11. The Big Goodbye

Hold it now…

…bellboys in the 1940s wore something like the Star Trek uniforms?

…Picard doesn’t know what “Halloween” or a “city block” are?

…Picard and Dr. C are OK with acting so intimately in a staff meeting?

…the Enterprise has a fiction expert? What does he do when travelling the galaxy? Read? I think I just found my dream job!

…London’s going to have a baseball team before 2026? How’s that going to happen when it wasn’t even popular enough to be in the 2020 Olympics?

…Dr. C doesn’t know what gum is?

…did Picard and Dr. C finally just fall for each other? They were trying to sneak off to the office together. Who knows what would’ve happened if the damn fiction expert hadn’t chimed in with the tact of Data.

…is this the Duke’s of Hazard Geordi again? He’s awfully short-tempered with Riker.

…these characters don’t like being told they’re fake, do they?

…after the Jarada screech at Riker, did he turn around and screech at Geordi?

 Figuring out the holodeck

This is only the second time the holodeck appeared, so maybe we haven’t quite got it figured out. But I’ve got some concerns. Why does the lipstick stay on Picard’s face? Why would Wesley say that there is a risk that the people in holodeck might disappear if they shut down the program? Has he really studied those manuals? That’s what you get when you ask a kid to figure out the computer problems. He’s just making the answers to stuff he doesn’t know.

 One cool thing

I really enjoyed the lamp gag. (Thematically it was inappropriate. The story was trying to become more serious, and here suddenly a joke, and it’s based on Data being an idiot. Well, he’s got all this knowledge, but he’s a dolt.) Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner pulled it off.

 Alton Benes

Do you remember last time when I compared Lwaxana to Kramer from Seinfeld? Then out of nowhere who appears in the Big Goodbye, but Elaine’s dad. And he’s spouting the same kind of macho nonsense he did in season two of Seinfeld. So in honor of this coincidence, the top five Cyrus Redblock quotes:

5 A Newtonian truism you’ve obviously neglected.

4 Civility gentlemen. Always civility.

3 Good manners are never a waste of time.

2 One look at you sir is proof that anything is possible.

1 Life is an endless stream of choices. Unfortunately, you’ve chosen to make my life more difficult. 

Nobody likes a tourist

The theme song for this episode should be William Shatner’s cover of Common People because Picard wants to let off steam by slumming.

From the moment they enter the holodeck they are constantly laughing at how quaint it all is. They talk about the holodeck characters as if they’re nothing, as trivial as the cars they walk past. The effect is that we feel uncomfortable. This just doesn’t feel right.

It’s as if we’re seeing the crew violate their own rules of conduct, acting without integrity.

So when Redblock shows up talking about manners and civility, we start to get the feeling that the main message is that we should always follow our own rules of conduct towards “the other” even when “the other” is a fictional character.

But then Data points out that Redblock is a hypocrite. He’s a thug who talks a polite game and then shoots everyone. After that Redblock and Leech have a conversation about the crew as if the crew wasn’t there, as if they were as unimportant as the lamps they barely know how to use.

So the theme that emerges in a vague and confused fashion is that we should always behave with integrity.

It’s something we learn because no one is doing it, and their behavior makes them all seem like jerks.

The episode seems to want to sit down and have a nice long talk about what’s real and what isn’t, but for some reason it doesn’t quite know how to bring it up clearly. It just kind of mumbles and we catch a few snippets.

I would really like to know why all the holodeck characters (including Detective Boyett) are so upset at the suggestion that they are not real. Has the holodeck’s computer programed them that way? If so why? If the prerequisite for making a character seem real is that they violently defend a static sense of reality, then THAT is interesting. I want to hear more.

I suspect that whatever guiding force lies beneath the construction of this story is unclear to all the people involved in making it, and that they were just tourists, having a look see at great detective movies and laughing it up. And what’s worse they made us all tourists too…

 Morals, messages, and meanings

  1. Always act with integrity
  2. Treat others politely
  3. Community is important – Picard insists that for the holodeck experience to be truly enjoyed it must be shared. That’s why he takes Whalen and Dr. C along. (Data crashed.)
  4. It’s important to speak properly –  The importance of speaking properly is emphasized in the Jarada subplot, and also in learning the lingo of the 1940s.
  5. It’s important to dress properly – for every time and place there is a way to dress, and if we want to play a role, we should respect that.

From here on, these are the messages that I think inadvertently come out.

  1. There is danger in entertainment
  2. There is danger in technology
  3. There is danger in contact with unknown or unfamiliar aliens – I’m taking this from the fact that trying to make friends with insectoid aliens, led to Picard’s stress and resultant need for a break, the probe that caused the holodeck malfunction, and finally the time constraints that made everything worse.
  4. Face pressures head on – Picard takes a break to escape the pressures of command, and that’s what leads to the problems. If he had done what he wanted to do, he would kept on preparing and there would’ve been no problem. (Troi insisted. Said, Go on out to the holodeck. We’ll get together. Have a few laughs…)

Does it hold up?

No.

This episode broke my heart. I remember it so fondly, and I’ve been looking forward to it since my cheap, not digitally remastered DVDs arrived in the mail. As an adult, I’ve read everything by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and one of the reasons I liked them so much was that the stories always reminded me of Dixon Hill and Picard.

Imagine my surprise when this is the story I got.

The time constraints are nonsensical. What’s with the probe? Why does it affect only the holodeck?

Speaking a language perfectly as a prerequisite for relations? That’s just malarkey. It goes both ways, you know?

Data’s gags are ridiculous and inconsistent. I mean if he just read every story about Dixon Hill, wouldn’t he have come across “Look what the cat dragged in”? He knows what a city block is, but not how lamps get electricity?

Picard comes off as a doddering old man who’s just downloaded his first app on an iPhone.

William Boyett is so pushy about his friendship with Picard that it’s awkward (unless it’s intentionally homoerotic).

The lighting is horrible. The holodeck doors just look horrible. Why do they look so fake?

The situations are contrived and stupid. Why didn’t Data just beat the crap out of everyone and bend their guns from the get go.

I watched this four times trying to find something good about it, but I give up. Now…

…now I’m going to go back to imagining that I’m the Enterprise’s fiction expert, and I’m sitting in my quarters with my Kindle just waiting for the next LARP request to come in. 

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