77 – Brothers

Grade: B-

Brothers (1990) on IMDb


A young boy on the Enterprise is in critical condition after having eaten fruit containing some lethal parasites. He needs emergency medical attention from a starbase. Suddenly, Commander Data takes control of the Enterprise and changes course to an unknown destination.


Brent Spiner plays three substantial roles in this episode: Commander Data, his “brother” Lore, and his “father”, Dr. Noonien Soong. He seems to have the most fun playing the undisciplined character, Lore. It must have been nice to finally get to relax and not have to act so stiff all the time. Spiner’s performance is fine, but I’m not convinced in the least that Dr. Soong was really an old man. It’s too obvious that they used the same actor to play the part. The only reason to have done this was to show that Dr. Soong used his own face as the mold to create Data and Lore. The problem is that the makeup used to make Spiner look old just isn’t very realistic at all. I was never convinced for a second that he was really an old man. Again, Spiner’s performance had nothing to do with it, though I think he could have tried a little harder to sound like an old man when he spoke. But I was very distracted by the mediocre makeup job. It should have been fine to use a completely different actor instead.

So right about now, if you’ve seen all of the episodes of this series, you’re wondering what I thought of when they made Picard look older in several other episodes. The most notable of these is The Inner Light, when Picard lives out his life on a dying planet. I admit the makeup isn’t much of an improvement in that episode either. But the difference is that we know that needs to be Picard and we realize another older actor probably could not have pulled it off. In Brothers, though, the difference is that any older actor could have played the role of Dr. Soong without causing any credibility problems with the storyline. I think they just wanted to use Spiner for all three roles. It was a nice idea, but it was not executed well and rather distracting.

Another problem that I have with this episode is the very distracting storyline of the two brothers on board the Enterprise. I suppose it adds some dramatic tension to the plot to have a boy in a battle for his life, but really, this episode is about an entirely different family. I was much more interested in hearing Data’s backstory than on seeing the boy on the Enterprise still not getting any better and still not forgiving his brother. This is going to sound really bad, but it was just tedious every time the focus of the story switched back from Data to the boy on in Sickbay. There was nothing new about his condition. It was as if Rick Berman just wanted to remind us what was at stake here, since we might have forgotten about it by then.

But there’s another problem with this storyline. What possible reason could there have been to bring a plant onto the Enterprise that bears a poisonous fruit? The plant wouldn’t be there naturally; it would have had to have been brought on board deliberately. This makes no sense whatsoever. But this isn’t the whole story. The plant was left alone in a place where a boy could eat its fruit and almost die. Were there no warning signs? Was the fruit out in the open and not behind a protective glass? Wasn’t it simply a matter of time before the fruit would kill some unsuspecting victim? But what’s even worse than a poisonous plant being on the ship in the first place is that Dr. Crusher is totally unprepared to treat anyone who accidentally (or deliberately, for that matter) eats this fruit. So someone authorized bringing this plant onto the ship, allowed it to thrive and grow without any barricades or signs, and no preparations were made in case of accidental ingestion. Wow. The negligence is mind-boggling. I can’t imagine the lawsuit waiting to happen when this boy’s parents come back aboard the Enterprise.

I realize the boy’s condition is a plot device, designed to create a bit of dramatic tension. But I really think they should have thought this one out a bit before they filmed it. They could have done just about anything. But instead, they fabricate a poisonous fruit and tell us that Dr. Crusher can’t do anything about it to save the person who eats it. That’s the best you can do?

An excellent performance by Brent Spiner is ruined in this episode because of some bad writing and a poorly thought-out plot. With a better setup, I would have rated this one much higher.

Of Note

I thought it was funny when Lore said that he floated around in space for two years until the Pakleds found him. If you remember, those are the aliens who pretended to be stupid so they could kidnap Geordi LaForge and steal technology from the Enterprise. Honestly, I’d love to have seen the episode where they meet Lore. That would probably have been really funny.

This is the first of five episodes that Rick Berman wrote for this series.