In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, Data tries his hand at romance. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I definitely love the premise of this episode, and I think itâ€™s a rather sweet exploration of what love means to an android. If this wasnâ€™t as genuine as it was, I donâ€™t know that it would come across as entertaining as it did. Still, this is an odd episode. Thereâ€™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 heâ€™s going to do. What is happening? The whole plot exists so thatâ€¦ what? I donâ€™t even know, yâ€™all. Itâ€™s just there.
Anyway, letâ€™s talk about Data. I think that with a less serious take on the subject, â€œIn Theoryâ€ could have been nothing more than a bunch of awkward gags. Itâ€™s still a deeply awkward episode, but thatâ€™s because both of these characters are trying to do their best. While Dâ€™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; sheâ€™s fresh out of a relationship and, in her own words, sheâ€™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. Heâ€™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 thatâ€™s the major reason she decides to take a risk. She knows that Data is unlike any man sheâ€™s ever dated, but what if itâ€™s worth it?
And on Dataâ€™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. Thatâ€™s how he processes the world around him. Itâ€™s all data to be memorized and stored and analyzed. Itâ€™s all computations.
Well, maybe not all. The line between humanity and technology is still remarkably blurred within â€œIn Theory.â€ There are moments of clarity, where it seems like Data and Dâ€™Sora might work. The sequence where Data was painting felt quite realistic to me, as if Dâ€™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 donâ€™t know that you could blame either of them for what eventually happens. In a way, it was inevitable. Dâ€™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 Dâ€™Sora drifted from one emotionless partner to another. Regardless, I think these two characters gave it a good try. I donâ€™t know that Data grew from the experience; if anything, that final scene suggests that it was just another moment heâ€™ll delete to make room for more information. (Jesus, that was brutal.) So while I enjoyed the episode and its strangeness, I donâ€™t know that it has any lasting ramifications.
The video for â€œIn Theoryâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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