TNG: S3E21: “Hollow Pursuits”

In which the Holodeck gets used for exactly what we always suspected. 

Much Like "Captain's Holiday" it's going to be difficult not to do fanservice-y shots in this one.

Much Like “Captain’s Holiday” it’s going to be difficult not to do fanservice-y shots in this one.

We open with Troi in one of her more elaborate dresses and, I notice, no commbadge, walking into Ten-Forward while a drunken crewmember, Barclay, swills whisky while on duty and picks a fight with Geordi, and then wins a fight with Riker while Troi looks on with barely-restrained lust and all the subtlety of Jessica Rabbit. Then Lieutenant J.G. Reginald Barclay exits the holodeck. Geordi and Riker have just been discussing his discipline problems. It seems that Barclay is not the best of the best, but he’s on the Enterprise and now we’re going to see how Starfleet’s finest handle motivation problems. Unless some sort of wacky hijinx about the sample of whatever with a broken seal in the cargo bay gets in the way and instead of a valuable but boring lesson about supervisor-laborer relationships we learn an exciting but ultimately useless lesson about corrosive ferrotoxins that start growing lollipops out of the bulkheads.

Apparently, vodka makes me sardonic.

The samples are special tissue samples intended to help treat an outbreak of an exotic fever. Sadly, Barclay has failed to fix the antigravity sled and another sample jar is ruined, nor can Barclay articulate why he failed. The problem has gone all the way up to Picard, which I would have thought was mostly a job that stops at the XO. It does seem that Picard is interested, though, so maybe he took special notice of the unsatisfactory rating on a ship where even the cadets get special praise from a reality-warping alien. Geordi and Riker seem eager to get Broccoli Barclay off the ship rather than address the problem. There’s some debate over whether that’s the appropriate measure, and Picard shows his nurturing aspects by getting Geordi to try harder to be a good supervisor even when it doesn’t come easy. We love Picard.

Barcaly’s specialty is Diagnostic Engineering, it seems, though he hasn’t yet tracked down the problem in the gravity sled, but he does appear to be putting in the time and working late. Geordi shows up and invites him to take a more active role as a means of nurturing him. Something I did not appreciate as a child was how this next scene does quite a lot for showing us how the various departments handle their own areas of specialization. That table in the middle of

Not Tears of a Clown. The other song.

Not Tears of a Clown. The other song.

Engineering serves as what amounts to a briefing room for A-shift, where Geordi can brief his own senior staff, plus Reginald Barclay today. It is, in fact, an admirable attempt at nurturing, but it throws him into a high-pressure situation and he gets shown up by Wesley. No way that’s going to turn into an unhealthy obsession, later in Troi’s office where his stutter spontaneously disappears and then Troi gets really close and starts giving him a massage from the front and oh goddamn it Reginald, you’re using the holodeck for exactly what we would all use the holodeck for, aren’t you?

Apparently, a private counseling session isn’t good enough, so he transitions the program to Troi in a toga in a forest as seen through a lens smeared with vaseline. See, this is why Wesley makes fun of you in Ten-Forward with the other officers. Moments later, the glasses that Wesley, Data, Geordi, and Unnamed Backpfeifengesicht Lieutenant #1 are drinking out of spring leaks. It seems that the problem of the glass has been altered and not only sprung a leak but also has handprints which don’t seen to be part of the original design. Apparently, an unshielded power source could cause that, which is utterly terrifying. If any one of the over four thousand power sources the Enterprise uses could do that to glass/plastic/whatever, imagine what it could do to your DNA. It’s a good thing the Transporter can basically cure cancer, because they must get it on a monthly basis aboard the flagship of the fleet.

Geordi assigns Reg the task of running through all the systems, but he was actually going to do that anyway to track down the earlier malfunction. In fact, it might be systemic, as is people calling him Broccoli. This does, however, mark a very important point in Data’s life – he recognizes that his little thesies don’t help. Honestly, this episode is full of some of the most wonderful minor moments in Star Trek.

CLOSE THE TAB OH GOD WAS I IN INCOGNITO MODE?

CLOSE THE TAB OH GOD WAS I IN INCOGNITO MODE?

After a brief talk with Guinan, Geordi goes to mend some bridges with Barclay and walks in on his Holodeck program, which just seems wrong. It’s none of my job’s business what I have on my personal computer, right? Even if it’s  Beverly Crusher in a silk dress on a garden swing and me defeating three people on my chain of command in single (kind of) combat. You know, Reginald Barclay is pretty good with a sword even taking into account that the Holodeck is programmed to lose.

Okay, point to Geordi, he does understand that what Reg does in the holodeck is his own business. He does mention that there’s something of an unspoken taboo about recreating people you know in the Holodeck. Reg is, in many ways, the genuine human living in a world of perfect future angels who are the best of the best. Before O’Brien calls him away to show us that the transporters are failing due to the same systemic malfunction though, Geordi is doing a pretty good job of putting aside his previous misgivings about Reg and actually being supportive. He’s sent Barclay to Troi both as a commanding officer and as a friend. The awkwardness is palpable, as it always is.

In fact, Troi is wearing a very similar dress to the one she was wearing earlier and the scene starts out as kind of seductive, except she’s wearing pants instead of stockings and stripper heels under the dress. Reg gets flustered and retreats to the holodeck, missing his appointment on the bridge and prompting Riker to go in after him. Riker is not in a good mood. In fact, the worst possible mood in which to meet the musketeer simulacra. In fact, he almost deletes Barclay’s personal programs until Troi stops him. In fact, Barclay has made a Riker, too. One that’s about four feet tall. Troi finds this amusing, because she hasn’t met The Goddess Of Empathy yet.

This reaction is entirely justified, but the fact that it's played for humor works because she was interrupted in the middle of admonishing Riker for taking the violation of his personal image too seriously.

That look of utter horror is not, I think, unjustified.

So, on the one hand, we have Riker who believes there ought to be a regulation against using crewmembers in Holodeck programs – at least personal ones, and being amused that Troi now sees his point. On the other is Troi who has been extremely concerned with the psychological well-being of one of her shipmates and has thusfar been a consummate professional, facing a very personal and invasive test of her professionalism. And on the gripping hand, Barclay has ultimately been using the Holodeck as a fix which has led him to miss his duty shifts and appointments, so sweeping declarations of policy that radically redefine what it means to own a holodeck program can be left for another day.

It is seriously creepy, though. I do think there ought to be a regulation that if you’re going to make a pornographic holodeck program, it ought to be a procedurally-generated or composite image.

The malfunction is now affecting the antimatter injectors, which I would have thought would be way more urgent. Geordi wants to hurry to find Barclay, but apparently not enough to just end the program, or even call up the computer to display a trail of lights towards the current virutal location of Barclay. I suppose they do find him pretty quickly – sleeping on Crusher’s lap.

By the time they get him back on the case, the engines are physically locked on full and the ship is going to shake itself apart unless the engineering emergency scrum team can figure it out, and they’re getting close to evacuating everyone to the saucer section and abandoning the engineering hull. Barclay starts thinking outside the box and hypothesizes the malfunction isn’t systemic but transmitted via personnel. This fits, so they start narrowing things down and figure out what one of twelve thousand possible substances could be the culprit. Since the episode is five minutes from over, it pans out successfully and the dangerous spot-fix does less damage than the total destruction of the ship. Barclay helped save the day and maybe he’ll get a much-needed boost of self-esteem. When the Enterprise puts in for repairs yet again there are going to be some hard questions asked of Picard as to why he keeps breaking his damn ship. 

Did we miss something awesome?