11001001 (TNG Rewatch: Season 1, Episode 14)

Rewatching ST:TNG after taking a 20-year break.

With the Enterprise in drydock for a computer refit, Riker ends up in the holodeck, fascinated by the sultry hologram he asks the computer to create so someone will admire his trombone talents.

If you like Riker-centered scenes, this one has plenty, but it’s a thin premise for science fiction episode. I appreciate that the holodeck didn’t actually cause this week’s crisis — it seems to have been part of a jerry-rigged attempt to distract Riker.

This time it’s Riker, not Wesley, who gets suspicious of the aliens-of-the-week. Young Crusher seems to want to chat with the Bynars, computer-dependent life forms that are even nerdier than he is. Riker comes off looking negligent for ignoring his instinct and leaving Wes apparently alone on the bridge with them. And because it was just two episodes ago that a holodeck malfunction almost turned fatal (and we understand that tinkering with a holodeck program while it’s running can mean insta-death of everyone inside), Riker seems rather cavalier about entering the holodeck.

Another detail that doesn’t exactly do Riker credit is that he initially refers to the Bynars as “gentlemen,” and is told, “They’re not gentlemen or ladies, Commander.” But a few scenes later, Riker says, “Gentlemen, if this is what you call enhancement, you have a gift for understatement.” (Is this just a script oversight?)

In the final act, the story reveals that these computer-dependent aliens hatched the plan to steal the Enterprise to save their world because there was the chance that, had they asked, the answer might have been no.

Yet this is the same civilization that has managed to upgrade the holodeck so that it can somehow give Riker exactly the kind of admiration he wants, and also give Picard the intellectual stimulation he wants. How likely is it that the Bynars, whose holodeck upgrade can read and respond to Riker and Picard so effectively, also misjudge the Federation so badly? Perhaps they subcontracted out all the holodeck work?

At the end of the story, the masterminds behind the starship heist plan seem just as surprised as we are by how it all turned out.