The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: In Theory

When Data’s friendship with Lieutenant Jenna D’Sora seems about to blossom into something more, the android gets his first taste of what it’s like to have a girlfriend. But can Data’s lack of human emotion and reliance on programming and mimicry really lead to a successful relationship?

It’s par for the course that everyone else from Picard to Wesley manages to score over the course of TNG, but could the writers really manage a relationship story for Data, the android who lacks both human emotion and sexual desire? Yes, he had that quickie with Yar, and seemed to have special feelings for her afterwards, but actually being part of an honest-to-goodness couple? How would that work? The answers are to be found in this episode.

In Theory is classic Data as Tin Man; when he’s not trying to simulate an emotional relationship, he has a great rapport with Jenna. It’s when he’s consciously attempting to “have a heart” that it all goes wrong – he starts trying too hard, to the point where he becomes downright creepy and strange. His attempts at romance are almost painful to watch in places, but nonetheless, this remains an interesting and memorable episode, if only because it serves to further drive home that Data really does have a heart, he just doesn’t realise it. And who among us wouldn’t want the ability to delete our ‘romance program’ after a break-up – even if we might regret it later?

Dating advice

  • Geordi: Have you seen my dating record? Ask someone else.
  • Troi: Well, she’s on the rebound, and you’re an android, but it’ll probably be fine. What do I know?
  • Riker: Nail that bitch!
  • Worf: If you hurt her, I will break your kneecaps.
  • Picard: Bitches are confusing.

Bits and pieces

  • The episode also has a B-plot about a nebula containing space warping amounts of dark matter, but absolutely no one cares about this storyline.
  • Back when this episode aired on BBC2, all the TV listings incorrectly had Jenna’s last name as Onaya.
  • Data uses contractions several times in this episode – perhaps this is an effect of his special romance program.
  • Since First Contact (the film, not the episode) establishes that Data had not used his sexual capabilities since The Naked Now, we can assume that he and Jenna enjoyed nothing more than heavy petting.
  • Keiko plays the clarinet.
  • Rather than just throwing their clothes into the replicator and having them recycled, there is a laundry mechanism for washing clothes. Miles O’Brien is apparently too lazy to even put his socks in the laundry.
  • Jenna complains that Data’s quarters are too spartan, even though he has paintings and ornaments present.
  • Why does Picard insist on piloting the shuttle? There must be dedicated pilots amongst the crew – or, better yet,let Data do it. His response time is much better than any human’s.
  • The Enterprise’s outer windows are made from transparent aluminium – as featured in Star Trek IV.

Summary – In Theory: “Lieutenant D’Sora just gave me what could be considered a very passionate kiss in the torpedo bay.”

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