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Star Trek The Next Generation: In Theory

“Honey, I’m home!”

Data explores the concept of romance with a fellow crew person, and the Enterprise travels through an unusual nebula in this strange but amusing tale.

Jenna D’Sora is working closely with Data and they seem to be very friendly. Data knows who her ex-boyfriend is, and why they broke up. Jenna seems to rely on Data to listen to her and to help her resist the pull of her old relationship. We learn that her father died when she was young, and that she tends to gravitate towards unresponsive, emotionally unavailable men. Huh, sounds like she should be talking to Counselor Troi, not Data.

Jenna does seem a little off, and her constant flirting with Data is pretty weird. Data does form attachments; he is very good friends with Geordi, for instance, so we know that Data can be a very reliable and often entertaining android to have as a pal, but romance? That might be just too much for him at this point in time. Jenna needs to get away from the type of men that she’s been chasing, and Data is going to be no exception.

I did love the scenes where Data was asking everyone he knew for romantic advice, and it was very nice to see Guinan. She is such a lovely character to have aboard. She’s probably better at counseling people than Troi is, but anyway; Data talks to her and assorted crew members. I probably liked the moment with Picard the most; that man is direct and to the point.

I enjoyed Data’s romantic program and the way that it goes spectacularly wrong. We all know that this romance was doomed from the start, and that Jenna is looking for something that Data just cannot give her. Now, my husband and I are both introverts and we would go crazy with a partner who wanted to have our attention all the time, so we are very well suited. Data and Jenna…not so much. After lots and lots of therapy, maybe she can find out why she goes for men who don’t pay her enough attention. She’s looking in all the wrong places, obviously.

There is also a subplot about a nebula that has dark matter clusters, and it is causing havoc aboard ship. Objects are falling off tables and a crew lady person is dead and stuck halfway into a floor. That’s not a good thing, so someone must pilot a shuttle to lead the Enterprise to safety. Who is going to do this, you ask? It’s going to be piloted by the most experienced shuttle pilot they have — that would make sense. But no. Instead, Captain Picard says that he must do it. I thought that his place was on the bridge, but whatever; he almost gets himself killed and destroys the shuttle, but does manage to lead the Enterprise to safety. Good job, I guess. This part of the episode was alright, but not that dramatic.

Bits and Pieces:

This episode was directed by Patrick Stewart and it was the first one that he did for this series.

I loved the part where Data was cleaning up Jenna’s quarters, and he asked her if he could organize her closet. She said no, but she’s crazy. He can come to my house and organize my closets whenever he wants. The garage needs his help, too.

I love Guinan, but that hat makes it look like she has a flying saucer on her head.

I think the good part about dating Data would be that you would always know what he was thinking because he would always tell you, if you asked. That much honesty could be a good thing, maybe. Maybe?


Jenna: “The cat’s out of the bag.”
Data: “Spot?”
Jenna: “No, I mean I... you've caught me in the act.”

Jenna: “Those times were really special…I wish we were back there now, you and I.”
Data: “The unidirectional nature of the time continuum makes that an unlikely possibility.”

Geordi: “This can be a… a little complicated. Listen, my advice is…ask somebody else for advice, at least someone who’s… got more experience at… giving advice.”

Data: “Captain, I am seeking advice in how to…”
Picard: “Yes, I’ve heard, Data. I’d be delighted to offer any advice I have on understanding women. When I have some, I’ll let you know.”

Jenna: “What were you just thinking?”
Data: “In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters, analyzing 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: “Jenna, are we no longer… a couple?”
Jenna: “No, we’re not.”
Data: “Then I will delete the appropriate program.”

I think that Data is lovable, but being “in love” with him is just a step too far, for now. Maybe that’s why Jenna’s behavior seems so bizarre at times; it just doesn’t feel right somehow to see someone be so affectionate with Data. Oh well, it is still a good episode and it has some laughs and inspires some deep thoughts about android love. It’s better than Muskrat Love. I hate that song.

Three and a half android romances out of five.

Mallena loves her DVR, her Pug, almost anything in the sci-fi, fantasy, and supernatural genres, and her family.  Well, maybe not in that exact order.


  1. I really enjoyed this one. It was so clever and on the nose. What would happen if a crew member decided to romantically pursue Data? Yes, exactly this. And Brent Spiner's performance was adorable. I think my favorite part was the string of scenes asking advice of every single one of his friends. It was so like Data.

    The woman in the floor thing shocked me the first time I saw it. Ick.

  2. Excellent review, Mallena. And I am still creeped out by the woman in the floor - a visual that is shocking without being gory - almost out-of-place in this episode, which is rather sweet.

  3. Greetings!! First time commenter here, although I've been lurking on Doux Reviews for a few years now. I am so thankful that you review episodes of ST:TNG, especially since you do it with so much love and respect for the show. I didn't know that I was into sci-fi until I started watching TNG as a kid, and I didn't know what it meant to be a fan until I became obsessed with Data. Watching this episode the first time around was fascinating for me, mostly because I thought Data was the most fascinating character in existence. In retrospect, I think my pre-teen self empathized with Data more than Jenna, mostly because I always assumed that Data really did have some version of feelings (and I feel Brent Spiner often alluded to that in his performance throughout the series). Or maybe I just badly wanted it to be true. In any case, I remember feeling badly for him when their relationship ended.

    Now that I've experienced a range of good and bad relationships, I can appreciate how on-the-nose this episode is. Very clever. I haven't seen this episode in a while, but remember re-watching it as an adult and feeling more awkward watching the two of them together. Even so, I appreciated the humor more! I love that moment when Data tries to ask Captain Picard for advice and he abruptly stops Data before he can even ask anything. He knew Data was making the rounds, asking all his friends for advice, and Captain Picard didn't want to have anything to do with it. It was a great comic moment for Patrick Stewart. Brent Spiner's acting was Data perfection. It reminded me of his performance in Data's Day. Watching episodes like these makes me think back on how badly I fantasized about being a high-ranking member of the Enterprise crew and befriending Data. Who am I kidding? I still fantasize about that.

    Side note: I got to meet Brent Spiner at a comic con this past fall and it was amazing. I was shaking when I walked up to him. I said, "Data is my favorite sci-fi character of all time." He answered with, "I played Data!!" Then I told him that Star Trek is hugely responsible for shaping my sense of morality and I thanked him for his role in that. He gave me a hug. He was a complete sweetheart. *swoon*

  4. Roxanium, congratulations on posting your first comment! The first of many, I hope.

    I'm also a huge fan of Brent Spiner. He created such a unique, complicated and lovable character out of what could have been such a nothing part. It was always obvious to me that the writers loved writing for him (and for Patrick Stewart, of course). "In Theory" was Data at his best.

  5. Roxanium, congrats for joining the party. I loved ST:TNG from the very first episode that I watched so many years ago and I also remember thinking that Data made the show so much more interesting.

    Thanks for commenting, Victoria. I've never watched Rome so I can't really comment on your reviews. Romans were never my thing, though I did like Rory the Roman on Doctor Who. Maybe you will review a show that I did watch, sometime, that would be nice.

  6. Very nice review. Weirdly I thought it was kind of understandable for someone to be attracted to data in a world of aliens and non-organic life forms. After all Data is considered to be sentient.

    I always really enjoyed this episode.

  7. Thanks Skye, I'd love Data as a friend, but I don't know about more than that. "Humans" on AMC has very life-like robots that a lot of people don't seem to have a problem with loving, so who knows?

  8. Lots of great points. I too both despise muskrat love and found the crew woman stuck in the floor creepy. I love the different pieces of advice Data got, and especially Picard's.

    I'm not sure if Data would be the best or worst for a relationship since I'm no expert myself, so as far as being attracted to an android, it's difficult for me to say. It does feel odd from our current perspective, but not actually having such an advanced android around to compare, it's not something I can say yea or nay too.


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