29 – Elementary, Dear Data

Grade: C+

Elementary, Dear Data (1988) on IMDb


Geordi LaForge and Commander Data have planned to spend some time on the holodeck in a simulation of a Sherlock Holmes story. But to make the story more interesting, they’ll follow Dr. Pulaski’s suggestion and create a character capable of defeating Commander Data. Unfortunately for the Enterprise, this means he’ll have access to the library of information on the ship.


This is a nice episode – we have a new character (Dr. Moriarty) who is a worthy nemesis to Commander Data. The problem is we still have Dr. Pulaski here, messing things up for everyone.

Here, she’s managed to insult Data (by suggesting that he doesn’t actually think, but that he follows memorized routines), and challenge him to match wits with a new holodeck character who has access to the entire library of the Enterprise. We’ll deal with this Moriarty character again in four years, long after Pulaski is gone from the ship. But in the meantime, Moriarty will be hanging around in the computer, patiently waiting his turn to be free.

But here’s a problem I have with the storyline. How can the holodeck on the Enterprise just create a character who is self-aware? And does that mean Moriarty is alive? How is this even remotely possible? Well, another problem I have with this episode is how easily Moriarty gives up in the end. He had no reason to relinquish control of the ship. I don’t think this was a very realistic ending. A better ending would have been for Picard to have given Moriarty something that he (Moriarty) valued as much as Picard valued control of the ship. Besides, why couldn’t Picard simply have let Moriarty try to leave the holodeck? That’s what this was all about.

Anyway, it’s an interesting episode in many ways, and quite possibly the best one of the entire second season, but it could really have been better.

Of Note

Four years later, Moriarty shows up again in “Ship in a Bottle.” The reason for the delay is because the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle still owned the copyright to the characters and stories of Sherlock Holmes. Litigation kept the sequel episode off TV until 4 seasons after this one.