Many episodes of The Orville pay homage to Star Trek, and tonight’s is no exception. If you feel like this episode reminds you of one involving Data, you’re right. Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode where a woman fell in love with Data and he tried dating, too. This post has spoilers for the TNG episode and for The Orville Season 2 Episode 6.
On The Next Generation, a character named Jenna D’Sora fell in love with Data in an episode called “In Theory” from Season 4 Episode 25. The episode didn’t have the happy ending that we got on The Orville, however. This episode aired in 1991.
Here’s a quick look at what happened on TNG. (You can read a more detailed synopsis on the Fandom Wiki here.) Data embarks on a relationship in order to better understand humanity (sound familiar?) Jenna had recently broken up with her boyfriend. After he tried to get her to take him back, Data reminded Jenna of all the reasons why they broke up. Jenna thought it was sweet. Data is also very complimentary of Jenna’s work after they both play in a chamber concert. (This is an interesting parallel to tonight’s episode, in fact.) They have dinner with Miles and Keiko, and later Jenna kisses Data, which surprises him.
Data turns to his colleagues for advice. Guinan says it will be a new experience, and Troi says “we’re all the sum of our parts, Data. You’ll have to be more than the sum of your programming.” Riker, of course, encourages Data to pursue the relationship.
Just like Isaac, Data goes to Jenna’s quarters with flowers, based on Riker’s recommendation. Data says he developed a subroutine just for her (this also sounds similar to The Orville episode.) Jenna and Data have some issues, which Data find perplexing. In fact, Data eventually is too attentive and Jenna gets concerned. Data even tries to start a lover’s quarrel with her as part of his programming.
In the end, Jenna is saddened to realize he has no emotions for her and nothing she does or says has any effect on him. Data says he’ll delete his relationship program, unaffected.
Data might have actually developed more fondness for his cat Spot than he did in his brief dating experience.
The Orville episode had a great deal more hope than the TNG episode with Data’s date. Things ended happily for Isaac and Claire, with hope of more to come. Isaac may not be “in love” with Claire, but his programming had gotten used to her, and he runs more efficiently with Claire by his side than alone. The episode paid homage to the Data episode, but with a twist that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Data’s feelings about Tasha Yar, as he explained to her sister in Season 4 Episode 6 of TNG, might be closer to the “love” that Isaac experienced than Data’s brief fling with dating. Here’s a clip below:
Comparisons have been made between Isaac and Data before tonight’s episode. Brent Spiner has been quick to say that the two are quite different, and he can’t take any credit for Jackson’s performance.
How did you think Data’s story compared to Isaac’s? Let us know in the comments on this Reddit thread.