Enterprise’s Holodeck Is Star Trek’s “Most Imaginative” Invention, Says TNG Producer

The holodeck gave the writers and producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation more freedom to tell different kinds of stories.

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  • The holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation allowed the characters to have fun and explore different genres, like playing Sherlock Holmes.
  • Despite malfunctions, the holodeck provided some of the most enjoyable episodes in Star Trek, creating genuine friendships among the characters.
  • The holodeck not only enabled the show to experiment with genres but also raised interesting philosophical questions through self-aware programs like Professor Moriarty.

The holodeck turned out to be one of the greatest inventions introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and TNG co-producer Brannon Braga knew a good idea when he saw one. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew on the USS Enterprise-D embarked on all kinds of adventures throughout TNG’s seven seasons, and the holodeck provided some much-needed recreation. Not only was the holodeck an incredibly cool piece of technology, it also allowed the writers of TNG to play around with various genres. Whether Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) wanted to play Sherlock Holmes or Captain Picard wanted to play a hard-boiled detective, the holodeck allowed the characters and the actors to have some fun.

Despite its tendency to malfunction, the holodeck provided Star Trek with some of its most fun episodes across multiple series. TNG‘s holodeck gave Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s characters the opportunity to interact with one another outside of their roles on the Enterprise, allowing them to form more genuine friendships. In the Star Trek oral history, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, TNG co-producer Brannon Braga discusses the holodeck and the impact it had on the show. Read his quote below:

The holodeck is one of the most imaginative, maybe even underappreciated inventions. This cyber-reality, forward-thinking idea, at least for TV, was fantastic. Very early on in the series Gene had Picard and Data playing Sherlock Holmes characters. They were recreational, they hung out whether it was the holodeck or the poker game. I don’t think that special camaraderie would have evolved without it—I think eventually Picard and Data would have a special bond, as did Picard and Worf, and the characters start to click together. Everybody had their thing.

Moriarty, Vic Fontaine and Vindicta in Star Trek's holodeck
Star Trek’s 20 Best Holodeck Episodes

Star Trek’s holodecks entertain, fulfill fantasies, heal old wounds, train cadets, and malfunction badly, as seen in these 20 best episodes.

The Invention Of The Holodeck Led To Some Of Star Trek’s Best Episodes

Beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1, episode 12, “The Big Goodbye,” holodeck episodes became a staple of many Trek series. “The Big Goodbye” was one of the best episodes of TNG’s rocky first season, and it set the precedent for many of the holodeck episodes that followed – for better and worse. It was always fun to see the characters of various Trek shows dress in period costumes and go on adventures, though the holodeck’s regular malfunctions did put a damper on things.

While it doesn’t make sense that the holodeck has safety protocols that can be disabled, the entertaining stories in the holodeck episodes made up for many of the less logical aspects.

Many of Star Trek’s best friendships were cultivated on the holodeck, including that of Data and Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) on TNG, Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) and Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Lt. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) on Star Trek: Voyager. Not only did the holodeck allow Star Trek to experiment with different genres, but self-aware programs like Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis) in TNG and The Doctor (Robert Picardo) in Voyager raised fascinating metaphysical questions. The holodeck remains one of Star Trek’s best inventions, and it led to some truly iconic episodes.

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