Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Hollow Pursuits"


Air date: 4/30/1990
Written by Sally Caves
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

At long last, here's welcome evidence that there are screw-ups in Starfleet. Given how the Enterprise is so often a testament to the hopelessly elite, it's refreshing to get a story about lowly Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), a guy who's always late, awkward in groups, inexplicable to his shipmates, unable to fit in, and addicted to his fantasies in the holodeck.

Geordi is fed up and frankly doesn't want to deal with him anymore. Picard's approach is more proof of his Picard-ness: Rather than abandon this officer and transfer him out, he asks Geordi to make more of an effort to reach out and get to know the guy. It's not an easy task. Barclay's shyness reaches a level of social paralysis, and it makes him ineffective as a communicator in a workplace setting. Meanwhile, he spends all his free time in the holodeck.

The episode is probably best remembered for its amusing holodeck sequences featuring Barclay's overactive imagination and depictions of real crew members — including a uniquely hilarious opening scene where Barclay's overconfident alter ego (and it's a complete alter ego) struts into Ten-Forward and pushes Geordi and Riker around. Later, there's swordplay, which features a version of Riker that Barclay has digitally shortened. Troi finds it all to be amusing and therapeutic — until she sees the digital version of herself that Barclay has created (the "Goddess of Empathy").

But the heart of the episode is in deconstructing a man who doesn't fit in or feel comfortable. Guinan's sympathy for Barclay's situation is commendable. And Geordi makes a real effort to break down his defenses. Of course, the hilarious moment when Picard slips and calls him "Broccoli" is a classic, comic worst-case scenario. After all of Geordi's efforts, the captain accidentally sets everything back a step.

Does the episode need its overplayed jeopardy premise involving the malfunction that causes the Enterprise to race out of control? And does the jeopardy have to come down to terse, last-minute warnings from the computer that the ship is about to be destroyed? No and no. But I do like the way the engineering team swiftly deconstructs the problem with simple logic to find the solution. These are smart people working a problem intelligently. The episode's closing joke is Barclay's goodbye scene — to the holographic crew. Barclay is a welcome rough pebble among all the Enterprise's polished pearls.

Previous episode: Tin Man
Next episode: The Most Toys

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43 comments on this review

Fri, Jan 9, 2009, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
None of the comments mention Hollow Persuits? Barclay is one of my very favorite recurring guest characters on TNG (and Voyager).

Anyway it's pretty surprising how season 3 managed to turn everything around for the series, considering how awful season 2 was. Good thing the show survived long enough for us to see 5 more seasons.
Sat, Jun 18, 2011, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Although I agree with Jammer that Hallow Pursuits was an entertaining hour of tv, the one thing that bugged me about the show that he didn't mention was the ease in which anyone can walk in while the holodeck is occupied. I can easily imagine far more embarassing uses to which such incredible tech can be used! I mean, isn't there any kind of security with the thing? Barclay's use of the holodeck made me wonder too about its availability in Federation society in general. If there was such a thing in real life, I'm afraid society would simply collapse as, human nature being what it is, most people would become so addicted to living out their fantasies on a holodeck that society would simply collapse. It reminds me of an experiment I read of where mice were allowed to press a button that stimulated their pleasure centers and they ended up starving to death because they couldn't bear not being stimulated.
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
^ yeah, in "Our Man Bashir" Julian claims that entering a holodeck that is in use is "illegal".
Wed, Mar 20, 2013, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
Watching this episode today the thing that struck me was that Geordi senior team in Engineering is all men. Definitely would not be cast that way now.
William B
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
I've always liked Barclay, and I'm impressed by how well this episode presents a balanced look at what it means for a social misfit to be in the workplace both for said misfit and for his superiors. It's easy to fall into Barclay's perspective, and the episode earns our sympathies partly by aligning him with the fans. Michael Piller has said that Barclay's holodeck simulation wasn't meant to be a commentary of fans and fanfic, but whether Piller realized it or not that is part of the effect: the episode contrasts the desire to be an idealized version of oneself, hanging out with and being superior to one's own heroes, with the reality of what walking alongside such giants would mean. And Barclay's opinions of his crewmembers often align with fans'. Troi is *hot* and Barclay imagines seducing her; Wesley is obnoxious and Barclay imagines him as a brat who gets threatened by his mother with spanking*. Still, we are shown Geordi's perspective as well, and Barclay's spending all his time on the holodeck and inability to communicate properly are not just funny impediments but genuinely serious ones.

Somewhat unfortunately, I think that the jeopardy premise maybe was necessary for the episode to work within the standalone episode format. Part of what the episode needs to do is to establish why Barclay ultimately *is* a worthwhile crewmember to have around in spite of his considerable flaws, and it needs to make clear that while there is a large portion of pity and willingness to try to make anyone feel welcome in the crew, Barclay actually is more than just a charity project. Saving the ship is a somewhat truncated way of showing that Barclay, should he gain enough confidence to contribute to the Engineering staff and the crew at large, is good for the ship. If TNG had a greater devotion to ongoing storylines, it could potentially have a more realistic storyline in which Barclay gradually turns around and so the dividends from Picard, Troi and Geordi's investment in Barclay come more gradually. However, that is still hard to pull off with a secondary character, to say the least. Having Barclay be both a competent officer and use his imagination and thinking-outside-the-box mentality to save the ship is the way in which the episode doesn't merely send the message that any officer can get away with incompetence; the point is rather that Barclay's ability to contribute to the team is in somewhat nontraditional ways that require some effort on the part of his superiors to find his niche. All that said, this probably could have been accomplished by having the problem be serious but not a ship-threatening one; something that could require the ship need to shut down for a few weeks or some such without requiring that Every Person On The Ship Die if it's not solved right away.

On that level, I like very much that the central idea Barclay suggests -- that it's a person who is infecting the various engineering systems -- is both outside the box of normal thinking, and also something that doesn't require a genius-level intellect, the way something Wesley might have done in s1. I have seen the episode *before* and I didn't remember that it was carried by people, and I didn't think there was any way this mystery could have a resolution that would not just be tech. Barclay's creativity, which Guinan notes should be valuable to an engineering team, and which is the thing that keeps him disconnected from other people (since he lives in his Secret Life of Walter Mitty fantasy world), is the thing that is useful, should he be able to apply it to his job.

The episode is still merely good and not great, because the fantasy sequences, while memorable, get repetitive after a while, and the jeopardy premise, while probably necessary for the episode to work as I said above, still wins Barclay's entry into the fold a little cheaply, and also relies on a lot of tech. As Jammer says, hearing the Engineering team work through the problem logically is a total delight, however. I also appreciate how the episode's end teases the probability that Barclay will be leaving the ship in a way that suggests that the Enterprise and Geordi and Barclay himself will not have to deal with any of the difficulties that the episode suggests. But, no, Barclay is here to stay, and he's merely leaving his fantasies behind. In keeping with the show's genuine attempt to imagine a better humanity, it's not so much that people are cured of social dysfunctions like what Barclay has, but that society has grown and adapted so that it's possible to find a place to let unusual and imperfect humans be the best they can be. High 3 stars.
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
I regret learning that Dwight Schultz is a wacko racist conspiracy believing tea bagger nutjob. I can't enjoy the Barclay episodes now.
Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
@Sintek: While I have no idea if what you said about Schultz is true, I don't see why it has to affect your enjoyment of his performance if he did well.

Bobby Fischer is an excellent example of this: his victories over his fellow GMs (Grandmasters) in chess were just inspired - he defeated a GM 6-0 in a candidate's match and that just wasn't done! But he clearly was anti-Semite, had paranoi, and had hate issues. In other words, his chess was brilliant but he wasn't so stellar a person. If you so choose, you can do the same - enjoy a performance without liking the actor.

To each is own though.

As for the episode, I enjoyed seeing the main characters in fantasy, as surely the characters ARE in fans' fantasies. In odd sort of way, it mimics real life.

I too, like Jammer, enjoyed seeing a less than perfect human on the Enterprise, and liked seeing Picard refuse to just transfer problems to other starships rather than just deal with them. 3 stars for me as well.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 8:35am (UTC -5)
I am not a fan of Holodeck episodes. They always make me cringe a little bit because they are so awkward. I watched this one with a TNG virgin and I'm almost sure this person never wants to watch another TNG episode, no matter how many times I tell them that there are much better episodes.

I don't agree with Jammer's review here. To me this is a one-star episode.
Sun, Nov 24, 2013, 12:48am (UTC -5)
I just got done watching this episode, and it was a hoot!

However, the comment above slandering Dwight Schultz as racist, and a "tea bagger" is anything BUT a hoot. (And if don't you know how that latter epithet came about, let's just say that is tremendously sexually crude).

Right at this very moment, I'm listening to a podcast from Dwight Schultz (from this September), and he sounds like a guy who both occasionally talks with a wacky voice (like you'd expect a voice actor to do), and has not uttered anything racist or "nut job" in any way.

Please don't slander people, on the right or on the left. If someone says something you find disagreeable, state what actually was said, don't just slap a label on them in an internet forum.
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 8:18pm (UTC -5)
On Sintak's comment I will only say this: it doesn't surprise me but does dismay me that so many people who undoubtedly consider themselves enlightened, tolerant people feel it is ok to slander, insult, and feel such incredible hatred towards people who happen to have a different political philosophy. It's just another outside group that the inside group can be intolerant towards in order to feel superior.

As for the episode itself, it was great fun. TNG gets some flack (and deservedly so sometimes) for being too invested in character insights or dealing with moral or philosophical issues to the detriment of a good story. Here, though, it's a character episode, but one that is entertaining and relatively fast moving as well. It's funny at times, serious at times, mysterious at times, and indulgent at times. I didn't feel the holodeck scenes dragged on too long. It helped that the first two weren't obviously on the holodeck, and that the latter three involved actors we like hamming it up for all they're worth.

And Barclay, well, great character. Is his neurosis a bit too exaggerated? Maybe a bit, but I've known some people who were pretty close to that. And as an introvert myself, there were moments that were pretty realistic... And the episode is pretty fair when exploring these issues. Geordi and Riker come off as a little bit nasty in their harsh treatment of Barclay, and yet completely justified and understandable too. Picard's defense of Barclay may seem too tolerant for someone as immature as Barclay, but he has a point too that Barclay has had a reasonably successful Starfleet career so far and thus could be a valuable member of the crew. Essentially, the message is that socially inept people should be given a fair amount of leeway, but in return it better not cause problems with their work or other people.

The different reactions to Barclay's holodeck adventure were nice touches too. It makes sense that LaForge was the most sympathetic, as 1) he has no place to talk (and kudos to the writers for calling back to Booby Trap), and 2) he didn't see the more controversial characters (the goddess of empathy and mini-Riker) until later.

I also don't care that the "ship in danger" plot was used. The episode needed to show two things: that an addiction to a fantasy life can be rather crippling to one's real life, and that socially awkward people are people too. The 10 seconds to destruction plot managed both of them nicely. Because Barclay was spending too much time on the holodeck and not doing his job, a thousand people nearly died. And because LaForge put in a bit of effort to make Barclay feel a part of the team, a thousand people didn't die. Hurray! The only quibble is that time was running out and the two of them were still walking around everywhere. You'd think the no running in the hallways rule could be a bit relaxed in those situations...

PeteTongLaw, you think the all-male senior staff was the most alien part of that scene? How about the fact that a staff meeting only lasted 2 minutes? Now that's an unrealistic utopian future!
Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
Sooooooo nobodys even going to bring up how absolutely CREEPED out Troi had to have been to find out Barclay was having sex with her doppleganger on the holodeck? Can you just imagine if it had been for real? lol Barclay would be fired and possibly jailed, Troi would SUE Starfleet for not having security on her pattern, just thinking of the all implications bowls me over. Thank God it's in the Star Trek universe, lol. Oh and around 12 minutes in I swear I heard Barclay talking about the "flux capacitor" lol swear, go see!
Mon, Apr 14, 2014, 1:10am (UTC -5)
program 9.
Sat, May 3, 2014, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Now, 3 stars seems about right for this one :)

I like that this episode addresses the big elephant in the (holodeck) room: with tech good enough to imitate life, what's stopping anybody to create their own personal version of people they know in real life?

Picard seems to engage in Dixon Hill fantasies every now and then, Riker and Geordi created a fake woman to spend time with, and even Data enjoys playing as Sherlock Holmes, but what separates Barclay from the main characters is that the latter know when to stop. I thought it was due time to see a holodeck episode that deals with social issues instead of malfunctions.

It's not a classic episode by any means, but it's both fun and interesting. And Barclay is a great character and I'm glad to read he's coming back later.

Funny though, now that it's been more than a year since I've watched the episode, all I remember is Barclay's awkwardness and holographic adventures (and his trouble with the real people) but totally forgot about the critical situation of the week.
Sun, Jun 15, 2014, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps I notice it more in this episode than in others, but I laugh at Guinan's hat flopping around as she counsels with Geordi.
Sun, Jun 15, 2014, 10:58pm (UTC -5)
Reading through all the comments I don't see the feeling that I get from the episode. It seemed that the ship in danger part of the episode was meant to show that some people have a different way of thinking and that can be an advantage when we are encouraging to them.

As a school teacher, I am trained to see that angle.
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:50am (UTC -5)
Stviateur, that lack of privacy protection was also odd, if not worse, for Worf's program in "The Emissary" (as a guest rather than senior officer, who could have done some quick override we didn't see, could enter); it seems like there's no protection because there's an ideology of non-judgment but the characters don't always follow it.
I jeopardy plot was a bit standard but I liked how gradually it was introduced and how the solution was both surprising yet came out of what we'd already seen.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
Your ears did not deceive you. When Barclay went to the holodeck to vent to his fantasy Troi about being interrupted by Wesley, he spoke this little gem:

"I knew about the flux capacitor, but I didn't need to hear about it from some 17 year-old kid."

In the prior scene when Wesley interrupted him, he asked Barkley if he had checked the flow capacitor. Perhaps Dwight Shutz had recently watched BTTF, and just slipped up during the scene. I was surprised that they left it in there though. You'd think that someone would have noticed, and had them reshoot the scene.
Mon, Oct 27, 2014, 12:12am (UTC -5)
jay: "in 'Our Man Bashir' Julian claims that entering a holodeck that is in use is 'illegal.'"

I'm guessing something happened between here and there to lead to some rules being put in place.

Susan: "how absolutely CREEPED out Troi had to have been to find out Barclay was having sex with her doppleganger on the holodeck? Can you just imagine if it had been for real? lol Barclay would be fired and possibly jailed, Troi would SUE Starfleet for not having security on her pattern"

Yeah, like that.

Honestly, I think this *is* a classic episode. It addresses some real psychological and social issues, in the ship/Starfleet environment generally and with hologram tech specifically; it does this through a great new character that we'll see again; it makes a reasonable story use of a jeopardy situation (OK, so another just-in-time salvation isn't really necessary) that is integral but subordinate to the character story; and it totally works as a comedy too! We get to see our familiar characters embarassed, rather than be embarassed ourselves as with some of the 'comedy' misfires elsewhere. Not the 'biggest' kind of episode, but one that absolutely accomplishes everything it sets out to do.

Four stars.
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Lol. This episode is awkward and funny. Data in that musketeer's outfit was the freakiest thing I've ever seen.
Sun, Jan 4, 2015, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Once you realize the holodeck is a metaphor for compulsive jacking off, the episode makes perfect sense.
Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 9:39am (UTC -5)
'Mr Brocoli' as said by Captain Picard just sums up this episode. And the 'Ha!!!' by the musketeers. Brilliant!!.
Tue, Jun 9, 2015, 8:09pm (UTC -5)
What can I say about "Hollow Pursuits"? Well, first off - I love the character of Reginald Barclay, probably because I see so much of myself in the quiet, socially awkward guy who yearns to be more accepted and socially gregarious. Barclay is such a welcome relief from the supremely super-confident people we usually spend time with in Trek. The closest we've had to someone like this is LaForge with his problems with women (but that isn't because he's socially awkward, far from it).

This episode isn't without problem however. First, why are so many people so critical of Barclay, Riker especially. Geez, is it so much of an oddity for these people to encounter a timid person that they just don't know how to deal with it? Second, I think this episode is where the inherent problems with the Troi character really come into focus. In the scene where Barclay actually goes to her for counseling, she fumbles the ball so hard it's laughable. You have a guy here who is painfully socially awkward and timid and what does she do? She turns the lights off, tells him to close his eyes and sit back and then sits so close to him that they're practically touching. Good grief! Could she have misread his problems any more thoroughly? And given the fact that she's an empath, how did she miss Barclay's obvious nervousness? Also, this is a prime example of why she should wear a standard Starfleet uniform. Wearing whatever it is she usually wears to counseling sessions isn't very helpful, especially with a patient who is already extremely nervous around women.

Still, "Hollow Pursuits" has several things going for it - a wonderful new character, legitimately funny comedic bits and very nice reactions to Barclay from Guinan, Picard and LaForge. Even the tension at the end with the ship seconds away from ripping itself apart is enjoyable because it gives Barclay his chance to shine.

Thu, Jul 16, 2015, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
I also have a problem with the crew ignoring Barclay's right to privacy. Geordi making the mistake the first time gets a pass (but underscores how perfect this society apparently is that no one else does anything embarassing on the Holodeck). But he should have known better than to go back a second time and bring Riker and Troi along. Everyone is entitled to their fantasies, and though Barclay's got out of hand, that's no excuse.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 2:33pm (UTC -5)
TNG talks directly to its core audience by saying that socially inept people crippled by shyness and living a fantasy existence cut off from the real world can actually be appreciated members of society - and even heroes no less...

It's to the episode's credit though that while Barclay is ridiculed, there is at least an attempt by his management structure to address his problems. As such it is a fairly sensitive reading of the issue - that Barclay contributes to the solution but that the solution is a team effort shows that the goal of integrating him with his colleagues is a success.

Of course, we also get a lot of fun holodeck scenes - foppish Riker being a particular favourite, along with Troi's reaction to her Goddess of Empathy portrayal - and Picard's wonderfully awkward "Lieutenant Broccoli" moment. 3 stars.
Thu, Jan 14, 2016, 6:10am (UTC -5)
This is one of my favorite episodes so far. From the opening scene, to Picard's slip-up, to Geordi, Riker, and Troi walking in on Barclay's fantasy, it was hilarious. Good writing, good acting. Troi was actually useful, and Wes wasn't completely obnoxious. I have nothing to complain about, except I, too, thought they should have been running to Cargo Bay 5 (with only 3.5 mins to destruction) instead of taking a Sunday stroll.

Also, "Haha, he said flux capacitor!"
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Let me be blunt..

La Forge's behavior early in the episode was completely unprofessional and unsuited for anyone in command. It is unnacceptable for a manager or commander to sit with his subordinate staff and make fun of one of the other staff. A leader will attempt work with everyone; not bully and mock him and throw his arms up in the air in front of the guy's coworkers.

Picard saying Broccoli was a disgrace as well and he never got called out for it. Troi will confront him on all sorts of private thoughts but didn't confront him about that.

This is the 24th century and allegedly humanity has improved. Yet, they treat a guy with mental illness with mockery, scorn, and bully name calling. Just a disgrace all around.

I get the writers did this in the late 80's and were not enlightend, maybe that is why. But this show is supposed to depict our amazing future where we all get along and are not greed and don't make war. A guy with social anxiety or depression should not be made the butt of jokes.

I hate how the senior staff treated this man.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 10:43am (UTC -5)
Why should Troi call Picard on it?? He was mortified. He's the one who told LaForge to cut it out and slipped his tongue in front of Barclay. What should Troi say? That horrible thing you did that you're mortified about and know was horrible is horrible? I suppose that would at least be in character for her....

Total agreement on the rest of the staff though.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 12:40pm (UTC -5)

Considering how much danger the Enterprise is in every week, I don't blame La Forge at all for being pissed at Reg. And for his credit, La Forge was extremely kind and patient with Reg after speaking to Picard, even defending his holodeck antics while the other COs reactions came off as livid.
William B
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
Additionally, La Forge is NOT a model boss. His social skills are actually not much better than Barclay's, which is part of the point -- Geordi lacks the proper social graces to deal with a socially anxious staff member. Geordi's (undiagnosed) social difficulty mostly does not interfere with his work, but it is also a problem.
William B
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, I meant that Geordi's social difficulties haven't interfered with his *engineering* work, and even much of his command work, as long as those under his command don't require particular finesse. I think that part of Geordi's breakthrough here is to recognize that he and Barclay actually have similar problems. Geordi has successfully prevented his social difficulties from impacting his work until now -- it is mostly only a problem when it comes to romance, where he is terribly racked by uncertainty and fear and cannot set the proper boundaries. When he recognizes that Barclay suffers from this all the time, it's a little easier to see what Barclay is going through.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
Being pissed is one thing... being a commanding officer and making fun of him with his co-workers is very poor. I don't like how the writers did it and I understand I can't expect a script written in the 80's to be as socially understanding towards mental illness and bullying... I am just point it out that an evolved 24th century humanity should have got past that.

They push Barclay further into his holodeck because he knows that everyone in the real world is mocking him and doesn't value him as an officer. They are part of the problem here.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
And Wesley of all people; with all his quirks and annoyances, should not be making fun of anyone for their social skills.

Just weird writing all around.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 8:20pm (UTC -5)

I don't think any Star Trek series tells us Barclay is ill; he's just painfully shy. He's also a bit of savant, but his personality is what people have trouble with. And please don't treat him so pitifully, he passed the Star Fleet entrance exam that even Picard failed once. He's clearly very capable when puts his mind to it. I thought that was the point of the episode, at least...
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 9:12am (UTC -5)
^^ Yeah, to show that you can be a bit 'off' and not only contribute to solving a problem or issue you can excel at it ^^.

In some ways I think it was a love letter of sorts to the many legions of people who've watched Trek over the years. That's what I get outta' it at least.
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
What I liked about this episode is that the the villain (or antagonist) becomes the hero. By "villain" I don't suggest that Barclay had any evil intentions, but merely that, in his initially presented role as a screw-up, his presence was detrimental to the crew's function. He somehow managed to accomplish tasks, but not without aggravating his co-workers and commanders. He clearly becomes the hero when the pressure of the dire situation forces him to overcome his shyness and propose the creative idea that leads to the solution.

One point about his holodeck programs: I would have thought that there would be restrictions on who could be created; the computer would be prohibited from making versions of real crew members, out of respect for those crew. It could possibly consider violation by proxy, and as such, would be disallowed.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 10:00am (UTC -5)
Picard's akward "Broccoli" mistake was just fantastic - so unexpected and so brilliantly acted by P. Stewart. It's a shame such a great moment was wasted on a forgettable episode like this. Like one of the previous commenters, I found Guinan's flopping hat to be a distraction.

And did it bother anyone else that with minutes to go before the ship explodes, Geordi and Barclay are casually walking instead of running?
Peter G.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 10:09am (UTC -5)
@ Jor-El,

"And did it bother anyone else that with minutes to go before the ship explodes, Geordi and Barclay are casually walking instead of running?"

To be fair you have to assume such things are an aesthetic and directoral means of showing movement and action in order to create a pace and dynamic for what's being shown. People running 'feels' different from people walking, and so this plays into the scene texture the director wants. If the characters are feeling a sudden emergency (someone's been shot, there's an intruder, the core is breaching, etc.) they tend to show running, while during scenes where they're thinking over a problem the tone is more constructed and somber to show that they are not thinking chaotically. These are all storytelling tools.

If you wanted to be literal and suggest what 'should' really happen then you'd have to just forget most of what happens in Trek and realize that in any emergency people would be constantly beamed all over the place to remove travel time. This would be storytelling death, however, and so the narrative uses travel as a part of the story rather than as means of explaining to you how they're getting from point A on the ship to point B.
Sat, Sep 10, 2016, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Hello hello

It eventually got to be mildly irritating to me when I would see members of the crew walking to the emergency. Beaming point-to-point notwithstanding, if time was of the essence, they would race there, not walk while discussing options with the clock ticking...

Just my take on it... RT
Wed, Sep 21, 2016, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
I'm just watching random episodes and settled on this one tonight. When this series is in its stride the writing is just so good. While your average TNG episode doesn't tend to evoke powerful emotion like a "Duet" from DS9, at the same time the dialogue is so crisp, the actors so much fun, and the nuance is at times is more important than the larger plot. Here we're introduced to Lt. Barclay, who, rather than merely being presented as the odd man out with 'a problem', is instead fleshed out in very short order and rendered as a very human, and also humorous, character. And I don't mean humorous on account of the gags that Schultz managed to work in; I mean that he's actually funny when you get to know him. And that's amazing, because it feels like we do get to know him, and that we actually have to get to know him before we can judge. And for an episode to pull that off in 20-25 minutes is amazing.

Also amazing to me is how the writing never loses sight of the real issue, which is Barclay's suffering. What might have devolved into making fun of his holodiction instead serves as a vehicle for us to ironically laugh at the rest of the cast. Each of them is made to look foolish in the episode. When the real crew encounters their facsimiles and become outraged they somehow come off looking even more foolish. Riker not only fails to keep his dignity in the face of the clown-Riker, but in fact he succumbs entirely and we can see that the shell of composure the crew can put on that Barclay can't may not be as solid as they would like everyone to think. Even Picard is made to look foolish when he accidentally pronounces "Mr. Broccoli." Guinan herself takes Geordi down a peg when he tries to dismiss Barclay's problems. In an episode about a man who feels small, it's amazing that the writers decided to find a way to show how everyone can feel small if they're out of their comfort zone. The difference is that Barclay is always out of his comfort zone.

Barclay's talk with Geordi in Ten-Forward is especially well done, as the writing homed in on the fact that even what we in the audience see Barclay go through is only a glimpse at his discomfort, and when Geordi claims to get it and Barclay says "you *can't* understand," he's quite right, and is indirectly speaking to the audience as well. We feel entitled to judge him because the show's about him, but he tells us clearly we are not equipped to judge what we don't understand. That's as Trek as notion as I can think of.

Special props to one particular line in the show where even Marina Sirtis missed the double meaning. At the start of Deanna's counseling session with Barclay she asks him "Have you ever been with a counselor before?" The phrasing would be odd except that the line is deliberately awkward in order to allude to the fact that Barclay had clearly been having sex with the various incarnations of Deanna in the holodeck. Rather than merely being random fantasy element, it's fairly clear that he is infatuated, or at least attracted to, her specifically. When you listen to the text of the scene it's easy to realize that the entire scene's tension and Barclay's panic are meant to have been caused by that one line, because in asking whether he's "been" with a counselor before, to which he answers "Yes...well no" it's clear that in his mind he's mixing up fantasy with reality and knows he can't keep it straight well enough to interact with her properly. The rest of the scene, rather than being merely a vaguely nervous scene with a man afraid of counselling, is obviously supposed to be Deanna further and further doing things that the holo-Deanna probably had already done with Barclay, but as romantic preludes - turning down the lights, telling him to close his eyes, etc. It's all ambiguously sexual enough to make Barclay go nuts. By the end we should know exactly why he needs to get the hell out of there, and although the scene is decently funny as it is it should have been drop dead hilarious. The writing certainly is, but both the director and Sirtis missed it. Pity.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that another episode I find myself admiring greatly is one of Cliff Bole's, who apparently could masterfully write for many styles and bring out character nuances few other writers ever did.
William B
Fri, Sep 23, 2016, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Peter, great analysis and I agree that this episode is great. I love the point that the episode finds ways to show how everyone does badly outside their comfort zone, and that for Reg this is all the time (for the moment). Just an aside -- Cliff Bole is the director, not the writer. That his episodes tended to be strong does suggest that while (like most television) Trek is mostly writer-driven, a strong hand behind the camera does add quite a bit.
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 23, 2016, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
Crap. You're right, Bole is the director and not the writer. In which case I've inadvertently critiqued his direction of the counselling session instead of praising him. Ah, to hell with it, he's awesome and he did a great job with the episode.
Sun, Oct 2, 2016, 11:53pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure why people are comparing Barclay's holodeck addiction with Geordi's holodeck fantasies. They're completely different - Geordi invited a real woman into the holodeck with him in "Booby Trap". Later, he was attracted to Leah Brahams but that was not intentional - he was running a simulation and trying to save the ship. By the way, why was every cast member re-created in the holodeck except Worf?
Peter G.
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 12:22am (UTC -5)
@ David,

"By the way, why was every cast member re-created in the holodeck except Worf?"

Because he is not a merry man.

That was too easy.

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