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The teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Trek: Picard season 3 released during New York Comic Con 2022 revealed the return of Hologram James Moriarty (Daniel Davis). The sentient simulated Moriarty was first introduced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation season 2 episode, “Elementary, Dear Data.” But what happened to the Hologram, and how might he reappear in Picard season 3?

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The Sherlock Holmes antagonist Professor Moriarty may loom large in the public imagination, but he appears in comparatively few of the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Moriarty plays a significant role in the stories “The Final Problem” (1893) and “The Adventure of the Empty House” (1903) and in the novel from 1915 The Valley of Fear. He is mentioned in three additional Holmes stories.

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However, given that Doyle wrote 56 stories and 4 novels about Holmes, the number of times Moriarty has appeared in adaptations of the Holmes canon is significantly disproportionate. Just a few of the actors who have played Moriarty in recent adaptations include Vincent D’Onfrio, Andrew Scott, Natalie Dormer, and Dominic Monaghan.

Elementary, Dear Data

Star Trek‘s Hologram Moriarty was first introduced in TNG season 2 episode 3, “Elementary, Dear Data,” written by Brian Alan Lane and directed by Rob Bowman. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) indulges Data (Brent Spiner) by taking part in a holodeck simulation of a Sherlock Holmes story. But because Data has memorized every story in the Homes canon, he quickly solves any mystery included among their number. Subsequent Holmes-style mysteries patched together from canon by the computer yield the same result.

Daniel Davis as Hologram Moriarty in TNG season 2.

Davis as Hologram Moriarty. From TNG season 2.

Next, La Forge instructs the computer to create an antagonist “capable of defeating Data.” On the bridge, Worf (Michael Dorn) simultaneously detects a power surge. The result is the creation of Hologram Moriarty. Certain consequences accompany La Forge asking for an antagonist who could defeat Data instead of one who could defeat Holmes. Hologram Moriarty has a high level of awareness and determines he is a hologram aboard the Enterprise-D. He kidnaps Doctor Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) and attempts to take over the ship.

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Ultimately, the situation is diffused. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) convinces Moriarty to yield by assuring him Starfleet will help him find a way to become autonomous from the holodeck as soon as technologically possible.

Ship in a Bottle

However, Hologram Moriarty does not appear again until TNG season 6 episode 12, “Ship in a Bottle,” written by René Echevarria and directed by Alexander Singer. In this episode, Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) discovers Hologram Moriarty is still stored in the holodeck memory. Moriarty demands to see Picard, who he suspects has neglected his commitment to freeing the hologram from his confines.

Daniel Davis as Hologram Moriarty and Dwight Schultz as Barclay on the Enterprise-D holodeck.

When Moriarty met Barclay. From TNG season 6.

Data, Barclay, and Picard enter the Holodeck to meet with Moriarty. Picard assures Moriarty that Starfleet’s top minds are working on his problem. However, the meeting was a pretense to trap the three crewmembers in a holographic recreation of the Enterprise-D. This ruse culminates in Moriarty pilfering Picard’s command codes. Thus Moriarty takes over the real Enterprise-D and demands he and Countess Regina Barthalomew (Stephanie Beacham) be released from the holodeck.

RELATED: Another instance of command code theft on the holodeck occurs in Star Trek: Prodigy, “Ghost in the Machine”

But contemporary Starfleet tech still can’t accomplish Moriarty’s demand to be freed from the confines of the holodeck. Finally, Picard outwits Moriarty using his own trick. Moriarty and Barthalomew believe they escape the Enterprise-D on the shuttlecraft Sakharov. In reality, they are actually entrapped in the program Picard Delta One. This program simulates an entire universe. Ultimately the program continues running in a computer cube stored in Picard’s office.

All in a Sea of Wonders

Hologram Moriarty is mentioned in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 episode 4, “Moist Vessel,” written by Ann Kim and directed by Barry J. Kelly. In this episode, Ensign Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) briefly poses as the character over Cerritos comms. 

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler sits on a couch and kicks up his feet.

Big Moriarty Energy in “Moist Vessel.” Photo Cr: Best Possible Screen Grab CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the Lower Decks comic by Ryan North, Chris Fenoglio, Johanna Nattalie, and Jake Wood, “All in a Sea of Wonders,” several allusions to Hologram Moriarty take place. First, Moriarty’s history is directly referenced and recounted in dialogue, even getting his own special font for his name. Then, an analogous situation to the one that arose with Moriarty on the Enterprise-D arises on the Cerritos with the eponymous Count from Dracula by Bram Stoker.

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The narrative reveals that The Doctor (Robert Picardo) became an advocate for the rights of sentient holograms after he returned from the Delta Quadrant with Voyager. Consequently, he opened the Emergency Holographic Academy. Drac explains the EHA is “filled vith sentient characters from fiction, all gathered to learn from Voyager‘s EMH.” Soon, Drac reveals the fate of another holographic character originally created by Doyle: “I saw a Sherlock Holmes kiss a Cthulhu on my call, Captain! I vant that for me.”

Picard season 3

Daniel Davis as Professor Moriarty in Star Trek: Picard season 3's teaser trailer.

NYCC 22’s Picard season 3 teaser revealed that Davis will return as Hologram Professor Moriarty (we presume). In a Cameo interview quoted by TrekMovie.com, Davis spoke about returning as the character:

The one thing I think I can tell you is I think the fans will enjoy what happens more if they understand that it’s a bit of a callback to an earlier season, way before Moriarty even appeared actually—the first meeting between Riker and Data. You should remind yourselves of that.

Here’s a clip of that first meeting:

What theories do you have about Moriarty’s return?

The first episode of Picard season 3 arrives for streaming on Paramount Plus on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

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Avery Kaplan