Barclay Under Pressure
July 18, 2016 2:16 PM   Subscribe

In the almost too perfect Star Trek universe, Lt. Reginald "Reg" Barclay started out as a insecure and neurotic comic relief but became one of its most lovable and relatable characters. Here's a surprisingly sweet tribute to Reg.
posted by Foci for Analysis (40 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great tribute. I know that it must exist in some fanfic form out there, but I'd love to see a video where Barclay enters the Holodeck one more time to playact a crazy helicopter pilot for a group of mercenaries.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


I love Reg; in the ST Universe as we had seen it to that point, we never had a member of Starfleet who was anxious, insecure, awkward, and so forth. To me, he's one of the "most lovable and relatable" characters because in a world of competence porn, he didn't feel like he fit in. I can admire Picard, envy Riker, respect Data and so forth...but Reg? I could be Reg.
posted by nubs at 2:36 PM on July 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


kinda surprised this doesn't have arachnid reg.
posted by kendrak at 2:44 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's interesting how a character which was written as a not-particularly-kind satire of Star Trek fans1 became a beloved, sympathetic representation of its viewers… while a character written as a stand-in for the creator (and the fans that he saw himself as kindred to) earned their (self-) loathing.2

1. "University of Rochester professor Sarah Higley created Reginald Barclay in her script for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Hollow Pursuits". According to Higley, Barclay is a satirical depiction of Trekkies and their excessive obsession with imaginary characters. He has characteristics associated with many negative nerd and geek stereotypes."

2. "The Wesley Crusher character was unpopular among more than a few Star Trek fans. Many fans considered the character to be a Gary Stu and a stand-in for Gene Roddenberry, whose middle name was "Wesley"."

posted by danny the boy at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just liked how he finally made Riker seem like the smug jerk he was.
posted by AndrewInDC at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


crazy helicopter pilot for a group of mercenaries.

I was sick last month and I started watching the A Team, which I hadn't seen since probably middle school. I knew he looked familiar, but I was still really surprised when I realized he'd played Broccoli Barclay. They're such different characters.
posted by teponaztli at 3:12 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's interesting how a character which was written as a not-particularly-kind satire of Star Trek fans1 became a beloved, sympathetic representation of its viewers… while a character written as a stand-in for the creator (and the fans that he saw himself as kindred to) earned their (self-) loathing.2

1. "University of Rochester professor Sarah Higley created Reginald Barclay in her script for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Hollow Pursuits". According to Higley, Barclay is a satirical depiction of Trekkies and their excessive obsession with imaginary characters. He has characteristics associated with many negative nerd and geek stereotypes."

2. "The Wesley


The boy?
posted by The Gaffer at 3:16 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oooooh man one time at my Friendly Local Game Shop, they had a whole bin full of discount Star Trek "action figures." Like, 3 bucks per doll or something. MuddDude and I stood there digging for minutes hoping beyond hope for a Lt. Barclay doll but it was Miles O'Brien all the way down.
posted by muddgirl at 3:18 PM on July 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


Loved Reg, from day one, loved.
posted by Cosine at 3:24 PM on July 18, 2016


I would take a Miles O'Brien action figure. Instead, what I had as a kid was Quark. Dang it.
posted by teponaztli at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Miles O'Brien all the way down

Miles for miles?
posted by Cosine at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I was sick last month and I started watching the A Team, which I hadn't seen since probably middle school. I knew he looked familiar, but I was still really surprised when I realized he'd played Broccoli Barclay

You just vaporized my mind. Whoa.
posted by Think_Long at 3:31 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


According to Higley, Barclay is a satirical depiction of Trekkies and their excessive obsession with imaginary characters. He has characteristics associated with many negative nerd and geek stereotypes."

So, somebody writes a script for a TV show with a character intended as satirical depiction of the dedicated fans of the TV show, and gives him characteristics associated with the negative stereotypes of those fans? There's just a whole lot of... stuff to unpack there, I think. Not sure you want to start from a premise of mocking the fans of the show you're writing for, as a beginning point. I'm reminded of Shatner's "Get a life" SNL skit, except somebody trying to do it in a way that was "clever".

Instead of the intent, though, we get a character the fan base recognizes and adopts as one of their own, while giving us an episode that pokes some holes in the egos of the more important, core characters. While Picard - who has his own gaffe - is at least a leader, refusing to foist his problems off on other ship and encouraging his staff - who are used to only getting the best and the brightest - to do some leadership work of their own.
posted by nubs at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


I can't even remember how many years I've been doing it, but I still randomly say, to no one in particular, in my best Patrick Stewart voice: "That will be all, Mr. Broccoli."
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was lucky enough to see him in 1984; the town I grew up in had a pretty active summer stock theater, and he stopped by to play the lead in an adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. This was still in the thick of the A Team's first couple seasons, so it made quite an impression on the town- but he really was great to watch on stage. At the time, weirdo Norwegian troll fairy-tales seemed about perfect for Murdoch, but now I wonder if any of Gynt's indecision and anxiety showed up in Barclay, later.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:18 PM on July 18, 2016


Dark Messiah your are not me. I know this because I am me. But here I am presented with a human who could be me.
posted by mrgroweler at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Miles O'Keefe has a say in things.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would take a Miles O'Brien action figure.

Chief O'Brien at work
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:49 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


My friend and I kept threatening to write a spec script that involved Barlcay running around saving the entire universe in secret, while the rest of the Enterprise crew dealt with things like a potted plant getting knocked over and somebody squegeeing the control panels on the bridge.

Enterprise bridge:
*ksh-ksh* *squeeeeek squeeek squeekasqueekasequeak*
CUT TO:
Barclay jumping through a closing door like Indiana Jones
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:57 PM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


You know who was a pretty decent TNGuy? Geordie LaForge. You know who was a rubbish wet blanket every time he got an episode to himself? Geordie LaForge. You know who was essentially the same character turned up to eleven as a way of reassuring casual viewers they weren't like those trekkie noids? Lef-tennant Barclay.

It's always cool to see Dwight Schultz pop up, esp. on Voyager where Barclay tended to be the token link to the Alpha Quadrant, but honestly? He's Love And Monsters in human form.
posted by comealongpole at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2016


I always thought it rich that Geordie would give Barclay advice. At least Barclay didn't cyber stalk multiple women pretending it was for "work".
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:08 PM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I always conflate him with the guy from DS 9 who joins the Ma'ki (spelling guess) and am like, what a sweeping arc! Oh, wait.
posted by ignignokt at 5:49 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not sure you want to start from a premise of mocking the fans of the show you're writing for, as a beginning point.

Ron Moore talks about joining the writing staff and having to basically hide the fact that he's a Trekkie for fear of professional repercussions.
posted by danny the boy at 6:15 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


At least Barclay didn't cyber stalk multiple women pretending it was for "work".

That has me thinking about a TNG version of Peep Show. I would enjoy this.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:17 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


the guy from DS 9 who joins the Ma'ki (spelling guess)

The Maquis. Because everyone in Star Trek is French, even when they're not.
posted by AndrewInDC at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think of Barclay as La Forge with fewer excuses. (And he comes into his own a bit in Voyager, when he comes up with a way to communicate with a ship all the way across the galaxy.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:43 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think of Geordi as the dude who would much rather spend time with the machines he works on than people, because they make sense to him. Certain inputs always results in certain outputs. His frustration only surfaces when the women he pursues don't respond predictably. If he was less thoughtful/kind/lucky he would be in danger of becoming a MRA bro. Basically there's a reason why his best friend is a literal emotionless robot.

Barclay on the other hand desperately wants to be socially adept. His desire for companionship is what makes his deficits so painful and obvious to him--unlike Geordi who is on some level not self aware enough to be cognizant of his own problems. Barclay *knows* he needs therapy. His fantasies aren't about others being perfect for him (Geordi's greatest love is what he considers a female version of himself--a brilliant engineer) they are about him being perfect for everyone else.

I love Geordi but I have a lot more sympathy for Barclay.
posted by danny the boy at 7:07 PM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


my prob is that I love LeVar Burton so much, I want to love Geordi. but the character never worked for me.

But LeVar Burton? He's brilliant. I would love to meet him, and I could talk all about how awesome Reading Rainbow is. (That said: best episode of Reading Rainbow was the behind the scenes at ST:TNG one. Showed you how they made the effects, including the computer made out of scrap plastic!)
posted by jb at 7:58 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


But LeVar Burton? He's brilliant. I would love to meet him, and I could talk all about how awesome Reading Rainbow is.

Oh, no. All I'd want is his picture because you can't disappoint a picture.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:47 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


That was nice and poignant, but I think you could sync that song to video of dogs pooping, or still images of roadkill, or of kids playing with legos and I'd feel the same. Bowie and Mercury!
posted by gorbichov at 5:55 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


A complaint I always have with TNG is that the writers were a bit more squeamish about dealing with the "big" issues, the production seemed to be afraid to push their stories where they needed to go. The fact the characters can get any kind of gravitas or sympathy in some scenarios is almost entirely because of the actors' abilities. Barclay could have easily just been a caricature but Dwight Schultz managed to give the character way more depth. I recently rewatched the episode he was introduced in and Schultz' performance holds up well I think, Marina Sirtis' performance less so.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:54 AM on July 19, 2016


At least Barclay didn't cyber stalk multiple women pretending it was for "work".

No, but Barclay made holodeck versions of the bridge crew that he could humiliate and otherwise domineer over (including a very sexualized Deanna Troi), which, OK, holodeck entities aren't real people, but that's still pretty darn creepy.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:10 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


that's still pretty darn creepy.

It's true but it was part of Barclay's elaborate off time fantasy that he used to help himself deal with people, who often treated him poorly, a crutch that got away from him. After intervention he started to come to terms with it and was able to begin to make healthier connections. Geordi did it at least twice and both times it was under the guise of "work", that is to say cyber stalking on the Federation's dime. Because Geordi was "competent" he had no such intervention from his friends, he had to deal with it on his own with mixed results. I'm not sure if one is really better than the other but they are definitely part of the same spectrum and I always thought it condescending how Geordi treated Barclay. Perhaps he saw a little too much of himself there to have much empathy for him.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:38 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I recently watched all of TNG and it struck me that Geordi - who I'd loved as a kid because LeVar Burton, naturally - is exactly the kind of person I hate working with. He's the guy who comes in the office all "Happy Monday!" and always asks you if you did anything fun on the weekend, even though you're wearing earbuds and staring at a spreadsheet and obviously not up for chitchat, and you have never ever answered with anything other than "nah not really." And you feel kinda bad, because Geordi's really trying to be friendly, but oh my god learn to read a social cue or two, ya doofer.

I totally identify with Barclay even though he's embarrassing to watch. Because I would be too! I would be so awkward and unprofessional and uptalky on the Enterprise, and I'd second-guess myself all the time, and I'd probably slouch and my uniform would fit really terribly and be covered in cat hair and all that.

I don't remember if it was seeing Barclay or thinking about working with Geordi that made me mentally withdraw my imaginary Starfleet application.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:17 AM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


No, but Barclay made holodeck versions of the bridge crew that he could humiliate and otherwise domineer over (including a very sexualized Deanna Troi), which, OK, holodeck entities aren't real people, but that's still pretty darn creepy.

In retrospect (re-watching the episode last night), my thoughts were that (a) that part is likely the strongest piece that the writer aimed at the "obsessed fans", in that it is essentially Barclay's fanfic being played out on the Holodeck, although it is also abundantly clear that this is not healthy. I'm wondering now how many re-writes the script went through and if Barclay was slowly made a more relatable/symapthetic character over the course of those, because while he may have started out as a satire of an obsessed fan, in the end he comes across as someone who has problems and knows his coping strategies aren't healthy for him. At the same time, the people around him who are trying to help don't look all that great - Geordi's "you're just shy" line reads horribly, and Barclay makes that clear, telling Geordi that he has no idea what it is like to have crippling social anxiety. His little exchange with Wesley in the briefing, where Barclay is trying to explain his theories and thought process, and Wesley talks over him is personally painful, but it makes clear that Barclay is smart and insightful while also pointing out that the Enterprise crew's usual approach to problem solving - sort of a free-form everybody put things on the table and pick them apart method - doesn't work for everyone; Barclay likes to lay out his thought process methodically and show his work. In a way, the entire episode shows that the Enterprise command staff have a bit to learn about adjusting their processes in order to engage the skills and talents of everyone in the room and it makes me wonder how many great members of Starfleet came and went from the Enterprise because the style of leadership in place wasn't a fit. I think Barclay was doing just fine in all his other assignments because they were a little more accommodating and ran into trouble on the Enterprise because it wasn't.

(b) it's a little bit prescient around some of the struggles around use of technology and privacy rights and rights to free expression; Riker's comments about how the use of his image (or any of the command staff images) by others in the holodeck should be against regulations made me think about the many concerns we have now with social media use and the regulations employers have around it, and photoshops of people's images and so forth; I felt like there could have been an entire set of episodes revolving around the ethics of holodeck use and people's images and holodiction and so forth. But then, the holodeck is just one of the

(c) the Title of "Hollow Man" is intended to apply to Barclay, and how he's using fantasy to compensate for his inadequacies, but I'm left with the feeling that it doesn't really apply to anything in the episode any longer except perhaps the nature of the argument that it was trying to make - Barclay wasn't hollow, once people took the time to look and listen and adjust their expectations and approach.
posted by nubs at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Whoops - didn't finish a thought..."But then, the holodeck is just one of the" many pieces of technology in play in the Star Trek universe that has some pretty deep implications that I would love to see explored.
posted by nubs at 8:56 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've finally gotten to Voyager in my first watch through Trek and I may have made an embarrassing shriek-type noise when Barclay suddenly showed up in an episode. I'd feel weird about it, but hell, even Spot likes him.
posted by ilana at 9:53 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


pretty deep implications that I would love to see explored.

Speaking of Barclay, Voyager and the holodeck, a lot of the further conversations around the implications of holodeck technology are present in Voyager especially in regard to the Doctor. However, it takes until the final season where there are few episodes that start to push interesting ideas forward. Particularly for me the episode where the Doctor writes a holonovel potboiler “based” on his experiences publishes it and has it stolen from him, in order to get the rights back he must fight to define himself as a living being. The episode’s epilogue shows the Federation using copies of the Doctor as slave labour shown passing around copies of the Doctor’s novel as a subversive & possibly revolutionary text. Especially in light of Barclay being some kind of a representation of obsessive fandom that take on the Doctor is fascinating to me. I kind of wish they had picked up on it.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:42 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Especially in light of Barclay being some kind of a representation of obsessive fandom that take on the Doctor is fascinating to me. I kind of wish they had picked up on it.

Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I want to see explored. Strange new worlds? New frontiers? They are right there, being created all over the place just in the ongoing work of the Federation. The Doctor becoming more than his programming (amongst other hologram examples); Data evolving; intelligent nano-devices, etc. I showed my boys "Q-who" the other day, as part of my efforts to introduce them to Trek and some of the better epsiodes (and a Q episode where the Borg are introduced is pretty good in my book) and it starts off with a new crew member being challenged for being polite (using please & thank you) with a replicator. And she's like "It's listed as intelligent circuity, why not be polite? Working with AI is dehumanizing, so maybe we need to fight that". Now, it's a set up for the encounter with the Borg, who have been completely "dehumanized" via technology, but I was going:

"OMG, yes! Let's talk about this, about the fact that your ship is a giant AI slave that knows incredible details about all of you (including your holodeck fantasies) and what working in that environment must be like, and if Trek is all about humanism and you have a human piece of tech on the ship in Data, how do you handle all of this inter-relationship with advanced technology and not be dehumanized by it or is humanizing the tech the answer and let's dig into this frontier of technology and humanity and how we co-evolve and work together."

And that's been a longstanding kind of curiosity for me with Trek, but it was enhanced this last week when, on vacation, I found a box set of Space: 1999 in a 2nd hand store and grabbed it, because my brother-in-law was a big fan back in the day. And I watched a few, because I had seen some episodes, but never really watched it in earnest. What I was struck by was the very different philosophical outlook - likely a product of the time (mid 70s), where technology is viewed distrustfully ("the computer takes too long"; "the computer doesn't give useful answers") and there's more focus on intuition and feelings and some "new agey" stuff ("Testament of Arkadia" has more woo than I can handle); but even with that, less sense of humanity in a hopeful way - it's a more pessimistic/skeptical view of humanity and our future. And yeah, these shows are artifacts of their times - ST: TNG has the hopeful outlook but it, at times, avoids some of the hard questions the episodes pose and is outright dismissive or condescending in a way I would not expect now (the episode with the Pakleds is somewhat horrific in terms of language/contempt for a race that appears less intellectual than the vaunted Federation), and DS9 trended a little darker and more hard edged as we traversed the 90s but it really has me wondering what kind of tone the new Trek series is going to adopt around all of this, because we do seem to be in a period where we (in a broad, societal sense) are look at our reliance on and use of technology and science/rationalism with a bit more skepticism again.
posted by nubs at 11:26 AM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've said before that, for such an uneven show, Voyager had some of the best straight-up science fiction episodes of the entire franchise, and the Doctor/EMH's character arc was no exception. TNG flirted with some heavy AI questions, particularly with Data (and extra particularly with "The Measure of a Man") and "Professor Moriarty" ("Ship in a Bottle"), but Data was one of a handful of Soong android prototypes that weren't duplicated, and as far as we know, Moriarty is still sitting in a hard drive somewhere.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:43 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


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