Hollow Pursuits (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season Three, Episode 21) Misfit Crewmember Faces Holodeck Addiction

Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.

Awkward, stuttering junior engineer Barclay spends too much time in an alpha male holodeck fantasy. His bar fights, sword fights, and over-the-top moments of swagger and seduction approach Kirk-level bravado. A predictable but enjoyable riff on Thurber’s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

LaForge and Riker have given up on Barclay, but as the wise Picard says, “It’s easy to transfer a problem to someone else…. too easy.”

On the captain’s orders, LaForge goes out of his way to befriend “Reg,” even sharing his own struggles with holodiction: “I fell in love there once” (a reference to “Booby Trap“).

Picard, after having scolded his officers for mocking Barclay with a nickname, accidentally calls him “Mister Broccoli. (Awkward pause.) Barclay.” To fill the even more awkward silence that follows, Data says “Metathesis is one of the most common of pronunciation errors, sir,” but sees that he’s not helping, and wisely bails out in mid-sentence.

The ensemble regulars look like they are having a blast as curly-wigged frilly-costumed buffoons, as projected via Barclay’s holograms. When an indignant Riker orders the computer to delete the demeaning programs, Troi defends Barclay’s fantasy life, until she sees her own incarnation as “Goddess of Empathy.” Formulaic, but amusing.

Of course it’s Barclay’s “imaginative” way of thinking that ultimately saves the day, but the countdown-to-certain-destruction in the final act seemed tacked on to please a cigar-chomping producer who barked, “What is this, an office comedy? Give me more space action, dammit!”