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By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 6, 2009 - 11:17 PM GMT

See Also: 'Clues' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Just after discovering a previously uncharted M-class planet, the Enterprise is pulled into a wormhole that makes everyone pass out but Data. When they revive, Data tells Picard that the crew lost consciousness for 30 seconds, though the sensors suggest they traveled for a full day and Crusher's botanical experiment shows a day's growth. A probe indicates that the planet they discovered is not M-class, but uninhabitable. Meanwhile, LaForge realizes that someone has tampered with the ship's chronometer and Troi senses that her body has been inhabited by some unknown personality. None of Data's explanations make sense to the crew, so Picard orders an examination of the android's systems, but LaForge reports that they all seem normal...which suggests that Data is deliberately hiding the truth. Worf goes to sickbay with an aching wrist that Crusher discovers has been broken and healed with her instruments - an event neither can recall. When LaForge discovers that Data tampered with the probe to send a false image back to the ship, Picard demands to know why Data is deceiving the crew. Data admits that he was ordered to do so by Picard himself. Meanwhile Troi begins to speak in the voice of an alien, telling Data that his plan has failed. The being inhabiting Troi tells Picard that her people are xenophobes who erase the memories of intruders and send them away, but since Data is immune to their manipulation, they intend to destroy the Enterprise. Picard insists that he now knows what he and Data need to do to prevent the crew from guessing that their memories have been altered, and the alien agrees to give them one more chance to remove all knowledge of their existence.

Analysis: The basic premise of "Clues" is sound - what if Data, who cannot tell a lie, was ordered to falsify records for the crew's protection? - but the execution, while interesting enough as the mystery unfolds, ultimately rings hollow. There are a couple of major problems. One is the fact that Picard initially orders a clandestine investigation of one of his officers by the others, without ever telling that officer that his behavior has become suspect. The other is the fact that isolationist aliens - so obsessed with their privacy that they'll resort to mass murder to keep their existence a secret - are willing not once but twice to trust an android programmed by a group of strangers to keep their secret. The latter merely makes the ending a letdown; it's not a really satisfying resolution to the drama, but it doesn't interfere with the storytelling. The former is more problematic because it's just not the Picard we know; we're supposed to be suspicious of Data, yet the entire crew seems a bit off, from Crusher's sudden obsession with botany to LaForge investigating behind Data's back, so everyone's behavior seems to hint at something being wrong, and Data doesn't seem so wildly out of character for the doubts being cast on him to seem entirely fair.

There seem to be two main schools of mystery writing for television: the one where the audience is always a step ahead of the characters, and so gets the pleasure of solving the case first, versus the one where the audience is hopelessly in the dark, and must wait for the clever characters to provide the solution. I tend to prefer a story where I have some chance of an "aha" moment before some exposition gives the game away, so maybe I'm biased in the first place against a story like "Clues," which there's no hope of any of us figuring out until Data and Possessed-Troi tell us what's really going on. But I think it doesn't help that we've already been told to doubt everything Data says; once we realize he's in league with a hostile alien, then we're supposed to trust him? And it doesn't help either that everything is left so vague, that we're never shown the mechanism that erases the crew's memories or creates the wormhole effect, and that Picard is so quick to trust alien technology that tampers with everyone's brains. He's right when he says that the disappearance of the Enterprise will bring about far more invasions than these isolationist aliens are ready to handle, so why doesn't he stick to that as a negotiating tool, explain General Order 7 (if indeed it still exists) to protect the planet's privacy, offer more sensible options? And why do these capable, intelligent aliens choose violence so quickly, yet then pounce when offered another option, even though it's something already tried and failed?

Ironically, it's the suspect, Data, who comes across the most strongly in this story. Yes, he's lying, but he's calm, rational and trustworthy while he's doing it. He's very careful to explain that he cannot answer rather than he will not answer questions. Whereas Picard, who starts off the day on the holodeck playing Dixon Hill with Guinan, seems at first to be picking at a potential mystery because it's there, and then failing to see the bigger picture - that for Data to be lying with no apparent malfunction, he might be following a higher directive concerning the crew or the galaxy's safety. (Hmm. Maybe Picard would go after "God" with all phasers just as quickly as Kirk.) It seems like he could have saved a lot of time, though, ordering Data to run a self-diagnostic when he first became suspicious, then telling Data exactly why the crew had doubts about his story from the start instead of telling the crew not to let Data know they were distrustful of his version of events. Had Data had emotions, sowing such suspicion could have been quite destructive, and were this crew anything less than Starfleet's finest, it could also have been damaging for morale.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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