In Theory

Deep and mysterious is the Mar Oscura nebula. Almost as deep as the human heart. And the robotic heart. This week, Data becomes the ultimate emotionally unavailable boyfriend for Lt. Jenna D’Sora. All will be explored (and some blown up) when we put In Theory in the Mission Log.

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  1. CmdrR says:

    Listening as I write. I really do appreciate Sir Patrick’s contribution to the cast’s development. His instincts, including in honing “funny” bits for this episode, really paid off for the series. I could be wrong. Everyone could have been taking a correspondence course on acting (pre-internet), but I credit Stewart.

  2. Earl Green says:

    Oh! Oh, but wait! The music heard in the Buck Rogers episode “Space Rockers” was actually a disco single that *charted*. (The name of the record is “Odyssey” by Johnny Harris, who also happened to be scoring that week’s episode and numerous other Buck Rogers episodes; it also showed up all remastered on the Intrada box set of the first season soundtracks.) Sorry, uber-soundtrack-geek here, had to point that out. 😉

    “I should not have asked for relationship advice from you…you lunkhead.”

    Thanks for pointing up the Picard-must-pilot-the-shuttle thing. This smacked uncomfortably of Nicholas Meyer’s memories of the studio insisting that Kirk had to be present in Every Major Moment of Star Trek IV (including Spock and Sarek reconciling, a moment where Kirk was very, very surplus to requirements). Worse yet, while I commend Patrick on his shoved-back-in-the-shuttlecraft-seat acting, the droll “Now would be good, Mr. O’Brien” line (or whatever it was exactly) signals the official end of “did we beam [X] out in time?” as a source of plot tension. Seriously. It’s over. Of course O’Brien can beam [X] out in time. Now, I don’t give good odds on [X]’s survival after O’Brien goes to that space station, but…

    The absolute freedom of food from the replicator is a good point. I would totally be the first fat guy in a Starfleet uniform. “Computer, replicate something that looks and feels and tastes just like Cheetos, but make it completely nutritious and non-fattening. Three bags, please, I’m pulling an all-nighter.”

    All of that being said, I dearly love the last scene of this episode end. I’ve had dates end, relationships end, a marriage end, and yeah… you’re sitting in a dark room with your cat. Erase the subroutines and move on. It’s a strange choice for one of my all-time favorite singular shots in all of TNG, but there you go.

    • deaddropsd says:

      Have you forgotten ? Ahem Scotty? Lol

      • Earl Green says:

        Oh yeah. Well..ahem… I just assumed… um… expanding strange matter…um…side effect of working so close to the warp core…so…yeah. LOL

        Seriously though, I always have Doohan fixed in my mind as Season 3 Scotty. Sideburns forever, man.

    • Excellent detail on that “Space Rockers” track, Early. Guess what is in my iTunes library now. Thanks,
      It kind of speaks to part of the problem we were discussing – one you put anything “contemporary” in a sci-fi show, it immediately dates it.
      Time to go rock out to Johnny Harris…

  3. Chris Hopkinson says:

    Your conversation about the food and infinite choices: The “Steam” effect as applied to food. For those (I’m including myself in this) that often buy PC games from Steam and related bundle sites (humblebundle.com, groupees.com, indiegala.com, bundlestars.com, and others). We’ve built up a massive amount of PC games that can be played (I have 1900 games owned in my Steam catalogue). Many of these games were purchased for literally pennies. Some are decent, some are crap, many remain unplayed. For a lot of people, they look at their lists of games, bored and wanting to play something…but can’t decide on what to play. Eventually, what gets chosen is often an old standby rather than something new.
    I imagine some people, on some nights, may indeed just decide to pick something they already know they like and is easy…like a baloney (or a burger) and a beer.
    Its a very human thing.

  4. Wildride says:

    “We appear to have a series of minor mysteries on our hands, and a disappearing M-class planet.”
    “That sounds oddly familiar. Is this a rerun of Clues?”
    “Also, McKnight is at the helm.”
    “Uh, yeah, that’s weird coincidence.”

  5. deaddropsd says:

    “Jenna D’Sora” Michelle Scarabelli

  6. Wildride says:

    I suspect part of the reason for shoehorning in the nebula plot is that Star Trek episodes can’t just be about two characters dating. They only tell stories that only Star Trek can tell. That being said, it’s a human dating an android, so that should be SF enough to qualify as a Star Trek story. I think if they wrote a better “human dates an android” story, it wouldn’t have needed the dark matter nebula to shore it up.

    This subject matter would have worked better if it was a regular cast member dating an android guest character. Especially since it would have given them Data as a compare and contrast, but it would mean the audience could relate better.

    Really, though, Data should have been the perfect rebound guy to help her get over Jeff, if she knew that’s what she was looking for.

  7. Durakken says:

    Dark Matter stuff in Star Trek is all nonsense and has nothing to do with real science in even the most basic levels. Nebula stuff is close to mostly nonsense… more so based on that Nebulas aren’t dense enough to be like they are in Star Trek, but it’s close enough I guess.

    The difference between Data and other people is that he has access to and is aware of all the processes that are going on in his head at any given time. Its not that other people aren’t thinking and doing all those other things. It’s that they just aren’t aware of it. Even expanding your awareness to those things you still have a limitation to how much you can be aware of about your body and thinking… Data just has easier access to them and more of them which might be why he thinks he doesn’t hve emotions. He can track the cause and effects of all the thoughts in his head so when he says “where is that coming from” he knows where as we all just get a nebulous feeling.

    The seeking advice thing… You’re sorta wrong here as is Geordi.
    Worf’s mate was more just a lust thing and died and no other relationship at this point.
    Picard is the same with his pining over what’s her name and Crusher
    Crusher’s husband died and is in this weird relationship with Picard, some might even consider it unhealthy as it stands… and her last outing involved her pretty much having sex with the guy.
    Riker and Troi are both seemingly polygamous and don’t have much real relationship experience.

    O’Brian and Crusher are probably the most experienced of the cast other than Geordi and both of those we know have issues, one being fairly new and rushed into and the other long in the past and as pointed out could be said to have an unhealthy relationship now. Further… Geordi is, as far as I know, other than Reg, the only one with real experience with trying to form a relationship, not rushing, and in such an awkward situation at present. In fact that might have been a good way for the writers to go rather than this look elsewhere thing, because Geordi is the one with closest experience to what Data should be looking for to get advice, him having had relationship with an AI and with Data.

    Replicators take energy, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue.
    With regard to choice… We know the AI is sophisticated enough that it can predict thoughts and feelings so hypothetically the AI could replicate the optimal food that a person wants before they want it… And further they could measure the nutritional facts and modify them as necessary allowing them to eat as much as often as they want ^.^ while still being optimally healthy and the ideal food for them. So you could literally have a food randomly selected until a food that is “liked” is found and all those are added to a list and then used to create smaller selection choice and then the AI can select based on “I want to try something new” or “Give me something I like” will give what is wanted.

    Geordi should have piloted the shuttle since he should have the same sensors as Data (as should the ship), if not better and Geordi is a Pilot…


    Guinan asking Data if something is sweet isn’t outside of Data’s capability. Data only says it is because he’s over analyzing and not appreciating things. Guinan is making the point subtlely by asking if it’s too sweet. Data can say there is x amount of sugar in this and say whether he “likes” more or less, or which is preferable to others, but is unwilling to say he likes/dislikes etc or unwilling to state it in those simple terms. In the same way, Data in his relationship is overthinking and overanalyzing things and saying this is x leading y leading to z which isn’t p but something else. He refuses to say it’s p. it must be something different, because he is romanticizing humanity and love and all those types of things… going back to Guinan, Data is romanticizing the idea of “taste” rather than not being able to taste.

    In a way… the best way to relate to this is really how we view the past and how simple it was in theory. We see the surface or the misinformed constructed form of the past and we think “Oh I’d love to live in that age”. That’s what Data is doing to Love and senses and humanity.


    There is a moral question with regard to what Data is doing here. Our knowledge of what attracts people to others and makes them appealing to another person it begins to border on the how much are we ok with doing things to manipulate/affect how others feel. For example, I know that people are more likely to form a deep connection with each other in situations where they think they’re in danger. Is it ok for me to create a situation where a person I’m trying to make them fall for me thinks they are in danger? What is the difference between that and knowing that someone really likes flowers and if you give them a flower they’ll like you? Or what about acting contrary to how you’d normally act because the target of affection will like you more if you act in another way? These are all just ways to manipulate chemicals in a person to create a feeling in someone. And if this is the case what is the difference between not knowing that these things will do that and acting in that way vs knowing and acting in those way or just directly injecting someone with a chemical cocktail to make them have those emotions.

    In other words… Given Data’s knowledge about how his actions would effect Jenna and his actions all having to be intentional wouldn’t it be immoral for Data to be doing this, given that his sole intent would be to manipulate her emotionally? And if we’re to believe he has no emotions then doesn’t that make it worse, because he’s not doing it because he likes her, but some other reason like, just to see what the result of his actions would be as an experiment. That to me, makes Data a fairly sinister character.

  8. JusenkyoGuide says:

    Re: Data’s dating personalities and the robot arm… I liked them, not because they were funny (they were), but I honestly thought they added into the story being told. Who HASN’T (especially when younger) manufactured some kind of personality when dating? There are probably more reams of written advice about what moves to make, what kind of personalities are attractive, what to say, what to do, etc. when one is looking for love than anything else. And when you ARE young, and unsure of yourself… we all take them.

    Hell, turn off your ad blocker for a sec and see how quickly click-bait stuff for “Find out what drives women wild” or “This will make him want you” pop up.

    Was it over done, yeah. But I think it really hit it on the head that often times what attracts us to others in the first place (and vice versa) isn’t something that can be ‘turned on’ but is inherent in our own makeup and any attempt to add on WILL feel artificial.

    Ken got it right, to thy own self be true.

    Thinking about though, and 20+ years after first watching it… I almost wonder if this wasn’t more about Jenna than Data. As a young teen unsure about this whole romantic dating thing, I ID’d more with Data. Many moons later and with romantic scars… I think Jenna is someone I would identify more with now-a-days. I’m honestly unsure if that was intended, or just a happy coincidence.

    As to the final moment… I’m not sure it was cold. It might have been writer’s wish fulfillment though. Who wouldn’t want the ability to simply close off something painful, delete it from your subroutines, and never have to worry about it? Especially affairs of the heart (Data of course does this again in First Contact (movie)? If anything, I think it shows both how much Data has grown… and yet how limited he is in a sense. In the end, it’s the tragedy of Data.

    The one final comment I would make though… Leave it to Picard to have the best line (As soon as I have any)… good line, good timing, and boy… couldn’t help but think, in this way, he SO doesn’t remind me of another captain of the Enterprise we know. Of course, given Kirk’s advice to Charlie, Picard might have just been smarter to stay out of this.

  9. mc900 says:

    F*ck Jenna she’s the one that hurts Data here. It’s time to stop – not recognizing that obviously Data feels. Yes his feelings are somewhat not fully realized but obviously his creator meant those feelings to evolve and what we are seeing in this story telling is that evolution and manifestation of true emotional responses. And Jenna is actually taking advantage of emotional adolescent. In any other gender configuration with a male as the pursuer that would be completely unacceptable.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      I would not go so far as to blame Jenna for hurting Data, but I also don’t feel sorry for her.

  10. Dave Steph Taylor says:

    – That whole sequence of Miles and Keiko was very uncomfortable. He CLEARLY did not want to be there.

    – Jenna is pretty chatty at work. Does she actually do anything in this entire episode?

    – Data asking for advice is just great. All the various responses are so well represented by our main cast. Riker is so looking her up next week.

    – Totally agree that Picard should not have been piloting. Data wold have been the obvious choice.

    – I really don’t feel sorry for Jenna. She should have known better than to expect an emotional relationship.

  11. Troy Brooks says:

    How many times have we be told how great a pilot Riker is?
    But no, the Captain pilots the shuttle

  12. Reese says:

    Yes, Garbage is awesome. Don’t know how I missed them in the ’90s. But I skipped most of the ’90s.

  13. John Anderton says:

    Data falls in love. Nonsensical and utterly predictable.