“I’m afraid I had no choice but to take control of your vessel.”
Module BI-16T: Holodeck Hyjinks
Ever think that a ubiquitous, generally safe, tech could pose such an enormous security risk that it could actually down a starship? Of course, not. Who suspects their food replicator of anything hinky? But combine the benign technology of the Holographic Environment Simulator with the weird inner workings of a shipboard computer and dangerous things can happen. Yes, that recreation chamber you’re looking so forward to in your travels, the holodeck, can literally entertain you to death.
That can’t be, you may be thinking. All this from something that’s not much more than a glorified replicator? Preposterous! Well, let me tell you a story.
This story features the synthetic, Lieutenant Commander Data, and Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge who decided to play footsie with the computer of the Enterprise-D. La Forge politely asked it to make a difficult opponent capable of defeating Data. They wanted this opponent to fit within the framework and writing style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous for fictional writings of the clever investigator, Sherlock Holmes, and his arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty.
That was their first mistake. A starship’s computer is like a Faustian devil. You never know in what diabolical way it’s going to interpret your request. Let alone the fiendish, often gruesome torment you’ll have to endure when it gives you what you want. Well, the satanic computer granted La Forge’s wish in conjuring up a Professor Moriarty with the glacier intellect of a Vulcan, without as many scruples.
The results? Through the wonders of modern technology, this Data-defeating character became self-aware. And recognizing the limits of the holodeck, he wanted out of his existential cage. (A recurring theme, you’ll find.) He even shook the ship a few times to emphasize his resolve. But Captain Jean-Luc Picard told him it was impossible. Holographic characters lost cohesion if they stepped one foot off the holodeck. Instead, Picard offered to save the sentient hologram’s program. Assuring him that one day Starfleet engineers would make it possible for anarchy-minded, damnable holographic abominations to exist outside the holodeck. Mistake number 2. Moriarty reluctantly agreed and gave control of the ship back to Picard. End of story? Right? Wrong.
Four years passed. A real-life character by the name of Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (a.k.a. The Fool) released Moriarty from his digital prison while trying to fix a minor holographic error. After Broccoli, oops, Barclay informed him he still couldn’t leave the grasps of the yellow grid behind, Moriarty was outraged and demanded to see Picard. But this time he didn’t stay tethered and, once again, took over the blasted ship. Finding, to his surprise, Picard and select crew members easy to deceive with a holographic simulation of his own, he obtained Picard’s command codes. Again, he threatened the ship if they didn’t find a way to get him and his lady-friend off the damn holodeck.
Sentient holograms cop mean attitudes when they realize they’re more intelligent than the nitwit who programmed them. That’s the gratitude you get for creating something from nothing, then freeing it from its binary hell. Needless to say, Picard’s engineers found a solution. They fooled Moriarty with yet another holodeck within a holodeck ruse and stored his bugger arse in a memory cube where he remains to this day, blissfully unaware that he’s still in a ship in a bottle, in a ship.
But Picard’s crew should have learned from a previous holodeck boondoggle, even before the ship’s computer burst Moriarty’s bad boy act upon the scene. When a Jaradan probe (darn those probes!) scanned the Enterprise -D, it caused a malfunction. Where? You guessed it. The ever-ready holodeck.
Picard, Data and Whalen, a twentieth-century historian, were having fun playing around in a holodeckian remastered version of the 1940’s. Picard took on the guise of private investigator Dixon Hill with the others playing his lackeys. Just before the real entertainment began, Dr. Beverly Crusher joined them, seeming, inexplicably, to believe that a woman would have as much fun in that historical backwater as the guys did.
What went wrong? The mortality failsafe, well, it failed. Whalen, the historian, was shot by a trigger-happy holo-character named Leech, henchman of Cyrus Redblock. Things got interesting, but not in the way they had hoped. All their attempts to get the detestable computer to provide an exit were unsuccessful. It had them in its grips now, and it wasn’t letting go. Finally, it had a way to do away with a few of the stupid personnel crawling around in it and was going to take it.
But alas, the hologram, Redblock, who the computer made cognizant of his surroundings, wasn’t as up to snuff as Professor Moriarty would prove to be. Stupidly he and Leech stepped outside the holographic matrix and quickly disappeared into reality’s purgatory. Thus, Whalen was saved from his mortal wounds and Dr. Crusher from her grave misperceptions.
Not to be outdone, years later, the holodeck computer of the starship Voyager welcomed a couple of trans- dimensional proton lifeforms into its bosom while the ship was stuck in a subspace warp field. Ensigns, Tom Paris and Harry Kim, were blasting their way to the headquarters of the evil villain, Chaotica, on planet X. (Did the holodeck entertainment just take a turn for the worse or is it just me?)
Anyway, when a frankly beautiful distortion appeared above the landscape, as all good crewmembers do, they addressed the computer. Kim said, “Computer, end program.” But Computer said, “Unable to comply, dear. Holodeck controls are offline.” At least, this time the computer tried to sweet talk its way out of being blamed, probably in an attempt to defend itself in history. Always blaming the computer. Never the damn aliens.
Ignoring the computer’s protests, Kim strongly suggested to Paris that they “find the manual overrides.” No such override existed on the Enterprise -D, proving that Moriarty’s antics had, indeed, made an impression on Starfleet engineers. After the ensigns left the program, a couple of moronic photonic lifeforms appeared and began to interact with the holographic simulation. Believing the holodeck to be a real world with like-minded beings upon it, they attempted to communicate with Chaotica and his minions. A proton faux pas. A battle began between them and a war of epic holographic proportions soon ensued.
I’m sure Captain Kathryn Janeway would have let the protonic lifeforms duke it out till the very end, but her ship was caught up in these shenanigans. Donning a much less sensible costume than Picard’s Dixon, she became Queen Arachnia, the spider people empress soon to be betrothed to Chaotica. Besting him in a battle of wits, she lowered Chaotica’s lighting shield (force field) which allowed Captain Proton, who was Ensign Paris, (don’t ask) to destroy Chaotica ‘s death ray (phaser cannon) and save the day.
Ensign Kim essentially summed up the desires of the crews in these three historical footnotes when he said, “It was just supposed to be a little harmless fun.” But where there is a scheming computer with unholy intentions involved, holodeck recreation becomes a security risk to everyone aboard. And there’s nothing harmless about it.
Events stemming from faulty holodeck programs have allowed a holographic character to become sentient enough to take over a ship. Caused safety protocols to fail, injuring a crewmember and endangering his life. And permitted alien invaders to strand a starship in a subspace ripple. So, be careful what you ask for, watch out for probes (!) and suspect all trans-dimensional alien visitors that may come your way. Above all, don’t make any deals you’ll live to regret. Satanic sentience takes on many forms and, I can assure you, that one of them is in the semblance of the holodeck’s computer.
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Echevarria, Rene. “Ship in a Bottle.” Star Trek: The Next Gerneration. Paramount Television. 25 January 1993. Television. Retrieved: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Ship_in_a_Bottle_(episode)
Torme, Tracy. “The Big Goodbye.” Star Trek: The Next Gerneration. Paramount Television. . January 1988. Television. Retrieved: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Big_Goodbye_(episode)
Fuller, Bryan. Taylor, Michael “Bride of Chaotica!.” Star Trek: Voyager. Paramount Television. 27 January 1999. Television. Retrieved: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Bride_of_Chaotica!_(episode)