Clues (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season Four, Episode 14) Picard suspects Data in blackout mystery

Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.

After the crew blacks out, Picard investigates Data’s mysterious behavior. Although I haven’t seen this episode since it first aired in 1991, I remembered it as a strong episode, with a script that respects the audience’s intelligence.

I didn’t remember the Dixon Hill holodeck sequence, which was longer than necessary. Instead of showing us a Guinan amused by and learning from Picard’s boyish love for mysteries, the scene emphasizes Guinan’s annoyance with the holodeck. (It’s the first Guinan scene that’s disappointed me.)

Tension mounts slowly, as camera angles linger on Data for his slightly-too-eager droid-splaining technobabble, and the crew starts to notice the first few loose threads. Picard intelligently notes Data’s carefully chosen words (e.g. “I cannot verify that”) and his use of suggestion and supposition.

By calling attention to the fact that he notices LaForge is uncomfortable, and then promptly rebuffing LaForge’s friendly offer to help, Data is not exactly doing a good job allaying suspicion. Troi’s involvement seems contrived to give the actress more to do in a script that otherwise uses the ensemble well.

Patrick Stewart does a great job conveying the moment that Picard, in conversation with an equivocating Data, grasps the next plot twist, which believably prepares him to evaluate Data’s next action during the crisis that conveniently materializes precisely at that point.

Conforming to the conventions of a mystery, we get a flashback and plenty of techno yadda-yadda for those who really needed the full explanation. After an on-brand Picard speech and a very Roddenberry do-over, we get a satisfying resolution.