The Good: Exceptional acting, Interesting character work
The Bad: Long build-up, Quick resolution
The Basics: In an ambitiously acted episode, Brent Spiner plays three different, and distinctive, characters for a Soong Family Reunion.
Going into the fourth season of Star Trek The Next Generation, we know the following things about Data: he has a positronic brain, he's not human and he lacks emotions, he was the product of a scientist named Noonien Soong and he has an evil brother named Lore who was last seen floating in space around the Crystaline Entity. The nice thing about "Brothers" is that all of that is repeated, so even if you've never seen a moment of Star Trek The Next Generation, you will learn it all quite quickly.
"Brothers" finds the Enterprise warping toward a nearby Starbase because a young man frightened his younger brother and in the process, the boy was poisoned. As he attempts to reconcile with his younger brother, Data malfunctions and takes control of the Enterprise. Data hijacks the starship and takes it to a distant planet where he beams down. Once inside the only structure on the surface, Data begins to function normally again and the occupant of the planet reveals himself to be the long lost Noonien Soong. Unfortunately, it's not long before Soong's homing beacon attracts Lore as well . . .
The strength of "Brothers" is hands down in the acting. Brent Spiner plays Data, Lore and Noonien Soong and he does them so well that each has a distinct and different personality from the other two. He plays Data with his emotionless facade as he always does, Soong he makes warm and addled, Lore cunning and ruthless and they are more than character traits, they are entire works of acting genius. Add to that there are places where the characters touch each other and in addition to the special effects of making this appear possible, the acting prowess is impressive.
Add to that the supporting cast does a fine job. Frakes and Stewart play their characters as frustrated, McFadden infuses a very human element into Dr. Crusher's scenes and Marina Sirtis plays Troi with quiet grace.
As well, the characters here are interesting. Riker is wonderfully frustrated, delivering one of the most sensible and humorous lines of the series. Dr. Crusher displays bedside manner far superior to what Q would have us believe in "Deja Q."
The real characters, though, are the Soongs. Data has his moment of epiphany where years of self-doubt are finally erased. Lore expresses his longing and loathing for his family. And in his creation, Soong is created as an ancient, emotive and compassionate recluse who is easily one of the most distinctive characters to appear on the show in its seven year run.
The only real problem is in the plot. The episode takes too long to get going, for one. Data's hijacking of the ship takes over an act and the revelation of Dr. Soong seems to come too late. Conversely, the episode ends too quickly. Lore is not around for long before the episode comes to an abrupt end. And it feels abrupt.
The nice thing about it is that even though it is a pivotal moment for one of our main characters, it is very accessible to any viewer. All of the relevant information on Data, Lore and Dr. Soong is contained in the episode itself. This makes it a wonderful adventure story with a lot of character development and an interesting enough story. And these characters are worth seeing. It's kind of like an android family reunion and if that sounds like something that might be amusing to you, this is probably the best example of it you'll ever find!
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the third season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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