2/6/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Elementary, Dear Data"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S02E03
Air Date: December 5, 1988
Written by: Brian Alan Lane
Directed by: Rob Bowman

Premise
Geordi helps Data bring Professor Moriarty to life in hologram form.

Review
So the Enterprise is waiting for the Victory to show up, so in the meantime, Geordi calls Data down to engineering because he's got something to show him. A scale model of the HMS Victory, the 18th century ocean ship. Since Geordi served as an ensign on the USS Victory, he thought the HMS would be a good memorial gift to give them. But Geordi has something even better in mind for Data. While they wait for their comrades, he has set up for his good buddy time in the holodeck for a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which Data plays Sherlock and Geordi is Watson. What could possibly go wrong!?

When they get to the holodeck, the first marvel at how realistic it is, ya know, like you do every time you enter the holodeck. I know every time I sit in front of Zack's 55 inch LCD 3-D TV I don't do anything before I audibly marvel at its clarity and sharpness. Once they get over it, though, they move on with the story. And Data solves the mystery in under a minute. Geordi abruptly ends the simulation and runs, pouting, off to 10-Forward. When Data goes to find him, Geordi says it's unfair because Data already knows all the mysteries and the fun is in trying to figure them out.
A WILD MEDICAL OFFICER APPEARS!
Polaski tries to bring the whole house down by saying that Data, as a machine, couldn't possibly figure out a mystery that he wasn't pre-programmed to solve. She argues that Data being Sherlock is silly because an android can't possibly have the intuition of the World's Greatest Detective. And to that, Data says "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED." With the help of Geordi and the audience of Polaski, Data creates a completely original Holmes story in the holodeck to solve. He ends up solving it quite quickly, however, and Polaski calls BS on that. She says the scenario was just a bunch of things from Sherlock Homles all muddled together. It wasn't actually completely original at all, and since Data has studied all the Sherlock Holmes novellas and movies and TV shows including BBC's Sherlock, the Robert Downey Jr. movies and Elementary, it's really simple for him.

So, Geordi gives the test one last try. He tells the computer to create a scenario that could beat Data. And so the computer creates a self-aware Professor Moriarty and he kidnaps Dr. Polaski. Before anyone is aware of what's going on, Data and Geordi walk around the holodeck for a while looking for a mystery. When they discover that Polaski is gone, they then run into a murder case of another holodeck character, but Data concludes that it's not related to the disappearance of Polaski. Moriarty makes it easy for Data to track him down to a warehouse and there he demonstrates his self-awareness by producing a drawing of the Enterprise.
He could probably work on his shading skills a little.
Now they know they have a problem, and they can't just shut down the holodeck to fix it because Moriarty took control of that, too, so Geordi and Data call a meeting with the senior officers to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, Moriarty demonstrates what hold he has over the Enterprise by showing Polaski a steampunk device he created that has the ability to move the ship around. When he uses it, the officers are shaken in their seats and then Picard, having heard enough, dresses in his best 18th century clothing and joins Data and Geordi in the holodeck to meet with Moriarty.

When they meet, Data congratulates Moriarty on having bested "Sherlock", but Moriarty isn't assuaged by that. He has gained full sentience, he knows what's going on, and now he wants to explore outside of the holodeck. Picard explains that it's not currently possible for objects to exist outside of the holodeck ALTHOUGH THAT DRAWING OF THE ENTERPRISE AND THE LIPSTICK FROM THE OTHER HOLODECK EPISODE SEEMED TO MAKE IT OUT QUITE WELL. Nevertheless, perhaps Moriarty is just too complex an object to exist outside, and they can't just kill a sentient person, so Picard promises to preserve Moriarty, store him in the Enterprise's memory banks, until the technology exists to bring him out.
Part of the crew, part of the ship.
Moriarty agrees to these terms and releases Polaski and control of the ship. The Sherlock Holmes program is shut down and stored away and Moriarty is imprisoned to be released at a later date. Meanwhile, back out on the Enterprise, Picard visits engineering where he finds Geordi's model of the HMS Victory. He marvels at the work and asks if it'll sail. After Geordi answers that it will, the USS Victory finally arrives! Slow poke.

Overall Thoughts
This is a fantastic episode for fans of Data and, really, if you're a fan of The Next Generation and you're not a fan of Data, what kind of Trekkie are you? I still kind of have problems with the holodeck physics, but, alas, they will always be there. Such a dive into literary culture, however, is something we haven't really seen before in Star Trek. We've heard quotes, we've seen books being given as gifts, but we haven't really delved  into the very universe of a particular literary work until now. In "The Neutral Zone" we're told that television hasn't existed as a form of entertainment since the 2040's, so I find it fascinating that books have kept on going beyond that. And we finally get an artificial life form with sentience that's not Data. This will, of course, lead the way to The Doctor in Voyager.  Lots of stuff happening in this episode and I love every bit of it.