Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991): S04E25 – In Theory


“In Theory” is the 25th episode of the fourth season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally aired on 03 June 1991, in broadcast syndication.

The episode was written by Joe Menosky and Ronald D. Moore and was the directorial debut of cast member Patrick Stewart.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Data (Brent Spiner) accepts the affections of shipmate Jenna D’Sora (Michele Scarabelli) and pursues a romantic relationship with her. However, Jenna soon comprehends the downside of a “programmed” relationship. As the couple attempts to work out their problems, the Enterprise moves into an area of space rendered deadly by a nebula that is tearing small gaps in the fabric of space, deforming any matter that comes into contact with them.

“In Theory” received Nielsen ratings of 9.8 percent, making it the second least viewed episode of the fourth season on first broadcast. Reviewers were ambivalent about the episode. They criticised elements of the plot, such as the choice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard to pilot a shuttle in a subplot instead of an experienced shuttle pilot, and felt that Data’s romance was ineffective. Keith DeCandido had the view that it was a re-hash of the second season episode “The Dauphin“.


Data, an android, and Jenna D’Sora are in the torpedo room configuring several probes with which the Enterprise will explore a nearby nebula. D’Sora explains that she just split up with her boyfriend and Data attempts to comfort her. Later they play together in a chamber concert along with Keiko O’Brien (Rosalind Chao). D’Sora complains of her abilities as a musician, but Data insists that he could not hear anything wrong.

Later on the bridge, Data is reviewing the information from the probes sent into the nebula. He theorises that life might have evolved differently in the nebula because of the volume of dark matter detected. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders the ship to the nearest planet within the nebula. Data and D’Sora configure further probes, when she kisses him on the cheek and then on the lips, before leaving the room. Data seeks the opinion of his friends, including Picard, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Worf (Michael Dorn). Data decides to pursue the relationship and goes to D’Sora’s cabin with a bunch of flowers, where he informs her that he created a romantic subroutine for the relationship.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is approaching the planet. Picard enters his ready room and finds his belongings scattered on the floor. He calls in Worf, who cannot explain their displacement. D’Sora arrives at Data’s cabin where he is painting. She tells him to continue, but is then annoyed when he does so, causing him some confusion. The ship arrives at the coordinates for the planet but finds nothing there. Then it suddenly appears as the ship’s computer warns of a depressurisation in the observation lounge. The crew investigate and find all the furniture piled in one corner of the room.

Data is visiting D’Sora, but she seems unhappy and he is acting erratically in order to find an appropriate response to make her happy. It becomes evident to the crew that the nebula is causing distortions in space; Picard orders the ship into warp to leave the nebula as quickly as possible but this speeds up the distortions. Whilst investigating them, Lieutenant Van Mayter (Georgina Shore) is killed when a distortion embeds her into the deck. Data discovers that dark matter is causing the distortions. The ship can detect the pockets at short range, but not in enough time to move out of the way. Worf proposes using a shuttle to lead the Enterprise out, and Picard insists on piloting it alone.

Picard pilots the shuttle through the field of distortion pockets. Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) transports the Captain back to the ship before the shuttle is destroyed. The approach resulted in the Enterprise nearing the edge of the nebula, and they quickly depart. Afterwards, D’Sora reveals to Data over a romantic dinner in his quarters that she broke up with her boyfriend because he was emotionally unavailable and then pursued him because he was the same. Data realises that she is breaking up with him and explains that he will delete the subroutine. D’Sora departs and Data is seemingly unperturbed, although his cat, Spot, jumps into his lap as if to comfort him.

Star Trek TV Series

You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series here.

Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries

You can find a full index of all Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Patrick Stewart.
  • Writer(s): Joe Menosky and Ronald D. Moore.
  • Release Date: 03 June 1991.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.