Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 29 (Elementary, Dear Data)

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

Every so often, even Starfleet’s flagship has some time to relax. The Enterprise is a few days early for a meeting with the Victory, so Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge calls Data down to engineering. There are two reasons for this. First, he wants to show Data a replica of the HMS Victory that he built for his former captain. The second is to use the holodeck to let Data indulge in a fantasy of his own. La Forge is going to play John Watson and Data is going to play Sherlock Holmes.

La Forge calls up a program, but Data solves the mystery too quickly. La Forge storms out of the holodeck, with Data following him. The two end up in 10-Forward, discussing what Data did wrong. The problem is that Data has all of the Holmes novels memorized. Thus, there’s no challenge for him. Dr. Pulaski can’t help but overhear the two of them and points out that Data’s just an android. Thus, he isn’t capable of deductive reasoning. The three of them decide to create a Holmes-type puzzle that could challenge Data, but that fails because the computer simply uses elements from the various stories, which Data is quick to recognize.

The next step is to remove all known references to the novels, but to keep the characters and setting. La Forge asks for an adversary capable of defeating Data. What they get is a version of Professor Moriarty that’s self-aware and capable of taking over the ship. He abducts Pulaski and wants to talk to Captain Picard. Eventually, La Forge realizes his mistake: He asked for an adversary capable of defeating Data and not Sherlock Holmes. Thus, the computer gave Moriarty self-awareness.

This is such a great premise. Moriarty wants to get out and explore life beyond the holodeck. He was a precursor to the Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek: Voyager. (It’s a shame that Moriarty never got to make use of the portable holoemitter that the doctor got.) Unfortunately, in the end, Moriarty just gives up. Picard tells Moriarty that Starfleet’s finest will find a way to let him out of the holodeck and Moriarty, realizing that that’s probably the best that he could ask for, just releases control of the ship. When I look back on this episode, I didn’t feel like Pulaski was in any real danger. She was very calm and was treated well.

Overall, I’d say that it’s a three-star episode. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s worth watching at least once. This was one of the episodes that made the second season bearable. I don’t know if I can recommend buying the episode on VHS. When it comes on TV, I don’t mind rewatching it, but I don’t think that I would ever watch it if I had it on tape. You’d probably be better off renting it or waiting for it to come on TV. 

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