In “Timescape,” Troi, Data, and La Forge beam over to the frozen Romulan ship to try to figure out what has gone wrong. While in the engine room, Geordi asks Data (with the Romulan imposter standing behind him) if the man has “always been here.” The imposter then proceeds to attack Geordi and put him into neurological shock.

Since Data has a photographic memory, why did he not immediately recognize that the Romulan’s presence was impossible to reconcile? After all, he had seen the engine room earlier and would have remembered the positions of all of the frozen individuals there.

  • 7
    Sounds like a plot hole.
    – Dima
    Aug 11, 2014 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


Data may have total recall of events, but like any thinking being his brain must not only record information from his senses but also extract features from the raw data that are useful to him as he goes about his tasks. In order to not waste finite computational resources Data won't extract useless features such as how tall everyone in a room is, or ransack his memory to compute useless things, such as how many people scratched their nose in his presence since stardate 41738.6. The particular configuration of motionless Romulans scattered around an engine room might not rise to the level where discrepancies would be noticed, particularly since time had just rolled forward around forty seconds and then reversed again. Data is capable of noticing such details, but there has to be a reason for him to pay particular attention. Otherwise useful cognition would be drowned out by useless detail. Geordi seemed to notice the Romulan because the first time he was at a particular console he had to squeeze past the Romulan. The second time around the Romulan was in a less inconvenient place.

  • 1
    I always thought Data had no need for any sort of recall; when speaking to Admiral McCoy, Data states that he remembers every fact that he's exposed to. I figured that with his mind, Data could recall trivial details about a situation as easily as important ones, but perhaps I was wrong.
    – user30592
    Aug 11, 2014 at 22:10
  • 1
    Data recognized Juliana Tainer's true identity through doing exactly that, though
    – Izkata
    Aug 11, 2014 at 23:24
  • 4
    @Izkata Tainer performed complex calculations without the use of the computer first. That got Data's attention and he was watching for unusual behavior after that.
    – Kyle Jones
    Aug 11, 2014 at 23:41
  • 5
    @T-1000 Kyle Jones gave a great answer. If you reflect that there are literally infinite ways to create 'facts' out of sense data (as the example of # of nose scratches since stardate BLAH BLAH BLAH shows; what about scratches longer than X duration? What about clockwise scratches? Etc.), and there's only finite working memory, finite processing memory, and finite processing power, Data must have perceptual filters. He may have better access to eidetic memory, but he is not "perfectly" aware of the things he senses. He cannot be.
    – Lexible
    Aug 12, 2014 at 0:51
  • 1
    @HighInBC: You've essentially just said, "Some random person A noticed something that random person B did not." That happens all the time because everyone thinks and prioritizes information differently. There's also a really high chance that Geordi wouldn't have normally noticed the misplaced Romulan. After all, Troi didn't notice he had moved. But Geordi did happen to notice... most probably because he had to now avoid him to reach the console. Your premise is that Data should notice everything which is straight-up impossible.
    – Ellesedil
    Jun 20, 2016 at 20:58

Investigating this question it seems Kyle Jones has the best answer and that out-of-universe it's sort of a plot-hole but, just for fun, some alternatives: Time continued to reverse during the commercial break so that Data may have expected that time was frozen at a different point than previously.

Let's break down the time points (the images at bottom may help).

  1. Troi, Data & La Forge transport to the Romulan Engine Room (images A & B below)
  2. They move into the singularity room and La Forge opens the compartment
  3. Data scans the singularity with his tricorder causing time to unfreeze and move forward at normal speed (for about 38 seconds)
  4. The Away Team moves away from the singularity to watch the engineers
  5. Cut to Picard watching the Enterprise explode and then time reverses again
  6. In the engine room the Romulans move in reverse, then "freeze" (reversing for about 10 seconds) (images C)
  7. Commercial Break
  8. The Away Team is back at the singularity
  9. The Away Team moves back to the engineering compartment where the alien is now standing in the middle (image D)
  10. La Forge notices the change and is in the process of asking Data when he is grabbed. Alien & La Forge fall to the floor (image E)

It's clear that none of the Romulans are in the same position from 6 (re-freeze) to 9 (Away Team re-enters the main compartment). Out-of-universe we'd simply say this is a poor edit (or poor continuity). However, in-universe we could say that there was, in fact, another time reversal during the unseen break (or time continued to reverse so slowly as to be imperceptible).

When La Forge is grabbed, it appears it is supposed to be the same time point as the initial transport, in which case it seems likely all of them should have noticed such a blatant change. They didn't though.


Some even more outlandish alternatives might be: (a) the subspace time disturbance for interfered with Data's positronic matrix so he didn't notice the very obvious additional Romulan or (b) Data's observational programming was unable to cope with the idea of time moving in reverse so it didn't automatically equate the first environment should correlate with the second environment (he would have had to "consciously" correlate the previously viewed scene with the current scene).

Reference Timeline

A. Shortly after transporting over to the Romulan vessel's engineering section: Shortly after initial transport into Romulan Engineering

B. Shortly after that (you can clearly see the 3 Romulans obviously present): Shortly after above

C. The moment time re-freezes, after time moved forward and reversed (just before the commercial blackout): The moment time refreezes after it advanced and reversed, just before commercial

D. After the commercial break, they've left the singularity (after a short conversation with Captain Picard) and returned to Engineering where La Forge approaches the console: After commercial, they return from singularity and La Forge approaches console, just before he notices the alien

E. Right after La Forge and the alien fall to the floor. The position of the other Romulans seems nearly identical to their position right after initial transport: Just after the alien grabs La Forge

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