113 "The Big Goodbye"

(airdate: January 11, 1988)

Writer: Tracy Tormé
Director: Joseph L. Scanlan

Cyrus Redblock: Lawrence Tierney
Detective Dan Bell: William Boyett
Lieutenant McNary: Gary Armagnac
Mac: Dick Miller

Felix Leech: Harvey Jason
Whalen: David Selburg
Desk Sergeant: Mike Genovese
Jessica Bradley: Carolyn Allport

Secretary [Madeline]: Rhonda Aldrich

Stardate: 41997.7

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is on its way to a diplomatic meeting with a notoriously touchy race called the Jarada. In order to blow off steam before the meeting, Picard enters the newly-upgraded holodeck to participate in a story as one of his favorite characters, the 1940s private detective Dixon Hill. While inside the holodeck with Dr. Crusher, Data, and a 20th-century historian named Whalen, however, the Jarada probe the Enterprise, inadvertently disrupting the holodeck and causing the removal of computer access and the disabling of the safety protocols - leading to one of Dixon Hill's adversaries shooting Whalen in the gut. Wesley is eventually able to open the holodeck doors from the outside, allowing the crewmembers to leave and Whalen to be treated. Picard then successfully greets the Jarada in the manner which they demand.

Whoops!: Why don't Cyrus and Felix immediately disappear when they leave the holodeck? Are the hologram emitters really strong enough to project beyond the holodeck itself, and if so, why do they have a "slowly dissolve" feature?
     There's something rather wonderfully silly about Picard describing the holodeck in rapturous, glowing terms - almost as if he'd thought no one had even heard of it before - during a staff meeting to a group of people who've almost all been shown to have already used the holodeck.
     Jaradan orthography seems rather complicated, based on the rules described by Troi and Picard. But that obscures an odd decision: why is Picard trying to read this greeting in Jaradan at all? Why not simply provide a version translated into English phonemes to make his life a lot easier (since that would address issues such as the [z] becoming a [b] when the wavy lines are present), especially given how important it is to get this right?
     The end credits misspell "Sergeant" as "Seargeant". [This is fixed in the remastered version.]

Classic Lines: Data, explaining that Picard isn't really Dixon Hill: "From your point of view, he is only a facsimile. A knock-off. A cheap imitation." Picard, wryly: "Thank you, Mr. Data."

Technobabble: The holodeck's bi-converter interface was adversely affected by the Jaradan probe.

Casualty Report: Whalen is shot in the stomach by Felix Leech with a semi-automatic pistol, due to the holodeck safety protocols malfunctioning. [No word on if he survives, but he probably does; it's not really that kind of story.]

Alien Love: There's a subtle suggestion that Picard and Crusher are attracted to each other (thus picking up on a story thread from "The Naked Now").

Library Computer: The Jarada [pronounced approximately like a Spanish word, so with an initial "h" sound] are a reclusive, insect-like race, with a very particular attitude toward protocol. They insist upon a precise greeting in their own language from Picard (and not a subordinate such as Riker), regarding any mispronunciation as a grave insult; one slight slip led to a twenty-year rift between the Federation and the Jarada, and the last attempt was accompanied by a slight error, which led to a graphic demonstration of the Jarada's negative reaction toward the Federation ship. [We're left to imagine the nature of the reaction, but the implication is that it wasn't pretty. It's also not certain if the twenty-year rift and the previous attempt are one and the same, though they probably are.] Picard is able to successfully deliver the Jaradan greeting, indicating an improved relationship between the Jarada and the Federation; this meeting occurs in the Jaradan sector, near a brown planet.
     A Jaradan sensor probe is powerful enough to disrupt the circuitry inside a running holodeck, disabling holodeck computer control and access as well as any safety protocols. Jaradan orthography include double bars, which indicate a long [s] sound; and an inverted T, which indicates a long [z] - unless the inverted T is followed by three wavy lines, in which case the [z] changes to a [b] sound. [If you haven't already, go to Whoops! for discussion on why this is strange.]
     The holodeck has recently undergone an upgrade. [No word as to what the specific upgrade is, but Picard is interested in running a Dixon Hill program in a way he didn't seem to be before the upgrade. Perhaps the upgrade involves more realistic computer-controlled characters (what we might now call NPCs)? Possibly corroborating this, the only human character we've seen generated by the holodeck thus far was a fairly simple aikido opponent in "Code of Honor".] The particular holodeck Picard uses has two entrances. Adversely affecting the bi-converter interface can contribute to malfunctions, including a lack of computer control and the inability to open the doors or contact the occupants inside. If a holodeck program is improperly aborted, everything inside could vanish, including the non-holographically-generated people within. [This may not be as strange as it first seems; we know that the holodeck also creates matter à la the transporter (as evidenced by the lipstick still on Picard's cheek here), so perhaps the computer typically distinguishes between the matter it generates and the matter it doesn't, and removing the failsafe allows the holodeck to get rid of all matter inside, regardless of whether it was computer-created or not.] There are circuits accessible next to the main door that can be visually analyzed via a special circuit viewer.
     Dixon Hill is a fictional 20th-century private detective, created by a writer named Tracy Tormé. [Check the author of this story if you don't get the in-joke.] Dixon Hill first appeared in a 1934 edition of the pulp magazine Amazing Detective Stories, with his second appearance in the 1936 novel The Long Dark Tunnel. Additional Dixon Hill stories include the novels The Big Good-bye (from 1944) and Dangerous Ground, as well as the stories "The National Sheriff" and "The Case of the Black Orchid". [The actual text Data is viewing appears to derive from three sources: 1924's The Listening Man by John A. Moroso (and in fact there's a frame here where the title page of that book is undoctored); 1946's Dangerous Ground by Francis Sill Wickware; and the instruction manual (written in pulp magazine style) of 1983's computer text adventure The Witness from Infocom.] Dixon Hill operates in San Francisco, at 350 Powell in Union Square, office 312. He has a blonde secretary [named Madeline, as we will subsequently learn in 2.19, "Manhunt"] and is friends with a police detective, Lieutenant McNary, as well as McNary's wife Sharon, and the McNary children. McNary has a new partner named Dan Bell; they operate out of Precinct 12. Hill's outer office includes a portrait of contemporary US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
     The Dixon Hill story Picard is experiencing involves some object being sought after by a man named Cyrus Redblock, who's a large, tall, bald man, who makes it a point to be polite but can be ruthless when needed. One of his underlings is Felix Leech, a weasely, nervous man with large bug eyes. [It looks like they're going for a Maltese Falcon approach here, not just with the mysterious MacGuffin but also with Cyrus Redblock as the Sydney Greenstreet character and Leech as the Peter Lorre type.] One woman, a socialite named Jessica Bradley (aka Mrs. Arthur Clinton Bradley), was killed in relation to the case, presumably by Redblock or one of his associates.
     Picard has been a fan of Dixon Hill since his youth, regarding him as a childhood hero. He knows a fair amount about the genre trappings and associated objects of 1940s America, although he's unfamiliar with some of the details, including baseball and Halloween (or at least the costume-wearing part of it). Picard's been looking forward to the Dixon Hill holodeck program ever since the holodeck was upgraded. He's rather bad at role-playing, constantly breaking the illusion by commenting on the scenario and decor and how impressed by everything he is. He's also willing to spend time during a staff meeting talking about how much he enjoyed the holodeck. He claims to be a poor speller.
     Data is interested in Dixon Hill due to Picard's interest, as well as La Forge comparing Hill to Sherlock Holmes. Data is much more willing to commit to the role-playing than Picard, using both a clichéd gangster accent and broadly appropriate slang.
     Dr. Crusher is willing to accompany Picard in his Dixon Hill program. She seems to find it all quite a lark, at least until Whalen is injured. She seems unfamiliar with how gum works, choosing to eat it rather than just chew on it. She doesn't seem terribly amused by Data's role-playing efforts.
     Whalen is an historian aboard the Enterprise who specializes in the 20th century and its fiction. He seems to know a fair amount about the Dixon Hill stories, including recognizing the character of Felix Leech. Physically he's tall and thin, with brown hair and eyes and pink skin. He also seemed to find the holodeck program a lot of fun until he was shot by Leech.
     Wesley has studied all the technical manuals about the holodeck.
     La Forge knows who Dixon Hill is.
     This is the only time we see Tasha Yar in command of the Enterprise.
     Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak of 56 games (ended by a pair of "journeyman" Cleveland Indians pitchers) lasted until 2026, when it was broken by a shortstop for the London Kings. [The Deep Space Nine episode "If Wishes Were Horses" will reveal that the shortstop in question is named Harmon "Buck" Bokai. DiMaggio's streak is accurately described; it lasted from May 15 to July 16 in 1941, and no one in the real world has to date come close to beating the record - Pete Rose came closest in 1978 with a 44-game streak.]

Final Analysis: "We are in a holodeck-created building of 1941. The computer refuses to accept voice commands. The controls for the environment are, therefore, not accessible." The story's a bit slight, but you can tell they enjoyed making this one, as the characters get the opportunity to do something different and spark off each other in entertaining ways, and that adds to our enjoyment. If there's any real downside, it's that this was successful enough that they're going to keep coming back to the "malfunctioning holodeck" well, usually with less satisfying results. But we shouldn't hold that against this: "The Big Goodbye" is a lot of fun and still worth your time.

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