30th Jun2009

gotchoo hollow PURSUITS!?

by jerad.formby

this is me remembering i have an entire blog to respond with

When the creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation were in their early brainstorm sessions, several ideas were tossed around and some were dismissed. A Counselor Troi character with three breasts instead of two was killed by Ms. D.C. Fontana. David Gerrold’s idea for giving the first officer planetside responsibilities (and not the captain) remained.

A lot of energy in these brainstorming sessions went into distancing this new show from Captain Kirk’s show. The discussions gravitated toward what the future of Star Trek (an already imagined future) might be. One of these mindblowing ideas was to introduce something known as the Holodeck.

pictured a third grader builds an artificial environment in our own modern world

An artificial environment where the characters might stretch their legs or, in some extreme cases, stretch the very fabric of good storytelling. Whatever one’s opinions on the Holodeck might be, it cannot be ignored that the Holodeck and in some cases, Holograms, became a very huge factor on TNG and each of its spinoffs.

The room can be anything one might care to imagine. Forest. Ice Glacier. Elaborate mansion. And one can “act” whatever role he or she would like. One could choose to play any historical figure or even someone from fiction. Even those parameters can be ignored if the user so chooses. Anything is possible.

This room became almost as necessary as being in space itself.

soylent green is a great movie

The story goes that Bob Justman was inspired by the movie Soylent Green to have a room on the new ship for crew members to simulate their “home environments.” He even wrote up a brief pitch for a story wherein the crew were trapped in the room at a critical moment.

That memo obviously became more than home environments for crew who missed their respective planets. It became a place to exercise. It became a place of fantasy. The room was so well put together that it could generate whole environments from the tip of one’s toes to the distant horizon.

The room that housed this technology would have to be big, one would assume. Well not really. It uses forcefields, tractor beams, and even plays with the artificial gravity to make one’s “walking across a barren landscape” jaunt feel as real as possible. In fact, the technology boasts, one wouldn’t be able to tell a difference.

Another part of this simulation was the incorporation of “artificial people.” Anyone from Stephen Hawking (who played himself in one of the programs) to fictional characters like the fictional Moriarty –the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes!

pictured a third grader and the artificial person he might make

Depending on the size of a ship and its compliment there could be many of these rooms or there just might be none.

If you are new to Star Trek and have a pre-conception for Star Trek fans being obsessive and nit-picky about details, the Holodeck and the fan reaction to it will likely confirm everything you think.

When we first saw the holodeck, young Wesley Crusher came out of the room soaking wet because he’d fallen into a pond. Yet later, we discovered that the materials in the holodeck which are really made up of energy and not matter couldn’t leave the holodeck. So why was Wesley wet outside of the holodeck?

How is it exactly that Captain Proton’s holo-program appears as a black and white serial and in turn makes you black and white?

Since the holodeck can project on your physical body a new outfit, why do people bother getting into costume before they enter?

pictured a third grader re-enacting a scene from generations where one might end up commanding in a silly costume

All of these questions can be asked and answered in the fan’s mind, but ultimately the holodeck is one big hunka inconsistent tech. It did exactly what the writers needed it to do that episode –despite rules, despite canon, despite what’s been established in lore.

The holodeck is forgiven for inconsistency all the time. I wish that the rest of Star Trek were treated with this sort of blindness by its fans. There would be a lot fewer headache-inducing conversations!

The flaws in the tech are left alone. The angry Star Trek fan will attack the holodeck for impacting too many stories. I remember writing up a piece of fan-fiction parody back in the eighth grade wherein nothing was happening on the bridge at all and Worf broke the silence with, “shall I use the holodeck to drum up some kind whats-wrong-with-the-holodeck adventure?”

Something was always going wrong with the holodeck. So often that one would think most of the crew just might think twice before going into it. So many times the characters would be in there and the “safeties” (which insure that serious injury is impossible) would be disengaged for no rhyme or reason –ah but then there was the story to solve.

sometimes safeties were disengaged by characters to benefit them in some way like picard killing borg with holographic bullets but it was mostly like this

One holodeck creation actually got really bold and became not only aware of its existence as a program, but as being on a space ship. It even got control of the ship at one point.

This happened because somebody said the wrong thing when the program was created. The scenario was Sherlock Holmes and Data really wanted to play the part of the famous detective. Because Data has all of the Sherlock Holmes adventures stored in his memory banks, he was able to solve any given holodeck story in under 10 seconds.

Another character, Dr. Pulaski (a David Ivy favorite), asked the computer to modify the villain of the piece to become a person who could defeat Data. She said “Data” and not “Sherlock Holmes.”

This put the Enterprise computer hard at work to invent an adversary that could outthink the good android. No wonder the ship was in peril!

Programs were modified all the time for good or for ill. Geordi asked the ship to modify the program of Leah Brahms, which was based on the Enterprise’s designer, in order to make her more personable. The Enterprise did such a good job modifying her that when he met the real thing, he was sorely disappointed.

the difference between them was night and day

Deep Space Nine had a great running theme inspired by the holodeck. O’Brien and Bashir were always engaged in some real craziness in the “holosuites” at Quark’s bar. The programs they engaged in were never shown. We just always saw them in their costumes as they took a break from the program or after finishing what must have been a spectacular “Battle of Britain” scenario. Their famous “fight for the Alamo” program actually tied into the series finale in a very poetic way.

The creators of DS9 opted for the word “holosuite” instead of “holodeck” to imply the use of the technology just might be of a more personal and more adult nature. And because these rooms were rented on the show, the implication that they were more like adult “arcades” was in place to re-enforce the “gray” nature of the Space Station show.

This show also features one of my very favorite “holodeck” stories. In the fourth season, they did an episode called “Our Man Bashir” which featured Dr. Bashir enacting a James Bond scenario. The crisis of the episode came when the station’s computer, in a desperate move to save lives, stored the likenesses of some of the show’s main characters in his program. So even though Captain Sisko was acting as a James Bond villain, Bashir knew he couldn’t kill him because that would cause the computer to lose the captain’s physical likeness.

pictured a third grader as bashir in my favorite holodeck story with artwork on hand

Oh and of course, the safeties were mysteriously off and that put Bashir and everyone’s physical likeness in jeopardy!

This brilliant and dynamic episode was destined to never see a sequel because the James Bond parody was so good that it garnered the attention of MGM. The staff of DS9 was asked to never repeat the scenario as the likeness was too close to the actual property.

Voyager had its fair share of holodeck stories too. In fact, the most expensive episode of Star Trek ever made is a holodeck story from that show. “The Killing Game Parts 1 and 2” featured most of the cast members being forced to live out a story in World War II by aliens who had commandeered the ship and its holodecks.

This was a unique application of the holodeck as Captain Janeway and her friends were being forced to put their bodies in harms way via a form of mind control –very Star Trek when you get right down to it.

Holodeck stories get some flack from Star Trek fans because they have simply seen too many of these stories. Some might even be under the impression that these stories happen “all the time.” And yeah, they do happen a lot, but it seems that everytime those safeties disengaged or crew members were trapped (again) there was a second and more interesting purpose behind that particular story.

If you examine them closely, the holodeck stories weren’t the same exact problem every time.

bride of chaotica with background by a third grader and who is that third grader with worf anyway

At a glance, two silly episodes like TNGs “A Fistful of Datas” and VOY’s “Bride of Chaotica” could be dismissed as “something’s wrong with the holodeck again.” That remark is where the similarities end. In the Next Generation scenario, the problems are linked to Data being used as an alternative means of backing up the Enterprise’s systems –an interesting and noble idea. Meanwhile on Voyager, the only thing “wrong with the holodeck” is that a new form of life has mistaken the Chaotica scenario as “reality,” leaving Janeway and her crew in the midst of an insane “first contact” scenario.

The results are the same, however. We get to see our favorite people acting like someone else. These challenges are humorous and unique every time it’s done. I feel for the writers who obviously racked their brains to find new ways to make the holodeck somehow harmful.

And they succeeded every time.

ematurity brought to you by haters and flamers




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  • http://normanlao@me.com Methos

    Holodeck = Pleasuredome 24/7! I can’t remember the name of the TNG episode, but Riker got all hot and bothered over dealing with some really hot woman, tapped his communicator and told the bridge that if they wanted to find him, he would be in a holodeck – to which he strode down the hallway quite hastefully!

    It really is the ultimate guilt-free zone, because when all is said and done – cleanup (moral and physical) is a snap. Just mention the words, “Computer – end program!” and a multitude of sins are forgiven hehe…

  • VegasAndorian

    Ah, I remember the days at Quark’s, when Kstran would borrow Greeg’s Vulcan/Orion mud-wrestling program!

  • Rob

    I want that T-shirt. Where did you get it?

  • jerad.formby

    @Rob Star Trek: The Experience exclusive. I love that shirt cause it’s not a photo image 🙂

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