Inheritance (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 10) A scientist introduces herself as Data’s “mother”

Rewatching ST:TNG

Within minutes of hearing about a problem with a planet’s molten core, LaForge comes up with a solution that Data and the visiting scientists from Atrea are convinced will work. 

One of the visitors, Dr. Juliana Tainer, introduces herself to Data as a colleague of his creator Dr. Soong. In fact, because she was married to Soong, she considers herself Data’s “mother.”

She explains she and Soong wiped Data’s memory and deactivated him as part of a process of trying to make him more human, but they had to leave him behind when the Crystalline Entity attacked. She speaks fondly of their clandestine marriage and their collaboration on Data, and reacts strongly to news of Soong’s death, revealing that she had left him a long time ago because his isolated lab “just wasn’t enough.”

Data listens politely, then excuses himself saying he wishes to verify her story. While LaForge says it seems like Data is actively trying to disprove her, Data says he’s merely trying to reconcile her claims with the fact that Soong never mentioned her.

When it’s time to fix the planet’s core (with phasers!), Juliana’s current husband Pran suggests someone should double-check Data’s calculations. 

Juliana mistakes Data’s relationship with Counselor Troi for something sexual, and snickers while telling a story about writing a special modesty subroutine to convince Data to wear clothes. Later, she attends Data’s violin concert, and asks to join him in tomorrow’s recital. She admires his paintings, one of which is Lal (his “daughter”), which leads to a discussion of the other androids Soong tried to create before Data.  We learn that Juliana, who feared Data would turn out like his evil brother Lore, made Soong leave Data behind on Omicron Theta.

After this personal crisis, there’s a technobabble crisis that Juliana very capably solves with some fancy button-pushing.

Next, Juliana apologizes to Data for abandoning him, and we see the two playing their concert piece to cries of “bravo” from the audience.

When a poker-faced Data asks Dr. Crusher for access to Juliana’s medical records, Crusher is just as puzzled as we are. Data says he suspects Juliana is not what she says she is.

But before Crusher has time to investigate, Data is called away, and we visit the familiar cave set, where it’s time for the plot contrivance that leads to Data ordering Juliana to jump into a chasm; when she hits the ground, she loses consciousness — and her arm, which pops off cleanly.

Back on the Enterprise-D, we learn Data suspected Juliana was an android because of her advanced button-pushing skills, her overly perfect viola playing, and the fact that the algorithm that gives her eye-blinks the appearance of randomness is the same algorithm that Dr. Soong programmed into Data. Crusher reports that Juliana is perfectly designed to mimic humanity, complete with tear ducts and veins under her artificial skin. Inside Juliana, LaForge finds a chip with a holographic message from a young Dr. Soong (also played by Brent Spiner).

In the message, Soong explains that there was a real Juliana whom he married; she was injured in the attack by the Crystalline Entity, and though she lived long enough to reach Soong’s refuge, she slipped into a coma. Before she died, Soong transferred all her memories into an android body. She believes she is human; the Soong hologram pleads with Data to let her go on thinking that she is human.

While Crusher suggests it would be kinder for Juliana to learn the truth from Data, Troi notes that learning the truth would rob Juliana of the very thing Data has been seeking — humanity.

For an android who’s supposedly devoid of emotion, Data shows surprising compassion; he not only conceals the truth, he says she “broke a bone” (thus feeding the life-giving lie) and even further, passes along to Juliana with the kind words he heard from Dr. Soong’s recorded message.

While it was a challenge to accept the crisis in the smooth-floored cave set that was supposed to represent the phaser-generated pocket of magma, the story was worthwhile.