Towards the end of TNG: "Future Imperfect" (https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Future_Imperfect_(episode)), Commander Riker realizes that the "future" Enterprise that he's been a part of is actually a fiction. He sees this for certain when his wife in that reality is a holodeck character he encountered in the real world.

Upon going to the bridge and after speaking to Geordi, he then talks to Worf, asking him where he received his wound, what battle, etc. Worf only is able to say that it occurred "in combat." He then speaks to Data, who uses a contraction, which Riker points out to be an absurdity.

After "Tomalak" reveals the deception, Riker tells him that one of the things that opened his eyes to the fiction was the computer lag. I suppose that the "computer lag" can be understood to be a lack of processing power for the alien Barash's "holodeck." Is this why Data spoke with a contraction and Worf (apparently) did not know the answers to Riker's questions? Or perhaps was it something else?

(And yes, I understand that Data does speak contractions from time to time prior to this episode. However, since Riker called him out on it, either Data purposely goes out of his way to try to not use contractions, or any time he does so it's a glitch within his system, and Riker somehow knows about it.)

  • Data actually uses contractions all the damn time but it's a conceit that he can't do so. Whenever it happens, it's a writing error.
    – Valorum
    Apr 29, 2017 at 15:40
  • Well, yeah, but I like to answer things in-universe. Apr 29, 2017 at 15:41
  • I'm not really sure how to answer this beyond pointing out that the whole thing was a deception authored by a child.
    – Valorum
    Apr 29, 2017 at 15:54
  • 4
    Re: Data using contractions, it's worth pointing out that, since this entire thing is a fictional construct based on Riker's memories, perhaps the idea that Data can't use contractions is just something Riker convinced himself of and never realized that Data actually does use them on occasion. So, in effect he's calling out a "contradiction" that isn't true, but since he himself thinks it is an no one else around can authoritatively correct him, the claim stands.
    – Steve-O
    Apr 29, 2017 at 16:37
  • @Valorum: "the whole thing was a deception authored by a child" - not quite. It was a deception authored by someone unknown, executed by an automated holodeck for a child. Apr 29, 2017 at 17:22

2 Answers 2


I suppose that the "computer lag" can be understood to be a lack of processing power for the alien Barash's "holodeck."

I do not think processing power as such is the actual explanation. The information used for the simulation was taken from Riker's memories. Thus, the limiting factor must be specifically the reading/recognition speed for whichever component scans Riker's thoughts.

The explanation given by the fake Tomalak may have contained some truth there - only that it was not Romulan mind scanners, but the ones installed for Barash.

Hence, indeed, that lag in retrieving the information from Riker's memory was what caused Worf's and Data's somewhat strange behavior. Riker asked some questions that he knew the respective people should be able to answer quickly, and he would make up his own mind about a plausible answer only slowly while asking the question. Thus, it would take too long for the mind scanner to read the expected answer.


I suppose that the "computer lag" can be understood to be a lack of processing power for the alien Barash's "holodeck."

I don’t think so. When Riker is being made to believe he’s on the future Enterprise, he asks the ship’s computer for information a few times (like his service record), and is told by the computer that it can’t answer for a few hours; supposedly due to something Geordi is doing, but actually because he’s not really on the Enterprise.

I think this is the “computer lag” he’s referring to.

  • Yes, he's referring to that lag, but the underlying explanation for that lag is indeed a limitation of Barash's holodeck. Apr 30, 2017 at 9:18
  • @O.R.Mapper Oh yes I see. Apr 30, 2017 at 10:24

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