The Enterprise was the best and the brightest of the Fleet, and by all accounts Lt. j.g. Barclay was not really among that list. He suffered from transporter phobia, was a hypochondriac, and was so derelict in his duties and interactions with the other crewmembers that Geordi and Riker wanted to transfer him off the ship (Hollow Pursuits).

There is a supposition in that episode that the former Captain (Gleason) spoke highly of him to expedite his transfer. However, that would mean that his ratings reports were historically stellar, which is also unlikely given that he is very overage for his rank.

So how did he get assigned to the Enterprise, especially considering the incoming Captain (In this case the inimitable Picard) would first review the application?

  • 6
    Barclay was brilliant and eccentric, two qualities that Picard values. He was taking a gamble that Riker and laForge could teach him discipline as well. (I don't have any canon sources for this, it's just my opinion.)
    – Joe L.
    Sep 16, 2015 at 21:25
  • 2
    Barclay isn't necessarily the same age as Dwight Schultz; some apocrypha puts him as young as 26 in his first appearance. Regardless of his age, Starfleet is not necessarily his first career.
    – Politank-Z
    Sep 16, 2015 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


From "Hollow Pursuits", we have the following exchange between Picard, Riker, and LaForge concerning Barclay's performance:

PICARD: There's every indication he's served competently in Starfleet for years. His ratings aboard the Zhukov were satisfactory. In fact I recall Captain Gleason speaking quite highly of him before his transfer.

RIKER: In retrospect, I wonder if Captain Gleason wasn't buttering our bread a little. He knew we were looking for a diagnostic engineer. I've examined Barclay's psychological profile. He's a history of seclusive tendencies. It was noted at the Academy more than once.

PICARD: And yet he chose this way of life. He has made the same commitment to Starfleet that we all have. It's easy to transfer a problem to someone else. Too easy.

LAFORGE: Captain, it's not like I haven't tried.

PICARD: Try harder, Geordi. He's a member of your team. Try to find some way to help him to make a positive contribution. Get to know the man better. Make him your best friend.

So here are the some things in Barclay's favour:

  • Barclay is a diagnostic engineer
  • The Enterprise needed a diagnostic engineer specifically
  • Captain Gleason gave him a good reference (for whatever reason)
  • The only notes in his psychological profile prior to "Hollow Pursuits" were reclusive tendencies; these tendencies may actually have helped him to hide his more serious neuroses from previous crewmates

It's true that Picard would have reviewed Barclay's history prior to approving his transfer to the Enterprise, but Picard has permitted crew members with even more worrying records to serve — in particular Ensign Sito Jaxa, who conspired with Nick Locarno and Wesley Crusher to conceal actions that led directly to the death of a fellow cadet.

Clearly, Picard believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt.

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    It's also worth pointing out that he had his commission from the Academy. Not everyone on a crew that size can stand out from something already pretty outstanding. And human nature doesn't change much over time - we shouldn't expect an engineer being an introvert to be very surprising to anyone.
    – user51340
    Sep 17, 2015 at 5:31
  • Also do not forget that the star trek society is geared towards enhancing yourself, and sometimes you need help from other people to do that. Picard might have seen something in him that with the help of others could turn out very beneficial. While in our society we would likely boot underperformers, in their society many people will likely fell it is their duty to help them get better, especially when they clearly show they care (and what else shows that than fighting your way through academy, despite all your neuroses and whatnot)
    – PlasmaHH
    Sep 17, 2015 at 8:52
  • I always got the impression that Barclay was really smart, but his phobias often prevented him from really shining. "Realm of Fear" may have explored Barclay's fear of the transporter, but it ended with him saving the lives of several people. Apr 24, 2016 at 1:02
  • Another thing to remember is that when Picard looked his file over he was doing so in the assumption that Gleason had written the recommendation in good faith -- because let's face it, if you're expecting a trap in every new transfer, your military has way bigger problems. Mar 19, 2017 at 12:51

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