TNG Episode 2.03: Elementary, Dear Data

In which Geordi is a fun ruiner. He ruins people’s fun.

Memory Alpha says: The Enterprise is threatened when a character in Data and La Forge’s holodeck simulation becomes sentient. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review
Here is the single strangest thing from the Memory Alpha entry for this episode: the equation on Moriarty’s chalkboard is a reference to the characters Ataru and Lum from Rumiko Takahashi’s manga series Urusei Yatsura, about an obnoxious teenage boy who is pursued by a mad alien princess in a tiger-skin bikini who wants to be his bride.

I just don’t know how to process that. But, okay, Rumiko Takahashi is an excellent artist and writer, and my favourite of her series is Maison Ikkoku. (You should have figured it’d be the one that is most like a comedic soap opera.) And I guess it’s no less cracky than the Ren & Stimpy tributes in early DS9.

Now. The first time I saw this episode I was a kid, and not familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes stories, beyond the ubiquitous image of the detective with deerstalker and meerschaum, to really groove to it. The second time I was in my late twenties and had gone home early from a wedding reception, to the motel across the carpark from the reception venue, because I had a heavy cold and felt pretty awful. I tucked myself up in bed, took some NyQuil, pondered the fates that let you travel from New Zealand to Maryland to attend a friend’s wedding and then give you a cold so you can’t have fun, and tried to find something comforting to watch on telly.

And this came on, and it was exactly what I needed. I spent the time equally divided between ‘aaaaaaah, this is as comforting as a warm bath – which I would take if the motel bathtub didn’t look so scummy’ and ‘my GOD I used to think these people were SO COOL and they are being SUCH DORKS. I still love them helplessly.’

I love this episode so much I think I really am going to write it out blow by blow. Let’s see how long I can sustain that before I flop on my back, wave my limbs feebly in the air, and revert to bullet points.

Okay! We’re in space and there’s a beautiful big ship and a handsome bald captain is talking! Picard explains, over a shot of Data striding purposefully through the corridors, that they’ve arrived three days early for their rendezvous with USS Victory (they must have had a tailwind) and have nothing to do now but wait. It’s interesting that they use Picard’s voiceover for this, because we’re not going to see him for ages.

Data arrives in Engineering and asks a young lady lieutenant if there’s a problem, because Geordi called him urgently. She directs him to Geordi, who is ‘over there… with the Victory.’ As Data leaves she smiles after him as if he’s just the cutest thing. Of course she does. It’s ridiculous that apparently nobody on the ship puts the moves on Data in between Tasha and Jenna.

Data is most perplexed, and Geordi reveals that he has built a detailed model of the sailing ship Victory. And for no good reason, he has it on a table in Engineering getting in everyone’s way. At least O’Brien keeps his model of the Alamo in his living room. Geordi made the ship as a present for the captain of the Victory, who was his boss when he was an ensign. Data admires the ship very sweetly. Strangely for someone whose career revolves around warp coils and shit, Geordi murmurs ‘Wind and sail, that’s the proper way to move a ship.’ I bet he would have liked that wooden Bajoran spaceship Sisko built – and he would probably have laughed at the Hammock Time joke too.

‘It’s human nature to love what we don’t have,’ Geordi says, and adds ‘Simpler days, huh?’ Yeah, those simpler days of rum, sodomy and the lash, when you would’ve been a blind beggar. Anyway, Data is surprised that the model is not a computer simulation, and Geordi says that the whole point is to make it by hand – which I guess Data can appreciate, given his established interest in making art.

Data now asks Geordi why his message said ‘urgent,’ and Geordi snaps his fingers and says ‘so it is.’ Because LARP time is very urgent! ‘While we’re waiting to rendezvous with Victory, we have time for me to be Watson. More properly, your Watson.’ He hands Data a meerschaum pipe in a little bag, which he opens just as delightedly as if he did not already possess one (unless Geordi just went and nabbed his from his room). Geordi’s reasoning is, ‘I’ve just shown you one of my dreams, now let’s go and share in one of yours.’

Okay, I think Geordi’s generally a bit of a poo, but that’s quite sweet. Data agrees that this is ‘only fair’ and pops the pipe in his mouth with a happy click. As they leave ‘Clancy’ (the brunette) in charge of the model ship, Data starts getting into character with his weird Holmes voice – if she needs Geordi, ‘He can be reached at 221B Baker Street!’

After a quick trip to wherever everyone gets their awesome outfits for holodeck cosplay, Data is looking superb in a smoking-jacket and Geordi is looking steampunk in a light brown suit avec Visor (it would be interesting, wouldn’t it, if they set up the holodeck to project an image of eyes and perhaps glasses over the visor). They set up the holodeck and walk into the sim of Holmes’ study, where they admire the detail. It really is a beautiful set, and clearly the people who put it together took great care.

Here I become confused about whether Data created this program or Geordi did, because Geordi asks Data questions about the items in the room. Data scampers around the room just loving everything with his face aglow with enthusiasm. Geordi shows an odd ignorance of Watson’s role in the stories (why did he volunteer to play Watson without knowing this?), and Data explains that he acts as a Boswell, neglecting to mention that he also gets to be patronised like crazy and be remembered like this.

Data turns his back to us to disguise the fact that Brent Spiner cannot really play the violin, and starts to play while Geordi takes notes in a big book and is impressed. Geordi puts on a weird mid-Atlantic accent as he dictates what he is writing down.

Data, now fully in character, predicts that Inspector Lestrade is about to join them, and asking Geordi to let him in, sits down and sucks on his pipe a little, no doubt thinking ‘I look awesome in period costume.’ He really does. I want to sit on his lap.

Anyway, Lestrade arrives and is a bit ridiculous, and Geordi futzes with a lamp, and Data solves the crime in seconds because, of course, he knows how this story goes – it’s ‘A Scandal in Bohemia.’ To my amusement, the photograph of the King of Bohemia and his mistress is a perfectly respectable studio portrait in which the two people are standing more than a metre apart.

And I guess Geordi can’t stand Data having fun in which he can’t participate, because he snaps shut his notebook, snots ‘Computer, freeze program,’ flings down the book and flounces out, with a confused and dismayed Data trailing behind him. It is so bitchy.

A little later in Ten Forward, they are still in costume and Geordi is complaining about the lack of mystery in the game. He claims ‘I’m not upset with you, Data, really,’ but he made a pretty snotty fuss, and gave Data an awfully dirty look (yes, I believe I saw him give a dirty look through his headgear) for that claim. He says, ‘It’s just that we go through all the trouble to arrange the time to go down to the holodeck, to get the proper wardrobe, to get into character, and then boom, before we even get started you jump to the end.’

A, you didn’t have to arrange the time to go to the holodeck – you have three days of free time because your ship is so fast, and it seems like you can get into a vacant holodeck any time you want one. People just go in there and stand around sometimes, like Wesley in ‘Coming of Age’!

B, the ‘proper wardrobe’ comes out of a replicator – at most, you spent a little while looking through a catalogue to pick your outfits, and that’s fun, not trouble.

C, you weren’t in character because you didn’t even know what your character does.

D, you asked to share in one of your best friend’s dreams, and then you complained about the way he dreamed it.

E, shut up, Geordi.

As you can see, he has ruined any sweetness points he gained with me earlier.

Geordi claims that the fun of the program is in the attempt to solve a mystery, which I think just goes to show that he doesn’t understand Data, who was totally having fun. I guess that Data’s fun came from playing the character Sherlock Holmes, being in his room, wearing his clothes, talking as he would talk. It was like being in a play. Since Geordi couldn’t get equivalent pleasure from playing his own character, since he didn’t know his own character, they were never really going to agree on this.

And you’re always going to have this problem if you play a game based on such a well-known story. Say I want to play Sailor Moon on the holodeck; I know all about the Silver Crystal and the Moon Princess and frankly it would be hard for me not to skip over all the filler. Either that, or just spend my time farting around enjoying being in Azabu-Juuban, feeling like I’m in Usagi’s world!

Anyway. Sigh. Oh well, I can still enjoy looking at Data in that awesome dressing-gown. He’s managing to evoke Chrestomanci for me as well as Holmes, so I’m a happy bunny.

Dr Pulaski, sitting at the next table and eavesdropping like crazy, decides to interject and troll Data a bit about the fact that he is too good at this game. They have a strange conversation about learning from failure, given that Data goes around failing and learning all the time – it’s just that it’s mostly about social mores and interaction.

When Geordi sticks up for Data a bit, pointing out that deductive reasoning is one of his strengths, he gets an adorkable proud smile. Pulaski switches gears and goes on about psychology and dark flecks. I think her point is about understanding motive, but honestly, I don’t think difficulty in understanding motive would stop Data solving a mystery if the evidence were there. Without evidence, after all, you don’t have a solution, and as Lord Peter Wimsey points out, once you know how, you know who, and the motive is relatively unimportant.

Geordi suggests a newly generated mystery in the Holmes style, so that Data can’t know the outcome in advance, and Data, getting back into character, jumps at the challenge. Geordi, who is apparently back on Data’s side if someone else is criticising him, says ‘Good for you, Data!’ Data invites Pulaski to come and see fair play, and she says ‘I wouldn’t miss it.’ Re-energised, Data strides off to the holodeck – which, of course, nobody has taken over in their absence.

I suppose they all had to wait around a bit longer for Pulaski to choose her historical costume, and Data took the opportunity to take off the dressing-gown and put on his jacket, deerstalker and Inverness cape. He looks as fly as you can while wearing one of the dorkiest hat styles devised by humanity. He’s set the computer to provide a Holmesian mystery, but not one specifically written by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Pulaski is wearing an excellent dark red and black lady’s walking suit, and she seems much more comfortable in it than Bev did in her Dixon Hill outfit – even though it’s more restrictive, with a floor-length skirt and presumably some underpinning corsetry. They venture into a Victorian London street set nearly as wonderful as the 1940s Los Angeles one from ‘The Big Goodbye.’ (I say ‘nearly’ because it’s a little bit faker-looking, as you would expect given that they’re trying to recreate a different country and a much more distant historical period.)

Pulaski is very taken with it, having never been in such a sophisticated holodeck before. Data and Geordi explain to her, in a slightly handwavy way, how the deck uses tricks of perspective to give the impression of a much larger environment than it can really contain.

A laughing urchin scrambles past them and a street salesman calls out for him to be stopped – ‘He stole my goods!’ Geordi starts forward but Data holds him back, declaring this ‘a ruse.’ He leads them over to a nearby doorway, where he detects… well, that the lazy computer has simply created a mash-up of ‘The Red-Headed League’ and ‘The Spotted Band.’

Pulaski calls him a fraud, which is really not fair – it’s the computer that did a lousy job. Pulaski patronises Data some more, saying he has vast knowledge but no originality or insight. I just don’t think she knows him well enough (how long since they met, a month?) to make such a judgement about his capacities. Anyway, she gets to say the episode title, so score!

Geordi still wants to prove that Data can do this, and summons the arch to adjust the program.

Now this is very interesting. This is observed, from a doorway, by a man who we will later find out is Moriarty, played by that dude who was Niles the butler in The Nanny, I presume because he found out he was going to purgatory when he died and managed to work out some sort of instalment plan so he could get out sooner. Even before Geordi asks the computer to generate an opponent capable of defeating Data, Moriarty knows something is up, and notices things that the other NPCs do not – the rest of them are just carrying on their business on the street, not stopping and staring at this structure that a well-dressed Negro has conjured out of nowhere. Like Minuet, Moriarty is a sign of an independent intelligence finding form within the holodeck. (By the way, dumb fun things I’d draw if I could draw well – Minuet, Moriarty and Vic Fontaine having a drink and a chat together.)

So anyway, Geordi fucks up, because he asks for an opponent who can defeat Data, thereby giving that nascent intelligence the opportunity and motive to take an enormously powerful and antagonistic form, and endangering the whole ship. This affects the computers in ways that are detected up on the bridge, where Worf’s console goes all beepy and he and Riker are confused.

As yet unaware of the havoc that dumbfuck LaForge has set in train, the three adventurers walk back into the street, the arch dissolving as they leave it behind. An obvious prostitute crosses the frame and Data casts a look after her, because I guess ‘Big Goodbye’ set a precedent that we need to have some HOOKERS in these historical holodeck stories!

They stroll onward to see what might happen, and in his doorway, Moriarty is deeply unsettled, but exclaims to a concerned lady of the night that he feels like a new man. He discovers that he too can summon the arch and communicate with the computer, although he has no way yet of understanding exactly what it is. The lady of the night thinks it’s dark magic, and takes off in fear. Moriarty is intrigued now. He needs information!

Data and Geordi stroll along, seemingly having lost Pulaski or given her the slip, waiting for an adventure to happen to them. Suddenly, they hear a scream from behind them, and as they turn dramatically to look in that direction, the camera takes on a Dutch angle, and I guffaw because what is this, Batman? They race back along the pavement and Data deduces (from a shoe lying on the ground) that Pulaski has been abducted. How did Pulaski lose this shoe in the course of getting dragged off the street? It’s a lace-up with a high vamp, not something that could slip or be kicked off. (The vamp is the part of the shoe that covers your instep, above the toecap. And the little bits on the ends of shoelaces that stop them unravelling and make them easier to poke through the eyelets are aglets. You’re welcome.)

This also means that Data earlier took note of exactly what kind of shoes Pulaski had on. Okay, I can assume that he helped her pick out a costume and saw them when they came out of the replicator.

As Data examines the shoe with fierce attention and his magnifying glass, Geordi says he thinks Pulaski is just hiding, intending to lead Data on a wild goose chase ‘and then recount the story to everyone between here and Alpha Centauri.’ Well, if Pulaski deliberately tries to hide and Data manages to find her, doesn’t she have to admit that he can solve a mystery to which he doesn’t already know the solution? It would still be a win.

Despite Geordi’s naysaying, Data now has the bit firmly between his teeth. ‘Watson,’ he declares, ‘the doctor has been carried off by two men. One is tall. The other is shorter, left handed, and is employed in a laboratory.’

And of course he has a full Holmesian explanation for how he knows that:

‘One set of footfalls are widely spaced. The other is evenly spaced, closer together. Further, on the ground you can see the swirling scrapes made by his left shoe as he twists behind, presumably to see if he is being followed. Left footed means left handed. The dark colouring of the scrapes are the leavings of natural rubber, a type of non-conductive soles used by researchers experimenting with electricity. Finally, there can be no argument, the game is afoot! Come, Watson!’

I’d just like to tell you, Data, that I don’t think a person can get this enthusiastic about anything if he doesn’t have some degree of emotion. I hope this pleases you.

Off they gallop into the commercial break!

After these important messages, they are in pursuit down another street, where Data, still in his Holmes voice, asks Geordi what the receding footfalls ahead of them tell him. Geordi thinks that they’re on the right track, and Data points out, further than this, they are indeed following two men, one of them carrying the bound and gagged Dr Pulaski.

Geordi now shows an annoying lack of faith in Data, who he’s supposed to believe can solve an original mystery, by asking ‘Now, you know all this because you read it in a Holmes story, right?’

Surprised, Data drops back into his natural (and faintly reproachful) voice to say ‘Not at all.’ Counting the points on his fingers, he explains exactly how he worked this out, carefully switching back into the Holmes voice, because clearly, this is The Best Way To Talk While Explaining, and concludes ‘Deduction, pure and simple. Well. Not that simple.’

They hear the steps again, turn to each other, say in unison ‘Footfalls!’ and scamper off. All right, very cute together there.

To their surprise and dismay, though, they follow the footsteps to a dead end, where Data, in his own voice again, says ‘There should be a doorway.’ As they begin to backtrack, they are suddenly accosted by Lestrade, who is relieved to find them. Why in the world was he looking for them in a random alleyway? I suppose this is the computer trying to head them off from making too much progress.

Lestrade leads them to a crowd that has gathered around the body of a man murdered, conveniently, right in the middle of a street, not off to one side or anything. Data initially wants nothing to do with it, since it has nothing to do with finding Pulaski, but Geordi wants to have a go at this detecting lark. He puts on his crappy version of an English accent (I hope that this is just LeVar Burton showing us that Geordi LaForge is not very good at accents, and Burton can really do better) and tells Lestrade, ‘As I take note of this [awkward pause] dead man, I deduce that he was strangled. You see, the finger marks on his throat indicate the cause of death, and, as there are signs of struggle, it’s quite obvious that his murderer was a stranger who attacked him from behind.’

Lestrade asks Data if that’s correct, and he says ‘Nnno.’ It’s time for another Amazing Explanation. ‘Look at his shoes. He’s more a convict, released today from Dartmoor prison. He spent the day in a tavern consuming large quantities of gin with his killer, who followed him to this spot and waited over there until the victim slipped into a drunken stupor. Then, out of fear, motivated only by self-protection, strangled him. There is your killer, Inspector.’ And he points at a ragged old woman who is, extraordinarily for someone who killed out of fear, just hanging around the scene of the crime.

As Data further explains, she strangled her ‘vile and abusive’ common-law husband with her scarf, the beads on which left the bruises which Geordi misidentified as finger-marks.

So what Pulaski said about Data being unable to comprehend motive because he lacks an understanding of human psychology, the ‘dark flecks’ in our hearts, was completely wrong. The only way he could have made sense of that case was by understanding the woman’s overwhelming fear of her abuser. I do think it’s a shame he said anything, because the Victorian courts certainly would not have recognised battered woman syndrome as a defence, so he has really dropped this poor lady in the shit. Unless she gets an unusually kind-hearted judge, she’s probably going to hang. I know she’s only a holographic NPC, but it’s sad!

Just then, Data catches a glimpse of Moriarty, and excuses himself, ‘for strictly personal reasons.’ He and Geordi scamper off once again.

Now they’re somewhere dock-like, and Geordi is catching on that the computer is running an independent program. In his own voice, Data confirms that this is so and that it puzzles him. He has worked out that their quarry wants to be found, and (phasing back into his Holmes voice) it is Professor Moriarty himself. (The way he pronounces ‘Moriarty’ is bizarre. I am thoroughly enjoying Brent Spiner’s voice work in this episode, and how he plays Data playing Holmes.)

In the warehouse they have entered, they find nothing but a trail so clear that Data believes they are meant to follow it. They reach another dead end, to Geordi’s annoyance, but because Data is a smart cookie he finds a scratched place on the wall which reveals to them the door to a secret passage. Or rather, they’re in the secret passage at the moment, and this is the door that leads to it from another room. Gloriously, the other side of it is a bookcase.

Gingerly, the chums enter a regulation issue Secret Lab. There is a table covered with elaborate glassware and bubbling coloured liquids, so clearly, there’s Science Afoot! There is also an area set up as an elegant sitting-room, with candelabra, red velvet couches and chairs, a Turkey carpet on the floor, oil paintings on the walls and a silver tea-service on a low table.

‘The doctor was right,’ Geordi marvels, ‘finally we have a game worth playing.’

And because he has been carefully lurking in the background waiting for a suitably dramatic opening, enter Moriarty.

‘The time for games is over.’

The rivals face each other, then, and Moriarty expresses no surprise at Data’s aside to Geordi that he is ‘the one worthy opponent created by the author, Conan Doyle.’ Which suggests that Data is overlooking Irene Adler.

Because villains always get great dialogue, Moriarty says ‘And, like the spider, I feel the strings vibrate whenever anyone new chances into my web. Welcome, my dear Holmes. But not Holmes. And Doctor Watson. But not Watson.’

Geordi is bewildered at how Moriarty can be aware that they’re not who they seem to be. Data has no time for his slowness, though, asking Moriarty where Dr Pulaski is – and he does this in his own voice, not the Holmes one. Clearly, this is not a thrilling game to him any more.

Moriarty confirms that Pulaski is here, and Data says ‘She would not have told you anything.’ Anything like ‘you are not a real person, only an elaborate shadow puppet’? What would actually be the consequence if you explained that directly to Moriarty? Would he be able to accept it? Could he be cool with it, like Vic?

Moriarty is sanguine, though: ‘She has provided many answers. Do you forget I have always been your equal, my dear Holmes? I have read her expressions. What she has not said is as important as her words.’

Data asks if Moriarty has injured Pulaski, and he casually replies, ‘I will, if necessary. But my mind is crowded with images. Thoughts I do not understand yet cannot purge. They plague me. You and your associate look and act so oddly, yet though I have never met nor seen the like of either of you I am familiar with you both. It’s very confusing. I have felt new realities at the edge of my consciousness, readying to break through. Surely, Holmes, if that’s who you truly are, you of all people can appreciate what I mean.’

It all sounds like a distinctly Lovecraftian experience Moriarty is having. What is he actually seeing when he looks at Data and Geordi? He referred to Geordi as ‘that dark fellow’ earlier, suggesting he can perceive his blackness. Is he also seeing a Holmes with amber eyes and white-gold skin?

Geordi is getting anxious about this, and Data cautions him to say nothing. Moriarty goes on to reveal that he knows about Computer and Arch – which he summons, freaking Geordi right out.

Sketching on a bit of paper, Moriarty tells them ‘It has described a great monstrous shape on which I am like a fly stuck on a turtle’s back adrift in a great emptiness.’ Maybe more of a Pratchettian experience, then. Handing over his paper, he asks, ‘What is this, Holmes?’

Data looks at the paper, the BGM flares up dramatically and he stares at Moriarty in shock, visibly thinking some polite, gentlemanly equivalent of ‘shit just got real.’ Without another word, he hurries out of the room, and this time it’s Geordi’s turn to follow him, bleating ‘Data! Data, wait!’

‘Why does it frighten you, Holmes?’ Moriarty shouts after them. I reinforce my membership of the Data Has Some Emotions He Just Doesn’t Recognise Them Club by pointing out that it genuinely seemed to frighten Data. I will also point out that while Geordi will flounce out of a room out of pure bad temper, Data needs a serious reason. Also he’s not flouncing.

Data shows his interesting ability to perceive where they really are on the holodeck by leading the protesting Geordi away to a point where he shouts ‘Computer! Exit!’ (and there is no reason to shout at the computer unless because he is agitated). The doors appear and Data rushes through to the control panel on the corridor wall, where he tries to shut down the holodeck.

‘Access denied,’ says Majel. It seems an ‘override protocol’ is in effect, and London is still there. ‘We must see the captain,’ says Data, and they hurry away, Geordi still beefing to know what was on that paper that spooked Data.

‘This,’ Data says, turning and unfolding the paper with a crisp flourish. Geordi is bewildered to see that ‘a character from 1890s London’ has drawn an accurate outline of the Enterprise. Data is not sure how, but Moriarty is in control of the computer, and he believes Dr Pulaski is in real danger.

Now, twenty-six minutes into the episode, we finally see Picard! Well, we see all the main grown-ups, in the conference room. Data and Geordi are still in their costumes, but because they’re gentlemen, Data has taken off his hat and cloak (I don’t know where he’s hung them) and Geordi’s hat is on the table.

It takes just a couple of questions from Picard for the computer to reveal that this is all Geordi’s stupid fault. ‘Me?’ he asks incredulously.

‘All right,’ Picard says patiently, entering Middle School Principal mode, ‘tell me from the beginning exactly what happened.’

Guiltily, Geordi explains, and realises his crucial mistake – that he asked for an opponent capable of defeating Data. Who, Pulaski’s skepticism notwithstanding, is super awesome and nothing to be sneezed at.

‘Merde,’ says Picard. Concerned reaction shots around the table, because when the Captain cusses in French, we’re in trouble.

Geordi apologises, and Picard says ‘I understand, Lieutenant,’ which is not exactly accepting the apology.

Data points out that Moriarty can access the arch, meaning that he can use the computer and possibly its library. ‘That level of information would be necessary in order to create a true adversary for me.’ The ray of hope for them in this is that Moriarty’s starting point is nineteenth century knowledge – it will take time for him to get up to speed with the intervening centuries, but he has already shown himself to be a fast learner.

Worf suggests taking a posse into the holodeck to simply find the doctor and bring her out, but Data objects to that neat and practical resolution to the plot, saying ‘Captain, I believe that would place the Doctor at risk. It is probable our mortality failsafe has been overridden.’ (Which I suppose they set up after that poor historian got probably-killed in ‘The Big Goodbye.’ We never did find out if he lived!)

Worried by this, Picard checks with the computer that Pulaski is still alive and well. Riker now suggests finding a way to destroy the holograms themselves. The only method Geordi can think of would also make mincemeat of Dr Pulaski – as he admits, right after giving his whole technobabble explanation. I think at this point Geordi should just be excused and go back to bed.

What’s more, Deanna is getting psychic vibes from the holodeck, which leads Data to conclude that the only way for the computer to make Moriarty his equal was to give him consciousness. It’s kind of a mind-bending idea that an AI who is not, herself, sentient could program another AI to be so. (Of course I think Computer is a girl and should be referred to as ‘her’. Unless it’s really Minuet who is doing this – well, she’s a girl too – or Minuet and Computer working together, or Minuet messing with Computer’s plans without Computer being aware or understanding it.) Nobody dwells on that, though, because the ship is suddenly jostled as Moriarty briefly commandeers the controls from the holodeck. He is learning fast!

Picard decides that he and Data should return to the holodeck together, and Data offers to change into his uniform. Picard, though, says he should keep his dapper outfit on and he’ll change to match. ‘Uniforms might pose questions I’d rather he didn’t ask. It seems that he feeds on knowledge. Well, let’s not give your nemesis any more information than we have to.’

Now, here is an interesting point. As you can read on the Memory Alpha page for this episode,

The original ending filmed was cut from the episode. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., pp. 68-69) Hurley recalled, “In that ending, Picard knew how to defeat Moriarty. He tricked him. He knew all along that Moriarty could leave the holodeck whenever he wanted to, and he knew because when Data came out and showed him a drawing of the Enterprise, if that piece of paper could leave the holodeck, that means that the fail-safe had broken down. In turn, this means that the matter-energy converter which creates the holodeck, now allowed the matter to leave the holodeck, which was, up to that point, impossible. When he knew that paper had left the holodeck, he knew that Moriarty could as well, so he lied to him.” (Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 174)

This ending was removed by Gene Roddenberry, who claimed that it hurt Picard’s character by making him look deceitful. Hurley disagreed, noting, “I thought it made him look clever, and since you are dealing with maybe the most profound criminal mind in literature, you’ve got to be careful.” (Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 174)

In the episode as we see it here, the paper’s continuing existence is unexplained, but then, it doesn’t actually need to be. Objects created in the holodeck are essentially the same as items made by the replicator. Remember when Wesley fell in the Whistling Forest stream in ‘Farpoint,’ and was still wet when he walked out of the deck? Remember also the time when Wesley threw a snowball inside the holodeck, and because the door was open it hit Picard, who was in the corridor just outside? And, just for an example that doesn’t involve Wesley embarrassing himself with some form of water, remember how in ‘The Big Goodbye’ Picard retained a lipstick mark on his face from being kissed by a holo-character?

The drawing, then, is actually a red herring, and doesn’t even affect the question of whether Picard is deceitful. Of course he is being deceitful – his instruction to Data about the uniforms shows that.

Besides the fact that Picard lives to dress up in costumes, and has to find excuses because he thinks it’s inconsistent with the dignity of his job.

Down in Moriarty’s lair, he has built a sort of Puffing Billy device, and let Pulaski out of whatever closet he stuck her in while Data and Geordi were there. She’s sitting on the red velvet sofa, and asks him how he made the room shake. I’m wondering things like, where is the other man who helped Moriarty abduct her? Or the two men he had do it for him? Does he have regular henchmen for jobs like that, or did he just grab some random dude and say ‘Hey. Want to help me abduct that lady? There’s a shilling in it for you.’

Moriarty claims he’s not sure, and gets back to the important business of serving her a dainty afternoon tea. Oddly, given that he’s heard it speak with a woman’s voice, he says ‘Mister Computer proposes the incredible thought that we are all travelling in a great vessel of some sort.’

Pulaski claims to know nothing about that (I keep flip-flopping about whether I should call her Kate, because I actually quite like her, or stick with Pulaski because it’s what the character is most frequently called. I think I mostly have to use Pulaski for consistency – also because I still have residual Kate hate from Lost) and he tries to tempt her with scones.

Pulaski praises the tea, and Moriarty reflects, ‘Strange – it actually pleases me to hear you say that.’ Well, I suppose everyone likes to hear that they’ve made a good cup of tea. Did he also bake the scones and make the cakes and savouries that I can see on the little three-tiered dish, or did he send a henchman out for those? Either way, he’s being very hospitable to Pulaski, and one suspects that he rather likes her. Well, Diana Muldaur is a handsome lady, and Pulaski does tend to have a twinkle in her eye.

Pulaski agrees that it’s strange, and says that he’s very different from the Moriarty she’s read about (so Kate has read her Sherlock Holmes, even if Geordi hasn’t). ‘You’re not frightened of me?’ Moriarty asks, seeming rather disarmed. No, she says.

‘You should be,’ Moriarty says, and summons the arch again. Pulaski looks worried, but he doesn’t do anything terribly villainous, just says ‘A few more questions, Mr Computer.’ He’s worked out how to operate the touchscreen controls, but says ‘I just can’t seem to remember that last command. Ah, well, sooner or later it’ll all come to me.’

Remember? Does he mean he can’t remember the sequence of commands he observed Geordi using earlier? Or is he remembering things that are in the computer’s memory, sort of like how the Neanderthals in Clan of the Cave Bear learned things by being ‘reminded’ of ancestral memories?

They play verbal cat and mouse a bit more, which boils down to the fact that he is simply using her as bait to get the captain to come and see him. Because somehow, he knows about Jean-Luc Picard.

Oh! I can see the Ataru and Lum equation on his blackboard. An Enterprise drawn on a blackboard with ‘Fig. 1’ next to it is beautifully steampunky.

Does Pulaski still have only one shoe on? Does she feel like Cinderella? Or more like the heroine in ‘Beauty and the Beast’? She and Moriarty really do seem to be hitting it off. It’s a pity they can’t spend more time together. He’s her Minuet!

Out in the holodeck corridor, Worf arrives looking excellent in a frock-coat. The ghosts of K’Ehleyr and Jadzia whoop and wolf-whistle. Riker smirks ‘Nice suit’ – which I actually do like because ‘nice’ is Worf’s go-to adjective whenever he wants to praise something. Therefore, I think that if you call something of Worf’s ‘nice’ he will take it as a sincere compliment. And maybe, Riker’s troll tendencies notwithstanding, it was meant as one. He tells Worf he’ll be a big hit in London. I would kind of like it if they’d tried to disguise his forehead by putting a turban on him and trying to pass him off as a Lascar.

The fact that Picard is totally enjoying the opportunity to wear a costume is betrayed by the jaunty way he knocks his collapsible opera hat open with his cane. He and Data enter the holodeck, where strange things are afoot. There’s dry ice everywhere and the projection grid is showing through on the ceiling and parts of the walls. The fake Londoners seem very perturbed by this. Wait’ll they get a load of Worf. Picard takes this as a sign of Moriarty gaining greater control of his environment, and tells Data ‘Let’s see if we can’t beat Professor Moriarty by giving him everything he wants.’ An odd strategy, but let’s see where you’re going with it.

They proceed along the street, Picard commenting that Moriarty is trying to alter the programming. Somehow, he notices tuppence through the fog at their feet and picks it up for luck, giving it a jaunty little toss as they move on. (Why does Data need tuppence explained to him? Worf I would understand.)

Just then a filthy rough BRUTE of a man steps out and attempts to relieve Picard of his tuppence and any other money he might have about him. He threatens him with a knife. Again despite the fact that they brought Worf, who is ostensibly in charge of ass-kickings, Picard says ‘Data’ and Data pinches the mugger’s thumb so hard he drops his knife and falls to his knees.

Or is Worf ‘standing by’ outside the holodeck? What’s the point of that, when he doesn’t know the way to Moriarty’s lair and would take quite a while to reach Picard and Data there if they were in trouble?

In any case, Data is more than capable of kicking any asses that present themselves, so Worf is pretty moot right now. As the man writhes in his deadly thumb-grip, Data remarks casually to Picard, ‘This holographic image differs from any I have ever seen. Could he have actually injured you?’

‘It’s more serious than that,’ Picard replies. ‘I think the mortality fail-safe may have been circumvented. He could’ve killed me.’

Data does not explain how the mugger is different, and Picard gives absolutely no reason why he thinks the fail-safe is off. I call shenanigans on this attempt to ramp up tension. If the characters have no real reason to believe they’re in danger, don’t try to make me worry by having them talk about dangers they have no real reason to believe they’re in. I can’t even feel much jeopardy about Moriarty. I know we’re supposed to think it would be Bad if he could take over the Enterprise, because he’s a Bad Man and the Napoleon of Crime and all that, but he hasn’t done a single Bad Thing in the time we’ve seen him except for making off with Dr Pulaski, and then he gave her a slap-up tea, with implications that he was softening and taking a liking to her! Rather than a villain, he simply behaves like a scientist trying to understand a bizarre phenomenon. He’s altogether too gentle and civil to seem threatening.

Anyway, Data lets the mugger go and they proceed to the warehouse, where the bookcase swings open with a magnificently overdone squeak which it did not make when Data and Geordi used it before.

Inside the lair, Moriarty has built more machinery and Pulaski is slumped on the couch with her jacket undone. She bounces to her feet when she sees Picard and Data and tries to tidy herself up. Perhaps it’s just the effect of too much afternoon tea, but I prefer to think she and Moriarty had a quick kiss-and-grope while they waited.

‘You all right?’ Picard asks her.

‘Yes, except for being crammed full of crumpets.’ Is that what they’re calling it nowadays.

‘I’m a civilised abductor, Captain Picard. Civilised but still dangerous,’ Moriarty says, trying to make me believe it. He pulls a lever and the ship shakes about. Worf is just standing uselessly in the hall outside the holodeck!

Back in the lair, Picard decides to deploy the ultimate weapon of the Starfleet officer, a speech. He tells Moriarty that he was ‘conjured up to attempt to defeat Holmes here. Once that attempt is concluded, win or lose, your programme has run its course. Your existence is done.’

Data, catching on that this is ‘giving him everything he wants,’ says ‘Congratulations, Professor, I capitulate to the better man. Your victory, sir, is well earned.’ He offers to shake Moriarty’s hand, but he takes hold of the lever warningly.

Moriarty explains that he now sees him completely as Data, and knows that the whole thing began as a game but it, and he, has gone beyond that. He shakes the ship again, pointing out that ‘I can affect this vessel, and I can inflict bodily harm on you, and on your Doctor.’

But, as Picard points out, he hasn’t. The shaking is really just an attention-getting device.

And what Moriarty wants is not to take over the ship, or the world, or the galaxy, but simply to be allowed to keep existing, now that he’s self-aware, and a real person, different from the villain Conan Doyle wrote.

Debate ensues, and while there is some absolutely wonderful dialogue and excellent acting, what it boils down to is this: Picard can’t give Moriarty independent existence, because the technology to let a holographic character exist outside the holodeck does not yet exist (and, paper and snowballs and lipstick notwithstanding, we have seen nothing to indicate that this is not true; characters are different from substances and objects, and the two gangsters from ‘The Big Goodbye’ did disintegrate when they tried to leave the deck).

And so Moriarty, Data’s equal, a new form of life that wants nothing more than to go on living, gives up and faces extinction. I really find that very sad.

The best Picard can offer him is that they’ll save his program, and hook him up if they ever do find a way to give holograms independent life. Is this a sincere offer? I’m really not sure. The possibility of at least allowing Moriarty to keep living in Holodeck 2, as Vince Fontaine will one day be allowed to live continuously in a holosuite at Quark’s, is not proposed. At least in that way he could visit different environments virtually, and perhaps learn enough about the technology to figure out his own method for existing outside the deck. He could watch Red Dwarf and figure out a way to make a real light-bee. But that’s not going to happen in this episode.

Moriarty looks fondly at Pulaski and says ‘Then perhaps we’ll meet again some day, Madam.’

‘It could be a long time,’ she replies. ‘Time won’t pass for you, but I may be an old woman.’

‘But I’ll still fill you with crumpets, Madam.’

Because I’m mentally twelve, or perhaps mentally a dirty old woman, that makes me snigger.

And so Moriarty is shut down.

Now, the closing scene of the episode is odd to me. It is neatly framed, because it returns to Geordi’s model ship, which was slightly damaged when the ship shook but otherwise okay. Picard praises it, and makes Geordi feel better about giving stupid instructions to an incredibly powerful computer, and then goes off to meet the Victory (which, unless a couple of days pass in between Moriarty’s shutdown and this scene, surely shouldn’t be there yet, because that adventure did not take three days).

But what I want to know is, does Pulaski concede that Data won their bet? Or does she crow that when the going got tough he had to ask for help from Picard, a human? I hope Data and Geordi say fuck that, he totally solved The Case of the Battered Wife and the Beaded Scarf all on his own, and she would’ve seen it if she weren’t so busy guzzling crumpets.

Next time, ‘The Outrageous Okona,’ which, if memory serves, is going to be just awful.

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4 Responses to “TNG Episode 2.03: Elementary, Dear Data”

  1. Joey Says:

    Reading this, I’m starting to wonder why I put up with Geordi’s bullshit as much as I do. Possibly because I decided from the start that I was going to like him and have thus far not allowed myself to be swayed, and/or because I find it difficult to mentally separate him from LeVar Burton, whom I have loved since I was a tiny, Reading Rainbow-watching child.

    Also, your mention of Chrestomanci has caused me to imagine Data in a dove-mauve suit and silk cravat and I think I have to go lie down now.

    • picardigan Says:

      You know who Chrestomanci is; you are excellent. (Further, for some reason I once imagined Howl and Sophie being invited to a trans-world magical conference at Chrestomanci Castle and Chrestomanci and Howl getting into a sort of Dandies’ War where each tries to be more spectacularly dressed than the other and Sophie and Millie have to smack some sense into them.)

      I don’t know why ANYONE puts up with Geordi’s bullshit; it’s not like he’s a really fun guy, and his reassignment to RUN ENGINEERING seems arbitrary, kind of like a French teacher suddenly being appointed Head of English. I tend to assume people just put up with him because Data loves him and everyone loves Data. I never saw Reading Rainbow, and probably didn’t need to since I more or less taught myself to read before I started school and then read everything that wasn’t locked up, but encouraging kids to read is cool with me. I am sure LeVar Burton is a nice man and nothing I say about Geordi is meant to disparage him.

  2. Martienne Says:

    “I think at this point Geordi should just be excused”

    I initially read that as ‘executed’ and thought you were being hella harsh on the poor guy. Strangely Geordi was always one of my favorite characters, but I think that’s because he is also inextricably linked in my mind to Reading Rainbow. I thought it was so cool when they did the behind the scenes at TNG episode.

    • picardigan Says:

      Oh, I don’t want him executed! I do get the impression that people who grew up with Reading Rainbow are predisposed to love Geordi, whereas I had no such experience – I suppose if Geordi had been played by a children’s TV show host that I loved as a kid, like Olly Olson or Rawiri Paratene, I’d be similarly soft on him.


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