Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Clues

This week's Star Trek TNG episode is distinctly average, and its central mystery doesn't quite stand up to repeat viewings...

This review contains spoilers.

4.14 Clues

The Enterprise crew are collectively having some personal time after completing a mission early. Worf is taking a mok’bara class. Picard is showing Guinan his Dixon Hill holodeck program. And Crusher is growing some moss. I don’t even have to make jokes any more, that’s literally what she’s doing. Data informs Picard that they’ve found an interesting star (Again, not joking) with an unstable wormhole and an M-class planet nearby. The wormhole disappears then reappears close to the ship, flinging it away and apparently knocking everyone on board unconscious.

When the crew awakes, Data tells them they were only out for around 30 seconds or so. As Crusher tends to the crew’s minor injuries, she realises that her moss has grown a full day’s worth. The Enterprise returns to the planet and their probe indicates that it’s not actually M-Class anymore. The crew reasons that it may be a sensor glitch, so they leave. Meanwhile, Crusher brings her moss to the Captain (you have to see it to believe it, apparently) and Picard is at a loss to explain.

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As the crew discusses the moss problem, Data comes up with a theory so unconvincing that it makes Geordi suspicious. Picard suggests that he check no-one has been tinkering with the clocks, and Crusher decides she’ll do something with the transporters which will tell them how much time has passed. Those things are magic, let me tell you.

The transporter lead comes up trumps and Geordi confirms that the clocks have been changed – but a security program has been placed there to prevent anyone noticing. Only he and Data could’ve managed such a feat, and when Data cannot adequately answer Picard’s questions on the matter, he’s sent for a diagnostic.

By now it’s clear that everyone was unconscious for more than 30 seconds. In fact, they may have missed an entire day. Crusher then learns that Worf’s wrist was recently broken then repaired, so not only are they missing a day, they’re missing a day that they were awake for! Increasingly suspicious of their Robot Friend, Geordi discovers that Data rigged the first probe to make it seem as though the planet was no longer M-Class. A new scan confirms that it is indeed M-Class.

Concerned for Data and the implications on his career, Picard begs Data to tell them the truth about all his lies and tampering so he doesn’t have to court martial him. When Data refuses, they return to the planet and Troi is immediately possessed by an alien being that informs the crew that “The plan has failed”. Data asks for another chance and that they not destroy the Enterprise. Picard wants to know why Data can’t explain any of this and Data explains that he was ordered not to tell the truth… by Captain Picard! BOMBSHELL.

It turns out that the planet was inhabited by an advanced but xenophobic race called the Paxans. When the Enterprise discovered their existence they tried to conceal themselves by knocking out the crew and transporting them away, but Data’s unique robo-body was immune to their macguffin rays. He had revived the crew, foiled the Paxans’ plan, but to stop them destroying the Enterprise Picard came up with a plan to wipe the crew’s memories. Realising that they left too many clues (hey, episode title!) Picard asks that they be given a second chance. The Paxans agree, and Data is once again ordered not to reveal the truth, because that worked well last time.

The deed is done, and once again the crew wake up with no memory of the Paxans. This time, instead of launching a probe at the Paxan planet, Picard drops a beacon warning all other ships to stay away from the dangerous environment. And the Paxans are presumably left in peace.

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TNG WTF: The second time the crew has their memories wiped, no-one even seems to mention the moss. How is Crusher supposed to de-grow her moss samples? Weren’t they the cause of this whole thing in the first place!?

TNG LOL: There’s not a huge amount to laugh at in this episode, but I did find it quite funny that the Paxan’s seem to have randomly selected Troi for possession. Is there any more frequently possessed character in the crew? It’s a toss-up between her and Data across the whole series, but overall he definitely gets a lot more lines of his own than she does.

To Boldly Go: The Enterprise has completed its mission on Harrakis V ahead of schedule and is therefore having some downtime so that the crew can pursue some personal interests. I swear if these guys had any more time off Starfleet would grind to a halt.

Mistakes and Minutiae: Picard suggests that if Data is taken in by Starfleet they’ll “strip him down to his wires” to figure out what went wrong. Really? Because that sounds like it’d effectively be an execution. And as was previous proven, Data is legally NOT a toaster. Not cool, Starfleet!

Time Until Meeting: 14:47. A very late but ultimately thrilling meeting about the unexpected growth of moss samples.

Captain’s Log: This episode is a great little mystery show which is only partially undermined by the fact that once you’ve seen it, you know exactly where it’s going and that really sucks the tension out of the episode. I feel like it could’ve had a little more depth to it, not least because we don’t really know why the Paxans want to be left alone. It might be easier to accept this story a second time around if there was a stronger concept driving it.

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Similarly, it would’ve been nice if we had been able to follow the crew’s suspicions. Normally I don’t like the audience knowing more than the crew during a mystery, but if we’d been able to see Data doing things then telling the crew the opposite, we’d have been able to build up a healthy suspicion too. As it was, we’ve only got one perspective and that makes it hard to get too invested in what’s going on.

Still, it’s worth noting that despite being a thoroughly average episode of Star Trek, that’s a far cry from the early days where this would’ve been about as good as it got. The fact that something which is creatively watertight and competently executed is considered average speaks volumes about the leaps of improvement we’ve seen overall.

Read James’ look-back at the previous episode, Devil’s Due, here.

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