The USS Enterprise-D is en route to a meeting with the Jarada (“Harada”) on a diplomatic mission. Captain Picard has been appointed by Starfleet to attempt to establish a relationship with them; however, the captain must recite their complicated greeting to them, in their native tongue, without any errors, or otherwise the meeting will fail. The captain and Deanna Troi have been practicing the speech in his ready room for hours. Troi says that the captain should take a break and suggests trying the new holodeck upgrades. Picard’s face brightens when he remembers that he’s been looking forward to trying out the new Dixon Hill holodeck program, set in 1941. After entering the holodeck, Picard is impressed by the upgrades. He enters the the main office of Dixon Hill, Private Investigator, the character he is playing, and is met by – who I presume to be – his secretary or assistant. She asks him if he has lost a bet, as he appears to be wearing an bell boy’s outfit. Picard/Dixon apologises and agrees that his current, Starfleet, uniform is totally inappropriate. She tells him that there’s a lady waiting in his inner office – nice legs apparently. Not Picard, the lady in his office. He enters his inner office, where we meet the legs in question, owned by a Mrs. Jessica Bradley, who claims someone is trying to kill her.
Bradley briefs Dixon on her predicament, she doesn’t know who wants to kill her, suggesting one Cyrus Redblock. Dixon states his daily rate, to which Mrs Bradley agrees, despite Dixon not yet agreeing to take her case. She is confident that he’ll take her case, as she kisses him, leaves a small retainer, and leaves… but not before taking one of his business cards. As she leaves his office, Picard turns to the window, and notices automobiles outside, a fascinating sight to him. He leaves the simulation for the time being. Just as he is leaving the holodeck, a Mr. Leech knocks on the door, and opens it, to find, to his surprise, that the captain has “vanished”.
Picard calls a meeting in the observation lounge with all the senior staff to discuss the Jarada mission. Before starting, though, he marvels at the holodeck upgrades, and invites Dr. Crusher to accompany him next time, along with Mr. Whalen, a 20th century historian. Dr Crusher wipes Mrs Bradley’s lipstick from Picard’s mouth, and says that she’d like to go with him.
The conversation quickly turns to the Jarada, where Riker starts the briefing, noting the requirement that Picard perfectly enunciate the greeting for a successful outcome. Commander Data further emphasizes this, starting to mention in detail the last Federation attempt, much to the captain’s annoyance and ends the meeting since he has seen it enough.
Data and Geordi La Forge discuss Dixon Hill after the meeting in a corridor, and compare him to Sherlock Holmes. This intrigues Data, and he decides to look up every piece of literature on Dixon Hill in the ship’s computer. Geordi leaves Data to it, after quoting some Sherlock Holmes to him…which impressed Data somewhat. After scanning the entire literary catalogue of Dixon Hill in the space of a few seconds, Data decides he should accompany the captain and Whalen on their holodeck excursion. The three – suitably attired in the style of the 1940’s – enter holodeck 3.
Kitted out in full ‘40s-style clothing, they arrive in the middle of a busy San Francisco street. Data almost immediately attracts attention by not being “from around here”, and Picard claims that Data is from South America, to which a near-by newspaper seller responds “Yeah, he’s got a nice tan!“. Reading a newspaper, Picard notes that Jessica Bradley has been murdered, and he feels sorry that he couldn’t do anything to stop it, despite Whalen’s remark that she’s only a character from a story. Two police officers arrive, and accuse Picard of Jessica’s murder, since she had his business card on her.
Back on the bridge, the Jarada send out a long-range probe, and commence scanning the Enterprise, disrupting the ship’s systems momentarily, including causing the holodeck’s doors to open and close repeatedly.
The Jarada then attempt to communicate with the Enterprise, more specifically with the captain, but they are offended to hear that only Commander Riker is available to speak to them. He tells La Forge to go find the captain on the holodeck.
Dr. Crusher enters the holodeck, with some difficulty, but thinks nothing of it. She meets up with Whalen and Data in the lobby of a police station. Data confuses her with his newly-learned ’40s accent. Dr. Crusher seems excited by the idea of her shipmates being “on ice” and wants to know why they’re not all being interrogated.
She sits down next to a lady in the police station, looks appraisingly at her, and then slowly pulls her dress up her leg to show off her knee… emulating the lady next to her. A police officer approaches the lady, says “come on, Toots, let’s go.” and leads her away. Dr Crusher rearranges herself a little more modestly.
In a back room of the station, Picard is being “grilled” by the two officers, Dan Bell and McNary, and loving every minute of it.
Outside the holodeck, La Forge has arrived and discovered a problem with the holodeck controls, and cannot locate the captain or the rest of the team inside.
Commander Riker leaves the bridge under Yar’s command, and starts to head for Holodeck 3. Wesley wants to go along too, claiming that he’s studied all of the relevant technical manuals and could be of help. Riker replies that Geordi has got this, and that Wesley’s duty is on the bridge. Troi then reminds Riker that Wesley’s mother is also trapped on the holodeck, and Riker relents. He and Wesley leave for Holodeck 3.
Meanwhile, inside the holodeck, Picard – as Dixon Hill – is still getting interrogated by the local police over the murder of Mrs Bradley. When Picard realizes he’s got to be getting back to the bridge soon for the greeting of the Jarada, Lieutenant McNary, who happens to be Dixon Hill’s friend, agrees to try and get Picard out of there. Picard accepts a cigarette and promptly chokes on it – clearly not knowing what it was.
Back in the station foyer, Dr. Crusher is getting some unwanted attention from a desk sergeant. He offers her a chewing gum – amongst other things, seemingly – she accepts it and chews it for a moment – again, clearly not knowing what it was, and definitely not really liking the taste of it – before swallowing it!
Crusher is distracted by Picard’s return, and they both look at each other for a lingering moment.
At her request, they all head back to Dixon Hill’s office before leaving the holodeck. However, Leech is waiting for them when they arrive, and he pulls a gun on them.
Back on the other side of the holodeck doors, Wesley and La Forge are searching for the problem. Wesley proposes the problem started with the Jaradan probe, which may prove difficult to fix. Yar communicates from the bridge, saying they have arrived in the Jaradan sector, and that there has been no further communication from Torona IV, so Riker decides to wait.
Leech continues to detain the crew members, and demands to know what Picard has done with a certain “object” Dixon Hill was hired to find. Whalen acts tough in front of Leech, and Leech fires a shot at him. Whalen falls backwards, and initially everyone thinks he’s just acting. But everyone is shocked as Whalen is genuinely bleeding and turning pale; the holodeck safety protocols that prevent injuries must have been deactivated by the Jarada scan. Dr. Crusher rushes forward to tend to him.
Crusher announces that if Whalen isn’t taken to the sickbay immediately, he will die. When Leech comes closer, Picard rushes at him, knocks the gun out of his hand and punches him, letting him run out of the office. The captain then tries to call for the holodeck exit, with no response. Data goes to try another exit point, but to no avail: the computer is not responding to their commands.
On the bridge, the Enterprise has arrived at Torona IV already, without resolving the holodeck problems. Riker announces to the repair team that they’re running out of time before the greeting will be expected to be given to the Jarada.
Back in the holodeck, Dr. Crusher is struggling to keep Whalen alive while Picard and Data search in vain for a solution from their side. At that moment, Leech returns with a thug and a large man announcing himself as Cyrus Redblock. Redblock proceeds to look around Dixon’s office, searching for “the object”. He tries to get Whalen removed from the room, but Picard objects. Leech strikes Picard on the face with his gun, cutting his mouth.
Officer McNary walks into the office at that moment, and is surprised to find Cyrus Redblock and his cronies there, too. He’s quickly disarmed by the thug. Redblock then notices Data, and asks where he comes from. Picard decides to reveal where they all came from, but Leech is unconvinced. Data then exacerbates the situation by revealing that none of the others’ characters are actually real, a comment that seems to enrage Leech. Redblock wants to test Picard’s theory by shooting one of them. He instructs Leech to shoot Dr. Crusher.
Just before Leech pulls the trigger, Picard says that he has the item. Redblock is intrigued, and calls off Leech. Picard then tries to bargain with Redblock to try to save Whalen. McNary warns Picard not to make any deals with Redblock, and is then promptly knocked to the floor by the thug at the door. Redblock warns Picard that Dr Crusher’s life depends on his words and eloquence.
Back on the bridge, Commander Riker attempts to contact the Jarada, only to receive an earful of angry insectoid-buzzing sounds in return. Hoping for better luck with the holodeck controls, he contacts La Forge and Wesley. Wesley comments that the problem can be fixed, but if it is not done properly, the holoprogram could abort and everyone inside the holodeck could vanish. Riker gives the order to proceed with the repair.
Inside the holodeck, the Enterprise crew members are trying to explain their situation to Redblock and his team, however there are problems with the vocabulary. Leech is getting ever more edgy, and demands that he should be allowed to kill Data, who has taken that moment to explain what a “computer” is to Redblock.
Suddenly, the holodeck scenery changes to a windy, snowy alien environment, much to the astonishment of the holodeck characters. Just as suddenly, the group are returned to the office, still shell-shocked by the sudden change. The holodeck exit appears and opens, revealing the Enterprise corridor. Picard remarks to Redblock and Leech that that is the way into their world.
Redblock and Leech decide to attempt to leave the holodeck, but dematerialize just outside the doors.
Data picks up Whalen and takes him to sickbay, accompanied by Dr. Crusher. Lt. McNary, who has befriended Picard throughout the episode, realizes the possibility that his own reality is in doubt. He asks Picard, “When you’ve gone, will this world continue to exist? Will my wife and kids still be waiting for me at home?” Picard responds with the only honest answer he can find “I don’t know…“.
Picard then rushes to the bridge, where he recites the greeting perfectly, much to the relief – and applause – of everyone on the bridge. Laforge asks Data what it was like on the Holodeck, Data starts 1940s narration of the event, before Picard stops him. Picard then orders Laforge to take them out of orbit of Torona IV, with the words, “Step on it.”
Tracy Tormé, the fictional writer of the fictional Dixon Hill series, is actually a real person. He wrote this TNG episode, and last week’s, Haven, also… amongst others.