Plot Synopsis: 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.
Plot A and B Analysis: The lengthy teaser here is promising. The crew are taking personal time after a mission: Worf is teaching Klingon Tai Chi, Beverly starting an experiment, and Picard and Guinan are having some Dixon Hill fun in the Holodeck. Data finds an unusual M-class planet in a nearby nebula and when the crew investigates a wormhole appears, knocking everyone unconscious but Data. Plot A is about the central mystery, there is no plot B. Supposedly the Enterprise got thrown a short distance, with everyone but Data out for 30 seconds. As they resume toward their next mission however, the crew notice some unexplainable things–clues perhaps!–that they can’t reconcile with Data’s account of what happened. He comes under increasing suspicion, and they eventually speed back toward the scene of the crime to solve the mystery. The plot builds towards what what he hope will be a satisfying conclusion, but is instead a definite letdown.
Favorite Scenes: The clue-finding part of the episode is actually pretty interesting, and there are some touches that you only really notice on re-watching, such as Worf in the background rubbing his wrist at around the 8:30 mark–the first real clue something is off. You can see Data’s furtive eye movement at 11:58 followed by a typical push-in shot of his face just 60 seconds later that now arouses our suspicion. Deanna’s inexplicable comment about looking into the mirror and finding that “it was my face but it wasn’t me inside” makes zero sense until after you’ve watched the episode and put two and two together. Those are the things I enjoyed about Clues.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard does a lot here, as he puts together the clues left behind, which was foreshadowed by the Dixon Hill excursion in the teaser. A key scene for him is in the 30th minute, when the crew gets that they were all involved in some struggle during the missing day. Picard’s justification of going back to investigate because if they don’t discover what Data’s role was he can’t be trusted with Starfleet duty again. That is a good, justifiable reason in my book.
Riker has a few lines, but one of them is raising the possibility of not going back if some sort of stalemate was reached that kept them all alive. I liked it, as the audience is thinking the same thing. Worf gets his butt kicked by Deanna in possibly the shortest, quickest, most unlikely loss in the series. In fact, given his performance here the casual viewer has got to wonder if the guy is really qualified to be teaching martial arts classes at all. Deanna herself provides some clues and plays host to an alien, which will come into play again in the season 5 episode Power Play. Data gets lots of screen time and there are some wonderful subtleties in Brent’s performance in this episode as his character walks a fine line–and he does keep the secret until his dying day. Geordi uncovers clues of his own, and has some good interaction with Data and the crew. Beverly provides the most solid clue in the episode, kick starting everything; I’m glad she got some screen time. Guinan is around for the teaser only, but it’s nice to see her again. The whole ensemble is used here, only Riker getting the short end of the stick.
Blu Ray Version: There are some nice touches for this version. The probe launched at 10:15 now features a reflection of its engine on the Enterprise hull, which is nice. The planet Tethys 3, which we see at 11:50, was redone and looks great. The original Paxan planet looked good, but the redone version here looks terrific.
Nitpicks: The suspicion of Data starts a little too early for me, within the first 15 minutes. I’d be happier if the mystery was more of a slow burn, the rest of the crew having little clues that add up to suspicions about Data not until 30 minutes or so. At the end when they return to encounter the Paxans, why isn’t the ship at Red Alert? It should be. When Picard gives Data the order to not reveal the Paxans’ existence, he doesn’t yet know their name. There seems to be a plot hole at the end: if they were out for over two days by the end of the episode instead of 30 seconds, wouldn’t they eventually notice it wasn’t the same day they thought it was? Resetting the ship’s chronometer won’t help when everyone else at Starfleet tells you it’s a different day.
Overall Impression: This is a lower-budget bottle episode. There is quite a bit to like about it, which I talk about in Favorite Scenes. It builds a nice little mystery, which coupled with Data’s attempts to obfuscate things and good cinematography draws you in pretty well. The reveal of the mystery is OK, but the resolution of the plot is a big letdown. “You are a most unusual species. Worthy of a second chance.” That’s it? Even as a 15-year old that was pretty weak sauce. I need more than that to buy a xenophobic race that goes to such lengths would just go along a second time. It’s not a bad episode, but it usually leaves me feeling disappointed, it definitely could have used a stronger ending. If it weren’t for the ending I’d rate it higher, but as it is I rate this episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the third time we’ve seen Dixon Hill in TNG. The first two were The Big Goodbye, and Manhunt. This is also the first appearance of Worf teaching his Mok’bara class–we’ll see it four more times in the series, but you’ll have to wait until Man of the People in season six to see the next one. The script for Clues was submitted by a fan, someone like us, and got turned into an episode.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. It’s got some good points, but is ultimately a forgettable episode. The next is a step up in quality.