The Enterprise is on route to make contact with the Jarada, an insect-like species who demand a ritual greeting from the captain of the ship. It is a very difficult greeting for humans to pronounce and the Jarada are very exacting in their expectations. A single mispronounced syllable could have interplanetary consequences. Captain Picard has been practicing the greeting, but it is starting to wear on him. Since it will be several hours until contact is made, he decides to engage in a diversion in the holodeck. He will assume the role of the fictional private detective Dixon Hill and Dr. Crusher, Data and crewman Whalen accompany him. However, a scan of the Enterprise causes the holodeck to malfunction, they are unable to disengage the program, they cannot exit and all safety protocols are turned off. Some gangsters arrive to settle a score with Hill and Whalen is seriously injured. Furthermore, the time of the rendezvous is approaching and Captain Picard cannot deliver the greeting from the holodeck. Wesley finally manages to open the exit and Picard and his group are able to leave the holodeck in the nick of time. What makes this episode work are the characters they interact with in the holodeck. In many ways they are self-aware and the title of the episode is derived from the conversation that Picard has with a fabricated police officer. The officer asks what will happen to him when the program terminates and Picard is forced to answer that he doesn't know. Hence, from the perspective of the officer, their parting is the big goodbye. The gangsters are also excellent characters, especially the leader. Even though he is on the verge of having Picard's party killed, he demonstrates that he is more than a thug. He insists on good manners and his dialog with Picard is excellent. In general, I do not like the episodes based on a holodeck malfunction. In my opinion, that plot device was far too overused in the series. Any technology used on the Enterprise that prone to malfunction would not be used on the Enterprise. What I found most difficult to believe is that there was no priority override to the holodeck. There would be a switch or button that would immediately disengage the holodeck, no matter what it was doing. However, the story was so well done that I override my usual objections and give the episode four stars.
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Charles Ashbacher (CharlesAshbacher)
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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When Captain Picard seeks some much needed recreation in theEnterprise's newly revamped holodeck, he decides to take a fantasy vacation as his favorite fictional private eye, Dixon Hill, a hard-boiled, trench-coated defender of WWII-era San Francisco. Picard's thrilling account of the computer-generated verisimilitude persuades a few shipmates to join him: Commander Data, Dr. Crusher, and some guy you've never heard of. Guess who gets shot when the holodeck malfunctions and its artificial creations turn very real and very deadly? The cast plays up to the genial humor of the witty story, and guest star Lawrence Tierney is a hoot as a Sidney Greenstreet-type villain philosophically intrigued by the notion that he doesn't truly exist. All that's missing is the playfulness that could have sent this over the top. Like manyNext Generationepisodes made before the show found its own voice and tone with the introduction of the Borg, "The Big Goodbye" suffers in comparison with the originalTrek. One looks back fondly to Kirk and Spock's similar brush with '30s-style gangsters ("A Piece of the Action"), which had a goofy, go-for-broke sense of the situation's absurdity which this show lacks. And for all Picard's going on about the stunning reality of the simulated San Francisco, this is a disappointingly set-bound episode, cramped and confined when it most needs to break out of its story and breathe freely.--Bruce Reid