Star Trek 176: Hollow Pursuits

176. Hollow Pursuits

FORMULA: Tin Man + Booby Trap + Contagion

WHY WE LIKE IT: Barclay is immediately deserving of repeat appearances.

WHY WE DON'T: Some longueurs on the holodeck.

REVIEW: Dwight Schultz is given the job of creating a character that plays against the normal Trek type and he succeeds beautifully. Barclay is quite atypical. He's nervous, he's anxious, he's shy. He stutters, can't find the right words, freezes when asked to speak in public. It seems that Engineering attracts these "imperfect" types, if we go by no-luck-in-love La Forge and klutzy Sonya Gomez ;-). (I'm sure there's a reason for the amazing revolving chief engineers of season 1 too! Good thing there's O'Brien.) Showing us someone like this humanizes Starfleet a great deal, and Schultz is careful to make Barclay sympathetic, where he could easily have been annoying.

His only escape from his anxieties is the holodeck, and he makes very natural use of it too. I just wonder how far things with holo-Troi have gone! Though I do think some of the musketeer material goes on too long, Barclay's fantasies do serve a variety of purposes. They allow him to be charming and confident, get the girl and punch out the jerk. Nice swordfight. They also give us "revenge" visions of the bridge crew, which are pretty funny. Wesley as a spoiled brat, Riker as a small-statured fool (unfortunately, this isn't as well executed as I'd like, and I never notice "Number One"'s size until Troi mentions it), etc. Finally, they also make good false leads, as you suddenly realize you're not watching the real McCoys, but their holodeck facsimile.

In the real world, there's a plot that requires Barclay to be instrumental in saving the ship, but this is all par for the course. Far more interesting is everyone's quest to make him fit in. I particularly loved Picard's management style here, killing the nickname thing (and he's the one that slips!) and ordering La Forge to make Barclay his best friend. Guinan's good here too, making some good points. And when Barclay finally opens up to La Forge, what he says about being shy feels right. Troi's defense of Barclay's behavior turning into outrage when she discovers the goddess of empathy is another fun moment. This episode is filled with them.

LESSON: When you're... indulging your fantasies... lock the door.

REWATCHABILITY - High: With hindsight, we know Barclay did not go the way of Sonya Gomez, and we can all be glad about that. A fine - and very human - addition to the Enterprise, and his intro story is worthy of him.


Dan said...

This is one of my favorite episodes - I love that the writers & producers gave at least some thought to the idea that the Holodeck could be an addictive thing, and as you say, it's nice to see a Starfleet officer who's not constantly bold, heroic and confident.

Also, one of Data's best lines ever - "Why is Lt. Barclay being referred to clandestinely as a vegetable?"

Siskoid said...

Brilliant delivery!


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