retsuko: (fierce!)
[personal profile] retsuko
OK, now this is what I was waiting for! "Datalore" is such an excellent episode; it's bursting with ideas and it's a tremendous showcase for Brent Spiner, who is just amazing as both Data and his... let's say brother (more on that next paragraph) Lore. It's also a great episode for Crusher and Wesley (whoa, never thought I'd type that) and it's a great episode for showing us, not simply telling (even though there's a ton of exposition to get through, the storyline never gets bogged down in any extraneous detail.) Finally, from a cinematographic perspective, this is a treasure chest of beautifully composed and eerie shots.

Let's start with Lore, since he's the center of this episode: Data's evil twin, in effect, who can lie, crack jokes, and espouse human emotions far more effectively than Data can. Beaming down to the planet where Data was found quickly leads to the discovery of Lore's body parts, which leads to an amazing sequence where Data first watches Lore's construction (under the supervision of Crusher and the Chief of Engineering, which is a lovely detail, and provides a reason to have a great, whispered conversation between Crusher and Data about the location of his "off switch.") Lore quickly establishes himself as smart and dangerous, and points all of Data's failings out. He and Data spar back and forth about what it is to be human, and it quickly emerges that Lore was dismantled because he was too human, too jealous, too ambitious, too everything--basically, the evil AI villain that people have long feared. When he calls Data "my brother," it feels hollow and wrong, and almost everyone picks up on this fairly quickly, which leads to doubts about where Data's loyalty lies.

This means that the question that Data asks early on ("Can this be another me? Or possibly my brother?") lurks around the edges of the show. We see all the things that Lore is capable of, and we can assume that Data can do this, too: he could beat up Worf (!), he could conspire with a Galactus-lite space monster to gobble up all the life force on the Enterprise (!!), and he could even threaten and hurt those closest to him (!!!). But Data holds steady the entire time, even in the face of Lore's tirade about kindness being a human weakness. The irony that kindness leads to the foiling of Lore's plan (Wesley quickly realizes that the Data on the bridge with them is not the real Data because, well, he and Data are friends, and there's just something OFF) is subtle and well-played. Crusher's kindness may be an exploitable weakness in Lore's eyes, but it's a kindness mixed with strength, and even though her and Wesley's plan to stop Lore is half-baked and fails, it's still better than cold intellect any day, because both she and her son value friendship more than protocol or regulations.

My only disappointment with this episode is the very, very abrupt ending. I would really have loved a scene afterwards with Troi and Data, wherein she asks him how he's doing, and he tells her that he doesn't really have any feelings on this matter, but he can understand how a human might feel sadness over the loss of a potential family member. After all, Data's truly alone in the universe, and this poignant episode highlights that like nobody's business. When I see an episode like this one, I think, yeah, this is the sci-fi property that inspired me as a young adult, and still inspires me now. This is the episode I was waiting for.

Unfortunately, "Angel One"... I wasn't waiting for so much. In this episode, the Enterprise is on its way to a planet that's not part of the Federation, but has strategic importance, and so StarFleet's orders are basically, "Rescue some guys who got marooned here a while back but don't do anything that upsets the apple cart." This particular apple cart is that the planet is a matriarchy, run by "The Elected One" and her council of grouchy, weirdly dressed ladies who play their cards pretty close and don't want to reveal anything. Troi is supposed to be the main negotiator for this mission, but Riker does most of the talking, and ends up sleeping with The Elected One after dressing in "native attire" that causes Troi and Yar to have a very sweet fit of laughter. (Filming this episode, at least that scene in particular, must have been pretty entertaining all around.) Anyway, it's revealed that the guys who the Enterprise are supposed to rescue have, indeed, been rocking the apple cart, and are making ideological trouble for the planet by insisting on... something? An ERA, or something else that annoys the government, it was never clear. The Elected Lady is gonna have them executed. One of the Lady Council Ladies is sleeping with the main Rebel Guy! ZOMG! It escalates quickly.

Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, a virus runs amok, and everyone gets sick. This is another episode where we see how awesome Crusher is, this time in her capacity as ship's doctor, as she somehow escapes getting sick and manages to find a vaccine in just half an hour as the end of the episode nears. There's also a great sequence where LaForge is in charge (his expression as he sits in the Captain's chair is pretty great), and finally, where Data is in charge because everyone else is sick.

Riker manages to back the Elected Lady into an ideological corner and she manages to stop the execution. The whole episode feels rather anti-climatic and is a bit dull. I would have written it a lot differently. (See note below.)

Signs it's THE FUTURE/NOT THE FUTURE: OK, writers, in the future, have we eliminated the common cold or not? In "Datalore" it's mentioned (for the millionth time) that the common cold has been eradicated and no longer plagues anyone, but in "Angel One", the illness that the Enterprise crew is suffering from looks suspiciously like the common cold. Which is it, writers? Please pick one option or another!

A note for science fiction writers interested in writing a matriarchial society: If this is an episode about a planet dominated by women, why are the men talking so much? If you've set up this scenario solely to show how our modern society is still grappling with sexism and it's wrong, there are far easier ways to go about making that point without effectively doing exactly what the characters you make into villains are doing.
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