One Trek Mind #49: Best Holodeck Alter Egos
I buy warp speed, photon torpedoes and the transporter. I can rationalize the replicator, universal translators and intra-ship communicators that seem to “know” to contact your intended party a split-second before the sound could possibly have gotten to them. There's something about the holodeck, however, that evades my suspension of disbelief.
I just don't see how light particles can do all the wonderful things a holodeck does. How can someone sit in a holo-projected chair without banging their rear on the floor? And what about when one person walks one way and the other walks the other? One would HAVE to bump into a wall, right?
Despite this (or maybe because of it) the holodeck is one of the pieces of Trek tech I'd most like to try. Sure, it has given us no shortage of trouble over the years, but there's also so much fun. Indeed, almost every one of our TNG/DS9/Voyager friends has had a go beyond the arch. It isn't just the characters they meet there, but the characters they transform into that makes it such a blast. Here, then, are 10 of my favorite holodeck alter egos for our space-faring crewmen.
10 - Brian Boru
Chief O'Brien (usually with his pal Dr. Bashir) wasn't shy about renting some time in one of Quark's holosuites. I suppose darts and synthehol only go so far. The pair loved to play-act famous battles from history, and one time they decided to reenact the Battle of Clontarf from the early 11th Century. To hear O'Brien say it, his ancestor, the High King Brian Boru, was key to fighting off the Vikings from Ireland. More importantly were the looks the boys got in their fur uniforms on the Promenade.
9 - Sheriff Worf
The episode “A Fistful of Datas” may've been a tad similar to Michael Crichton's Westworld, but that doesn't make it any less welcome. Worf, Troi and Alexander are stuck in a holodeck version of Deadwood, only instead of grimy realism and foul language there are violent reproductions of Data, equipped with all of his strength and power. Don't worry, though: the mighty son of Mogh in a ten-gallon hat knows how to keep everyone safe.
8 - Mademoiselle de Neuf
No one said these trips to the holodeck all had to be voluntary! In one of Voyager's more high-concept episodes, “The Killing Game,” our crew finds themselves with their memory wiped, acting out World War II scenarios at the behest of the bloodthirsty Hirogen. In the simulation they become members of the French Resistance, and Seven of Nine (the first to “wake up,” as it were) is a saucy chanteuse whose name, if you know even rudimentary French, ought to make you chuckle.
7 - Katie O'Clare
Captain Janeway had quite a few holodeck alter egos. Hey, you try running a crew partially formed of ex-rebels billions of light years away from home! You'd need some R&R, too. Her best holodeck appearances, in my opinion, were as Katie O'Clare (the Janeways came from County Clare) when she visited the town of “Fair Haven.” Whereas Captain Kirk was permitted to love 'em and leave 'em, Janeway's emotional needs had to come with all sorts of ethical baggage. She finally said “enough” and altered the subroutines of a Tom Paris-created holocharacter and what followed was one of the more touching groups of episodes of the series.
6 - Dixon Hill
Captain Picard's gumshoe detective Dixon Hill is one of the more famous holodeck alter egos, and while I'll admit it has its moments (like in First Contact), I'm not so sure it actually makes the most sense. Hill was first introduced early on – the twelfth episode of season one. I think that if the writers waited until Picard's character was a little more fleshed out, they wouldn't have gone the film noir detective route. Considering Picard's love for archaeology and learning, I think a professor entangled with adventure and dangerous discovery might have been a more appropriate outlet. Whether or not this meant we'd've seen Patrick Stewart with a fedora and whip is something we'll only find out in a parallel universe.
5 - Captain Proton
This is the only case where Tom Paris can say he did something better than Captain Picard. His version of a pulp character makes up some of Star Trek's greatest love letters to its fans. A celebration of cheesy sci-fi, the Adventures of Captain Proton (and there were many!) were no doubt a joy for the crew behind the camera, too, crafting outlandish props and shooting the sequences in dramatic black and white. In fact, there are some storylines within the Captain Proton episodes that are just as enjoyable as actual Voyager episodes themselves.
4 - Maid Marian
Now, technically, this wasn't inside the holodeck. This was Q using his Q powers to taunt Picard and his crew in the episode “Qpid.” I'm breaking the rules and bringing it up here for two reasons: one, and most importantly, it's my list and I'll do what I want, dammit! Two, I don't know when I'll get the opportunity to discuss just how adorable Vash is in old-timey English dress. Vash is such a wonderful character to begin with, but she really nails it here, somewhere in between being a damsel in distress and highly amused at how flustered her would-be beau Picard is behaving.
3 – Julian Bashir, Secret Agent
Bashir. Julian Bashir.
DS9's genetically altered doctor is one of the show's few graduates currently starring in feature films. (Yeah, most of 'em are Canadian, but still.) Alexander Siddig has got charisma and the writers knew it, so when it came time for his spin in the holosuites it was time to slip on the tux and play spy. There are simply too many 007 references to list, but the first time we met the character (in “Our Man Bashir”) longtime fans were excused from flipping out seeing how each member of the cast was incorporated. Then they went to the Himalayas for some reason.
2 - Sherlock Holmes
Mention the holodeck around someone who dislikes Star Trek and the odds are even they'll say “Oh, you mean Data with that stupid hat and pipe?”
The Sherlock Holmes moments are easy to poke fun at, but they actually were pretty good at fleshing Data out as a character. There were only two full-on Holmes episodes, though Holmes as something of a deductive mentor lingered quite a bit for the android's psyche. (Or, excuse me, neural net.) I don't know about you, but in my memory whenever I'd turn on a rerun of TNG I felt like I was seeing Data wander around Whitechapel. I'll admit, it was a little silly, but now, year's later, I associate these episodes with endless Saturdays at my grandparents' more than any other.
1 - Everyone as the EMH in Photons Be Free
We'll conclude with the only hologram written by holograms for holograms. In Voyager's one-up episode to “The Measure of a Man,” “Author, Author,” The Doctor creates a scenario where HIS version (a very pro-hologram version) of Voyager's story is told. While the episode taps into how your friends actually see you (before getting into the whole “equal rights for beams of light” thing) it is actually a lot of fun to watch the crew witness skewed versions of themselves, through the eyes of a perhaps delusional comrade.
I know I left a lot of fun ones out. Where's Chaotica? And how can I mention Holmes without Watson? Let me know who your favorites are in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.