Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Picard is tasked with giving an exactly perfect greeting to the Jaradan race who put great stock in greetings. To take his mind off his studies, he goes into a holodeck simulation where he gets to be a 1940s Private Investigator named Dixon Hill. While in there with Data, the ship’s fiction expert Whalen, and Dr. Crusher, the holodeck malfunctions. To make matters worse, they learn that the simulation can kill them while they are inside after Whalen is shot.
Wesley Crusher manages to repair the holodeck just in time for Picard to perfectly deliver the required greeting and to save Whalen’s life.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
First Officer’s log: Stardate 41997.7
The Enterprise is about to make contact with the Jarada race, a reclusive insect-like race known for its idiosyncratic attitude toward protocol. The Jarada demand a precise greeting from Captain Picard. Their language is unusual and the slightest mispronunciation is regarded as an insult.
While Riker runs the ship from the bridge, Picard and Troi are practicing Picard’s greeting and studying the Jarada language. Picard is clearly frustrated with the complexity of the language, so Troi reminds him that English is also complicated.
Troi: You spell knife with a “k.”
Picard: I spell knife with an “n” but then I never could spell.
Troi advises Picard to take a break from his studies. She reminds him that he has been looking forward the the upgrade of the holodeck and she insists that he needs a diversion. Picard finally smiles and says “Dixon Hill.”
At the holodeck door, Picard tells the computer, “San Francisco, California, United States, 1941 A.D., file Dixon Hill, Private Detective.” He is told to enter when ready. Suddenly we get a narration from the Captain’s Personal Log. He says in the log that he is interesting the holodeck where images of reality can be created by the ship’s computer. He says that it is useful for crew training and highly enjoyable for games and recreation.
Picard opens an office building door with the name Dixon Hill emblazoned on the glass. Inside, a woman looks at him in his Starfleet uniform and asks him if he lost a bet. The woman appears to work for “Dixon Hill” and she is leaving for the day. However, as she leaves, she informs Picard that there is a woman with nice legs waiting for him in his office.
Picard enters the office and the woman stands up. He tells her, regarding his clothes, that he lost a bet. She notes that at least he is ready for Halloween. Picard seems confused by “Halloween.” She ignores his confusion and tells him that she needs his help because someone is trying to kill her.
More from the Captain’s personal log: He narrates that Dixon Hill has been a hero of his since childhood. The characters and events in the holodeck are generated in the computer but Picard tells us they seem real in every way. The woman in Dixon Hill’s office states that she does not know who wants her dead.
Woman: My husband. My step-daughter.
Picard: Or a lover, perhaps.
Woman: Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s Cyrus Redlock. I need you to find out.
Picard agrees to work for the woman for $20 per day plus expenses and she agrees. She tells Picard that if Redlock is the one after her, then he must think she has something he is looking for. She tells Picard that she does not. She gives him a kiss on the cheek and gives him money and tells him to consider it a retainer. She puts the money inside the neck hole of his Starfleet uniform and tells him that next time he needs to wear a suit.
Alone in his office now, Picard stares out the window in wonder at passing cars. He says “exit” aloud and leaves the holodeck. As he is leaving, there is a knock on Dixon Hill’s office door. Picard tells the knocker that he will have to return later. The doors of the holodeck close with Picard back in the ship’s corridors. We see a man enter Hill’s office and ask “where are you?” Picard saves settings outside the holodeck doors and gives a holodeck off command.
In the next scene, we are at what appears to be a bridge officer’s meeting. Picard is excitedly describing automobiles. Worf is confused so Data tells him that automobiles are an ancient earth device used primarily for transportation. Data goes on. He says automobiles were seen as a source of status and virility and used often in teenage mating rituals. Wesley – who I guess is allowed in on these meetings now – is intrigued by “teenage mating rituals.” Picard is still excited about the holodeck and he tells everyone he is going again. He says next time he will dress the part. Dr. Crusher stands up and wipes lipstick from Picard’s face. [The woman from the holodeck kissed his cheek… I guess it stayed on his face?] While she is wiping lipstick from Picard’s face, he invites Dr. Crusher to come with him. She agrees. Crusher grimaces when she realizes she is not going alone with the Captain. He excitedly suggests inviting the ship’s 20th century historian, Whalen. Picard is still beside himself with disbelief about the holodeck.
Picard mentions the woman on the holodeck kissing him, and how real it felt. Riker suddenly sits up and begins paying attention to the meeting.
Picard finally gets around to business. He has Riker explain the purpose of their Bridge Officer’s meeting. Riker explains that the Jarada race are diplomatically important to the Federation. He says that previous Federation attempts to establish a relationship have failed due to how easily irritated their people can be. Riker tells us that a mispronunciation of a greeting, by a Starfleet officer, caused a twenty year rift between Starfleet and the Jarada. Troi tells everyone that the Captain has to recite the entire greeting without making any mistakes. Data explains – without realizing the pressure he is placing on the Captain – how even the slightest error can be catastrophic. Troi continues telling Data that the Captain is aware and Data continues to missing the social cue and return the conversation toward how even the slightest mistake will be a problem. Picard abruptly announces that the meeting is adjourned.
In the hallway after the meeting, Data asks Geordi while the Captain does not want all the available information from previous Jarada encounters and La Forge suggests that if you have seen the Jarada react once, you do not need to see it again. Data then tells Geordi that Dixon Hill is an intriguing character and Geordi describes him as a twentieth century Sherlock Holmes.
Data: Ah, but was his modus operandi not dissimilar? Worth investigating!
Geordi: Indubitably, my dear Data. Indubitably.
Data goes to the ship’s computer and asks for all biographical information on fictional character Dixon Hill. The ship’s computer gives him every text involving said character and we see him read it at the computer at a speed laughably fast but probably appropriate for an advanced android.
The Captain’s log narrates that the Jarada rendezvous is still eleven hours away. He says that he is about to re-enter the world of Dixon Hill and this time he will be properly dressed. Picard has invited the ship’s fiction expert, Whalen, and stats that Dr. Crusher will join them shortly. Suddenly Data enters the room, dressed appropriately for earth in the 1940s, and he requests permission to accompany Picard. He also tells him that he is totally versed for the time period.
Data, Whalen, and Picard step through the holodeck door and into a busy street. They are in San Francisco, California, in 1941. A newspaper salesman recognizes Picard as “Dix.” Picard says that he would like to buy a newspaper but does not have any money on hand. The newspaper man tells him to pay next time.
Picard reads the paper. Hitler on the move. Roosevelt presses Congress for British aid. DiMaggio streak reaches 37. Picard mispronounces the famous baseball player’s name and is corrected by Data. As Data and Whalen explain the 20th century to Picard, the newspaper man listens on in disbelief. He is particularly disbelieving that Cleveland’s pitching staff would be capable of ending Joltin’ Joe’s hitting streak. Data continues.
Data: The record will stand until 2026 when a shortstop for the London Kings…
Newspaper man: Hey Dix, what gives with this guy?
Picard tells the man that Data is from South America.
Picard sees in the paper that a wealthy socialite was murdered and blames himself saying that he should have listened to the woman. Whalen reminds Picard that the woman is a page from a book.
A man approaches Picard and tells him that he has done it this time and that his goose is cooked. He asks Picard where he was the night before between ten and midnight. Picard says it would be hard to explain and the man tells him that he will have time to come up with something as he is going downtown. Picard realizes that the holodeck story is moving forward, and smiles, then gets into character and asks why. The apparently plain clothed police detective tells him for the murder of Jessica Bradley. The officer tells Picard that he found Dixon Hill’s business card in her purse.
On the bridge, Riker rushes in and asks for a status report. Yar tells him that the ship is being probed from long range. She says that it is most likely the Jarada but that she cannot be certain. Suddenly we see the entire ship shaking, computer screens running amok, doors opening at random and then also closing.
Riker gets a message from the Jarada. They tell him that they are speaking to him in the human language and that it is time to be greeted in their own language. Riker replies and the Jarada note immediately that he is not the captain. He tells them that he is not and suggests screen to screen visual communication. They tell him that the request is offensive and that they will not show themselves to a mere subordinate.
Jarada: We await your captain’s greeting with growing unrest. End communication.
Riker instructs La Forge to find the Captain in the holodeck.
Dr. Crusher is dressed for 1940s Earth and stands at the holodeck doors. The computer instructs her to enter when ready. However, because she can do so, the doors open and close in her face a couple of times first. Then she steps through despite the malfunction anyway.
We see Dr. Crusher struggle to walk in heels and she steps into the police precinct. She is greeting by Data.
Data: Hiya Doc, what’s cookin’?
Dr. Crusher: You know, I had some trouble getting through. Where’s the Captain?
Data: He’s on ice.
Dr. Crusher: What?
Data: He’s bein’ grilled.
Whalen explains that Picard is being interrogated because the police think he committed a murder. Dr. Crusher is suddenly very excited and asks why they are all not being interrogated. She suggests that maybe she should go and help him. Whalen tells her that Picard is having the time of his life in there and she complains “why should he have all the fun?”
We see Picard’s interrogation. After the police officer tells him to answer the questions again, from the top, Picard smiles and states that he has read all of this before and that it is all absolutely as it should be.
Outside the doors to the holodeck, Geordi tries to enter. He communicates with Riker that he cannot find the Captain. Riker, gruffly, reminds him that Picard is at the holodeck.
Geordi: I’m at the holodeck. Something has gone wrong.
Riker: What are you saying Lt.?
Geordi: I can’t communicate with him, I can’t access the program, and I can’t open the doors.
On the bridge, Riker puts Yar in charge and announces he is going to holodeck 3. Wesley asks if he can come, too, and initially Riker tells him no. However, Troi reminds Riker that Wesley’s mother is missing, too, so Riker changes his mind and lets him come along.
In the holodeck simulation, Picard is still being interrogated. He tells the interrogator that this is no longer amusing. The interrogator leaves and another police detective tells Picard that the first detective’s old lady has been giving him a hard time. Picard tells the new guy that he needs to get out of there and the new guy tells him that he will see what he can do.
In the waiting room in the precinct, Dr. Crusher observes another woman applying make-up. With great fascination, she opens a make-up mirror and begins doing the same. A policeman – not with the Enterprise crew – has been observing this and is smiling. Dr. Crusher asks him if there is something on his mind.
Man: Yeah. But I’m not sure it can be repeated in mixed company.
He goes on to tell Dr. Crusher she is a good looking broad. He asks if she likes Tommy Dorsey and tells her that he has two tickets to the dance tomorrow night.
Outside the holodeck, Riker and Wesley arrive and meet up with Geordi. Wesley gets to work on accessing the holodeck. Riker asks if there is anything he can do and Geordi tells him no, that they have to go through this millimeter by millimeter.
Inside the simulation, Picard is finally being released. One of the officers tells him that they know he is dealing with Redblock and that it does not help his case. Picard says he will keep that in mind. One of the officers hands him a cigarette and Picard awkwardly smokes it. The officer invites Picard over for dinner and Picard says he has other duties. The officer asks him “blonde or brunette?” Outside in the lobby, he sees something and gives Picard a knowing look. Dr. Crusher joins the Captain. Standing about 8 inches apart, nose to nose, she asks if he had a good time. He says he does not know and tells her that it all almost seems too real.
Picard: I must say you wear it well. I’m glad you could make it.
Dr. Crusher: I thank you, Mr. Hill.
Picard: Maybe we should be getting back to The Enterprise.
Dr. Crusher: We already are on the Enterprise.
She asks a very flustered Picard if they have time to see his office. Whalen does not read the room and asks if he can join them. Data – still using a bad 1940s accent – says “me too, boss. I’d love to take a gander.” Dr. Crusher stares daggers at both of them and then rolls her eyes. The four of them enter his office.
Inside the office, they run into the man we saw entering his office earlier in the episode. Whalen recognizes the man as Felix Leech. Picard tells Leech he will have to call on him another day because he has somewhere else to be and Leech tells Picard he is being quite rude. Leech pulls out a handgun and tells Picard that they have urgent business and that he is not going anywhere. The Enterprise crew raises their hands.
Outside the holodeck doors, Yar communicates to Riker that they are approaching the Jaradan sector but they have received no word. Geordi tells Riker that Ensign Crusher believes the malfunction may have been caused by the Jaradan probe. Geordi says that if Wesley is right, the anomaly trapping the Captain in the holodeck will be very difficult to locate.
Inside the holodeck, Leech tells Picard that he was hired to locate a certain object and that he demands to know what the Captain has done with it. Picard, Data, and Dr. Crusher begin looking around the office for whatever the item might be. Whalen, in character, taslks to Leech.
Whalen: Take it from me, Leech. You’ll never find it. Now… give me the gun.
[Leech shoots him.]
Dr. Crusher claps her gloved hands in approval until everyone realizes to their horror that Whalen is actually bleeding. Dr. Crusher tells Picard that Whalen has massive internal bleeding and that they need to get him to sick bay.
Picard: How could this happen!?
Leech: It will happen again if you don’t cooperate.
Picard takes the gun from Leech and strikes him. Leech is outrage but he runs away. Dr. Crusher advises all of them that if they do not get Whalen to sick bay, he will die. Picard gives an exit command to the computer and it does not respond. Picard sends Data to find the exit doors in the hallway. Data reports to Picard that there is a programming malfunction and that the computer refuses to identify the exits. Picard shouts more loudly at the computer to no avail.
From the bridge, Riker again calls to the holodeck and Geordi tells him that they have nothing yet. Riker tells him that they are running out of time and that the Jarada will expect the Captain’s greeting. Geordi tells Riker that he may have to stall them.
Dr. Crusher is still working on Whalen. Leech returns with two other men. One of the two men identifies himself as Cyrus Redblock. He states that he supposes “Dixon Hill” would not have hidden the item in his office. Dr. Crusher says that he should get started looking around because it’s obvious they are going to do it anyway and she declares the conversation to be a waste of time.
Redblock: Good manners, madam, are never a waste of time. Civility, gentleman. Always civility.
Redblock’s other man asks if he should throw Whalen in the garbage. Dr. Crusher says he is not dead. Redblock says the room next door will be good enough for now. As the armed man approaches Whalen, Picard grabs him by the wrist and says “don’t touch him.”
Redblock looks over at Leech and asks which one struck him. Leech says it was Hill and Redblock nods at him. He walks over to Picard and pistol whips him, leaving him with a bloody lip. Picard motions for Data not to interfere.
Another newcomer enters the office and calls out to “Dix.” Redblock’s man disarms him and punches him in the gut. Redblock says he will not tolerate disrespect.
Data: Your devotion to etiquette is highly admirable, sir, however your methods leave much to be desired.
Redblock: Huh. What have we hear?
Leech: He looks like a ghost.
Redblock: Yeah. Where do you suppose he’s from?
Leech: Where were you hatched anyway?
Data: I was created on a planet…
Data: South America.
Redblock says he has been all over the world and has never seen anything like Data. Picard announces to the group that Data is not from this world and that none of them are. The Captain goes on to tell them that they are from a world of fabulous riches. Leech points out that Dixon Hill is a private detective who has never mentioned any of this before and Dixon Hill’s friend in the doorway agrees with Leech saying even he wouldn’t buy that line of guff. Picard says he is not Dixon Hill. He says he only looks like Dixon Hill. Data joins the Captain and tells the room that Picard is only a knock off or a cheap imitation of the real Dixon Hill.
The conversation continues. Redblock says he will not fall for this and Hill’s friend in the doorway tells Picard and Data to give it up. Data informs the friend in the doorway that he is also not real.
Leech: I do not want ot hear anymore of this. You are making me crazy.
Leech asks Redblock if he can kill them one by one. Redblock says that he is considering testing the Captain’s theory by killing one of them. Dr. Crusher says they have already tested the theory by shooting Whalen and that this is all so senseless. Redblock counters that a senseless killing is immoral but killing with a purpose can be ingenious.
Leech: Well said, Mr. Redblock. What is our purpose.
Redblock: We are on a quest for knowledge, Mr. Leech. We want the item.
Leech asks again if he can kill Picard and Redblock says no. He says to kill the woman instead. With Leech’s gun at Crusher’s head, Picard says he has the item. He promises to explain to Redblock where it is if Leech backs off. Redblock tells him to put the gun down. Picard says there will be a price for getting the item and the price is helping them to keep Whalen alive.
On the bridge, Troi tells Riker that they cannot wait much longer. Riker decides that they need to tell the Jaradan and calls for hailing frequencies to be opened. Once the frequencies are opened, a painfully high pitched noise permeates the bridge. Riker calls for frequencies to be closed. Geordi calls to the bridge and says they believe they have something. Wesley is called upon to explain the situation to Riker. He tells Riker that he believes he has a solution but that he is not sure if he should do it. Wesley says that if the hologram is not fixed correctly everyone inside could vanish. Wesley tells him that more study of the situation will not change the risk. Riker tells him to do it.
Inside the hologram, Picard is trying to explain to Redblock that they need to get Whalen to their ship’s sickbay. He mentions the word computer and Data tries to explain what a computer is. Leech asks Redblock, again, if he can kill Data because Data is really beginning to irritate him.
Wesley does something from the hallway and everyone in Dixon Hill’s office is temporarily in a severe blizzard. Then a moment later the holodeck doors are open. Picard tells Redblock that the doors are the way into their world. Redblock asks if this is a two-way passage. Picard says he can go through and then return. Redblock wants to go with him and Data states that it is not possible.
Redblock: One look at your sir is proof that anything is possible.
Redblock tells Picard to step aside so that he can enter the hallway, too. Redblock and Leech go through the doorway. He instructs the third member of their bad guy group to kill everyone once they are gone and to hide the bodies. In the hallway, Redblock and Leech slowly vanish into nothingness. Inside, Data disarms the other man and after getting permission from Picard, punches him out. Data then picks up Whalen and takes him to sick back.
Picard is alone in the holodeck simulation now with Dixon Hill’s friend. He tells the friend that he has to go. The friend notes that this is the big goodbye. They shake hands and PIcard starts to leave.
Friend: Tell me something, Dix. When you’re gone, will this world still exist? Will my wife and kids still be waiting for me at home?
Picard: I honestly don’t know. [long pause] Goodbye my friend.
The holodeck doors close on the friend and the room becomes dark. Picard goes to the bridge in his Dixon Hill outfit to greet the Jaradan.
He greets them in their language. After a long pause, they reply that he has honored them with his words of greeting and that a new day dawns between them. Everyone on the bridge applauds the Captain.
Riker: So, you have a nice vacation?
Picard: It was a nice place to visit, Number One, but I wouldn’t want to die there.
Geordi: Mr. Data, how was it?
Data: [In a 1940s American accent] It was raining in the city by the Bay. A hard rain. Hard enough to wash the slime…
Data: Sorry, sir.
Picard tells Geordi to take them out of orbit. Then he puts the fedora back on his own head and tells him to “step on it.”
This was a strange episode. Enjoyable in some ways… but strange.
After all the build-up, Picard’s greeting to the Jaradan lived up to expectations. The strange part was that there was no follow-up of any kind. The Jaradan said “good job on that” and Picard basically left immediately after the short greeting was over.
The bulk of the episode was built around a holodeck concept.
- Picard’s level of excitement for the holodeck – at the bridge officer’s meeting – cracked me up. We have seen the holodeck before. He was acting like a 20th Century person who time-traveled to the future.
- Riker – who only an episode ago was allegedly in love with Troi – got *very* interested in the holodeck once he learned that kissing on it was very real.
- I am not sure what to think about the idea that people can actually be harmed and/or die on a holodeck. Considering that this thing is largely used for training purposes, you might expect more safety measures to be built in.
- I am deeply disturbed by the idea that a computer malfunction could cause the people inside a holodeck to just disappear. Why would anyone ever get into a holodeck? Ever?
- If the two holodeck characters disappeared in the hallway, why did Picard have holodeck lipstick on his cheek earlier in the episode?
Dr. Crusher was clearly angling to play doctor with the Captain in this episode. She wanted to go alone with him to the simulation. She wanted to go alone with him to his office – a plan thwarted by Whalen and Data. When she and Picard finally saw each other in the simulation, they stand all but nose to nose. You could cut through the tension with a knife. I cannot help but think the situation had the potential to have gone very badly if Wesley had figured out how to see into the holodeck.
Yes. This is another “Wesley saves the day” episode. He also apparently knows every officer’s job better than the officer knows it. My opinion of Starfleet is… dim.
Data getting overly into a period piece character was hilarious with Sherlock Holmes and continues to be hilarious with the Dixon Hill simulation. In fact, if I could do this show over again, I would have one of the ship’s officers pick a setting for Data at the start of every episode and Brent Spiner would act out a character within the Data character in every episode.
Let’s talk about Picard. He is deeply interested in Napoleonic France and early 20th century America. These things are three to five hundred years before his own time. This is kind of like a modern person being deeply interested in the Spanish and British colonial period of the Americas. Sure, there are people who have interest in that time period, but it is a bit odd to fantasize about life in that time. Is Picard… a bit odd… for his time? I increasingly think so.
The episode took a strange existential turn near its conclusion. Picard and his team explain to the holograms that they are not real. One of the holograms is so troubled that he asks Picard if his family will exist after Picard leaves through the doorway and Picard says “I don’t know… bye!” The camera shot lingers in the holodeck as the man is left alone in there, in the dark, his circumstances unknown.
I guess this is all something to think about as humanity debates the simulation theory. Perhaps we are all extras on some spaceship’s holodeck as an odd ship’s captain lives out some kind of fantasy. And perhaps, any day now, the simulation will turn off and leave us alone in the dark.