Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990) – Brothers, and Suddenly Human

Captain’s log: stardate 44085.7

The theme of family which runs through this entire season of Next Generation is very prevalent here in this episode that was written by Rick Berman. First airing on 8 October, 1990, this is a very Brent Spiner-heavy episode.

A medical emergency necessitates a run to a nearby starbase, however, Data (Spiner) is acting peculiarly and commandeers the Enterprise, having received a strange, controlling signal.

Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the rest of the crew try to find a way to stop Data and reclaim the Enterprise, as well as save a young boy’s life.

Data, meanwhile, beams down to a nearby planet and encounters his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong (Spiner), who has summoned him and promises him a rare gift, an emotion chip.

Unfortunately, the android’s brother, Lore (also Spiner) has been summoned by the signal as well, and an uncomfortable family reunion takes place as Lore, Data and Soong, interact, and decide the fate of the emotion chip.

Spiner is exceptional, and watching how the characters interact with one another, one can easily forget that it’s the same performer creating all of them. Soong’s revelation that he is dying shocks both androids, but Lore’s reactions seem to suggest that despite his inclination, he does, in his way, need his creator, his father.

Of course, we know that anytime Lore shows up you now Data is going to have a problem or two… and this time is no exception. Lore makes off with the emotion chip, and Data loses his father, but the young boy, and his brother who were in need of medical help survive, and give us hope for the android siblings…

Star Trek The Next Generation 4.3

Captain’s log: stardate 44143.7

The theme of family continued on 15 October, 1990 with Suddenly Human, written by John Whelpley and Jeri Taylor from a story by Ralph Phillips.

Answering a distress call, the Enterprise comes across a Talerian vessel filled with young men going through a rite of passage, amongst them is a young human, Jono (Chad Allen) who has, as Crusher (Gates McFadden) discovers a long history of injuries and broken bones.

Recognising Picard’s authority, the two form a tenuous bond, even as the boy’s family history is revealed.

But his foster father, Captain Endar (Sherman Howard) also comes looking for him, and while it’s obvious he cares for the boy, Jono’s reawakened familial memories begin to come to the fore.

The Talerian culture is vastly different from that of the human one in the Federation, which brings into question all manner of things, including patriarchy, equality and even abuse.

The story also pushes Picard out of his comfort zone, as he is forced to mentor and interact with Jono, something he is not used to doing. It also shows him that he believes in the axiom a place for everything and everything in its place – his quarters are pristine,  organised and he is troubled by the casual way Jono handles things.

It doesn’t delve as deeply into the concepts and issues that could be explored in the Talerian culture, those that we as a viewing audience could be troubled by, and see our own society in it.

The story plays it safe, sticking to family, but misses a bigger opportunity to explore other concepts.

The Human Adventure continues Thursday…


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