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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S4E3 "Brothers"

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Data (played by Brent Spiner) meets Dr. Noonien Soong (played by Brent Spiner), before they're joined by Lore (played by Brent Spiner).

Original air date: October 8, 1990

The Enterprise is on a medical mission to transport a sick child to a starbase medical lab after a prank from the boy's brother went awry. While escorting the older boy to pay his sick brother a visit, Data begins acting oddly. Without warning, he turns off the life-support systems on the bridge, forcing the rest of the crew to evacuate. He then commandeers the ship by imitating Picard's voice and setting security codes so that only he can control all the crucial systems, then sets a new course to an unknown planet.

Data beams down to the planet and is reactivated to his normal self by an old scientist. Data quickly recognizes the man as Dr. Noonien Soong, his creator, who was thought to be dead. Data showers his creator with questions, such as why he created him in the first place. Soong states that, just as humans wish to have a sense of continuity with the past, they also wish to have a sense of immortality into the future through procreation. However, their conversation is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Lore, who also answered Soong's summons.

On the Enterprise, the crew is scrambling to regain control of the ship. They have only about 24 hours before the sick boy will succumb to his infection. But Data's modifications to the ship leave them without the ability to use the warp drive or transporters. Geordi concocts a plan to jury-rig the transporters, and he sets to work with O'Brien.

The family reunion between the androids and their creator goes fairly poorly. Soong reveals that most of what Lore told Data about each other was a lie, including the claim that Data is a less-perfect copy of Lore. Soong then admits that he is dying and had summoned Data to provide him with a specially designed emotion chip. Lore thinly veils his intense jealousy through a congratulatory veneer. After a night's sleep, Soong installs the emotion chip, but it turns out that he does so in Lore, who has incapacitated Data and taken his place. The chip immediately begins to malfunction, and Lore hurls Soong into some furniture before leaving.

Geordi, Worf and Riker beam down to the planet using their newly modified transporters and discover Soong critically injured and Data deactivated. They reactivate Data, who rushes to Soong's side. Soong refuses to seek medical attention and wishes to remain behind to die. Data assures his creator that he will live on through Data. When Data admits that he cannot mourn for Soong, the scientist tells him that he will, in his own way.

Data returns to the ship, which makes it to the starbase just in time to save the boy. When Data sees that the brothers have reconciled, Dr. Crusher states that brothers always forgive each other. Data contemplates her words uncertainly.

Tropes featured in "Brothers":

  • Acting Unnatural: When the recall signal takes him over, Data ceases to speak unless it's directly related to taking over the ship. Riker and Picard don't miss this, but Data sidesteps the issue by causing a life support failure on the bridge, forcing everyone to evacuate. Curiously, he does make a show of pretending to leave to keep up appearances, even if he doesn't say anything.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: During his trek from the bridge to the transporter room, Data at one point initiates a "scan phase" with the forcefields that causes the one ahead of him to jump ahead by a few inches every few moments, in effect creating a moving wall that forces the security officers attempting to stop him to retreat.
  • Amnesia Danger: Much of the drama in the second half revolves around Data not remembering that he locked out the Enterprise while he traveled to meet Soong, being unaware until Riker finally catches up with him, and Soong tells Data to execute an instruction which restores his memory. Had he known this he likely would have immediately returned to the ship, or at least gotten Soong to get their business over with as fast as possible.
  • And I Must Scream: Discussed. Lore says he spent two years floating in space after his last encounter with Data and would still be out there if not for a passing Pakled ship.
  • Ax-Crazy: The emotion chip makes the already emotionally unstable Lore into a full-blown Giggling Villain psychopath.
  • The Bus Came Back: Lore, who had been found by the Pakleds at some point after "Datalore".
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: After Data has locked the Enterprise crew out of every system - including the transporter - they network some tricorders together to convince the transporter that it is beaming the last person it transporter - namely Commander Data - to the surface when they beam Worf, Riker, and LaForge to Soong's home.
    Riker: The computer should think all three of us are Data. I just hope we don't all beam back looking like Data.
  • Call-Back: Data still can't whistle "Pop Goes the Weasel."
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Lore chews out Dr. Soong for simply casting him aside to make Data instead of improving him. Dr. Soong tries to explain that he needed to use the experience of programming Data to learn how to fix Lore, but Lore isn't having it.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Dr. Soong survived the Crystalline Entity because he always has an escape route prepared just in case.
  • Cutting the Knot: When he's intercepted at the transporter pad, Data simply has the computer erect a forcefield around the pad and then restores site-to-site transport functionality to get to the planet below.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Soong had no idea that Lore had been reassembled and also received the recall signal. Invoked In-Universe by Soong regarding the Crystalline Entity.
  • Dramatic Irony: Jake and Willie parallel Lore and Data's relationship of an older brother mistreating the younger brother. Ultimately, though, Jake and Willie make up.
    Beverly: They're brothers, Data. Brothers forgive.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Soong doesn't hold the destruction of Omicron Theta against Lore, even after Data tells him what happened. When Lore fatally wounds him and steals the emotion chip, Soong doesn't seem mad, just sad and disappointed.
    • Also when Picard and the others learn that Data had basically been forced to hijack the Enterprise by a homing device Soong had installed in him, Data appears to suffer no serious repercussions for his actions.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Often Wrong" Soong.
  • Exploited Immunity: Data vents the atmosphere on the bridge so the crew will be forced to evacuate, then stays behind after everyone leaves. By the time they restore life support, he's erected forcefields at every possible access route to bar them reentry.
  • Failsafe Failure:
    • Subverted with life support. There is no way that the bridge life-support systems would fail on their own, as Geordi points out; there are seven independent interlocks to prevent it. Data is the cause of the failure, having engineered it to get everyone else off the bridge.
    • Data is able to seize absolute control of the ship's computer by virtue of the fact that, having sophisticated speech capabilities, he can precisely mimic Picard's vocal patterns and fool the voice biometrics authentication that the computer uses. This is in spite of the fact that the computer tracks the location of all members of the crew in real time, and thus must be aware that Picard is not on the bridge even though he's supposedly issuing orders from that location. A simple retinal or facial recognition scan would have foiled or at least seriously hindered Data's efforts. It's really unsettling just how easily one android hijacks the entire Enterprise, and none of the security holes this reveals are ever mentioned following this or shown to be fixed.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The camera focuses on Lore's boots as he enters Dr. Soong's lab.
  • Following in Their Rescuer's Footsteps: When Soong questions why Data would join Starfleet, he gives the reasons that Starfleet rescued him.
  • Genre Blindness: Soong sees no problem in reactivating Lore because Lore has always obeyed him in the past. Yeah, that always works out well for a Mad Scientist.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    Lore: You did what you had to do? What kind of answer is that?
    Soong: The only one I can give you. You were not functioning properly.
  • Idiot Ball: For the sake of the plot, none of the security officers, including Worf and Riker, think to stun Data first and then ask questions after they have him restrained, allowing Data a few moments to erect forcefields through verbal commands. Their reluctance is understandable, but Data has also seized control of the ship and presents an unknown risk to its crew.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Doubles as a I Shall Taunt You by Lore.
    Lore: Often-Wrong's got a broken heart / Can't even tell his boys apart.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Jake let his brother Willie believe he had killed Jake during a game, claiming he just wanted to scare him. Willie, panicked, ran into a forest and ate a poisonous fruit after he got lost.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Justified, but not with identity. Data doesn't realize what he has done to get to Dr. Soong. The homing device activated a more dominant program. Only after Dr. Soong tells Data to access a certain program does he get his memory back.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Dr. Soong reveals to Data that he is his creator, even though Data believed that he was dead.
  • Mad Scientist: A benevolent version, but Soong has the same lack of thought over the morals and consequences of his actions. He summons Data against his will, inadvertently endangering a child's life, and reactivates Lore despite Data's repeated warnings.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: We start at the requisite glass containers full of bubbling chemicals and lightning generators before panning across to the more homely aspects of Soong's hideout.
  • Moral Luck: A boy pranks his younger brother, which scares the brother enough for him to run and hide. While hiding the younger brother eats a fruit that leaves him so ill he nearly dies. The older brother is severely scolded by numerous cast members for 'nearly killing' his brother. However, while a little cruel for a prank, there was no reason for the older brother to expect anything worse then his younger brother being frightened for a while because of it. This feels particularly horrible since a child that young would likely already be very guilt-ridden to the point of tears and any competent parent would go out of their way to tell the child that this wasn't his fault, not further scolding or blaming him. Especially as humans in the future are supposedly kinder.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Jake feels guilty about what happened to his brother and tries to apologize to Willie. Unfortunately, Willie doesn't want to talk to him at all.
    • It's subtle, but the look on Data's face when he unlocks his memories of hijacking the Enterprise might be the android version of this.
  • Narcissist: Dr. Soong examining Data, created in his own image. "I always loved that face."
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Dr. Soong's emotion chip for Data. Borders on Forgotten Phlebotinum, since the contents of Soong's lab should have provided a wealth of information about the construction of androids.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Lore being recovered by dull-witted Pakleds. The fact that Lore shows up wearing a somewhat ill-fitting Pakled uniform does, however, call into question the fate of those hapless Pakleds—i.e., whether or not there's a pile of Pakled corpses somewhere in Lore's wake.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Subverted. Data creates an insanely long password to keep the crew of the Enterprise from regaining control of the ship. The password is equivalent to a 269-bit key in symmetric cryptography which is impossible to break with current technology, or even 24th century technology. The crew is unable to guess the password or even how long the password is and is stuck until Data returns and unlocks the computers.
  • Pet the Dog: Lore is genuinely upset when he hears his 'father' is dying. Subverted later when he accidentally kills him.
  • Properly Paranoid: Dr. Soong created his escape route because he wasn't too trusting of the colonists. He admits he never envisioned having to run away from "a giant snowflake."
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: Dr Soong has established a secret laboratory on an uninhabited jungle planet where he can continue his cybernetic experiments in seclusion - until he finally summons Data and Lore to his side, of course.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lore was always unstable, but using an emotion chip not meant for him sent him to Crazytown.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Soong and Data call out Lore on this. Data is not a "less perfect" android, they are both nearly identical in construction, just programmed slightly differently. And the colonists on Omicron Theta were not "jealous" of Lore, they were afraid of him.
  • Sibling Rivalry: During their family reunion, Data is deeply affected when Soong asserts that he is not inferior to Lore (as Lore had previously claimed) and that they are in fact almost identical except for some slight differences in programming. Lore feels that he was The Unfavorite given that Dr. Soong decided to move on and build Data rather than focusing on fixing Lore's personality disorders even though Soong insisted he planned on fixing Lore. He tricks Soong into giving him the emotion chip intended for Data by impersonating him.
  • Spot the Imposter: "Often Wrong's got a broken heart, can't even tell his boys apart."
  • This Cannot Be!: Lore's reaction to Soong's You See, I'm Dying.
  • Ticking Clock: The ship needs to get to a starbase to save a dying boy, providing an urgency to the episode.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Although Lore committed mass murder by luring the Crystalline Entity to the planet where he and Data were built to wipe out all the colonists, Dr. Soong treats him like a mischievous child, insisting that he isn't evil, just misunderstood. This works out for him about as well as you'd expect.
    • To a lesser extent Soong also nearly gets a young child killed because it doesn't occur to him that forcing Data to travel to his location by any means possible even if his morality program would prevent him from deliberately killing anyone wouldn't cause massive problems by hijacking and locking out the flagship of the Federation.
  • Unable to Cry:
    Data: You know that I cannot grieve for you, sir.
    Soong: You will, in your own way.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Dr. Soong obviously had no idea there was a terminally ill boy aboard the Enterprise, who his recall signal to Data put in danger. Likewise, Data wasn't in control of himself, and didn't even remember what happened aboard the ship until Soong told him how to unlock his memory files.
  • Wham Shot: Lore being the one to arrive at the lab.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To the story of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau in the Book of Genesis. In short, Isaac was old, blind, and dying, and intended to give a blessing to his rightful heir Esau. But Esau's brother Jacob impersonated him and stole the blessing for himself. Soong even mumbles something about Esau at the very end of the episode.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Data readjusts his strategy fairly quickly when site-to-site transportation is disabled.
  • You See, I'm Dying: Word-for-word when Lore is about to simply walk out of the "family reunion." Soong gets him to stay by pointing out that they'll never have another chance to interact.
  • Younger Than They Look: Possibly if what Dr. Ira Graves said about being Soong's mentor was true. Graves, while still old looking, didn't look anywhere as ancient as Soong does. This might be chalked up to makeup artists overdoing it when a younger actor is made up to play an elderly character. note