The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Ship in a Bottle

Whilst diagnosing a problem with Data’s Sherlock Holmes holodeck program, Barclay accidentally reactivates Moriarty, the sentient hologram Geordi accidentally created four years earlier. Moriarty is angry at having been left for so long, and insists that Picard and crew help him get himself and his lady friend off the holodeck for good.

Although I had branded it as “yet another stupid holodeck episode” in my head, actually, Ship in a Bottle isn’t too bad. There’s a minimum of the stupid hamming it up in a pre-20th century Earth setting; instead we get the classic “are we back to reality yet?” that Star Trek does so well. Yes, there’s much to question about how any of this works, and why the Enterprise security is still so shoddy, but by the standards of holodeck episodes, it’s one of the better ones. And making Moriarty eager to be more than the villain Conan Doyle wrote him as is a great choice, allowing his character to be more than the comic, 2D adversary he could have been.

The dangers of the holodeck

  • Just as I asked in Elementary Dear Data, why is it so easy to create sentient life on the holodeck? Presumably, it would also be possible to create a sentient holographic copy of a living person – in fact, it’s amazing Geordi hasn’t done that to holographic Leah Brahms yet.
  • If Moriarty and the Countess are so smart, surely they’ll notice that their pocket universe is populated by simplistic NPCs? Maybe they’ll just assume that, compared to them, everyone else in the galaxy is an idiot.
  • Barclay says Moriarty and the Countess have a lifetime of adventures, but as holograms they presumably don’t age and die, so who knows how long their lifetimes will even be?
  • Why would there even be a fear of Moriarty ceasing to exist if he left the holodeck? The code on my computer still exists even when it’s not running. Maybe he’s existed in RAM all this time?
  • Authenticating yourself to the Enterprise computer by saying your password out loud is shown to be a bad idea. I assumed that the computer also did voiceprint analysis, at least adding a modicum of additional security.

Summary – Ship in a Bottle: Computer, end program.

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