Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 2 Episode 3

Elementary, Dear Data

Aired Unknown Dec 05, 1988 on CBS
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Stardate: 42286.3 Data, Geordi, and Dr. Pulaski reenact a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the holodeck, one specifically designed by the computer to defeat Data. Modifications to one of the characters, Moriarty, cause him to take on consciousness and a will of his own, leading to some unexpected consequences.moreless

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  • So he dies when they destroy this Enterprise ship in the movie "Generations"?

    I suppose the poor Dr. Morarity dies when they crash the Enterprise in the movie "Generations" and the ship is destroyed, right?
  • An attempt to remake "The Big Goodbye" fails - but not by much....

    "Elementary, Dear Data" is a pretty good Star Trek: TNG episode - but it is a clear rip-off of "The Big Goodbye."

    Season one episode "The Big Goodbye" (that sees Picard, Data, & Dr. Crusher stuck in the Holodeck with the safety protocols deactivated) is a Star Trek: TNG episode that is not only a very good episode but also a Peabody & Emmy Award winner. Season two's "Elementary, Dear Data" attempts to mimic the success of "The Big Goodbye" by creating a hostile Holodeck and similar themes espoused in "The Big Goodbye."

    The similarities are astounding: in "The Big Goodbye," Picard is thrilled to play the part of Dixon Hill - in "Elementary, Dear Data," Data throws himself into the role of Sherlock Holmes (although, one would think that if Data is a Holmes expert he would have played him more like Robert Downey Jr. did). In "The Big Goodbye," holographic antagonist Cyrus Redblock realizes that he is on a ship and questions his own existence - in "Elementary, Dear Data," the holographic antagonist Professor Moriarty realizes he is on a ship, he is alive, and threatens to destroy the crew if he is not kept alive.

    Even though Wesley Crusher does not come in and save the day AGAIN (thankfully) and despite the many obvious similarities between both episodes, "Elementary, Dear Data" is not as good as "The Big Goodbye" - if not just because of the docked points for originality. "Elementary, Dear Data" does not have the style, energy, or character that "The Big Goodbye" had. It tries to be stylish but looks washed out and simply cannot compete with the film noir style of "The Big Goodbye." It attempts to be character-oriented as Geordi and Polaski try to see if Data can actually solve a mystery (which he has done time and time again on the freakin' bridge of the Enterprise) but then pitters out when it is discovered that Moriarty is alive. Finally, the scene in "The Big Goodbye" featuring Cyrus Redblock's realization of his own existence and subsequent "death" is far more poignant than the desperation in Moriarty's eyes in "Elementary, Dear Data."

    I am not a huge fan of the Holodeck episodes and while "Elementary, Dear Data" is a generally fun time, it's not a particularly strong episode.moreless
  • Geordi attempts to create a worthwhile opponent for Data in a Sherlock Holmes recreation.

    This episode showcases the importance TNG's expanded second season budget, with a new jaw dropping London street set created just for an hour of tv. (Sets like these, along with more location shooting for beam-downs, allowed Planet Hell - the stage used for all planetary "locations" in season one – to be retired, greatly improving the show.) This is a "Data" episode that grew organically out of Data's experience in "The Big Goodbye", and like most of the episodes that revolve around our favorite android, "Elementary, Dear Data" is well written and well acted. In fact, this is one that might have been a two parter had it been made in a later season. Daniel Davis guest stars as Professor Moriarty and is fabulous.moreless
  • Shades of future holo AI

    The major part of this episode consists in it being another "theme" based holodeck story; with the common malfunction aspect thrown in for good measure. While a lot of how you view this episode will depend on whether you are a fan of these types of adventures to begin with, the episode actually poses some thought provoking questions to the viewer considering the exisential status of holo-created entities and the possibility of their evolution; partiucalairly the potentiality of them developing self-consciousness/awareness and the ramifications that develop from this new form of existence.

    Does the fact that Moriarity becomes aware that there is more to his daily surroundings or reality require us to confirm this or to contribute to his knowledge since he made the initial bound himself. Keep in mind that trying to see beyond the surface is a trait that is characteristically human and a trait of our intelligence or mental processess. We recognize that there is more beyond simply what our senses provide to us, and science has strived since it's creation to try and illuminate what stays dark and hidden to our limited senses. Does the fact that Moriarity now possesses self-awareness void our right to end his program; essentially is shutting him down now the equivalent of the "murder" of sentient being? These are just two issues that can be examined through this episode and they play a big part in elevating this story beyond just the average.

    Although all of these existential changes and subsequent questions occur through an unintential command issued by La Forge, a lot of them become the standard and are purposely programmed or developed in holo-creations in the Star Trek universe. The main one that comes to mind is the Doctor in ST: Voyager. In the Doctor we get a holo-creation that not only recognizes that he is a creation in a larger or different reality, but also a character that is able to interact with this reality through the use of the ship computer and is ultimately able to start and end his own existence at whim.moreless
  • Not without its flaws, but a fun romp nonetheless

    The show's second holodeck episode is a foray into territory previously touched upon in the first season's 'The Big Goodbye', specifically: what happens if a holodeck character becomes self-aware?

    Now, admittedly there are some problems with the premise. Firstly, it's both perplexing and disturbing that the ship's computer can actually create a sentient being at a mere command. What? How? REALLY?? And I'm similarly unconvinced that Moriarty ever really posed much of a threat to the ship. I mean, what could he really have done from within the holodeck?

    Niggles aside, this is a fun, entertaining and enjoyable episode. The sets are great and the actors all seem to be having tremendous fun (although some of the fake cockney accents are more than a little cringe-worthy: why do American actors find it so hard to do convincing British accents?) I also I liked the portrayal of Moriarty: sophisticated, intelligent and formiddable...a very gentlemanly adversary and one that would make a welcome return in the sixth season episode 'Ship in a Bottle'.moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Moriarty calls the computer "Mr. Computer" even though the ship's computer clearly speaks in a female voice.

    • After Moriarty gives the sketch of the Enterprise to Data, Geordi asks, "What's wrong, Data?" Data hands him the page. Geordi says, "Data, this is impossible," and he flips the paper over so that it faces the camera. At this point we see the drawing right-side-up, which means that Geordi was looking at it upside down.

    • Trivia: In this episode, Picard utters a profanity other than the usual "damn" or "hell" we see in most Trek series, saying "merde" in response to finding out that Moriarty was programmed with skills that would defeat Data. "Merde" is a French word that translates in English to a 4-letter word for excrement.

    • After the first holodeck adventure, Geordi tells the computer to freeze-program, but the fire keeps burning in the fireplace.

    • Data says Holmes defeated Moriarty only at the cost of his own life. That's not correct; because of the outcry by Doyle's readers over the great detective's death, Holmes "survived" the fall at Reichenbach Falls and returned in "The Adventure of the Empty House."

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Data: We shall return to the holodeck where I shall dare it to defeat me. And you, madam, are invited to be a witness.
      Dr. Pulaski: I wouldn't miss it.

    • Dr. Pulaski: To feel the thrill of victory, there has to be the possibility of failure. Where's the victory in winning a battle you can't possibly lose?
      Data: Are you suggesting there is some value in losing?
      Dr. Pulaski: Yes, yes, that's the great teacher. We humans learn more often from a failure or a mistake than we do from an easy success.

  • NOTES (2)


    • Title:
      Referencing the phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson," commonly attributed to Sherlock Holmes in the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, the phrase never appears in any of the author's works. The only time Holmes ever uses something similar is in "The Crooked Man," when he simply tells Watson, "Elementary."

    • Sherlock Holmes Stories
      Asked to create a Sherlock Holmes mystery for Data, the computer combines elements from two Holmes mysteries. Jabez Wilson and The Red Headed League are, of course, from The Red Headed League, but the murder method (sending a venomous snake down a bell cord) is from The Speckled Band. The first mystery (the one chosen at random at the beginning) is A Scandal in Bohemia.