Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 69 (Hollow Pursuits)

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

It seems like everything in the 24th century is perfect.  Everyone is happy and well-fed.  Things seem good for everyone.  Then again, the show primarily takes place on the flagship of the Federation.  There is a pretty high standard.  This is why it’s so confusing when Lt. Reginald Barclay is transferred into the Enterprise’s engineering section from another ship.  He’s usually late.  His work is barely passable.  It seems as though someone was padding his performance reviews to pass him off on someone else.  Captain Picard decides that instead of doing the same, Lt. Cmdr. La Forge is going to become Barclay’s new best friend and make him into an officer worthy of being on the Enterprise.

La Forge is resistant at first.  Nobody likes the guy.  He knows his stuff, but he’s socially awkward.  He can’t seem to get a sentence out without someone interrupting him.  Add to that the fact that he runs to the holodeck and escapes into fantasy when the going gets tough.  The Enterprise is actually having a series of problems that La Forge needs people working on.  (The only serious problem is a transporter malfunctioning.)

When La Forge visits Ten Forward, the ship’s lounge, Guinan points out that maybe he’s looking at this backwards.  Instead of having to deal the guy that’s so strange, realize that maybe the reason he’s so strange is that no one wants to deal with him.  If someone takes the time to be his friend, maybe Barclay will come out of his shell.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Whenever someone gives him grief, Barclay goes back to the holodeck.  His fantasy world becomes more strange.  The attractive Counselor Troi becomes the Goddess of Empathy.  When Commander Riker becomes too threatening, Barclay creates a shorter version of him.  When the crew discovers this, no one is amused by their counterpart.  It isn’t until a crisis hits that La Forge is able to pull Barclay out of the holodeck long enough to do anything and it is Barclay that comes up with the winning idea.

I think part of the difficulty in writing a flawed character like Barclay onto the Enterprise is that, as I said, this is the flagship.  It’s only because someone was doctoring performance reviews that Barclay even made it.  However, the episode handles it well.  We get to see a Starfleet officer who can’t make it on a day-to-day basis.  The truth is that we all have moments when we’d like to run home and hide from the world, but we don’t.  We have ways of coping.  (Who hasn’t been nervous about going to a party?)

Barclay is a little overdone.  He seems to be a little too nervous at first.  It does get toned down in later appearances, but it almost comes across as comical.  I have to wonder how he was put in engineering.  I understand that it’s sometimes difficult to fire someone and it’s possible that Starfleet Academy didn’t have the same pressures.  I just don’t know I want this guy around critical systems.

It seems like the series is finding a good balance in the episodes.  Even if it’s silly, it’s not overdone.  The stories are more believable and the actors seem to have a good handle on the characters.  We have a more coherent episode here.  Barclay will come back in later episodes.  He’ll still be awkward, but he’ll have his moments. 

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