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Season Four:
-174-175: "The Best of Both Worlds"
-178: "Family"
-179: "Remember Me"
-188: "Clues"
-189: "First Contact"
-195: "The Drumhead"
-196: "Half a Life"
-199: "In Theory"
-200-201: "Redemption"

-Season 4 Rankings

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In Theory

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 199)
  • written by Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore
  • directed by Patrick Stewart
  • music by Jay Chattaway
  • 45 minutes

In Theory

Nestled into the end of TNG's fourth season is this relatively quiet episode of idle experimentation. Though there was some potential with the core ideas, I'm not convinced the writers found a direction in which to take things that made the tale truly worthwhile.

Data's kind, sweet, helpful persona gradually attracts a fellow crewmember's romantic interest, and he is faced with the conundrum of what to do with the possibilities. Okay, great so far. But I think the episode falls down a bit in that Data never defines for himself or the audience anything that he actually wants from the situation, whether it's something to gain, or learn, or do, or be. If anything is really at stake for him, it's a bit too nebulous to gain any great emotional investment from the audience. We go through some motions, it falls flat at the end, and it's very hard to see what Data, or the audience, can take from the situation.

Okay, Data doesn't have any true emotions, and he's still got a great void in his personality where he has yet to define who he is romantically. But at least he likes to study and emulate, and so he starts off. One of the most fun parts of the episode consists of him consulting with EVERY other regular castmember and getting wildly differing opinions on everything. But in some of the other sources of information he draws through the ship's library, it seems he exercises almost no discernment concerning what information he drinks in, or who it comes from. And if going all smarmy or proceeding with a fake argument are any indication, he doesn't even seem to be concerned with finding advice that might prove successful or helpful. What are his criteria? Does he have any?

It could be argued that that is partly the point - Data is without a rudder in this area of life, now let's see what happens. Well, okay, but it won't make a truly compelling episode. Episodes like "Elementary, Dear Data" conquered similar problems by allowing other characters like Geordi and Pulaski to define the stakes and form a rudder for Data's explorations. Plus, I personally think Data is intelligent enough to make more discerning choices surrounding the information he loads into himself, and whom he might choose to learn from or emulate. He successfully developed an endearing, friendly personality, and healthy working relationships. He could have done better in this new area as well. The idea was worthy of a better shot than the aimless one the writers gave it.

As it stands, today's main guest star, a crewmember we've never seen before named Jenna, pretty much has to drive every major turn of this particular plot today, and carry much of this story strand herself. The actress cast, Michele Scarabelli, does an excellent job being likeable and relatable all the way through. It becomes easier to see the situation through her eyes and emotions, and be somewhat invested in things for her sake. At this point, Scarabelli had been one of the regulars on Airwolf's 4th season after that show had had a complete change of cast and production personnel. I only ever saw a little bit of Airwolf's 4th season, but for me Scarabelli makes a better, more likeable impression here on Star Trek.

And it is good that this episode sees appearances by recurring supporting characters like O'Brien and Keiko and even Ensign McKnight piloting the ship, because they remind us that guest characters aboard ship do recur, and should Data and Jenna prove to be a worthy couple, Jenna could appear in future episodes. Longevity for the relationship may be possible in terms of TV production logistics. ;-)

Today's B-plot concerns some mysterious spatial distortions and a spooky nebula. As with the A-plot, the crew spends a bit too much time being cluelessly relaxed about this, while I think they should have been more on-the-ball and able to put two and two together much quicker. There is much energy and excitement to look forward to as this plot comes to its conclusion... and good thing too as the A-plot as scripted hasn't really got very much left to say or do at that point in the episode.

This episode was also Patrick Stewart's debut as a director of Star Trek TNG. He does good work, every bit as good as most other directors, but I think this is a particularly hard episode to do well without rewriting the script to include some brighter nugget of purpose for Data to struggle with. No amount of acting or directing can really fill that void.

Perhaps it is a shame that this episode burned through an idea that then never got another more worthy shot on The Next Generation. But it's still a decent episode with well-loved characters and features many interesting moments. It may not be an award winner, but it's still fun and entertaining, and still capable of provoking thought on the importance of being driven and having purpose and discernment. Star Trek was still doing what it did best.

Season Four Rankings:

  1. Remember Me
  2. The Best of Both Worlds (Parts 1 & 2)
  3. Qpid (so humorous, and with so many archetypal threads pulling so strongly through this one, it just couldn't go wrong. Curious how an artificial fantasy like this one proved to be the best method of getting most of the regulars off the ship into an adventure... giving the ep. another boost in the rankings. Shouldn't other "more real" episodes do a better job of this?)
  4. Future Imperfect (nice clean sci-fi mind-bender)
  5. The Nth Degree (a bit rough around the edges, but fascinating, and with its heart in many of the right places.)
  6. The Drumhead (seems quite decent and average at first, then it gradually sneaks up and delivers the most dramatic finale of the season. Nicely done. Other tales still draw greater interest though.)
  7. Redemption (Parts 1 & 2)
  8. Reunion (never a dull scene, but did it burn through too much series potential too quickly? Might this have been more enjoyable/believable as 2-3 separate episodes over the next year or two?)
  9. Brothers (an exciting opening and a winning premise boost a good, entertaining episode, but there's a certain emptiness to the philosophies discussed and their missing alignment with the action. Thumbs up on Dr. Crusher's final line anyway!)

  10. Data's Day (a rich cross-section of life aboard ship, with plenty going on to excite and amuse everyone. It's a fresh and clever move to present it all from Data's perspective. Nice intro for Keiko.)
  11. The Loss (an archetypal/definitive episode for Troi, for the emerging style of outer A-plot mirroring inner B-plot, and for addressing the overlap between Troi and Guinan. And very well done it was too.)
  12. Half A Life (A tour-de-force for Lwaxana Troi, and chock full of excellent scenes be they humorous or dramatic or special-effects spectacle or thought-provoking. But co-writer Peter Allan Fields can construct and sell some really crap philosophies, and this episode would have ranked so much higher if the crap hadn't won the day.)
  13. The Wounded (a delicately threaded set of bizarre circumstances... How would Capt. Maxwell not have easily had more proof to cite or show? Cardassian nature nailed well here in their introductory story by Marc Alaimo no less, while Picard and O'Brien both come off well.)
  14. Galaxy's Child (this well-deserved sequel went perhaps a bit too awkward in places, yet it still delivers well in the end.)
  15. First Contact (super concept for the main premise and the emphasized perspective, but this one doesn't always find great drama scene for scene. Too many fingers in the writing pot? If the alien Malcorians' view of people from other worlds is meant to be a substitution for the views of us Earthlings in the 1990's, there is still too much information being left out on the reasons for our own situation, thus the episode isn't really holding true for me as much as it once did.)
  16. The Mind's Eye (an enjoyable thriller plot, with good variety of location, some scenes a bit unpleasant. But in terms of exploring the human[oid] condition, this one doesn't really seem to be about anything...)
  17. In Theory
  18. Night Terrors (mostly too creepy for my tastes, but the resolution and revealed premise are excellent and very memorable. TNG rules the dream realms. One Moon Circles indeed!)

  19. Legacy (a decent action story with almost no point to it, centering on Yar's sister)
  20. Devil's Due (good variety of locations & plot surprises, but the premise should have fallen apart in so many places, and the seduction angle was way too cheesy.)
  21. Family
  22. The Host (Beverly has some nice speeches in the middle of this one that lay out the point of the episode, which is very worthy. But a lot of the necessary mechanics of the rest of the episode do not produce great scenes, and so much of what we later learn about the Trill species is contradicted here. Why do a gender swap and break the taboo about continuing relationships from the previous host's life? Pick a path, and act like you've got brains enough to choose congruently.)
  23. Identity Crisis (a pleasant functional mystery, but a lot of the best investigation scenes [yes, including Geordi's holodeck light geometry] are wasted on dead ends that don't contribute to the resolution, which reveals a disappointing, pointless, and kinda corny premise)
  24. Suddenly Human (I can't root for the regulars thru most of this one while it's so obvious they need to respect Jono's right to choose, and offer windows into his heritage that don't hinge on him giving up what he knows. This one took way too clumsy a route to the obvious, despite many great scenes.)
  25. Clues (The main mystery worked great; the resolution stank so bad it retroactively tanked everything. I need to root for honesty; Paxens have no business dictating the memories of other species.)
  26. Final Mission (depends too much on artificial challenges, boring situations, cheese for sentiment, ridiculously bad alien make-up design, with a few neat optical shots thrown in. Wesley deserved a far better send-off.)

This Next Generation Season Four story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Four (1990-1991):

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include 5 featurettes:

  • Mission Overview (16 min.)
  • Selected Crew Analysis (17 min.)
  • Departmental Briefing: Production (16 min.)
  • New Life and New Civilizations (13 min.)
  • Chronicles From the Final Frontier (18 min.)
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
July 30, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
July 30, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
July 29, 2013.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 2 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Brothers" by director Rob Bowman and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Reunion" by writers Ronald D. Moore and
      Brannon Braga, and the Okudas.
  • Multi-part documentary "Relativity: The Family Saga of ST:TNG" (HD, 60 min.) with Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Wil Wheaton (Wes), Ron Moore, and make-up artist Michael Westmore.
  • In Conversation: The Art Department (HD, 65 min.) with designer Hermann Zimmerman, the Okudas, make-up artist Doug Drexler, and visual effects supervisor Dan Curry.
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Archival Mission Log: Select Historical Data
  • Archival Mission Log: Inside the Star Trek Archives
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Redemption"

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