October 28, 1998:
"Deep Space Nine" proves the Holodeck doesn't work as described

In my earlier article, I presented a situation that would keep a Star Trek holodeck from working: you and another person walk in opposite directions and pretty quickly you'd both walk into the walls or else the holodeck would have to use a tractor beam or other optical effect to induce you to turn. In the small space shown in the episodes, you'd notice if you weren't walking straight any more.

This is exactly contrary to the whole concept of the holodeck: you ain't supposed to notice the "tricks" being played on your senses.

Well, now "Deep Space Nine" has completely proven that the holodeck does NOT work as the Paramount-approved "Star Trek Encyclopedia" says it does.

In the episode, "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", Sisko and the crew play a game of baseball against a Vulcan team. Twenty people are in the holosuite at the same time, but they all had room to maneuver.

During the course of play, one of the (Deep Space) "Niners" catches a ball before it goes over the back fence. At that point, they are about 400 feet away from home plate, where Nog is. Plus, Rom is sitting up in the stands. And, the rest of the team is in their regular places (shortstop, left field, first base, etc.)

So, as a rough estimate, that means the distance between the two people furthest apart is 450-500 feet. The holodeck rooms and holosuite rooms that we've seen are nowhere near that big. Maybe 40 feet across.

And, since this is a baseball game, that means people are running all over the field; going to the dugout, chasing after the ball, running around the bases, etc.

In order for the holodeck/holosuite to work as Paramount tells us it does, that room needs to be about 25,000 square feet in size in order to play a baseball game in without having a tractor beam jerking you around to keep you from running into a wall!


Now, you're probably thinking what's the big deal with this. Why not just invoke "willing suspension of disbelieve" that you traditionally have when watching a movie or TV show?

Well, the whole point of this tirade is because of the effort that Paramount itself takes in making the Star Trek series believable.

If Paramount wasn't trying to take Star Trek so seriously, then there wouldn't be people like me, or books like "The Nitpicker's Guide to the Next Generation" (second edition), catching them in their mistakes.



Oh, why not. While I'm in a snarky mood, I'll let rip with the other proof that the holodeck doesn't work as described. Even if you throw out "The Star Trek Encyclopedia", just your own eyes will show you that it can't work.

Remember the movie Star Trek: Generations? In one of the opening scenes, we get to see Worf's promotion ceremony. It's held on the deck of a wooden sailing ship, out in the middle of the ocean. The computer has to manage four different heights while generating this program: below decks (where Worf is waiting), the main deck, the upper deck where the ship's wheel is, and the water.

The computer is doing a pretty good job: the water is rolling and the ship is moving up and down. People are moving all over that ship. No problem so far.

Where that holodeck program should have imploded occurs after Worf and Beverly fall into the water. They are roughly 15 feet lower than the upper deck. Picard is on the upper deck, receives a call, and then has the computer reveal a terminal for him to get his message on. He then walks out of the holodeck.

Problem. Worf, Beverly and a couple of other people are, right then, at least five feet lower than the holodeck exit. The program is still running, but physically, they are below the level of the holodeck.

What does the holodeck computer do in this situation? About the only choice I see is to use the tranporter to remove a section of the decking to account for the differences in height where all the people are standing. Since Worf and Beverly are still in the water, the computer would also have to use a forcefield to keep that water from falling into the deck below. Remember, the holodeck creates solid objects that are close to people and just projects images when an object is far away, so that's real, wet water it has to contain. Just hope the power doesn't fluctuate or go out because it would be the same as your upstairs neighbor's waterbed leaking through the ceiling.

Transporting out a section of decking would not be a particularly good idea, because then the computer would have to re-route any power conduits running through that section, etc.

And, let's hope no one was in the level below when the transporter was activated. Mortality failsafes or not, the holodeck computer would then have to choose between attaining the necessary vertical distance and avoiding that person. Given the holodeck's track record, I wouldn't rule out it transporting half a person away to make room for that vertical distance that it needs.


How to crash the Holodeck (original article)
Universal Translator problems -- Captain Picard's lack of manners
Return to the foyer -- Return to Fluff & Stuff main page