The worlds of Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes have intersected.
Since 1966, Star Trek fans have been a passionate bunch. But fans of Sherlock Holmes—Sherlockians (or Holmesians)—have been passionate far longer! The Great Detective made his debut in 1887, nearly 80 years before the Enterprise took flight.
Like Trek fans, fans of Sherlock Holmes delight in filling in the gaps about their favorite subject. Case in point: What day was Holmes born? In the four novels and 56 short stories he wrote about Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never mentioned it. But for decades, Sherlockians have celebrated January 6 as Sherlock Holmes’ birthday.
It’s the date of the Christian feast of Epiphany—and a day devoted to what was hidden being brought to light seems fitting for Sherlock’s birth. It’s also the day after the 12th day of Christmas, and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the only one of the Bard’s plays Sherlock Holmes quoted twice.
It seems only logical—or “elementary,” if one prefers—we mark our fellow fandom’s big day with a look at some of the times the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek have intersected.
Let’s get started, for the game’s afoot!
“Elementary, Dear Data” (TNG, S2E3)
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first and best tribute to Sherlock Holmes is a treat for Trek fans and Sherlockians alike. Challenged to create an opponent capable of defeating Data—not the character of Holmes Data is playing on the holodeck—the Enterprise computer creates a self-aware Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis) who threatens the ship with destruction.
The episode is one of the best holodeck stories in any Trek series. Brent Spiner’s performance as Data performing Holmes is delightful. Davis is riveting as he depicts Moriarty growing aware of his nature and potential. And Sherlockian references abound, especially in the “pastiche” adventure the holodeck creates early on.
“Ship in a Bottle” (TNG, S6E12)
Fear of the litigious Conan Doyle Estate—which, happily, few creators need fear any longer—kept TNG from revisiting its holographic Holmesian world. But in season six, as Larry Nemecek relates in his Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, executive producer Michael Piller told producer Jeri Taylor to ask writer René Echevarria about a long-ago “nested universes” pitch, resulting in this entertaining episode.
Davis reprises his role as Moriarty. Stephanie Beacham plays Moriarty’s love interest, Countess Regina Barthalomew—not a character from Conan Doyle’s canon, but no less memorable for it. At the episode’s end, Moriarty and the Countess believe they leave the Enterprise holodeck in a shuttle, free to explore the final frontier. In reality, they remain safely inside the ship’s computer.
(One hopes the happy couple was downloaded to Starfleet computers before the NCC-1701-D crashed on Veridian III in Star Trek: Generations!)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
In addition to being a political thriller and space adventure, Star Trek VI is a murder mystery. And since Nicholas Meyer, noted Sherlockian and author of his own Sherlock Holmes novels, was at the helm as director and co-writer, it’s no surprise the Great Detective makes a cameo, of sorts, in the film.
As he attempts to unpuzzle the mystery of Chancellor Gorkon’s assassination, Captain Spock remarks, “An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution.”
Spock is quoting, almost verbatim, Sherlock Holmes’ maxim, “[W]hen you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (The Sign of the Four, Ch. 6).
In the Star Trek universe, as in our own, Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character. Does the half-human Spock mean, then, that he is related, however distantly, to Arthur Conan Doyle? Does he mean he considers Sherlock Holmes a “spiritual” ancestor—a kindred spirit? Or, through the vagaries of space and time only science fiction can afford, is Spock somehow an actual, bloodline descendant of the Great Detective himself?
Bonus: The USS Sherlock Holmes, “Conspiracy” (TNG, S1E25)
The Memory Alpha wiki points out that a briefly seen Okudagram in the creepy creature mystery episode “Conspiracy” references a starship christened the USS Sherlock Holmes.
Its registry number? Elementary, dear reader—NCC-221B!