Many times on these boards and elsewhere, I’ve seen Trek fans make disparaging remarks about all of the plot lines on Star Trek using the holodeck. It’s occured to me, though, that the problem is not that the writers overused the Holodeck, it’s that it was misused. It’s a potentially very useful tool for presenting and developing characters: You can tell a lot about a person by his or her fantasies. But there are a lot of things that they did wrong, or could have done better.
First of all, we shouldn’t have had so many episodes with dangerous malfunctions. I could possibly tolerate one such episode. Then, all holodecks in Starfleet are taken offline for at least several months, until it can be determined exactly what caused the malfunction, and steps taken to guarantee that it never happens again. Subsequently, it, in fact, never happens again. Meanwhile, explore how the characters react to the loss of their primary form of recreation.
And while we’re at it with safety issues: There is no manual override for the safety controls. They’re hardwired in. The only way to turn off the safeties is to go in with a screwdriver and a soldering iron, and replace several of the chips. The replacement chips, of course, are highly illegal, and available only through the blackmarket at great expense and difficulty.
Psychological dangers, on the other hand, might be another matter. Sure, we had one or two episodes about a fellow addicted to the Holodeck. Is he the only one on the ship who doesn’t want to leave his fantasy life? Or what about the other fellow, who’s never stepped foot inside one of the real holodecks, because he’s convinced that all of real life is just a holodeck program.
And sex: You might as well admit that the majority of holodeck programs are probably X-rated. Yeah, Riker has his French bistro program to practice his pick-up lines, but how much do you want to bet that that he also has a French brother program, where he doesn’t even need to say a word?
Meanwhile, as mentioned in the USS Exterminator thread, simulation of crewmates for sexual purposes would be either rampantly widespread, forbidden, or both. Perhaps the person being simulated needs to first grant permission? If so, what’s the public opinion of a person who regularly and casually grants such permission? And in any event officers would not be allowed to simulate any person under them in the chain of command. Have one episode where a minor officer does just that, and ends up being discharged in the scandal which follows.
Meanwhile, everything that goes on in the Holodeck is a simulation. All non-real characters have exactly the knowledge and mental abilities of the holodeck computer (not the main computer, of course: The holodeck is run from a separate system). Simulate Freud or Hawking, and the character will behave exactly as the computer thinks he should behave.
Also, of course, because it’s a simulation, scientific experiments conducted in the Holodeck are meaningless. They might be useful as a classroom tool, but they won’t tell you anything about the physical world that isn’t already programmed in. Or worse: They might tell you something false. As Montgomery Scott can attest, simulations can be constructed using faulty information, and what works on the computer might not work in real life.