Friday, August 19, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Clues

The Next Generation, Season 4
Airdate: February 11, 1991
87 of 176 produced
87 of 176 airedh


While experiencing some well-deserved downtime, the Enterprise falls into what seems to be a minor wormhole, rendering the crew unconscious. When they awake, several seemingly minor inconsistencies coalesce into evidence of a missing day, and an urgent mystery - what happened during their lost time?

Best guess: a ship-wide game of "Simon Says."


Matthew: The teaser is a nice fake-out. We get your basic "things are uneventful" captain's log, with some nice scenes of daily life for the crew, including the introduction of Worf's Mok'bara classes, and a nice Dixon Hill vignette that ends up tying into the theme - humans love a mystery (though Guinan seems non-plussed by the idea). The holodeck scene made for some nice comedy for Whoopi Goldberg.

Kevin: I liked Picard's reference to procedure requiring they investigate the M-class planet. It's consistent with TOS' "Galileo Seven" and the Enterprise having to investigate the Murasaki quasar. The scene with Whoopi Goldberg was pretty awesome all around, too. They've done the bit with Data trying and failing to be unobtrusive in interrupting Picard, but that's not too great a sin. I did love how he was standing like Riker on the ops console on the Bridge, though. That was a great touch.

Matthew: The tricky part, coming out of the teaser, is making the mystery interesting enough from relatively innocuous data. I think they largely succeeded. The combination of the scarlet moss, the planet readings being off, Data's unusual attempt at an explanation for the discrepancies, and then Worf's broken wrist, are dribbled out at a good pace. When they got to Worf's wrist, and Troi's sensation of not recognizing herself in the mirror, things were percolating at a nice, creepy pace.

Kevin: We've all had moments where objects are in a different place than we were absolutely certain they were supposed to be or been certain we had or hadn't done something to find the opposite is true. There's always that few second gap where your certainty clashes with reality and its always vaguely unsettling. I think the episode did a good job layering the instances of the small discrepancies well to create a general sense of disorientation.

Matthew: I liked this iteration of the "Data goes Rogue" trope, because it was at the behest of Picard, as opposed to him being taken over, yet again, by an alien invader. I do of course have questions about it. Now, granting that Picard can order Data to never reveal something, even if Picard wants to know it in the future, doesn't the second order from Picard (to reveal it) have at least equivalent force to the original order? It seems like Data should then be able to choose between the equivalent orders based on other factors. Imagine if it were two equally ranked admirals giving two conflicting orders to the same captain. Absent the word of a higher ranking admiral, the captain should then have discretion based upon his or her appraisal of the best outcomes between the orders. In such a case, it sure seems like the better outcome would be the one where Data doesn't get disassembled, and Data just says "hey guys, let's not go back this way, there's some bad dudes over there." As much as I enjoy this episode, it always kind of flummoxed me why the Paxans so readily accepted the notion that such an order to Data would be permanent.

Kevin: What if an admiral orders him to tell him everything that has ever happened to the Enterprise? If Data is self-possessed enough to disobey the order for the greater good, then his mere adherence to orders isn't as strong as Picard says. I think it would have been more credible to suggest that Data is simply the only person with the self control to never reveal it. Picard had a valid point that the loss of the Enterprise would certainly invite attention, so it would have made the Paxans seem more like a people and less like a trope if they decided to make the best of a bad situation and accept Data's self-control as the best shot of remaining isolated.

Matthew: I would have liked to learn a bit more about the Paxans. We hear that they are xenophobes, and that they terraform a protoplanet to hide on. Why? It's an interesting idea, but we don't get to hear any more about it. So there was some sci-fi opportunity missed on that score. But generally, it was a nice "what if your memory were erased?" tale. The question of whether you would choose to forget, for your own good, was interestingly presented.

Kevin: It would have been fun for someone to object to the memory wipe, just to present an ethical quandary. Given how easily they snare the Enterprise, we get another example of a race apparently more powerful than the Federation, but in no way a galactic player. It's not that every species has to suffer from an overabundance of ambition, but it seems weird if they are that fearful of other species and that powerful, they wouldn't go on the offensive and just start taking them out.

Matthew: How do they erase evidence of Worf's broken wrist, when they couldn't do it the first time? How do they account for the now two-plus day discrepancy between ship and Federation time frames?
Does Picard suspect at the end, and have an intuition that he should just drop it? If the Federation placed a warning beacon in the area, won't smugglers and pirates all congregate there, leading to a rash of missing vessels, and more interest?

Kevin: I'm guessing some stuff they only would have found if they looked for it, but without the initial problems of the moss and whatnot, there would be no reason to look for it.


Matthew: I liked the crew's various mysteries. The scenes between Crusher and Ogawa were fun, as were the ones with her and Picard discussing Diomedian Scarlet Moss. Geordi's suspicion of Data looked painful for him. Picard looked genuinely spooked as he zeroed in how and why Data was actually being duplicitous. Overall, it was all acted quite well.

Kevin: I always liked Ogawa and Crusher together because they both did a great job of portraying a long standing working relationship and friendship with absolutely no unnecessary exposition. There's no anomalous and wordy references shoehorned in about how they met or anything. They act and interact like colleagues and I just buy that.

Matthew: Not only is this a bottle show, but there are no guest stars whatsoever. Marina Sirtis plays a possessed Troi, using a creepy voice filter to sound like an alien. Well, more of an alien. She did a fine job this time around. She'll be called upon to do it again and again in the future.

Kevin: The more I watch TNG, the more I think Marina Sirtis would have been a good fit in TOS. It's not that she's overacting (with some PAINFUL and LONELY exceptions), but that she really sinks her teeth into the portrayal, much more akin to the acting style favored in TOS. Looking to The Child or The Loss, the lady can do a sobbing breakdown like nobodies' business, and I think the slightly more melodramatic story telling of TOS would have suited her well. Also, as a random aside, I love Rhonda Aldrich as Madeline, Dixon's secretary. She's always pitches the ditzy routine perfectly, and I liked the attention to detail that they brought her back each time the Dixon Hill program was used.

Production Values

Matthew: The episode opened with a really neat starscape backdrop. The cloudy, nebular look to it was reminiscent of later high-quality starscapes in Voyager. Otherwise, things were pretty quiet on the effects front. The green glow that took over Troi was effective, but nothing more. One production note - I've always found it weird that when she collapses on the bridge, no one catches her. It was a nice dramatic fall, though.

Kevin: We routinely note how bottle shows tend to end up being among the best, and I think it's a credit to the designers that the established Enterprise sets are diverse and interesting enough to sustain an episode. The prop work was pretty good. I liked the moss. It reminded me of the little rock garden my mother had on a cabinet in my house, and I totally wanted to grow some.

Matthew: The Dixon Hill sets were fun as always, as were the clothes. There was also a nice jazzy noir music theme playing in the background. Guinan's costume was particularly well done - garters and all. The Mok'bara made its first appearance, and the workout jammies were nice.

Kevin: It'd be easy to dismiss the Dixon Hill as good because they are cut and pasting an established design, but given how well they hit it every time, that wouldn't be fair. They aren't just taking noir stuff out of storage, but clearly the same care goes into those sets as all the others. And I agree on Guinan's costume.


Matthew: This episode is always consistently enjoyable, and it hasn't diminished on repeat viewing. Even though it features not one, not two, but three well-worn tropes (Data goes Rogue, Troi gets possessed, Worf gets his ass kicked), all are relatively understated and actually work well within the plot. The mystery is interesting, and the emotional dynamic above all makes things worth watching. I think it's a 4 overall.

Kevin: I agree the mystery is well-paced and developed, and the acting is the high standard we've come to expect, but somehow for me, there's nothing here that elevates the episode beyond being a good episode. If I were Seven of Nine, I would describe the episode as "adequate," insofar as it suffers from no major flaws and is certainly entertaining, but it just doesn't reach the 4 for me. That's a 3 from me for a total of 7.


  1. I love this episode. But I've always thought the end was way too neat. Picard makes such a big point about how human love mysteries, but we never really hear how they've managed to cover all their tracks so that there's no mystery the next time. I just don't buy it.

    Also, this didn't occur to me until I was reading the review, but Guinan is on the ship. She's even in the episode. And yet, she doesn't have any sort of mystical intuition about what's happening. She doesn't call up to the bridge to ask if everything is okay or have some sense that things aren't how they're supposed to be? I don't necessarily want to see those scenes, but it seems inconsistent with her characterization to leave them out.

  2. But then, if she had an intuition, wouldn't that intuition be "let it be?"

  3. Hmm I had never thought about that with Guinan. My main complaint about this episode is actually and I know I might get yelled at here but Dr Crusher's pushiness with her investigation. I guess I have never really cared for Crusher and this episode just brings out those feelings. I guess what I wondered is why couldn't Data say to Picard or Riker just trust me don't go back.