Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Next Generation 7x1 "Descent, Part 2"

rating: ***

the story: Data confronts Lore one last time.

what it all means: The seventh season of The Next Generation is often slagged as being meaningless space-filler material, after the grand storytelling contributions of the previous four seasons that measurably added to the legacy of Star Trek.  In contrast, "Descent, Part 2" already seems like it's treading water in comparison to predecessors like "Time's Arrow, Part 2" (sixth season premiere, finally explains why Guinan and Picard mean so much to each other), "Redemption, Part 2" (fifth season premiere, which concludes the Klingon epic), and the mother of them all, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" (fourth season premiere, which finishes out a universally-acclaimed classic chapter in franchise history).

In contrast, "Descent, Part 2" seems to confirm all the neutering of the Borg established in its sixth season finale predecessor, and makes the whole thing more of a resolution of Data's relationship with Lore than anything else.  The later Enterprise fourth season premiere,"'Storm Front, Parts 1 & 2," similarly finishes up an arc (the equally long-standing Temporal Cold War) with a somewhat dismissive gesture.

What does it all mean?  As a Data/Lore episode, it's perhaps the most satisfying one from the whole series.  For once, Lore is at the advantage, and instead of trying to get Data out of the way, tries to get him to be more like himself, which is perhaps more chilling than the struggles Data experiences in the first part of the story, where no one really knows what's going on.  On that score, "Part 2" is definitely a step up from "Part 1."  But then, its conclusions are troubling.  Data simply decides to switch Lore off, indefinitely.  This is cold reasoning from Data, something that doesn't seem to be supported by the many other episodes where he championed not only his own rights, but those of his offspring as well.

It's tough to reconcile "Part 2" with the ideals of the series or franchise around it.  There are multiple episodes where characters find redemption.  "Part 2" doesn't even seem to consider that as an option, and worse still, Lore is never seen again.  A different Soong android pops up in Star Trek Nemesis, and one of the fascinating thing about that movie fans rarely consider is that it's an odd kind of redemption for Data, because initially he considers treating B4 the same way he does Lore, but eventually relents, with a little help from his friends, which ends up being justified.  That's the Star Trek message in a nutshell, no matter how many irredeemable villains there might be (even Dukat in Deep Space Nine had periods where he could be seen in a positive light).

"Part 2" is an important episode in the overall scheme of Next Generation, and it does set a tone for the season, in which other episodes question whether redemption really is possible.  More often than not, the conclusions are far different from the ones Data reaches in this episode, which actually serves to demonstrate his limitations, where more often than not he didn't seem to have any, except his ability to behave as a human would.

That being said, its limitations prevent "Part 2" from fulfilling its promise, even if those same limitations open up the season to go deeper into Next Generation's psyche than had ever been attempted. 

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Is not a great representation of the franchise.
  • series - Is a good representation of the series.
  • character - Is a good representation of a character.
  • essential - Is an essential episode for Data, and the series.
notable guest-stars:
Brent Spiner (Lore)
Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh)
James Horan


  1. Sounds like an interesting episode. I always liked Data as a character.

  2. He's easily one of Star Trek's most interesting characters.


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