Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Big Goodbye"


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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9 comments on this review

411314 - Fri, Oct 30, 2009 - 8:03pm (USA Central)
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).
Corey - Fri, Apr 20, 2012 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
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. : )
Patrick - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 9:58pm (USA Central)
"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..."
Rikko - Wed, Jul 11, 2012 - 11:20am (USA Central)
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.
Van_Patten - Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 8:18am (USA Central)
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...
213karaokejoe - Wed, Jun 18, 2014 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
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.
Liam - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 5:17pm (USA Central)
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?
Aaron - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
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!
Nic - Sun, Jan 4, 2015 - 11:00pm (USA Central)
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.

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