(written from a Production point of view)
In his latest attempt to understand Humanity, Data accepts the affections of Jenna D'Sora and pursues a romantic relationship with her. In the meantime, a nebula the Enterprise is passing through is causing strange things to happen on the ship.
- "Captain's Log, stardate 44932.3. The Enterprise is preparing to enter the Mar Oscura, an unexplored dark matter nebula. Commander Data is modifying several of our photon torpedoes for an experiment designed to elicit more information about this unusual phenomenon."
Jenna D'Sora, who had recently broken up with her boyfriend, Jeff Arton, is working with Data on a probe in the USS Enterprise-D's torpedo bay. When Data notices that she is subdued, she mentions that she saw Jeff earlier, and that he had asked her to dinner. Responding to a request Jenna had made of him, Data recites a litany of reasons why she had chosen to break up with him. Data tells her that "As your friend, it is my responsibility to be supportive in times of need." – a behavior she finds sweet. Meanwhile, the Enterprise-D launches the now-completed probe into the nebula, producing a beautiful display.
D'Sora and Data play in a chamber concert, along with Keiko O'Brien. After the performance, D'Sora criticizes her own playing, but Data argues that there were no major technical errors in her music. She insists, and Data responds by offering to practice with her, but assuring her that the audience didn't notice any problems and enjoyed themselves. She appreciates his making the effort, and later, as D'Sora and Data have a drink with Keiko and her husband Miles O'Brien, Data successfully entertains the table by making lovers' small talk with Jenna. On the bridge, Data is analyzing the readings from their probe. The nebula has a greater density of dark matter than other similar formations. He hypothesizes that life in this region may have developed in hitherto unseen ways. It is decided that the Enterprise will travel to a planet within the region, to see if Data's theory is correct.
Data immediately starts seeking advice from his colleagues on romantic love in general and on what he should do, since Jenna apparently shows serious interest in him. In Ten Forward, Data tells Guinan, "Lieutenant D'Sora just gave me what could be considered a very passionate kiss in the torpedo bay." Guinan advises him that this will be an entirely new experience for him. Geordi La Forge warns him about pursuing a woman on the rebound, but then corrects himself, suspecting she might be over the rebound, and finally admits he has no advice to give and advises Data to seek someone out who is more experienced in giving advice. Deanna Troi worries that Jenna may be in a vulnerable position but stops short of discouraging him from romancing Jenna. "We're all more than the sum of our parts, Data. You'll have to be more than the sum of your programming", she tells him. Worf informs him that Klingons do not pursue romances the same way Humans do; they conquer what they desire. He adds in a menacing whisper that, as her superior officer, he would be very displeased if Lt. D'Sora were mistreated. Will Riker encourages him to go for it, stating that the rewards of a romantic relationship are far greater than that of simple friendship. Captain Picard refuses to comment, stating that he would be happy to pass along any advice about understanding women, as soon as he has any.
- "Second Officer's personal log, stardate 44935.6. After conferring with my colleagues regarding the nature of romantic love in general, and my own situation in particular, I have reached a decision."
Data goes to D'Sora's quarters, with a bouquet of flowers that Jenna finds lovely. The flowers are a variety of crystilia from Telemarius IV which Riker had recommended to Data. When Jenna asks how many people he discussed her with, he replies that it was less than 1% of the ship's crew. Data tells Jenna that he has created a special program devoted to romantic relationships. When Data informs her that he has "devoted a considerable share" of his internal resources to the development of a subroutine within this program, specifically for her, she tells him that's the nicest thing anybody had ever said to her. Data and Jenna then share a kiss.
On the bridge, the Enterprise is approaching a class M planet within the nebula. The captain goes to his ready room, only to discover that the items usually located atop his desk are lying on the floor. Picard summons Worf, asking him to bring a tricorder with him. They discover that there is no evidence that anyone other than the captain had been in contact with the items, but there is no obvious explanation for the displacement. Worf is suspicious, but Picard feels that the situation, while perplexing, is not serious.
Data is confused by the strange concept of love and how he must continually show this to Jenna D'Sora. For example, D'Sora arrives unexpectedly in his quarters with a gift, as he is painting, but tells him to go back to his painting. He does so, and then is perplexed when Jenna reveals that she had actually wanted him to stop his painting and give her his full attention. As she leaves, a section of the wall in the corridor seems to disappear briefly. The anomalies have now moved past the point of what Picard initially laughed off as "poltergeist" phenomena, and as the ship arrives at the coordinates of the planet, it is nowhere to be found.
After ruling out a sensor malfunction, the planet suddenly reappears in front of them. The computer informs the bridge crew that there has been a decompression in the observation lounge. When life support is restored to that room, the crew investigates, and discovers all the furniture in the room piled up near one of the windows. Data scans the transparent aluminum alloy in the windows, and notices an unexplained anomaly in the readings. Picard orders further investigation.
When his shift ends, Data goes to D'Sora's quarters. At first, Jenna enjoys the relationship. Ironically, it is Data's nearly perfect performance as an attentive lover that causes Jenna to lose her love for him. He welcomes her with Calaman sherrys and a soothing attitude, but this fails to set her at ease; he begins to straighten up her quarters, but she doesn't want him to do this. Confused, he bolts from his place beside her and begins shouting at her. Jenna is shocked by this, and tells Data to leave. He asks, "You do not wish to continue our 'lovers' quarrel'?", thus revealing that he is still running through his database to find an appropriate response for her. Jenna is both touched and saddened to hear this.
Seven more incidents have occurred on the Enterprise since the one in the observation lounge; Data explains that they seem to be caused by some kind of subspace effect happening inside the Mar Oscura Nebula. Picard orders Ensign McKnight to move the ship out of the nebula at warp speed, which immediately leads to a sudden rush of deformations, nearly killing Thorne, one of La Forge's engineers. Picard orders the helm to stop the ship, and La Forge, along with two of his engineers, goes to check things out. While investigating, Lieutenant Van Mayter is killed when the matter/space anomaly appears beneath her, causing her to phase partially through the deck of the ship, wherein she is trapped when it re-materializes.
- "Captain's Log, supplemental. This series of unexplained events has now resulted in the death of a crewman, but it appears that Mr. Data may have an explanation."
Data informs the assembled staff in the observation lounge that the dark matter in the region is causing deformations in space. La Forge explains how the spatial deformations are affecting the ship: "… when we hit one of them, part of the ship momentarily phases out of normal space.". Data reveals that the ship's sensors cannot detect the deformations in time to avoid them; the detection range is too short. Worf proposes using a much more maneuverable shuttle to lead the Enterprise out of danger. Picard agrees to the plan, and insists that he pilot the shuttle. Using the shuttle's small computer screen, Picard steers through a crowded minefield of deformations, but eventually loses control as deformations impact and damage the shuttle and its krellide power cells. Fortunately, O'Brien manages to beam the captain out of the shuttle just before it explodes. By this time the Enterprise is close enough to risk a rush to the edge of the nebula. The Enterprise soon escapes into the safety of normal space and heads to Starbase 260.
Jenna has finally realized that the android does not really feel any emotions for her, nor does he really care for her. What is most hurtful is the realization that nothing she says or does can have any effect on him, that she has broken up with an unemotional man only to fall for a man who is completely incapable of emotions. She reveals this to Data before a dinner date in his quarters. Data realizes he is being dumped but shows no emotion and simply notes that he will delete the appropriate program (the one he'd written for their relationship), just as D'Sora expected he would do. Sitting alone in his quarters, Data gives his cat, Spot, a chipper greeting. He scratches the cat's chin and then leans over to blow out the dinner candles.
- Captain's log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), 2367
- Second officer's personal log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)
"Honey, I'm home."
- - Data, to Jenna
"I require advice."
(laughs) "Don't look at me."
(Data turns his head and looks away from her)
- - Data and Guinan
"Lt. D'Sora just gave me what could be considered… a very passionate kiss in the torpedo bay."
- - Data, to Guinan
"Well, what do you think of her, Data?"
"I find her to be a competent officer. Highly motivated, though somewhat lacking in her understanding of the theory underlying the dilithium matrix application."
"I meant personally."
- - Guinan and Data
"The cat's out of the bag."
(looks around) "Spot?"
- - Jenna and Data
"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."
- - La Forge, when Data asks him for advice on dating
"My programming may be inadequate to the task."
"We're all more than the sum of our parts, Data. You'll have to be more than the sum of your programming."
- - Data and Troi, on romantic relationships
"Klingons do not pursue relationships. They conquer that which they desire."
- - Worf
"Data, when it really works between two people, it's not like anything you've ever experienced. The rewards are far greater than simple friendship."
"How far, sir?"
"That's what I'm hoping you're going to find out!"
- - Riker, enjoying Data's burgeoning romance with Jenna
"Captain. I am seeking advice in how to…"
"Yes, I've heard Data. And I would be delighted to offer any advice I can on understanding women. When I have some I'll let you know."
- - Data and Captain Picard
"Darling, you remain as aesthetically pleasing as the first day we met. I believe I am the most fortunate sentient in this sector of the galaxy!"
- - Data, to Jenna D'Sora
"Let's get him out of there!"
"Now would be a good time, Mr. O'Brien."
- - Riker, as Picard's shuttle spins out of control
"Data, sometimes people blindly make the same mistake again and again."
"Are you currently experiencing this phenomenon?"
"I didn't see it until today. I got out of a relationship with an unemotional man, and I got right back into another one with… with a man who's absolutely incapable of emotion."
"Hmm. There does appear to be a recurring motif."
- - Jenna and Data
"Nothing I can say or do will ever make you happy or… or sad. Or touch you in any way."
"That is a valid projection. It is apparent that my reach has exceeded my grasp in this particular area."
- - Jenna D'Sora, breaking up with Data
"Are we no longer… a couple?"
"No, we're not."
"Then I will delete the appropriate program."
- - Data and Jenna
- - Data
- Final draft script: 20 March 1991 
- Filmed: 1 April 1991 – 9 April 1991
- Second unit and insert shots filmed: 18 April 1991
- Premiere airdate: 3 June 1991
- First UK airdate: 7 December 1994
Story and script
- Joe Menosky commented, "This was another chance to walk the line between Data's hardwiring and his programmed 'heart' – to explore whether there really is a ghost in the machine." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 211)
- According to Ronald D. Moore, the story was inspired by stories of fans confessing their love for the character of Spock during the original run of Star Trek: The Original Series. He remarked, "So much of Leonard Nimoy's fan mail was from women, women who were falling in love with this remote, inaccessible character with the idea that 'I could touch his heart – I could get to Spock like no one else.' I was fascinated by that aspect of fandom." He thought it would be interesting to explore what would happen when the man completely lacked emotions, rather than just controlled them as Spock had. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 211)
- This was the first collaboration between Menosky and Moore. Menosky recalled that he and Moore split the scenes between them before coming together to compare their work. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 211)
- Both writers wanted the episode to be essentially a character study but found they needed to combine it with a B story. "We had to come up with some stupid subspace anomaly that the Enterprise had to be battling at the same time," commented Moore. "It was annoying storytelling, but that was built in to the structure of that show. While you were downstairs with Data, you always kind of wondered what the ship would be doing." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp. 78-79)
- This is the first episode to be directed by Patrick Stewart. For advice, Stewart turned to Jonathan Frakes. Frakes recalled, "We had a couple of conversations. He was fabulous and took to it beautifully. He's a very sensitive man and he did a great job. He was also lucky that he got a Data show as his first. Brent [Spiner] really is an incredible actor with unbelievable range and technique, and certainly the most popular character, so it's a real plus to get that combination." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 222) Stewart also spent much time talking to the show's original cinematographer, Edward R. Brown about his directorial debut. ("Departmental Briefing Year Four - Production", TNG Season 4 DVD special feature)
- Stewart recalled, "I was a virgin then. Those seven days that I worked on 'In Theory' were seven of the most exciting days of my career. They were so intense." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 222)
- Noting that the series assigned directors by lot, Stewart added, "I was very lucky to get a simple little love story to direct. I was lucky to have Brent Spiner as my leading man and indeed Brent was to be my leading man in the first three of the five episodes I directed. I had a fabulous guest star performance by Michele Scarabelli. I had no big sets or Klingon Great Halls or shoot 'em ups; there were no epic scenes. I had to simply concentrate on the basics of camera movement and structure and, more than anything else, work with the actors on the scenes." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 222)
- "In Theory" was filmed between Monday 1 April 1991 and Tuesday 9 April 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9. A note on the call sheet of Monday 8 April 1991 reminded the cast and crew about the time change and to set the clocks forward one hour. Second unit and insert shots were filmed on Thursday 18 April 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9.
- First UK airdate: 7 December 1994
- At the beginning of Act 2, the piece played by the woodwind quintet in which Data performed is Anton Reicha's Wind Quintet in E-flat major.
- In Act 4, when Data is cleaning up Jenna's quarters, he sings "Che Gelida Manina," from the Italian opera "La Bohème" by Giacomo Puccini. The Italian lyrics that he sings are: "Che gelida manina, se la lasci riscaldar. Cercar che giova?" (What a frozen hand, let me warm it for you. What's the use of searching?)
- Composer Jay Chattaway remembers, "The most demanding requirement for that episode was coming up with a musical device that would work for an android. I don't know whether or not Data has emotional feelings, but he was depicted in the show as feeling – in his own android way – an emotional relationship with someone. I used an EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) to produce Data's musical voice. A musician actually blows into the instrument like any non-electric wind instrument, so it's able to capture all the same emotional nuances, yet it drives a battery of synthesizers. What comes out is this eerie, spacey marriage of man and machine. The end result is as unique as Data – not quite alive, but not totally artificial. I thought Brent Spiner pulled it off well. He's a very musical person, and in that episode, he actually sings an opera aria. Also, his album [Ol' Yellow Eyes is Back] is quite good." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 18, p. 35)
- While having a "lovers' quarrel", Data says angrily "You're not my mother", using a contraction. When Jenna questions him, he explains calmly "You are not my mother." This might indicate that the initial phrase was specifically programmed with the contraction, but the repeat without a contraction is a unique form of the "no contractions" contradiction. Data also says "Honey, I'm home!" when he enters Jenna's quarters, and "I'll join you", when asking Jenna which drink she would prefer. These may also have been programmed phrases.
- This is the last episode featuring Data's cat, Spot, as a Somali cat. After this episode, Spot was portrayed as an orange short-hair tabby.
- After the observation room's brief exposure to space, Data makes note of changes in the transparent aluminum alloy (the windows), giving reference to the same alloy Montgomery Scott introduced as a bargaining chip in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
- The nebula appears to be a recolored version of the Mutara Nebula from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- This is the only episode with scenes inside one of the torpedo bays of the Enterprise-D.
- For the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log DVD collection, Stewart selected "In Theory" as his favorite episode of the series.
- When asked whether there were any episodes he had written that he felt were under-recognized, Ronald D. Moore remarked, "I guess I have a fond memory of the A-story in "In Theory" and always felt people didn't quite give that one its due." (AOL chat, 1997)
- Ron Moore disliked having the space anomaly B-story in the episode, describing it as being representative of the "hamstringing' structure that Star Trek: The Next Generation had. He noted, "On Deep Space Nine you don't have that looming over your head all the time, so it expands the kinds of stories you can do." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp 78-79)
- Brannon Braga had similar thoughts, calling this an example of where the A-B format didn't work. He remarked, "I just wanted to see more of the Data arc. I didn't want to see that other story at all. It was interesting with that woman through the floor, nice imagery, but that's it. You really want to go back to the other thing." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 235)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 17, pp. 51-54.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 50, 8 June 1992
- Star Trek - Music Box VHS collection.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.8, 1 October 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log collection – chosen by Patrick Stewart as his favorite episode of the series
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Michele Scarabelli as Jenna D'Sora
- Rosalind Chao as Keiko O'Brien
- Colm Meaney as Miles O'Brien
- Pamela Winslow as McKnight
Special guest star
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Joe Bauman as Garvey
- Gary Baxley as Thorne
- Thomas J. Booth as civilian
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Max Cervantes as operations division officer
- Nyra Crenshaw as operations division officer
- Gerard David, Jr. as operations division ensign
- Denise Deuschle as science division officer
- Keith Gearhart as science division officer
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Melanie Hathorn as sciences officer
- Ritt Henn as alien bassoonist
- Hirner as Ten Forward waiter
- Hunt as operations division officer
- Mark Lentry as civilian
- Phil Mallory as French horn player
- Marin as command division officer
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Rad Milo as command division ensign
- Michael Moorehead as civilian
- Brandy Pickett as science division officer
- Keith Rayve as command division ensign
- Denise Lynne Roberts as Patti
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- Georgina Shore as Van Mayter
- Curt Truman as command division officer
- Uchizono as civilian
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Harry Young as science division officer
- Unknown performers as
- Arlene – stand-in for Michele Scarabelli
- Karen Baxter – stand-in for Rosalind Chao
- Brett – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Candace Crump – stand-in for Whoopi Goldberg
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden and Pamela Winslow
- Linda Robertson – photo double for Pamela Winslow
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes and Colm Meaney
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
"a little"; access tube; accident; adolescence; advice; aesthetic criteria; affection; agreement; air pressure; "all right"; alloy; anomaly; apparel; arrival; Arton, Jeff; "as you wish"; assumption; "at least"; "at risk"; atmosphere; atmospheric decompression; attention; audience; bassoon; bearing; Boleyn, Anne; book; "Book of Love"; bow; bridge connector; Calaman sherry; casualty; Che gelida manina; chapter; children; choice; clarinet; cleaning processor; close range; closet; coda; colleague; color; "come in"; "come on"; communicator; compliment; composition; computational environment; computer; concentration; contrapuntal; cookout; coordinates; corridor; course; cryogenic control conduit; crystilia; damage; damage report; dark matter; dark matter nebula; dark matter particle illumination test; day; death; deck; Denevian mead; densitometry; density; deuterium; devil; diameter; Dickens, Charles; dilithium matrix; dinner; disappointment; dispersal pattern; distance; dizziness; door; door sensor; D'Sora's family; electrical current; EM scanner; emotion; emotional release; environmental compensation sequence; estimated time of arrival; event; evidence; experiment; explanation; explosive decompression; family; feeling; feet; fireworks; floor; flow rate; flute; fragrance; French horn; frequency domain; friend; friendship; fructose; Galaxy-class decks; girlfriend; gift; glucose; "go ahead"; hair; heading; "hello"; Henry VIII; Henry VIII's huntsmen; history; hour; hull breach; Human; humanoid; hundred: huntsman; hypothesis; "I do not know"; "I do not understand"; illumination; impulse nacelle; "in case"; "in general"; "in particular"; "in the act"; inertial dampener; inertial dampening field; information; interpersonal dynamics; intimacy; intruder; investigation; kilometer; kiss; Klingon; krellide power cell;L-U band; launch bay one; lifeform; light hour; lip; literature; Love's Labour's Lost; love; love affair; lovers' quarrel; lux; M class; "made the first move"; "make a run for it"; malfunction; manual control; Mar Oscura Nebula; Mar Oscura Nebula planets; marriage; mate; matter/antimatter containment pod; meal; mechanism; memory; meaning; mental distraction; meter; microfusion thruster; Milky Way Galaxy; million; mistake; monosaccharide; motif; music lesson; navigational input; navigational system; need; neo-primitive period; night; "none the worse"; number one; oboe; "of course"; "on board"; online; opinion; opportunity; order of magnitude; orderliness; "out of control"; "out of the ordinary"; "out of the way"; painting; palate; paragraph; parameter; performance; perimeter; person; phenomenon; photon torpedo casing; phrasing; place; poltergeist; Prakal II; Prakal II mixed drink; program; programming; quality; question; radiation level; rate; ready room; reason; red alert; rehearsal; relationship; replicator; report; resource: rhythmic pattern; risk; role; role model; romantic liaison; romantic love (romantic relationship); room; sarium krellide; Saurian brandy; science section; science station; secondary deuterium supply; section; sector containing the Mar Oscura Nebula; security; security sweep; sensor scan; sentient; sequencer; shuttlecraft; "silver tongue"; socks; sound; soup; space; spatial deformation; spirit; "stand by"; Starbase 260; starboard; structural damage; subject; subroutine; subspace distortion; subspace field; suggestion; summer; survey; survey probe; systems diagnostic; "take the chance"; Targ milk; Telemarius IV; telemetry link; tempo; "thank you"; "that's all right" ("that's alright"); "the cat's out of the bag"; "the little things"; theory; "this instance"; thought (thinking); thousand; time continuum; "to be on the safe side"; "to that end"; torpedo bay; transceiver; transparent aluminum; tricorder; turbolift; Tyrinean; Tyrinean blade carving; variable; variety; vase; Voltaire; warp field; week; wife; Wind Quintet in E-flat major; window; would-be ready room guard; "you know"
- Shuttlepod Systems 0451: adaptive computer command; attitude control; calibration rate command; doppler sequence; error checking; nav program; predictive nav input; sequence vector analysis; telemetry system;
Unused production references
- "In Theory" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "In Theory" at Wikipedia
- "In Theory" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "In Theory" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
| Previous episode:|
"The Mind's Eye"
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|