Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 2, Episode 3

Elementary, Dear Data (3 Dec. 1988)

TV Episode  |   |  Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 1,066 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 6 critic

An attempt to provide Data with a challenging Sherlock Holmes holodeck RPG scenario backfires when its Prof. Moriarty character accidentally becomes self-aware.



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Title: Elementary, Dear Data (03 Dec 1988)

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Episode cast overview:
Wesley Crusher (credit only)
Biff Manard ...
Diz White ...
Ensign Clancy (as Anne Elizabeth Ramsay)
Richard Merson ...
Pie Man


When the Enterprise arrives a few days early at its rendezvous point to meet the USS Victory, the crew have a bit of leisure time on their hands. For Data and Geordi Laforge, it means a trip to the holodeck and 221B Baker St. With Data in the role of Holmes and Laforge as Dr. Watson, they take on a challenge from Dr. Pulaski that Data couldn't solve a genuine mystery. Data has a bit of time adjusting to a real mystery - as opposed to one for which he knows the outcome. In giving the holodeck computer its instructions however, Geordi's specifications for an opponent results in a far superior creation than expected putting them and the entire ship in danger. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

3 December 1988 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although it is commonly believed that Sherlock Holmes is a character in the public domain, Jon Lellenberg (American representative of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate) maintains that the Doyles retain copyright on the character until an expiration date in 2023. Paramount Studios (producing company of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)) obtained permission from the Doyles to make Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) (acknowledged in that movie's end credits), but considered similar permission unnecessary for "Elementary, Dear Data," which they believed fell under the parody clause of copyright law, and thus aired the episode without notifying the Doyles. (ST:TNG producer Jeri Taylor, who joined the show in 1990, once incorrectly wrote that Paramount was wholly ignorant of the Doyles' property, but Lellenberg straightened this out.) The Doyles then wrote to Paramount that they were flattered by the episode, but felt it remained within their legal sphere, so they wanted in on any further Trek usage of their characters. Although Brent Spiner was eager to play Holmes again, nearly 4 years went by before Paramount and the Doyles agreed on a "reasonable licencing fee" for the follow-up episode Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ship in a Bottle (1993). See more »


When a murder occurs, the police inspector calls Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Data and LaForge). But Holmes and Watson were not members of the London Police, and had no business being at a crime-scene. This was a running gag of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and this continuing irony was the sticking point for Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, who was repeatedly made to look like a fool by Holmes. See more »


Doctor Pulaski: To feel the thrill of victory, there has to be the possibility of failure.
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Referenced in Trekkies 2 (2004) See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

Sometimes the Holodeck Is a Loose Cannon!
4 August 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On board the Enterprise, the Holodeck provides a recreational distraction for the crew. It is, without a doubt, the most complex of entities, going beyond the realm of current possibilities. For one thing, it is more than holographic. The people can be touched, the chairs sat in, the fog felt, and so on. Also, there are some possibilities that only the mind can envision. With the huge crew, there never seems to be a problem with crew members signing up for this thing. I believe there are two on the ship. Do only ranking officers get to use it? I know that in the future, little children are allowed in there. Anyway, it is fact, but there is little information about how it came to be (at least I haven't seen it yet). Back to the episode. Data has a thing for Sherlock Holmes and has created a program where he and Geordi (his Watson) encounter the villains from the Holmes canon. To Geordi's dismay, Data solves the crimes immediately, since he already knows the plot of the story. Geordi and Polaski talk him into allowing them to create a program where he has no idea what is going to happen. Geordi makes a terrible mistake when he asks that a character be created that could defeat "Data" rather than that could defeat "Holmes." This brings the great Moriarity to life and puts the ship and its crew in danger. The Holodeck seems to be able to create such an entity which would make it rather a dangerous thing, out of the hands of the crew. There are two issues at stake. The very life of the ship and Moriarity's mortality which comes into play. The final scene is a little too easy, but it gives us a thoughtful look at what constitutes a life form, which brings the prime directive into play. Picard goes about his business on a day to day basis, as crew members come and go in the Holodeck. It makes one wonder if some safeguards might be put in place after this episode.

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