“The Big Goodbye”
Written by Tracey Tormé
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Season 1, Episode 11
Production episode 40271-113
Original air date: January 11, 1988
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is about to have a rendezvous with the Jarada, a reclusive, particular species who sound very much like Daffy Duck. Picard must pronounce the greeting to them perfectly, or risk offending them. (The last contact with them saw a simple mispronunciation lead to 20 years of silence from the Jarada.)
Exhausted from his study of the language and the greeting with Troi, Picard is convinced by the counselor to take a break on the holodeck.
He runs the Dixon Hill program, based on a fictional private detective from 1940s San Francisco. Still in uniform, Hill’s secretary assumes he lost a bet, while a femme fatale with nice legs wishes to hire him to find out who’s trying to kill her.
Picard takes a break to meet with the senior staff and waxes rhapsodic about the holodeck program before discussing the Jarada. He then returns to the holodeck, joined initially by ship’s historian Whelan, as well as Data, who has read all the Dixon Hill stories. Upon his return to the holodeck, he discovers that the woman who hired him was murdered, and he’s immediately picked up by the police. He’s interrogated for quite some time before finally being released.
The Jarada hit the Enterprise with a scanning wave of sufficient intensity that it screws up the holodeck. The crew can’t access it, and Picard’s group cannot get the exit to open. That latter issue becomes problematic when Leech—a flunky of Cyrus Redblock, the local gangster who has hired Hill to find “the object”—shoots Whelan, and he starts to bleed.
Picard strikes Leech, who runs away, returning with the well-spoken Redblock. Attempts to stall Redblock on the holodeck match Riker’s attempts to stall the Jarada, and both prove fruitless. However, Wes is able to open the holodeck door. Picard tricks Redblock and Leech into walking into the Enterprise corridor—which makes them disappear—and Data and Crusher bring Whelan to sickbay while Picard runs to the bridge to deliver the greeting to the Jarada while still wearing a suit, trenchcoat, and hat.
After which, he orders La Forge to leave orbit, and “step on it.”
What Happens On The Holodeck, Stays On The Holodeck: The first holodeck-gone-bad episode, which would become a cliché in due course. The notion that the holodeck could ever allow someone inside it to be hurt is distressing, and the apparent risk that simply shutting the holodeck off would kill the people inside it is ridiculous. Who built this thing, anyhow?
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard invites Crusher to the holodeck with him, then pours cold water on the whole thing by inviting Whelan along. He is later blown away by Crusher in period dress—as well he should be. Seriously, the whole episode’s worth it just to see Gates McFadden in the pink suit, hat, gloves, and net. Hubba.
If I Only Had a Brain : Data’s Sherlock Holmes obsession from “Lonely Among Us” is referenced, and the similarities between Hill and Holmes lead to Data reading the entire Hill oeuvre. The android joins the trip to the holodeck and even occasionally modulates into period dialogue to entertaining effect. His android skin tone leads to questions, which are put off by claiming that he’s from South America. (It’s unclear if this is akin to Manuel being from Barcelona on Fawlty Towers or the Coneheads being from France )
There’s also a hilarious bit of business when Data tries to move a floor lamp, doesn’t realize he yanks the cord out of the socket, keeps shaking the lamp to try to get it to work, not noticing Picard find a new socket for the lamp, causing it to alight again, with Data smiling, thinking he did something.
The Boy!?: Wes volunteers to help figure out what’s wrong with the holodeck. Riker refuses until Troi gently reminds him that his mother’s trapped in there, too. He’s much more self-conscious and nervous than confident and smug, which is a better look on him.
Welcome Aboard: Some truly stellar guest casting here. Harvey Jason does a fun impersonation of Peter Lorre as Leech, and there’s nobody in the world better equipped to do a Sydney Greenstreet pastiche than Lawrence Tierney, who owns the episode as Cyrus Redblock (a name obviously derived from the actor he’s riffing on). The bit parts all feel like they could’ve been extras in The Maltese Falcon, most notably Mike Genovese as the desk sergeant who hits on Crusher and the ubitquitous Dick Miller as the news vendor.
I Believe I Said That. “You do spell knife with a K.”
“I spell knife with an N. But then, I never could spell.”
Troi and Picard discussing language.
Trivial Matters: Picard’s interest in Dixon Hill would resurface in several episodes, as well as Star Trek: First Contact and a few novels, most notably A Hard Rain by Dean Wesley Smith, the vast majority of which takes place in the holodeck during a Dixon Hill program, written in the style of an old pulp magazine.
The news vendor’s complaint that Cleveland has no pitching shows a lack of research—Bob Feller had been the Indians’ ace for years, and he was generally one of the finest pitchers ever to draw breath. Nobody who actually followed baseball would say that Cleveland had no pitching in 1941. The London Kings player who broke Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak would later be revealed to be Buck Bokai on the Deep Space Nine episode “If Wishes Were Horses.”
Make It So: A delightful episode that was a lot more fun to watch the first time than it is now, when the holodeck-gone-wrong plot has been done to death and back again.
But period pieces are often fun, and this is a nifty reworking of The Maltese Falcon with lots of funny lines, charming performances by all the actors, who are so clearly having fun playing dress-up and play-acting. Of particular note are Sir Patrick Stewart, who gets more and more comfortable with the role of Hill as the episode progresses, and Brent Spiner, who modulates hilariously into the cheesy 1940s slang.
The episode also raises some interesting philosophical questions, particularly in Picard’s final conversation with Lieutenant McNary where the cop asks if he actually exists and Picard can’t give him a good answer.
It won a Peabody Award, and quite frankly deserved it. A sheer joy all around.
Warp factor rating: 7.
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a new novel out: the Dungeons & Dragons tome Dark Sun: Under the Crimson Sun. You should buy it. Really. You can follow Keith online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.