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.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek – The Next Generation: Too Short a Season
Next episode (link): Star Trek – The Next Generation: Datalore