TOS' holodeck...food for thought...

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Warped9, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's just a lot rougher than you seem to want to believe -- not so much "intent" as "Yeah, this might work." Fans make such a big deal over "creators' intent," whereas we creators are just floundering along, making up crap as we go and hoping it doesn't turn out to be a complete mess. Usually our only intent is to get to the deadline with something resembling a coherent work. And even then, what we turn in is often just what we had to settle for when time ran out.


    That's not what I'm talking about at all. It's not about this one idea, it's about clarifying how creativity works.


    Sure, but not to the point that it limits them. Every creation evolves and changes. Every writers' guide contains suggestions that get ignored as well as ones that get used. Like I said, they're the paints on the palette. Potential, not intent. They're there to be used if they're needed, but they're optional.
     
  2. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

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    There could have been many generations of the "holodeck" that had some very drastically different forms of function over the decades.

    TOS "Entertainment Center" (Generation 1)
    6 panel holography projected enviroment with gentle air pressure jets, speaker arrays and fine atmospheric enhancement "mists" to stimulate senses.

    TAS "Holographic environmental simulator" (Generation 2+)
    Similar to the above, but with micro-gravity units, enviroment mists of more complexity, multiple independent layers of projection to give depth perception and greater ability to fool the eye.

    With some very loosely generated dense air pockets and non-inhalant micro-particles that can give the sensation of matter on the skin.

    Then a few refinements, largely to the TOS/TAS versions.

    TNG "HoloDeck" (Generation 5?6?)
    A breakthrough that allows actual forcefields, photonic active surfaces, far greater resolution, vastly more powerful simulations, generated semi-solid matter, atmospheric effects generated from artificial molecular constructs. All of it based off the much more recent invention of the Replicator.

    Something like that?
     
  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ Which makes more sense than the TNG holodeck springing into being overnight fully formed.
     
  4. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

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    It's always been my impression that the holodeck was a major step up in something that had already existed.

    I knew TAS had depicted the technology as far back as 1973, but I wasn't aware of the 1968 proposal.

    But it means they certaintly knew about it and had envisioned it being a 23rd century invention over a decade before TNG was worked on.

    Riker's reaction is based more on how improved the effect of being on the holodeck is, rather than floored at the idea it exists, at least to me.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Movies today are basically the exact same as back in the days of the Brothers LumiƩre, too. Except for incremental upgrades that sort of transcend the whole experience...

    Movies without sound are obviously lacking in realism. Movies without color remain unconvincing. Movies with lots of grain to them, and with unrealistic colors, are still unsatisfactory. Movies that appear flat on the screen don't impress us. And soon enough, movies that cannot be walked into will be so unrealistic that we reject them as entertainment.

    Riker's statement makes perfect sense in these terms. He's expressly impressed with quality, not with existence, after all.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    From a real world production standpoint, I don't see why a "primitive" (first generation) holo-deck could NOT have been depicted in the original series.

    As E-Dub stated above, visually (though not the same method from an "in story" perspective), something similar was depicted in the first pilot with the environment "fluttering" around a bust shot of Jeffrey Hunter. One would just treat the transition like an inversion of the transporter effect. Instead of fading the person in or out of the environment, you fade the surroundings. After all, that's basically what was done in "Next Gen'". Or, if the production felt handling additional fade opticals were too costly (but if they budget it for the transporter, why not for the holo-deck?), then they could have opted for the "Jeanie" or "Bewitched" solution, the simulation just "blinks" into existence with an appropriate sound effect (hopefully not that "rubber gong" sound).

    Other than no stories having scenes that could have taken advantage of that kind of "future technology" (say, like Kirk getting a "letter" from his father), I can only speculate Roddenberry and the other writers opted to reserve that ability strictly for the super advanced aliens the crew might encounter. If the Enterprise could do it, then those various hyper advanced aliens might not seem so far ahead as they brag. It would be kinda' like someone yanked from the 1940s and landing in, say 2020. Someone from that year tries to impress WWII Joe with a wall sized HDTV arrangement. Oh, Joe might be impressed by the color, resolution and sound, but he wouldn't worship Mr. 2020 as a god. Joe would likely reply, "So you got better television. Can you tune in Benny Goodman?" So, to keep the "advanced" aliens ever more "godly", the production purposely scaled back some of the tech the Enterprise would use.

    Then again, I may be simply full of sh*t. Anybody got a laxative?

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    In "The Squire Of Gothos" and "Catspaw" Kirk and the crew aren't that impressed with what Trelane and Sylvia and Korob are doing because they assume (rightfully) that advanced technology is somehow helping them do those things. They figure Apollo must also have some advanced tech at his disposal to be doing what he does---and they were right to a large degree. In "Return Of The Archons" Kirk and Spock aren't bowled over by the projected image of Landru. In very few cases did the "godly" aliens actually come off as that magical.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Is the replicator recent? It's really just an application of transporter technology; the only difference is that instead of recreating the original pattern, it alters the particles to fit a preprogrammed pattern.


    Of course, but it's a matter of scale. Riker's reaction is hard to reconcile with the idea of the technology having been around in some form for a century. A few decades, maybe, but not that long.

    Then again, ENT has Malcolm using holographic targets in the armory in the early 2150s, so by this point I guess we have no choice but to disregard Riker's "Farpoint" reaction as one of the many things the canon itself has retconned away.


    Indeed. They did so much with illusory settings that it would've been easy to do. Indeed, the holodeck served the same logistical purpose on TNG that the "parallel worlds theory" and the time travel episodes served in TOS -- an excuse to save money by recycling existing props, costumes, set pieces, etc. from historical or present-day stories rather than having to create whole new alien worlds every week. So it certainly wasn't technological or budgetary limitations that kept them from using the idea.


    That's an excellent point. I disagree with Warped9's response, because it's not about how the characters would react, but how the viewing audience would react. If the show depicted its own heroes using such advanced simulation tech, then aliens with the same illusory powers wouldn't seem as impressive to the audience. (Heck, personally I was long skeptical that Q was really as godlike as he claimed, given how much of what he did could've been achieved with a holodeck and a transporter.)

    Also, maybe they figured audiences wanted to see their heroes going out and having adventures rather than doing the equivalent of watching TV.
     
  9. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...But is it?

    Riker simply is the easily impressed type, it seems...

    Admittedly, in "Farpoint", Riker was impressed by bushes and streams, and in "11001001", he was impressed by, well, not bushes, but close. We could speculate that the latter episode is Riker's first encounter with a holographic person, a step up from the park scene.

    But since Riker seems to like the holodeck as a concept, it would be rather remarkable had he never tried out a program that would feature interactive simulations of people. Picard did it in "The Big Goodbye" several episodes earlier (although in stardate terms, it would be later - except for the Tasha Yar Resurrection issue). Odds are, then, that Riker simply finds all sorts of incremental upgrades to holosimulation technology remarkable.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    In my deck plan thread we recently had a discussion about the pros and cons of the 22 people emergency transporter and one of the conclusions (at least for me) had been that it's a concept that was envisioned but probably not thought through and eventually abandoned for good reasons.

    With the TOS holodeck is not too dissimilar, IMHO.

    First of all, screenplay-wise it would have required each time they go there to have a lengthy explanation what they are about to do (so that audiences would understand we're still on the ship and not on an alien planet).

    Second, the question would have been what to do there in the context of an episode:

    • Go back in time to Chicago of 1930? We had something like that in "A Piece of the Action"
    • Go back in time to Germany in the late 1930's. Same story, "Patterns of Force"
    • Go back in time to study native Americans? "The Paradise Syndrome"
    • etc., etc.
    The use of the holodeck in "Practical Joker" is extremely odd. Our protagonists know the ship's computer is loosing its marbles, and yet they enter.

    In the context of the episode the holodeck only serves the purpose to create a new and dangerous situation for the protagonists (and often continues to do so in TNG...:p).

    Bob
     
  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I don't buy that explanation. One of the hooks of TOS was that they didn't get hung up on lengthy explanations of tech. That was TNG's (and the others) gimmick.
     
  12. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    You don't have to as you just provided a different explanation.

    For the general audience it would have been imperative to inform them they're still on the ship and don't watch some alien planet or the commercial. Exactly the reason you just provided could have been the decisive one not to feature the holodeck in TOS.

    Alternately they could have done it with rear projection but in such a fashion that the audience would understand it's not the real thing - which however would have been the opposite of what Gene Roddenberry had envisioned. :rolleyes:

    Bob
     
  13. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    You don't have to explain anything at all, just let the audience watch and eventually they'll figure it out. TOS never tried to explain how the transporter or phasers worked. Roddenberry wanted to avoid all the technical mumbo jumbo, and as an example used Joe Friday of "Dragnet". Joe doesn't explain how his .38 police revolver operates before he uses it. Roddenberry wanted to avoid that kind of exposition with things like phasers, believing that the audience would be smart enough to come up with their own explanation.
     
  14. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    TNG didn't go into a lengthy explanation each time the holodeck was used. Why would TOS "have" to do so?
     
  15. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

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    They wouldn't, the second the holodeck shut off and they were standing on a room in the Enterprise, the audience would get it immediately. Not that a line from anyone of the cast wouldn't solve the problem either.

    I think the issue was partly cost, partly technical (cutting from scene to scene when the background changed) and partly few ways to justify it in the script.

    TAS removed most of those concerns and look what happened, surprise surprise the Enterprise had one all along.
     
  16. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That was the idea. A couple of episodes later they show Picard falling in love with the holodeck, being all fascinated about how realistic everything is. The holodeck in TNG was something absolutely new for the characters.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    In terms of cost, like I said, TNG used the holodeck to save money by using historical Earth sets/costumes/etc. that already existed as opposed to alien stuff that had to be built from scratch. TOS only got on the air because Roddenberry used the parallel-worlds idea to convince the execs that the show could be made affordable with that kind of recycling, and a holodeck-equivalent would've played right into that. So a TOS holographic simulator would actually have saved them money, or at least wouldn't have cost any more than the gangster planet or the Halloween planet or the Melkot Tombstone.

    In terms of technical effects, cutting from scene to scene is one of the simplest possible special effects, and it was one that TOS did frequently in episodes like "Catspaw" and "Spectre of the Gun." Bewitched also did it all the time. True, the FX would've been simpler than what TNG used, with more cheats to avoid opticals (for instance, hold a closeup on Kirk's face while the scene-changing sound effect is heard, then cut to reverse angle of Kirk standing in the new scene), but they would've been some of the easier, cheaper effects to achieve overall.

    So that only leaves story justification. Which means it isn't something they weren't technically able to do, but something they chose not to do. The mention in the bible or wherever was just a bit of speculative worldbuilding along with the various other bits of future speculation you could find there, but ultimately nobody thought of a good story built around someone getting a holographic letter from home or doing the equivalent of watching a movie.

    Let's consider: what makes holodeck stories possible isn't the images, but the artificial intelligence driving them. It's only when the stars of the show can interact with virtual people, holodeck characters that can malfunction and pose a danger, that you get a story worth telling. True, "The Practical Joker" was about a computer malfunction, but that's a story you can really only tell once without there being virtual characters involved. Now, think about the difference between the '60s and the '80s. In the '80s, we had computer games. The idea of a game where a player interacts with virtual characters was around by then. In the '60s, though, the concept of computer gaming wouldn't have been familiar to most of the audience, or to most TV writers. The proposed use for the holographic simulator discussed above was for watching video messages or movies or creating landscapes. The creators at the time probably wouldn't have considered the more interactive possibilities, and so stories built around a holodeck-equivalent wouldn't have occurred to them. So it didn't seem to be as useful an idea from their perspective in the '60s as it did when they were developing TNG two decades later.
     
  18. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'm thinking maybe the holodeck technology wasn't Federation developed. Sort of like the Kzinti weapon left by a past civilisation in TAS.
    However could you explain what happened in the Moriarity episode? I mean all you had to do was ask and the greatest computer ever was created. Surely that would have been tested in laboratories when the holodeck was being created.
    How do you go from the simple Minuet projection to the Moriarity creation? If someone could just say 'Create the greatest biological weapons expert' or 'the greatest dictator' or even 'the greatest scientist or doctor' why hadn't they done so before? Why didn't the Ferengi?
    I'm thinking the actions of the holodeck surprised them. I can think one reason was because it was created by a more advanced technology and adapted for Federation use.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, we know that. ENT: "Unexpected" established that the Xyrillians invented it, or at least were using it by 2151.

    Minuet was hardly simple; she was an advanced AI programmed into the holodeck by the Bynars. I tend to assume that some of the potential they programmed into it remained and led to the creation of Moriarty.
     
  20. Gil T.Azell

    Gil T.Azell Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    One of the novels I read mentioned them I cant remember which one.
    Also they (Holograms) were used to hide bases on the moon.