Written by Bruce D. Arthurs and Joe Menosky
Directed by Les Landau
Season 4, Episode 14
Production episode 40274-188
Original air date: February 11, 1991
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is engaged in some downtime. Picard takes advantage of the time to bring Guinan to a Dixon Hill program, which is interrupted by Data. They’ve detected an M-class planet surrounding a star that shouldn’t be able to support a habitable world. Picard expresses regret to Guinan, saying that he must abandon the 20th-century mystery for a 24th-century one.
Everyone comes to the bridge, and they discover that there are unstable wormholes all around. The Enterprise goes through one, which renders everyone except for Data unconscious. When folks wake up, Data explains that they were all unconscious for thirty seconds. There appears to be no damage or major injuries. Data suggests that returning to investigate the planet would be hazardous with all the wormhole activity, so they send a probe.
Said probe reveals that the planet isn’t Class-M likely they got a false reading on the sensors initially. Riker finds it odd that they would get that specific a false reading, but Data theorizes that they saw a false image through one of the wormholes.
Everything seems to be fine, but then Crusher reports that the Diomedian scarlet moss that she’s been cultivating somehow achieved 24 hours of growth in the thirty seconds they were all unconscious. Data again has a theory, one relating to a 22nd-century scientist named Underhill, that might explain the moss’s growth and at this point the crew has noticed that every discrepancy is being explained away by Data. They’re wondering if something is wrong with Data, or if there’s something even more insidious going on.
Crusher compares the transporter trace of the last person to use the transporter with her current bio-scans, and there’s a discrepancy that indicates that they were unconscious for a lot longer than thirty seconds. La Forge also discovers that the ship’s chronometer was altered by a method that only Data and La Forge are capable of.
Concerned that Data is suffering some kind of malfunction, La Forge examines him and finds nothing wrong. This all started when they found that Class-M planet and Data was the one who launched the probe that showed that it wasn’t. Picard orders La Forge to see if the probe was tampered with.
Troi then suffers a dizzy spell and a brief hallucination, while Worf discovers that his wrist had been broken and re-set without his remembering.
La Forge reveals that Data substituted an image of a different planet from the library computer when the probe did its scan. La Forge sends a new probe, which reveals not only a Class-M planet, but no indication of any wormholes.
Data refuses to give any direct answers, and is fully aware that his continued lack of cooperation not to mention his obstructions and other bits of sabotage will likely result in court martial. (Picard also points out that it would likely result in his being stripped down to his component parts, which seems an odd thing for him to threaten, given that Picard himself was the one who argued for his rights as a sentient being, which included not being dismantled against his will, but never mind.)
It has become obvious that they were awake during the missing day, and that something happened possibly a great conflict, given Worf’s broken wrist which resulted in their memories being tampered with and Data being forced to lie. Picard orders the Enterprise to return to the scene of the crime.
An energy field appears between the Enterprise and the planet, and sends a pulse that appears to be dissipated by shields. Instead, however, it possesses Troi, who goes to Data’s quarters and speaks in a modulated voice that makes her sound like a Goa’uld. She is angry that the ship came back. Data tries to convince “Troi” that he can salvage the situation.
Picard brings Data to the bridge and confronts him. He will not leave until he knows what’s going on, and who is compelling Data’s silence. Data finally reveals that he was given orders not to reveal the truth by Picard himself.
Data finally explains what happened. The “wormhole” was actually a stun field used by a xenophobic race called the Paxans. They stun a crew, put them in stasis, tow them to a distant location, and they think they went through a wormhole. But the plan hit a snag with Data: the stun field didn’t affect him.
The energy field penetrates the ship and possesses Troi. Worf tries to keep her under guard, but “Troi” grabs his wrist and breaks it before throwing him across the bridge. The Paxans threaten to destroy the ship, but Picard explains that if they’re destroyed, others will come for them. They will not be able to remain isolationist if more ships investigate the Enterprise‘s disappearance. Picard asks if the biochemical stasis they put people in for their “wormhole” trick could also erase memories, and the Paxans agree that it can for everyone but Data. Picard then orders Data to never reveal anything about the Paxans ever again to anyone.
Back in the present, the Paxans declare the plan a failure, and threaten to destroy the Enterprise, but Picard insists that it was just a dry run. They can still make it work, they just have to eliminate the clues that something else was going on. Get rid of the clues, and there will be no questions.
Sure enough, they do it all over again, and this time they send a probe, head off to their next assignment, and it’s all forgotten.
Well, by everyone except Data…
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is possessed by the Paxans, and that experience has residual effects on her, causing dizzy spells and hallucinations. This is the one side effect of the deception that might still cause issues and is left unresolved. It’s likely she had those same aftereffects again after the second possession by the Paxans, and one wonders how they dealt with it.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf feels discomfort in his wrist, which he normally wouldn’t even mention, but since Picard asked them to report anything unusual, he very, very reluctantly reports the discomfort to Crusher, who discovers that his wrist was broken and re-set. Worf also points out that Data is one of the few people on board who can break his wrist which makes it hilarious that itty bitty Troi is the one who actually does it (presumably enhanced by the Paxans, since she does it one-handed .).
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data stands on the bridge with one foot up on the ops console arm, in an almost perfect imitation of Riker, which is kind of amusing.
What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: For some inexplicable reason, Picard talks in a cheesy accent as Dixon Hill, something he’s never done in any of his previous sojourns to 1941 San Francisco (and it really sounds ridiculous).
Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan joins Picard for his Dixon Hill program, but is ten minutes late because she had trouble with the outfit, in particular the garters….
In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign McKnight makes the first of three appearances at conn.
I Believe I Said That: “This was all set up in advance. You see, I’m supposed to be Gloria from Cleveland, and I was supposed to be on Holodeck 4 at two o’clock, and you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
Guinan’s frustrated culmination of her conversation with Madeleine on the holodeck.
Welcome Aboard: No real “guest” stars, as everyone in this episode is a recurring character: besides regulars Colm Meaney as O’Brien and Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, you’ve got Rhonda Aldrich making her final appearance as Dixon Hill’s long-suffering secretary Madeleine (previously seen in “The Big Goodbye” and “Manhunt“), Patti Yasutake as one of Crusher’s nurses (this time seen in the present, as opposed to a fake future as she was in “Future Imperfect,” and given the first name Alyssa her last name, Ogawa, will be established in “Identity Crisis”), and Pamela Winslow debuting as Ensign McKnight.
Trivial Matters: Bruce A. Arthurs, who comments on this here rewatch, sent me an e-mail with some entertaining factoids about “Clues”: The episode originally had a large role for Wesley Crusher, but Wil Wheaton’s departure forced a major rewrite. It was originally pitched as a “Data-gets-kidnapped” story, but “The Most Toys” made that impractical, so Arthurs reworked it. The Dixon Hill sequence didn’t originally have Guinan, but it did have a nod to Firesign Theatre‘s Nick Danger. Arthurs was disappointed that the “chessboard clue” didn’t make the final cut of the episode. Finally, this was one of the first scripts to be bought under TNG‘s open-submission policy, one which resulted in several fans getting episodes produced.
This is the first appearance of the Klingon martial art of mok’bara: Worf is seen leading a class in this very tai-chi-like discipline at the top of the episode. The moves were, in fact, based on tai chi, as developed by visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, a tai chi master.
Data mentions encountering a wormhole while on the Trieste. In “11001001,” he mentioned that he was familiar with that ship.
The British series Red Dwarf had an episode with a very similar theme in its second season (aired two years earlier), “Thanks for the Memory.”
Make it So: “Minor mystery that seems to be a recurring phrase these days.” This is one of those episodes that doesn’t benefit from subsequent viewings. On the one hand, you’ve got a true mystery that the crew must solve, and when the episode first aired in 1991, I recall being curious as to what the heck was going on.
The problem is that, once you know what the mystery is, the episode isn’t all that compelling. There’s no B-plot, no real interesting character development (the closest we get is O’Brien hurting his elbow helping Keiko hang plants), nothing that the rest of the crew is doing to hang the story on or if there is, the script does nothing with it. It’s particularly absurd that Troi is possessed twice! and the crew barely even bats an eyelash or expresses any kind of concern. It’s just another piece of the puzzle.
It doesn’t help that the script itself harps on the mystery rather unsubtly; the word “mystery” is used in dialogue fifteen times over the course of 42 minutes.
It’s a suspenseful episode when you first watch it, and it’s a well-structured mystery in particular, the end-of-Act-4 revelation that it was Picard himself who ordered Data to lie is an excellent reveal but it’s ultimately rather bloodless.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido is pleased to announce that his thriller -30-, in collaboration with Steven Savile, is now available for all non-Nook eBook platforms, as are the other three novellas in the “Viral” series. Do check them out, along with Keith’s other fiction like SCPD: The Case of the Claw, Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct (the third book, Goblin Precinct is due out next month), and Guilt in Innocence. You can order those books, as well as go to Keith’s blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and various and sundry podcasts at his web site.