Star Trek Reviews

Return to season list

Star Trek TNG - Season 2 - Episode 03

Star Trek TNG - 2x03 - Elementary, Dear Data

Originally Aired: 1988-12-5

Data enjoys a Sherlock Holmes holodeck program. [DVD]

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 4.63

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 55 4 21 5 7 16 22 29 31 13 13

- Uh, why not just cut the power to the holodeck? Sure evil hologram has computer control. He could stop you. But at least try!

- It's been said that the production of this episode cost tons of money because of the London set.
- Picard utters "merde" in this episode, which is a rather severe French curse word. Interesting how that gets by the sensors on American television. ;)

Remarkable Scenes
- Data "just throwing himself into the part" of Holmes.
- Data solving the first mystery by memorization and Geordi's reaction.
- Pulaski eavesdropping in ten forward, then taking the opportunity to bash on Data some more.
- I love the "odd surge of power" when the computer creates a Data-beating opponent. Foreshadowing maybe? ;)
- Picard flipping open his top hat startling both Worf and Data.
- Picard childishly regarding the mugger: "Data, let him go!"

My Review
A creative and fun episode with well placed humor. The debate regarding whether or not Data could handle an original mystery is fascinating and I love the verbal competitions between Pulaski and Geordi. The episode falls short however toward the end. When it is discovered that the hologram has become sentient, the entire situation is treated with the utmost lack of interest. As Picard says, the mission of the USS Enterprise is to seek out new life. But in this instance, when new life is discovered on the holodeck, it is treated as an inconvenience rather than a discovery. Moriarty should have received more than a pat on the back only to be forgotten for an unspecified period of time. I think the discovery of sentient holograms warrants a great deal of further study. But instead, Moriarty is casually swept under the rug, so the Enterprise can get back to making "important" discoveries. Indeed, this is not a technical problem but the exposition of a philosophy. Clearly, Picard et al do not see holographic life as to truly be life. This is an interesting position, given their undeniable respect for Data as a life form. Nevertheless, this contradiction, as perfectly realistic as it is for the characters to display, tramples all over the episode for me, reducing much of its potential greatness.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Sherlock on 2006-10-04 at 5:42pm:
    There are numerous mistakes that Data (actually the writers) make in regards to the Sherlock Holmes canon (one that comes to mind is Data saying Holmes only defeated Moriarty at Reichenbach at the cost of his own life), but despite it, I loved this episode and it's one of my favs. Daniel Davies gets special props for an outstanding Moriarty. He portrays him as intelligent and very aware, not evil.
    Brent Spiner and Levar Burton do a good job as well.
  • From Sherlock on 2006-10-07 at 12:41pm:
    Moriarty can clearly see Data, Geordi and Pulaski (and not who they pretend to be) and the arch before the computer bestows upon him the ability to defeat Data. He's looking at the trio oddly as Geordi imputs info with the arch.

    Another Problem:
    Data takes the paper that Moriarty drew the Enterprise on out of the holodeck. And when Geordi is looking at it, he's looking at it upside down!
  • From DSOmo on 2007-06-16 at 4:53pm:
    - So the computer can create an entity aware of its own consciousness? Not only is Moriarty aware of his own consciousness, he may have qualified for the Grand Prize ... Sentience! In "The Measure Of A Man," we are told a sentient being must have intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. Definitely, Moriarty is intelligent. Data states that the computer gave Moriarty consciousness. Troi backs this up when she senses that a "unifying force, or single consciousness is trying to bring it all into focus." All that remains then is to decide if Moriarty is self-aware. "He seems fairly self-aware to me" (to borrow a line that Picard uses in "The Measure Of A Man"). If Moriarty is self-aware, he is sentient. If he is sentient, he is entitled to all the rights granted sentient life forms in the Federation. Doesn't shutting him off constitute a violation of those rights?
    - The whole idea of Geordi misspeaking only one word and narrowly averting disaster must be very upsetting to the crew.
    - The piece of paper leaving the holodeck has already been mentioned (and Geordi looking at it upside down), but what about Dr. Pulaski stuffing herself full of crumpets? When she leaves, does that matter evaporate? Some people would think this wonderful. Enter a holodeck. Eat all you want. Walk out, all gone! ;)
  • From Brian D. Parsons on 2008-11-21 at 4:46pm:
    The Enterprise crew ignoring Moriarty after he agrees to be saved in memory wasn't entirely voluntary, per this entry from the IMDb article on this episode:

    "The producers, believing that the Sherlock Holmes character was in the public domain, were most surprised when the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle informed them that they still retained the copyright on the character. They did, however, allow the episode to be aired because they felt that the show had done the character justice. Litigation kept the sequel episode "Ship in a Bottle" off the air for nearly four years."
  • From hmad on 2010-03-12 at 1:46pm:
    The controversy of whether holograms have a right to sentience is later explored in the Voyager series w/ the EMH doctor and Hirogen Prey episodes.

    Federation never regarded anything artificially constructed from their own technology, no matter how sophisticated, as something that should have the capacity for true self-determination. Take for instance the ship's computer, massively powerful and integrated into everything yet has practically no autonomy or decision making ability. Seems hard-to imagine that there would be no AI based technology at some point unless it may have been purposely avoided. (Remember the M5 debacle on Kirk's enterprise?)

    @ DSomo: I thought about that too, best explanation may be that food and basic items are somehow replicated on demand within the holodeck for the user's consumption.
  • From rpeh on 2010-08-24 at 9:32am:
    The original review and subsequent comments have said most of what needs to be said, but I just want to point out that the corpse, strangled by his common-law wife is blatantly breathing as it lies on the ground. I know it's a minor point, but hey!

    One slightly amusing point is that the French translation doesn't have Picard using the word "merde". Evidently it was too rude - they have him saying something else altogether, although I don't know what it is.
  • From Jeff Browning on 2011-09-22 at 7:14pm:
    Perhaps obvious, but Daniel Davis who played Prof. Moriarty in this episode appeared as Niles in the Fran Descher sitcom "The Nanny".
  • From Inga on 2011-12-27 at 5:22pm:
    Personally, I find the idea of a hologram becoming sentient and self-aware, let alone being able to take control of the ship, a little far-fetched
  • From a2a on 2012-02-16 at 3:46am:
    I thought this was a rather brilliant episode. Good idea and good execution. I appreciated how the writers held back and did not have Moriati assume total control of the ship. That would've been somewhat predictable... and of course utterly unrealistic for someone so technologically out of date and rather out of the loop about his actual place in the world. But I can accept that someone with a brilliant scientific mind and a fiery curiosity (and some intense computer processing power in his cranium) could figure out a thing or two and poke rather aimlessly at the ship's controls - even getting the thing to jostle for a moment or two.

    Moriarty was an altogether excellent character, and it was great how he became something so much more than a campy villain towards the end. The episode looks forward to more profound holographic-lifeform themes in Voyager and other series, and looks backward to the resolution of The Long Goodbye, when Picard spoke frankly to the holographic characters, who were then compelled to try to leave the holodeck... In fact, there was an either intentional or perhaps subconscious direct allusion to that episode: Moriarty says, "I hate long goodbyes." Picard replies, "Well, a short goodbye then." A clever reference vaguely disguised within a play on words? Or just something that happened spontaneously in the writing?

    Small qualm: if this episode was a two-parter or something, I would've expected Moriarty's desire to leave the holodeck to have been elaborated on a bit more. As it was, he never made the rather obvious demand that Picard simply leave him running in the holodeck - he implicitly equated dying with not being able to leave, either literally or by anology... but as far as he was concerned, his entire existence had hitherto been on the holodeck... so, it seems that the status quo would've been a logical (although logistically inconvenient) demand... Of course, I can understand how someone of Moriarty's caliber, having had his eyes opened by this experience, would no longer be satisfied with his prior existence. And I can understand that the writers had to speed through some things...

    Actual Problem: if the ship's computer is both powerful and imaginative enough to create Moriarty, a rather brilliant, and most importantly *self-aware* being (arguably life-form), who is capable of learning, innovating, and free will... why on earth does Starfleet need people like Doctor Zimmerman and the holographic engineering industry?
  • From Dstyle on 2013-08-08 at 9:25am:
    Whenever someone is trapped in the holodeck (this episode, The Big Goodbye, Fistful of Datas, and more), I always wonder why they don't just get a transporter lock on them and beam them out. Oh, Dr. Pulaski is in danger in the holodeck? Well, we better dress in period costume to go in and get her out!

Prove to me that you are a real person and not a spam robot by typing in the text of this image:

Return to season list