Star Trek: The Next Generation

“In Theory”

2.5 stars.

Air date: 6/3/1991
Written by Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Patrick Stewart

Review Text

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.

Previous episode: The Mind's Eye
Next episode: Redemption, Part I

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86 comments on this post

    ["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."]

    Dude, all I can say is kudos on having at least a semi-healthy relationship history. You'd be amazed how easy it is to fall for the same type of exactly wrong person over and over, even recognizing the same set of faults that keep cropping up.

    I love love love looooove 'In Theory', I would put it in my top 5, easily. The B-plot was terrible, I fast-forward through it every time, but the A-plot was THE Data story, as far as I am concerned. It contains everything that is amazing yet tragic about him. The final shot, where he deletes his 'romance' program and blows out the candle to sit in the dark is just utterly, utterly depressing, bold, powerful, thoughtful, wonderful. And I totally believed that Jenna would wilfully 'look past' Data's lack of emotions and project what she wanted to see in him- after all, isn't that what the audience does, every week. Do we really 'believe' that Data doesn't feel affection for his crewmates, or isn't a 'good' person? The amazing thing about TOS was how SERIOUSLY it took the idea of Spock, the idea of a totally logical being, and how cold and amoral that being could be, and make it a regular character with an unwavering conviction to that concept. Sometimes I felt that Data's writing didn't have the same conviction, but here was an episode that really, really examined what he is, what he lacks. He doesn't have emotion. He can't really have a relationship, with anyone. That's staggeringly sad, and goes right to the core of the character. I like this ep more each time I see it.

    Great episode, I normally hate all "comedy" episode in any of the Star Trek but this one has plenty of great one liners and the scene where Data is getting advice is great(as well as the editing). The only thing holding this back from 4 stars is the writers did not trust enough in the core material and tack on an absurdly bad sub plot with Picard doing something completely out of character and illogical.

    "his navigation through the invisible anomaly field (depicted on his control panel) plays like a 1980s video game".

    Well, this episode DID air in the early 90's... I imagine that readouts of a spatial anomally on a console would be designed to convey information, not look cool. Have you ever seen a radar or sonar display? They don't look pretty, but they tell the operators what they need to know.

    Destructor hits the nail on the head about this one. This episode is the quintessential examination of Data's condition. I love the scene where he reels off a list of things he's simultaneously thinking about while in Jenna's company; this is surely what he's always doing in any situation with any of his friends or colleagues. Every second for one of us would be aeons in his mind; we could surely only ever occupy only a small fraction of his total awareness and computational activities, even if he remains totally attentive from out point of view. It exposes Data for the incredibly "alien" being he really is and how much we just see him as we want him to be.

    Along the same lines of Destructor, I think the final scene is very moving, where Data sits almost as a mannequin or a toy after its owner has stopped playing with it... but then, in that poignant moment, Spot arrives and Data picks him/her (Spot has had some gender issues throughout the different seasons...) and starts to pet him/her. But wait, even this petting is done in a mechanical way, so we go from glimpses of humanity, to confirmations of how Data is a machine, to glimpses of humanity again, ad infinitum. I think that is intriguingly done.

    I also think that this episode is also another step to humorous, main crew character-based TNG, which unfortunately would ruin the show by the Seventh season, but here was in just the right dose (Data's consultation of the crew and their responses).

    Ah, I also agree with Jammer and Kefka, in that the whole shuttlecraft bit was bizarre and poorly explained in the episode, and inconsequential to the rest of the story.

    The subplot is indeed almost shockingly terrible -- Picard's decision to pilot the shuttlecraft combines with a forced Picard-Riker conflict, and then Picard has to be beamed aboard and announces that he's dizzy and Riker, annoyed, just says "Let's make a run for it!"

    I was actually ready to say that the A-plot doesn't quite work for me because Data comes across as a tad too mechanical for this point in his development -- but then I read the comments above, and that is part of the point, or at least part of the difficulty. Most of the time, I subscribe to the theory that Data does have something like emotions, in that he forms attachments and has certain responses which are nearly emotional. It's part of the way Data responds to himself that he believes that he does not have emotions and so dismisses these responses as potentially emotional -- which is why even though he seeks to be human, he won't admit outright that he is anxious to save Geordi in "Identity Crisis" or that he is nervous in "Data's Day" (when he says that if he *were* emotional, the sudden course change to the Neutral Zone might concern him). But ultimately, the belief that Data does have something-like-emotions may just be a projection, and some episodes, like this one, are painful and difficult because we are placed in the same position as Jenna (as we were, to some degree, placed in the position of the female lead in "The Ensigns of Command") of running up against Data's inhumanity while he behaves so closely human. Which is the point T'Paul raises about the final scene with Spot -- Data as Riker described him in "The Measure of a Man" (Pinocchio is broken; his strings are cut), then Spot arrives and he becomes the humanesque Data again, and then it fades away.

    The ambiguity here is similar to what made the ending of "The Most Toys" so strong to me -- not only do we not really know, at the core of it, what Data "feels" and exactly why he does the things he does, Data probably doesn't either. (Why exactly *did* he go see Fajo at the end of "TMT"?) When he has a role to play, he becomes that role, but when that role no longer exists, who or what is he? It occurs to me that some of the difference between his reaction to Jenna and his reactions to other encounters in the show -- Tasha, Sarjenka, Lal, Soong, even adversaries like Lore and Fajo -- is that while Data deliberately chose to remember Tasha with a keepsake and talked of remembering Sarjenka at the episode's end, not to mention incorporating Lal into his programming and telling Soong that the two are somewhat alike, he immediately deletes the appropriate subroutines after Jenna leaves him; he knows enough to know that what is disappearing is not so much Jenna from his life -- she's still on the ship -- as that relationship itself.

    I'm just "thinking" out loud (writing) here; Data is a tough nut to crack.

    Data is the best thing to ever happen to any incarnation of Trek, IMHO. He's brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. Humans have the tendency to anthropomorphize just about everything; I often think my cat is being arrogant or getting an attitude with me, for example. When we assign human motivations to things that aren't even close to human, it's only natural that we're going to do it for a human-looking android. But tragic as it is, Data doesn't have any emotions. If Data were real, I could easily see myself falling for him and getting hurt just like Jenna. I don't think it's that much of a stretch. People like to think that they'll be the one to get through to somebody - to really touch their soul even when it seems impossible. What could be more rewarding than helping an android to overcome the sum of his programming and fall in love

    ? Of course it's an impossible feat, but that doesn't mean women wouldn't be lining up to try. I think a real-life Data would have more women then he'd know what to do with. (no men of course, since homosexuality is so nonexistent in the future that even a machine who can't have feelings for anyone has to reject women only)

    It is very obvious to me, why the writers chose Picard to manuever the shuttle.
    As beeing the first episode directed by Patrick Stewart it would be crucial to have as few on screen scenes with him as possible. The filming of only ONE actor in a shuttle could be completed in a very short amount of time because of no co-stars, minimal lighting and only two camera angles.

    Sure it doesn't justify poor writing. But
    considering how much screentime Patrick still has in the episode - compared to, say, Johnathan Frakes' directing debut in ''The offspring '' where he only had one or two little scenes to be able to focus on the directing, i salute Patrick for having done a solid job.

    i like the episode very much, despite it's weak B-Plot and an obvious cheap trick to shorten Patrick Stewarts screen time.

    I watched Voyager before I watched TNG, and I'm considering the differences between The Doctor and Data all the time.

    I think this episode shows the clear difference between data and the Doctor: The Doctor is much closer to human beings because his original programming gives him basic human emotions and needs. Those in turns make him want to evolve, and his ability to program his own subroutines makes him as close to a real (or even a super-) human as he could be.

    In the case of data, his original programming (much like a DNA sequence BTW) limits him very much in the type of feelings he can have and even the degree to which he can have feelings. However, it is made very clear that he is a sentient being.

    However I would submit that Data HAS to have feelings - for example, the will to survive - otherwise I don't think he would really qualify as sentient. And in my book he does qualify. That episode just shows the obviously gigantic gap there is between his life form and the human life-form. They may be incompatible. Just as Star Trek does a good job with Vulcans and Klingons for example to show societies that are valid in their own right, but which are just incompatible with us and remain incomprehensible to humans (especially the Klingons). I think that is the tru nature of "cultural differences" and the real test of tolerance / acceptance. It is difficult to accept REAL differences. In the case of Data, I think the Enterprise crew struggles with that same question: How do you accept as a friend someone's whose very existence is an affront to everything you are yourself? How do you consider them equal?

    Interesting that three of the last five episodes of season 4 (Half a Life, Host, and this one) all deal with very similar themes, namely a romance doomed to failure because one of the people in the relationship is completely and totally alien to the other. Of the three, I think this is the best, because it turns it around and makes the central cast member who we have seen and grown with over the past 100 episodes as the alien one. I liked Destructor, T'Paul, and William's comments, and agree with them. The fact that Data appears so mechanical here is what made the show. Others have mentioned elements of the last scene that were moving and striking, but I'll add one more. As Jenna's leaving, Data asks if this means that they are breaking up. This seems such a natural and emotional thing to do. If it were a human saying that, we might imagine he was being wistful or regretful, asking but not really wanting to hear the answer. But when Jenna confirms it, he merely comments that he will delete the appropriate program. There was no emotion behind his question, merely aiming for factual clarity so that he can efficiently organize his files.

    I also agree that it was not out of the ordinary for Jenna to fall for Data; the episode set it up well. Data has had 20 some years of experience dealing with people in professional or relaxed social environments. So while he's not perfect in these realms, he does a decent job of following the proper social protocols. He really was being a good friend to Jenna beforehand, both in the torpedo bay and after the concert. In fact, I remembered the "double date" with Miles and Keiko as happening after they became a couple, not before. But given how clingy Jenna was being with Data and how comfortable she was with him, it seemed only natural that she would think he might be able to be more than just a friend.

    And it was just as natural how much he failed. He has had zero experience with relationships (drunken one night stands with former security chiefs notwithstanding). Of course he wouldn't know how to behave. We see him act naturally (when Jenna visits him in his quarters), and he is emotionless and unavailable. So he tries to act unnaturally, and it is painfully obvious to everyone that it's a façade. Even Jenna noticed it was a failure pretty quickly. I guess that's why I can't complain about the pointless B plot too much. If it was so obvious to everyone that Data was pathetic at being a boyfriend, how could they have filled 43 minutes of it? Better to create filler than to mess up a good 30 minute story by stretching it to 43.

    As for comparing Data and the Doctor, this episode is one of the reasons Data is a better character. From my recollections of Voyager (and in fairness, I don't know it as well as TNG), the Doctor's INhumanity was rarely explored. For the most part, he was just a sarcastic human who could be turned off. The episode where his OS crashed due to saving Kim and not the redshirt is the only exception I can think of off the top of my head. That's not meant as a slight to Robert Picardo, who played the sarcastic doctor well. But there was much more depth to Data, because he was much more alien. We could never be sure how much of humanity he was mimicking and how much really was there.

    Just watched this one. It's amazingly awkward to watch, and kinda sad. At the same time, even without the absolutely terrible b-plot, I don't think this holds up very well against either Measure of a Man or the Offspring. The issue is that there is, essentially, only one point to make here: Data is bound to fail. It only takes a few scenes to get through all of the phases of this 'relationship', and while the ending shot really is the perfect gutpunch to all of us who delude ourselves about Data, the rest feels less inspired to me. I think the episode could have been better if the writers found a way to 'fool' the audience into believing Data was 'learning'. But I'm not sure how it could have been done.

    Maybe the other problem is that I actually prefer 'deluding' myself about Data. His reactions show a clear concept of desire, even if the desires are impersonal. The Offspring showed how, in the case of parenting, logical desire is not so far from 'caring' and 'love'. It's both fascinating and comforting to see Data's simple motives appear complicated and 'warm'. It's less engaging to be reminded that the complication and 'warmth' are illusory, and that in fact Data is strikingly simple. I acknowledge that it's important and that it actually adds to his character in some ways, but that doesn't make it more enjoyable to watch for me.

    So, I have trouble quite knowing what I think and how I feel about this episode, but one thing to remember is that this episode does not disprove that Data is capable of genuine caring, of the kind that he showed to Lal, or, indeed, that he shows to the other main crew members (Tasha, Geordi, Picard, Troi, Riker, etc.). The thing is, Data and Jenna are not that close; they are friends, but how often have they actually worked together? Jenna wants to go out with Data, and so Data tries to date Jenna on the terms of a standard romantic relationship with an acquaintance. The relationship is inauthentic not (merely) because Data is inauthentic, but because he tries to construct the entire relationship to move along relationship structures that don't particularly fit him. Relationships have to develop organically, or, at least, if a relationship is going to develop according to certain well-established courting systems, the people have to be, by their nature, responsive to those courting systems.

    What do we see Jenna and Data doing? Data gives Jenna good advice on her life; Jenna talks to Data because Data is a *great* listener; Data tries to bring in a new organizational structure to Jenna's things. I don't think they are a good match to begin with; they worked okay as friends because Data really is a good listener and is capable of being interested in whatever the other person is talking about, but is she all that interested in any of the things Data values on his own spare time?

    By contrast, Data's long-standing friendship with Geordi develops because they share common interests, and Geordi takes an active interest in what Data wants to do. Ron Moore, who wrote "In Theory," also wrote, for instance, Data's memorable reaction to Geordi's death in "The Next Phase." Data can learn the true value of friendship, corny as it sounds. Data never understood the meaning of a romantic relationship with Jenna, but I think we can read this not just as that Data is genuinely incapable of a relationship, but that such a relationship cannot be forced without personality compatibility, no matter how hard Data tries, and he has seemingly limitless supplies of, you know, ability to try. While Moore may have intended this as a demonstration that Data is incapable of a romantic relationship, and I do think a romantic relationship would be very difficult for Data, I think the episode maybe "says" something a tiny bit different, and the message, in general, is that a logical attempt to emulate the courtship rituals does not work for everyone. I think there are certain type A nerds who might be able to relate.

    William B,
    I sort of agree with what you're saying, but I think there is even more to it than that. I agree with you that Data is capable of 'caring' in the sense that he processes the appearance of happiness or sadness, and he wishes to make people happy. He also wishes to genuinely understand individual persons, and he has infinite patience. Both of these wishes could be called 'caring', maybe 'love', and possibly even 'romantic'. And it's hard to decide if Data's actions and motivations of this sort are any different from a human trying to please others.

    However, there is more to romance and love than two people trying to please each other. I think it's clear that Jenna appreciates Data's continuous attempts to give her attention and to make her happy. The problem is that a romantic partner doesn't just want to love and be loved; a romantic partner wants to feel as if his or her love truly matters to the other person. Especially when we are young, we want to feel that we have an emotional effect on our partner, beyond the rational. As Jenna says, no matter how much she and Data 'care' about each other, she can't actually make him 'happy'. She can only make him pleased to see that SHE is happy.

    Perhaps the easiest way to say all of this is that Data lacks the ability to be personally selfish. A romantic lover, especially young (and female? I'm not really qualified to say), wants his or her lover to seek him/her out of personal selfishness, not just to make him/her happy.

    Contrast this with Data's 'love' for Lal. A parent's love for the child is supposed to be entirely unselfish, and is based on the good of the child. The child needs to feel 'cared' for, but does not need to feel as though he/she inspires selfish desire in the parent. This is the kind of 'love' that Data seems capable of giving, even if he doesn't entirely understand it. It's a type of love with a certain rationale behind it that is detached from selfishness, and it's touching to see Data so naturally ready to 'give' it. Just typing this out helps me reinforce just how much I love the Offspring episode. But this is not the kind of love that Jenna needs for romance.

    As an extra aside, I think this also applies to Lal feeling fear, and why that scene doesn't feel like it comes from 'out of nowhere'. There's a certain stark logic and rationale behind Lal's fear - she has been told that an admiral will take her away from her father, who has 'cared' for her in the parental way that I'm claiming she and Data are naturally capable of (and that she understands as 'love' better than he does). She is about to lose that 'care' or 'love', and so she is 'scared'. It would have felt VASTLY out of place for her meltdown to have been caused by an emotion like romantic love or humor, which seem to defy logic and rationale.

    A great vehicle for Brent Spiner's acting but just a silly waste of time story-wise. The outcome -- that love with an android is impossible (and that Jenna is hopelessly headed for disappointment) -- was so obvious, why bother talking about it? And talk about bad advice. Did everyone on this ship just conveniently forget he has no emotions? We're we suppose to forget? No, we can't, so, in theory, this is just a pointless trip from the outset. The B plot doesn't merit a mention, so let's leave it at that.

    I think it was a worthy experiment. I'm not certain "love" is an emotion. He could not feel passion for her, but love is a great deal more complicated than an emotion, and I'm not convinced he doesn't love Geordi and Lal, to use two examples. He doesn't think he does, but that doesn't mean anything per say.

    I'm also not convinced that the relationship failed because she didn't feel loved. I felt the lover's quarrel scene was really forced. And not just in the sense that the episode intended. I liked the earlier scene with the gift much better.

    I'm also not convinced the episode itself got the experiment right. The final conclusion "JENNA: No, it's not. Because as close as we are, I don't really matter to you. Not really. Nothing I can say or do will ever make you happy or sad, or touch you in any way." is just plainly not true.

    She doesn't matter to him? Why? Because he doesn't stop parallel processing when they kiss? He has said that he looked forward to spending time together, he consulted all of his friends for advice, considered how to be an attentive boyfriend, etc., etc.

    She is correct that she will never make him happy... but to quote an excellent Voyager episode

    "TUVOK: I want to be able to have fun. With you. I won't be able to, will I?
    NEELIX: Well, you won't call it fun. You'll call it deriving satisfaction. But it's basically the same thing. You'll still experience emotions.
    TUVOK: But I won't express them."

    I know Data doesn't "experience emotion" but he can clearly "derive satisfaction". It may not be the same. And it may not be enough for Jenna... but I wish that they actually took the episode THERE. They didn't really. The things they did to prove that he wasn't able to love her just fell short and didn't really talk about how she needs to be able to touch him emotionally.

    I agree with Robert to a degree, though I think this episode does do some interesting things with it. I don't think it's a great Data episode by any means, and I've even seen people argue not unconvincingly that it puts his character back by making him more explicitly mechanical in his interactions than he had been in previous ones. But as I said, I think the problem is less that Data "can't love" and more that Data is so very different from most people that his attempt to have a "normal relationship" on "normal terms" is doomed to fail. I think about what Data says in "The Next Phase":

    "I never knew what a friend was until I met Geordi. He spoke to me as though I were human. He treated me no differently from anyone else. He accepted me for what I am. And that, I have learned, is friendship."

    Compare this with this exchange (all transcript quotes from here:

    DATA: In my study of interpersonal dynamics, I have found that conflict followed by emotional release often strengthens the connection between two people.
    JENNA: But there's something so forced and artificial about the way you're doing it, Data. It's just not the real you.
    DATA: With regard to romantic relationships, there is no real me. I am drawing upon various cultural and literary sources to help define my role.

    Jenna's statement that Data is not being "the real [him]" is both accurate and inaccurate. Data is not being the...authentic self that he more or less is with Geordi. Data pretty much never tries to use his analytical skills to improve his relationship with Geordi directly; rather, he uses his analytical skills to improve himself, and gets feedback from Geordi. He pursues his own interests, whether it's joketelling or painting or poetry or whatever, and gets feedback. Here, Jenna *is* Data's project, and that means that Data is being himself in that he is giving his all to attempting to change himself to fit in with human parameters (which is on some level what Data always does), and is not being himself in that he's ceased to attempt to emulate human behaviour in the terms that he finds admirable and has shifted to a kind of alternate persona. Well, or something; I think the distinction is actually a bit hard to pin down.

    Anyway, the next moment is my favourite in the episode, and one of my favourite Data moments period:

    JENNA: Kiss me.
    (they kiss)
    JENNA: What were you just thinking?
    DATA: In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters, analysing the collected works of Charles Dickens, calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips, considering a new food supplement for Spot....
    JENNA: I'm glad I was in there somewhere.

    Data's trailing off when he says he's considering a new food supplement for Spot shows his genuine concern for Jenna -- he sees that she is disappointed and put off by his response, and seems to want to correct it but be uncertain how. And I think the beauty of this moment, which for me encapsulates the things that work about this episode, is that there is no "bad guy." Data is being completely honest, and that Data is constantly multitasking is not a sign that he doesn't care about others or that he's incapable of love. It's just that Data's love is far from the typical picture of human love -- which, to my mind, is not entirely accurate with humans either. As for Jenna, it's certainly true we can say that she is being foolish and all over the place, refusing to acknowledge the realities of Data. But it's also just *very hard* to have a certain degree of intimacy with someone so very different from oneself. A lot of relationships are based on empathy -- on having some ability to feel what the other person is feeling, or be able to reproduce their internal state in oneself. One doesn't completely understand another human (one doesn't completely understand oneself), but that kind of emotional understanding is a big deal, and Jenna really can't understand Data, nor can Data completely understand Jenna.

    I think that there is some indication that the tragedy in this episode is not that Data is incapable of having a caring relationship, but that Data and Jenna are mismatched -- but mismatched in a way that demonstrates how difficult and overwhelming the difference between Data and humans in general is, and thus how difficult any relationship will be. For Jenna, in particular, we mostly learn that this relationship is a bad fit:

    JENNA: I didn't see it until today. I got out of a relationship with an unemotional man, and I got right back into another, with a man who is absolutely incapable of emotion.
    DATA: There does appear to be a recurring motif.

    Ouch. The fact that Jenna mentions her previous relationship with an unemotional man is a reminder that it's not just androids, but humans who have intensely different levels of emotion.

    The scene with Troi, for example, has this dialogue:

    DATA: I have studied much human literature on the subject of love and romantic liaisons. There are many role models for me to emulate.
    TROI: Ultimately, Jenna will care for you for what you are, not what you imitate out of a book.
    DATA: My programming may be inadequate to the task.
    TROI: We're all more than the sum of our parts, Data. You'll have to be more than the sum of your programming.

    One could say this episode is a failed experiment which demonstrates that Data just has no real self, or no ability to rise above the sum of his programming. Or maybe it's a failed experiment, about how sometimes Data's reach exceeds his grasp, at this point in time. Nobody's perfect. Even Data. Some experiments are going to fail -- and in the short-term it seems as if Data hitting a certain possibly temporary ceiling in his rise to understanding human interactions is more final than the long-term would suggest.

    @Robert and William B:

    Interesting thoughts, as always. A few comments:

    Unlike William, I actually consider this one of the best Data episodes. The episode is very unfair to both Data and Jenna, but still, there are few episodes that depict "his own self" as well as this one.

    I have watched this episode many times with my better half, who is simply in love with Data. I guess that you might say that in a way, so am I. Aren't we all? ;)

    The beauty and the problem of it is that my dearly beloved loved of course the "calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips" moment that William also refers to. There, in one line (the full quote) we have the depiction of the android that is Data.

    She also, such as I, absolutely understood everything Data did in this episode, and how hard he was trying. It is really quite touching, and quite tragic. Here we have a fantastic creation of genius, by design of his creator inhibited of sensing true feelings the way humans do, trying to so hard to be the best he could in that role.

    There is a tragic element here; but there didn't need be. The point is, that this is a Season 4 episode; and by this time, just by watching the series every week, we the audience completely understand everything Data does in this episode, and how incredibly sweet he is, and how hard he is trying. I mean, how can you not love someone who tells you: "Darling, you remain as aesthetically pleasing as the first day we met. I believe I am the most fortunate sentient in this sector of the galaxy"?

    Jenna, being his crewmate, should of course also recognize this. The episode is thus wholly unfair to her character, and indirectly so also to Data.

    Jenna's reactions are consistent with those of someone who only has a vague idea of who Data is. To such a person, Data's actions might justify her responses, because yes, he is truly different from us in his extremely analytical approach to everything. And someone who didn't know him well would probably react as she did upon learning just how different he is.

    Still, I fully agree with Robert in that great Tuvok/Neelix quote ― one of the few, truly outstanding Neelix moments. Data is capable of some other sort of sentiment, not quite like our feelings, but clearly not mere cold calculations. To quote that fabulous line of his: "As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The input is eventually anticipated, and even missed when absent."

    There you have it. Soong prevented his creation from having true human emotions. But he gave him... something more than linear strings of command. Unlike VOY's EMH, Data was given an artificial brain, strange pathways and inscrutable neural networks that enable him to be more than a program (I refer to our recent, lengthy, and pleasant talk in VOY's "Heroes and Demons").

    Jenna, being his crewmate, should know this. And Jenna should be able to accept Data for what she should know he is.

    This episode is therefore illustrating its point the wrong way. If the writers had made Jenna be a newcomer to the Enterprise, or someone with otherwise limited knowledge of Data (I am reminded of that girl in last season's "Ensigns of Command"), it would be perfect. Because her reaction would then be very plausible. But by making her a long-serving officer on the Enterprise, I find her reactions much more difficult to accept.

    The way I see it, the writers had two options:

    1) ― put Data in a romantic situation with someone who hardly knew him, and let it play out like it did here, thus illustrating magnificently and tragically how different he is from humans, or
    2) ― put him in a romantic situation with someone who actually had served for a long time with him and understood him, and would accept and love him for what he is ― thus illustrating the beautiful, futuristic possibilities of love.

    The latter would of course have extremely far-reaching consequences, both for the Data character, and for TNG itself. So I can perfectly understand why the writers and producers chose otherwise. Unfortunately, they chose to do something in between. And that rings somewhat untrue. As I said, the episode isn't fair to Jenna's character ― and therefore isn't fair to Data's character aswell.

    Having said all this, I still consider it a great Data episode. I am sorry the producers didn't choose to pursue a more ambitious story of futuristic love, but am still quite happy with this effort.

    At Andy's Friend. I think you explained what I feel is "off" here, better than I. The scene with the kiss could have been great, but as you said... why would his response have surprised her if they are such good off screen friends?

    And as I said in my response, her final conclusion "JENNA: No, it's not. Because as close as we are, I don't really matter to you. Not really. Nothing I can say or do will ever make you happy or sad, or touch you in any way." was only half correct. She can't make him happy, but she clearly matters.

    You are correct, Jenna smacks of someone who doesn't understand Data, and that doesn't make sense given their friendship (not to mention her gold uniform, 2 pips and her long service on the Enterprise). I find myself wishing they had done this with a newcomer to the Enterprise. That might have played better.

    Also, it may sound like I don't like this episode, but that's not true. I just felt that it felt "off" in places.

    What I always liked about this episode was the fact that, as William B. alluded to (spot on as usual), Jenna's issues with Data are a symptom of her own relationship dysfunction. True, Data's android personality is a catalyst, but really her issues are her own. While it may have been novel for Data, the first of his kind, to date a human, I really liked that no one on the Enterprise thought it was odd for Jenna to pursue a relationship with AI. The reason they end up not working as a couple is the same reason any two people might not. In classic Trek fashion, Data's "non-human" traits are really a mythological magnification of very real human traits. How many of us haven't had our minds wander during a kiss (or sex, or conversation with our lovers)? But, would we baldly admit that our attention was elsewhere? Actually, yes some of us would, but that's just a convention of social graces, a tempered honesty to maintain idealistic illusions.

    The weakness of the episode then becomes the fact that all the attention, from a psychological point of view, is on Data. Jenna has some issues to work through here and should probably be having sessions with Troi as well (assuming for the moment that Troi is competent).

    As far as the "Jenna doesn't get Data" commentary, I have to politely disagree to an extent; being someone's friend from work (even for years) and being someone's lover are dramatically different degrees of intimacy. Data has had time to mould his workplace persona into one which has become comfortable and familiar to those around him, even if it isn't totally human. There is no reason Jenna, who probably doesn't know about Tasha, did not witness those intimate scenes with Lore, Fazio or Lal, or hear Data's pleas in "Pen Pals", etc. would understand Data the way we, the audience (think we) do.

    "There is no reason Jenna, who probably doesn't know about Tasha, did not witness those intimate scenes with Lore, Fazio or Lal, or hear Data's pleas in "Pen Pals", etc. would understand Data the way we, the audience (think we) do. "

    Point taken. But she wears a gold uniform. He's a computer. Did she really expect his mind would shut down all of his other parallel processes during their kiss?

    Well, Jenna's gold uniform is because she's a security officer, not an engineer, for what it's worth.

    Oh ya! You know, I haven't seen it in awhile but I do remember her mentioning doing a security sweep. Good catch, my bad. I mean, I should still hope she understands how a computer works, but it's not as stupid as if it had been say... Lt. Torres.

    It's sad to say, because I really like Data and actually like the idea of him in a relationship, but his episode was nothing more than a waste of time. The idea of Data in a romantic relationship has potential and could work. But something like this really should have been done once him had the Emotion Chip. As it sits, I have to ask - what were they both thinking? Jammer hits it right on the head with asking what D'Sora was thinking when she got into a relationship with a man incapable of feelings. But what was Data hoping to achieve here as well? I'm honestly stumped. Was it simply a new experience he was interested in? What? And I'm sorry, but that scene with Data attempting to manufacture relational comfort and then turmoil, that was painful to watch. I legitimately feel bad for Brent Spiner and Michele Scarabelli for having to deliver that dialogue. I'd be perfectly happy never watching that again.

    And then there's tech sub-plot - never yet in TNG has there been a more completely unnecessary plot element. I'm not saying that the A and B plots have to be interconnected (one of my favorites from DS9 has two completely independent plot-lines) but these two stories just seem so out of place together. Nothing in either one had anything remotely to do with the other, either direct story-wise or thematically. Or was that the point - to show how out of place Data and Jenna's relationship was? I think I'm probably giving the writers WAY too much credit there.

    There are enjoyable elements to "In Theory," however. They're like little nuggets of enjoyment in a sea of boredom. Picard's "advice" on understanding women (I'm giving a +1 to the score for that little jewel alone), the truly haunting shot of the female lieutenant half merged with the floor and the final shot of Data petting Spot are all enjoyable. And that's ultimately the problem with the episode. I can only think of three very, VERY, short scenes that I honestly enjoyed.

    This episode had potential and yet ended up as nothing but pure filler.


    "Then I will delete the appropriate program". A curious episode this. Starting off with a perfectly serviceable 'can Data have a romantic relationship" story-line', which has some fine comedic moments. That story then spins off into a weird place - including Data living a strange 1950's-style sitcom existence - until supplanted by the B-story which again heads to a weird place when Picard demands to pilot the shuttle by himself for no apparent reason.

    While I can understand Jenna fixating on Data, I am less clear as to why anyone else would think it was a good idea. As Troi points out - Jenna's feeling's can be hurt, and Data's can't. Because he hasn't got any. That being something of a fundamental point at the heart of the story that begs the question of how it was ever going to end differently. 2.5 stars

    Begs the question does not mean asks the question.

    I think that, after all the analyzing of this episode, and watching it again the other day, we can imagine that Jenna and Data don't normally work together, but when they do, they enjoy each other's company. We haven't seen how long she's been on the ship, but it's long enough that he goes to her quarters, and once picked up her clothes. If he was working with someone for the first time, or wasn't friends, he would only visit them for work-related purposes, and would never touch a thing. It sounds like they've been friendly, and he's been over before. They've known each other long enough she has Data remind her why she broke up with the other fellow, and he's had to to it a few times.

    The problem: Data makes a new dating program. She is used to normal (but very friendly with her) Data, and might not expect the new program, which could really have reminded her he was a machine. Sentient, but a machine nonetheless. She was looking for Data version 1-0, but got 1-1. She wanted the guy who would be sweet, and listen to her, not the one who manufactured an argument so they could make up.

    Enjoy the day... RT

    This episode treats Data as is his relationship with Tasha never took place...this is a major inconsistency. Why wouldn't she be mentioned or acknowledged?


    Because... That wasn't a relationship? It was essentially a drunken one night stand. And while Data, well appreciated, that moment with Tasha, it was essentially a moment. It never went deeper or beyond that sex. This was Data's first attempt at a real, deep relationship, working with, caring for, considering the needs of and living for someone else beyond himself and the regular way he treats his friends. Tasha was special to him, but she was never more than his first time, a friend, collegue and later a picture on his desk. Totally different.

    Pleasant episode and a good showcase for Data. I would give it 3/4 stars because I think it's the best sustained exploration of Data's character -- hitting his core of desiring to be human -- since "The Most Toys" or "Elementary Dear Data" or "Pen Pals." Patrick Stewart's direction feels confident and relaxed, with the cast clearly having a good time, and it's nice to see Picard take charge of an away mission (in the shuttle) for a change, even if the technobabble plot is just filler. As for Jammer's big objection that Jenna's interest in Data feels unmotivated unless it's a scientific experiment of her own, I'm not sure I agree: There are actually a LOT of people, both men and women, who feel drawn to emotionally unavailable romantic partners. It's kind of a thing.

    "She kissed me in the torpedo bay". Muhahahaha.

    Yes I have the sense of humour of an adolescent with nae mates.

    Heh heh,

    I am smiling affectionately at the cute cluelessness of some on this board. I am referring to the question "Why is Jenna so surprised and hurt to learn that Data thinks like an android? Doesn't she know him at all?"

    Aw cmon. She likes his company, she wants him to step in and be her perfect guy, and she immediately sets about reimagining him into that role. The thought process goes like this:

    He's not incapable of emotion he's.... Got hidden depths! It just takes the right woman to bring him out of his shell. Once they get closer, his programming will evolve and create real loving feelings. I mean, okay, he's a bit different but... That's actually what makes him better than all the losers she's dated before! In fact, he's perfect. He'll never hurt her. He truly cares about her. That android stuff is just a minor flaw that doesn't matter much compared to all the good parts of him! Et cetera..

    I've never dated an android, but I've dated all kinds of unsuitable types and imagined they were different from what they were, or talked myself out seeing their flaws, because I wanted to believe we were going to work out. It's called hope. I guess. Or self-delusion. Same thing.

    I also kinda think it's human nature to imagine others think just like we do. JEnna has never been an android. Yes she knows, sort of, intellectually, that he's a computer with limbs. But he looks so human and acts so human - she can't help believing he's just like she is, except with wires instead of neurons.

    BTW I love this episode. Lots of humor and character moments, and the sad ending reveals his mechanical-toy nature perfectly. Just like that, Jenna is forgotten and he's all "Spot!" Brilliant.

    And I love that I too calculate the amount of pressure I can apply to someone's lips - but for me it's unconsciously done, and for Data it's a computation he is completely aware of. That really shows him for who he is.

    I appreciate the ambiguity the writers leave us with.

    It's good to be reminded that Data is genuinely different from us, genuinely 'alien', as another commenter here pointed out.

    When Jenna expresses to Data her concern that she doesn't really "matter" to him... He agrees with her. That part's not really up for debate, at least if Data's self-assessment is correct.

    On the other hand, Data clearly experiences (or at least expresses) motivations and goals, which we project onto him as "desires". His primary personal motivation is to become more human (and his experimentation with Jenna is intended to further that cause); his primary professional motivation is to perform his duties for Star Fleet. Who knows what combination of circuits and chain-of-logic commands lead to the ultimate 'motivations' for Data's behaviour?

    As the writers brilliantly point out at other times: we genuinely *don't know* if Data counts as a 'real person'. We, and the crew, want to believe he does-- and he certainly produces output that gives the appearance that he is-- but for the most part we're treading on the safe side (because the risk of offending against a sentient being, if we're wrong, is unacceptable). Whereas with biological humans, we know because we each *are* humans that there's a soul behind our eyes (or whatever you want to call sentient consciousness; the 'eyes behind the eyes'; the self-reflecting, observational entity we call "I", "Myself", "Me")... we will never really know if this very complex non-biological machine houses a soul or consciousness in the way we do.

    I think the biggest trick here is, we will always *want* to project intelligence and humanity, intent and emotions, onto non-human things. We can almost trick ourselves that a toaster secretly has motivation and burns our toast on purpose. How much more with each stage of a machine specifically programmed to speak to us in case-sensitive English sentences, to refer to itself as "I" and "Me", to vary its responses in seemingly organic (but carefully contrived) ways; to adapt its programming on the fly to more and more closely emulate human behaviour and responses? And how much more when you fit a human face on it? Remember, Data was built by a fallible human who fiercely wanted to believe he could make machines that were really alive and conscious. It seems at least within the realm of possibility that, consciously or unconsciously, Dr. Soong programmed Data to be inclined to claim to to alive and conscious, and to exhibit as many traits as possible that give the appearance of sentience, whether or not it was ever achieved.

    Again, of course, we will always want to believe Data is, really, alive and a proper person (I certainly do, and always watch him that way). But it's always interesting (if tragic) to reflect on the fact that, as appallingly empty as the thought is, it is certainly *possible* that a machine could be constructed that conducts itself exactly as Data does, proclaiming its 'life' and 'consciousness' via its audible voice through its human face, while never actually experiencing one iota of consciousness.

    What always got me was that Jenna liked Data for who he normally was, but once they started "dating" he wrote a program that altered his behavior (in pretty creepy ways, IMO) and that program lead ultimately to her ending it. He is capable of having "friendships" without acting too strange so if he had approached this as just another relationship things might have turned out differently.

    For Jenna's part I have no idea what she was thinking, were her experiences with men really so bad that she decided to try robosexuality? I guess after her bad experiences she might see Data as a "safe" choice because deep down she knows he's not capable of getting emotionally invested, and that he'd be straightforward with her and not cheat or play games. If Yar had spread around rumors after their liaison I could see some of the crew members pursuing him out of curiosity (or maybe not, I'm sure the holodeck could do a lot better) but Jenna seemed only to be seeking emotional intimicy (something she knew he couldn't give her), not a physical relationship. I've never bought any of Data's "romances" with humanoids (Yar comes close but that's because it wasn't really "romance") and want to see him try pursuing a relationship with, say, the ship's computer or another robot (he has shown to have a greater affinity for other machines than even his closest "friends").

    Maybe we should be grateful the relationship never took a physical turn, but at the same time I was curious as to how that would play out if it had. How does Data feel about being "fully functional" when it's such a useless "function" for him to have? What was Soong thinking? Does this mean Lore is "fully functional" as well? Why are his robots even anatomically correct? The implications are so hilarious and disturbing I'm (not quite) sorry it wasn't brought up again.

    Pretty dull stuff here -- makes no sense that the girl Jenna would all of sudden kiss Data in a romantic way and develop feelings for an android -- a real stretch there.

    The Data awkwardness with romance is worth a couple of chuckles but, for me, it's not that interesting. We can feel that Data is struggling to understand romance, but he deletes the subroutine and presumably just moves on without any emotional baggage in the end. The scene with him blowing out the candle in the end is nicely symbolic for the viewer but we have to remember, Data isn't really disappointed -- he doesn't really have feelings. It's purely a learning experience.

    As for the phenomena of the nebula and the anomalies that mess up the ship, pretty dull stuff as well. I thought this kind of thing -- navigating the ship -- was done much better in "Booby Trap" (if memory serves) with Picard. But here, it makes no sense for him to be piloting the shuttlecraft. That becomes absolutely clear when it blows up and miraculously O'Brien beams him back -- not much made out of this potentially disastrous situation.

    1.5 stars for me -- the opening act set this up as a pretty lame episode. The B-plot with the nebula's anomalies was just kind of there and I think it was stupid for Picard to insist on piloting the shuttlecraft. Only saving grace here is some somewhat funny/awkward moments between Data and Jenna and Data trying out how to be romantic.

    @ Rahul,

    She's rebounding, Data is sympathetic and considerate, and she's vulnerable. But I think the point the episode is trying to make is that after being hurt she thinks what she really needs is someone safe, reliable, and who'll be there for her, and Data is all of those things. What she doesn't realize is that the potential to be hurt has to be part of the package, because Data won't hurt her but also won't be able to love her. I think it's really great for an episode to show the ways in which Data would be good as a friend but problematic as a lover.

    I've always liked "In Theory", and viewed it as a sequel to "Data's Day". Data's love life is wonderfully creepy and disturbing, and the episode touches upon the creepy ways in which so much about "love" and "relationships" are socially and culturally coded; a kind of shared theatre, both partners enacting programmed roles.

    Something nobody else has mentioned: this episode features new, cool shots of the Enterprise when it's being guided by the shuttle. We see her from the front, at a low angle, as she tilts and banks to the left and right. It's a shame the show's budget didn't allow for more footage of the Enterprise doing anything more complex than flying in straight lines. The ship looks gorgeous doing these off kilter banking manoevers.

    My honest opinion is that this episode is embarrassing. Not in a bad way towards the episode, but in that it shows how desperate some people can be. I feel bad that some people can not find a mate (like poor Jenna here who seems to go after the wrong guy a lot and can't find a husband) and so will look anywhere. She already knows that Data is an android. It would be like falling in love with a computer. I can see it happening, but it is still embarrassing all around. I also do not understand why the senior crew members didn't try to talk him out of it knowing that Data would not be able to provide the emotional support and love a woman needs. There is no way that Data and Jenna could be a successful husband and wife, and this should be obvious

    @ Sean Hagins,

    "I also do not understand why the senior crew members didn't try to talk him out of it knowing that Data would not be able to provide the emotional support and love a woman needs. There is no way that Data and Jenna could be a successful husband and wife, and this should be obvious"

    I don't know that this is the intended takeaway from the episode. Jenna's problem is that she's on the rebound and has a nasty habit of being attracted to emotionally unavailable men. Data is the epitome of this so we're her cycle play out in what I might call a satirically exaggerated version of what she has already done. I don't think any statement is being made here about the possibility of Data being a good partner for someone. It's more about her problem than anything wrong with Data.

    For my money I wouldn't at all discount the possibility that someone might really thrive on having a partner like Data. I wouldn't limit this to Vulcans and such, but some humans would legitimately like someone completely logical and interested to learn all sorts of new things.

    Now, you did say that Data wouldn't be able to provide emotional support and love - but is that really true? It is certainly true that he can't *experience* those things on an emotional level, but I think The Offspring showed as that he is certainly capable of love in the sense of 'giving care to' and having concern for well-being. And emotional support is exactly that: support, not empathy. Data has given support to fellow crew members in an emotional crisis many times on the show, including Worf and Geordi. The question is what's most important: him feeling things, or him doing the things a loving person needs to do?

    Data's problem in this episode isn't that he isn't capable of giving care, it's that he thinks he's supposed to be going through the motions of a standard relationship and mimicking the rituals and cliches associated with that. He probably thinks this because he knows there are social expectations and he wants to meet them and 'get them right'. Well guess what: that's what many very real people do anyhow! They play out film tropes or cultural cliches and go through the motions of what "you're supposed to do", which basically means getting your cues from TV. Data isn't any worse than many people in thinking to do the same, but again he serves as a biting satire on how modern people actually treat relationships - as a series of boxes to check off. He can learn better once he knows that isn't necessary. Can we?

    I like Michele Scarabelli. She reminds me of a duller and not as cute version of Linda Hamilton. Just like it would be a huge fail if Sarah Conner had a love relationship with the Terminator, there was no hope Jenna and Data would have a lasting relationship. I would had put money on Data and his cat Spot, working out as lovers.

    Picard in this episode, reminded me of the old school dude who tried to be cool because he used to work on TV's with vacuum tubes. That old skill did work out for Clint Eastwood, when he was called up to save the world by fixing a space platform in orbit that was loaded with nukes in the movie, Space Cowboys. It was operating with computers that still had tubes in it.

    Not a favorite episode.

    Regarding Data vs. the Doctor... Thinking back over TNG, i think The Measure of a Man is the only episode that really question's Data's right to existence and rights as an individual. The crew always treat him as an individual as deserving of rights as anyone. Outsiders sometimes question that, but never the people he considers friends. The Doctor, on the other hand, is constantly treated as an appliance. No one on the Enterprise would even consider comparing Data to a replicator like Janeway does the Doctor. The Doctor, unlike Data, has consistent trouble being respected as a unique individual. In part, this is because he's an EMH, and thus one of presumably hundreds of copies of a program. As we see in First Contact, EMH's are a standard feature on the latest generation of Starfleet ships, so it makes total sense that the crew would see him more as an appliance. After all, that's how Starfleet has treated "him." Data, on the other hand, is almost entirely unique. (The out of universe reason, of course, is that conflict within the crew was not allowed under Roddenbury.) While I really appreciate Data's journey towards personhood, I think that Voyager explores the oppression/dismissal of artificial lifeforms much more completely and poignantly with the Doctor.

    I did feel sorry for poor old Data in the last scene, sitting all by himself with just Spot to console him after being dumped by Sarah Conner's twin sister.
    Not that he is supposed to have cared of course.

    Riker's 'Wahay-go get some ,Data', approach was entirely predictable but it was Geordie-the man with the holodeck girlfriend-who warned his fried that Jenna was just on the rebound.

    Another forgettable soap opera hour.

    This is the only episode of "Next Gen" I had never seen before. And I wasn't missing much.

    The death of that one crew member is rather disturbing. What a horrible way to go -- to fall halfway through a floor and then have it become solid again.

    It's in the same category for me as the woman destroyed by the disruptor in "The Most Toys," the yeoman reduced to a cube and crushed by the Kelvans in the Original Series and the transporter malfunction in the Motion Picture.

    Very disturbing ways to go. Can't quite shake the images.

    This should be remade in the style of 'Always Sunny in Philadelphia'. "Data Gets Dumped", everyone yelling at each other...

    Every so often you hear about some eccentric woman somewhere in the world falling in love with her chandelier or candlestick or hairdryer and going through a faux marriage ceremony. Not clear how any of this is different - unless you also believe a chandelier programmed to talk back would also be a suitable romantic partner.

    I was going to give this a 6/10 but bumped it up to an 8. that seems overly generous but since it advanced Data's story I felt it was worth it.

    It is interesting how data can be programmed to be attentive and kind but if the other person knows that he doesn't have emotion it doesn't matter how well he treats them.

    Even if Data didn't have some of the Android faux pas and always knew how to behave, like a sociopath really, it still wouldn't be enough. Is it because it is so easy for him to delete his program? what's the difference really? If Data decided on who a good partner was, and created a kick ass program, why should the partner feel any trepidation? There would be no greater risk of being dumped than with a human partner who changes what they want, or other reason for leaving a relationship.

    I remembered the woman half in the hallway and half out. But my memory said it happened to more than one crew member. Perhaps that is a different episode. Once again this is the Where No One Man Has Gone Before meaning Picard gets centre stage piloting the shuttle.

    Data to Guinan:
    Lt D'Sora just gave me what could be considered a very passionate kiss in the Torpedo Bay.

    The way Spiner delivers this epic double entendre is priceless. Complete with the silent nod after Guinan's "Really...?"
    I always laugh out loud at this line when I watch the episode. Well done, Menosky and Moore!

    Bahahaha! I never heard that before. I'd bet you that Spiner was unaware of the double entendre. Best way to get an actor not to play comedy is to not let him know it is...

    I could barely get through this one. I love Data and I like his episodes (for example, Data's Day not too long before this), but every part of this attempted relationship just comes off as too awkward for me to stomach. You'd forgive them for lack of chemistry given how Spiner's playing an android, but nothing in the performance feels like Jenna's even into him at all. And then the B plot does nothing, and barely takes up any space in the episode anyway. Not sure I'll ever be able to bear rewatching this one.

    (For what it's worth though, I did pick up on the "torpedo bay" line mentioned by the commenters above. Oh, is *that* what they're calling it in the 24th century...?)

    I would like to just add a thought on that. Initially we have Jenna going into Data 's quarters and when he resumes his painting after she said just carry on what you're doing, she goes back to him and says "book of love...." and uses a book reference to explain why he should have acted differently. So to me she is at fault there, she already tries to shape him into something different, maybe thinking she is helping him by giving him official reference, and he then uses that advice to change his behaviour, unfortunately using romantic cliches of old times (I suppose they reference him as liking Sherlock Holmes stories so he went and used romantic references from around the same period?).

    I agree that they could have make it work over a season or a few episodes to make it more interesting, also it feels like Jenna gives up so easily?? If you know he's an android surely you would try different things to make it work, it would have been interesting to take it further.
    I believe Data was already popular to viewers then and to a part of the female audience, so they try to see how that would unfold over an episode, wasn't done with a real care for Data. From my point of view Data still cares until the end, he ever asks her to sit and eat, he wants it to go on, but she ends it. As a human if someone was breaking up with me like that I would also feel like, well if that is what you want I'll erase the gone! I dont feel it's just "because he is an android" but that's the beauty of the series, often you can interpret Data's actions differently depending on your opinion.
    It also plays a lot on the fact that Brent Spiner gives a lot of emotion to Data, genuine, childlike, naive. Even when he appears emotionless. I wouldn't say the same for Spock for example who appears a lot more serious / strict.

    As someone else said earlier, we project emotions into our lovers but we can never truly share their emotion or be in their own head. Love is trusting that you believe the other person genuinely loves you. You take clues and you decide if you believe it or not. I think Jenna could have tried a bit harder if she truly loved Data, and we could have a dramatic episode where Data is corrupted and struggling when a force makes him threaten Jenna, this kind of stuff makes you wonder if he would kill her if his program is corrupted for example. Similar to the struggle Picard had when he came back from the Borg vessel. That stuff is powerful because the viewer can relate to that (a kind of projection like when we ask yourself on which side we would have been if born in Germany before the world wars), and either way it goes it would bring a lot of emotional drama.

    This episode in the end shows that Data is ready for a relationship (in a few episodes before he even expressed an interest in marriage) but that he would need someone completely devoted to making it work, or a best friend, someone that truly gets how he works and can laugh it off when he acts oddly and just remind him to be himself, or play through the simulations and give honest feedback.
    In the end Jenna was very selfish and as soon as things started to go differently from what she expected she ended it.

    The problem is, Data is a totally honest android. Ask him what he is thinking about, and he tells you. When he tries to act romantic it is completely obvious that it's an act. (Though that was a bit at odds with the way that in a previous aspect it was shown that, under the guidance of his mentor, Picard, he had become a very accomplished actor.)

    Hunan relationships sometimes require an ability to be deceptive about how we feel at any time - deceptive to other people, and also deceptive to ourselves.

    Actually that needn't mean someone else might be quite capable of getting along with him pretty well as a partner. If gay relationships had been allowed to exist in the Next Generation I think it would have been perfectly possible for the relationship with Geordi to be developed in that direction.

    Plenty of people, especially men, go through life without indicating much emotion, and manage well enough. That's more especially true in some cultures and some countries. (The stiff upper lip...) The differences in how Data behaves is not really more extreme than that which can characterise some people on the spectrum.

    Very reasonable that Jenna could be attracted by these very qualities. They imply a kind of safety, which could be appealing in a condition of emotional turmoil - and as was noted, there's a pattern of behaviour wanted. It's not what she really wants. She was definitely the wrong person for Data.

    Fortunately, he's got Spot, who accepts him as he is, and has trained him to provide whatever is required in the way of food or comfort. Data just needs to find a human who is a bit more like Spot.

    Something of a sub-par episode, this one. I like the idea of exploring Data's capacity to have a relationship. But I felt it should have been the sub-plot to the potholes in the space-time road surface, which itself could have been a bit more dramatic and interesting.

    There are some nice moments, though. The dialogue between Worf and Data which Data concludes with "I understand" is priceless. The death of the crew member is unusually dark for TNG, even though she looks more like a dummy than a corpse.

    Odd that Data asks Geordi for advice about women. A bit like asking Heinrich Himmler for advice on race relations.

    Not a bad one. Not a good one.

    A hard episode for me to watch. I quickly tired of the Jenna character. Data is almost always interesting, but here, he really took two steps backwards in his quest to become human. We have already witnessed Data displaying high degrees of compassion in "The Most Toys" and "Pen Pals" actually beyond that of his human colleagues in the latter episode), so his reversion to cute-but-dense Pinocchio Robot doesn't ring at all true. If one recalls Data's behavior in Measure of a Man and compare that Data to this one, a glaring lack of continuity emerges. HE may not think that he has any true human emotions, but the viewer knows that he is completely self aware and cares about his own destiny to the point that he in fact feels! Jenna was basically a leech on Data and I say good riddance to her (Perhaps she should run away with ambassador Odan). The gratiuitous death of the woman engineer in the childish, throw-way B plot reduces further the viewer's chances of surviving "In Theory " with cerebrum intact. 3/9

    As much as I like the plot, I just can’t get past Data suddenly using contractions. Especially such trite ones as “Honey? I’m home!”

    The writers, Stewart, and Spiner all dropped the ball on one of the most dedicated points of Data’s personality.

    Jenna was a basket case and train wreck from the opening credits. And she is definitely fatal.

    Not sure why, but she seems like a Linda Hamilton clone to me, but she is no Sarah Conner's. Way to clingy with Data. I can't believe he didn't get a Bad Syntax error when trying to communicate or rationalizing with her. Perhaps it is her acting that is subpar, but I knew exactly how this episode was going to end. She was so predictable.

    This has always been one of the worst TNG episodes when rating them.

    Trash episode only saved by its comedy.

    Guinan saying to Data “don’t look at me!” when he was asking for advice about Android on Human relationships, and Data immediately adverting his gaze, has got to be the funniest thing I’ve seen in TNG (that and those hilariously awful shape shifting creature costumes from S1).

    Data’s sick dis at the end was also epic. “Are we no longer a couple?” “Then I will delete your program.” LOL

    We need to focus on what is clearly the most important issue here.

    Why does Jenna have quarter's with windows? She's a lieutenant junior grade. Data is two ranks above her a doesn't have a window and he's the second officer. Geordi and Worf also don't have windows.

    You know that guy Jeff she had a recent breakup with? He's in charge of crew quarters assignments.

    First appearance of Spot ?
    Yukk! Riker's super sleazy response .
    & how come no one tells Data to kiss her in the torpedo bay ?

    When Data and Jena kiss and she asks what he was thinking of - is this a reference to The Jerk -

    Steve Martin’s character Navin: Do you think it's possible that someday, you could make love with me and think of him ?
    - Marie: Who knows, maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.
    - Navin: I'd just be happy to be in there somewhere.”

    @Frake's Nightmare

    "how come no one tells Data to kiss her in the torpedo bay?"


    Sorry. My inner Beavis & Butthead was unleased.

    "Jenna, are we no longer... a couple?"
    "No, we're not."
    "Then I will delete the appropriate program."

    Dude. That was frickin' SAVAGE. If I didn't know better, I'd say Data calculated the exact right words, phrasing, and intonation to drive a knife right in Jenna's heart. Worst of all, she'll walk away thinking she only has herself to blame.

    I say this because I did exactly that IRL, with a high school girlfriend who tearfully confessed to cheating on me (with a guy named Marvin, no less). I'm not proud of my reaction, but that was what I did: calculate the words, phrasing, and intonation to deliver maximum damage. If I'd yelled and called her names or whatever, we might have worked through it. But my completely disinterested shrug-and-shit-happens reaction was too brutal to recover from.

    Good episode that I like. Since Data is our friend, it's hard for me not to chalk up my dislike for Jenna as bros before hoes, but fuck that bitch Jenna. All I can think of watching her is like what did you think it would be like? You made no effort to try to relate to him at his level. Everything we've seen in the show is that Data has emotions, they are just completely alien to us because they are android emotions. Data is completely capable of expressing love and his "love language" manifests entirely as acts of service (see Lal).

    Now I realise I'm not being fair to Jenna, she tried something realised it's not for her and moved on. I'm being snarky for effect, but still.

    While I really love this episode, I don’t QUITE buy its central premise. Jenna’s talk to Data at the end, when she “broke up” with him, almost made it ok, as she said everything that showed she understood why he could never be a satisfactory partner. So why on earth did she begin it? Going from an “unemotional man” to an android … I can see the storyline logic, but I just don’t believe it. Data, of course, behaved exactly as he should, and the scenes where he tried to learn how to behave in a romantic relationship were both hilarious and poignant.

    This is a great story. How to resolve the problem? Perhaps there should have been a female android with whom Data could have experimented, but that would have needed a lengthy excursion to obtain her. So it had to be a crew member even if it wasn’t convincing.

    Anyhoo. I love the scenes where Data seeks advice… the people he talks to all react perfectly in character; Geordi: “Ask someone else!”; Troi: “Be careful of her feelings”; Rikerapist: “Go for it!”; Picard: “I’m happy to give you advice about women. I’ll let you know when I’ve got some..”

    The B story was perfunctory and throwaway, but happily didn’t detract from the main story; in fact, it served to show Data in his normal role, 100% unaffected by his “relationship”.

    Jammer’s unfair - I would give this 3.5 stars.

    Just read some of the comments. How did I miss the “kiss in the Torpedo Bay” double-entendre?


    "Picard: “I’m happy to give you advice about women. I’ll let you know when I’ve got some..”

    I love Data like many others and I believe he has emotions, at least on some level that he many not even recognize. Perhaps he's developed them over time. How could he be curious about things if he didn't have emotions? When he says he's intrigued about the kiss, he is expressing that he is curious, an emotion. Since I am watching so many episodes right now, I notice many places where he expresses a simple emotion, curiosity probably the most common. If he wasn't curious, why would he have gone to the Academy, joined Starfleet, etc.? What would motivate him, be his raison d'être? Is he programmed to "succeed" and that is why he chose this path? Is so, why isn't he more ambitious? Even wanting to be human is expressing an emotion.

    I think it is curiosity which drives him. Maybe Dr. Soong programmed curiosity into him on purpose, if possible, so Data would go out into the world and "have a life."

    @ Pamellllaaa,

    Trek appears to already have established through the Vulcans (and especially Spock) that being curious (or 'fascinated') are not considered emotions in the sense they mean it. They are certainly experiences of some kind, certainly motivators, but at least the Vulcans would deny that curiosity is an emotion. In Data's case he's clearly programmed to 'want more' out of life, but the idea is that he doesn't experience reflexive splashback from reality as we would from engaging and having an experience. He just notes it and add it to his knowledge base. I suppose he must derive some kind of satisfaction from exploring an area where his knowledge base is lacking, but it's unclear how to define this. For instance my Win10 is very 'interested' in finding updates, frequently doing so on its own and then demanding to be restarted. But although this process is exploratory and about upgrading itself, we wouldn't want to say Win10 has emotions, even if it was a more advanced version.

    @ Peter G

    I hear you and that's probably the official take but I wouldn't agree with the Vulcans re: curiosity is not an emotion. How convenient to claim it isn't! Also, I don't think Vulcans or Data were successfully written to have no emotions. It's really quite impossible to have zero emotions. I think any character that truly had no emotion would be boring, flat and unlikable. I can't think of any examples where it was really accomplished in Trek. Of course, this doesn't include small roles where we don't get to know the character. Every time Spock said "fascinating" that is expressing an emotion. I suppose he would disagree. You may as well.

    In other words and in my opinion, Vulcans have buried their emotions but not 100% (despite what they claim). I think they feel them but on a very different level than humans. Vulcans often express something so close to emotion that to me they are having to twist it around to convince (themselves) it isn't an emotion. Tuvok was asked if he didn't love his children in "Innocence" and his explanation didn't float. "My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are a part of my identity, and I am… incomplete without them." Sounds like love to me. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck....

    I really think Data has limited emotions, certainly not the same range or depth as humans, but not just curiosity. I need to pay attention and make a note when I see others. Perhaps the real question is what does it mean to "feel" emotions versus to "have" emotions. He has them, but does he feel them? Something along the lines of he experiences curiosity because it was written into his programming, but he doesn't really feel it the way humans do. He may experience satisfaction, but not really feel it. However, does it matter that it was written into his programming? Can't it still be an emotion? Is this just splitting hairs? Semantics? I'm not sure. On the other hand, he does "miss" people as a natural development of his programming. What does that mean exactly? I think that is an emotion he actually feels. It doesn't matter if it was programmed into him or developed from his programming.

    I don't agree with your computer analogy. My desktop is sent update pushes over the internet. If I wasn't on-line, it wouldn't know about them and wouldn't update. It doesn't look for updates. There is a human person (more likely many people) behind the updates, sending them out.

    @ Pamellllaaa,

    The Vulcans definitely have emotion, and from we understand much more intense emotion than humans have, hence their need to suppress it. So whatever extent emotion may not be 100% fully suppressed, I think that's what the Kolinahr is in ST: TMP, the completion of the dedication to pure logic. But I also get the impression, at least in my head canon, that this isn't some hyper advanced ritual, like those monks who walk on flames and can stand on their eyelashes. I rather expect that all normal Vulcans pass through this ritual once they're of age, and Spock not doing so was an aberration (among his other aberrations).

    That said, I tend to agree that portraying a true logic machine Vulcan was never done on Trek. Spock was the correct iteration of a Vulcan: an individual struggling to master emotion and choose logic. An utterly unemotional Vulcan would be hard to portray. Tuvok was a failure in that regard IMO, notwithstanding the fact that they retconned it into making sense later on. DS9 actually did the best job of poking a hole in Vulcans, not through actual Vulcans but through Odo, that show's Vulcan stand-in (the outsider who acts invulnerable).

    But anyhow, we can try to deconstruct whether Trek's claims about Vulcans make sense, but in-universe we must assume they are more advanced than humans in understanding emotion and motivation (if for no other reason than they are a far older and more sophisticated culture), and would not make such an elementary mistake as to confuse curiosity with having desires driven by emotion. The premise pretty necessarily implies that there can be drives, desires, and types of satisfaction that are motivational but not emotional. They involve 'feelings', but not feelings of emotion. Maybe that type of distinction would help when discussing Data. I think it's within bounds to say he has personal and unique feelings, i.e. textures, in how he experiences reality. He isn't just a piece of stone recording information, but leaves a distinct imprint on his surroundings. Does that mean he must experience emotion such as we understand it? Imagine for the moment a much more alien form of life, maybe like that living rock in The Savage Curtain, or even the Calamarain. I'm sure those types of life forms have feelings in that they have sensory apparatus, experiences, and so forth, but it would seem to me sort of weird to automatically assume they have emotions. Can the Calamarain be 'sad' or 'joyful'? Those terms might not have any meaning to an organized swarm of energetic beings. So it might also not be prudent to suppose Data has emotions as we understand them, even though he may well have responses particular to his body and brain that appear to be 'lively'.

    @ Peter G

    What you say about the Vulcans makes sense. Just one point - from what I've read, not all Vulcans try to achieve the Kolinahr and not all of those who try succeed.

    Interesting way of looking at Data's "emotions." I certainly agree that he does not have to experience emotion such as humans understand it. We try to understand what he does experience, but it's difficult for most human beings to understand how non-human beings (real or imaginary) experience emotion. There have been comments in various threads along the lines of it's for the best Data doesn't experience the full range and depth of human emotions. I tend to agree with that - imagine a really pissed off Data.

    "imagine a really pissed off Data."

    Yeah, he might start strangling dudes. Even join a cult maybe.

    It's a shame how many people completely miss the way the dark matter nebula B-story complements and serves as a metaphor to the relationship A-story, or at least tries. The torpedo lights up the nebula just as Jenna's first feelings flicker into being, she and Data venture into the relationship, it's dark and murky, little parts of you get uncomfortable and hurt without you fully understanding why, things that were there all of a sudden aren't anymore, you have to navigate very carefully - not unlike like real relationships. And eventually both Jenna and the Enterprise are "making a run for it" despite the initial promise.

    (Insert asshole joke about how little dating the local commenters seem to have done, though I'm hardly one to talk in that regard. ;)

    Perhaps the B-story was undermined by the perfunctory tone and weird execution, like Picard navigating the shuttle. Though that probably just happened because Patrick Stewart was directing and he found it easier to climb in and do the scene himself than to direct someone else.

    If getting out of the Nebula was do difficult even when being careful and avoiding the anomalies, how did they survive getting in there in the first place when they just flew straight in. The scene with the Lieutenant embedded in the floor was creepy, but if the floor rematerialized shouldn't she have been cut in half? It would have been gruesome.

    Of course horndog Riker would tell Data to go for it. Should have taken Troi's advice instead. Data's emotionless "Then I will delete the appropriate program" response to being dumped was brutal, lol.

    My only problem with this episode is a big miss by the writers. Data walks through Jenna's quarters door and announces, "Honey, I'm home!" And later, "I'll join you." And two more contractions in the "lovers' quarrel" sequence.

    This show makes a big deal about Data's inability to use contractions in numerous episodes. It's even a telling point for Riker discovering he's in an alien holodeck program. If Data can write the ability to use contractions into his romance program, why can't he do it across his entire linguistic program?

    In a sense, everything about Data's consistency falls apart because of this slip. Hard to get past it.

    @ Buck,

    I actually noticed this slip-up as well, and it's hard to say how it could have happened. On the one hand Spiner might have noticed such a mistake and told someone, so maybe he was distracted or tired that day. On the other hand TNG and DS9 were notorious for the actors having to be "word perfect" meaning zero alteration from what's on the page. If you change one word they'll do another take. So if Spiner said it and no one corrected him that might well mean it was scripted with those errors and he just memorized it that way absentmindedly. They often have to do their memorization quickly as the script updates can come in last minute. Still it means at least two levels of redundency were bypassed for this to get into the final cut, and probably more, since they have continuity people and script editors. Oops.

    To be fair, this is by no means the only instance. As early as Datalore, where contractions are an important part of the plot:

    PICARD: Data, are you all right?
    DATA: Yes, sir. I'm fine.

    I heard Spiner deliberately slipped that one in to see if it would pass. Other times I think it's just him forgetting and the crew not noticing, or caring enough to reshoot. Film is/was expensive after all.

    I think the biggest slip up is this one from Conspiracy:

    RIKER: Increase to warp six.
    LAFORGE: Aye sir. Full impulse.

    I'm afraid both plots felt too much like going through the motions.

    While it was kind of weirdly nice that the phasing wasn't, as would be more expected, any aliens at all, let alone malevolent ones, it felt real cheap for the problem to suddenly be massively dangerous and hard to get out of and more for the shuttle to be needed and then destroyed and the ship to somehow quickly get out anyway.

    The relationship not working felt too much based on, derived from just the one OTT scene of Data humming romantically and then getting adversarial as, for lovers' spat that felt too obviously not being himself as Troi had warned him against and he should already know wouldn't work, would obviously be inauthentic. It wasn't convincing that Jenna wouldn't have liked and continued with him with him being more like he generally was.

    Reading all of the above comments gives much to think about. Firstly, I think it was a great attempt to show how Data was intrigued about being in a romantic relationship, he wanted to be a good partner and he tried to 'belong' by caring and attentive, in the way that he knew how: creating and researching
    his computer programs for examples.
    It's true that we don't see or will ever know how invested Jenna was. She was attracted to Data, ..."I don't know if you are aware... but you are very handsome...", and she did feel Data fulfilled a lot of the qualities she felt were lacking in previous relationships. I'll always be in Data' s camp and I think it might have worked if Jenna re-defined her expectations. Data fulfilled most of what she was looking for except for his emotional deficit. Well, she knew he was an android and she knew he couldn't produce emotions! I wish also that some of the other fleeting relationships had had some time to continue, especially with Picard. I think it softened his character and made him a bit more "human", instead of totally in charge, stoic and alone most of the time.
    The final scene, agreed is so sad; while it would appear that Data deleting the Jenna program, as they were no longer a couple, did not affect him, I'm not so sure. Who is to say that he did not at least ponder the qualities that surface with a breakup and being left alone.
    With Spot jumping on his lap and meowing, I feel that Data was supported (even in his lack of emotional state) after the breakup. Animals have a sense of your feelings, so in that instance Data was alone after the breakup, yet not truly, as Spot was there to remind him he was needed as a 'cat parent' and Spot cared for Data, hopefully fulfilling one type of ' Data non-emotional', emotional involvement. I think it was an excellent attempt to explore what would happen with an android in a romantic relationship. I miss this series so much! Best, P.

    I always root for Jenna and Data in this ep. And I’m always disappointed when it doesnt work out. She is honest, sweet, a bit naive, much like Data himself. Yet I feel like the writers went out of their way to portray Data as extra mechanical during his scenes with Jenna (that stiff hug and head tilt!), when we’ve already seen him behave much more naturally, dare I say, “emotionally”, in previous episodes. In The Most Toys, he was clearly on the brink of rage while about to kill Fajo; in The Offspring he seemed awfully close to sorrow when Ral died; in Measure of a Man, he hesitated before admitting his intimate encounter with Tasha, which showed sensitivity, if not embarrassment (not to mention his words, “she was special to me”); witnessed Troi’s labor and birth in The Child with evident awe and wonder; and so on and so forth. Not to mention recurring comments from the rest of the crew as to how they don’t believe Data to be entirely emotionless. TNG keeps pushing us to believe he has some semblance of emotion and now when that’s put to the test in a romantic scenario he is suddenly completely inept. It’s just not consistent.

    As for those parroting “what did she expect?” - It’s completely understandable how Jenna would fall for Data (who IS handsome btw). I wish we could have seen them revisit the relationship in some later episode with a more mature, confident Jenna willing to coach him and accept him for all his quirks, which isn’t hard for the rest of us, clearly: he’s consistently ranked the most popular character of the series. It isn’t hard to love Data. Being loved in return? Maybe if he just learns how. After all love is a choice - not a fleeting emotion (after the infatuation wears off).

    Romance can be found in a multitude of ways, connection can be formed through common interests (aren’t Data and Geordi fast friends?), intimacy isn’t a problem so long as he is *cough * fully functional *cough *. A happy marriage is built on trust, respect, and healthy communication - all of which Data excels at.

    The bigger question is, how they would “grow old” together?

    "It’s completely understandable how Jenna would fall for Data (who IS handsome btw)."

    And don't forget, he is trained in multiple techniques.

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