Star Trek #1600: Ghost in the Machine

CAPTAIN'S LOG: The crew is trapped in a holodeck escape room.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Murf as MVP. The shocking reveal.

WHY WE DON'T: When you waste the characters' time, aren't you wasting the audience's?

REVIEW: I'm not a big fan of plots where the characters are beset by different illusions. That covers a lot of Stephen King territory, for example, but also a holodeck episode like this one. There is some slim character development in this case (mostly, what the kids get up to in the holodeck), but we're mostly biding our time here until the big reveal or twist at the end. So we're basically asked to enjoy the wild visuals and trust that there's a point to all this.

A lot of wild visuals indeed. Zero's YA mysteries program feels like an escape room, which is what motivates the crew, but is among the most timid programs. Highlights instead include the black and white Dixon Hill-style "Key Club", where Murf somehow offers a musical number (lipsync is strongly suspected), a well inside a piano, and Rok's Tamagochi turning into a sea monster that attacks Dal's pirate ship. All their programs are scrambled together, so we learn that Murf has some kind of weird life, Jankom likes to beat up Janeway's Tellarite officer who was mean to him (so Jason Alexander gets to play almost every holodeck character), Rok loves cute things and takes car of a "pet" in a vet simulation, Zero is fond of mysteries, and Dal relaxes by ordering around a crew that actually respects him. Nothing for Gwyn, really, she's just shocked to see her father incarnated as a barista (not bartender, this is a kids' show). These fantasy sequences give everyone a little something to do, though Rok and Murf probably shine brightest.

The quest for the Skeleton Key is just a fool's errand, however - which weakens the episode - or a diversion, if you like, set up by the real villain: The Janeway hologram! In a shocking turn of events, she's a sleeper agent activated when the crew decided to no longer go find Starfleet. Unawares (she has no memory of this, but it's all on tape), she locked them in the holodeck, gave them reason to release the codes to the ship so she could aim it in Starfleet's direction, and now they're right in front of the Dauntless, ready to infect the Federation with a destructive computer virus. Well, that's ONE way to accelerate the plot!

LESSON: Only a sadist would whip cream.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A bit of a time waster, but it's got some fun bits.