Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S04E25 – In Theory

In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, Data tries his hand at romance. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I definitely love the premise of this episode, and I think it’s a rather sweet exploration of what love means to an android. If this wasn’t as genuine as it was, I don’t know that it would come across as entertaining as it did. Still, this is an odd episode. There’s an entire B-plot that makes virtually no sense at all. I mean, the whole bit with pockets of dark matter is fine, but why? Why does it happen in this episode? Why is Picard so insistent on piloting the shuttlecraft??? Actually, that one detail mystifies me. Even Riker looks at Picard with utter confusion when Picard tells him what he’s going to do. What is happening? The whole plot exists so that… what? I don’t even know, y’all. It’s just there.

Anyway, let’s talk about Data. I think that with a less serious take on the subject, “In Theory” could have been nothing more than a bunch of awkward gags. It’s still a deeply awkward episode, but that’s because both of these characters are trying to do their best. While D’Sora is only barely introduced here, I think the writers did a decent job showing us why she was interested in Data in the first place. Part of that is the rebound; she’s fresh out of a relationship and, in her own words, she’s lonely.

But what does she see in Data? She sees a man who is attentive, who listens to her every word and responds to them, even if he is abrupt or replies out of context. He’s still replying. She sees a man who is willing to try and make her happy. She sees someone who she is comfortable with. All these things matter to her, and I believe that’s the major reason she decides to take a risk. She knows that Data is unlike any man she’s ever dated, but what if it’s worth it?

And on Data’s end, we see why this will be a challenge for him. I was amused by the montage of him asking various crew members for advice, but I think you can see why that would ultimately prove to be a problem for him. He viewed this entire thing as an experiment. Yes, Troi warned Data not to forget this, but I think it was always going to be difficult, if not downright impossible, for him to do so. That’s how he processes the world around him. It’s all data to be memorized and stored and analyzed. It’s all computations.

Well, maybe not all. The line between humanity and technology is still remarkably blurred within “In Theory.” There are moments of clarity, where it seems like Data and D’Sora might work. The sequence where Data was painting felt quite realistic to me, as if D’Sora was merely guiding an inexperienced lover through a new situation. That felt like a sign of hope to me. Perhaps these two could work through any adversity together.

But I don’t know that you could blame either of them for what eventually happens. In a way, it was inevitable. D’Sora would have emotional needs that Data could not meet. I feel like there was a subtle commentary on how people tend to seek out similar partners in this story, given that D’Sora drifted from one emotionless partner to another. Regardless, I think these two characters gave it a good try. I don’t know that Data grew from the experience; if anything, that final scene suggests that it was just another moment he’ll delete to make room for more information. (Jesus, that was brutal.) So while I enjoyed the episode and its strangeness, I don’t know that it has any lasting ramifications.

The video for “In Theory” 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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