The Strange Rivalry Between Two Forgotten Star Trek Episodes

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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The early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation were filled with some unexpected conflicts. Not onscreen, of course: franchise creator Gene Roddenberry didn’t want any of his characters to ever have conflicts onscreen. Behind the scenes, though, very strange rivalries formed: for example, both Data actor Brent Spiner and director Rob Bowman became determined to make “Datalore” a better episode than “The Big Goodbye,” which Paramount thought would be the stronger story.

Datalore And The Big Goodbye

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In case you don’t have your Star Trek Encyclopedia copy nearby, “Datalore” was the episode that introduced Data’s evil twin brother Lore as well as that creepy cosmic force, the Crystalline Entity. Meanwhile, “The Big Goodbye” was an early holodeck adventure that introduced Dixon Hill, Captain Picard’s favorite fictional detective. On paper, you wouldn’t expect there to be any rivalry involving these very different episodes, but it all comes down to (what else?) some behind-the-scenes drama.

A Director Swap

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Originally, “Datalore” was going to be directed by Joe Scanlan, and “The Big Goodbye” was going to be directed by Rob Bowman. However, there were some unexpected delays in the production of “Datalore,” particularly with its script. Paramount ultimately made the decision to swap directors, and it was a decision that Bowman was a bit salty about.

Later, the veteran director described his thought process when it came to tackling “Datalore.” He said, “Here’s a show they don’t think will work, so I’m going to make it work.” Summing up both his annoyance with Paramount and his challenge to himself, Bowman said, “I’m going to prove to them that they made a mistake.”

Spiner And Bowman Set Out To Make Magic

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Interestingly, Bowman wasn’t the only one invested in this rivalry between episodes. “Datalore” heavily featured Brent Spiner, and the actor was on the same page as the director: “We were like, ‘Fine, ‘The Big Goodbye’ is going to be a fun script, but we’re going to make this one even more popular if we can,” Bowman said.  Fortunately, this determination translated to confidence, and he later described “feeling really good during the shoot.”

Datalore Is An Early TNG Highlight

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Speaking as fans, we can say that he was confident for a reason: while “Datalore” has many of the pacing and characterization issues of early Star Trek: The Next Generation, it also broke the mold of standard early season episodes with the visual effects where Spiner had to have extensive conversations with another version of himself.

Frankly, the effect looks really great these days, and it’s staggering to think that Bowman pulled this off using only the technology and techniques available in the ‘80s. Additionally, both Bowman and Spiner were successful in their efforts, and it’s fair to say that “Datalore” ended up being a much more memorable episode than “The Big Goodbye.”

Friendly Rivalry

As far as behind-the-scenes Star Trek: The Next Generation drama goes, this pales compared to pretty much anything involving Gene Roddenberry or even Roddenberry’s lawyer. Sometimes, their clashes with various writers became the stuff of infamous franchise legend. In this case, however, we got something more wholesome, complete with a happy outcome for producers and audiences.

As fans, it’s very fun to discover that at least part of what made TNG so great back in the day was the friendly rivalry between different directors and writers. In this case, that rivalry paid off, giving us an excellent new adventure and a pair of deadly new foes that fans will never forget.

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