"Ship in a Bottle"

Season Six, Episode 12
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Daniel Davis as Professor James Moriarty
Stephanie Beacham as Countess Regina Bartholomew
Dwight Schultz as Lt Reginald Barclay
Clement von Franckenstein as Gentleman

While making repairs to the holodeck -- specifically Data's Sherlock Holmes program, Barclay inadvertantly unleashes Professor Moriarty, the holographic nemesis of Holmes that achieved sentience four years previously (Elementary, Dear Data). Furious that he has spent four years in limbo, Moriarty insists on speaking with Picard whom he astounds by walking off the holodeck -- an impossibility for a hologram. Fully able to exist in the "real world", Moriarty insists that his one true love, Countess Regina Bartholomew be made to exit the holodeck as well. Moriarty commandeers the ship's computer as incentive for Picard and crew to facilitate his demand.

As the ship hangs precariously close to a colliding star, Picard, Data and Barclay make haste in their efforts to free the Countess. Data astounds Picard by revealing that the two of them plus Barclay are actually still aboard the holodeck -- Moriarty has fooled them by creating an elaborate simulation of the Enterprise. So in actual fact Moriarty never left the holodeck and neither did they. The three set up an elaborate simulation themselves, tricking Moriarty into thinking he and the Countess have left the Enterprise in a shuttle in exchange for control of the ship. Moriarty and the Countess are stored in an active file with enough memory to provide a lifetime of adventures.


Another holodeck show in such close proximity to A Fistful of Datas (a mere three episodes ago) is definitely pushing it, but fortunately Ship in a Bottle more than pulls through, happily ranking among the better holodeck episodes. The primary reason for this is Rene Echevarria's clever plot, with a number of genuinely surprising and imaginative twists and turns that elevate this from the usual holodeck-malfunctions-endangering-
-the-crew" cliche. Although I had little desire for a follow-up to the second season's Elementary Dear Data (as fun as it was), Ship in a Bottle works very nicely and is engaging, well-plotted, witty and quietly charming pretty much throughout.

The performances are probably the highlight of the episode, with Daniel Davis providing an excellent foil for Picard (who needs Sherlock Holmes, eh?) and Stephanie Beacham is absolutely charming as Countess Bartholomew. The pair's eagerness to leave the holodeck and exist in the real world is an interesting counterpoint to our occassional desire to leave the real world and retreat into fantasy (as was exemplified by Barclay in Hollow Pursuits). I like that. This is also one of those rare episodes to capture a sense of magic and awe at the ability to "sail adrift in the heavens". When Moriarty and the Countess finally set off in their shuttle it's hard not to be touched by their wonder and eagerness as they set off on their adventure. Of course, in a nice bit of irony, Picard has used Moriarty's own trick against him and trapped both of them in an ongoing holodeck simulation. About the only criticisms I could level at the episode would be its lack of pace and a slightly confusing denouement, but other than that it's a definite keeper and one of the most imaginative, charming and witty episodes to utilise that wonder ol' invention, the holodeck.

Rating: 8.5

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