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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S3E21 "Hollow Pursuits"

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Starfleet's resident Shrinking Violet, Lieutenant Barclay.

La Forge: You're just shy, Barclay.
Barclay: Just shy... sounds like nothing serious, doesn't it? You can't know.

So there’s this engineer, his name’s Barclay. Wesley calls him Broccoli (Wesley Crusher being obnoxiously disrespectful? Well now I’ve heard everything). He’s not very popular, La Forge thinks he’s lazy, and he spends most of his time in the holodeck. Riker thinks he’s not Enterprise material, and requests to have him transferred. Picard, though, thinks that’s too extreme and orders La Forge to make more of an effort to understand him.

When various odd malfunctions start popping up on the Enterprise, La Forge puts Barclay in charge of solving the mystery. He soon comes to realize that Barclay is a bright guy with a creative imagination, but is too shy and nervous to speak up. He follows Barclay into the holodeck and finds him dual-wielding fencing sabres against musketeer holograms of Captain Picard, Data, and himself, all at once. He has a heart-to-heart with the man, telling him that talking to Counselor Troi might be better for him than retreating into the holodeck, not realizing that Barclay has a big crush on Troi and has several holodeck programs dedicated to her as well. Barclay’s first session with Troi ends abruptly after he gets embarrassed and runs off. She has no idea what made him do that, because once again her empathic powers have proved completely useless.


Barclay again runs off to the holodeck, forgetting to report to the bridge as he was ordered. Riker, Troi, and La Forge track him down. After getting an eye-opening glimpse into how Barclay sees them, they find him asleep with his head in Doctor Crusher’s lap. La Forge tells him he understands how addicting the holodeck can be, admitting that he himself had once fallen in love with a holodeck program, but that it’s time for Barclay to knock it off and focus on his real-world responsibilities.

Suddenly the ship’s controls stop responding and the ship begins to increase speed. The ship goes to Red Alert, and La Forge calls an emergency brainstorming session in Engineering. They can’t think of any connection between the various incidents: a malfunctioning anti-gravity unit in a cargo bay, a malformed glass in Ten Forward, a transporter malfunction, and now this unexplained acceleration. Then Barclay suggests that a person could be the connection. Armed with that idea, La Forge manages to isolate a substance that the ship’s sensors would miss and would cause all of the malfunctions if transmitted by contact, and traces it to a broken container in the cargo bay.


They lower the temperature of the warp core to neutralize the effects of the substance, which gets things back under control and saves the Enterprise from tearing itself apart. La Forge recommends putting in at a starbase to be decontaminated. As the episode closes, Barclay returns to the holodeck one last time to say goodbye to the programs he created, and tells the computer to erase them all. Then, with a sly grin, he changes his mind and decides to save just one.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Accidental Misnaming: People nickname Barclay "Broccoli," and then just after Picard has told them not to, he ends up using the name by accident.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: At least, the ones in Barclay's program do (with Barclay himself as the bad boy in question).
    Holo-Troi: I feel your confidence...your arrogant excites me...
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Barclay's mistreatment by the main crew for much of the episode. Geordi realizes this through the episode's Whoopi Epiphany Speech.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: Barclay starts out spending most of his time in the holodeck, but with Geordi's support, he starts to cut down on his holo-fantasies.
  • Author Avatar: Barclay's party shyness is based on Michael Piller's own experiences verbatim.
  • Benevolent Boss: While Barclay being inadequate is the bottom line for La Forge and Riker, Picard isn't convinced, and insists that they take the time to get to know the man and find out why he's like this. Suffice to say, Picard's act of good will pays off.
  • Behind the Black: Averted. Riker and Geordi can be seen reacting to the Goddess of Empathy right before she's shown, as they should given that she's right in front of them. Troi doesn't seem to see her, but that's more a case of No Peripheral Vision.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Barclay keeps having these on the Holodeck, with Holo!Troi of course. The kicker is that Barclay is a terrible kisser, looking like he's about to devour her whole head.
  • Big Eater: Holo-Wesley is always seen stuffing his face.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    Troi: (to her holo-counterpart) Muzzle it!
  • Book-Ends: The episode begins and ends with Barclay in a holo-simulation involving the main cast before shutting it offreluctantly the first time, willingly the second.
  • Call-Back: While lecturing Barclay about his Holodeck addiction, Geordi says he understands how easy it can be to lose oneself in it, admitting that he once fell in love while inside.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The broken medical canister from The Teaser turns out to be the cause of everything that goes wrong aboard the Enterprise.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe for Riker when Picard accidentally calls Barclay "Broccoli."
  • Cringe Comedy: Riker, Troi and La Forge walking in on Barclay's holodeck program. Even before they find him, things get pret-ty awkward.
  • Dual Wielding: Barclay vs. Musketeer Picard, Geordi, and Data.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Broccoli." Thanks a lot, Wesley.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Teaser is this for Barclay. He's a big tough guy on his holodeck program, and then when he goes to meet his superiors, he's so meek he actually hides.
  • Exact Time to Failure: True to form, the computer tells everyone exactly how many seconds are left before the Enterprise flies apart.
  • Fantastic Drug: The holodeck, sort of, as this episode introduces the concept of holoaddiction.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: When Barclay fights the holo-Musketeers, it's not just their swords that clash.
    Musketeer!Data: You are outnumbered, Mister Barclay! Say you will yield and it ends here!
    Barclay: I shall speak with my sword, sir!
  • Hypocritical Humor: Troi finds Barclay's various Holodeck versions of the others rather amusing. Then she meets hers. And the amusement vanishes very quickly. A smirking Riker (who up until this point has been nothing but angry) is quick to rub it in her face.
    Riker: (full troll mode) We want to get more insight into what's been troubling this poor man, remember? (to Geordi) Quite a healthy fantasy life, wouldn't you say?
    Geordi: Mmm.
    Troi: (silently fuming)
  • The Internet Is for Porn: In this case, it's the holodeck which is being used by Barclay to invoke his various fantasies, including Troi being the Goddess of Empathy and his love interest.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Subverted. Picard and Riker suspect that Barclay's former CO had given him glowing performance evaluations specifically to bait another captain into requesting him. This turns out to be an unfair assessment. Barclay is indeed a skilled engineer, but has crippling phobias and social anxieties that prevent him from interacting with others properly. Once Picard and Geordi take the time to nurture him, Reg more than comes into his own.
  • Large Ham: All three holo-musketeers.
    Musketeer!Picard: (re Geordi, Riker, and Deanna) They are quite disagreeable, aren't they? (draws his sword along with his comrades) Shall we...have at them?
    Musketeer!Data: Deeee-lighted!
    Musketeer!Geordi: We shall thrrrash them!
  • Look Behind You: Barclay thinks that Musketeer!Picard is pulling this trick, until Geordi reveals that he's right behind Barclay.
  • Lust Object: Holo-Troi exists purely for Barclay to smooch, especially as the Goddess of Empathy.
  • Marty Stu: Barclay becomes this In-Universe with his holodeck programs, complete with plenty of Character Shilling from the Musketeers.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Guinan tells Geordi about Barclay, she mentions how imaginative he is. Later, after seeing Barclay's choice of holodeck programs, Geordi admits that he appreciates Barclay's imagination. Guinan gives a subtle look of approval.
  • Nervous Wreck: At his worst, Barclay is this. Watching him try to be assertive is pretty painful.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The test cylinder props were actually US Navy sonar buoy transport cases
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Picard's utterly mortified facial expression when he realizes he's accidentally called Barclay "Broccoli." Data attempts to reassure him by explaining how this could be a naturally occurring consonant displacement, but another look and even the android realizes he should just shut up.
      Data: Metathesis, sir, is one of the most common of pronunciation errors. A reversal of vowel and consonant. "Barc" to "broc"—(sees Picard's Death Glare and promptly shuts up)
    • Barclay then has a moment of this when he sees that Geordi has just walked in on one of his holo-programs.
  • Other Me Annoys Me:
    • Troi gets outraged when she sees her holographic counterpart:
      Troi Hologram: I am the Goddess of Empathy. Cast aside your masks and let me slip into your mind.
      Troi: Muzzle it.
    • Riker isn't too happy about his holo-doppelganger either.
    • Subverted with Geordi, who has nothing bad to say about his Musketeer persona. Good thing he didn't see himself in Barclay's first program, where a light shove was enough to send him stumbling across the room. Then again, it is Geordi. And, to be fair, the Geordi Musketeer looks pretty cool.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Played for Laughs; Troi telling her holographic self to "muzzle it."
  • Percussive Therapy: A variation involving swords instead of fists, but it's the same idea as it allows Barclay to vent in private.
  • Proscenium Reveal: The episode starts in Ten Forward, where we first meet Barclay. He displays gross insubordination to both La Forge and Riker, who both act like wimps in response, then flirts with Troi, who's been slinking around in a blue dress—then he is called to the cargo bay. His whole demeanor changes as he stands up and says, "Computer, save program."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Picard becomes the first person we see to give Barclay a chance at succeeding. Rather than pawn him off on someone else (as Riker suspects his previous CO did), Picard orders Geordi to be more patient and friendly with him in hopes of bringing him out of his shell.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What do you suppose is on Barclay Program 9, the only one he doesn't delete at the end? (Judging by a conversation between Worf and O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it might be the "Three Musketeers" program.)
  • Ron the Death Eater: Happens In-Universe, as the male main crewmembers, especially Riker, are all portrayed as arrogant idiots, whereas the female crewmembers Troi and Crusher are portrayed as loving and gentle figures (although Troi's not very happy to see her holographic counterpart).
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the systems that malfunctions is the flux capacitor. However, in the previous scene, it's referred to as a "flow capacitor," making this either a script error or a flub on Dwight Schultz's part.
    • Holo-Wesley is dressed as The Blue Boy.
  • Shrinking Violet: Holy crap, Barclay. He literally hides from Geordi at one point.
  • Stealth Pun: That title could also be heard as "holo pursuits."
  • Swing Low, Sweet Harriet: Holo-Beverly in one of Barclay's programs.
  • Take That, Audience!: When it was broadcast, some viewers took this episode as a slap in the face, considering Barclay to be a shallow parody of Star Trek fans. However, Barclay's nuanced characterization (within this debut episode as well as subsequent appearances) wound up winning the crowd.
  • Techno Babble: Quite a lot of it when Geordi heads a brainstorming session trying to figure out why the ship is malfunctioning.
  • Teleporter Accident: One of the rare times when nobody gets hurt—just a piece of metal gets melted. When reconfiguring transporters, it's apparently standard procedure to beam chunks of metal from pad to pad to check for such problems. (Better than testing it on the nearest Red Shirt.)
  • That Came Out Wrong: "I look forward to reading your report, Mr. Broccoli." Poor Barclay can't get out of that meeting fast enough, and Picard clearly feels like a total jackass for that little flub.
  • There Should Be a Law: When Riker sees Barclay's "Musketeer" program.
    Riker: This is a violation of protocol. Crew members should not be simulated on the holodeck.
    Geordi: Commander, I don't think there's any regulation against—
    Riker: Well, there ought to be.
    • Subsequent episodes show there are in fact regulations against basing holodeck characters off of real people without their consent, so either that's a Retcon or further legislation was eventually passed In-Universe.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When Riker goes to the holodeck to deal with Barclay, Geordi knows that he won't like what he sees and invites Deanna to come along.
  • Tranquil Fury: Riker doesn't raise his voice at all during the episode, but he radiates cold fury anytime he's near Barclay or in Barclay's holo-program.
  • Twist Ending: Mildly. Barclay telling the crew of the Enterprise that he's feeling better about himself and no longer needs their support. Turns out he's telling the holodeck version, and basically saying he's going to use the holodeck far less than he needs to anymore.
  • Warm Milk Helps You Sleep: Barclay's drink. Guinan says this word-for-word when Geordi chuckles at it.
    Guinan: Warm milk helps you sleep, LaForge. You should try it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So with the Enterprise in need of decontamination and repairs, and the medical canisters unsafe for transport aboard Federation starships, what happens to everybody on Nahmi IV?
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Guinan gives one to Geordi on how best to work with Barclay.
    Guinan: The idea of fitting in just... repels me.
    Geordi: Maybe I didn't make myself clear. Barclay, he's always late, he's nervous, nobody wants to be around him.
    Guinan: If I had the feeling that nobody wanted to be around me, I'd probably be late and nervous too.
  • You Look Familiar: In-Universe—Riker's doppelganger says he has a "familiar bearing" upon meeting the real deal.


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