TURN IT OFF!
by Michelle Erica Green
Rick, Michael, Jeri: GET RID OF THE HOLODECK. All the holodecks, on all the
shows--convert them into schools, tennis courts, even brothels which are all
they're good for anyway. Oh, I know this won't happen, since the holodeck has
become a necessary plot device for making it look like there are trees and
castles and bistros on starships--in TNG first season they hardly left the ship,
they were so busy in fantasyland. But if you must keep the holodeck, treat it the
way you'd treat any other use of hallucinogens. Assume that Starfleet recognizes
the dangers of holaddiction. Stand by "The Barclay Rule": When the holodeck get
used in a way which is demeaning or dehumanizing to the user, it's time to turn
it off. And lately, we rarely see the holodeck used any other way.
Jeri Taylor told the British magazine Dreamwatch that if she suspects holographs,
if they existed, would primarily get used for sex. I can't argue with that, but
it bothers me seeing it all the time on Trek. Maybe I'm old-fashioned in that I
prefer to see the characters involved with living, breathing people rather than
projections. Maybe I'm concerned that the young people in the Trek audience will
think that it's better to have relationships comprised of rigid role-playing,
bodies which never get fat or age, and designer sex than to have emotional
interaction. Or maybe I'm just a prude: I don't want to watch characters satisfy
themselves with inflatable people any more than I want to see them using sex
toys. They can do what they want to scratch their itches off-duty, but not in
front of the rest of us, please.
So stop making Kira and Dax act like they're so desperate for sex that they'll
dress in ridiculous clothes and play bimbos. Let Riker forget Minuet and have a
lasting relationship with a woman who won't fall for his skanky lines and might
snap back. If you must write Tom Paris as a womanizer, let him stick to Kes and
the Delaney sisters, rather than some flake named Ricky who doesn't really exist.
Of course Tom can't deal with live women; he's getting all his practice with what
Sandrine describes as a puppydog who sits and waits on his every whim.
Sandrine's pretty bright about such limitations. I guess in some respects
holocharacters are smarter than their programmers.
But most importantly, please delete Janeway's holonovel. I hated it even before
it went berserk, from the moment it became clear that Janeway's idea of
"relaxation" is nookie with a fake English lord. I worry about a woman who thinks
it's less degrading to have a physical relationship with an artificial construct
than with a living, breathing person who happens to serve on a ship she commands.
Maybe the hologram's supposed to be safer, but playing it safe is hardly one of
Janeway's trademarks. There's not a person on the ship I wouldn't rather catch
the captain with than a hollow man. If Janeway must fool around with substitutes,
why not the Doc, who at least has independent personality and wouldn't try to
boss her around like a British fop? Janeway's showing all of the weakness and
vulnerability attributed to women in love with none of the strength and passion.
She looks hysterical, desperate for sex but too scared to deal with a real man.
And given that she plays Lord Burleigh's servant and mommies his kids, the tone
of the story is downright masochistic. Can't she at least rope 'em up and drag
'em in, have some wild fun?
I keep reading the producers say that it's all right for Janeway to touch people
and show emotion because they want her to be "feminine," but that Janeway can't
date crewmembers because it would compromise her position. It seems to me that
since the crew is allowed to perceive her as human, not perfect, they already see
her as a woman and a captain simultaneously, with no threat to her authority.
This is a much more passionate person than Picard; it makes sense that she would
want love in her life.
But compromises have to be made for a 20th century audience which has trouble
seeing a woman in command. So instead of a lover she gets a holonovel, which is
supposed to convince us that she's a good captain and a Real Woman. Janeway's
fantasy says to me that she secretly enjoys not being in command of herself, that
underneath that captain is a lady who wants to be taken by a burly lord. The
fantasy compromises her image more than dating half the crew would. And even if
we write it off to bad taste, Janeway's choice of plot makes little sense. Why
would she pick a genre piece involving roles and repression just as rigid as
Starfleet's? Why fall for another man she isn't supposed to have, only reversing
the servant/master roles? Elevated endorphin levels aside, Janeway's going to
leave the holodeck just as unhappy as when she arrived. Burleigh may be
anatomically correct, but he can't talk to her; he can only order her around,
speak in cliches, and disappear when she's finished with him.
"Persistence of vision" is the term for the way your brain lies to your eyes when
you're watching a movie. I imagine it's like the way the mind works in a
holonovel; you know you're seeing a projection, but you let yourself believe in
it, to a point. What the alien did to Janeway in that episode wasn't as bad as
what she did to herself: she forgot that she has the power to turn it off. But
that's a TV producer's dream--that fans will accept fantasy as reality (and spend
all our money on Viacom products). On some level, we're all supposed to be like
the Doc--"I don't have a life, I have a program." If the holodeck represents us,
maybe it's time we shut down the program ourselves.