In the tenth episode of the seventh season ofÂ The Next Generation, THIS IS SO MESSED UP, WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.Â
WOW HOLY SHIT, I’M STILL FUCKED UP BY THIS ONE.
Look, I normally like addressing things in chronological order because it’s the easiest way to attempt to do a review from memory. (Meaning that unlike Mark Reads, I have no text I can re-watch to write my review, so I have to hope I remember everything I wanted to talk about.) But as I attempted to do that here, I kept erasing paragraph after paragraph becauseâ€¦ well, this whole episode is a completely different thing after the reveal of Juliana’s identity. And it’s inescapable! I kept trying to talk about Data’s confusion over his own history and the surreal nature of meeting a mother you haven’t known your whole life. But each of these things is entangled in Juliana. All of them. It becomes nearly impossible to separate the events of “Inheritance” from her!
In one sense, that’s incredible, because it means the writers gave this character so much importance within the script that she must remain in it for it to be as effective and powerful as it is. Thus, even in the early moments, it’s impossible for me to ignore what’sÂ actuallyÂ happening. Juliana’s excitement over meeting Data after many, many years is real. It’s genuine. HER EMOTION IS REAL. That means that she is a significant advancement over Data, and it explains SO MUCH of Data’s reaction to her. He suspected that she was an android just barely past the halfway mark in the episode, and he never truly warms up to her.Â That’s why. And sure,Â The Next GenerationÂ has long established that Data can’t experience emotions, but do I detect a hint of jealousy in him? Does he resent the fact that Juliana can so easily pass as human, that notÂ oneÂ person (MYSELF INCLUDED) even remotely suspected that she wasn’t human?
Let’s just analyze the big emotional scene in the middle of this episode, because I AM SO FASCINATED BY IT. Even if I had suspected that Juliana was not who she said she was, I could not determine what possible gain existed for her to do such a thing. When she revealed the reason for taking so long to reach out and find Data, it seemed so genuine. Looking back on it, I realize that she was telling the truth. EVERY PART OF THAT WAS REAL. She felt guilt for leaving Data behind on Omicron Theta, even if she had a pretty good reason for fearing that Data would turn out like his brother Lore. That whole scene is a testament to Dr. Soong’s programming because there’s no way I could have suspected the truth about Juliana’s identity.
Even Data’s scene with Dr. Crusher didn’t trigger much in me. He wanted to check Juliana’s medical records because he was concerned she was not who she said she was. So? What did that actually mean? She wasÂ pretendingÂ to be Data’s mother? I’m drawn back to the fact that Juliana being an android perfectly explains why Data was so cold for most of this episode. On some level, I understand that as someone who was adopted and got to meet my biological mother. There’s a misconception that these type of reunions are existentially satisfying and enriching, and that’s simply not the case. Now, there’s not a perfect metaphor here for my experience, but I felt that it was relevant because it helped me relate to what Data was going through.
Of course, the reveal at the end changes my understanding of this dynamic, but I think it’s worth pointing out that even if Juliana had been human, Data still would have had trouble with this. But he’s given a complicated and nasty moral conundrum. Dr. Soong programmed Juliana to be COMPLETELY UNAWARE OF HER TRUE NATURE. He guaranteed that she would shut down when faced with this reality, that she wouldn’t remember the experience, and that she would eventually die of old age after some time. She is theÂ closestÂ Dr. Soong ever got to a “human” android, and that’s part of the reason that Data’s choice is so challenging. Does he tell her who she is, thereby ruining the very experience he’s strived to have this whole time? Does he let her live in bliss? Which situation benefits her most? Or is he choosing the option that’ll makeÂ himselfÂ happiest?
It’s agonizing to think about. Morally, each person here makes a pretty decent case to tell Juliana or to keep the secret going. Deanna Troi points out how damaging this’ll be to her identity; Dr. Crusher notes that she’d rather find out something this upsetting from someone she knows instead of a stranger or on her own. Ultimately, Data doesn’t tell her, and I imagine that he viewed this as a gesture of love. Juliana gets to live her life as a human, none the wiser. Is it the best choice possible? I can’t even answer that question, honestly. Both options seem compelling to me, and morally, there’s support for either side. I think that’s why this is so crushing. Data will most likely never know whether he made the right choice. He has to hope that this was for the best. And Juliana? Well, the whole experience was painful enough as it was, and she’ll have to cope with her guilt in her own way.
What a brutal episode, y’all.
The video for “Inheritance” can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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