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TNG 4-14

TNG 4x14
"Clues"

Original airdate: 2/11/1991
Rewatch date: 1/6/2012


After passing through an unstable wormhole, a series of "minor mysteries" crop up that indicate something unusual has happened and that Commander Data may be concealing the truth.

Spoiler-free notes:

No offense to Whoopi Goldberg, but I have no interest in seeing her in garters. Gross.

I'm a little torn about the opening, because I think it may have been more appropriate, thematically, to have it be Data on the holodeck as Sherlock Holmes instead of Picard playing Dixon Hill. While Picard is the protagonist of the episode, it's all about Data, as he is the only character who is given the opportunity to develop. On the other hand, Picard's fascination with mystery is what sets events in motion, and perhaps showing Sherlock Holmes would have been a little too anvilicious, especially after the previous episode ("Devil's Due") started with Data on the holodeck as Ebenezer Scrooge being skeptical of a ghost. Also, I happen to know that there were some behind-the-scenes legal battles going on at this time involving the rights to use the Sherlock Holmes character, which is why we haven't seen Data play Holmes since "Elementary, Dear Data."

Come to think of it, this episode and the previous one have a lot in common. They are both about Picard driving himself to the edge of madness to figure out what the heck is going on, and they both play off of Data's many uses as an android.

There seems to be very little panic after everybody allegedly passes out for 30 seconds. Crusher says she's getting reports from all over the ship, but when we see her, she seems totally calm, almost happy, and La Forge offers a report immediately afterwards in which he doesn't even bother to ask what's happened. I'm not saying there should be people running around and screaming, but it all seems just a little too easy.

O'Brien is becoming a bigger and bigger character, appearing in practically every episode.

Poor Ensign Locklin. She is called to Sick Bay so that Dr. Crusher to run some scans on her with no explanation and then sent on her way. I hope she's not hypochondriac.

Data's altruistic willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good shouldn't be overlooked. Also, it's hardcore that Picard--the man who helped define Data's rights as a sentient being--threatens Data with the possibility that he will be "stripped down to [his] wires to find out what the hell went wrong." Then again, Picard decides to risk the welfare of the ship and crew just to protect Data's future in Starfleet.

Conflicting orders like the kind Data has to deal with are what sent HAL 9000 overboard.

The fade-to-flashback is a little bit on the hokey side, but I can see no real alternative. Also, one of the side-effects of episodic storytelling is that the problem is, by necessity, wrapped up awfully quickly. Still, it kind of feels like the end of a typical mystery show, with the brilliant detective explaining everything as the climax. I suppose the truncated feel of the explanation is because that's how Data describes it.

I have a hard time believing that they're able to erase all the clues, or even enough to prevent the seeds of mystery from germinating. Some--like Troi's hallucinations--don't have an easy fix, and I'm sure there are more that they didn't encounter the first time around. I like to think that what we don't see, while the crew is trying to erase all the clues, is Data and La Forge figuring out a way to defend the ship and crew against the Paxan technology, so that Data can initiate a contingency plan in the event of a second failure.

This is the quintessential "puzzle show," but I also like to look at it as a tretise on science. Science--especially theoretical science--is all about finding the oddities and exploring the incongruities to solve the mysteries of existence. It's easily one of my favorite episodes on the show, and it has some extremely tight, efficient writing.

Number of episodes in which a member of the crew is subverted by an alien lifeforce: 12, and it's Troi yet again.



Spoiler section:

You'd think Guinan would understand human entertainment a little better, seeing as how she was on Earth at the turn of the 20th Century and hanging out with Mark Twain, as we see in "Time's Arrow."





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