Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Episode Review - Brothers (Next Generation, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise is en route to Starbase 416 to save a young boy who is in severe need of medical help. It is during this crisis that Data suddenly and unexpectedly takes control of the ship and redirects it to Terlina III. As the crew try to regain control of the ship, Data beams down to the planet where he encounters his creator and “father”, Doctor Noonian Soong. Soong had activated a homing device in Data that would cause the android’s programming to seek only Data’s return to the cyberneticist that created him.  As Data reconnects with Soong, they are joined by Data’s brother, Lore, who was inadvertently activated by the same homing device. As the father and sons reunite, the purpose of Soong’s plan is revealed, as he has created an emotion chip for Data. As he prepares to implant the chip into Data, Lore takes matters into his own hands.

Score: 8/10 – I quite enjoy this episode. It gives us a great insight into Data and does a lot to move his character’s development along. We follow up on the fate of Lore and meet Dr. Soong himself. Data finally gets a chance to have emotions, and this development will have big impacts in a few seasons. Best of all, this episode really showcases Brent Spiner’s acting skills. Honestly, how he went all seven seasons of TNG without a single Emmy nomination is beyond my comprehension. I am hard pressed to think of any actor in television that had this much screen time as three distinct characters, and he pulled it off in fantastic form. Not only does he make each character unique, but he adds depth to all of them. Even Lore is one you can't help and feel a bit of sympathy for, except at the end when he pulls a fast one on them and assaults Soong. The side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise serves as fair backdrop to give the episode a touch of risk, but the focus is all on Data. In the end, we get some great insight into one of Star Trek’s most beloved and popular characters.

Relevance – 3 points. One point for following up with Lore’s fate from “Datalore”. He apparently had spent a couple years floating in space until he was picked up by the Pakleds. Another point scored for the emotion chip which will come into play in the Season 6 finale as well as the movie “Generations”. There is also a throwback to “Encounter at Farpoint” as Data once again tries to (unsuccessfully) whistle “Pop Goes the Weasel”. That gives it a third point in this category.

Continuity – 3 points. I don’t see anything in this episode that goes against story, character, or universe continuity. There are everybody acts the way we would expect. Nothing contradicts here. Lore especially shows a few layers that do accurately reflect who he is. He shows a love for his brother that I believe is genuine, and he gives us a few moments where we believe that his evil actions in the past were more like those of a misguided teenager lashing out for attention. He also reveals that in his books, Lore always comes first, and turns on his creator that ultimately seals his role as a villain. He will play on his knowledge of Soong and Data to deceive them and gain the upper hand.

Character Development – 2 points. This is all about Data. This is his story where he is reunited with members of his “family”, mainly his father and brother. We almost see him achieve one of his desires in gaining emotions. Mostly, his best moment comes when he is saying goodbye to Doctor Soong who is dying. It is touching and shows a deep look into how thoughtful Data is. He gives his father a reassurance that he will honor his memory and legacy. All the other characters are simply doing what they do, but nothing really gives us much insight into their characters.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Family. It is a universal theme. Families are complex and often messy. Here, we have a family made up of a father and his two sons (both androids). While Soong does care for both of them, he had to make some hard choices regarding Lore due to his actions. Despite his good intentions, Soong’s day of reckoning came. I’m not saying that Soong deserved what Lore did to him, but sometimes doing the right thing can catch up with you. This can lead to another theme of the unintended consequences of even our best intended actions. In the midst of all of this is Data, the good son, who deserved better than he received. And in the end, the side story of the two brothers on the Enterprise teaches Data, and us, an important lesson on family: “Brothers forgive”.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. There is definitely a point for Doctor Noonien Soong. Brent Spiner plays the character with delicious zest. Another point is scored for seeing Brent Spiner play three different characters at once. It was well acted and edited. I already said it once, but I want to say it again, but it was almost criminal that Spiner did not receive even an Emmy nomination for his work in this episode. Finally, in one of the final scenes when Soong implants the emotion chip in Data, there is a neat little plot twist that shows us that it is Lore that received the chip instead of Data. Watching this for the first time, I was surprised by this turn of events. It made sense, but I really think that it was a cool twist. 

Rank – Admiral (21 points). Season 4 started with the Best of Both Worlds ending, and then, to lighten things up a bit, gives us back-to-back episodes about family. Brothers is the second of those, and it is a strong episode. Brent Spiner is the biggest highlight with portraying three different characters at the same time, and he is up to the task. A great continuation to the Lore story, an important move in Data’s development, and introduced to a fun character in Noonian Soong. A must see episode on many fronts. 

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

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