Season Two - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Elementary, Dear Data

Written by Brian Alan Lane
Directed by Rob Bowman

There’s no story arc for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the theme running through the episodes seems to be defining what exactly life is. The first was The Child where we had everyone debating Counselor Troi’s pregnancy without her input and the possibility of her bearing the child of an unknown life-form. Later on in the season, we will be treated to more of this, but here we are presented with the question of holographic life forms.

While the Enterprise has a three-day period with nothing to do other than wait for another ship with which it is supposed to rendezvous, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and the android Data (Brent Spiner) decide to immerse themselves in the world of Sherlock Holmes on the holodeck.

The holodeck is a virtual-reality room. It is what programmers are currently dreaming of right now. It has the ability to create scenery, people, and objects in a small room and make it all seem real.

In this case, Geordi quickly becomes frustrated that Data has all of the Sherlock Holmes books memorized, so he solves the mystery right away. After several tries – and after being joined in their escapade by Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) – Geordi instructs the computer to “create an adversary capable of defeating Data”.

This adversary comes in the persona of Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty (portrayed here by Daniel Davis). Moriarty quickly begins to deduce how the holodeck actually works and manages to gain some degree of control over the Enterprise.

If you’re wondering how exactly a holodeck character can do this, that is both the beauty and the one problem with this episode. While at the same time, I wondered what had happened to all of the safety precautions on the holodeck, I am also rooting for Moriarty in a sense.

The character of Moriarty seems to be the precursor to the “Emergency Medical Program” Doctor we will meet in Star Trek: Voyager. He has self-awareness and a desire to “live”. Yet he is confined by the fact that he was created by a computer, and is in actuality just a series of codes stored in that computer’s databanks.

To lure Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) to the holodeck, Moriarty takes Dr. Pulaski hostage. However, he does not wish to harm her and just wants to speak with the Captain. I felt the ending was something of a let-down as Moriarty seems to “give up” entirely too easily. However, this story is not quite dead yet…

The holodeck not working correctly and security protocols failing will turn up several more times throughout the series. So much so that I believe they would be recalled in this time period. This is the only episode where I actually liked Dr. Pulaski, although I would have liked to have seen how Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) would have fared here. I think it was just a well-written part and would have been good in either actress’ hands.

Brent Spiner gives a wonderful performance as Data. The android comes off as almost unsure of himself at times, where he always has been before. Daniel Davis is wonderful as Moriarty, although I thought he could have been a little more malevolent.

It is an interesting story and an interesting challenge to the mind. If you’re not looking for action, but rather an intriguing, thought-provoking story, you will enjoy it.

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