Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 3 – “Brothers” – The Legacies We Leave Behind

   “Brothers” is the best exploration of Soong and his creations that we get in “The Next Generation.” I wish we’d gotten more of this. This is one of the best episodes of “The Next Generation” and is an amazing story. Brent Spiner plays both Soong, Lore and Data in this episode and he gives quite the performance. I’ll get into more of what I mean later on but this is easily one of Spiner’s greatest performances.

The episode was written by Rick Berman and directed by Robert Bowman.

When Data takes control of the Enterprise, he takes them off course to a mysterious planet. The crew must get control back of the ship before one of the children under their care dies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Taking Back The Ship – The main storyline for the crew involve them taking back control of the ship after Data locks them all out. It is very well done as we see all the main crew involved. O’Brien gets to use the transporter to trick the ship thinking Data has returned and we see the crew working together to solve Data’s hacks of their system. I could watch an episode of the crew taking back the ship any day of the week. The crew has such a great dynamic and I love seeing them problem solve.

Stories of Brothers – This episode is a story of brothers. The episode starts with one brother scaring his brother leading him him getting poisoned and their arc of making peace with another. On the other side you have Lore arrive when Soong calls Data and the resentment Lore has towards Data as Data makes peace that he is not lesser than Lore. We see how complicated relationships between brothers are and it is handled really beautifully.

Lore – Lore is called back by accident and that stings him. Soong believed that Lore was dead so his thoughts were only ever on Data. Even with Lore present though he cannot fix Lore and this feeds Lore’s resentment of Data and their father Soong. This leads to him stealing the emotion chip meant for Data and killing Soong. Lore is shown to be capable of some level of care though as he empathizes with Data at one point and his desire to be fixed shows he knows that there are problems in the actions he has done.

Data – This is Data’s story as he returns to his creator to be given an emotion chip. Over the course of the episode we see Data naturally develop more human like traits. He calls Soong Father before he dies and asks to be alone with Soong. These are all things that he would not have done before and show that even without the emotion chip he is still developing in his humanity. We also see how Data outmatches the entire crew as he locks them off the bridge and the episode is solving the problems he put in place while being controlled by Soong. This is a plot point I wish had gotten more exploration later.

Soong and Legacy – Soong bring’s Data to him in order to fulfill his legacy as his creator. He creates an emotion chip that is meant for Data but the mistake of his legacy in Lore leads to him getting killed. He was chased out by the Colonists and Lore was always trying to hurt and kill others. Soong never takes responsibility for Lore’s actions and his relationship with Data is him wishing Data would be a scientist like him. In the end Lore and Data live on as he dies from his illness and Lore and we see the parts of Soong in his children. Lore has his disconnect from others and selfishness while Data has his inquisitive nature and desire to be more.

Okay:

Urgency of B-Plot – The need for the little brother to be healed and get to the starbase loses the sense of urgency once the crew has taken back the ship. I felt a line or two as to why this was would have strengthened the end of this plot.

Brent Spiner does a truly beautiful job playing all three characters and is really the main reason to see this episode. You learn more about Soong, Data and Lore and you also get to see the crew be competent and problem solve. I love how this story explores legacy and family through Soong’s relationship to his children and their choices and actions. This lends an emotional weight that makes the episode perfect.

Final Score: 10 / 10. An amazing exploration of family and legacy.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episodes 21-22 – “Darth Maul’s Return Arc” – Why Did They Bring Maul Back?

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   Generally in fiction it is a bad idea to bring back someone who has already died. Shaak Ti in “Star Wars” died multiple times before she finally had her worst death in “The Force Unleashed” where she was killed by one of the biggest blandest Mary Stus to come out of this Universe. From this episode bringing back Darth Maul was the exact same problem, it took away from the development of Savage Opress and took off focus from the Clone Wars to retread ground we had already walked back in Episode 1, as well as giving a chance for Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council to act stupid. There were some things that worked about this arc though, and I’ll go into detail on what those things were.

    “Brothers” was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Katie Lucas who also wrote “Revenge.” “Revenge” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.

    The story involves Opress finding Darth Maul his brother driven mad by his rage and being left behind. After he helps his brother find himself again he takes him to Mother Talzin who restores his legs and from here Opress and Maul set a trap for Obi-Wan by luring him to a village by slaughtering all the men, women and children in it. From here the story unfolds as Obi-Wan and Ventress work together as Ventress was brought to the world in her search for the Bounty on Opress.

The Pros: Savage Opress – This guy is unhinged and really powerful in the force. Everywhere he goes people get hurt and you get the idea that when he was pumped full of Darkside magic he lost all sense of self. He is still an agent of Talzin and the Darkside but beyond that there is very little that makes him human. It’s very cool to see this in his interactions with others too.

Ventress – Ventress arrives and saves Obi-Wan’s life when Maul is torturing him. They have a great dynamic and she is good at establishing that this isn’t entirely out of the goodness of her heart. Their banter is great and we see that she has continued to grow as a duelist.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan gets schooled, which he kind of deserved since he didn’t take a Jedi Task Force with him (which Yoda stupidly consented too) and he nearly dies because of that. He only just escapes because of Ventress hunting Opress. He is fun in this though and he takes his battering and bruising with a smile and mocks Darth Maul a lot.

Revenge on the Galaxy – In the end Maul and Opress plot revenge against the Jedi and the galaxy and it is a good moment too as it shows that they are beyond the personal and have the potential to be an actual threat the galaxy.

The Cons: Darth Maul – There was no reason to bring this guy back and when we first see him he is insane…and even after he finds balance again we don’t really get his motivation beyond revenge against Obi-Wan. This idea could have worked if we’d seen him have some greater purpose beyond killing Obi-Wan, but we don’t which means it was a retreated of the Episode 1 fight for all intents and purposes.

The Idiocy of Personal Vendettas – Yoda says Obi-Wan should finish it on it’s own and gives Obi-Wan full reign to be an idiot. They knew how powerful Darth Maul was, so sending one person who didn’t know his current abilities was a recipe for disaster and felt the whole “Hero has to do for reasons” syndrome that is overdone in fiction.

I’m against bringing back characters who are dead, there is no point and it is largely just for fan service. There has to be a really good reason to write something in that stupid and so far the writers have not justified it to me. Maul sells toys, that doesn’t mean he should come back. This was a major reason I could not enjoy the episode and have trouble recommending it, even though it was decent.

Final Score: 7 / 10