the story: Ferengi intercept a holographic Barclay.
what it's all about: Reg Barclay in Voyager is one of the most remarkable developments of the whole franchise. In Next Generation, Barclay was the poster boy of neurotic behavior, whose skills as an engineer always took a backseat to his latest psychological problem. Then he starts making appearances in Voyager, and then in "Pathfinder" becomes an official member of the family as he spearheads regular communication between Voyager and Starfleet, itself a milestone development in the series.
Ironically, as a counterpoint to his first appearance ("Hollow Pursuits"), Barclay here gains a holographic version of himself!
"Inside Man" continues that arc while also bringing back the idea of the Ferengi as antagonists. The Ferengi were Next Generation's first attempt at new villainous aliens. They were quickly exposed as difficult to take seriously, and so they became progressively comedic, until in Deep Space Nine virtually every spotlight episode for Quark was played for laughs, regardless of how nuanced Ferengi society was depicted in that series.
They'd appeared in Voyager previously ("False Profits"), but "Inside" makes a more concerted effort to return the Ferengi to their roots, when DaiMon Bok was envisioned as Picard's mortal enemy. Here they're refashioned as essentially faceless, which is perhaps key to making the idea work. Devious but incapable of following up on their schemes, the Ferengi in the episode are exactly what they always were, but in a situation that at last sells the concept on every level it always needed to work. They're revealed as cowards, which is why their best bet is gambling against each other, where the façade can truly function.
- franchise - An honest-to-god attempt to redeem the original vision of the Ferengi.
- series - Progress in communications with Starfleet!
- character - Barclay once again proves he belongs in this family.
- essential - For those who claim the episodic format can't handle serialized material, this is yet another example to the contrary.
Dwight Schultz (Barclay)
Marina Sirtis (Troi)
Richard Herd (Admiral Paris)