Season One - TNG

Star Trek – The Next Generation: The Big Goodbye

Written by Tracy Torme
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Although Star Trek fans were first introduced to the holodeck in the pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, it wasn’t until this episode, the 13th one of the first season, that we really get to see what the fascination was all about.

Taking into account that this was written in 1987 – long before the invasion of virtual reality into the video arcades – it is quite an amazing concept. The holodeck is a room in which the computer projects images and creates objects to simulate a certain setting. With the strides we are making now with virtual reality, I find it hard to believe the holodeck would be the novelty it is in the 24th Century.

In this case, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) uses the holodeck to create the fictional world of Dixon Hill, a private investigator. This is taken from a dime-store detective novel series set during the 1940s. Everything about the series is authentic in the holodeck – with the exception of Picard. He is still dressed in his 24th Century Starfleet uniform. Why the holodeck could not simply compensate for this, I have no idea.

Picard is in the middle of a tense and pressure-filled negotiation with the Jarada – a species that puts great emphasis on protocol, right down to pronouncing all of the words in a greeting the correct way. To get some relief, Picard dresses appropriately for the period and again enters the world of Dixon Hill to solve a murder, accompanied by the android, Lieutenant Data (Brent Spiner), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), the ship’s historian, Whalen (portrayed by David Selsburg).

While they are enjoying themselves in the holodeck, the Jarada probe the ship. The probe causes the holodeck to malfunction, removing all of the safety protocols. The crew also cannot exit the program.

It is Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) who once again comes to the rescue. This is the biggest problem I have with this episode, and many of the episodes while he was a member of the cast. He was always portrayed as a teenager who thought he knew everything – and then he actually does know more than the crew members who have been trained for many years. In this, he is the one working on releasing them from the holodeck so Picard can provide the proper greeting to the Jarada.

This episode reminds me a great deal of an old Twilight Zone episode where an actor cannot let go of the character and ends up disappearing into the fantasy world he created in the show. This has much the same tome to it as Picard and crew interact with the computer-generated characters.

I liked that there was more romance between Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher in this episode. It had always been hinted at, but here it seems to be clear that they have been involved in the past, or wanted to become involved and turned back. There was some humor, mostly at the expense of Data as he failed to understand euphemisms such as “while you’re in my town keep your nose clean…”

This is typical for the first episodes of The Next Generation: uneven. The good parts were very good, but the bad parts really take away from what would otherwise be a great episode.

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8 replies »

  1. Wil Wheaton was not happy with the lousy (and lazy) way that the writers wrote his character while he was a regular cast member. As a screenwriter, I understand how tough it is to write a script for multiple actors/characters, and trying to write decent stories that showcase SEVEN major ensemble members is not that easy. Add to that the pressures of starting a follow-up series to an iconic show such as Star Trek: The Original Series, working under the very-difficult-to-work-with Gene Roddenberry, and meeting deadlines, and you have a recipe for trouble. So, yeah, I do understand why Season One episodes such as this one are SO uneven.

    Yet, there’s no excuse for making a potentially great character like Wesley Crusher look like an insufferable know-it-all. None. I loved the notion of Wesley Crusher as our audience avatar, but I hated how he was written. And of course, because lots of viewers forget that actors have to work with what they are given, Wil Wheaton was unfairly blamed for how “bad” Wesley was. No wonder that Wheaton was anxious to leave the show to save his film career.

  2. It definitely wasn’t Wheaton’s fault, any more than I really blame Hayden Christensen for Anakin (although I think he was horribly miscast). When TNG started, it had many years of dreams and ideas behind it. Everyone had their own preconceived notions going in as to what the series would present and achieve. When it started flowing on its own with the actors finding their groove (and moving into the director’s chair) it fared much better. Roddenberry had too much faith in humans and what we could achieve in the future. Characters with faults were always much better and the first two seasons suffered from characters who seemed too idyllic. It’s pretty amazing that there was this much faith in a syndicated show to keep giving it the chance to succeed.

    • Have you seen “Chaos on the Bridge”? It’s a documentary that dissects the creation of “Star Trek: The Generation” and the roles that Gene Roddenberry and his attorney played in the hot mess that was the first season. The tragic flaw Roddenberry had was that as talented as he was in his early television career, he became far too enamored of “Star Trek” as a vehicle for his philosophy that he forgot – totally – the reality of storytelling: drama needs conflict. Without conflict, a story simply is not interesting. That’s one of the reasons there was so much “chaos on the bridge” in 1986-1988…Roddenberry was too enamored of the myth he had created and couldn’t check his ego at the door.

      Interestingly, Tracy Torme (singer Mel’s son) wrote “The Big Goodbye.” He gets props for creating Dixon Hill and all of the holo characters in that episode.

  3. I saw it on Amazon Prime Video. The Girlfriend’s son gifted us a Roku, so we linked my Amazon Prime Video account to it. We don’t use it much during COVID-19, since it relies on a strong WiFi signal and as you know, the Internet is overloaded with so many folks online at the same time. But yeah…you might want to watch it. I recommend it.

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