Saturday, June 5, 2010

Star Trek TNG: The Big Goodbye

"The Big Goodbye" was the twelfth episode of the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation, and first aired January 11, 1988. It won a Peabody award, the only TNG episode to ever win the Peabody, and an Emmy for Best Costuming.

This is one of the first of what will become a standard feature; a holodeck episode. In this instance, Picard is required to execute an elaborate and formal greeting to the Jaradan, an greeting that was so poorly performed in previous attempts that the Jaradan felt insulted and refused to acknowledge the Federation for twenty years. Picard is under considerable stress. In an effort to relax, and on the advice of Ships's Counselor Lt. Troi, Picard retreats to the Holodeck to enjoy a Dixon Hill "holo novel" set in the twentieth century. Picard is eventually joined by Dr. Crusher, Data, and a historian, Whalen, all in costume, on the holo deck.

Unfortunately, there's a bug in the program, and the holodeck is malfunctioning, which means that "safeguards" are off, bullets are dangerous, and they can't exit the program—or the holodeck. The historian Whalen is killed as the crew members are held hostage by the mafia-esque thug Cyrus Redblock, who wants an "item" that Picard (as the private eye Dixon Hill) is supposed to have. Wesley manages to figure out the problem, and suggests resetting the holodeck—which briefly exposes the actual crew deck to Cyrus Redblock, who, visions of an entirely new universe to exploit, attempts to enter the deck, only to rasterize as he exits the holodeck. Picard manages to arrive on the bridge just in time to properly greet the Jaradan, and all is well. For the gory details, see the plot summary here.

"The Big Goodbye" is essentially a film noire pastiche, written for an audience with a passing acquaintance with the Maltese Falcon and not much else. The idea of a detective story on the holo deck was Roddenberry's; the execution of the story was writer Tracy Tormé's. This is generally perceived as the first true sign of what TNG would become. Wil Wheaton is quite enthusiastic about the episode. Despite the awards, older Trek fans frequently make scathing references to "The Big Goodbye" as a sort of reprise of the Original Series episode, "A Piece of the Action"; they share little more than a historic back drop in early twentieth century gang folklore. The emphasis on Picard learning the Jaradan greeting from Counselor Troi in the first act is, well, idiotic. They would presumably have a ship's linguist, a recording, a phonetic transcription, something, that would be more intelligent than Picard learning it from someone else who may not have any more of a clue than he.

The official trailer for "The Big Goodbye"

The previous episode was "Haven"; the next episode is "Datalore."

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