99 – In Theory

Grade: C+

In Theory (1991) on IMDb


The Enterprise is conducting some scientific research on a nebula of dark matter. Meanwhile, Data and a science officer lieutenant start a romantic relationship.


I’m not a big fan of this episode. The plot is divided into two parts – first, Data’s relationship with a female crew member, and second, some kind of spatial anomaly inside a nebula. The second part of this episode didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and it seems that it was just tacked on to make it 43 minutes.

One thing that was really annoying is that at the end, when someone needs to pilot a shuttle to help guide the Enterprise to safety, Captain Picard insists that he should be the one to do it. I don’t understand why it’s so important for him to do it. I agree with Riker on this one – besides, isn’t Riker supposed to be one of the best pilots in all of Star Trek? Well, in all honesty, I think the reason Picard pilots the shuttle is because Patrick Stewart directed the episode. In fact, the conversation between Riker and Picard almost seemed like Patrick Stewart telling Jonathan Frakes that it was his turn to direct. Frakes had already directed three other episodes by this point in the series.

The other half of the episode is the main focus of the storyline, but it’s really kind of silly and annoying. I suppose we’ve seen romantic storylines for every main character, including Wesley Crusher, so it’s probably about time that they dealt with Data’s romance at some point. But it doesn’t seem natural. No woman that I know would want to have a relationship with a robot. The female Lieutenant just seems immature and unsure of herself, and this is definitely a “rebound” relationship. I suppose not many female fans of the series would have found this episode to be terribly flattering.

Data, on the other hand, acts exactly as you’d expect a robot to act in this same situation. He asks a lot of questions, because he obviously wants to make the right decisions for this situation. Even when he has an argument with Lt D’Sora, it’s obvious that he’s following some kind of script that he’s memorized. Notice how he says, “that is the appropriate response, is it not?” For Data, this situation is just one other way to learn about humans and what they do.

It’s obvious that this relationship is doomed to fail, almost as soon as it starts. Personally, that’s what makes this episode almost completely unwatchable – we know it isn’t going to work out between them, so the only reason to watch this is to find out exactly how it falls apart. The only redeeming quality this episode has is its development of Data’s character, and there’s a fair amount of that, but since we can guess the outcome right from the start, we’re just going through the motions just like Data.

My advice is to skip this episode, unless you really feel like watching a bad relationship that has no hope of a positive resolution. This is a filler episode, whose only purpose is to get the series closer to number 100.

Of Note

The saddest part of this episode is at the end when the Lt realizes that she went from a relationship with a man who wouldn’t share his feelings with her to one with a robot who has no feelings at all.

This was Patrick Stewart’s first turn as director of a Star Trek episode. He directed four more episodes of the series. Also, we find out in this episode that transparent aluminum is used for windows on this ship – a nice little nod to Star Trek IV when they save the whales.