Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 6/3/1991
Written by Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Patrick Stewart
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Some friendly conversation between coworkers leads to an unlikely dating situation when Lt. Jenna D'Sora (Michele Scarabelli) takes a liking to Data and makes a romantic move. Data in turn decides this may be a good learning experience about the human condition and considers entering into a relationship with Jenna. After a series of discussions with his friends, who provide varying advice (Troi: Be careful; Riker: Go for it; Picard: I don't have any answers regarding women), Data decides to give it a try. He writes a special program just for this experience. Jenna schools him on where his theory goes wrong and when contradiction must be embraced.
This is a pleasant enough storyline (and the title is perfect), but there's a problem that trumps everything here, which is that I never, for one second, understood what Jenna was thinking. Despite her early dialog, which establishes that she likes Data because he's polite, a great listener, etc., it's clear to her from the outset that he is completely emotionally unavailable. Love and romance by definition require someone who can return your feelings, and Data obviously can't do that. So I'm not sure what to make of Jenna's pursuit here, unless she, like Data, is also running an experiment in non-emotionally-based romantic relationships between humans and androids. The scene where Data attempts to manufacture forced "relationship behavior" scenarios based on anecdotal research is a perfect example of Data as a performance artist, aping human behavior without actually meaning or understanding it. This makes for an exercise in mildly curious behavior but painfully obvious inevitability. There's nothing at stake here — and again, what does Jenna expect?
The "sci-fi plot" involving the hazardous spatial anomalies is pure perfunctory filler barely worthy of mention. It made no sense to me for Picard to personally pilot the shuttle in this emergency (wouldn't a shuttle pilot be both more skilled and expendable?), and his navigation through the invisible anomaly field (depicted on his control panel) plays like a 1980s video game.