episode #29: Elementary, Dear Data

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episode #29: Elementary, Dear Data

Post  BoG on Tue May 04, 2010 9:49 pm

ELEMENTARY, DEAR DATA episode #3, s2 / Air Date: 12/5/88
written by Brian Alan Lane; Directed by Rob Bowman

This was the next holodeck-centered story (after The Big Goodbye in the 1st season). This one suggests - subtly - the dangers of really advanced computer technology; remember The Ultimate Computer episode from TOS? Or, of course, the Terminator & Matrix film series? It seems like the more advanced these computer programs get, the more dangerous it gets for humanity - even in the Trek universe. It's a bit strange to look at a TNG episode in which all the conflict and danger is centered around the holodeck, supposedly strictly an entertainment device, like a future version of a computer game. It's like - aren't there enough problems in outer space?
What is a little goofy in this story is that La Forge, Dr. Pulaski and Data combine their troublemaking talents and cause the threat to the Enterprise! Since they have 3 days to wait for a rendevous with another starship, the Victory, they kill time playing Sherlock Holmes & Watson in the holodeck. Everything is too easy for Data, who has memorized all the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; this frustrates La Forge.

Then, big mouth-Pulaski chimes in, claiming that Data would fail if faced with a new unwritten challenge; La Forge ups the ante by asking the computer to create an adversary which could defeat Data. This results in the upgraded Moriarty holo-character (Daniel Davis), a program which becomes self aware; it now comprehends the existence of the Enterprise and the 'outside' world. It captures Pulaski and even threatens the ship with some weird machine.
Daniel Davis is very good as the newly-enlightened Moriarty program and he returned in a sequel in the 6th season (Ship in a Bottle). This episode again offers thoughts about artificial intelligence and different perspectives to reality. But, the concepts here raise interesting questions without providing any answers. As mentioned, this hints at a dangerous aspect to the computer technology, but there are no discussions about creating more safeguards; someone like La Forge says one wrong thing to the computer and a holo-character gains control of the ship; shouldn't there be talk of revamping the systems? And why, for that matter, would there be an option for the safety measures being 'off' anyway? - just asking for trouble is my outlook.

Also, there is no conflict resolution to the intriguing story; Moriarty simply changes his mind about proceeding as he planned after a chat with Picard - very anti-climactic, an on-going problem with story structure on early TNG episodes. Still.. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10
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