Friday, March 12, 2021

Star Trek: Brothers

Episode: "Brothers"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 3
Original Air Date: October 8, 1990

Data gets called home by his "father," cyberneticist Noonian Soong.  Soong finally has Data's emotion chip ready.  There are a few complications:
  1. In order to get home, Data - essentially unaware of what he's doing - must hijack the Enterprise.
  2. This disruption interferes with a desperate need for medical attention.  Young Willie Potts is suffering from parasites accidentally ingested on shore leave with his brother Jake.  There was an unfortunate practical joke involved.  This becomes an important parallel story with the primary narrative because...
  3. Lore unexpectedly responds to the homing command as well.
"Brothers" tends to do well on best episode lists but it doesn't do much for me.  It involves children and it includes Lore.  Those tend to be non-starters for me with Star Trek.  I've noticed patterns regarding the episodes other people seem to like that I don't: they tend to be either Data- or Q-focused stories.  We'll talk about Q again when he comes back so let's focus on Data for now.

I've addressed the basic problem before: Data doesn't grow.  It's an obvious shortcoming of the character parameters, I realize.  As such, Data stories tend to be more about philosophy than character.  Star Trek is often like that (more on that soon) but especially after such meaningful development for both Picard and Riker over the past three episodes, this feels like a let down.  Yes, we get more Data background and that's fun.  But Data doesn't change.  Apart from the revelation that Lore isn't dead (great...), the broader narrative hasn't moved forward at all.

There are exceptions to my bias, of course.  After all, The Offspring remains my favorite episode for the entire series.  But it's worth noting, Data himself is not the reason why.

Acting Notes

Cory Danziger (Jake Potts) was born February 7, 1977 in Los Angeles County, California.  He was a well-regarded child actor, achieving Young Actor Award nominations for his work in The 'Burbs, Married to the Mob and the Beauty and the Beast television series.  As an adult, he has been an entrepreneur within the visual and performing arts realms.  His projects:
  • Co-owner of SceneFour, focused on the release of collections of visual art created by professional musicians
  • Co-founder of Original Lefty's, a clothing line
  • Co-founder of Guitar Dojo
  • Partner in Bootsy Collins's Funk University, an online bass guitar school


  1. An episode I need to revisit, as I don’t have clear memories of it. But it’s pretty significant, as it begins the emotion chip arc that weaves through “Descent” and Generations. So to say it doesn’t feature any growth is fairly inaccurate.

    1. Well... okay.

      In the case of "Descent," it's another Lore episode so... great. On the other hand, it's also a Hugh episode and I love the Hugh story. It occurs to me just now that there are some strong Wizard of Oz elements in "Descent."

      As for Generations, I've only seen it once, in the theater so quite a long time ago.

    2. Seeing this happened way back in March, I’m not sure how proud I should be that I finally got around to rewatching “Brothers” today. The whole opening act is rife with intrigue that sort of sets up Picard, even its vision of aging and death. The biggest plot hole is how Data can do casually deactivate Lore and later B4, like there’s no other option. You may hate Lore, but it would be a totally different thing for him to return. Brent Spiner got tired of Data aging along with him, but there would be no real need to worry about that with Lore. It’s a story that really needs telling at some point. One imagines Picard himself becoming interested in the possibility.

      Anyway, obviously you dislike certain characters, but for someone like me, “Brothers” is an interesting episode. It even harkens back to the Roddenberry question of confronting creators (although you would have to be Lore, or be able to sympathize with him, to not think kindly of Soong).

    3. Yes, I can see appreciating this story form a philosophical perspective.

  2. I could never take Lore and when Brent Spiner played Lore and his dad or Data going crazy, I had a hard time not seeing his overacting. This and the others with Lore are not my favourite episodes.

  3. Yeah, I found this episode to be mediocre at best. And I feel the same way about Data-centered episode with "The Offspring" being the one magnificent exception.

    This sort of centers on one of my biggest complaints with TNG and the other 90's Star Trek series. They have a galaxy overflowing with cultures to play with along with super advanced technology akin to magic and their episodes rarely push beyond what the The Original Series accomplished.
    Yes, there are exceptions such as The Offspring and Yesterday's Enterprise, along with several others. The problem with my viewpoint is that I read a lot of hard science fiction by excellent writers that pushes the envelope on bunches of concepts.

    Long story short, I would love for Star Trek to hire writers like David Brin, Greg Bear, Alister Reynolds, or Peter F. Hamilton to do an episode or movie.

    1. On the bright side, with new spinoff series popping up seemingly weekly, there's plenty of room for some hard scifi. The current caretakers don't seem afraid to break from the model. Lower Decks is a fine example: not just a cartoon but a highly satirical one. It's refreshing.

  4. Vague memories of this one.
    I do like Lore for the sole reason that it gives Spiner an opportunity to stretch his acting muscles. I think he's been underrated as an actor since TNG quit.

    1. Maybe I need to see him in more stuff but I find he tends to overact.

  5. He was in 1776 on
    broadway 1998. Great voice.

    1. And before Trek, he was in Big River. The stage credentials are solid. And maybe that's part of the problem. The overacting one does out of necessity on stage can be too much on screen. I see that with Avery Brooks in DS9 sometimes, too. As good as he is, sometimes he pulls me out of the moment and I think it has to do with stage habits.

      On the other hand, Patrick Stewart never seems to have that problem...