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WARNING:  The following post contains spoiler information regarding this week's upcoming TNG episode, "Brothers".  Those not wishing to know what happens (and believe me, you probably don't want spoilage on this one) should stand clear.

I hope you know what you're doing.  This is your last chance.


Ahhh.
The first two shows of the season were good, but this was truly GREAT.  haven't been this enthralled for a long time.

But more on that, after this synopsis:

The Enterprise is en route to a starbase due to a medical emergency.  Due indirectly to a practical joke that Jake Potts played on his little brother Willie, Willie urgently needs medical attention due to exposure to some
infectious toxins.  Data begins taking Jake to sickbay to see Willie (who's under strict quarantine, and also not particularly amenable to seeing Jake right now), but suddenly starts behaving strangely, as though under outside influence.

He quickly assumes control of the Enterprise by cutting off life support to the bridge.  Though Picard and company, now down in Engineering, quickly discover that Data's behind the problem, they are helpless.  Picard orders a saucer separation--which Data overrides _in Picard's own voice_.  He establishes force-fields in enough locations that the others can't even get to the bridge, let alone recover it from him.  They block site-to-site transport ability (meaning he can't beam directly off the bridge)--and Data, through a complicated series of force-fields, walks past entire security teams to Transporter Room 1, puts Riker and O'Brien behind a force-field, reactivates site-to-site ability, and beams off-ship.  

He enters a house, where a strange old man welcomes him.  He reactivates Data's independence, and Data revives, though with no memory of how he arrived.  The old man announces himself to be Noonian Soong, Data's creator, and quickly convinces Data that this is the truth.  (He escaped the colony he was on before the crystal entity destroyed it, though exactly how is unclear.)  Meanwhile, by diverting power from most of Willie's quarantine (i.e. everything but the bare minimum), the bridge crew make it back to the bridge, but are stopped by a security code that Data (masquerading as Picard) set up, which they have no hope of cracking--it's about forty characters long.  However, they do regain control over sensors, which picks up one human life-form on the planet below-- and a small vessel entering orbit, with no life aboard.

Data and Soong talk for a while, about why Data joined Starfleet, and more importantly, the concepts of creation and procreation, and we find that Soong created Data for the same reason humans are driven to have children--for his own slice of immortality.  However, their reverie is interrupted suddenly, as a similarly entranced Lore enters.  

Over Data's objections, Soong reactivates Lore, insisting that Lore will obey him.  He does manage to keep Lore from attacking him or Data, reassuring Lore that he wasn't _captured_--Soong, in fact, didn't even know Lore had been reassembled.  When Lore, bitter and angry, decides to leave Soong with his "favorite son" Data, Soong tells him he's dying.  Data accepts this with his usual aplomb, but Lore is hit surprisingly hard emotionally.

While Geordi and O'Brien begin attempting to convince the transporter that others are actually Data (so they can beam down), Soong tells Lore that disassembling him was the only option--after creating Data, he planned to go back and "fix" Lore.  (We also discover that, at least according to Soong, Data is NOT "less perfect" than Lore.)  Soong quickly tires of Lore's bickering about Data, and orders both androids to sit.  He tells them that, after years of work, he's figured out what went wrong with Lore, and holds up a chip with the programming for "basic emotions"--for Data, since he didn't even know Lore still existed.  He goes into another room to rest, however, before starting the procedure.

As Riker, Geordi, and Worf beam down to search for Data, Soong inserts the chip into the android he thinks is Data--but after it's over, he quickly discovers it's Lore wearing Data's uniform.  He tries to convince Lore that the chip was not designed for him and won't work properly, but Lore, insisting that Soong owes _him_ for past slights, not Data, tosses Soong across the room, knocking him out, then beams out.  Shortly thereafter, Riker and company find Soong, just waking up, and a deactivated Data, whom Riker quickly switches back on. Soong tells Data that he has neither the time nor the skill to create a second chip, rebuffs all attempts to take him to sickbay, saying he has "no plans to die anywhere else", and removes Data's memory block.  Data says goodbye to Soong alone, saying that it's all right for Soong to die, since he will live on in Data.  

Several days later, Willie is recovering nicely, and he and Jake are playing happily with two model dinosaurs Data brought from Soong's house.  When Data observes that the children have settled their differences, Beverly says, "They're brothers, Data!  Brothers _forgive_," and the episode closes on a rather pensive Data.

Phew.  That was longer than I expected.  Still, it was necessary.  Now, on to some commentary:

This was a masterfully crafted show.  There were some things done more subtly than others, yes; but I didn't mind.  I'll try to take them in turn.

First, the early part of the show, where it's Data vs. the Enterprise crew. Here, I could quite easily tell that this was directed by the same man (Rob Bowman, if you want names) who directed "Q Who".  There was often the same sense of futility against a superior foe, and a definite sense of eerieness, at least to this viewer.  I definitely shivered a bit the first time Data spoke in Picard's voice here; and by the time he rattled off the huge security code, I was just speechless.  Likewise, his setup of force-fields in turn to avoid the security people was very well accomplished, and his entire walk from the bridge to the transporter room was well presented.  I don't care what "The Hunted" did to create a sense of urgency and tension--those ten minutes or so made me truly worry.

Now, there's the Data/Soong scenes (I'll get to those with Lore later).  These were also superb, though also very touching.  Soong wasn't quite what I expected, but by the middle of the show, I couldn't picture him any other way. Brent did a marvelous job in this role--I was worried for a brief instant that it was just an excuse for him to sound like Jimmy Stewart for half a show :-), but he sounded like half the old sciences professors I've ever met.  When he answered Data's question "what choice of vocation would have met with your approval, sir?" with the hope that Data might one day become a scientist, perhaps a cyberneticist, I truly felt for him (and I'm not usually able to feel for guest characters quite that strongly).  This was as much a father-son reunion as any I've seen, and I commend it.

Then there's Lore.  Heh-heh-heh.  Dammit, Wes, I KNEW you should have put that beam on "wide disperse"...:-)  This took me by complete surprise, as I expected Lore to behave very similarly to the way he acted in "Datalore".  Oh, man, was I wrong.

I don't know how Brent managed it, particularly considering that he must have been putting in triple time that week, but he carried off Lore differently AND perfectly (something not easy to do, since he was damned good last time). The realization that Soong was still alive definitely changed Lore's character to an extent, putting him back into a childlike role, and this was well displayed.  And as in other cases, I was surprised by how much I felt for him. At his reaction to Soong's announcement that he was dying, saying "Dying?  You look fine!  You're not that old!...You...look fine...", I almost went to tears, and THAT's very rare as well.

Brent actually managed to almost completely change Lore's character, from completely evil to bitter and resentful, and more _hurt_ than anything else. I'm glad Lore's fate was left open-ended, 'cos I definitely want to see him after the chip's done a little work on him.  Bravo, Mr. Spiner.  Bravo.

Now, there's the little Jake/Willie Potts subplot to consider. At the beginning, I thought to myself that this was only going to get in the way.  Fortunately, I was pretty much wrong.  While the few scenes between Willie and Bev did little for me (though they did make me think that Gates doesn't do such a bad job playing a pediatrician), I don't think they were meant to.  The subplot was in there to create a duality in the title (that's three double meanings in a row, folks!), and did so quite well.  And finally, nearly all if not actually all of my little objections to the subplot were erased when I saw the last few seconds of the show.  As a setup for that line, it worked blissfully.

Well, I'm definitely starting to run off at the mouth here.  Must be a result of being a grad student...as long as I keep talking, I have an excuse not to be doing work.  ;-)  Anyway, here are some shorter thoughts, followed by one last long one.

1)  Let's see, we've had Worf's parents lately, the return of Lore, and we will be seeing Tasha's homeworld, the return of the Traveller, and we even saw Data do something here he hasn't done since "Encounter at Farpoint".  Anyone else get the feeling the production team's decided "okay, let's do some of the first season again, and this time let's do it RIGHT!"?  No objections here, since they're following up only the interesting plotlines (one vote for the return of the "Conspiracy" parasites here!).  But if they ever decide to visit the Edo again, I'm outta here.  :-)

2)  Choreographing most of the scenes in this show must've been a real bitch, don't you think?

3)  I loved Soong's description of leaving the colony:  "I admit I wouldn't have guessed I'd be running from a giant _snowflake_, but, hmm...".

4)  I sort of wish this was a 2-parter--not because the episode needed more time, but because I *wanted* Data and Soong to have more time to talk--about Lal, about Ira Graves, about that young upstart Maddox...Not an objection, since I think we were meant to feel Soong was taken too quickly from us, but damn, it's a pity.

5)  Last week, we heard "Goodbye, Dad", and it did absolutely nothing for me. This week, Data's quiet "Goodbye...Father" sent a wave of emotion through me.

6)  Some people have said that the Wesley plotline in "Family" only works well if you have children.  Well, I'll take a somewhat similar stance:  you don't have to have a brother to get caught up in Data and Lore's emotions, but it definitely helps.

Now, the long thought--it's about Data's emotions.  I was slightly disappointed for a few minutes by Soong's acceptance of Data's lack of emotions--I would have preferred that Data bring it up and Soong insist "but, Data, don't you understand--you DO have emotions!  Different, yes, but they're there!"  I didn't get that, and I was considering lowering the episode a bit because of it, but it redeemed itself by their farewell.  In particular, a pair of lines stood out, but I'll save them for my signature.

Well, this has definitely gone on for long enough.  I'm sure you folks need to get on with your lives.  I'll give this my highest recommendation, though, and I'm pretty sure that this makes not only my top 10, but my top 5 shows ever made on TNG.  Watch it.  Many times.  As soon as you can.

But, here are the numbers, since many people seem to thrive on them:

Plot:  10.  Solid, solid plot.  We never found out exactly how Soong escaped, no; but we don't NEED to.  Beautiful.
Plot Handling:  10.  Rob Bowman doesn't often disappoint me, and he certainly didn't here.
Characterization:  I'll repeat something I used a long time ago (I don't remember what it was in reference to):  10, for lack of a 28.
Technical:  10.  The only relevant tech stuff occurred in the show's first fifteen minutes, which were as flawless as the rest of it.

TOTAL:  Well, gee, what do YOU think?  10, of course.

NEXT WEEK:

TNG tackles child abuse.  The show looks iffy, but the teenage kid looks mighty familiar.  I wish I knew where I've seen him.

Until next week, I remain...

Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjuliet
INTERNET:  tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"You know that I cannot grieve for you, sir."
"You will...in your own way."

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