In which Data finds his brother, you can’t choose your family, and I become a SJW, much to my own chagrin.
The Enterprise is heading toward Omicron Theta, where Data originally came from. Apparently, Picard has enough leeway from Starfleet to set his own missions, since he’s here ‘to unravel some of the mysteries’ from Data’s past. Data is not on the bridge. Instead, he’s in his quarters practicing sneezing.
For all his technical wunderkindery, Wesley sure seems capable of believing that Data has a cold. That’s not how a computer virus works, Wes, no matter what happened in “The Naked Now.” The moment does, however, sever to underscore just how alien Data actually is. Going home for the first time, his priorities are on learning to sneeze because he lacks a certain emotional attachment even to his own past.
Now, upsettingly, the Enterprise is not actually scanning any life on the surface despite it being classified as, and having all the geological and astrophysical characteristics of a habitable planet. It used to be a farming and science colony and now it’s a barren wasteland, and everyone seems to be focused on how data should feel nostalgic instead of being all worried and intense that an entire colony vanished. Then again, that was only four hundred strangers, instead of one (kind of) person they know personally. In fact, there’s no life left, only dead trees and not even microbial life.
Geordi can somehow tell that the colony was dead soon after or just as Data was found, though information gathered from his VISOR. It will never stop bothering me that literally everyone in the Federation doesn’t train on these, or that there aren’t versions that don’t cause migraines that can be tuned for variable ranges. I’d like to institute a counter for how often having some variation of a VISOR would help but that would just be basically every episode, so that kind of defeats the purpose of having a counter. I will not stop complaining about this, mostly because I’ve worn glasses since I was six and I want robot eyes damn it.
Data has vague memories of being found in a hurry, on a slab, covered in dust and being found by the Tripoli landing party after his homing beacon activated. In fact, he was found in a cavern with a false back, and they stored information inside Data. This is not actually unprecendented, you’ll recall that machine telepathy is a relatively old technology – Starfleet was using it on criminals to rehabilitate them in “Dagger of the Mind” and the Klingons were using it for interrogation in “Errand of Mercy,” so an advanced research colony could easily be expected to have the equivalent of mental dictophones on hand to make taking notes easier. The real mystery is why everybody doesn’t use them. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I have the feeling I’m going to be talking about Transhumanism a lot today.
Down a corridor and through a door, they find a secret lav with still-functioning equipment. Data has vague memories of some tests he went through. For a robot, he’s being awfully vague, particularly about the refrigerator art. It definitely depicts some sort of horrible cataclysm. The one that wiped out the colony and all life on the planet seems to make the most sense, but then who drew the picture?
This is also the first time we hear the name Noonien Soong, a roboticist who tried and, apparently, failed to create a positronic brain. It seems pretty clear that he created Data from other context clues, but Geordi also finds a storage area containing the parts for another android.
Looks like the android design is fairly modular, down to having removable ears. Handy in order to replace parts one at a time, and for storage. It seems that Data is expressing emotion at the possibility of having a ‘brother,’ although again this seems more likely to be just one of those times when even he can recognize that emotion is called for. They transport the parts up to the Enterprise in blue fluid-filled jars, for some reason, even though those bits were in dry storage. What thought-process leads you to put delicate and advanced robotics components in fluid, I wonder. Also, as a matter of record, Data has been active and online for 26 years. Hard numbers are important.
There’s a neat little discussion here, which I had forgotten, where Geordi, Riker, and Picard are all awkwardly dancing around the subject of Data being a constructed life-form. Most of the time, they simply forget that he’s not a human on the spectrum, I guess, until confronted with a duplicate and having to ask about its bits. Picard calls it out by reminding everyone that humans are electrochemical instead of electromechanical machines. Notably, without asking Data if he feels awkward at all. Data is called down to the construction room and shows Crusher where his ‘off’ switch is located. Hur hur hur.
After a brief surgery, the other android comes on-line and names himself Lore, which is ominous. Data is a collection of facts and information, while Lore is a collection of folktales, mythology, and superstition. This would be just a clever naming scheme except that we know from episodes like “Who Mourns for Adonais” and the abominable fifth movie how Star Trek writers feel about mythology. Lore claims that Data was created first but found to be lacking, and so Lore was created. This begs the question – then why was Lore disassembled in storage while also knowing those facts?
More anti-Constructed Life Form predjudices come out. Picard keeps refering to Lore as ‘it’ which, while lexically accurate, also suggests that Data is an ‘it’ to Picard in every way save for a personal familiarity. “No no, I’m not prejudiced. Some of my best officers are androids.” Humanity is, canonically, past discrimination based on skin color, nationality, culture, et cetera, and even largely past pervasive discrimination based on species (provided you’re not a hereditary enemy of the regieme, and even then, you can be a bridge officer like Worf and only have your XO steryotype your sexual preferences), but it seems humanity isn’t quite as over the AI barrier as it would perhaps like to be. We should notice this, while giving Picard credit for trying and apologizing.
Geordi and Wes are teaching Lore about how headings work before Picard even approved him being on the bridge. It turns out that Data is suspicious of Lore, and reprimands him for showing off in front of Riker and trying to emotionally manipulate Wesley. As Data pulls up information about Noonien Soong, Lore refers to him as “Often-Wrong” Soong, their father. Lore asks about when he gets a uniform, and Data says it will take 4 years at the academy, 3 as Ensign, and 10-12 as Lieutenant, which leaves data 5-7 years to have been doing his own thing before he decided to go career Starfleet. And potentially also that Data has encountered some blocks to his career due to anti-AI prejudice.
Speaking of anti-AI prejudice, it turns out that Lore was created first. He claims to have been ‘too’ perfect, and the Colonists petitioned Soong to create something a little less human+. Centuries later and still feeling the tremors of the Eugenics wars, although I suppose if a cryogenics-preserved Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels, and the whole Nazi Scooby gang showed up and tried to take over the US there might be a few aftershocks of anti-German sentiment. It’s an imperfect metaphor, sue me. Lore, in fact, has mastered contractions, humor, and the demonic gleam of ambition and sadistic malice.
Lore details the events that happened to Omicron Theta – being stripped and eaten by a crystalline entity, which may someday deserve capitalization, although it’s hard to think how Lore could know about it, having already been disassembled. That, combined with the way he’s poisoned a flute of Champagne for Data with the android equivalent of rohypnol, might almost lead one to be suspicious of his actions. Luckily for us, Lore enjoys a good monologue, and tells Data’s inert body about how he plans to feed everyone on the Enterprise to the Crystal Entity, just like he did the colonists. Luckily, he has a facial tic that Wes might possibly be smart enough to pick up on when he goes to check on Data. Unfortunately, he uses a sonic screwdriver to adjust those face-servos or whatever to give Data the tic and take away his own. Beverly becomes suspicious, however, when it turns out that he just gave away the secret of his off switch when explaining to Wes why there was an unconscious android on the floor.
This slip, combined with the use of contractions where Data does not, starts to give him away, but at this point they’re already being chased down by the Crystalline Entity. Wes has picked up on it but instead of saying “Captain, I believe Lore has incapacitated and replaced Data” he just says “don’t trust him.” Way to suck at everything, Wes.
The Crystalline Entity begins attacking the Enterprise but Lore opens hailing frequencies to identify himself to the entity and threatens it. Wes and Picard shout at each other for a few moments, and Lore ambushes Worf in a turbolift. The security team, incompetent as ever, does not immediately transport him into a holodeck where the gravity is turned off and keep him suspended in midair by six tractor beams, or a replicated ship-hull cage, or something equally as obvious. Instead, Worf tries to go hand-to-hand with a robot.
The point of the whole ‘beam something out to blow up in order to threaten the Crystalline Entity’ plan was to get the shields down, so it could move in and start eating people. Now, I feel it important to point out at this point that she Crystalline Entity, if it thinks in a way compatible with humanoid thought at all (and evidence suggests it does, since Lore can converse with it using Federation Standard) ought to be aware by now that the Enterprise is full of sentient, tool-using life-forms, and from Lore’s reactions the entity is still fine with eating them all.
Wes, Bev, and Data all confront Lore in the cargo bay and after a brief scuffle, beam Lore into space and the entity moves off. Just like every day between “Space Seed” and “The Wrath of Khan” nobody bothers to check on how out of commission Lore actually is. They don’t beam him back on board piece by piece, or into the antimatter reactor core, or into secure confinement, or anything. Way to go, guys, I’m sure that won’t come back to bite you in the ass at least two more times.