Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Big Goodbye"

2 stars

Air date: 1/11/1988
Written by Tracy Torme
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Picard takes to the holodeck for a little R&R, playing the role of Dixon Hill, a 1940s private detective that would be at home in a film noir, if only this episode had the gumption to actually do noir as a style rather than simply a generic concept. If the point of this episode is merely to do a period piece with 1940s costumes and sets, it's a success. If the point is to tell a compelling story, it's a failure.

The funny thing about TNG season one is its pace; at times it's almost startlingly slow, with simple, straightforward plots. "The Big Goodbye" is an example of not just slow, but also uneventful — far too much so for its own good. There simply isn't an hour's worth of material here, and the payoff is too lacking in juice and irony to be worth the wait.

It's the first Holodeck Run Awry episode — a TNG concept that would go on to become a tradition and ultimately a cliche. I should probably note, however, that "awry" is far too extreme a word for this exceptionally restrained episode. Even tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney, as big gangster Cyrus Redblock, seems hobbled by the episode's restraint. His right-hand man Felix (Harvey Jason) is more colorful, but also far more annoying, and way too stupid to be plausible.

There is one interesting question that the episode poses: Picard exits the holodeck and leaves Hill's cop friend pondering whether his life is simply an illusion — which, of course, it is. It's a question that would surface many more times in Trek after this story.

Previous episode: Haven
Next episode: Datalore

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20 comments on this review

Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 8:03pm (UTC -6)
I've been working my way through all the live action Trek (not watching "Star Trek: The Animated Series"). I think "The Big Goodbye" is the best TNG episode I've seen thus far (I've been watching them in the order they're mentioned in on this page).
Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
Jammer, you say Felix is too stupid to be plausible. But may I point something out? The entire simulation, and it's fictional characters (including Felix) is a program. This means Felix himself is a program or subroutine, and e.g., not sentient. So his "stupidness" might just be a result of a lazy holodeck programmer, and that I would say IS plausible.

Incidentally, I fully agree with your two star rating for this episode. If I had to watch this or Haven for a week continuously, I would gladly choose Haven. : )
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 9:58pm (UTC -6)
"The Big Goodbye" has one of my favorite lines of Trek ever:

Cyrus Redblock: (to Doctor Crusher):
"Manners, good lady, are never a waste of time. Civility, gentlemen, always civility. (to his hired thug): Get that stiff outta here..."
Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 11:20am (UTC -6)
It's not that bad, at least I've found it more interesting than "Haven".

Yet, both episodes make me feel a bit uneasy, because they have NOTHING to do with what I had in mind when I wanted to watch Star Trek. The real sci-fi seems to be missing.
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 8:18am (UTC -6)
Again, am slightly more sympathetic to this oe than Jammer, but I agree it is very much a 'slow burner' and not in the sense of a 'Wire' episode either. Whilst on a mission to a diplomatic rendezvous with the Insectoid and notoriously punctilious Jarada, Picard chooses to enter the Holodeck world of Dixon Hill, but becomes trapped when the holodeck malfunctions due to a probe scan.

The obvious logical hole in such a plot device aside, and the fact that one probe can cause such potentially dangerous malfunctions meaning I question whether they would have commissioned the concept in the first place, this episode is very much one to appreciate the 1940s 'film noir' episode sets as opposed to the story which is, as Jammer says, all setup with relatively little in the way of payoff.

I Did enjoy the guest cast with one glaring exception. Lawrence Tierney as Redblock and Everyman Dick Miller as the News Vendor arguing with Data's revelation that DiMaggio's hitting streak would be snapped by the Clevland Indians are both excellent. Gary Armagnac and David Selburg as Detective Mcnary and Historian Whalen are also excellent. The one bum note is Harvey Jason as Felix Leech, whose ridiculous line delivery probably knocks half a star off this one!

I'm slightly torn here, as I recognise the story's inherent weakness but did enjoy both the sets and the Guest cast- the script's rather meandering nature again holds back what could have been a very strong episode. Nevertheless again a 2.5 star rating which continues a run of fair to reasonable eps. Sadly it isn't long before two of the most notorious clunkers in the show's history...
Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 7:14pm (UTC -6)
A big frustration to me was Picard's reluctance to let Data take the bad guys by surprise and beat the crap out of them. This was not a "Prime Directive issue" Nobody had to play by the rules.
Wed, Sep 10, 2014, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
I would give this one zero stars just for being guilty of starting the holodeck gone awry trope that would haunt Star Trek for the next decade. Why use Star Trek as vehicle to to do bad period pieces?
Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
I always get very frustrated at Cmdr Riker when I watch this one. He knows that the [Aliens of the week whose name I have forgotten] are very picky about language and protocol, yet he keeps talking to them!! At one point, he opens a channel and starts with "We demand..." before being cut off. Not smart.
They should have just stayed silent until Captain Picard and co. were freed.

You can tell it's an early holodeck episode as Geordi is concerned that if they simply shut off the holodeck then all the real people inside will disappear along with the characters. Scary new tech!
Sun, Jan 4, 2015, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
I hadn't seen this episode in years and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Yes, the noir concept could've been taken further, and the story is routine especially in hindsight. But the cast shines. After 12 episodes of being just the speechifying captain, it's refreshing to see Picard so excited about what is essentially a 24th-century video game. And there are moments of pure comedy gold, such as Crusher taking a piece of gum and then swallowing it.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 1:27pm (UTC -6)
Ah, the granddaddy of all the crazy holodeck episodes that were to follow. I suppose if nothing else it gives the cast the opportunity to play out of character, and it would be wrong to say there are not some fun moments in here. It's handled competently enough.

But really, I have some sympathy with the commentators that question whether this is what TNG should be about. Viewed as the first one and ignoring what is to come - fine. 2 stars.
Sun, Oct 4, 2015, 5:57am (UTC -6)
I'm a fan of science fiction. It's my favorite genre of entertainment. However I DESPISE detective stories - all of them. Police procedural or private detectives or whatever, I find them unbearably tedious. The only thing that could make one worse is to set it in a time period in the past that I also find boring as paint drying. Uggg. Not a detective in the 40 s! And we have to listen to the stupid forties lingo. Shoot me. Why do Star Trek creators assume their main fan base wants to watch this kind of stuff? It's got zero to do with science fiction except that is the stupid device used to trick me into watching it. I hated the stupid period pieces in tos. I hate them eve more in tng.
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 9:00am (UTC -6)
I feel about this episode much like both Jammer and I feel about Voyager's "Worst Case Scenario"-great fun to have the characters having fun, with the jeopardy plot taking a little away but not much and still being some fun in itself.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
I didn't care for the plot, but the costumes were to DIE for. I love Beverly's pink outfit, plus her imitating the forties woman with her lipstick. Not to mention, I think Data looked pretty sexy in that pinstripe suit. >////< Anyone else?
Sat, Apr 2, 2016, 11:50am (UTC -6)
I'm red watching TNG right now and I'm remembering just how much I hated those damn holodeck stories....
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 4:00am (UTC -6)
Compared to the rest of the first season's average episodes, this one wasn't half bad. Why is it that when I first watched this episode in my teens (and later on DVD at age 20), I didn't really care too much for it - or any of the first season for that matter. Now at 35, I'm re-watching them all and loving it. This gets a 2.5 out of 4 from me.
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 6:38am (UTC -6)
@ David: I can't watch almost any of S1, it's just so low-quality when compared to most everything else that came later.

All I can remember about S1 offhand for example:
*Dudes in togas
*Worf in a red shirt
*Space net and Q's trial
*A dude's head explodes
*Super-giant Ferengi closeups on the view screen
*Yar vs. tar. Tar wins.

There are a few really good / classic episodes in S2 and S3 and S4 are probably when TNG was unbeatable IMO.
Wed, Oct 12, 2016, 3:43pm (UTC -6)
The first holodeck story has all the elements that were later done to death in TNG and the spin-offs.
Last Unicorn Games even published a supplement for its Star Trek RPG based on the premise imaginatively titled Holodeck Adventures.
Frankly I think the program makers should have stopped here.
Having the crew play gangsters is as old as 'A Piece of the Action' from TOS; a superior frolic to this episode but it also works here as a bit of fun.

That is all this episode really amounts to though-a gag.

There are some hilariously dated bits of nonsense-
1. Annoying wunderkind Wesley reads a couple of manuals and totally takes over from Geordi .
2. He examines the intricacies of the holodeck control panel with a binocular microscope -not a software fault then
and surely they would just replace the faulty module.
Sat, Apr 8, 2017, 1:56am (UTC -6)
I agree with Nic's review. This was good fun. Aaron is right though: why would Riker start with "We damand--" on a sensitive diplomatic mission?

Three stars.
Joseph A Mitchell
Sun, Jun 25, 2017, 3:21am (UTC -6)
Jammer...really? Not sure I will put much credence to subsequent reviews. I thought this to be a fascinating episode and exploration of a technology that IS sci first and at the time no one had seen to this extent. Your review is a beacon unto the unworthiness of retrospectives and the snobbery that goes with the territory.
Sun, Aug 6, 2017, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
2 stars meh

A potentially interesting episode that spins it's wheels(the interrogation of Dixon Hill grounded episode to a screeching halt) and only experiences a slight uptick at the very end with Cyrus Redblock but not nearly enough to salvage or make up for the plodding preceding forty five minutes.

The episode did effectively capture the awe of holodeck technology as this new piece of Trek technology that would go on to wear out its welcome and feel ho hum by the end of the modern Trek era

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