TNG: S1E12: “The Big Goodbye”

In which Troi is a cunning linguist, Paramount gets some new sets, and nobody thinks of the easy way.

Riker is giving the log entry this time. The Enterprise is about to meet an insectoid race who are sticklers for protocol, and Picard is absolutely required, and required to pronounce everything perfectly. Troi is helping him with how the language works. There are a couple of inferences that I make from this. Either a) her own duties are sparse and fluid enough that she was able to learn all this just to tutor Picard, b) her Betazoid abilities also affect the equivalent of Broca’s area in a betazoid-human hybrid, or c) Picard likes to look at breasts when he’s learning a language.

I really like that second explanation, though. A telepath, or even an empath, is translating neural impulses in someone else’s skull. The human(oid) brain is such a complex organ that being able to to pick up brainwaves, of aliens no less, has to be of some utility when translating mere speech. By Star Trek logic, anyway. It made more sense in my head, shut up. Picard is crunching before a big test, and his brain is turning into cheese. Apparently, the Holodeck has just been upgraded, and Troi orders him to go take a break, so he dials up “Dixon HIll, Private Detective.” That’s a .mp9 file, I’m sure. Or maybe a .mhk.

The city was as cold as dead fish's heart as I pushed open a door like a tombstone, only to have my receptionist start laughing like a hyena on dope at my pajamas.

The city was as cold as dead fish’s heart as I pushed open a door like a tombstone, only to have my receptionist start laughing like a hyena on dope at my pajamas.

This is the first time we see the Holodeck produce anything other than landscapes, which is no doubt why they felt it necessary to say “upgrade,” The characters are programmed to respond to the ‘player’ as a specific person, but not to ignore the clothes, it seems. And it seems Picard is surprised about it. Typical end user, never reading the release notes.

So Picard begins to play a novel. An interactive novel with dialogue trees and archaic references that the 24th century user doesn’t seem to recognize, like ‘halloween.’ Our first clue that the world of Star Trek is a dystopia under all that shine – they no longer celebrate halloween. One of those many cultural touchstones washed away in the nuclear fires of World War 3. Anyway, Picard takes a case where a broad (that’s archaic English for ‘female client’) hires him to find out who’s trying to kill her, and off he merrily pops out of the holodeck with lipstick still on his face. I’m pretty sure the random crewman in the hall thinks he was watching (participating in? What’s the right verb here?) porn.

"It was this big, I got my whole head and one shoulder in there and just kind of wiggles around..."

“It was this big, I got my whole head and one shoulder in there and just kind of wiggles around…”

In fact, he’s so excited about the fact that the holodeck is no longer restricted to mere landscapes that he calls a senior staff meeting. What is also a little worrying is that Picard forgot the word ‘city block.’ I mean, I grant that you live on a ship for long enough you forget what it’s like to live in a city, but forgetting what they’re like? Also, there’s some sexual tension between Beverly and and Jean-Luc  when he accidentally invites her on a hol0-date and then also invites a historian.

The streets were as damp as frog with night terrors as I stepped out, leaving behind a doorway into another world lingering there like a doorway into another world.

The streets were as damp as frog with night terrors as I stepped out, leaving behind a doorway into another world lingering there like a doorway into another world.

Data read up on Dixon Hill, by which we mean that he read literally every text involving, relating to, or mentioning Dixon Hill. It also appears that the holodeck characters are programmed to interpret and incorporate statements made into their dialogue. For example, Picard tells a newspaper vendor that Data is from South America, to which the vendor says that Data has a nice tan. It’s not clear whether he’s being sardonic or not, but I think the computer incorporating that information is much more interesting than not.

The Enterprise, meanwhile, is on its way to the meeting with the insects when a probe drives the holodeck haywire and a diplomatic incident begins. Roker sends Geordi down (on foot!) to go get the captain. Do the comms not work in a room designed to create sound and images?

Crusher was already on her way, but she’s the first one to nice the holodeck problems – the doors are screwy, but it doesn’t deter her. Geordi makes it there mere moments later but can’t open the doors. And they also can’t… just beam him out?

My office was as blizzardy as a blizzard because there was a god damned blizzard.

My office was as blizzardy as a blizzard because there was a god damned blizzard.

Trouble begins on the holodeck when one of the characters pulls a gun. Nobody seems particularly worried until the historian gets shot fo rilz and starts bleeding out. Some stuff happens on the holodeck and the real people try to explain to the holodeck characters about their holographic nature. Outside the holodeck, the diplomatic incident is reaching critical levels, and Wesley finds a potential solution – a hard reboot that risks data loss. But he screws up the first time and triggers a blizzard scene, which reboots the room. The doors open and some of the antagonists step outside the holodeck and slowly dissolve. Technological and holodeck problems resolved, Picard wastes some time helping his fake cop buddy though this trying existential crisis before going back to the completely unimportant business of making alliances with prissy insects. It ends with Picard reciting gibberish at the screen for a while and managing to do it correctly. Hooray. Mostly an empty episode, but there’s something charming about Data in a pinstripe suit and fedora reciting Noir tropes.

Holodeck Malfunction Counter: 1

Did we miss something awesome?