The holodeck, a device that can be used for many purposes, training, entertainment, education and other pursuits. This room to new worlds makes for an easy way for this series to have serious stories without ever really leaving the ship. It also makes it easy for the producers to save on budget should they need a story to take place in a time period closer to our own. In this episode, originally airing on December 5, 1988, we don’t get Aliens and Space battles but instead a journey into the literary setting of Sherlock Holmes. I welcome you now to explore the episode Elementary, Dear Data.
Stardate 2286.3 Elementary, Dear Data
Arriving early to a rendezvous point with the Starship Victory, the Enterprise crew has some down time before their arrival. LaForge and Data decide to embark on a journey into the Holodeck with a Sherlock Holmes mystery that is ‘Capable at beating Data’ himself.
The Episode opens with Commander Data meeting Geordi in Engineering. Geordi has been working on a scale model of the HMS Victory as a gift to the Captain under which he once served as Ensign. Geordi surprises Data with an invitation to the Holodeck to partake in one of Commander Data’s favorite fictional universes, The world of Sherlock Holmes.
Upon arriving in the holodeck, Data solves the mystery without thinking about how this would ruin the fun. Geordi gets upset and soon explains to Data that his solving the crime before going through the story defeated the purpose of their time off. Data doesn’t understand the issue and Doctor Pulaski chimes in. She doesn’t believe that Data has the capacity to solve a true mystery as he is a computer and does not have the ability for deductive reasoning. Data takes up the challenge and requests the holodeck to create a mystery in the Holmes style but something unique.
Data Once again defeats the mystery as the Holodeck only combined elements of the Holmes mysteries. Frustrated, Pulaski claims fraud but Geordi has an idea. He requests that the Holodeck create a mystery and an adversary that is capable of defeating Data himself.
Doctor Pulaski is kidnapped and they immediately begin the search for their companion. Geordi initially believes that this is a ruse, but they soon discover that Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, is responsible for the kidnapping. He reveals that he knows that they are not who they say they are and tells them that he is aware of the inner workings of the holodeck itself. However, due to his character being from the victorian era, he does not understand the knowledge he has. He soon hands Data a paper that seems to frighten Data to his core. Data immediately charges off and attempts to shut down the holodeck. He then shows Geordi what caused him to rush off, Moriarty drew a picture of the Enterprise itself, something a hologram should not have any knowledge of.
Data and Geordi consult with the Captain and Geordi realizes that he did not ask the computer for a mystery that can defeat Holmes, but one that can defeat Data. This request caused the computer to create a nemesis that has been given consciousness in order to provide a challenge to Data.
Picard joins Data in confronting Moriarty, who still has Pulaski captive, and Moriarty reveals to them that he now has control enough to inflict damage to the Enterprise itself. He tells them that he has become self aware and that he does not want to die when they shut off the program. Picard agrees that this is not what he wants either and Moriarty sets Pulaski and team free, giving control back to Picard. Picard promises that they will save his program and that they will, hopefully, one day be able to allow this new life form to exist in the real world. Picard shuts down the program and the threat is neutralized.
The episode ends with a brief discussion between Picard and Geordi. Picard explains that, while this was Geordi’s mistake, there is nothing to worry about as they made it through unscathed. Or, as he put it, they are ‘Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion’.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is one of the most fun and lighthearted episodes of the season, but also one that raised the questions concerning what is life. By requesting that the computer make something that can defeat Data, Geordi was indirectly responsible for creating a self aware program, or life itself. This arc is further explored in a much later season but you will have to wait for that.
We really get to see the friendship between Data and Geordi grow in this one and that friendship will continue to develop as the series continues. It is always nice to see the crew on an ‘off day’ and not on duty. Because of stories like this, we really see these characters in a new light and this give the viewers a chance for attachments with these characters. In essence, they themselves become more real because of this.
We also see more of Pulaski’s reluctance to acknowledge that Data is, indeed, alive. She firmly believes that he is just a machine mimicking a living being and that he is nothing more than a highly functioning tricorder. Her attitude toward Data borders on racism and, to me, really makes her character unlikable, which may have been the point all along. This continuing arc about Data’s humanity will come to a head in a later episode
All in all, Taking the holodeck and making it a threat of it’s own will eventually become a bit of a trope in this series (and on others) , we saw this earlier in the series with The Big Goodbye, which was also the first mention of Data’s interest of Sherlock Holmes. While the Big Goodbye was a solid episode, this one, is arguably, a more enjoyable and more fleshed out exploration of the holodeck threat trope.
I have always liked Commander Data and Sherlock Holmes. So when they combined the two for this episode I was absolutely delighted. Just a few years prior to this, a movie was released by Paramount Pictures called Young Sherlock Holmes and, although not well received in the box office, it was quickly one of my favorite adaptations of the character. Sadly the Conan Doyle Estate was not pleased with that film and, although mentioned in passing, this made it so the next physical appearance of Data as Holmes in would not happen again until Season Six of STNG.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We get a pretty terrible british accent from LeVar Burton, but in a way it made the character more relatable. I almost feel like Burton did this on purpose as Geordi would have had no reason to be able to do such an accent.
Like I said before, this is the second of the holodeck threat trope episodes, something that we will see time and again to various degrees of success.
The paper that Moriarty draws the enterprise on should not have been able to be removed from the holodeck but it was anyhow. This heavily implies that Moriarty would have left without dissolving as well. Sadly this was not fully addressed.
Katherine Pulaski can’t scream. She does when kidnapped but man does it sound fake.
We get to see Worf in a proper dress suit. I believe this is the first appearance of a Klingon in a suit.
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Late To The Game 5/26/2019 (Originally Published 03/05/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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