"Inheritance"

Season Seven, Episode 10
Written by Dan Koeppel and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data
 

Guest Cast:
Fionnula Flanagan as Dr Juliana Tainer
William Lithgow as Pran Tainer
 

"In every way that matters, Juliana Soong is human."
-- Noonian Soong

Synopsis:
 
The ship is on a mission to re-liquify the molten core of Atrea IV, when one of the scientists, Juliana Tainer, takes an interest in Data. She explains that she was married to his creator, Noonian Soong, at the time of his creation -- in a way, she is his mother. Data is initially sceptical, but soon begins to accept her word. She explains that she left Soong when he became too immersed in his work and shamefully admits that she made him leave Data behind on Omicron Theta when the Crystalline Entity had attacked. She had been worried that he would turn out like his evil twin, Lore. However, the two make up for lost time and share an interest in music, performing a violin duet together.

Following an earthquake on the planet, they beam down to retrieve equipment, only to encounter another quake. Data finds Juliana unconscious with her arm broken off -- confirming his suspicion that she is an android herself. Data finds a chip in her brain in which Dr Soong explains that the real Juliana had died on Omicron Theta and he had built an android body to house her mind without her ever knowing that she wasn't a "real" person. Soong urges Data not to tell her the truth, but Data feels that she has a right to know. Eventually he decides not to tell Juliana the truth, thus not robbing her of the very thing he has always sought -- humanity.


Review:

This one is actually a good deal better than I remembered. What had stuck with me was the silly tech sub-plot involving the stabilising of earthquakes and the rather improbable revelation that Juliana was an android (yeah, like you wouldn't notice if you were a robot!). But in spite of this, at its best Inheritance is a poignant, well-observed character piece boasting some delightful performances. Fionnula Flanagan (who appeared in DS9's Dax) is wonderful as Juliana, delivering an amiable, engaging and convincing performance. Brent Spiner is of course his usual excellent self, both as Data and in a brief but compelling appearance as a holographic Noonian Soong. Much of the interaction between "mother and son" is handled well, filling in a lot of Data's background and enabling us to more clearly understand the circumstances around his creation. 

Not all of it worked, for instance, Juliana's dark secret (that she was responsible for leaving Data behind on Omicron Theta) while reasonable, felt a bit too melodramatic and forced from where I was sitting. And, truth be told, I invariably find Data's musical recitals pretty excruciating, but that, I admit, may stem from my dislike of the violin! There's also the unfortunate, aforementioned sub-plot, evidently a hold-over from the season five, the year of the phoney, overblown "jeopardy" B-plot. Thankfully it is confined to only a few scenes and therefore doesn't intrude too much upon the far more compelling main plot.

As enjoyable as the Data/Juliana interaction is, the real meat of the story doesn't arrive until the final act with the revelation that Juliana is -- unbeknownst to herself -- actually an android. Frankly, I still have problems accepting that whereas Data and Lore are clearly androids (Data can't even speak entirely like a human, for Pete's sake!) Juliana is so perfectly human that there isn't the slightest hint that she's not. I have extreme problems believing that all these years, she's never had the slightest suspicion that there might be something different about her. But while the concept is a little hard to swallow, I must say the notion of Soong not wanting to lose the woman he loved and transferring her consciousness  into an android was poignant, if not entirely original. The irony was that, in the true style of a "great mind", he began to neglect her in favour of his workand she left him. But Soong pleads with Data not to tell Juliana the truth about her existence: "In every way that matters, Juliana Soong is human".

This presents a wrenching moral dilemma for Data; does he tell Juliana that she is an android and in doing so throw her whole life into turmoil, or does he with-hold the truth? Both sides of the argument are well-presented to the extent that I could relate to both sides. Data's ultimate decision, although perhaps not the logical choice was certainly the compassionate one. One gets the impression that this situation brings Data a leap closer toward his own humanity, by refusing to rob Juliana of her's. Along with a touching coda, this makes for extremely compelling, thought-provoking viewing. It's rather a shame that the entire episode wasn't as consistently strong as its riveting final act, but given the dreadful episode that precedes this, I'm not complaining. Not perfect, but nice work. 

Rating: 7.5


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