Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) – Elementary, Dear Data, and The Outrageous Okana

Captain’s log: stardate  42286.3

Elementary, Dear Data first aired on 5 December, 1988. Written by Brian Alan Lane, this one is a holodeck story.

Data (Brent Spiner) and Geordi (LeVar Burton) are looking to have some fun on the holodeck engaging in the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, respectively. Unfortunately, Data knows all the stories and solves them before any enjoyment can be had.

Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) points out that Data only knows the answers because he’s read all the stories, She wagers that if the holodeck created a mystery worty of Data’s intellect, he wouldn’t be able to solve the mystery.

The bet is taken, and the parameters entered into the system. This causes the programme to draw energy from the rest of the ship, and Data/Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty (Daniel Davis) to become self-aware.

Picard (Patrick Stewart), eventually, must join Data when he confronts Moriarty, and it’s highly enjoyable watching Stewart in Victorian garb. Moriarty becomes a slightly sympathetic character by story’s end as he wonders what will become of him when the holodeck is deactivated – a theme explored similarly in last season’s The Big Goodbye.

It’s a fun episode, the story is smart, engaging, contemplates the nature of life from an unusual angle. Some issues with the Doyle estate prevented further adventures with Data and Geordi as these iconic characters, but Moriarty would return in season 6.

I do like seeing the friendship between Geordi and Data at the centre of the episode, and Pulaski gets some nice moments to help her ease into the Trek family.

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Captain’s log: stardate 42402.7

Featuring a teleplay by Burton Armus from a story by Les Menchen, Lance Dickson and David Landsberg The Outrageous Okana debuted on 12 December, 1988, and featured Bill Campbell, who had originally auditioned for the role of Riker. It also features an appearance by Teri Hatcher.

This is a bit of a letdown, especially after the previous episode. Data tries to get a crash course in humour from Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and a holodeck comedian (Joe Piscopo). That’s the B Story.

The A Story (actually they both feel like B stories) follows Captain Okana (Campbell) who is a bit of a rogue. He is beamed aboard the Enterprise to effect repairs on his damaged ship. While he flirts with a transporter chief (Hatcher) the Enterprise finds he is wanted by two different families from two different planets who are accusing him of crimes.

At the heart of each family are two young people who have been using Okana as a go-between. They are in love with each other, but there families hate each other.

The entire story is filled with tropes and cliches, and while Spiner gets to put his character through his paces, the bulk of the episode is rather dull, no matter how likeable Campbell is in his role as Okana.

He would have made for a very different Riker, and I don’t think he would have worked out as well as Jonathan Frakes did in the role.

Still, there is more to come in season 2, as we’ll see Thursday when the Human Adventure continues…

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