfect sentences some of the time because I tend to speak before I think, and I try to walk the way how it make them look fast walking but they are not.

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