Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 2 Episode 3

Elementary, Dear Data

Aired Unknown Dec 05, 1988 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (10)

Write A Review
out of 10
265 votes
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “I accept your challenge, Doctor!”

    When the crew arrives three days ahead of schedule to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Victory, the crew uses the time to have a break and Data & Geordi decide to play Sherlock and Watson in the holodeck. After Geordi tells Data that they should go through a new mystery, Dr. Pulaski bets Data could never solve a real mystery so Data accepts her challenge and all three go solve a mystery in the holodeck. Geordi asks the computer to give data an adversary “capable of defeating Data” the nemesis of Holmes, Moriarty, kidnaps Dr. Pulaski and seems to have control of the Enterprise.

    I know people have beef on Dr. Pulaski being “mean” to Data, especially his fans. But I always found it amusing especially in this episode. They are no Spock and McCoy, but they seem to work.

    That’s what’s great about the Roddenberry Star Treks. Whatever seemed bad on paper looked nicely done on screen. After all, everyone didn’t think TNG would ever touch the original but look what happened, 7 seasons were spawned. So the chemistry between Data and Pulaski works, like I said no Spock and McCoy, but it is there, and people only despise Pulaski because she replaced Dr. Crusher, teased Data a lot and others.

    This is another holodeck malfunction episode, not as great as the Big Goodbye but it is fun to see Data play Holmes and have Geordi and Pulaski watch to see if he can take on a new mystery. In the end Picard promises Moriarty that he will return to bring him out of the holodeck when the technology evolved, the sequel to this episode “Ship in a Bottle” will come on Season Six. I recommend this episode

    I give this episode 4 out of 5 stars.(8.0 on
  • Prof. Moriaty enterst the world of ST.

    One of the earliest episodes where the show begins to show what it will ultimately be capable of. The insertion of the Sherlock Holmes theme appeals to me, so be warned if you dont like that yourself. It is also another holodeck episode which allows for the location of 19th/20th turn of the century setting - which I personally also liked.

    The introduction of Moriaty is what will become the start of at least one other special episode, which I also found entertaining. The plot is simple enough as Jordi's lack of thought in his instructions creates the ultimate adversary for Data in the form of a sentient holodeck character. Though the fight between the two is no more than a tussle at best, there is always the threat that Moriaty could destroy the Enterprise if he ever learns how to fully control the computer.

    Though nothing truly important happens, we get the creation of a thread subplot and more character development from this episode and Dr. Pulaski's character develops a soft edge to her hardened exterior.

    Not a necessary watch unless you love any of the following themes: Holodeck, Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Starts out as a fun but lightweight story but picks up a surprising amount of depth by the end.

    This was the third "holodeck malfunction" episode on TNG, after season 1's "The Big Goodbye" and "1101001". Those were solid episodes, but this one is definitely an improvement. The writing is better, the acting is better, and there is a great villain to spice things up.

    The initial plot -- Geordi and Data fooling around with a Sherlock Holmes holodeck program -- is fun but thin, the kind of thing that (particularly with the overused "teaching Data to be human" theme) would have generated a mediocre episode on its own. But once we realize that Dr. Moriarty has the power to wreak havoc (his discovery of the holodeck's nature), things pick up considerably.

    That said, I would have hesitated to rate this episode as anything above "solid" or "average" had it not included the closing dialogue between Picard and Moriarty - a nicely poignant bit of writing acted out superbly by Patrick Stewart and Daniel Davis. This is one case where a great ending gives substance to everything that happened before.
  • In a holodeck program perfectly created for Data, he and La Forge enter into a Sherlock Holmes-type mystery and, of course, get more than they bargain for in the process.

    In a very clever episode to test Data's true intellectual prowess, he and La Forge and Dr. Pulaski attempt to create an Arthur Conan Doyle style mystery set in London in Victorian times. The trick will be to create a mystery in the Holmesian style, yet make it unique to Data's set of parameters. A simple faux pas leads to an adversary capable of defeating the entire ship and not just Sherlock Holmes. Picard gets called in to clean up the mess and does so artfully. A great episode that would be typified in the full-length movies by having a great Data and Picard story intertwined.
  • Data and Geordi go on mystery adventure on holodeck 3. Data being Sherlock Holmes, as Geordi as Dr Watson. Geordi gives up Data did not give him the chance to play along. Geordi discuss with Data discussion on how he mystery is supposed to be fun.

    Data and Geordi go on mystery adventure on holodeck 3. Data being Sherlock Holmes, as Geordi as Dr Watson. Geordi gives up Data did not give him the chance to play along. Geordi discuss with Data discussion on how he mystery is supposed to be fun. They go back to the holodeck it is still to easy for Data. So Geordi requests the computer to create a storyline with a character that could outsmart Data. Things become strange so they try to shut the program down, but access is denied. A interesting but average plot. I give it a 5.0
  • 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'.