Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S04E14 – Clues

In the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, THIS IS AN UNBELIEVABLE EPISODE AND I LOVE IT A LOT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of consent

Perfect. PERFECT EPISODE, I LOVE THIS SO VERY MUCH. The cold open alone is a dream come true. Guinan entering Picard’s Dixon Hill holodeck??? Roleplaying as one of Picard’s dames? THOSE TERRIBLE ATTEMPTS AT ACCENTS? Oh my god, this is everything I’ve ever wanted. And it’s a perfect set-up for “Clues,” which rivals “Remember Me” in terms of relentless creepiness. Picard tries to show Guinan why he’s obsessed with Dixon Hill, which taps into some sort of collective curiosity in humanity. Humans – and I absolutely include myself in this – really want to solve a good mystery. Guinan doesn’t quite understand this idea because apparently, Picard’s mysteries have lots of yelling and gunfire and blood in them.

Fair enough. So then the universe grants the Enterprise an actual mystery, and everything is wrong. That’s the general feel to “Clues,” and it’s amazing to me that this episode works perfectly as the very point Picard makes at the beginning of the episode. Within a few minutes of the wormhole incident, I had already begun to pick up on tiny details that made no sense to me. Just watch the video attached to this review, and you’ll see my own mind start to melt once each new detail revealed itself. I couldn’t help it. I LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY SO MUCH.

And like “Remember Me,” Bruce Arthur’s story escalates at the perfect pace. Again, that’s not an easy thing to achieve. “Clues” progresses at a slow pace at first, and it’s brilliant. The detail that the Enterprise had traveled a day’s distance kept me from suspecting much, so when Dr. Crusher’s moss grew at an accelerated rate? It didn’t bother me much. But then there was the chronology. And Worf’s broken wrist. And then Data is just… off. That might have been the worst part of this because it forces the audience into such a perpetually uncomfortable situation. Data is both the most honest character and the most dependable, and this situation exploits both of them. We have to start considering that he’s lying. DATA. LYING. It’s such an absurd concept that my brain couldn’t even deal with it!

But that’s one of the reasons this is an unnerving episode. As it becomes clear that the crew was unconscious for more than thirty seconds, it makes it easier for us to believe that Data is withholding the truth. And that’s terrifying. It’s upsetting to think of Data in this context, and as Picard becomes more and more convinced that he’s right, we feel worse and worse. Is Data being controlled? Is this some weird hostage situation? Is Data protecting the Enterprise?

This could have easily fallen apart or been unsatisfying in the final act, but season four of The Next Generation continues to be ON FIRE but NOT LITERALLY. The invasion of Deanna’s body? Not my favorite thing, and certainly not my favorite trope by a longshot. And yet, within this episode, we have one of the most clever subversions of a common trope that I’ve ever seen. How many shows have I seen for Mark Watches where a memory was erased without consent? It happened a lot on Buffy and Angel, and it’s a mainstay of genre shows. I’m sure plenty of you can give other examples because it’s often used as a lazy solution to plot problems. YAWN. (Also, it’s egregiously offensive!) So what does The Next Generation do?

Have the entire crew consent to having their memories erased. TWICE. The solution to this episode is so clever that there’s no way I could have ever guessed it. The Enterprise discovered a race of beings – the Paxans – who are so xenophobic that they will do anything to not be discovered. It’s such a ridiculous idea that I actually believed it was possible within the context of space exploration. It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? And the main reason the Paxans’ plan, suggested by Picard, falls apart? They left too many clues.

There’s something haunting about knowing that Data will forever be the only person ever to know about the Paxans, but it’s also strangely comforting because we know that he’s solely responsible for helping to save the lives of everyone aboard the Enterprise. In hindsight, he was faced with an impossible task, and he did the best he could to keep the rest of the ship’s crew from discovering what had really happened to them. It’s a monumental thing to ask of anyone, and he does it twice.

My god, I love this episode so much.

The video for “Clues” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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