Resolved: The Holodeck was *not* overused

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.

D’oh! I meant to say, that Riker has a brothel program. I’ve no idea whether he has a brother program, and I would prefer to remain ignorant.

amongst an otherwise worthy post.


Well, when people say that the Holodeck was “overused”, they usually mean “plots that revolved around the Holodeck, a Holodeck malfunction, or the Holodeck becoming sentient, etc. were overused”.

There were times when we saw people using the Holodeck normally, such as Lwaxanna Troi and Alexander going off to the Vacation simulation, or plots like Barclay’s Holo-addiction, and these were cool.

But what about when Moriarty became “sentient” and took control of the ship? Or in Voyager where an alter-dimensional being thought that Tom Paris’s Holonovel was reality and was preparing to invade? Those were stinkeroo plots, if you ask me.

What really annoyed me was Voyager’s use of Holodeck plots… in a series where they can do SO MUCH - ship stranded decades away from home, completely new part of the galaxy, so many possibilities - they go back and rehash plots that had already been done in TNG and/or DS9. Holodeck plots and Transporter Mishap plots should NOT have been seen in that series, in my opinion.

Okay, the myriad problems of Voyager notwithstanding, “The Bride of Chaotica” was a laugh riot and a great homage to the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s. The whole of Voyager was worth it for that one great episode.

An example of a non-typical holodeck plot was DS9’s “Our Man Bashir,” where the crew had to be beamed off an exploding runabout, and a power surge forced the others to materialize them in Bashir’s Secret Agent program. It wasn’t a malfunction of the holodeck; it was just used in a way it hadn’t been designed for, with all the attendent problems.

Plus, we have to remember, Star Trek, for all its SF/psuedo-SF trappings, was meant to be a drama. Artistic license is implied…even if it is overused at times.

I recall a few episodes in which characters were in physical danger from the Holodeck. The Voyager episode in which Torres becomes an adrenalinde junkie for one, and First Contact in which Picard orders the safety off and proceeds to shoot the Borg up with simulated bullets. I’m sure others will come along with more examples.

IMHO, the uppermost problem with the holodeck is the notion that any cause-and-effect, any natural law, any weak-kneed plot can be abrogated by a holodeck slight-of-hand. It’s like saying “Suppose anything could happen, now?” Ok, so what? Anteaters rule the universe? Pres. Bush snorts oil for breakfast? Abraham Lincoln owned 50,000 slaves?

Those are the sort of artistic decisions that usually leave conventional authors in the “contrived”, “implausible”, and “unrealistic” category. That is: with a tiny audience.

The issue of sex with a fellow crewmate. Hmm. Lots of room for speculation, there. Maybe. Or maybe quite a number of people have been confronted by “unwelcome sexual advances” that were generated by much less comprehensive realities than a holodeck. Like daydreams. Wish fulfillment.

Let’s imagine an approach by a person who’s just been involved in an unwelcome holodeck activity. The response? A hard slap in the face? A crude and public remark? A trip to the Human Relations department to file a complaint? Nah. Try decommisioning an addict who’s a danger to the ship and crew.

Chronos, I don’t know who said it, but any holodeck built in real life would need a drain placed at the bottom.

IIRC, safety features could only be tampered with by comanders with high enough clearance. So if Riker wanted to get his ass kicked (you know, using his French brother program) he could do it, but Wesley could not. Sometimes the universe isn’t fair.

If the holodeck was constantly being used for sexual gratification, it would be as dirty as a porn shop booth. I mean after a guy shuts down his Naughty Librarian program, everything would disappear aside from the… well… evidence.

Maybe disinfectant technology has advanced greatly in the upcoming centuries, but if it was understood that crewmembers routinely used the holodeck for sexual release, I sure as hell wouldn’t be blissfully kayaking around in that thing.


Let me clarify: When I said that “the safeties are hardwired”, I didn’t mean in the reality presented in the show. I meant in the reality that they should have presented in the show.

SPOOFE, I mostly agree with you; I’m just saying that the bad Holodeck plots could have been replaced by (completely different) good holodeck plots.

As for “cleanup” issues, I imagine that all foreign material is just beamed out at the end of the program. Aren’t the holodecks based on transporter technology in the first place? But I can still see someone saying “no way am I going in there! Don’t you know what goes on in those things?”.

I agree, but after they did it that once, they began running that gag into the ground to the point where everyone got sick of it.

My beef with the holodeck is that it was painfully stupid how it was handled. In the early Voyager episodes, one of the big plot concerns was conserving power, since they didn’t have a ready supply of fuel to use in case they ran out. But the writers still wanted to use the holodeck. So what did they do? They decided to say that the holodeck’s power source was incompatible with the rest of Voyager’s power systems.


Pardon me for asking, but… uh… how can power be incompatible?

Quite easily, SPOOFE. You ever gone to Europe and stuck your hairdryer into a socket? KAPLOW!
Coincidently, that’s the same sound an episode makes when the Holodeck makes an appearance.

Maybe it ran on DC! :wink:

For Voyager:

Bride of Chaotica–good
Stupid Stupid Stupid Irish town–Bad (and, in the episode, they mention shutting down all the holodecks for personal use so that the stupid irish town can run in all of them. If i was on Voyager, that would be the moment i kill the entire crew and bathe in their blood.)
Tom’s bar-- eh
That resort thing they had in season 3- eh

In the last two seasons of NextGen, there were a whack of episodes (admittedly not all of them holodeck-centered) in which the characters wandered around saying “maybe this banana-peel is symbolic of something!”

Oy. Symbolism doesn’t work if you have to point it out!

Holodecks, LaForge’s VISOR, the Q, and the Borg were all pretty flexible as plot devices, and as such were full of wild inconsistancies and techno-babble descriptions. For holodecks specifically, the show’s G rating pretty much prevented any plausible use of the system, i.e. human beings eventually twisting a tidy piece of technology toward base sexual ends. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Why would anybody bother actually travelling to “Raisa” when with a few spoken commands, you can create flawless versions of the Bondage-women of Latex IV?

At least the “holosuites” of DS9 were clearly meant for, ahem, adult use. Too bad they were too chicken to show Miles and Keiko taking a “Dungeon Getaway” from the kids. Instead, they just harped on that damn lounge lizard. Blech!

So yer tellin’ me that they couldn’t replicate an AC adapter with three oddly-shaped prongs? Man, ST’s manufacturing capabilities are shit.


For that matter, why couldn’t you just make a holodeck simulation of whatever sort of outlet they used on the rest of the ship? Or if you want to use the Holodeck anyway, why not just say that it doesn’t use very much power after all, and that the effect on morale is worth it?

But it’s a moot point anyway, since that series doesn’t exist anyway. Well, except for Torres, she can exist. But nothing else on that show exists.

I don’t like the holodeck, and I HATE episodes concerning it. It is overused. I wish they would make one of those stupid time tarvel episodes in order to shoot the inventor of that infernal device.
I said it in U.S.S. Exterminator. They should get Satelite tv and subscribe to Playboy.

Chronos: I am sitting in the smallest room in the holodeck.
I have a printout of your post before me.
Soon it shall be behind me.


Ah… how soon we forget… the writers would make it so that Wesley would not just be able to tamper with it, but to do so in such a way as to save the ship.

The way the holodecks are used definitely point to the extinction of personal-injury lawyers (sure, Starfleet has sovereign immunity, but whoever makes the parts for their ships would have been sued to death)