7 June 2015


Episode: s4, ep 3

More Brent for your buck.

What Happens
A child is told off by Riker. While his parents were absent he played on prank on his little brother, Enterprise rushes him to a medical facility. He is unsurprisingly reluctant to forgive his brother. Data stops talking mid-sentence, twitches a little, goes to the Bridge and blankly commandeers the Enterprise. He gets everyone else off the Bridge by shutting off the life support, impersonates Picard's voice to access command functions and cuts the rest of the ship off from the Computer. Down in Engineering Geordi and Picard don't know what's happening or where they're now going, all they can do is deactivate the transporters.
tricking the little boy into thinking he had killed him. The boy ran and hid, then ate some fruit with parasites that made him dangerously ill and really infectious. The younger brother is stuck in quarantine under Dr Crusher's care as the

When the Enterprise gets to where Data is going he sets up forcefields to follow him to the transporter room, making it impossible for Security to get to him. In the transporter room he traps Riker and O'Brien in a transporter and beams down to a jungle planet. He goes into a cluttered workshop/laboratory and meets an old man who reawakens Data to himself. This is Dr Soong, the scientist who created Data. He was thought to have died on the colony where Data was found, but he escaped before its destruction. He's lived in hiding for years, but kept an eye on Data's exploits. The pair ask about each other and Soong is confused about Data's choice to enter Star Fleet. Then Lore -the android created before Data- arrives unexpectedly.

On the Enterprise Geordi uses the quarantine field around the sick child to deactivate the forcefields Data put around the Bridge. They still can't do much and time is running out for the little boy. Geordi suggests they may be able to put the Computer in training mode and use something in the transporter to convince it that they're Data and beam after him to find out what's happening. On the planet Lore is angry at Dr Soong and prepares to storm out, but Soong announces that he's dying. Data warns Soong that Lore can't be trusted, and mentions his murderous tendencies. Soong feels guilty about dismantling Lore and didn't know he'd been reassembled or he'd have helped him. Soong says that Lore is not superior to Data, then reveals an emotion chip he made just for Data so he can integrate better. Lore is resentful and while Soong is napping he deactivates Data and swaps clothes with him. After Soong has installed the chip Lore reveals the switch, attacks Soong then beams away.

An away team arrives, reactivates Data and demands to know what's happening. Soong tells Data how to access his suppressed memories and Data apologies for the inconvenience he caused to the Enterprise. Despite the urgent time limit Rker allows Data a moment alone with his father. Data says he cannot mourn him, but he tries to be comforting as Soong dies.

Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
Here Riker fulfils the function Picard set him when they first met, of dealing with children so that the Captain doesn't have to. Riker formally reprimands the boy for playing his cruel prank, which does seem to impress the guilty child sufficiently. This is the main background we get about the incident. I wonder how often Riker has to pause his duties to tell off children? I get the impression this is unusual in its seriousness.

Does Not Compute
I know a big part of Data's stated characterisation is that he doesn't have emotions, but as I've said here before, he sort of does. It's more that his emotions are mild and he doesn't acknowledge them as such. This episode gives us a truly emotionless, characterless Data, performing with machine efficiency as he commandeers the Enterprise and goes to Dr Soong. He says and does nothing that isn't entirely necessary to his goal. It's scary that what makes Data an individual can be overridden so completely. This is what makes him non-human, not his failed attempts at understanding humanity. Data's defining personality trait is curiosity and when he encounters Soong he experiences that strongly and asks him questions about his creation. After Lore's arrival Data learns that his brother previously lied about their respective natures. Lore is not superior. It takes Data a few tries to actually process this revelation, seems like a fairly emotional reaction to unexpected parental validation. Data feels concern about Lore attacking Soong, and about Soong making him delay the Enterprise. He tells his dying father that he can't mourn him, again underestimating his own emotional capacity. Though I suppose that if he mourns Soong in the way he mourns Lal he'll never mention him again.

Soong expresses curiosity about Data's choices. He wanted Data to go into cybernetics, because why shouldn't your robotic children follow in your footsteps? Data completely fails to mention Lal, even though she's relevant to the conversation. Soong would view her as his granddaughter and an impressive next step in cybernetics (self-replication), even if she didn't last long. I guess they really are never going to mention her again. Soong feels fatherly affection and responsibility towards both Data and Lore, and is greatly regretful that he didn't do more for Lore. He ignores Data's warnings that Lore is dangerous, even though I'd assume that was the reason he dismantled Lore in the first place. Though given his behaviour I suspect Soong leans towards amoral. It seems odd that Soong can't tell them apart, they may be identical but if anyone can tell the difference it should be their father-creator. Soong acknowledges that Data's lack of full emotions is a handicap, which is why he called Data in for an emotion chip upgrade. As Soong is dying he acknowledges that Data will mourn him in his own way, suggesting the old man is more aware of Data's capacity for feeling than Data himself.

Lore is sarcastic, angry and mocking, just like in his first appearance. His arrival is unexpected and he's ready to storm out, until he hears his father is dying. This upsets Lore, who quickly goes into denial about it. It is one of the few genuine moments we get from Lore that is free from bitterness. Soong reveals that the androids are identical besides some programming, I guess Lore got all the murdery jerk programming. Lore shows resentment and bitterness towards his father and snaps at Data (though I could see that Data was being irritating). Though he does seem sort of pleased or at least interested in Data getting emotions and suggests Data might be able to understand or forgive him. Despite this he impersonates Data to get what he wants, this time the emotion chip. It's not clear why Lore even wants it, he already has emotions and none of them seem good. I guess he just wants what his brother is getting, a typical sibling response. The chip wasn't made for Lore and Soong is alarmed at what it'll do, but we don't get to see that. Lore has installed a transporter in his thumbnail, which is really useful. I wonder if Data was more willing to embrace his android nature whether he would get some cool upgrades, like laser eyes or something?

Doctor Doctor
Crusher looks after the little quarantined boy. Keeping his spirits up with jokes as well as monitoring him in his isolation unit. Like the other adults she is keen to encourage reconciliation, even though I feel like the younger kid deserves some space for his anger. He speaks eloquently about his situation for one so young, and makes clear that he is not ready to forgive, regardless of whether it suits others that he do so. He's also aware that he might die, which is sad. When the power from the medical quarantine forcefield is used to undo Data's ones Crusher sits with the boy the whole time, even though it's very dangerous. Part of me thinks maybe she should be wearing a bio-hazard suit or spacesuit, but I guess that would worry the kid and her goal is to reassure him despite the danger.
Crusher mentions April Fools, which got me wondering do they still have April? Everything seems to be in stardates and you can't really have months in space. Maybe it still happens on Earth. Has this kid ever been to Earth? He seems pretty embedded in the Star Fleet system.

Security Breach
Maybe put a firewall on the android. Not the first time it's a problem, won't be the last. Might not have helped in this case as Soong's homing beacon was part of Data's programming and he presumably has the IP address and all the passwords. But still, it's best that people/entities/weird-space-things don't remote-access a senior crew member.

This episode reveals major issues with the Computer/Ship setup too:
1. Don't let anyone casually shut down life support where there are people. Surely this should need more than a few button pushes? Maybe it should be locked to Captain-only authorisation? Or maybe two senior crew members have to give the order?

2. Voice commands are a security nightmare. Data convinced the Computer he was Picard by voice alone. Not the first time this has happened either (Wesley in the 2nd episode, though that was only broadcast, not command). Recording devices exist, as do speech simulators, so that's a problem right there. Maybe have something other than/alongside voice control? Especially as you have to say command codes out loud, where people can hear. What's wrong with keying in a code or a biometric scan or something?

3. Crew location detection should be part of security. Data was able to impersonate Picard even though the Computer must have known that only Data was on the airless Bridge and Picard was in Engineering. It's not like Data took Picard's comm badge (which would've been a nice touch, though I guess it may not have made any more sense). Surely establishing the location of the Captain should be a key part of any automatic security checks done as part of a high-level command changes?

4. Use the forcefields better. I didn't think the internal forcefields could be used the way Data uses them here, because there have been various times before when that would have been useful and no one did it. I'd assumed that level of security/containment tech was a Deep Space Nine thing.

5. Plan for this stuff. They have to ask the Computer to figure out what stun setting can take out Data. Why not use kill? It's designed for biological creatures and Data can be repaired. In Worf's role shouldn't he have a plan for how to take Data out if it comes to it? I mean it's not a happy thought, but Data is stronger/faster/better than everyone else and obviously poses a threat if he malfunctions. Plus it's not as though they've never had to deal with a homocidal android before (Lore, again). I get the sense that Worf is a fairly reactive security chief, and it's not as though he's allowed to act on his more aggressive instincts even when a situation does comes up. Odo would have had a plan.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Riker tells off the kid, revealing the details of the worrying prank incident and it's aftermath.
2. Senior crew discuss how to regain some control of the ship and get to Data to find out what's happening.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
I would like to take a moment to ask about the situation with these two kids. The younger is nine, the elder is like 13, but they are left on a starship while both parents go on sabbatical? Where have the parents even gone that this was the safer alternative? Are there no relatives or family friends who live in safe, settled places? Maybe these utopic Federation planets we never see. Riker agreed to this on the condition that the children behave themselves, as if saying that has ever made it happen. The prank went badly wrong, but even so the elder kid seems to need a certain level of supervision if this is what he does without it. Plus there no suggestion of punishment. I know he already feels bad but wouldn't a punishment help reinforce things and make his victim feel better? Riker's words suggest that the parents came to him with the idea of leaving their young sons behind, rather than being ordered away. I'm side-eyeing these people so hard. Was anyone else assigned to the boys' care? Are they staying with another family on the ship? Are there teachers/carers/guardians involved? Who knows? Troi seems to be minding the older kid, but is she just his liaison for official stuff? At first I thought they were playing in a holodeck, but if the younger one got an infectious parasite they must have been messing around on a planet. Do kids visit planets unattended? How often does this kind of thing happen? I mean Dr Crusher left Wesley on the Enterprise and it was never made clear who was actually responsible for him day-to-day, but at least Wesley was part of the crew structure and nearly an adult. Seriously Star Fleet is a child protection nightmare.
Picard suggests separating the saucer section to Geordi, a rarity for him. Though given Wesley's shocked reaction doing this at warp is really risky. This doesn't have anything to do with preserving the vulnerable members of the community, they'd be stuck with Data. It's just a way for Picard to get control of part of the ship.

The End
The ship got to a medical facility in time and the boy is still quarantined but is recovering. Data watches as the young brothers play with dinosaur toys he brought from Dr Soong's rooms. Crusher tells Data that brothers forgive, Data considers this. Just in case you hadn't realised that the plotline with the two kids was a metaphor for Data and Lore.

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