Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Clues"

**1/2

Air date: 2/11/1991
Teleplay by Bruce D. Arthurs and Joe Menosky
Story by Bruce D. Arthurs
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Clues" is one of those bottle shows that works better the first time you see it. It's intriguing when you don't know what's going to happen. But it loses something the next time through. As mysteries go, "Clues" holds the attention reasonably for an hour. The questions are: What happened, and do we dare try to repeat history when we have no memory of the consequences?

As they approach a planet, the Enterprise crew is unexpectedly rendered unconscious. Upon awakening, Data, unaffected, says the crew has been out for 30 seconds. Gradually, however, clues are discovered that Data is probably lying, that the crew was unconscious for much longer, and that something serious happened that no one can remember.

What works best about this story is its pace. It's a slow burn that gradually reveals peculiar clues hinting at an inevitable truth: Data is covering something up. The evidence — from Crusher's botany experiment to Worf's broken wrist to Troi's freak-out in the mirror — all paints an odd picture surrounding the original mystery of the planet the crew never reached before blacking out. My favorite dialog scene is between Picard and Data, where a frustrated Picard grills Data on the facts and Data simply says that he cannot answer. (When Data stonewalls, he's never anything but calm, polite, and matter-of-fact; he can't answer simply because ... well, he can't.)

What doesn't quite work is the explanation for this whole charade. A group of isolationist aliens wiped the crew's memory because they didn't want to be found. Except Data's memory could not be wiped, so Picard swore Data to secrecy rather than allowing the aliens to destroy the Enterprise. But it didn't work and now we need a second chance, this time leaving no clues. I'm not sure how you leave no clues on a ship with 1,000 people.

The episode, which opened with Picard on the holodeck trying to solve a Dixon Hill murder, does not take the subtle road regarding its message, which is that we cannot resist a good mystery. One wonders if Picard's holodeck games and his speech at the end are both necessary. Show, don't tell.

Previous episode: Devil's Due
Next episode: First Contact

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21 comments on this review

David Forrest - Wed, Mar 5, 2008 - 9:31pm (USA Central)
I agree with most of your reviews here and the were great to read. You had some pretty good one-liners, especially the one for "Devil's Due" in that you don't mess with the Enterprise.

Two episodes that I enjoyed much more than you did are "Final Mission" and "Clues". The former I thought would easily garner three stars, maybe 3.5 as it was a nice conclusion to the arc of Wesley in that he truly respects Picard, and almost looks at him as a father-figure.

As for "Clues"---I love that episode. It's one of my favorite episodes and I would easily give it four stars. I thought it was wonderfully acted and written in the way they constructed the story. They were isolationist aliens and I thought it was a reasonable solution to their problem in that they didn't want anyone to know of their existence.
SarahMae - Wed, Mar 5, 2008 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
Yay! TNG reviews!

I'm a long-time lurker on your site, Jammer. All the way back to when Voyager was still airing, and I've always very much enjoyed your commentary.

I also really enjoyed "Clues." It may not have the same impact on second viewing but it remains an engaging episode.

The fourth season overall is first-rate TV. I never noticed the running theme of family in it until I read your reviews.

I look forward to more.
Toph In Blacksburg - Wed, Mar 5, 2008 - 10:40pm (USA Central)
Good to see the first batch of 4th season reviews!

Just a few personal thoughts. I agreed strongly with many of the reviews (I'll never forget reading BSG's Crossroads Part II review and saying repeatedly "That's what I was thinking!") though there were a couple I'd give differing ratings on:

Devil's Due: 2 1/2 stars. Not a classic by any stretch, slapstick in nature, but I actually enjoyed that episode and still do when I catch it on re-runs. It simply had a lighthearted feel that was almost refreshing. My feeling is that it's season placement had an effect: Had this episode been in season one or even season two I am betting your star rating would have been higher. It's a matter of the quality it is matched up against this season.

Clues: Though predictable after the first watching I always felt this was more of a 3 1/2 star entry. The idea of Data being caught in a catch-22 was fascinating. The final scene, where Data is at the controls, looking as if nothing had happened at all, knowing that the secret of the xenophobes would be kept with him forever, was great.

Legacy: Blah. 1 1/2 stars at best. Must agree on one point: Tasha Yar's sister was definitely the pride of the family (body-wise). Aside from that.....blah.

Just a few random thoughts. Keep on trucking! :)
Evan - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 12:37am (USA Central)
Ah, good to see some brand spanking new Jammer reviews.

You were a little hard on "Devil's Due." Yeah, it's pretty corny, but it's certainly watchable, especially compared to the snooze-fest "Suddenly Human."

I thought "Clues" was a good example of the Trek crew-member-acting-inexplicably-weird genre. It would be 3 or 3-1/2 for me, but hey, I don't have a Trek reviews website.

By the way, your rave reviews of The Wire finally got me to watch Season One. It really is incredible.

Keep those TNG reviews coming!
Locke - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 8:50am (USA Central)
Great new reviews :)

I agree with Toph, Devil's Due was hardly a classic, but it was refreshing and fun, I enjoy it when it comes around, I'd probably give it 2 and 1/2

Clues I only watched a few days ago and I quite liked it too, it was kind of pointless but interesting, and the ending was nice, sort of optomistically simple ^^ "you deserve a second chance" - "ok everyone lets do it right this time!"

I would probably have given Remember me 1/2 a star less, and The Wounded 1/2 a star more, but either way you covered everything in the review :)

Looking foward to the next set :D
Chris - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 10:26am (USA Central)
I think you were too harsh on Devil's Due and Clues. The former is a fun episode - I particularly enjoyed Picard replicating all of Ardra's powers at the end. It's not going to win any awards, certainly, but it's one of those light TNG episodes that I can stick on if I'm not in the mood for something too heavy.

Clues, meanwhile, was a lovely slow-burn episode, with the extent of Data's deception and the mystery of the black-out growing over the course of the episode. I don't think it loses that much on a repeat viewing - I still get a thrill out of "The Mind's Eye" even though I know that Geordi is going to be stopped in the nick of time.

I think Data and co's access to the Borg's command systems was acceptable, given that they had made a connection with such an important Borg (Locutus). Voyager started to strain credulity, when they became experts on Borg technology, with their "neural suppressors" and whatnot. It's strange to see how the Borg have changed over the years - in Voyager, Borg Cubes suddenly had a "Central Plexus" which could be used to send a virus throughout the Collective. Meanwhile, in "Q Who", Data couldn't detect any identifiable bridge, engineering, etc, and the Enterprise barely survived its confrontations with a Cube.
David - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 1:02pm (USA Central)
I didn't realize how long that first post was so I thought for the sake of not creating one big long post that I divide the rest of ny thoughts on thee episodes into a second separate post. Hope that is alright.


As for the other episodes:

I pretty much agree about "Family" but would give it a 3.5 star rating.

Agreed about "Brothers". I'd also point out that I thought the Soong/Data conversation about continuity was a highlight and the scene as Soong is dying and Data tells him he can't grieve broke my heart. I related to this episode a lot because I've got a brother.

"Suddenly Human" is one of only about four episodes I really didn't care for this season and that is saying a lot about how strong season four was in my opinion.

"Remember Me" would get 4 stars. In addition to what Jammer said I would also add Gates did a fantastic job as Dr. Crusher trying to solve the mystery in these extraordinary circumstances.

And this episode also showcased exceptionally well the qualities I like best about her. She is a formidable woman with such a steely resolve that once she has her mind made up not even someone like Picard can say no to her. And even when others might cave in and succumb to the overwhelming situation she finds herself in, she remains steadfast keeping her wits about her never letting herself fall to pieces.

She got in some good lines—“ Was he invisible? Did I carry on a conversation with thin air?”, “Will, I didn't conjure up one of my best friends from a test tube.”, “I'm sorry I lost my temper. You do remember that?” and Picard’s “vividly” in reply, “If there isn't anything wrong with me... maybe there's something wrong with the universe...” or her clicking her heels line. And I loved the moment when she sits in the captain’s chair.

No Trek series excelled at these high-concept sci-fi mysteries the way TNG did.

"Legacy" I'd give 3 stars to. It is the crew’s reactions to Ishara Yar that elevate this episode in my eyes.

Beth Touissant did a good job of portraying a hardened yet wounded individual who never could break totally free of the society she grew up in feeling a misplaced allegiance to Hayne & the rebels. It was a nice contrast to how Tasha turned her life around and didn’t let her environment consume her. The continued display of Ishara's disgust & resentment with her sister was cutting.

I especially liked the Picard/Ishara exchange in sickbay where Picard talks of the woman Yar became.

I liked that the encounter with Ishara ended up leaving everyone pretty much empty & stung by the events. They were all ready to leave Turkana IV behind. The only good thing to come of it was the safe return of the hostages. And the cold android way Data dismissed Ishara in the transporter room was great. Overall, one of TNG’s more depressing endings.

As for the rescue plot I did like the action sequences and the idea of the myographic scanner. Plus Data's technical description of familiarity that he experiences was great and of course would be mentioned again in "Times Arrow I" also written by Joe Menosky.

"Future Imperfect" I'd give 3.5 stars. It is one of my favorites and unlike Jammer I was able to buy into the emotional arc of the story. It probably helped that when I first saw this episode I was 13 and bought into the jeopardy or situations each week.

Like Jammer I liked the touches in the alternate future including the communicator but I also would add that the Riker/Troi interplay both in the teaser and in the illusion were quite good.

One of the nice human aspects that came out of this situation was seeing Riker’s concerns of not ending up being the kind of father Kyle was to him in his childhood especially after the loss of his mother. One can easily imagine the greatest fear for someone like Riker would be to fail their own child. It is clear Riker hopes he has been a better father to Jean-Luc than Kyle was to him especially in the wake of his mother’s death. He consciously wants to not fail his son which comes through wonderfully in the brief scene in the turbolift well played by Frakes.

I thought the final scene between Barash and Riker was touching.

It is interesting to note the illusion Barash ended up creating was based on scans of Riker’s mind. It is interesting insight into Riker and consistent with the way a child deprived of closeness to another person would behave and think.

Barash provided a pretty ideal “future” that he believed would make Riker happy. Here he is captain of the Enterprise, the place he has been most comfortable, surrounded by all of his friends. Barash also created a situation that would resonate strongly with Riker reminiscent of his childhod-a single father, a young boy whose mother has died.

And given Barash was a lonely child desperate for attention it would makes sense he would exploit this as well as to remove someone like Troi from Riker's life that might have interfered with "Jean-Luc" receiving all of his attention.

"Final Mission" I'd give 3 stars.

I've always saw a lot of myself in Wesley especially when I was younger. I was an overachiever and more comfortable around adults than my peers so may be that's why I'm not so hard on him.

There were plenty of scenes that I enjoyed. Just some really great emotional stuff that TNG excels at.

Picard is clearly a person that any one would love to spend some one-on-one time with just to learn about him and to see that beyond this confident, seemingly super-human captain is a man who isn’t perfect and has his share of flaws.

Beverly and Troi got a nice scene in sickbay.

I also enjoyed the Garbage Scow subplot well enough and was an interesting idea that generated a nice jeopardy to keep the Enterprise crew occupied. Nothing particularly ground-breaking but pretty good. The fountain ended up being a plot device without any real insight into who set it up or why.

The location shooting was a welcome change and the filming captured really well the harsh conditions they were facing on the desert world.

There were some great shots of the Enterprise throughout the episode like when it first enters orbit.

I was sorry to see Wes leave but in a way it was a good thing given that the cast was already pretty large. But unlike some characters Wes had about as near perfect a sendoff as one could ask with Picard’s ”Wesley, know this…you will be missed” as they exit the cave.

"The Loss" seems to be an episode no one cares for. The commopn complaint being Troi's behavior was like nails on a chalkboard.

I actually thought this was a fairly effective disability story headlining Troi. I enjoyed seeing the vulnerable and frightened side of her. I know many seem to view her as a pathetic/whiney and there is some of that but that is part of the point. I think anyone who loses a sense would be angry and wallowing in self-pity. So how Troi behaves in this context works.

Troi is usually the one helping others the way she is now placed in the unenviable role of facing her own personal crisis directly is quite interesting.

Troi’s anger at Beverly seemed like a realistic reaction even though misdirected. And then of course Riker/Troi had their tribulations in some rather nice scenes that further cemented what great chemistry both the actors & characters have. And of course Guinan is always a pleasure.

I really liked that scene with Troi in Ten-Forward. I think both are counselors in their own right but have completely different ways of dispensing advice.

I'd easily give it 3 stars.

Nothing really to add to "Data's Day" or "The Wounded".

I strongly disagree with "Clues" receiving only 2.5 stars. This has always been a favorite of mine. I wouldn't hesitate given it 3.5 stars.

I mentioned earlier TNG excelled at high concpt sci-fi mysteries and this is one of its best in my opinion

I love a good mystery but they are hard to do. It is easy enough to generate the build-up and intrigue but the reveal needs to be as satisfying.

The teaser was alright although it felt more like Whoopi in dress-up than Guinan although I did appreciate the touch of Data piping the call to Picard through the telephone.

I loved the twist that it was Picard that ordered Data's silence. I thought the idea of a stalemate was an interesting and fresh approach for the story. I liked the ominous tone the episode took. I liked how the crew and the audience only got tantalizing pieces of the puzzle as to what happened that day before finally filling us in with the flashback.

I liked that the writers remembered the little details that I didn't even consider like the beard growth or Beverly using the transporter trace although I was a little confused regarding the 24 hour cycle.

I would rank it up there with The Survivors, Remember Me, Future Imperfect, Night Terrors, Cause and Effect, Parallels as far as bizarre Twilight Zone sorts of tales.
Jammer - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 2:25pm (USA Central)
I just want to quickly thank everyone for leaving comments and offering their thoughts on the episodes. Keep the comments coming. I won't reply to every point as I've made enough points in the reviews, but I will say that "Clues" (which seems to be generally favored here) came close to 3 stars. In the end it didn't quite get there, but it was close and I definitely understand why many people enjoyed it.
dan - Wed, Feb 18, 2009 - 6:10pm (USA Central)
ya, I also liked clues! 4 stars there as well. Reading some of the comments, it seems alot of ppl agree
MB - Tue, Apr 14, 2009 - 12:10pm (USA Central)
Just saw "Clues" and I have to say it really makes me wonder if they ever figured out they were a couple of days behind the rest of the galaxy.
P - Sat, Sep 25, 2010 - 3:31pm (USA Central)
Generally agree with your reviews. I used to think I loved "Clues" but, as you said, the more I see it, the worse it gets. Not only did I think the whole plot was excessive (the cover-up could never work with over 1,000 people on board), it annoys me on subsequent views that Picard cannot simply trust that Data is doing what's best, accept and let it go.

Also, I grow bored with "The Nth Degree" every time I see it, and in my opinion, doesn't warrant a full four-star rating! Star-ratings should for Nth and "Future Imperfect" should be switched, lol.
joe - Tue, Aug 30, 2011 - 4:34pm (USA Central)
Im reading through all these comments and I have to say you are way off on clues. its one of my favorites and appears to be underrated. please consider giving it another star
TH - Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
@P
"Not only did I think the whole plot was excessive (the cover-up could never work with over 1,000 people on board), it annoys me on subsequent views that Picard cannot simply trust that Data is doing what's best, accept and let it go."

Now that you mention it (re: Clues), I suppose one could blame Data's programing not being flexible enough to allow him to break Picard's Order (although he does so once Troi-alien gives him the a-ok), but I look at it like this:

It's one thing to hide the truth upon the crew waking up, but as soon as the coverup starts to unravel the truth, and ESPECIALLY once Picard turns the ship around and heads back to enemy space, I feel like Data's logic circuits ought to have pulled Picard into his ready room and told him "listen, you can't tell any of the others, but here's what happened" and warn him not to go naer that space ever again.

I admit, I haven't seen it in a while so I forget whether Data has an opportunity to speak to Picard between when Picard decides to return and when they actually get there, but I feel like Picard can keep his mouth shut, and if he orders the crew to stop investigating, it'll all go away - a lot better than if they go back, anyway. Frankly, I don't imagine the aliens would ever find out that the Federation has set up a "no fly" policy around their space.

Corey - Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - 2:08pm (USA Central)
Just have to say, I really like clues. And yes, I like it even on a repeated viewing! It's different to see Data in a cover-up, and Data and Picard have some good dialog. 3/4 stars here I would give it.
Patrick - Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
Are there any Red Dwarf fans here? This episode is very reminiscent of the RD episode, "Thanks For the Memory". Though, it's very doubtful that "Clues" is a direct rip-off, the similarities in the plot are striking.

I half expected Worf to come on to the bridge with his leg in a cast, saying, "All right which one of you humans did this?"
William B - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 3:48pm (USA Central)
As with the other commenters, I think "Clues" is very good. I agree with Jammer's two major criticisms -- that it's not really a satisfying ending to "leave no clues" (what even?), and that the opening and closing speeches from Picard about the thrill of finding clues are over-the-top and not really necessary. However, while definitely problems, neither bothers me all that much when measured against what works in this episode. In particular, the resolution to the mystery *is* very satisfying to me, especially details like Worf's wrist having been broken by the alien possessing Troi rather than by Data as had been suspected.

The Picard/Data scene Jammer singles out gets to the heart of why this episode is so compelling. Picard (and the rest of the crew) simply cannot let go the mystery that has been presented to them. Data simply cannot let go of his imperative to follow Picard's orders -- to protect both the ship and, indeed, the isolationist species. They both have too much strength of will and too much integrity -- albeit in different ways -- to compromise; not only is there a stalemate with the aliens, but there is a stalemate on the ship with Data and Picard. And the end result leads, almost inexorably, to the Enterprise returning to the Paxans' system and to its near-destruction. If Picard were able to let things be and trust that Data has his reasons, they could simply continue on their way. If Data were able to divulge the secret about the Paxans, even to Picard, the mystery could be resolved. But neither can do so. It would run counter to Picard's spirit as an explorer; and, indeed, as he points out, the fact that they can never trust Data again makes it impossible to stop. And while any other crew member would likely simply tell Picard about the Paxans, Data's programming, devotion to *Picard's* orders, and respect for other life forms (I do think the recognition that if he lets Picard know about the Paxans, he will be violating the agreement by which the Enterprise would be allowed to survive and that this would run explicitly counter to the Paxans' wishes and would thus be wrong, is even more a motivating factor for Data than Picard's orders), stop him from doing so. This is an episode cleverly constructed around character, so that the very traits that make these two both extraordinary individuals of high integrity bring them into conflict which cannot really be resolved.

The ending does resolve it, to a degree -- the Enterprise leaves intact -- but there is something unsettling about the ending, seeing the mystery go "unresolved" in that Picard et al. have lost the memory again, and that, following Picard's lines, not everything is quite tidy when we know that over a thousand people are missing a crucial couple of days and the knowledge of their near-destruction twice. The last shot of Data is a bit hard to parse, but I interpret it on some level as a signal of his isolation -- Data has a secret that could destroy the whole ship and no one knows about it.

On that level, the episode also follows up from (e.g.) "Brothers" on exactly how frightening Data is, if for a moment one stops having full faith in Data's commitment to the chain of command. He is stronger than Worf, as skilled a scientist as Crusher and an engineer as La Forge, has a better poker face than Riker and has the iron will of Picard. (I omit Troi, I suppose, not because her skills aren't worthwhile, but because she's the person whose skill set is furthest from Data's.) The idea that Data might be hiding something is all the more frightening because Data could take over the whole ship at any time and the crew *knows* this. Which, ironically, makes it all the more essential that Data follow Picard's orders, even if it leads to disaster. On that level, Picard stating that not only will Data lose his Starfleet commission but most likely be stripped down to his constituent parts to be examined to see what happened with him is chilling; one wonders whether this contradicts "The Measure of a Man," and I'm not entirely sure that Picard is not bluffing on some level when he suggests this, trying to do anything he can think of to convince Data that it's in his best interests to tell him what is happening. But it hints at both ways in which Data is still not really considered a person, and why. Data's rights to self-determination in "The Measure of a Man" on some level still are provisional, where the provision that Data is not a threat: once he becomes one, even provisionally, it becomes difficult or even impossible to regard him as a peer sentient being.
William B - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 3:49pm (USA Central)
Anyway with a few mostly minor plot holes I think the plot holds together and the execution is generally great, though some of the exposition at the end is a bit off. I'd say that it's a low 3.5 star show for me.
Picard - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 10:20pm (USA Central)
Some comments on this episode:

- I agree with most that this is a better episode than Jammer gives it credit for. And I think it does hold up for a second viewing, namely due to the strength of Data's character. It's fun watching the android brain working, trying to keep his ship safe despite knowing that he is betraying all of his friends. It's like the first act of Brothers, only with Data fully conscious of what he's doing. Even with the mystery known, Data's part (and everyone responding to him) still holds up.

- One nice subtle touch: on one scene in the bridge, Worf is rubbing his arm in the background. This was before he went to sickbay.

- The holodeck intros sure haven't been very subtle lately. First there was Scrooge denying the reality of Jacob Marley's existence in Devil's Due, and now we have a Dixon Hill startup in an episode called Clues. Sheesh...

- I've heard people say that Nth Degree reminds them of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But I get some of that here, when Picard calmly asked Data to go run an errand and then starts plotting against him. I half expected Data to be watching from a distance and reading their lips.

Enh, I got nothing else. It's a good episode, but kinda nondescript. No brilliant insights, just good clean fun.
Tom - Tue, Apr 22, 2014 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
I didn't really like this episode. Yes, the story was clever, but I didn't really enjoy watching it that much.
Jack - Fri, May 2, 2014 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
It's funny that the possessed Deanna changed out of her pajamas before visiting Data. It's hard to buy that the entity inside her would give a damn.
Jack - Fri, May 2, 2014 - 2:37pm (USA Central)
I also find it absurd that Deanna "isn't capable" of breaking a Klingon's wrist (by the episode's own reckoning), but somehow Deanna's possessed body is.

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