Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Ship in a Bottle"

3.5 stars

Air date: 1/25/1993
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In the process of making repairs to the holodeck, Barclay inadvertently uncorks the program of Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis), the holodeck character that somehow achieved self-awareness in second season's "Elementary, Dear Data." Moriarty says he has been aware of the passage of time during his program's state of hibernation and demands to speak to Picard, who promised to investigate a way to free Moriarty from the confines of the holodeck.

Moriarty, however, remains a mysterious miracle of technology, and Starfleet's best programmers have not figured out a way to regenerate a holodeck matrix outside a holodeck. But Moriarty is so sure of his existence that he demonstrates mind over matter — and to everyone's astonishment, steps right off the holodeck and into the corridor of the Enterprise.

"Ship in a Bottle" is a fun ride that takes the "holodeck runs awry" motif and puts a welcome and original spin on it, with some cleverly brilliant twists of the plot. The results are as sly and imaginative as "Fistful of Datas" was tedious and forgettable. This is a bona fide sci-fi outing that considers the nature of existence for a character who is genuinely curious about the universe and is looking for a way to appease that curiosity — and who will not be fully satisfied until someone finds a way to get him off the Enterprise, along with doing the same for his beloved companion, Countess Regina Bartholamew (Stephanie Beacham), who is still trapped in the holodeck. "No" is not an option.

But things are not as they seem. Data discovers that Moriarty didn't actually step off the holodeck, but instead used clever sleight of hand to make it appear so. Picard, Data, and Barclay are actually still on the holodeck, trapped in an elaborate simulation of the Enterprise that Moriarty devised in order to manipulate the entire situation (Picard unwittingly gives his access codes to the holodeck version of the computer, which in turn gives them to Moriarty, who uses them to take control of the ship.)

If there's perhaps an unsung moment in this episode, it's the reaction of the simulated Geordi as he listens to Data explain to Picard that the entire engineering deck is a simulation — including Geordi. It's simultaneously funny, sad, and weirdly eerie. It's like watching holo-Geordi as he falls through the rabbit hole; surely he wasn't designed to be self-aware, but merely an elaborate copy of Geordi based on personnel files and carefully programmed responses. And yet in this moment, it's like he has become self-aware by being informed he's not real, because the program is forced to deal with a reality it wasn't designed for. Holo-Geordi's reaction is one of confused, disquieted silence — as if that's all the program can do once confronted with this feedback loop. LeVar Burton sells it.

Apart from the interesting philosophical dialogue about Moriarty's state of existence, "Ship in a Bottle" (a great title, by the way) is just a plain good time, using storytelling trickery to good effect. While I will always resist the unlikely notion that the holodeck is so flawless that it is utterly indistinguishable from reality, this episode takes that conceit and executes it wonderfully, establishing some narrative rules that it then doesn't break. (Note how the editing rhythm never cuts to the typical external view of the Enterprise in between scenes as long as we remain inside the holodeck.)

And I liked the appropriate turn of tables where, once Picard and Data realized they've been duped by Moriarty's illusion, they then use the same trick on him, creating a holodeck within a holodeck, and then giving him exactly what he wants — an escape to a "real world" by creating the illusion of a world outside of the holodeck, even though he never leaves it. Ultimately, Moriarty and the Countess (who also achieves self-awareness, somehow, thanks to Moriarty — a point the story unfortunately never adequately deals with) are able to tour the cosmos inside the confines of a computer program that runs inside a little cube. Picard's closing line on the nature of reality provides the story a perfect note of whimsy, suggesting our own reality may simply be built upon perspectives stemming from the knowledge available to us: "All this might just be an elaborate simulation, running inside a little device, sitting on someone's table."

Previous episode: Chain of Command, Part II
Next episode: Aquiel

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42 comments on this review

Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 12:06am (UTC -6)
This is a damn fun and clever episode. I like how Barclay is used as a side character rather than the main focus and still remain just as effective presence (certainly more than in "Realm of Fear" and "Genesis"). I think this had something to do with him having an memorable cameo in Star Trek First Contact.

I was sad that Moriarty didn't mention Dr. Pulaski by name at the beginning. The last time we ever hear her mentioned by name is in season 3's "Who Watches the Watchers"--and then that's all she wrote. No reunion episode or cameo in any subsequent seasons.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 2:48am (UTC -6)
I usually hate most Holodeck episodes but this is great.

I hope his box didn't get blown up with the Enterprise D and that Moriaty and the Doctor (Voyager) are now drinking buddies.
Peter H
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
This episode always tickles me. I confess there are few episodes I care to rewatch, even for nostalgia's sake, but this is one of the few I'm happy to come back to as I genuinely seem to enjoy every time.
Jeremy Short
Sun, Jun 24, 2012, 9:35am (UTC -6)
I also really like that Moriarty makes a classic Holmes bad guy move, claiming to do something impossible or super natural. This is done a lot in Doyle's stories. You even see it in the first Robert Downey Jr. film. We also get Data cast in the Holmes role again. The one big difference from the Homes stories is that they were always written from Dr. Watson's POV, so you never knew that Holmes had figured it out until the end.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
All I can do is echo what everyone else has said. There aren't many holodeck episodes I like, but this was great.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 6:45pm (UTC -6)
Not that 3.5 isn't a bad rating, but I didn't read anything that indicates why this isn't a 4-star episode. When I watch "Ship In a Bottle," I don't skip scenes like I do with all the non-torture stuff in "Chain of Command part 2". As far as I'm concerned, the only weak point is the minor blooper of Picard changing clothes inside the holo-trap; based on the logic of this episode, his holo-uniform should've evaporated the moment he stepped outside.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
I cannot get behind this episode. I LIKE it, but the ideas in it (and especially its predecessor) are too serious to justify the mood and focus of the dialogue. The Moriarty character's plight is fascinating stuff which would eventually lead to fantastic episodes of VOY featuring the Doc. That such a rare use of him would be a "good time" as you put it, is inexcusable.

I have the same reaction to nearly every seen, at first glance, I LIKE it, but when I stop to think about what's been said, it's empty.

Take, for instance :

PIC : "I have come here to prevail on your intelligence and your insight."
Countess : "But not apparently on my humility!"
PIC : "Credit where credit is due, madam. I can see you are a woman not only of breeding, but of whit and sagacity"
Countess : "And you, sir, are a man of charm...and guile. You remind me of Viscount Oglethorpe (he was a man who could bewitch any woman who breathed)."
PIC: "And do you suspect that that is my intent?"
Countess : "I cannot be certain of your intent, but I am certain you're the kind of man who usually gets exactly what he wants."

The tenor of the language clearly shows the writer knew he was writing for two Brits of high manner, and it's really lovely to listen to, but what on earth are they TALKING about? Are they flirting? Is Picard manipulating a hologram? Given especially the way (aptly pointed out by Jammer) holo-Geordi behaves and speaks, this dialogue is utterly pointless and, by extension, aggravating.

Still present are the charm and performances, lamentably absent are the wonder, the whit and the profundity of "Elementary, Dear Data." 2.5 stars from me.
Tue, Jun 26, 2012, 2:16am (UTC -6)
A clear rip off of Inception.
William B
Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 4:31pm (UTC -6)
It's worth noting that the reference to "a box sitting on someone's table" at the episode's end is not just a comment about our difficulty having certainty about our perception of reality, though that is its primary meaning. It's also simply a joke -- because Picard et al. are all sitting in a television on our table. I think this interpretation is less interesting, but a lot of fiction writers become interested in the nature of the inner life of their characters partly *because* writing sometimes involves characters "coming alive" on you. It'd be interesting to talk about how the Holodeck episodes are partly a way for the main cast to be recast as writers, with their own fictional entertainment universe turning on them.

Eliott's points are interesting. It's been too long since I've seen the episode to comment, but I do think that the episode is more puzzlebox with a few hints of philosophy rather than puzzlebox as a mechanism to explore philosophy. Puzzlebox stories -- stories whose primary pleasures are about the surprise and joy of seeing characters dupe one another -- are often fun but can feel a little empty afterward. That said, I think that what helps the episode is the fact that Doyle's Moriarty himself is a character who specializes in this type of plotting. Though the episode doesn't articulate this, the fact that Moriarty continues using deceit and death threats in order to get what he wants may actually be an argument that he is still constrained by his original programming, still the person he was written to be. I'd keep this at 3.5 stars, I think.
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 10:56am (UTC -6)
Enough time had passed for me to have forgotten the twists and turns of this episode. "Bravo" I say, it was quite enjoyable. I was quite upset to see Moriarty walk of the holodeck without dissipating. So I was equally pleased to find out that it was a ruse.
I am already uncomfortable with the notion of holodeck characters gaining sentience. Too many icky possibilities. Certainly don't need them walking among us.
I have no problem with Moriarty being unable to tell a simulated reality from a real one. He's never experienced the real world. But I can see it being elaborate enough wherein someone like Data would realise it before a normal human.
William B
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
There's a lot to say about this episode, but one major thing that occurred to me is this. In "Elementary, Dear Data," at the end of the episode, Moriarty, after having begun to use his newfound powers and sentience for megalomaniacal power grabs, and after taking Pulaski as a hostage, acquiesced to Picard at the episode's end, and agreed to wait on others, to release Pulaski and, essentially, to be good and wait, relying on the goodwill of others to (eventually) hope to enter the real world. This willingness to comply with Picard showed a genuine potential for growth in Moriarty, that he had overcome his programming and Doyle's writing. In this episode, realizing that other methods have failed, Moriarty hatches a brilliant, evil scheme in order to force the crew to pay attention to his needs and to allow him to go into the real world. Early in the episode, it seems possible that somehow Moriarty could leave the holodeck, and in these scenes he articulates to Picard that his past as a villain is entirely behind him -- that he is not the man that Doyle wrote, but a new man, capable of making his own choices. But later on we find that, no, Moriarty could *not* leave the holodeck, of course, and that realization comes at the same moment in which the full extent of Moriarty's evil scheme becomes clear. That moment of realization of Data's, that they had never left the holodeck, that Moriarty could not do the impossible and take on human form, really does argue something profound: in the end, Moriarty is still limited by his nature, and despite being a sentient, living being, a point the episode does not, I think, dispute, he does not simply *stop* being the man he was written to be.

And that is how the whole episode is structured. This and "Elementary, Dear Data" are quite the pair, and they come at the problem from different angles; actually I think that they are reflections of each other, "EDD" starting small and ending big, and "Ship in a Bottle" starting big and ending small. "Elementary, Dear Data" begins with Pulaski arguing that it is not possible for a computer to overcome its programming, even Data, and ends with the possibility of genuine hope that Moriarty may one day leave the holodeck, and the possibility that he is a changed man. This episode moves in the exact opposite direction, beginning with the revolutionary idea that Moriarty can, through force of will alone, walk off the holodeck, and ending with Moriarty's chances to live out in the real world ended forever: he is given a comfortable illusion, and will stay there the rest of his days. The episode's last reveal works opposite to the first "reveal": we initially see Moriarty leaving the holodeck, and finally see him permanently confined to the memory cube. In some senses, then, the episode is the somewhat conservative counterpart to "Elementary, Dear Data," all about placing limits on the boundless imagination of that story. In some ways, that strikes me as a tiny bit sad; that Moriarty will never be able to leave the holodeck, and that he is still a villain after all this time, feels a little reactionary. "Elementary, Dear Data" was more optimistic, and maybe truer to the Trek spirit as a result. And yet, this episode also says something true about human nature even in addition to the themes about technology, fiction, and reality itself, which is that in the end, old patterns do resurface; a person who once was a villain sometimes will return to that role when they have no more options.

(Given that in "Elementary, Dear Data," I was a little disappointed that Data was not more involved in solving the problem, thus leaving the beginning of the episode's story -- the wager between Data and Pulaski -- unfinished, I'm glad that it's Data who discovers, through quick thinking, observation and "deduction," i.e. being Holmes-esque, that they are still in a simulation, closing off one of the threads from that episode that I found a bit loose.)

So, Moriarty's brilliant, evil plan comes down to: pretend that his sentience, his inner life, can give him physical form; use this paradigm shift to convince the crew that it is possible to do so, and hold the ship hostage until they do. I really wish I could go back and see this episode for the first time, because the audacity of what Moriarty does is something that is hard to pull off: have a character do something that seems to be impossible, but then convince the audience that it's possible, because the audience is willing to believe that the fictional rules can change; then pull the rug out from under the audience and reveal that, no, of course the character didn't do this and it was a trick. It relies on our understanding of genre conventions, our knowledge that the internal rules of a universe should remain constant, and yet that they are sometimes broken. (My favourite instance of this in television is from an episode of FIREFLY, but I've said too much.) But anyway, Moriarty knows that he does not have physical form, and knows that the idea that he can just walk off the holodeck is ridiculous, but he also knows how much power an idea has. At the same time he's lying, he's also acting out of a belief that the reality he creates in which he can walk off the holodeck is so powerful, it will completely transform Picard, Data and Barclay until they are able to come up with an actual idea that can get Moriarty off. And I think that's part of the trick to this story, that makes the episode such a delight: the recognition that our perception of reality matters almost as much as reality itself runs through the whole show.

I think that explains some of the scenes like the one Elliott mentions, between Picard and the Countess. What is the point of having Picard spend time flirting with a holodeck character? Well, first of all, the Countess, unlike holo-Geordi, is sentient; Moriarty "made her so," somehow, maybe (by analogy with the way he was created to outwit Data) by making her an opponent capable of being classier than Picard. And second, I think the point is: Picard needs to find a way to control Moriarty's perception of the world. The way he does this is to play out, as carefully as he can, what he would do if indeed he *had* found a way to get Moriarty off the holodeck, in order to set up the final twist in which Moriarty "gets off the holodeck" in a way that keeps him there forever. So Picard flatters her, slightly overdoing it, as if buttering her up for the final request wherein he asks her to get Moriarty to release the ship. He needs to make it so real for her that she believes it, so that Moriarty believes it entirely, to the point where Moriarty has no doubts as he is "beamed" away into another part of the holodeck (within the holodeck!), and he sees the world there with fresh, believing eyes. Picard plays the role here because that is the way to make the simulation real for Moriarty, just as the role Moriarty played throughout the first half of this episode was to make the possibility of bringing the Countess into the "real world" real to Picard, Data and Barclay.

In its own way, the ending is both happy and sad. Moriarty and the Countess are together, and will be forever, and they are both real and sentient. They are in a reality which in certain respects is as "real" as the outside world; certainly, Moriarty and the Countess themselves are as real, and if they can't tell the difference, does it really matter? And yet, every person that Moriarty and the Countess meet, every experience they have, is only a facsimile. Moriarty had aimed higher. The reason that he is given this simulation, which is a type of prison, albeit an extremely benign one, is that, in the end, he proved that his sentience and life did not lead him to break free of his programming entirely. He's still willing to do evil; when an unpredictable evil genius takes a starship of a thousand people hostage if he doesn't get what he wants, and what he wants still seems to be impossible, there is little that can be done but to convince him that he has what he wants and to keep him from having the power to kill others again. Moriarty and the Countess have the opportunity to live out their lives in the only way that holodeck characters, even sentient ones, can at this stage; the Doctor would be horrified, and Voyager's complex take on the holographic rights issues are several leaps forward from this, not in quality of writing per se so much as in the amount of "rights" "granted" to holographic characters, to the possibility that a being which existed only in computer memory really can some day hope to step out into it. This episode closes that off for Moriarty, but it's also the best solution that Picard et al. can give for a man like Moriarty, who has clearly demonstrated that he is no longer willing to wait. And there is the consolation that what Moriarty wanted most, to be with the Countess without being limited to a fictional London, he got.

I really like the use of Barclay here as a normal guy -- still neurotic, but whose neuroses don't drive the episode. He also is, of course, the perfect person to deliver the final line.

I think 3.5? Maybe 4, though. I did enjoy this a lot, and I think I only scratched the surface talking about it here. Reality is inscrutable!
Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 11:15am (UTC -6)
While I can't claim to be as eloquent as William B, I must say that this episode is one of the very few that enormously improves on later viewing... I really did enjoy it much, much more on later viewings, and especially knowing about Moriarty's ruse... I think that helps a great deal, and perhaps should have been hinted at earlier, so that the audience was in on the deal and Picard et. al. weren't.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 11:39pm (UTC -6)
Imagine Captain Jellico in this scenario...he'd be no match for Moriarty.
Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
How is it that we are expected to accept that Moriarty is capable of programming the "holodeck within a holodeck" simulation in the first place? Is it because he essentially *is* the computer? In both EDD and here, so much is shrugged off as simply being because Moriarty is "brilliant in any century", but that's rather a cop out.
Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 1:28am (UTC -6)
Definitely a 4 star episode.

I can imagine a follow up to this episode where they enter the simulation with Moriarty & his lover and give them a choice - leave the simulation and finally be in the real world, or stay in it.

That would be a great story. If they had made lives for themselves inside the simulation, would they choose to leave it?

"Imagine Captain Jellico in this scenario...he'd be no match for Moriarty."

Jellico talking to Moriarty: I prefer a certain... formality on the bridge.

Jellico to Riker: Oh and... get that damn holodeck character out of the ready room.
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 5:03am (UTC -6)
It seemed a little bit mean-spirited to not give Moriarty what he really wanted. Would Picard have been happy living his life in a holodeck simulation? He has criticised others for so escaping from reality before, and in Generations he chooses to opt out of the ultimate simulation because it "isn't real". That's why I don't think his final comment is convincing. It justifies his actions in a way that is out of character. These are newly discovered life forms we're talking about, with the right to live their lives in the real world, and he is satisfied with locking them up in a computer chip forever. Still, 3.5 stars for this episode is fine with me.
Dave in NC
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 11:34am (UTC -6)

That's actually a pretty good point!

It seems that Captain Picard has a bias against artificial life forms .... it also doesn't occur to him Data deserves a command position in "Redemption Part II", and he assumes that the Exocomps aren't alive after a few simple tests. It probably was NOT intentional on the writer's part, but I like to think it was because Picard had a distaste for AI after his experience with the Borg.

I wonder if anyone thought of Moriarty and the Countess when the Federation extended full rights to sentient photonic life forms.
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
Dave in NC: "...I like to think it was because Picard had a distaste for AI after his experience with the Borg."

Or something more deep-rooted, like revulsion at his own cyborg heart. But probably not; Picard probably took his prosthesis for granted, just like the writers, who usually forgot it was there, whirring in his chest for 7 seasons and 4 movies.

Wherever the prejudice comes from, it wasn't operative when Picard chose Data to join his crew, despite the captain's frequent confusion and annoyance aimed at his 2nd officer. The show's anti-post-human stance didn't emerge until after Roddenberry decided to graft his Questor concepts onto the TNG cast.
Dave in NC
Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 4:21pm (UTC -6)
Grumpy: "Or something more deep-rooted, like revulsion at his own cyborg heart."

I know the writers weren't clever enough to think of such a thing, but your insight would be great to base an episode on!

I can only shake my head at the producers who said they ran out of good story ideas in Season 7 . . .

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
Interesting theory about Picard having an anti-mechanical bias because of the Borg. It fits the timeline too (Measure of a Man and Offspring were both pre-BOBW). But I think the simpler explanation is easier. Society is simply in unknown territory here. The idea of artificial sentience is still fairly new; even Data's sentience was only defined a few years ago. And everyone thought he was unique. It's certainly reasonable to be skeptical that people are creating sentient life left and right these days. And the implications of that then become even more difficult. Should the scientist from Quality of Life create more exocomps? Does she have the right to? And if not, does that mean that those two are the only ones that will ever exist? Does Moriarty, assuming he is sentient, have the right to grant sentience to random holodeck characters like he did with the Countess? It's all pretty dicey. While it may not be admirable of Picard, it's a bit understandable that he would be ok if the problem just went away.

Besides, Moriarty tried to take over the ship twice. You can't blame Picard for not being a fervent supporter of his rights.

Yes, the final solution is a bit hard to swallow. And perhaps it does deserve more weight, as Elliot suggested. It's a very good point; this episode does just dance around a meaty issue just for the sake of a good time. That's the sort of thing that Voyager is constantly criticized for, so shouldn't it be a criticism here?

Maybe, but I can't help but admit that it was a darned good time. And I do still enjoy this episode and rate it highly.

Maybe its because I'm not so convinced they are sentient. Especially the countess. So Moriarty programmed her with consciousness? How? It seems pretty convenient that even with her free will, she still ends up exactly the way he wants her to be. Likewise, the explanation for Moriarty's sentience never made much sense. Accidentally creating sentience like that seems rather fishy to me. And WilliamB is right, Moriarty is acting more like the fictional character here. So I guess the fact that I don't find the nature of their sentience be convincing means I don't care too much about a meaty solution to their problem. Which means I can just enjoy it as a fun episode.

And wow is it a fun episode.
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:37pm (UTC -6)
I wrote about this in my typically wordy fashion earlier, but a shorter version is: If Moriarty is a "real person," who is to say that the simulation that Picard et al. put him into at the episode's end is not a "real life"? I think that's the way Picard navigates the dilemma of how to treat Moriarty, and if that's a little unsatisfying, I think that it shows humility. Picard et al. really *would* prefer to let Moriarty have a "real life" outside the holodeck, as we see in the early scenes, but it's beyond their power right now, and Moriarty forces them via the threat of destruction into finding a stopgap solution.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 9:16am (UTC -6)
In these hologram stories, the characters are all pretending to be in plays and relaxing on beaches.

If these holodecks were in modern times, wouldn't they simply be "sex boxes".

Therefore, if the Enterprise can make holo-people real, then what would be the consequences of having a holo-"partner".

Holo - alimony payments ???
Sun, Sep 28, 2014, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
Certainly a four-star episode. Leaves some questions open, but in this context that's more than fine, it's fun.

(Was Moriarty strictly the first self-aware holographic person in Trek? He certainly would not be the last.)

Something to think about, if you like: how do you know that the Countess is "sentient"? Because she asserts it? Because the deceptive "archnemesis" does? If Moriarty can successfully 'program' the holodeck to simulate big sections of the Enterprise and local space and Picard's own crew interacting with him--surely he could simulate a sentient Countess to Picard who didn't know her in any sense. Unless, of course, *simulated sentience* isn't literally possible--if sufficient engineered complexity of simulation ends up being *the same thing* as sentience arising "naturally." As is the case in androids? Right? What matters is the internal complexity of the program and the connectedness of its I/O--not the location of its hardware.
Fri, Sep 18, 2015, 8:48am (UTC -6)
"Ship in a Bottle" is what stand-alone Trek should be. Now, as everyone knows, I prefer my Trek to be focused on world-building and long-term plot lines. However, if we're going to have stand-alone episodes, this could almost be a benchmark for them (I say almost because it's not "exactly" a stand-alone episode - as it's a sequel to "Elementary, Dear Data").

What we have here is Trek taking on huge issues (what is life?, how do we define freedom?, who do we think deserves freedom?, what is our relationship with artificial intelligence?, even metaphysics) head on and yet not descending into full-scale preaching mode (a la "The Neutral Zone") or just downright boredom (a la "The Masterpiece Society"). "Ship in a Bottle" is also, at its heart, a rather fun, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable adventure story - one that is definitely worthy of the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Maybe it doesn't explore the implications of all the issues it raises (which is why Moriarty really should have been used more than just twice) but it is still a damn fine episode. The stand-out scene for me, however, isn't the one with Holo-LaForge in Engineering (though it is a rather good one). It's when Moriarty appears to simply walk off the holodeck with the declaration "Cogito ergo sum." Stewart, Spiner and Schultz's reactions to Moriarty's apparent miracle are wonderful. They all sell the various degrees of curiosity and utter astonishment perfectly - particularly Spiner.

I also love Moriarty as a villain. Good villains are intelligent, calculating and, above all, completely sane. Bad villains are often over-the-top, zany, cartoonish characters. Compare Moriarty to the holographic villains from "A Fistful of Datas" to see what I mean. This is a man who needs to be taken seriously. And that makes the heroes' triumph over him that much more satisfying. Well done.

If there is one problem I have with this episode it's that they leave a fairly obvious idea off the table when it comes to getting Moriarty and the Countess off the holodeck. Yes, I'm going there, but why couldn't they rig up a mobile emitter? Seriously, is it so outside these people's (or the writer's) conceptual framework to think up a "moving holodeck"? Of course, we finally get one over on "Voyager" for The Doctor, but even then the writers had to resort to using "technology from the future" to solve the problem. Just rig up something that Moriarty and the Countess can carry with them like a backpack or a briefcase and - WHAMO! - problem solved. Now, that probably wouldn't be exactly what Moriarty had in mind, as they would still be completely dependent on the technology, but it's better than confinement to the gird.

Finally, I just wanted to say that Season Six has been pleasantly surprising me during this re-watch. This is the ninth episode - nine episodes! - in a row that I've given an above-average score to. That's a new record for Trek. The previous one was six in a row back in TNG Season Three ("The High Ground," "Deja Q," "A Matter of Perspective," Yesterday's Enterprise," "The Offspring" and "Sins of the Father). I did not expect this season to be this good. Sadly, if I were a gambling man, I would bet that this is where this run will end. Because I doubt the upcoming episode will measure up. :(

Wed, Sep 30, 2015, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
I can't believe nobody seems to have noticed this, but Moriarty's threat didn't make sense. First, he threatened to destroy the ship, claiming that since he was merely a holodeck character, "nothing of consequence" would be lost. Yet throughout the episode, he tried to sell the idea that he was more than that. Furthermore, he didn't want to risk the Countess' life with the transporter, yet if the ship was to be destroyed, she would have died anyway. The only way any of this would make sense is if he had lied about everything. He didn't consider himself OR the Countess to be anything more than holodeck characters, and he secretly acknowledged his love for the Countess as nothing more than another part of the simulation - thus not worth protecting until/unless he made it out into the real world. I wonder how the Countess would've felt if she found out he had gambled with her life? Sounds like he was still a villain all the way through the end regardless.

That rather gaping plot hole aside, this is one of my all-time favorite TNG episodes. I still wonder if Moriarty and his little holo-box survived the Enterprise-D's destruction. For that matter, I'd love to hear about his adventures. Imagine a 19th century criminal genius traveling the galaxy in the 24th century. Just what kind of experiences would he have? How would he interact with others? How does he and the Countess adapt?
Diamond Dave
Sun, Oct 4, 2015, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
Just goes to show that there is something you can do with a holodeck gone awry episode - build a complex story with powerful performances and tell it with verve.

Moriarty's motivations are subtle and increasingly unclear as we progress - from reformed character, back to arch villain, and then, in the end, reformed character again. It leaves us questioning what is real and what is not real - Barclay's final nervous "Computer, end program" beautifully caps the episode.

A fun and thoroughly involving hour with a twist that I never saw coming (even if it then sells a second twist far too easily!). "There's something wrong with the holodeck" indeed. 3.5 stars.
Sat, Dec 5, 2015, 8:41am (UTC -6)
Some excerpts from William B that are pertinent to my point.

"Given that in "Elementary, Dear Data," I was a little disappointed that Data was not more involved in solving the problem, thus leaving the beginning of the episode's story -- the wager between Data and Pulaski -- unfinished, I'm glad that it's Data who discovers, through quick thinking, observation and "deduction," i.e. being Holmes-esque, that they are still in a simulation, closing off one of the threads from that episode that I found a bit loose.)"

William B states it nicely. Once Data figures out how Moriarty left the holodeck (he never did), it would have been nice if Geordi had given Data credit for winning the bet with Pulaski from "Elementary Dear Data" where she boasts that Data could never solve a true "Holmes-esque" mystery. HE DID! Mention it!

Tue, Feb 2, 2016, 6:31am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

I'll put my thoughts into a narrower beam: Are the safties off in his holocube? The galaxy can be a dangerous place. If he is fighting three ruffians, do they stand there and wait for him to get back up again, so he can take them on one-by-one, or do they all beat him up at once? If he is shot by a phaser, does it miraculously end up on 'stun'? And if so, would Moriarty realize that things were not what they seem?

Or, is this a stylized verson of the galaxy that isn't quite so dangerous? And would Moriarty figure that out as well?

Or, if the safties are not on, and the galaxy is a dangerous place, what if they are fired upon by a Bird-of-Prey and destroyed? Does the program stop? What if he Does get beaten up by those three ruffians and dies in the hospital? Does the Countess go on in the holo? Were she to die, would Moriarty continue on or go insane?

In sickbay, they said he had internal organs, but that was a holo-sickbay that he controlled. Is he 'live' in the holocube, or is he hologram that is not able to be damaged in the same way a mortal being might be?

My head hurts... :)

Have a great day... RT

P.S.: Owowowowow
Tue, Feb 2, 2016, 10:10am (UTC -6)

Safeties are designed to prevent living beings inside the program from being harmed. It doesn't matter if the safeties are off in the cube, since holograms can hurt holograms regardless of safeties.

The whole "he has internal orgrans" scene was part of Moriarty's ruse, so don't take it seriously.
The Man
Sat, Jun 18, 2016, 3:46am (UTC -6)
Tue, Jun 26, 2012, 2:16am (UTC -5)
A clear rip off of Inception

You do realize that this episode came out nearly 20 years before Inction?
Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 6:54pm (UTC -6)
My favorite parts of this episode:

- Moriarty telling Riker that he won't release the ship until he's aboard the shuttlecraft....this makes no sense. The Enterprise could easily overtake the shuttle and disable it in seconds. As could virtually any other ship the shuttlecraft encounters. Why does Moriarty think he'll be safe once he's aboard the shuttle?

- Lt. Barclay saying that the 'left-hand right-hand' problem must be because of the matrix diodes....I don't think so. This would be a software glitch. Basically, it would be like saying my computer game isn't working, so I'm going to open up the computer and adjust one of the screws holding down the no. The problem is with the software. Matrix diodes (projectors) are just hardware - the problem would be in the programming language of the running holodeck program, not a physical object like 'diodes'

- Moriarty saying he doesn't trust Picard anymore, even though Picard went out of his way to go visit a holodeck character. The fact that the program is still there, and the fact that Picard came to see him should have given every evidence that Picard is trustworthy in every way.

- As we've been told several times, both by the show and the technical manuals that have come out, everything in the holodeck is a projection. Therefore, there is NOTHING inside of any of the holodeck characters. They are simply an outer shell meant to give the illusion of a solid object. So even if Moriarty COULD leave the holodeck, he would immediately fall apart, since all he actually is, is a microscopic outer shell being projected. This makes the entire premise of the show ridiculous. Even if he could be beamed into real life by the transporter, the only thing being 'beamed' is the outer shell, with nothing inside.

- The Federation does have holo-projectors that allow characters like the doctor on Voyager limited movement in the real world. Couldn't this be setup for him?

I did really enjoy both of the Moriarty episodes, and I thought the actor completely owned both shows with his wonderful performance, which is why I continue to watch these.
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
One of the problems I have with Star Trek:TNG is that it undermines my ability to set aside disbelief at some of the silly stuff by constantly employing technobabble.

A space-faring species with the ability to create realistic simulations and replicate food would absolutely not allow the Holodeck systems to connect to the ship's command systems in any way. I do network engineering for a living and segmenting systems is a key security measure.

I enjoyed the episode after setting that aside but it makes it hard to take the show seriously. That's a common issue I have with TV and movie writing in general, though, situations that require some unrealistic carelessness and lack of learning from history.

Other than that I enjoyed the episode, the twists used was somewhat novel for the time though I'm bummed that Moriarity gave up the command without pondering the idea he too was being trapped in a hologram. I would have preferred an ending where Picard gives the command codes and finds out they were fake and that Moriarity knew what was going on but also knew that truly leaving the holodeck was impossible. That ultimately being able to live in a simulated world would be his only realistic goal and the goal he had attained. Moriarity was made to beat Data so he should have been smarter than he ended up being.

I'd give it a 2 1/2 which is pretty high for me to give ST:TNG.
Mon, Oct 24, 2016, 6:04pm (UTC -6)
If you want to go down the road of technical deficiencies with the show, you are definitely starting down a long journey, Odoley.

The writers were obviously NOT technically proficient in any way - their main purpose, as with virtually all television shows, was to provide entertainment, not to give you a technically accurate future.

If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of the supposed holodeck:

- How can several people exist on the holodeck in different places at the same time while hidden from each other? What is the barrier that keeps one person in one reality, and ten other people in completely separate perspectives that don't overlap in the small space inside the holodeck? So basically they are floating all over the place inside the holodeck, each real person being given their own perspective and own projection which somehow rejoins with others with they get close to their location?

- How do we keep seeing people eat/drink object on the holodeck? Shouldn't the food/drink dissapear from their digestive tract once they leave the program?

- How much energy would really be needed to create entire worlds inside the holodeck, with objects that become solid as the real person encounters them? It would seem like a beach scene with the ocean extending out would take massive amounts of energy to create, not to mention the massive amounts of computing power needed to recreate other human characters that attempt to act/think like people. Could a single ship really power such a device without draining all of their resources?

- Could computer generated 'parameters' about a real-life person really mimic that person exactly in real life? Would the holodeck Dr. Crusher really act anything like there real one just because it knows a couple of her characteristics?

- Shouldn't Picard have picked up on the fact that things were wrong very quickly in the holodeck? After all, it was merely a recreation of the ship. Meaning, all of the objects all over the place that exist on the real Enterprise would not be reflected on the holodeck. Say Picard moved his personal computer over to the left side of his desk - there's no way the holodeck would know this, it simply recreates the room based on schematics.

And on and on and on if you really want to get into this.........
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
I rewatched this tonight, but I'm also rewatching Voyager - my only real question why didn't the holographic doctor give his holographic family a consciousness - seemed like something he might have done? Or is that just me? But this was a very good episode - nice to see a high rating for it.
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
Sean, are you commenting on the wrong episode? This one was about Moriarty and his attempt to leave the holodeck as a sequel to his initial introduction.

Were you implying that the doctor could have given his holographic family consciousness the same way Moriarty was given it?
Bruce Bartlett
Sat, Apr 15, 2017, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. Really enjoyed it.
Wed, May 17, 2017, 5:48pm (UTC -6)
I kind of wish the episode ended with a straight cut to titles after the last Barclay scene without an external shot of the ship. It could have been rather meta, given I just watch this episode on a iPad that was sitting on my desk.
Mon, Sep 4, 2017, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
I've read all these marvelous comments. Yes, four stars, of course.

I had a great friend for whom I played EDD and this episode back to back; as you might have guessed already, he was the person who'd turned me on to Arthur Conan Doyle many decades ago. He'd lived well, just without a television. So when he'd visit, I'd show him things that I thought would appeal to him. It did.

I'm astounded (I even did a web page search for applicable terms, in case I'd missed someone's review who'd mentioned it)! No one has framed this ending in terms of it paralleling "The Managerie." Since it's an accepted meme here that Moriarity and the Countess were sentient, we've certainly come a long way since TOS and the Talosians, haven't we? :)
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 12:39am (UTC -6)
4 stars

Excellent episode

Tng really never revisited earlier threads but Moriarty seemed like a good one to revisit.

I guess they didn’t want to namecheck Pulaski outright so they made an oblique reference to her/- I appreciated it as a callback to “Elementary my dear Data”

Barclay good choice to accidentally unlock Moriarty.

The show did a good job tricking me. I was totally bewildered when Moriarty walked out the holodevk and didn’t disintegrate. Then I was further floored when Dr Crusher Confirned he was flesh and blood

Things got really interesting as Picard Er al monitoring the gas giants when lights went off and computers began to flicker. Surprise— Moriarty somehow gained control of the ship.

I enjoyed seeing Data, Geordi and Barclay try to figure out a way to get a holographic object out of the holodeck into the real world. I was genuinely curious if they would succeed.

I loved Stephanie Beecham’s Countess. Her personality was great and every scene she was in was a true joy

The dialogue stood out too

Everything moving along then we get first inkling something is off by Data’s reaction to the transporter logs. What’s going on? I also enjoyed the dominant hand holodeck glitch playing into the plot letting Dara realize what was going on. When he flung his commbadge against the warp core and it m pixelated revealing bits of the holodeck feud was a great moment

And the reveal that they had been on the holodeck the whole time explaining how Moriarty was able to pull off his daring feats—first walking out of the holodeck intact then gaining control of the ship—was a great one!! It made perfect sense but the idea never crashes see my mind

Then the episode fooled me again. I had actually thought Picard had actually figured out a way to beam the pair into the real world when he went to the Countess. So I was surprised in a good way when Picard appeared in the shuttlebay to Riker and Worf and revealed that it too was a simulation. I liked the idea that Picard l, try as he might, couldn’t come up with a solution to bring Moriarty into the real world. That even that was beyond the Enterprise crew’s skillset.

What Picard ultimately cane up with was a good compromise. Moriarty won’t be left in an existential limbo like he had been. He’s with the countess. For all he knows they are living out their lives in the real world

I also loved the anachronistic image of these characters in their vintage attire onboard a 24th century shuttlecraft traveling the stars. The scene of them taking all of it In was a nice moment capturing a true sense of awe and wonder

And the episode’s coda was pitch perfect. Picard’s musings on possibly not being more than simulations themselves inside someone else’s program was great. It made me stop and consider for a brief moment the possibility that maybe I too could be in a simulation. It had a very Twilight Zone feel in that moment. And after what Picard just went through I’d be wondering if that’s really the end of all the holodecking within holodecking there was

Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 6:40pm (UTC -6)
Pretty clever episode -- nice to return to Prof. Moriarty who Picard had, no doubt, hoped he never would have to. The resolution was a tad confusing at first with what's in the holodeck and what isn't and of course the obligatory technobabble. But when Data tells Picard they've never left the holodeck -- that was quite the revelation and good deduction a la Sherlock Holmes.

What I enjoyed is Moriarty and his curiosity and wanting to share it with the countess. Their amazement at taking a shuttle and going off to the stars was really well portrayed -- it is the vastness of space that is just incredible. Moriarty and Picard also had a good little debate on ethics given the newly created life form. It was a clever cat and mouse game -- never nasty and always with class -- between Picard and Moriarty, something which is a hallmark for Trek.

Both actors who portrayed Moriarty and the countess did a perfect job -- their mannerisms and dialog really gave the impression of coming from the 19th century.

3 stars for "Ship in a Bottle" -- a good story, albeit a stretch with the holodeck character gaining sentience and perhaps even some of the holodeck within a holodeck and then communicating with a holodeck one level up. Great lines from Picard in the end theorizing that maybe they're in a holodeck on somebody's desk and then Barclay, who was used perfectly here as a 2ndary character, saying "Computer: End Program" (to no effect, of course).
Thu, Nov 2, 2017, 10:58pm (UTC -6)
Then Moriarty's universe came to a sudden destruction when the Enterprise-D came crashing down at the end of Generations. I suppose nobody thought to retrieve it in all the chaos.
Sun, Dec 10, 2017, 1:06pm (UTC -6)
Just re-watched in 2017.

1.5 stars

A holodeck within a holodeck within a holodeck? It might be clever, but it's not very entertaining. For the final act, how did Picard, Data, and Barclay program such a vast illusion in such a short period of time? Too unbelievable, even for sci-fi.

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