Star Trek: The Next Generation: Clues   Rewatch 
February 1, 2021 8:22 AM - Season 4, Episode 14 - Subscribe

The crew of the Enterprise wakes up after apparently passing through a wormhole, finding mysteries surrounding their blackout. Data begins to act suspiciously, prompting the command staff to wonder if he has been compromised.

I am ordering you never to reveal what has happened here today. Not to Memory Alpha, not to myself.

Story and production
  • The story for this episode came from fan Bruce D. Arthurs, who had submitted a spec script to the producers. Michael Piller recalled that the story was very good, but the script needed a rewrite. Piller gave the job to Joe Menosky during the hiatus. He noted that the changes were "mostly restructuring caused by the departure of Wil Wheaton and a major dialogue polish." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 215) Piller was so impressed with Menosky's efforts that he gave him a staff job on the show. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 154))
  • To differentiate the flashbacks from scenes set in the "present", director Les Landau used longer and more fluid camera takes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 155))
  • Worf's mok'bara classes are first seen in this episode.
  • Alyssa Ogawa is given her first name in this episode. Her last name was not mentioned until TNG: "Cause and Effect".
  • Data references the USS Trieste, a ship he stated he was familiar with in TNG: "11001001".
  • When first giving the order, Picard tells Data not to reveal the Paxans' existence, even though their name was not then known by Picard.
Poster's Log:
I'm not a huge fan of the Dixon Hill presentation (relatedly, I think "Piece of the Action" is one of the weakest TOS episodes) and this episodes's got some of the worst of it, although Guinan's "Chicago" accent is cute.

Rewatching "Clues" with the knowledge of what "really" happened highlights the care taken with Data's dialogue. Every statement he makes is absolutely truthful.

I've always been a little disturbed by the way Crusher talks to Nurse Ogawa in this one. The way she asks about the environmental controls almost sounds like a mom asking her toddler "who ate the cookies on the table?" while knowing full well it was the toddler.

I really liked the episode's pacing. The mystery grows organically; nothing really feels rushed. There's a solid ramping up of the urgency until we get back to T-tauri and it's laid out in front of us.
posted by hanov3r (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I kind of hate doing nitpicky comments on two episodes in a row, since I'm afraid that people will think that that's all I'm here for now. I will say that my objection to "Devil's Due" based around the idea of an actual physical contract with "Ardra" could have been fixed pretty simply. My problem with this ep has to do with the ultimate revealed nature of the threat for which Data repeatedly refuses to tell the truth about. The Paxans, on finding that one of the crew is immune to their amnesia/fake wormhole trick, threatens to kill all of them, until Data pinky-swears not to tell anyone about it ever, on the direct orders of Picard. And he keeps that promise, despite the fact that:

- it's a contract made under duress, and therefore null and void. If you say that you'll murder over a thousand people unless I promise not to tell anyone about your existence ever, or observe the holy days of Landru, or learn to dance the schottische while juggling chainsaws, you bet I'll promise to do any or all of those things... until I can get away from you, and then I'm taking it to the authorities. I can't think of any instance in canon off the top of my head where this is established as a principle of Federation law, but I can't imagine that it's not.

- Eventually, the Paxans will end up killing people, maybe a lot of them, unless someone takes some pains to warn people away from them. If Data prizes obedience to Picard over avoiding that situation, he will share in the blame for the consequences. (Also, his insistence on obeying Picard despite the likely consequences, as if he's bound by some version of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, is another example of Data's personality, like the Prime Directive or the laws of time travel, often being at the whim of a particular ep's writer.)

That, plus the fact that there doesn't seem to be a really good plan in place for covering up an even longer time gap (unless they're depending on no one else having something like Crusher's fungus experiment going), makes me think that this is another example of an ep that suffers from the ten percent rule: it's almost there, but doesn't really stick the landing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2021

This episode on its own is fine. Very interesting concept that is well executed.

The problem for me for this one has always been Data. Here he follows orders to the letter because he has to due to being an android. But as we know from having watched episodes in the past, Data doesn't always follow orders. As Halloween Jack points out, this quality of Data's exists "at the whim of a particular ep's writer."

As for the consequences of Data's withholding the truth, "Do you also realize that you would most likely be stripped down to your wires to find out what the hell has gone wrong?" Whoa whoa whoa! So the Federation has the death penalty for sentient beings who don't follow orders? Wow!
posted by Fukiyama at 9:40 AM on February 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
McKnight was kinda good in Premiere as a three skilled common. I suspect her relative quality is associated with her flavor text: "Distant relative of a famous 20th century game designer."

Paxan "Wormhole" as a mission could set up a nasty combo with cards like Incoming Message - Federation. An android-less ship could be forced to fly to the Wormhole mission with its full range toward an Outpost, and get sent neatly back to its point of origin to repeat the process infinitely. Good time to have an STAor Ruk handy.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2021

The correct response is to make a treaty with the planet saying Starfleet will ensure they remain unmolested in exchange for them not murdering anyone who can't be easily shooed away. If that doesn't work, then say "Ok fine amnesia us again if it makes you feel better" followed by Data briefing the captain and filing a full report to Starfleet Command. Then the Enterprise lays down a handful of warning beacons at a safe distance broadcasting "look out, crazy fucker planet ahead."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think this episode is some of Brent Spiner's best work on the series, he uses a lot of restraint but still shows the emotional toll all this is taking on him, especially when he acknowledges what this is going to cost him.

I agree that the conceit that Data needs to follow Picard's orders and keep the Paxans a secret is pretty contrived. But they wanted a follow a series of clues to solve a mystery, so whaddya gonna do?

I think an alternate version of this episode exploring Picard's ultimate trust in Data could have been really interesting, albeit an entirely different script. They could have woken up, and Data realizes that there are too many smart, determined, and curious people thinking about this to successfully hide the truth, so he immediately asks to see Picard in his ready room. There, Data explains that he knows what happened, but they need to leave now and never investigate or they will all die. Hmm, although at that point, why not just tell Picard, and the two of them will keep the secret, and Picard has the gravitas to tell everyone to just shut up about their sore forearms and overgrown fungi.

Also, what was up with Beverly's hair in this episode? It looked really weird, I'm not sure exactly how though.
posted by skewed at 10:35 AM on February 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

what was up with Beverly's hair in this episode? It looked really weird, I'm not sure exactly how though.

Obviously, the missing time that screwed up her experiment also threw her off her regular shampoo/conditioner routine and wreaked absolute havoc.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is one that I truly have seen too often: the impact of its mystery, and of Data's apparent betrayal, starts to lose its sharpness. No fault of the writers or performers, of course; quite the opposite, since I obviously wanted to keep rewatching it. I agree 100% with hanov3r's remarks. Pacing is everything for this type of story.

it's a contract made under duress, and therefore null and void

Not that I disagree, but it's kind of more of a treaty than a contract, and aren't plenty of treaties made under duress? Anyway, the overall point that Data's choices are a touch too…robotic in this one is apt. This one might've been, or seemed, better earlier in the series.

But for a bottle ep, it's nice and absorbing. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm a bit of a Holmes nerd and obviously somebody working on TNG was too.

Pointless STO Comparison:
The mok'bara is (or was) one of the emotes that your STO character can do in a continuous loop while you're AFK getting more snacks.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I can see the points against it, but I liked this one, more on rewatch maybe than even when I'd seen it before. Possibly because I've grown intolerant of mysteries and thrillers, and I like spoilers--I like to manage my expectations. It is a crazy elaborate scheme just so you don't have to interact with visiting species; like, have you tried ghosting the ones who contact you, or putting up a big GO AWAY mat in front of the door? It's peculiar that they have no sense of curiosity so they can't comprehend the notion they'd inspire it in others.

But I do still find the concept of relatively competent people trying to competently solve a mystery about what happened to them, once you get past the Dixon Hill cold open.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 7:45 PM on February 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like weird mysteries and this show does the, well. Surprised at quickly they came to “Data’s being weird, it was Data” and the mystery is why he done it.

As soon as they they get back to a starbase or Federation planet or probably even communicate with another ship they’re going to see that their clocks are two days out of sync though and then it’s flipping Groundhog Day again…
posted by rodlymight at 6:20 PM on February 2, 2021

A wormhole can connect different locations in time as well as space (although we don't actually see one until Voyager), so that can be explained away (and hopefully a wormhole that transports you one day's travel in two days and some change is less suspicious than one that transports you one day's travel in one day).
posted by ckape at 8:48 AM on February 3, 2021

Star Fleet has an appalling attitude to Data, which rears up every so often—I suspect the writers simply didn't notice how appalling it was. Maddox thinks he has the right to take Data off to be studied, without his consent (Measure of a Man), and Admiral Wossname plans to do exactly the same thing with Lal (The Offspring), without the slightest acknowledgment of Data's parental role and rights. They definitely regard the androids as property, so the assumption that he would be 'stripped down to your wires' is entirely and chillingly believable.
posted by Pentickle at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Re "stripped down to your wires" – Data is a sentient being, but his boundaries as an ethical being are not completely known. His powers are so great that any doubts about his reliability can get scary quickly – he's always a few tweaks away from being Lore. That's what gives this episode an edge. The direction and acting are nicely judged to telegraph that Data is up to something, but why?

I like the sudden twist of "You did, sir."
posted by zadcat at 5:18 PM on February 8, 2021

What I don't understand is why insist on the time gap at all? The whole thing would be easier if they concocted an explanation where the crew was out for 24 hours
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:07 AM on October 31, 2021

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