Patrick Stewart's directorial debut is "nothing to write home about" as Data might say. The problem is that "In Theory" is more of a Jenna episode than a the Data episode it wants to be, and it's always an uphill struggle for a guest star making her debut to get the audience to be as emotionally invested in her as they would be for a regular. The B story, featuring an anomaly disrupting the ship, is just sort of tacked on to give the episode an element of danger. All this said, the episode has its moments; as with almost all the Data episodes, Spiner is fabulous.
"In Theory" is pure Star Trek: The Next Generation fun with a nice mini-sci-fi subplot and quality character time for Data. Patrick Stewart sits in both the captain's and director's chair, 100% successful in his directorial debut by forming an excellent Next Generation episode. However, "In Theory" is an example of how the contributions from everyone involved work together in perfect harmony to create an entertaining and effective final product. It is all actor Brent Spiner, writers Ronald D. Moore and Joe Menosky, and director Patrick Stewart who are responsible for the fun and touching nature of the story, not just one.
Data has had some run-ins with romance in the past (most notably knocking boots with Tasha Yar by the second episode of the series) but he has never had a full-fledged girlfriend until Ensign McKnight (played by Pamela Winslow). Having just broken up with someone who was not open enough emotionally, McKnight develops feelings for Data (she might have a problem to diagnose). After Data hilariously asks the advice of his closest friends, he begins a grand experiment with romance and begins to date Ensign McKnight. With no capacity for or experience in romance, even having to resort to developing a romance program, Data's experience is a funny and touching one.
Brent Spiner could not be better in "In Theory," Data's trek through romance is awkward, funny, and touching at the same time. What could have been better however, I suspect, is a different actress in the role of Ensign McKnight. Pamela Winslow does a fine job, but she is not as strong of a presence as the role calls for and, while "aesthetically pleasing" she might be, beautiful she is not. Served on the side is a sci-fi subplot which gives urgency to the episode. High kudos are in order for Patrick Stewart and his ability to balance both the episode's lighter side with the main Data dating story and the darker side with the nebula's dark matter subplot very well.
Even without a lot of action, anomalies, and Treknobabble, "In Theory" remains a TNG favorite of mine and I can thank a great Brent Spiner performance, successful Patrick Stewart direction, and a great Ronald D. Moore/Joe Menosky script for that.
I'm sure many of us has thought about it. But nonetheless that should not mean we should actually consider it; considering what happened to Jenna. I think I teared up a few times; and I learned a valuable lesson. Even though Data is circuits and lights, he is a very complex creature. If I could bottle him up and put him in my pocket I would, but none the less; if you have emotions, don't get involved with someone who doesn't.
The Fourth Season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled "In Theory" is one of the many episodes which develops the character of "Data" (Brent Spiner). This time, he explores the emotions involved in a romantic relationship. "Data" thus begins a relationship with "Lt. Jenna D'Sora" (Michele Scarabelli), an attractive officer recovering from the breakup of a relationship. Unsure of how to proceed, "Data" solicits his fellow officers for advice in such matters.
The subplot, which should have been the main plot in my opinion, has the crew investigating a mysterious nebula which seems to be causing some unusual happenings throughout the "Enterprise" -- one of which causes the death of an unnamed member of her crew.
Both plots are very weak for a TNG episode, and never crossover despite that "Data" and "Lt. D'Sora" are bridge officers. Although, the subplot is the stronger of the two.
If the episode didn't focus on "Data's" attempt at a romance, the nebula subplot could have been quite interesting. However, we have to go through the weak character development of Trekkies' favorite android.
Scarabelli does a great job as "D'Sora". Her performance of the confused woman just coming out of a bad relationship is very well done. But her performance doesn't help the story to make it good.
In the nebula subplot, there is too little suspense than there should have been. Even when "Captain Picard" (Patrick Stewart, who also directed this episode) launches a shuttlecraft to guide the "Enterprise" through the nebula. If this was the main plot in the episode, there could have been more chances at doing more than what is seen in this episode.
Ultimately, this is one of the weakest episodes in the seven year history of the popular series. If you are a Trekkie, or Trekker as some prefer, I would get this episode just to complete your collection.
As "Pinocchio", Data's exploration of what it means to be human would inevitably lead to romantic love. The writers had already toyed with this concept on "The Ensigns of Command" and "Legacy". Data seems so human that it's difficult to comprehend that he has no emotions, but those shortcomings are there and they matter.
The story about Data and his girlfriend Jenna flows well. Data's advice-seeking from fellow crewmembers is engaging and at times hilarious (Picard!). The actress playing Data's romantic interest offers a convincing performance, leaving one bad relationship only to rebound into another unsatisfactory one. Brent Spiner showcases his range (when deviating from the usual Data personality, he gives off the right amount of creepiness). Perhaps the best part of the episode is the ending - Data true to character, sitting alone with his cat and blissly unaware of the emotional consequences to what just transpired.
It's a shame the episode has a pointless scifi B-plot about dark matter. Maybe on its own it could have been a good story. Here it's just a waste of time.
The "Enterprise" is studying a dark nebula. Lt. Jenna D’Sora falls in love with Data. She kisses Data on the lips and he shows no emotion. Data is interested in what happened. He asks his friends Guinan , Troi , Worf , Riker, and Picard. Troi as usual seems most helpful in the matter. She advises Data to be cautious. Picard finds something peculiar in his ready room. Data notices things, too. Data has a theory the nebula itself may be causing a space distortion. Will the "Enterprise" make it through the nebula? I rate this a 8.9
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