The Good: Excellent acting, Interesting plot, Fair effects
The Bad: Character as it relates to Wesley
The Basics: "Datalore" takes the old "evil twin" story and redoes it with excellent acting and an intriguing plot twist.
The first time Data is focused on intensely is "Datalore." It's the first time Data has an episode that revolves completely around him and it will certainly not be the last. In fact, it's the start of the episodes that become more about Picard and Data than Picard and Riker. It is a subtle transition that does not occur largely until after the first season, but this episode is the seminal episode in the transition for Star Trek The Next Generation.
"Datalore" finds the Enterprise arriving at the planet Data was found on and the android officer finds himself preoccupied with learning to sneeze as opposed to getting sentimental over his homecoming. The episode takes a turn for the interesting and relevant when the Away Team finds a disassembled android that closely resembles Data. Using Data, Dr. Crusher and Chief Engineer Argyle are able to reassemble the other android and activate him. His name is Lore and while Data is clearly an android, Lore behaves more naturally, more human. He possesses emotions and a facial tick and he's cunning, devious, and, well, evil. The true nature of Lore's evil is explored when the newly activated android contacts the life form that killed all life on Data's planet and it looks like Lore is happy to deliver the Enterprise to the same fate.
The episode hinges largely on the performance of Brent Spiner, who plays Data and Lore. He makes the episode realistic, playing Lore and Data quite differently and it works well. He's working hard and his hard work pays off. Brent Spiner takes an occasionally shaky premise - the evil twin is pretty much done - and makes it work. His work - especially in facial expressions - makes two distinct characters and it plays out well.
The nice thing about the acting is allows us to occasionally overlook the weakness of some of the character aspects in this piece. While Data and Lore have distinctly different characters differentiated by Spiner's acting, many of the supporting actors in the episode either aren't playing their characters well or their characters are poorly written in this episode. "Datalore" has the "adult" characters differentiating themselves from young Wesley Crusher and it's a pointless, silly argument. That is to say that having each of the characters stand up and say, "I'm an adult, I'm not listening to a kid" is silly, especially for some people who are supposed to be evolved. It's childish behavior and it only accents Wesley Crusher's use and how silly the whole argument is.
Basically, Wesley Crusher realizes early on that Lore is a sadist and he is able to differentiate between the two individuals rather. The problem is, none of the adults believe him and that reads as silly and petty. The better question viewers who are intelligent ought to be asking is "Why are they so inclined to believe everybody but the boy genius?" It seems ridiculous, especially considering the attention Picard shows to Wesley in "Where No One Has Gone Before." This episode illustrates one of the problems with Star Trek The Next Generation not being serialized, instead being episodic. By not having the episodes linked directly to each other in a continuous storyline, character problems like this are more inclined to pop up.
The special effects in this episode aren't bad, either. For the effects of the late 1980s, this episode has some real good ones. The Crystalline Entity is a cool effect, especially considering the simplicity of the effect. The action sequences are tight and the episode moves along very well. But more than that, the episode is quite good for people who aren't Star Trek The Next Generation fans. It's easy to watch without liking science fiction much either as it tends to be more of a series of character revelations than anything else.
While far superior to most television currently on, fans of the series may find the uncharacteristic shabby treatment of Wesley Crusher irksome. Everyone else may watch and enjoy.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!
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© 2010, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.