The Enterprise crew finds a disassembled android identical to Data at the site of the Omicron Theta colonywhere Data was foundwhich was destroyed by a life form dubbed "the Crystalline Entity." The reassembled android, Lore, claims that Data was created first, and was considered the "less perfect" android. Lore is given a tour of the Enterprise, and later on he tricks Data into drinking something that immobilizes him. He then switches clothes with him, copies over his Facial Tic over to Data and erases his own, and pretends to be Data, claiming that "Lore" attacked him in his quarters. All this is for the purpose of offering the Enterprise to the Crystalline Entity, which he had been in contact with and invited to Omicron Theta in the first place, gaining its gratitude for all the life forms it consumed there.
Wesley Crusher is suspicious of "Data" (Lore), but is brushed off by the senior officers when he voices his concerns. He goes to Data's quarters and finds Data unconscious, and gets his mother, Dr. Crusher, to revive him.
The ship encounters the Crystalline Entity, and the ship's shields protect it from the feeding beam, but Lore has a plan to trick Picard into dropping the shields, offering to replicate a large tree and beam it out into space, then destroy it with phasers to demonstrate the Enterprise's power. He goes to the cargo bay and has a showdown with Data, who manages to get Lore onto a transporter pad so Wesley can beam Lore out. If beaming a tree into space and destroying it would result in dropping the shields enough for the entity to attack, then why doesn't beaming Lore into space have the same effect? This is never answered. Finally, Data is asked how he is handling the circumstances. Data says "I'm fine."
Tropes in this episode include:
- Absentee Actor: Troi does not appear. Unlike in "Hide and Q", no explanation for her absence is given.
- Apocalyptic Log: The crew find drawings from the children of the colonists. Each has a giant snowflake in the sky, and horrified people trying to run from it.
- As You Know: During Lore's conversation with Data about their ability or inability to use contractions, Lore lists several examples of words with and without contractions. This seems to have been added for the benefit of viewers who don't know what contractions are.
- Cassandra Truth: Wesley has an excuse for acting like an insufferable teenager in this episode, since he repeatedly told everyone his suspicions about Data but nobody listened! What makes it unforgivable is that they actually told him to check on Data in the first place!
- Double Vision: Allowing Brent Spiner to play both Data and Lore, and including impressive split-screen effects so that his face can be seen on both characters at once.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Upon detecting the Crystalline Entity, there's this very out-of-place line:Geordi: Captain, I'm picking up a bogey coming in on a five o'clock tangent.
- Evil Twin: The introduction of Lore.
- Groin Attack: Lore does this to Worf.
- Hypocritical Humor: After Picard says "Shut up, Wesley!", Dr. Crusher is critical of Picard, but when Wesley tries to speak up again, she says "Shut up, Wesley!" herself.
- Idiot Ball:
- Riker grabbed it quick to dismiss the possibility of Lore impersonating Data.
- The crew doesnt bother to retrieve Lore after hes beamed into space.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Several Starfleet officers refer to Lore as "it" before he is reactivated, since they've only seen him as a collection of parts. Data draws attention to how their use of the term is insulting to him.
- Mama Bear: When Lore threatens Wesley, Dr. Crusher shows how much she looks like she means business with a phaser.
- Meaningful Name: Contrast the name "Data" meaning "facts, statistics, or items of information" with "Lore" meaning "the body of knowledge, especially of a traditional, anecdotal, or popular nature, on a particular subject." The two are similar, but data implies pure information and is dispassionate, while lore is less precise.
- No-Sell: Worf finds out the hard way that Lore is impervious to his attacks.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Wesley tries to tell Picard that's something's amiss about Data when Picard tells him to shut up.
- Prepare to Die & Pushy Gun-Toting Villain: Lore, who was already crazed from the get-go, becomes the gun-toting villain when Data confronts him with Wesley near the end of the episode, after he feints Dr. Crusher's phaser away from her.
- Data: How sad, dear brother. You make me wish I were an only child.Lore: [sees Wesley] Then why this marvelous gift? The troublesome little man-child. [with a wide-eyed Stepford Smile at Wesley] Are you prepared for the kind of death you've earned, little man?[Dr. Crusher steps out from behind a pallet of containers with her phaser]Crusher: [threatening] If you take one step toward my son...Lore: [sarcastically] Ah, motherhood.[Lore grabs Data, pushes him into Crusher and grabs the phaser from her]Lore: [equally threatening] Back off, or I'll turn your little man into a torch....Data: I will stay with Wesley, Doctor.Lore: Go! Or he'll be shrieking by the count of five. [motions threateningly with the phaser] One, two, three, four...[Beverly starts running]...Lore:...Wait! A small payment for your son's misdeeds. [he fires the phaser at Crusher anyways, hitting her in the shoulder, where her coat catches on fire as she's running. Data catches Lore's arm and they begin fighting.]
- Retcon: It was only with this episode that the production crew came up with the idea that Data never used contractions as a way to tell him apart from Lore, despite him having used them in earlier episodes (and even at the end of this one, thanks to a flub by Spiner).
- Slipping a Mickey: Lore serves Data a glass of champagne that's been spiked with something. Less than a minute later, Data collapses.
- Taunting the Unconscious: After Lore incapacitates Data and leaves him lying immobile in his quarters, he snidely remarks "And you want to be as stupid as them, brother?", then kicks Data in the head a couple of times.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Lore is beamed away and left floating in space. It's later revealed he spent two years like this, until being picked up by the Pakleds.
- The Unapologetic: Picard and Riker make amends with Wesley without ever actually acknowledging that he was right and they were wrong.
- The Worf Effect: While Data has exhibited his Super Strength before, Lore completely outclasses Worf in a fight, establishing his and Data's full power.
- Trust Password: Data can't use contractions, Lore can. Although this failed spectacularly because Data is heard using a contraction right at the end! Fans fond of growing Epileptic Trees were briefly convinced that this meant Lore actually had somehow replaced or taken over Data, rather than just being a mistake. Considering there was no way they could have missed the flub (since it's a plot point) one wonder why they didn't just treat it like any other blooper and reshoot it.
- Uncanny Valley: A (supposed) in-universe example with Lore, who claims that he was deactivated because the Omicron Theta colonists found him too unsettling to live with. That said, given Lore's general behavior it's possible that he's being an Unreliable Narrator, and that he was actually deactivated for being a complete psychopath. Later Lore episodes don't outright confirm this interpretation but do lean fairly heavily into the idea. when we meet Dr. Noonien Soong, Data and Lore's creator, in "Brothers," he outright states that the colonists weren't unsettled by Lore but afraid of him.
- Undying Loyalty: Data assures Picard that while Lore is his brother, his loyalty is to the Captain and Starfleet.
- Villain Ball: Lore decides to fire a wounding shot at the fleeing Crusher simply out of spite, which gives Data the opportunity to attack him.