Duh duh duuuuhn!
Then, after some kind of dialog with an alien that resembles some aging hippie potheads I know, Barclay returns to his usual self and becomes all awkward and socially inept again.
First off, let me say I have always considered Barclay as kind of a "Mary Sue" character. Maybe not the true "Mary Sue" as evidenced in some of the Internet's worst fanfic, but he strikes me almost as a tip of the hat or homage to the socially inept nerd that makes up a large part of the Star Trek viewing demographic. Like some writers said, "What if a fanboy was put on the Enterprise?" I kind of liked this character, because not only was he a new stereotype for a sci fi series, but because he didn't end up like a lot of Mary Sue characters where he's the hero and everyone worships him, which they mocked in a holodeck scene the first episode he was in.
Yes, Barclay has some kind of holodeck addiction. But there's a scene in this episode that has stuck with me for over ten years, and it's at some point his super-alien-pumped brain asks the ships computer to design some interface so he can converse more quickly with it. The computer states, almost apologetically, that it does not know what device he is speaking of. "No problem," he says with frustrated geek angst, "here's how you build it!"
I have had many moments like this in IT.
But what gets me is how under-utilized the holodeck is as a bridge to other things. I didn't know much about the "canon references" of the technology, so I looked it up in Memory Alpha, which I always wonder why it's never been sued like countless other Star Trek web sites. There are several references to how it's used and what difficulty it is to get one. Now, taking out the obvious "I want to have mad hot monkey sex with Karolina Kurkova (Brad Pitt if you're into dudes)" ideas that I think spring to everyone's heads at first, lets see how the Star Trek universe seems to have missed some really important uses for the holodeck.
Central Command Control (of anything). This is so blindingly obvious to me. Seriously, let's take a look at something like a military headquarters. If you have a team of technicians and strategists working behind screens and interface terminals, why not make it dynamic? Think about it. You'd never have to clean it, for one. You ever see the carpet of some place like NORAD? I am sure there's all kinds of crumbs, bits of paper, trash, and so on. Or just dust that normally moves about. But the major benefits to this is just making your desks move around, displays hang in mid air that you can walk through, of changing the shape of the entire structure to fit whatever you wanted. You could have ambient lighting, simulate being IN the battle, but really being far away, and so on. But the best part is, if the holodeck came under attack, none of the damn panels would explode and sends electrical arcs and shards of metal at your crew. The room would just turn back into a grid. Also, think about all the places that would need such a setup but would not likely be under fire, like the command station of a set of power plants, or a traffic monitoring station, or even a fancy scientific lab.
Remote exploration. Dude, if they can send probes into the sun, strap a camera on it, and have some people in the holodeck remotely control it. Now, in the real world, controlling a remote robot from Earth to Mars has such a delay factor, remote viewing is in "play only mode." The speed of light means it takes 15 minute for the probe to send you a picture, then 15 minutes for you to send a command back based on what it sees. In 30 minutes, your stupid probe fell off a cliff. But in Star Trek, you not only can go faster than the speed of light, but from what I have seen, communications with Starfleet command are near instantaneous, even when you are hundreds of light years away. Add that with a holodeck and you have some fancy remote exploration set up. Why send the crew down to investigate some dangerous planet when you can send a levitating probe and walk with it on the holodeck. Mugato eats the probe? Back to the grid and next time try smearing bitter apple on the camera.
Poor Tasha Yar wouldn't have had to die in the black Jell-O.
Of course, one of the "20th century" limitations of the holodeck is the need to walk around and stuff. Why not directly feed into the brain and have the simulation occur there? Like the Matrix, for instance?
How would you use a holodeck?