Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “Datalore”

Written by Robert Lewin and Gene Roddenberry, Story by Robert Lewin and Maurice Hurley
Directed by Rob Bowman

Season 1, Episode 13
Original air date: January 18, 1988
Star date: 41242.4

Mission summary

Enterprise is passing near the planet where the android Lt. Commander Data was found, so Picard decides to make a short detour in the hopes of unearthing fresh clues to the fate of the colonists who disappeared twenty-six years before.

The away team discovers that since Starfleet was last there, Data’s homeworld has become completely lifeless. They return to the manmade crevice where Data was first activated, and La Forge detects a hidden door with his VISOR. They enter the vast underground laboratory of Khan Noonian Singh Dr. Noonien Soong, a brilliant roboticist who they now realize was Data’s father. They also happen across another android that looks just like Data—some assembly required.

Dr. Crusher and a team of Enterprise engineers manage to put Data’s double back together. He introduces himself as Lore, claiming to be the replacement for his imperfect brother. Data doesn’t quite buy it, but the new, more human android quickly charms the crew and enrolls in the standard “How to Take Over a Starfleet Vessel” seminar that is offered to all guests on Enterprise.

It turns out that Dr. Soong built Lore first, but he was forced to dismantle him because the colonists complained that he was too human. Lore also reveals what happened to the colony: They were attacked by an alien being, a “Crystalline Entity,” which sucked all life from the planet. The scheming android fails to mention that they’re BFFs; in fact, Lore brought the creature to the planet in the first place. Jerk.

Lore disables Data, steals his identity, and summons the Crystalline Entity to Enterprise for dessert. Wesley groks the switcheroo when Lore slips up and uses a contraction, something that Data isn’t capable of (as of this episode). No one believes the boy until Lore slips up again: he fails to recognize Picard’s catchphrase, “Make it so.”

Now under surveillance, the duplicitous android easily knocks out Worf and evades the crack security team following him from a discreet distance of three feet. Lore heads to the cargo bay to communicate with the entity. Dr. Crusher finds Data unconscious in his quarters and switches him back on so he can confront his brother.

With Wesley’s help—of course—Data transports Lore into deep space, and the Crystalline Entity beats a hasty retreat. All that remains is for Data to get back into uniform and for Enterprise to head for its next mishap.


First season or no, this has always been one of my favorite episodes. There’s something compelling about the idea of encountering a long lost relative, and an identical twin at that. Lore’s introduction presents an opportunity to explore all of Data’s identity issues at once: his feeling of loneliness, his desire to be more human, his questions about his origins, and the matter of his mechanical nature. There’s enough material here for several episodes, and indeed, better stories will delve into each of these themes more successfully than “Datalore.”

The tale of sibling rivalry is older than the Bible. This episode directly taps into the jealousy between Cain and Abel, with Data cast as “his brother’s keeper,” just as season four’s “Brothers” riffs on Esau and Jacob. Much of the discomfort caused by Lore’s sudden appearance is handled very well, with Data’s crewmates forced to acknowledge the fact that he is a machine. Even the subplot concerning the disappearance of the colony ties in more satisfactorily, and even surprisingly, than we’ve seen in most episodes so far this season. The mystery is interesting and the brutal existence of the Crystalline Entity has monstrous implications that are barely touched upon here. One of the best details is the fact that Data stores the memories of more than 400 human colonists, a remarkable aspect to his character which I wish had been better exploited throughout the series.

Then there’s the startling realization that the only thing separating Data, a character most viewers probably like at least a little bit by now, and his psychotic counterpart is their programming. In fact, one wonders why Soong had to build an entirely different android from scratch when he could have just scrapped the original brain or reprogrammed its software. Soft sentimentality, no doubt. I was struck, however, by their different, yet similar names. There is a cold, distant quality to Data’s name, while “Lore” sounds more romantic, more human, more appealing (consider it as a homynym of “lure,” which he does with the Crystalline Entity); interesting that it is Data who is the living archive of the experiences of the human colonists, while his brother–who actually knew these people–is more calculating and unfeeling.

The biggest drawback to this episode is that it requires too much suspension of disbelief. The show basically ignores the continuity of the original series, in which sophisticated androids appeared all the time. Even worse, it retcons the fact that Data can’t—excuse me, cannot—use contractions. As the crew literally puts the pieces together, with a fair bit of clumsy exposition, and realizes that Data is a Soong-type android, it seems ridiculous that no one figured out his origin before this. They talk of “Asimov’s dream of a positronic brain” and how Soong failed… while they’re hanging out with proof that it was more than a dream. It seems Starfleet has never bothered to study Data before now! Shouldn’t they have detailed schematics of him by now? And why didn’t anyone returned to investigate the missing colony?

The ending is also pretty weak and anticlimactic, considering the buildup. Lore tips his hand pretty early, then continues with his original plan as though he hadn’t just knocked out a Klingon and escaped armed officers. Data defeats him by tossing him into a transporter and beaming him into space. (Hello, he’s an android! This is just going to piss him off.) And the mighty Crystalline Entity, devourer of worlds, just runs away.

Even if the show’s producers didn’t know it at the time, this episode only gave us the first part of a story that would not pay off for years. Data and Lore’s story arc would continue into the feature films, and even the story of the Crystalline Entity—and most intriguingly, Data’s memories of the colonists—would not reach a conclusion until season five.

When I think about “Datalore,” I find myself anticipating the many excellent stories to come, so those may influence my appreciation of this episode as the start of it all. On the other hand, it also reminds me of B4 from Star Trek Nemesis, and anything seems better than that.

On a happier note, we’re halfway through season one!

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: No real fashion disasters here, but I’ll point out that I liked how Lore’s jumpsuit echoes the colors of Data’s Starfleet uniform. And though I won’t post any screencaps, did anyone else notice that Data seemed kind of, well, chilly in that Spandex for most of the episode?

Best Line: Multiple: “Shut up, Wesley!”

Trivia/Other Notes: Lore was originally intended to be a female android as a love interest for Data, but Brent Spiner suggested the “evil twin” concept. Coincidentally, this gave him more screen time.

This was the last episode of Star Trek written by Gene Roddenberry. At least he went out on a decent note.

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Big Goodbye.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 14 – “Angel One.”

About Eugene Myers

E(ugene).C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He has published four novels and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, most recently 1985: Stori3s from SOS. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy. He currently writes for the science fiction serial ReMade from Serial Box Publishing.