Sunday, August 16, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Elementary, Dear Data"

“Elementary, Dear Data” shares a unique distinction with yesterday’s episode ’Where Silence Has Lease.” Both are stereotypical TNG episodes, with the latter a bottle episode and the former a holodeck gone wrong story. Generally speaking, holodeck stories are bad simply because they exist in the first place. Why is it that you have a ship of explorers in outer space who can encounter any alien, phenomenon, or situation limited only by the imagination of the writers, but they have too use a recreational hologram device for stories? It is lazy and unimaginative. But when it works, it works. Here, it works.

The episode is most certainly an attempt to recapture the appeal of the Peabody Award winning “The Big Goodbye” from the first season. This time around, it is Data playing out his literary fantasy of Sherlock Holmes with LaForge as dr. Watson. It is safe to assume my fondness for the episode and my overlooking its status as a holodeck gone wrong story is due to data being my favorite character. The fact Pulaski ran the risk of being killed off by Moriarty was a bonus. Too bad she survived. Nineteen more episodes to go with her….

Pulaski is the true catalyst for the program going haywire. She is the one who, yet again, shows nothing but contempt for Data by claiming he cannot solve a unique mystery in spite of his proving to have the ingenuity to solve all sorts of unique problems since the series began. You can blame Lafarge for his slip of the tongue in ordering the computer to create an opponent capable of defeating Data, rather than Holmes, but I choose to blame Pulaski. If for no other reason than surely she cannot do anything right.

I am overlooking a couple of logical problems in order to like this episode. One, it is established items created on the holodeck have no matter which can exist outside the holodeck. Yet Data carries the drawing of the ship into the corridor before showing it to LaForge. It is done for dramatic effect, but you have to overlook the inconsistency in order to appreciate it. Two, I do not see how a holodeck creation can take over the ship. It makes no sense the computer would willingly create character who could do that in principle, much less action.

Nevertheless, featuring Moriarty as a TNG villain was a masterstroke of inspiration. He would unfortunately not return for another four seasons. The powers that be behind TNG believed Sherlock Holmes was in public domain when they produced “Elementary, Dear Data.” that is not so. Future stories were delayed until a user fee for the characters could be settled upon. “ship in a Bottle’ was the result. I quite like that one, too, but elaboration with have to wait until mid-December or so.

“Elementary, Dear Data’ isa fun episode in spite of a couple logical flaws and the prominence of the much despised Pulaski. We see the beginnings here of Data and LaForge’s bonding. It is the best friendship established on TNG. Notable as well since none of the characters seemed to much like each other in the first season. The resolution was nonviolent and creative., allowing for Moriarty to return later. If only Pulaski had fallen down an elevator shaft or something, the episode would merit a perfect score.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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