How to crash the Holodeck

The Star Trek group of TV shows take themselves very seriously. As such, they try to come up with plausible explanations for how their devices work. In the following case, the explanation doesn't hold.

According to The Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Holodeck uses two methods to create an environment.

  1. Holographic imagery displays objects away from the people inside the Holodeck.
  2. When a person is likely to touch an object, replicators are used to physically create the object, and computer-guided tractor beams ("shaped forcebeams") are used to manipulate the object and give it a texture and hardness appropriate to the object.

Normally, this is fine and works well. Except in this situation:

Will: Computer, create a straight walkway, oriented East-West.
Computer: Acknowledged.
Will: Okay, Geordi, you walk East, and I'll walk West.

They both walk in their repsective directions, and a few seconds later, each walks into the wall of the holodeck.

The only options available to the computer are to either alter the background image to induce them to turn as they walk or to apply a shaped forcebeam to them directly to steer them away from the wall. In either case, Will and Geordi will notice. The whole concept of the holodeck is for you not to notice that you are in a simulated environment.

What got me thinking about this is the episode "Ship in a Bottle". Professor Moriarty creates a representation of the Enterprise within the holodeck. At one point, Data, Picard and Barclay are each in a different location, each thinking that they are outside of the holodeck. If you've looked at the holodeck when a program is ended, the room is quite small. Professor Moriarty's program divided that area by 3, and yet still had enough room for 3 separate people to maneuver independently of each other?

I don't think so.

(Later in the episode, Picard creates another Enterprise inside Moriarty's Enterprise, further compounding the space problem.)

follow-up to this article
Universal Translator problems -- Captain Picard's lack of manners
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