Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Inheritance"
Review by Tim Lynch <tly...@juliet.caltech.edu>
WARNING: The following post contains large amounts of spoiler information
concerning TNG's "Inheritance". Those not wishing to inherit spoiler
information without proper precautions should avoid the article at this point.
In brief: Not perfect, but quite nice indeed; one of the more solid outings of the season so far.
Despite some of my initial skepticism, I was pretty impressed with "Inheritance". Details to follow, after the usual synopsis:
The Enterprise crew is assisting in re-liquefying the core of Atrea Four by
drilling holes to "magma pockets" near the core and injecting hot plasma into
the core from there. However, Data soon finds he has more concerns than this
one project, because one of the scientists, Dr. Juliana Tainer, claims to have been Data's co-creator -- and Noonian Soong's wife!
Her story is, in many ways, quite convincing. She says that she married
Soong in secret owing to parental pressure, and that Data has no memory of
her because his early experiences were erased after a difficult "childhood".
Juliana is very surprised to hear that Data and Soong have actually met, and
finds herself hit very hard by the news of Soong's death, despite the fact
that she left _him_ years and years ago. Even with all these details,
however, Data is initially very skeptical of her claims, in part because Soong
never mentioned her. He searches for as much corroborative detail as he can, and finds enough to convince him that she's telling the truth.
They continue to get to know each other, discussing things such as the choice
of Data's gender, and the programming of both manners and modesty into Data's
personality after some childhood difficulties. The initial drilling to the
magma pocket is successful, and with a few hours to kill, Data shows Juliana his quarters.
There, Juliana is swept away by the "beauty" of Data's violin playing, and
asks to accompany him in an upcoming recital. Her mood worsens, however,
after she sees a painting of Lal and hears of her tragic story. Later, after
they practice, she asks Data if he intends to create another android, and
worries about whether it's right to create something with such little chance
of survival. She speaks from experience; apparently, she and Soong had three
android "miscarriages" before a successful creation -- and _that_ creation
was Lore. Eventually, she reveals that she was initially opposed to Data's
creation, and admits that she forced Soong to leave Data behind when the
Crystalline Entity attacked, worried that otherwise she might have to deactivate him as she did Lore. She leaves, in tears.
As the drilling continues (including a small crisis which Juliana solves
with surprising speed), Juliana's current husband Pran reignites the
conversation from the previous night. Juliana manages to describe her
viewpoint and how wrenching it was to have to deactivate Lore. "I'm not
trying to justify leaving you behind," she tells Data, "I'm just sorry I did." Data is satisfied by this, and they continue their work.
After the recital, at which both Data and Juliana are superb, Data goes to
sickbay to ask for Juliana's medical records, being surprisingly
tight-lipped about why he wants them. No obvious problems are found, but
Data will say only that Juliana "is not who she claims to be." The
investigation is interrupted by reports of a cave-in in one of the magma
pockets, however, and Data and Juliana quickly beam down to the pocket to
reset the plasma injectors before the seismic activity renders their work
useless. In the process, however, Data and Juliana must jump off a cliff to
reach the beam-back point -- and when Juliana misses the jump slightly, she
falls unconscious, and her arm breaks; breaks OFF, revealing that she too is an android!
In sickbay, it becomes clear that she's also a Soong-type android, but not
why she is unconscious. (It is also revealed that Data has had strong
suspicions of this for some time.) Data finds an information chip in her
brain, and uses it to call up a holodeck interface with Soong, who even
anticipated the possibility of *Data* finding Juliana out. Soong tells Data
that there was a real Juliana, whom he married, but that she died shortly
after the attack on Omicron Theta. He transferred her consciousness into
this android Juliana, flawlessly -- so flawlessly, in fact, that Juliana
_does not know_ she is an android; and neither does anyone else, until now.
Soong regrets not telling Juliana of his love for her more often, and urges
Data to spare her happiness, by *not* telling her of her true nature. "The truth is," he emphasizes, "in every way that matters, she IS Juliana Soong."
Data asks his crewmates for advice on what to tell Juliana, but in the end
faces the choice himself. Despite his own wishes for a kindred spirit, he
tells her merely that she was injured in the fall, and reveals nothing as the
project is wrapped up. As they part, Data tells her that he wanted to reveal
something: "My father told me that he had only one great love in his life,
and that he regretted never telling her how much he cared for her. I am
certain he was referring to you." Juliana leaves, again leaving Data as the only self-aware android in existence.
That should suffice. Now, onwards to the usual rantings.
Although my reaction to the initial news weeks ago of "Data will find out he
has a mother" wasn't as, shall we say, visceral as many reactions were, I did
have a fair amount of skepticism about it, actually for many of the reasons
Data did. While it's not completely implausible for Soong to have had a
partner in creating Data or even a wife, it did seem very unlikely to me, so I came in worried about it.
For the most part, however, I didn't find it nearly as implausible as I
feared. I do find it a little hard to believe that Soong was thought dead by
everyone with Juliana alive and _publicly_ so, but that's really a fairly
minor point -- things like "Brothers" work just as well if Soong has simply
vanished into hiding. The idea of a past Data didn't know he had, however,
works far better than it could for any other character, simply because Data
is the one character whose memories _can_ simply be flat-out removed. So, my disbelief wasn't suspended quite as far as I planned, which is nice.
The initial scenes of Data's skepticism were well-played out, though I for
one couldn't help but be amused by some of it. After all, if you think of
it, Data was trying to make sure he wasn't of "illegitimate" origin -- and
the thought of Data wondering "am I, in fact, a bastard?" was just too cute.
The only flat portion in this early section, really, was Geordi's little
speech about how life is full of unexpected occurrences like this. Sometimes
Geordi's lectures to Data have worked very well ("The Defector", which I saw
again recently, has a great example of one), but this one sat there like a lump.
The middle portion, after Juliana's been accepted but before her true nature
has been revealed, was on the whole nicely done, but probably the weakest
part of the show. This may be, in part, because it went on a little long --
occasionally, I found myself wondering what else the show would have besides
"okay, Data brings mom up to speed on his life and finds out about his past."
There's a lot of good meat in there, definitely, but not a full episode's worth. However, most of it worked.
For instance, the Data/Geordi/Juliana scene where she reveals the early
problems with Data's manners (and his nudity) was a scream. It made utterly
perfect sense that both of those things would be somewhat foreign to an
android, and the image of a little Data running around naked and sending
colonists into fits was impossible to shake. (Yes, I _know_ Data would have
been the same size he is now, but with the repeated references to his
childhood the image was still of a little Dataling. So sue me. :-) ) I
also found her reaction to Data visiting Troi more than a little fun, as
well. (One wonders if Data, to reassure Juliana that the sexuality program _does_ work, ever mentioned Tasha. Probably not.)
One element of this middle portion that did _not_ work, at least for me, was
the "I'm so sorry I left you behind!" angle. It simply didn't ring at all
true for me, in part, I suppose, because _Data_ didn't feel that way at all.
I realize that that was part of the point, but even so it undercut things a
bit. That part was a loss (which wasn't helped by William Lithgow's rather one-delivery-fits-all style as Pran).
The last section, however, with the Juliana-as-android issue looming large,
was superb on all counts. The revelation itself did not come as a surprise
-- in fact, Lisa and I guessed something akin to it at about the time Data
first started looking at her so strangely -- but we didn't quite know how
*Data* was figuring it out, for starters. (The methods he did use both made
perfect sense and were simply pure, pure Data. Beautiful stuff.) More
significantly, we also had no idea that _she_ didn't know she was an android, nor that Pran was unaware of it.
The latter, actually, was a minor problem -- it makes the "he's a machine;
please check his figures" bit early in the show complete nonsense. However,
the fact that Juliana didn't know, while not entirely new to the genre, was
a good twist that was put to excellent use. Naturally, of course, the best
parts of it came out of the Data/Soong scene, which followed in the footsteps
of every other Data/Soong scene ever done in being one of the most compelling
elements of the show. For a dead guy, Soong sure gets put to some good uses. :-)
Seriously, though, the issue is a good one. _Should_ Juliana have been
told? Quite honestly, I don't know, and I'm not sure there's a definite way
to decide the point. Both sides of the argument from the show's perspective
were well laid out (and appropriately cast; I believed Bev and Troi in their
respective arguments far more than I would if they'd been reversed), and
Data's decision makes sense, suggesting in part that he still has a lot more
reverence (for want of a better word) for Soong's wishes than he'd really like to let on. I was extremely impressed by all of this.
A lot of the show was helped, of course, by the fact that Fionnula Flanagan
was completely believable as Juliana. Her persona was so completely
mother-like that it didn't take much longer for me to accept her than it did
Data. One image really stuck with me, namely her almost bashful biting of
her lip when Data came back to get to know her better. I don't know exactly
what about it was so striking, but it felt so completely _right_ that by the
time the next act got underway, I had very little problem believing she helped make Data.
That takes care of the broad strokes of the show. There were a few plot
glitches, most of which can be summed up by the words "Silly Science."
They're drilling into a pocket only a few kilometers from the planet's
_core_? Assuming the planet is reasonably Earth-type, that's a few thousand
kilometers down -- probably more than I'd expect the phasers to do capably,
and certainly more than I'd expect to make any sense. It wasn't particularly _bad_, just impossible to take seriously. Other mild plot points:
-- Just when did Soong make that tape? He referred to Juliana as having
already left, which is impossible, given that he couldn't have implanted it
after she left. My assumption (and I welcome comments on it) is that he
implanted the chip a day or two before she left, deliberately speaking as
though she'd already gone. One point that _did_ help that was his referring
to her as Juliana _Soong_; had he called her Juliana Tainer, everything would have been wrong.
-- Data and Juliana couldn't get back without the transporter enhancers?
Then how'd the ENHANCERS get down there? (The most tasteless suggestion I've heard so far said "well, they were sent down with Baby Jessica..." Ow.)
That pretty much wraps it up. So, a few short takes and then a wrapup:
-- Given the other place we've recently seen Fionnula Flanagan on DS9, my
mind has been buzzing with speculation. "You mean Curzon Dax's lover was an android?" :-)]
-- Data on Soong: "but his wishes are not necessarily paramount." Should that last word be capitalized? :-)
-- This probably should be a plus to Rene Echevarria and Dan Koeppel for
avoiding the Bonanza syndrome and not killing Juliana off, but since they
retroactively made the *real* Juliana dead, I think this was a case of having their cake and eating it too.
-- One major disappointment: I wish we'd seen Data talking to Juliana about
Lore. It's clear he must have at some point, because otherwise she'd have no
idea that Data and Lore had met, but it's a scene I would *very* much like to have seen. Ah, well.
So, in summary, I'd definitely recommend this one. It's not perfect, but for
the most part it's a very involving and emotion-grabbing character piece. I
think we could use a few more of these and a few less of, say, "Force of Nature".
To wrap up, then:
Plot: The side issues were a joke, but the basic character plot itself was
Plot Handling: Pretty nice overall, though not breathtaking. Characterization: Pran was a waste, but everyone else was terrific.
OVERALL: Call it an 8. Nice job.
Worfs, Worfs everywhere, and what are we to think?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"The truth is, in every way that matters, she *is* Juliana Soong."
-- Noonian Soong
-- Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...