Why I Hated The Holodeck

This is a rant about an aspect of Star Trek that always bugged me: the deadly, dangerous, ridiculous Holodeck!

If it seems familiar, you may have encountered it before. I wrote it back when the show (Star Trek: The Next Generation) was still running (1987-1994) and published versions of it then and later in various online venues (FidoNet, USENET, some websites). Long-time friends will certainly recognize the rant if not the writing.

If you were on the net before the web, and you hung out in Star Trek places, you might have stumbled over this.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved my Star Trek then, and I love it still! It occupies a huge space in my heart as well as on my shelves.

Recently I posted articles about science fiction in general and how I measure its character. I love science fiction; I’m a fan and heavy consumer going way back to kidhood years.

The first Star Trek (The Original Series: Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, ‘and the rest’) was — pun intended — astronomical in my Wonder Bread days. There was a time I could identify a given show after seeing less than a minute of any part of any episode (and the bookshelf real estate is its own story).

Then Captain Picard came along with his crew, and it was a whole new deal. After a rough start, after the first two seasons really, The Next Generation went on to become the best of class.

In part because it had such class. Patrick Stewart was class on legs, but he didn’t outclass the other actors or the writing or the directing.

[True story: when the first show aired back in 1987, after the first fifteen minutes ended, and the first commercial started, I called my friend and said, “It’s awful, I hate it!” But after that rough period, about when Crusher returned, it did go on to completely win my heart.]

It’s just my contention that the holodeck was a mistake. It was a fly in the ointment that made me say “blurg” instead of “wow!” And while the seasons of the show have long passed, the rant lives on.

Here’s the deal…

Why I hated the Holodeck in Star Trek

I tend to lean towards benefit of the doubt when it comes to books and videos for entertainment. All I ask is that a story not make me mad.

The problem with the holodeck was that it made me mad; really mad. It disrespected two important rules I have regarding science fiction. I want the science to not be so preposterous it ruins the moment. I want the fiction to not be so preposterous it ruins the moment, either.

When it came to the holodeck, the science seemed silly and logically loopy. It’s going to be difficult to avoid using the obvious pun, “Hoist by their own Picard” (got it in anyway!), but as presented the holodeck is confounded by its own logic. And it violated other key elements of the surrounding reality.

In sum, the science was bad and so was the fiction.

Yeah, But!

The problem, simply put, is that the holodeck usually gave me a bad case of the “Yeah, buts!”

The holodeck is said to use replicator and transporter technology.

Yeah, but… what about the sparkle effect? Transporters and Replicators sparkle and make noise when you use them. Holodeck: no noise, no sparkle.

And we see stuff appear and disappear nearly instantly.

Yeah, but… what about the time delay? Transporters and Replicators take a few seconds; they aren’t instantaneous. Even the transporters of other species (different noise and sparkle effects!) are never instantaneous.

The holodeck can apparently simulate large virtual spaces, including the outdoors.

Yeah, but… what happens when people can see each other from a distance? If you can see each other, but you’re pretty far apart, the other person should look small.

What if someone is yelling at you from a four-story window or across a field? (Can you play baseball in the holodeck? Actually, Picard might be more likely to play Cricket.)

The holodeck can apparently simulate motion over a large virtual distance.

Yeah, but… what about inertia? If magic transporter effects move the scenery around you, your body has no velocity, no momentum. You can tell when you’re moving when you speed up, slow down or change direction!

Yeah, but… how did it make Moriarty?

Data is considered unique in the Trek Universe, in part because he is a machine intelligence. But apparently the holodeck’s computer can make a pretty good one based on very simple specs.

Safeties Disabled!

The holodeck has a safety mechanism that prevents it from harming humans.

Yeah, but it seems to break frequently, and it can be disengaged.

There are some very clever children on the Enterprise. You’d think the “holodeck safeties” would be at least as hard to disengage as, say, your cable box parental controls.

Really, you’d think it would be extremely difficult; something that requires the Captain’s authorization and special codes, rather than something that seems to happen almost accidentally.

How do you manage to build something that dangerous and not have a big, honking OFF switch? Why isn’t there an OFF switch? Why is it so hard to shut down?

It has to be getting power from somewhere; there must be circuit breakers somewhere. Otherwise, get a phaser; cut some power conduits. (Sometimes I wonder why Picard didn’t just weld shut the doors.)

Bottom line, the holodeck physics seemed to contradict other Star Trek physics, it’s was a foolishly dangerous “entertainment,” and even if we grant the goofy science and shrug off the stupid risk, they still didn’t use it like it could have been used. (They did come close in one of the TNG movies.)


Matter Of Perspective

(season 3)

This episode relies heavily on the holodeck and its almost magic power to be real,… but not that real.

Commander Riker is accused of killing a scientist to break a love triangle. Picard and company hold an investigation in a holodeck version of the scientist’s lab. A very accurate version of the lab.

It turns out that the holodeck representation of the scientist’s machine is so accurate, it actually works! You have to wonder why anyone would bother to use a physical lab if holo-technology works that well.

Scientists increasingly use computer simulations now. Given holo-tech, imagine what might be possible! Assuming holo-tech makes sense. Which it doesn’t. (Although 3D printing is very interesting!)

Anyway, the story is hoist by its own you know what.

Geordi tells us the machine needs coils made of a special material (dicosilium!), which the scientist had ordered in large quantities.

(Seems like he would have been smarter to just use a holodeck–no backordering.)

In the end, the holodeck version works so well it explodes–just as the real one did at the start of the episode. Turns out that rascal scientist was up to no good and blew him self to pieces.

But while the first explosion destroyed a space station and killed the scientist. The holo-explosion of the machine in the holodeck… does nothing.

It all just vanishes, leaving Picard and company sitting in their chairs in the familiar yellow-grid of the idle holodeck.

Presumably they were holo-chairs and a holo-desk; why bring in real furniture!

Although if they were holo-chairs and the computer crashed, so would you! Just notice how the holo-computer is able to instantly vanish the holo-lab while leaving the holo-furniture.

On the one hand, things in the holodeck are as solid and lifelike as the items on the bridge. You can sit on the chairs and climb the trees. But on the other hand, they can vanish harmlessly in a nano-jiffy. Transporter and Replicator technology sparkles, makes noise and isn’t instantaneous. It can’t be both ways.

Elementary, Dear Data

Ship In A Bottle

(seasons 2 & 6)

In the season two episode, Geordi tells the holodeck to create an “adversary capable of defeating Data.”

The computer creates Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty. Pretty amazing trick for the computer; all it took was a single command from Geordi.

I guess you had to get the wording just exactly right.

In the much later one, Moriarty returns to plague the Enterprise.

Lesson to be learned: be really, really careful what you ask the computer to do. It might create a virtual enemy that can beat you!

If Moriarty is considered an intelligent life form with whom Picard negotiates, what does that suggest about his giving orders to the Enterprise computer?

After all, the computer created Moriarty; what does that make the computer?


(season 1)

Picard and Riker and Minuet. Another amazingly lifelike simulation.

Granted, it did turn out to be advanced programming by the Binars, but still, the holo-technology apparently allows pretty damn real simulations of people.

That’s something we find very hard; simulating people realistically is hard.

Now,… when you kiss a hologram… what’s that like?

How real does it feel? Does the flesh of holo-people actually feel soft and warm? Does the holo-computer generate lipstick and saliva? Maybe that was all the Binars.

But what about off the Enterprise? Is there such a thing as holo-porn? Quark’s bar (in Deep Space Nine) had holo-suites where I think it was implied.

The Big Goodbye

(season 1)

A one-in-a-million freak event causes the holodeck safeties fail and endanger Picard, et alii.

A Dixon Hill story.

My question about bullets is: does the holodeck simulate the gunpowder exploding?

Holo-objects do have mass (otherwise, hand me that piano); do holo-bullets in holo-guns have mass? What happens with any fast-moving object with mass (throw me that piano)?

Holo-chairs are real, you can sit on them; what about that holo-gun, how real is it? How about a nail gun? Can you use one to build a holo-house?

Fistful Of Datas

(season 6)

A one-in-a-million freak event causes the holodeck safeties fail and endanger Worf, et alii.

Some think a Western episode indicates the death knell of a show with spaceships.

(However, Firefly was a Western with spaceships — totally different concept.)

How about a Western in the holodeck? Combine that with a holodeck malfunction, and you gots yer se’f a rip-rootin’ ol’ time!

If Only…

I can think of many good stories that could take place on a real holodeck!

By “real” I mean a holodeck that doesn’t rely on magic transporter-replicator technology. All we need to assume is advanced 3D photo and display capabilities.

Assume big improvements on image processing and the ability to project a real 3D image.

Even a transparent image would work in the following ideas, but if we imagine solid image projection, they would look even better.

Would you trade any of the episodes mentioned above for:

» Suppose they displayed an image of every solar system they visited (as they entered the system), and a view of any planet they orbited.

This could have been a semi-regular feature, like 10-Forward; a background for scenes. Imagine Bev and Troi apparently walking around, in space, in orbit, around this week’s planet!

» Mount a holo-camera on a probe, and fire it off into something interesting. The visuals could be very creative. The holodeck is an “effect” in real life, so it can look like an effect.

» There was an episode where Geordi used the holodeck to save the Enterprise and fell in love with the holo-image of a scientist.

I would have liked to see Geordi walking around inside the engines! Wouldn’t you have liked to see that?

» We have CAT-scan machines now that generate 3D images of the inside of your body. Imagine Doctor Crusher walking around inside a patient’s body before surgery!

What if it had been a really weird alien!

» In one episode, a hull-eating space virus infected the Enterprise. Imagine Picard and Geordi taking a walk around the Enterprise.

Imagine the two of them standing on nothing beneath the gentle curve of the saucer!

I can see so many ways to add fiction to the science without completely compromising the science.

I’ve always believed science fiction can be both popular and critically robust. I believe that science fiction, in particular, can sometimes even be educational!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

32 responses to “Why I Hated The Holodeck

  • Dan Bain

    This is great! I always had my doubts about the Holodeck, and was really plagued by the whole distance issue — presumably, the landscape would “scroll” with a person, so they never ran into the boundaries. But I couldn’t get past the point you mentioned — what happens if two people are in there, but far away? This isn’t a Harry Potter tent; it’s defined by solid boundaries! Data proved that in the first episode when he threw a rock at the wall.

    But you’ve gone way beyond my doubts — great analysis on the issues I never thought of!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you; glad you liked it! It was too long to include counter-arguments, but there are some that weaken the case. (It’s still way too dangerous, though! [grin]) Maybe in a future blog I’ll argue with myself!

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  • d.c.b.

    I’ve had issues with the holodeck too but I love my science fiction taking place in the past. I love Star Trek 4 and First Contact where time travel is involved and when the holodeck takes the crew to a past time I feel it is close to my time travel love.

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    • fan

      I know this is an old thread but I would like to respond Wyrd Smythe and Chyina because I found your posts and comments to be interesting and well though out.

      First: I see creating/manipulating inertia for a simulation on holodeck to be somewhat consistent with the ships’ “inertia dampening” tech. I mean…consider that they negate inertia all the time anyway.Although, I dislike inertia dampening to the point I tend to mentally substitute either Alcubierre drive or “folding space” (Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series) . With those options, the ship does not have to ever accelerate that quickly compared to surrounding space so I then I will think ” ‘inertia dampener’ is not needed” now.
      Silly. I know, but its just my preference I guess

      In regards to the ‘spyglass’ posit; Wouldn’t it just overlay whatever is actually on the holodeck (including people) with holograms anyway and thus be able to give absolutely any visual impression? (not saying I like “holograms”) As for sound, its not a stretch that the computer could produce sound that destructively interferes with a persons voice to produce the desired effect (muddled, completely annihilated, etc).

      Second thought: The holodec does have a lot of storytelling potential because it can do/be anything in a sense. I’m wondering what else would make a good holodeck or holodec equivalent. The specific examples you provided of ‘real holodeck’ is better than anything I can think of, but…
      how would you have felt about

      A: making the holodeck literally an entire deck. This would minimize forcefield “treadmills” rationalization . Such a huge deck for entertainment might be justifiable considering there is 1000 plus people (plus children/families) on board enterprise (at least I think thats what the number is).
      B exchanging the holodeck simulation/entertainment center concept for a Matrix-esque, completely computer generated shared virtual reality system. I don’t know if I like this idea for Next Gen or nor not…maybe for voyager that’d concept would be fine.

      Frankly, I think that it is difficult to escape that the holodeck, as depicted, is basically a magic room in the trek universe (its out of place). Holodeck scenes used to really bother me. Maybe they don’t break the fantasy or spirit of the show for me anymore, because I’ve lowered my Sci-Fi standards for magical realism, but I can relate to “being taken out of the moment”.

      I liked reading your post and Chyina’s comments very much. Your wit, organization, clarity, is appreciated and I look forward to reading your other articles (I just discovered your site).

      • fan

        ughh. I don’t know if I should have posted. It was late. I inserted the term magical realism and definitely shouldn’t have. Star Trek isn’t close to magical realism. Science fiction is clearly separate from magical realism. I just used the term very wrongly. I should have said “loosened my personal standards for science fiction” not that that’s interesting or informative but at least that makes sense. I”m probably not making sense. On second thought, just delete this comment and the one above it (that I posted earlier today). I’m sorry about wasting your time and possibly space on your website. I shouldn’t comment online when I’m this tired.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I can delete both comments, but you raise some interesting points I’d like to answer when I have more time. Your comments make more sense than many, so I don’t, at all, see them as wasting time or space. Your call; I’ll be back around later today (probably… could be tomorrow).

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The threads seem tangled in this post. I’m not sure why my own pingbacks are showing up as replies to other comments, for instance. To give us more elbow room, I’ve answered your comment in a new thread below…

  • Chyina

    You have brought up some very good points. Admittedly, some of them I have contemplated.

    As to the instant appearance, yeah that’s kind of a big one, but they also usually started the program before going in. Also, if it’s a program that’s been run often maybe the computer has a cache that allows it to load things quickly.

    When it comes to the perspective/distance hiccup this was my thought on it. If you take a spyglass and look through it one way an object is closer. Flip it around and a close object is far away. I kind of figured that the computer could do something similar with both sight and sound, by putting a “spyglass” between the two people. This would give the appearance of distance while still being within the confines of the deck itself.

    The momentum of movement, well that’s a bit trickier. Especially if you have more than one real person in the same program. At least with how I thought it could work, but if you combine my “perspective holo theory” with this one, it might work.

    Anyway, the way I imagined it was like a half manual, half powered treadmill. The computer would sense where your steps were but would rely on you to help “move” the scene beneath your feet, the computer would do some of the work, but you would have a physical feeling of walking. The reason I say the computer would help move the scene is because if you were the only one working the “treadmill” you would get a sense of pushing the floor rather than walking along it.

    As to running into a wall, if the Enterprise computer is this advanced, it really wouldn’t take much for it to “twist” the scene a little at a time. So that you may not notice the change, but would keep you from hitting the room’s limits. Instead you would be guided in a circle, so to speak.

    As to the whole bullet/nail thing, yes you could. I think it was Voyager that first touched on this (please correct me if I’m wrong on this) that it’s a picture/program that is surrounded by an adaptive force field. Now we already know that a force field can be “hard” (at 100%) or start to loose it’s solidity (say shields down to 60% in a battle). I wouldn’t think it would take much to manually create this change. This would allow the difference in safety practicals.

    With the nail thing I would think it would be more of a cause and effect rather than actual action. The computer recognizes what you are doing simply “places” the nail in the wood once you hit the nail gun trigger, rather than it actually forcing the nail into the wood.

    As to the whole lipstick saliva thing, I think it does simulate them. Why wouldn’t it? It would use the same data base on human body functions like it would for the recipe to the food it replicates. You wouldn’t eat a replicated dish of spaghetti if it only looked like spaghetti without tasting like it. Same thing in my mind. You can’t have one without the other.

    I do agree with the desk and chairs thing. It would be illogical (thank you Spock) to bring in real items if your in a room that can create them. Plus it would add a bit of humour if they fell on their ass when something like that happened. (makes me laugh just thinking about it actually)

    I also agree that turning off the safety protocols should not be so easy. It should be reserved to senor staff only, at the very least.

    It also seems strange that it tends to “break down” a lot. I guess I chalk this one up to what my grandpa use to say about tech in cars. The more things you have in a system, the more things can go wrong with it. *shrugs*

    Ah Moriarty. I have to admit I loved these episodes, mainly because I am a HUGE fan of Dole’s work (not just the Sherlock series, though they are my faves). My only thought on this is that yes she (the computer) can be a self-thinking machine, but it is not in her programing 98% of the time. So does that make her a “Data” in ship form because is capable of it sometimes? I don’t know. It’s one that I still think over a lot.

    All of the “If Only…”s I wholeheartedly agree with. That would have been awesome, even if it was in addition to the normal holodeck functions.

    Okay, I think that’s all I have to say on the matter, at least for now. Man this has got to be the longest comment I’ve ever left! Maybe I should copy it to my blog as a posted response to your entry. 😀

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Ah, you’re doing what I call “Star Trekking It.” A time-honored tradition among SF fans. As is rebuttal…

    > …they also usually started the program before going in.

    True, but we’ve seen objects in the holodeck instantly appear or disappear many times. Even Picard’s “Earl Gray, hot” has both the sparkle effect and the delay in appearing. Cup of tea versus large objects. WTF?

    > …maybe the computer has a cache that allows it to load things quickly.

    I’m not sure there’s a basis for that. Consider Picard’s cuppa again. Seems like that would be a thing to keep in cache (The Captain’s Cup!). Every alien transport we’ve seen has sparkle effect of some kind and a delay. This strongly suggests both are part of the process. And, sadly, they’ve linked transporters with holodecks; they’ve said many times it’s the same technology.

    Now, a possible counter-argument: perhaps transporting humans is a way trickier deal than transporting inanimate objects. Maybe the delay and sparkle effect are part of whatever process insures successful living transport. This is, in fact, a fairly strong argument, so the lack of sparkle or delay is not a strong argument against the holodeck.

    Doesn’t need to be; it’s hung by far stronger internally inconsistent logic. 🙂

    Still… why can’t Picard get an “instant” cup of tea? Outside of the holodeck, we’ve never seen instantaneous transport. Never.

    > I […] figured that the computer could do something similar […] putting a “spyglass” between the two people.

    I’ve considered that myself, although there are a number of technical challenges. Light refracts when crossing a density barrier (such as from air to glass or vice-versa). To accomplish optical effects, the computer would need to create such a density change. To accomplish audible effects… hard to say, maybe air density would affect that, although in this case I believe you’d need less dense air to slow down the sound.

    So what happens if there are people lined up at different distances?

    One thing to consider is that we accept many limitations in our forms of media entertainment. We accept a 2D screen or low rez (or sometimes even black and white). There are many things we mentally ignore. Maybe the holodeck has similar limitations. Perhaps these things are all issues, and it’s obvious to the participants that they are being fooled.

    So they just ignore the “seams” for the sake of the fun. (This actually isn’t a strong argument, since we’ve been shown the extreme reality of the holodeck many times, and most of the other issues weaken this argument. Basically, if it wasn’t as real as it seems, many of those other issues go away.)

    But I agree it is possible to explain away (at least a bit) the distance issues. I do think the trickery would be apparent to the users.

    > The momentum of movement, well that’s a bit trickier.

    Yep. If you’re on a treadmill, you have no momentum. You also have the challenge of dealing with multiple people.

    About the only way out is, as above, to assume that either they do notice this and ignore it, or to assume they rarely actually do wide open spaces holodeck stuff (and we haven’t seen too much of it, actually).

    > …it really wouldn’t take much for it to “twist” the scene a little at a time.

    Given the size of the room we see when the power is off, the curve would be quite tight and very apparent.

    But all of this can be (more or less) explained by assuming they do notice and just ignore distance and momentum issues. And they’re so good at ignoring it and sinking into the reality that we see a “perfect” holodeck through their eyes. It’s a little bit like how we saw the residents of Cicely, Alaska through Dr. Joel Fleischman’s eyes (in Northern Exposure).

    But now we get into much thornier issues…

    (BTW: I was not a fan of ST:VOY and only watched a few episodes. It’s not part of Star Trek to me. That “holodoc” was a big reason why. Taking the hated holodeck to truly absurd levels.)

    They have mentioned force fields on TNG. I’ll point out that nearly all force fields we’ve seen have some visible reaction when touched, but maybe these are different. Yet we’re in self-contradiction territory here, since they’ve also said the holodeck works based on transporter technology.

    > The computer […] simply “places” the nail in the wood once you hit the nail gun trigger,…

    So how was someone shot in that Dixon Hill holodeck episode? The holo-gun sure seemed to fire a holo-bullet.

    > I think it does simulate [lipstick and saliva]. Why wouldn’t it?

    But then we’re squarely in replicator/transporter technology rather than force field/picture technology. That’s exactly what I mean by internally self-inconsistent. The holodeck fails by its own rules! That’s what makes it stand out to me. It’s a major storytelling fail.

    > I also agree that turning off the safety protocols […] should be reserved to senor staff only,…

    Why is it possible at all? What possible excuse is there for it aboard ship?

    > …The more things you have in a system, the more things can go wrong with it.

    Why doesn’t the Enterprise itself break down more often then? (Actually, come to think of it… :grin:)

    (And of course we all understand that the real reason things break down is a high-tech bug, called “plot device.”)

    > Ah Moriarty. I have to admit I loved these episodes,…

    They were a lot of fun!

    But there is really no argument one can make here. Data is unique in the galaxy, because no one can duplicate Dr. Soong’s technology. (You know Data’s “positronic” brain is a direct homage to the Isaac Asimov robot stories, yes?) In a key episode, Data was ruled to be a sentient being with all rights of personhood.

    And Geordi was able to create a more intelligent sentient being with a one-line computer request? Nope. Not gonna fly. It invalidates every other piece of information we have about that sort of thing in that reality. (That friggin’ holodoc in VOY also took sentience way beyond the parameters established elsewhere.)

    This one, the Moriarty business, is one of the key arguments against the holodeck. (On the other hand we did get a couple of really fun episodes out of it, so whatever. One needs to keep things in perspective!)

    There’s also a funny “oops” (or is it) in one of those. Moriarty has given Data a picture of the Enterprise as seen from the side. Data looks at it, is concerned that Moriarty knows the situation, and flips the picture over so Geordi can see it. Thing is, he flips it on its horizontal axis and shows Geordi a right-side up Enterprise. Which means Data was looking at it upside down. The flip is set up to be dramatic, so it’s a directing thing.

    The counter arguments are either that Data, being Data, wouldn’t care about the orientation, or maybe in a spacefaring era, no one is hugely connected with “right side up.” [shrug]

    The real meat of the arguments against the holodeck are in that first episode I detailed (Matter Of Perspective) and in the Moriarty pair. Most of the rest are supporting arguments. (Those gangsters who manage to get into the hallway before they “dissolve” also provide a strong argument.)

    [Hmmm… probably should have turned this into a new post!]

    • Chyina

      Lol, oh man that is one hell of a long post! Here I thought mine was long. Out done again. Well played my friend.

      I have to say I think I’m beat. You’re points hold more water than my do. The Earl Grey bump I thought of after I had replied, of course, lol.

      In the end, my own arguments are being argued inside my head. First I thought, well maybe it’s like saying a car is run on gas and spark plugs, which is true. But there is so much more that to it than that.

      Then I thought, if that were the case, and they had the tech in the holodeck to make things appear instantly, why not, at least, the replicators? If the technology is that advanced, my first thought would be to upgrade the things you have already. And so on.

      We think too much alike I think. 😉

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  • Cranky

    The Holodeck was nothing but a cop-out route for the writers to indulge in material that was anything but science fiction. As soon as it appears, I switch off.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Pretty much. Used judiciously it could have added an element of character exploration — the Picard Dixon Hill outings had some potential, for example — but as used it was hung by its own self-contradictions and silliness (like the inability to turn the damn thing off).

  • Wyrd Smythe

    “First: I see creating/manipulating inertia for a simulation on holodeck to be somewhat consistent with the ships’ “inertia dampening” tech.”

    That could well be. The SIF (Structural Integrity Fields) are one more kind of magic practiced by the show, but they are canon, thus entirely acceptable.

    There is also that, as mentioned, they may be well aware of the differences but are just ignoring them as part of the fun. (Kind of how like we get into video games today while being perfectly aware we’re just sitting there.)

    “…the ship does not have to ever accelerate that quickly compared to surrounding space…”

    Not even when it makes a fairly sharp turn at warp speed? 😀

    And, unfortunately, we’re stuck with canon (which, according to Father Roddenberry, is all the TV shows as well as the movies). The part about that I find really annoying is that we’re stuck with transporters being an matter-energy-matter process when they could have used something far more reasonable.

    “Wouldn’t it just overlay whatever is actually on the holodeck (including people) with holograms anyway”

    I suppose it could surround every person with a bubble of holographic image, although it would be a trick to maintain the 3D-ness of the image. It would also require a smooth transition as a person approached and came into contact.

    Given all the other magic they perform, it’s certainly a possibility. It would sure make trying to play a game of baseball interesting!

    If they can play with light that much, sound would be trivial.

    “The holodec does have a lot of storytelling potential because it can do/be anything in a sense.”

    Exactly why it’s there. It turns out to be a double-edged sword, though. Anything being possible removes constraints that make storytelling interesting. (On the other hand, as a mystery fan, I generally liked the Dixon Hill episodes.)

    “A: making the holodeck literally an entire deck. This would minimize forcefield “treadmills” rationalization”

    And make playing baseball a lot easier! On some level one wonders why it’s there at all. (Although what this one really wonders is why there’s no OFF switch.) I know the rationale, but the whole “families on board” was always a little suspect given the clear military aspects. On, say, a “generation” ship you can definitely justify massive entertainment facilities.

    The thing is, the deeper problems really don’t have anything to do with the visuals or inertia. As I’ve said, we can actually narrate them away by assuming there are obvious defects to the illusion and that they simply “suspend their disbelief” for the sake of the fun.

    Although you do have to wonder about Riker getting so friendly with a hologram, let alone the pornographic activity suggested in Deep Space Nine at Quark’s.

    “B exchanging the holodeck simulation/entertainment center concept for a Matrix-esque, completely computer generated shared virtual reality system.”

    There was an episode where Wesley brings a video game on board, and that game starts taking over everyone’s minds. They never really did get terribly into mind-machine interfacing on that show.

    It would certainly remove the perceptual issues, but it would make impossible some of the other episodes they did do. (Actually, I’m not sure that would have been a bad thing.)

    Did you ever see the movie Existenz? It has exactly that premise, and it’s kind of a cool movie. Directed by David Cronenberg and has a pretty tasty cast.

    “Frankly, I think that it is difficult to escape that the holodeck, as depicted, is basically a magic room in the trek universe (its out of place).”

    Yeah… Hence this post (which is actually a very long post I posted in a Star Trek group while TNG was still on the air).

    “I’ve lowered my Sci-Fi standards for magical realism”

    Modern SF in film and on TV seems to have that effect. The really good shows are few and far between. The best SF is still found in books.

  • blarg

    Perhaps because they had a budget of only 1 million per episode and CGI at the time was in it’s infancy. A suspension of disbelief is often necessary to enjoy things of a science fiction nature. Please tell us about your television show so we can compare your genius against this middling series. Also “hoisted” not hoist

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, someone woke up grumpy today! You seem not to realize this was a labor of love. I regard Star Trek (TOS and TNG, anyway) as the second best SF television ever created (Doctor Who is in first place). Perhaps if you read some of my other Star Trek posts, you’d realize how important the show was to me.

      To your points: It has nothing to do with suspension of disbelief. I’ve been an SF fan as long as I’ve been reading. It has to do with good storytelling. The holodeck wasn’t. And it has nothing to do with CGI, either. As I pointed out, the holodeck was an effect, so there are many interesting things they could have done — many of which would have been cheaper than the western or forest real world settings they used.

      And, by the way…

      Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV:

      HAMLET There’s letters seal’d: and my two schoolfellows,
          Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
          They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
          And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
          For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
          Hoist with his own petard: and ‘t shall go hard
          But I will delve one yard below their mines,
          And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
          When in one line two crafts directly meet.
          This man shall set me packing:
          I’ll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
          Mother, good night. Indeed this counsellor
          Is now most still, most secret and most grave,
          Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
          Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
          Good night, mother.
  • Stephen Kepple

    I loathed the holodeck, and its constant presence in the show caused me to stop watching it. I didn’t care so much about the scientific inconsistencies of the holodeck as about the fact that it wasn’t “real,” in the sense that anything in fiction appears real. That caused me not to care about what happened there. Perhaps the holodeck violated scientific plausibility, but more important, it violated the Prime Directive of good storytelling: the story must persuade the viewer/reader to willingly suspend his disbelief, that is, to suspend his awareness that NOTHING in the story is real; that it is fiction. The whole concept of the holodeck gums that up. Also, I wanted to get down to planets more, as often happened in the original Star Trek (OK, even with bad special effects). I wanted more exploration. The holodeck was this big dumb thing in the way of that. I mean, there they were out in space, with the ability to explore strange new worlds, and instead they were goofing around on that damned holodeck.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah. As I said in the post, it was a real fly in my ointment, but I still found TNG the best of the Trek series. I lost interest in DS9 somewhere around year four, and I never did watch VOY. I missed the whole “starship Enterprise flying around” thing, and I like Scott Bakula, so I watched ENT, which I found… just okay.

      It’s interesting the different perspective fans have. I thought VOY was junk and ENT was okay. I know people who liked VOY and hated ENT. Or who thought DS9 was the best. I have noticed over the years I’m most prone to watch a TOS episode than anything else. Nostalgia, perhaps. I used to have every episode memorized.

      Anyway, you’re right about the holodeck. It was crappy storytelling, pure and simple. Why there wasn’t a big honking “OFF” switch, I’ll never know.

  • 2022: I Hardly Knew Ya | Logos con carne

    […] Why I Hated The Holodeck (2011, 1405) […]

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