Star Trek: The Next Generation is thirty years old this month! To celebrate, Redeeming Culture is assembling the finest crew of culture redeemers from all over the internet to investigate the spiritual harmonies in this cornerstone of science fiction.
For more about Trektember, read our preview post. Please note that there are minor plot spoilers for this episode below.
Redeeming Culture’s Ryan Earnhart is back for season 4, episode 3: Brothers.
Before I go any further, the enjoyment of this particular episode would, I feel, be much diminished without a bit of mystery during about the first third; so, again, spoiler alert! I suggest watching the episode before reading this article. Also, there is definitely some overlap in the themes of this episode and “Family” that came before it, so I will just cover the new ones or the ways they may be different from the ones in “Family”.
As I’ve said about another episode, Data is my favorite character in Star Trek; and this has him at the center of the plot and in full focus.
So the story starts and ends with young boys on the ship that are brothers. One’s practical joke puts the other at risk of death unless they can get to a proper facility in time. But the more interesting story revolves around Data finding out his inventor is not dead (yet), and neither is his older brother Lore. The inventor is dying and wants to see Data before he dies; but was unaware that Lore was functional enough to have ever returned to the homing beacon.
The mysterious part of the episode really doesn’t offer much in the themes and topics department so we’ll skip to when Data meets his maker. He doesn’t recognize his “father” at first because of aging, and Data had no idea that he could be alive. There are two questions I get from this:
- Are we unable to recognize something when we don’t believe it can exist—even if it’s in front of us?
- Can we recognize our maker?
A couple of heavy ones there, but worth the time and effort to really explore and discover those answers for yourself.
Next, the doctor quizzes Data on some of the things he typically would ask someone else. Why are humans fascinated with the past? (see last episode) But he ties the conversation into a need for continuity and immortality, even to the point of suggesting procreation is for this reason (see the other Data-centered episode, “The Offspring”). Since the other ideas and themes were in previous episodes, think about this: do you think that it’s ok, or feels more ok, to die- if there is someone/something that is going to live on for you?
The development of plot with Dr. Noonien Soong is pretty complex, with both androids feeling inferior to the other, either in design or their father’s good favor. So here’s some things to think about their situation:
- If Dr. Soong did love Data more, and made Data inferior to Lore (which he claims both were not true) who should be more upset?
- Look at the different reactions between Lore and Data when Dr. Soong tells them their fears/insecurities are unfounded.
- How good/bad are emotions? (Basic or otherwise)
- What happens when brothers don’t forgive each other—and what happens when they do?
In true Data fashion, the episode asks more questions than it answers. Let’s not run from those questions.
• • •
Thanks for reading Trektember on Redeeming Culture. David Lichty returns tomorrow for a look at a very family-focused episode: Reunion. See you then!
• • •
Ryan Earnhart is a film, TV, video game, comics, cartoon, and Pepsi fan, and one of Redeeming Culture’s editors. You can find his work strewn about this site, as well as on the 3D Podcast. He’s on Twitter and Letterboxd as zobijayo.