Star Trek: TNG

In Theory

starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Michele Scarabelli as Jenna D’Sora

tng07aThe USS ENTERPRISE is preparing to enter an unexplored dark matter nebula. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is in the process of modifying some photon torpodoes in an effort to obtain more information from the nebula. Data is working with Lt Jenna D’Sora but Jenna is distracted because “Jeff” has asked her to dinner. Data then goes on to list the many reasons why Jenna originally ended her relationship with Jeff, as originally instructed by the young woman. This, Data tells Jenna, is the third time he has had to remind her. Moments later, Data informs Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) that the torpedos are ready. Riker gives the order and the torpedoes are launched. As they reach further into the nebula, they literally light up the sky…

“It’s beautiful. Like watching fireworks in the sky when I was a little girl…”

Later, Jenna and Data are involved in a public musical rehearsal but once they reach the end, Jenna is unjustifiably upset with her performance. Data promptly informs her that he detected nothing except minor faults which they could correct by the next rehearsal.

tng02aJenna begins to become attracted to Data’s kindness. In fact, during an after-rehearsal meeting, the young woman positively revels in Data’s company.

As time moves on, and analysis of the nebula continues, Data discovers numerous M-class planets within. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) tells Data that they will continue their analysis of the nebula as they move towards the nearest of the planets. Meanwhile, strange events begin to unfold around the ship. In sickbay, medical devices which were positioned on benches suddenly appear on the floor.

Back at work, Jenna is dreaming back to the days of her childhood. Memories which she explores in the company of Data. Her thoughts move on as she asks rhetorically, why it is that she always falls for the wrong man. Such thoughts then make her ask why she can’t fall for someone like Data – who she describes as “perfect”. Data is quick to point out that, due to his human limitations, he is far from “perfect”. Nevertheless, Jenna highlights how kind and patient Data has always been with her. How much he makes her laugh. Those, she says, are the things that matter. It’s then, when she tells Data how handsome he is, that Jenna kisses him. As she leaves, Data begins to question her advances and attempts to seek help.

tng05aFirst Data visits Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) followed, in rapid succession by Geordi (LeVar Burton), Troi (Marina Sirtis), Worf (Michael Dorn), Riker, and Picard. None of them prove to be very helpful but Data does begin to write a computer program dedicated to romancing Jenna. This begins with a bunch of flowers at Jenna’s door.

As their relationship flourishes, so the Enterprise moves further into the cloud. Also, the strange events in the ship become more and more frequent. In the captain’s quarters; on the walls of the corridors; in the ready room.

In Jenna’s quarters, she and Data discuss their lack of success in determining the cause of the strange phenomena. Data continues his “sub-program” as he demonstrates an attempt at being a loving partner at the end of a hard day’s work.

tng02“What were you just thinking?”

“In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters; analysing the collected works of Charles Dickens; calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips; considering a new food supplement for Spot…”

“I’m glad I was in there somewhere…”

When Data discovers that the strange events are due to small areas of dark matter causing pockets of subspace distortions which are impacting with the Enterprise, Picard goes on to navigate them safely out of the nebula.

Later that day, Jenna visits Data in his quarters. She tells him that she has thought about their relationship and knows it will never work. She has realised that she left a man who had no feelings for her and ran straight into a relationship with a man who never could have any feelings. As she leaves him, Data deletes the appropriate program and Spot jumps into his lap.


tng04As Jenna, Michele Scarabelli is irresistible. In fact, it’s a testament to Brent Spiner’s skill as an actor that he was able to keep Data so emotionless during Jenna‘s advances. Although, even as an android, how Data found enough hours in the day to work on the photon torpedoes; court Jenna; occupy his seat on the bridge; and take care of his cat is a subject that’s beyond conjecture.

Jenna D’Sora is beautiful, sweet, compassionate, intelligent, cute and she even keeps her quarters in a mess. This girl is perfect! The question isn’t why she fell for Data, rather it’s why, out of a ship of over a thousand people, she only falls for emotionless men.

Star Trek : The Next Generation lasted for seven years, 179 episodes – many of which were very similar to each other. Only a few episodes are of remarkable interest – and they usually involve the Borg in some way. Despite this, In Theory is a very enjoyable episode. It tries, but fails, to answer if it’s possible to love an android; it tries, but fails, to answer if it’s possible for affection from a beautiful woman to melt a metal heart. However, it does succeed in telling a romantic story – if one doesn’t dwell too much on Data‘s attempts to write a program to enable him to romance Jenna.

Michele Scarabelli is the real jewel in this episode. She sparkles in every scene and really makes the episode work on her own. As the only non-regular cast member, Michele does a fabulous job of out-acting everyone else without once going too far. She turns in a really special performance which creates a character that you could watch time and time again.

Listen closely to Michele’s final speech as Jenna and be prepared to reach for those tear-absorbent tissues…