Thursday, November 10, 2016

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 13 (The Big Goodbye)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

It seemed that during the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the technology not only failed quite often, but it failed at the worst possible moment. In this case, the Enterprise is on its way to negotiate with a race that has very strict adherence to protocol. Captain Picard is to deliver a greeting in their language at a precise moment. Another captain’s failure once led to a 20-year rift, so the pressure’s on. With less than a day to go, Counselor Troi advises Picard to relax. Picard decides to take advantage of the ship’s holodeck, which is capable of creating anything that the user wants.

Picard chooses a 1940’s-era detective program, taking on the character of Dixon Hill. After trying it for a few minutes, he has to leave, but he invites Dr. Crusher, Lieutenant Commander Data and the ship’s historian, Mr. Whalen. (I don’t recall if his rank was ever mentioned.) While they’re in the holodeck, the alien race scans the Enterprise, causing the holodeck to malfunction. All four people are effectively trapped. The pressure is now on an engineering team to figure out where the malfunction is and to fix it in time for Picard to deliver the greeting.

This is one of those episodes where young Wesley Crusher saves the day. A lot of people hated this character because he was this teenager who seemed to know everything. (In a prior episode, Picard was told that Wesley was to engineering and science what Beethoven was to music.) Here, he is able to work alongside trained professionals and identify what’s wrong with the computers. I don’t think it was that he was so good. It was probably that he very often made the engineering department look bad with little or no effort.

On that note, Wesley tells Commander Riker that if they make one mistake, the people in the holodeck could disappear with the program. I’m not that clear on how a holodeck works, but I’m pretty sure that any matter that enters the holodeck can’t be affected. Most of what is seen in the holodeck is projected light. The use of force fields can give the impression of substance and matter can be replicated as necessary. However, I don’t think that matter, let alone living people, could be affected like that. There have been several other instances in this series and in Deep Space Nine and Voyager where I’ve had reason to question this belief. I still don’t think that accidental death by holodeck should be that easy.

I also have a few other questions. For instance, why does a starship have a historian? I realize that history is important, but is a historian so important that he has to accompany a ship? Engineers I could understand since their services could be necessary at any moment. However, a historian could probably effectively render services from anywhere.

Also, Picard seemed like a kid with a new toy. However, I have to wonder if he’d ever seen a holodeck before. I don’t know how new the technology is. Picard makes a log entry explaining it, which would lead me to believe that it might be a relatively new technology. (That would help explain why a malfunction is caused so easily.) However, I’d like to think that if Starfleet is going to put them on ships that the technology would at least be commonplace. The truth about the malfunction was that this episode was set to air right after 11001001, in which upgrades were made to the holodeck. Upgrades are actually mentioned in the episode, presumably referring to the ones in the other episode. However, many of the first-season episodes aired out of order.

Another interesting note about the holodeck is that Picard goes through a lot of trouble to set up the Dixon Hill program. He tells the computer that he wants Earth around the 1940s, then says that he wants the Dixon Hill program by name. Shouldn’t he just be able to say, “Run Dixon Hill program” and have the computer figure out the rest?

The only other problem with the holodeck is that two of the Dixon Hill characters are able to walk out of the holodeck. As I mentioned, most of what someone sees in the holodeck is supposed to be nothing more than projections. The instant that they leave the holodeck, they should have disappeared. However, they were both able to make it out into the hallway. Another character, after having been told what he is, asks Picard if he’ll have a wife to go home to. This is a bit metaphysical for a holodeck character.

Overall, I can’t see giving it more than two stars. Even if you’re willing to overlook the mistakes, it’s a relatively weak story. The entire episode revolves around Picard having to perform this difficult and important task. Even the holodeck malfunction might have been able to if it hadn’t been for the importance of the mission. In fact, had it not been for the mission, there wouldn’t have been a need for the use of the holodeck and the malfunction wouldn’t have even occurred. I can’t recommend buying this episode on VHS. Even if you get the DVD set, I would recommend skipping this episode.

IMDb page

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