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|Series :||The Next Generation||Rating :|
|Disc No :||1.3||Episode :||11|
|First Aired :||11 Jan 1988||Stardate :||41997.7|
|Director :||Joseph L. Scanlan||Year :||2364|
|Writers :||Tracy Torme||Season :||1|
|Guest Cast :||
|Plotline :||The Enterprise-D is on the way to a meeting with the Jarada, an alien species obsessed by protocol. On arrival Picard must deliver a precise greeting to the Jarada in their native tongue, a horribly complex language. Any mistake or departure from the agreed plan is likely to cause massive offence.
Frustrated with the difficulty of learning the greeting, Picard takes Deanna's advice and heads down to the holodeck to spend some time relaxing. He spends a few minutes trying out the Dixon Hill program, amazed at the realistic recreation of 20th century Earth, before returning to invite Doctor Crusher to participate with him. Data and Lieutenant Whalen, a historian, also decide to join the program. With the group suitably dressed they return to the holodeck and begin to explore the surroundings. Picard is rapidly arrested for the murder of Jessica Bradley, a woman he met on his first brief visit.
Whilst Picard is being questioned the Jarada approach the Enterprise and perform a long range scan, disrupting some of the ship's systems - including the holodeck. When Riker responds to their hail instead of Picard they are insulted, and the First Officer sends LaForge to find the Captain. Geordi discovers the problem with the holodeck; he cannot find the people inside or get the doors open.
As the Enterprise crew attempt to get the holodeck doors open, Picard begins to realise that he is going to be late for the meeting with the Jarada and manages to get himself released from the police station. The group return to Hill's office, where they find a character named Leech waiting with a gun. Leech demands to know what Hill has done with the "object" he was hired to locate. When Whalen smilingly attacks Leech, the hologram shoots him. The party are shocked to realise that the holodeck must be malfunctioning; if Whalen isn't taken to sickbay soon, he will die.
Picard quickly disarms Leech and sends him on his way, but is unable to access the holodeck controls or open the exit. Crusher does her best to keep Whalen alive, whilst outside the holodeck Riker continues trying to stall the Jarada and gain access to the holodeck.
Leech returns with his boss, Cyrus Redblock. Redblock is intent on acquiring "the object", and is clearly willing to kill everybody involved if necessary. A police officer, McNary, who is apparently a friend of Hill arrives and is also captured. Picard decides to tell the holograms what they really are in hopes that they might release him, but they refuse to believe him. Redblock offers to test the idea that they are not real by shooting Dr. Crusher. To dissuade him Picard admits to having the object Redblock is searching for.
Wesley, meanwhile, has found a way to shut down the holodeck but cautions Riker that if it is not done properly the deck could abort the program and delete everything inside, real or not. Riker orders him to proceed with the repair.
As Picard discusses the object with Redblock an adjustment by Wesley turns the environment briefly into a frigid wasteland, much to everyone's astonishment. The exit appears, opening to show the interior of the Enterprise. Realising that Picard has been telling the truth, Redblock and Leech walk into the Enterprise, delighted to have a whole new world to plunder - only to dissolve as they leave the holodeck grid.
Data and Crusher go to sickbay with Whalen. Picard takes a moment to try and comfort McNary, who is reeling under the realisation that his entire life is a sham. Then he rushes to the bridge, reciting the Jaradan greeting perfectly and ensuring a smooth first contact.
|Analysis :||A mishmash of some good but mostly bad ideas. Having the Jarada as an easily offended species is interesting, and a nicer way of generating some urgency than creating some generic bad guys who want to blow the ship up or whatever. The holodeck itself is a marvellous idea in principle, but it is poorly implemented. The writers use it much as you would use a TARDIS or Stargate; it's a fast way to get your characters into any location, any time. That's okay in itself, but the essence of drama is conflict and threat; the TARDIS and the Stargate can easily land characters in threatening situations, because they are neutral devices - by which I mean they are a method of transport, with no control over what happens at the other end. But the holodeck is different in principle; by its very nature it is in absolute control of every smallest detail of the place the characters "arrive" in. Therefore, if that place is threatening it can only be because it was deliberately chosen to be threatening, or because the holodeck is malfunctioning.
The former is difficult. If somebody chooses to be in danger, you can't really sympathise with them all that much. The only time this has worked is in Voyager's "Extreme Risk", where we could sympathise with B'Elanna because she wasn't in posession of all her marbles at the time. But you can hardly make a habit of that! So we're left with malfunctions.
And as a result, holodeck malfunctions would occur again and again. And worse, virtually every such malfunction would all have two basic things in common - they would trap the characters inside, and they would take the safeties off line. Both these things are rather unlikely. To be trapped on a holodeck means the doors won't open; it means all of the transporters won't work (and remember that including shuttles, a Galaxy class probably has in excess of fifty transporters available). It means you can't just drill a hole in the wall, even. And as for safties, these seem entirely unconnected with the parts of the system that actually make things work! Imagine a computer program that creates a 3D CAD model of a gun; now imagine that the program malfunctions in such a precise way that the model of the gun is still there, still looks exactly the same, still works perfectly, but is different in just one slight parameter. And yet virtually every malfunction of the holodeck does this kind of thing.
It's implausible that any of a large variety of malfunctions could have all these effects, so we're forced to the conclusion that the holodeck is just an inherently bad environment to escape from, and that the safties are just inherently easy to disengage. Which is exactly the same thing as saying that the holodeck is just inherently unsafe. So why they hell is Starfleet using it?
Stuff like this always makes me think about nuclear power. In ST III, Spock described our use of nuclear power as a "dubious flirtation"... yet in order for a nuclear reactor to fail catastrophically, a large number of enourmously unlikely things have to happen. Virtually everything that can fail in a nuclear reactor would actually shut it down if it did - the principle called "fail safe". For all the Federation's crowing about us poor 20th century types, Holodecks aren't remotely fail safe (neither are matter/antimatter power systems for that matter).
Anyway, the whole absurdity of the holodeck failure is a big dent in the episode and the reason it only rates two stars instead of three.
|Guest Reviews :||
|YATI :||We are assured that even the slightest slip in the welcome given to the Jarada will bring disaster. Yet Picard keeps them waiting for a good hour or two, and Riker tries to talk to them to explain the problem, and all they do is make a nasty noise. So I guess they aren't that big on ritual after all.
This is the first "holodeck gone bad" episode in Trek, and as it's one of the more egregious examples it's a sensible place to address the issue. Let's take a look at what happens here : the ship is scanned. Not shot at, not damaged, just scanned. Something that must happen to it on a very regular basis. As a result, the holodeck doors are sealed. All communication in or out is cut off. The safety systems are compromised to the extent that the characters are able to shoot people and mortally wound them. And the design of the system is such that it's next to impossible to shut it down, and an imprecise attempt to do so can kill everybody inside.
Can you imagine something like this being put into use today? Whoever had a hand in designing, building and installing the thing would find themselves sued into oblivion, and quite possibly jailed on a charge of negligent homicide!
|Great Moment :||I love the way Beverly gets all jealous when she finds out that Picard has been interrogated by the police.|
|Body Count :||One wounded; Whalen. Several holograms go fizz when they leave the holodeck.|
|Factoid :||This marks the first appearence of the Dixon Hill stories, which will make regular appearences in TNG and in "Star Trek: First Contact".
This episode was originally supposed to be placed after "11001001", with the modifications to the holodeck made there explaining the malfunction here.
The episode won a Peabody award, given for excellence in radio and television, and an Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design.
|Quote :||"One look at you, sir, is proof that nothing is impossible." - Redblock to Data.|
|Copyright Graham Kennedy||Page views : 431,362||Last updated : 31 Jul 2006|