Ever since its introduction in Encounter at Farpoint, the Star Trek writers have loved the holodeck. Within its confines, the crew could visit any time or place they liked – which pretty much meant a setting on 19th or 20th century Earth.
Although TNG had its fair share of bad holodeck programs, in this article we’re going to purely focus on Voyager. Despite being short on power to the point of having to ration replicator use, Voyager was magically able to run the holodeck as much as it wanted – apparently because it used a power source that was incompatible with the rest of the ship (except when it wasn’t). Thanks to that, we got a selection of holodeck programs and episodes that ranged from the barely tolerable to the downright cringeworthy. So, without further ado – and in no particular order – let’s explore the seven worst Voyager holodeck programs.
Tom Paris first showed off his holodeck programming skills in season one, with this recreation of a French bar that he had frequented during his Academy days. Although the location itself was inoffensive enough, it was populated by some painful stereotypes. Sandrine, the owner, was an oversexed busty blonde with a corny French accent and a tendency towards both flirtatiousness and jealousy. Worse yet was the “Gigolo”, a creep with a complete disregard for lack of consent or personal space. Paris even included an attractive woman named Ricky, who seemingly existed just to be eye candy in all his holodeck programs – not that we ever saw her outside of Sandrine’s. Let’s just hope Ricky wasn’t based on a real woman, or we’d have another Leah Brahms situation on our hands.
Summary: A bar filled with awful French accents and all the worst tropes of heterosexual relationships.
In season six, Paris proved he wasn’t done with period European locales when he came up with Fair Haven, a fictional 19th century Irish village. If you thought the accents of Chez Sandrine were bad, you’ll soon find them pleasant and melodious compared to the “fiddle dee dee” Irishness of Fair Haven.
Fair Haven featured in just two episodes, but each of them is a struggle to endure. Once again, every character is a thin stereotype. Just look at the Memory Alpha description of Seamus – “He frequently had troubles with his wife and often asked members of the USS Voyager crew for a bit of money for a drink” – or Milo, “He was a ne’er-do-well who spent most of his time in the local pub”. To quote Kent Brockman from The Simpsons – “All this drinking, violence, destruction of property – are these the things we think of when we think of the Irish?”
Fortunately, after the events of Spirit Folk, in which the Fair Haven residents start to notice that their Starfleet visitors aren’t your average 19th century folk, the Fair Haven program is deactivated indefinitely and never mentioned again.
Janeway Lambda One
Early in Voyager’s run, the writers decided to give Janeway a feminine side by having her enjoy period dramas, resulting in this holodeck hybrid of Jane Eyre, Rebecca and The Turn of the Screw. For some reason, Janeway seems to enjoy playing the role of subservient governess to the bland Lord Burleigh and his two obnoxious children.
Fortunately, Janeway Lambda One only appears three times in total, and is retired after season 2’s Persistence of Vision.
Voyager’s first holodeck malfunction occurred partway through season one, when Harry Kim goes missing inside his own Beowulf program. If you have your holodeck episode bingo card to hand, then this one ticks off pretty much all the boxes:
- Holodeck malfunctions and cannot just be shut down, for reasons.
- Holodeck program is based on a historical Earth legend.
- Everyone in the holodeck must ham it up as much as possible, unless they are the resident non-human “I don’t get the appeal of the holodeck” character.
- All holodeck NPCs must be as generic and stereotypical as possible.
- It was alien interference all along.
I’m sure I’ll attract a lot of disagreement for this one, but I’m not a fan of Captain Proton. I’ll admit my attitude towards it has softened over time, to the point where Bride of Chaotica was actually a reasonable viewing experience last time I watched it, but it’s still not really my thing. Yes, I know it’s supposed to intentionally parody the tropes of mid-twentieth century sci-fi shows, but that still means sitting through all those tropes – everything from a cackling over-the-top villain to a screaming blonde woman. The only saving graces are Janeway doing an excellent turn as Queen Arachnia, and Tuvok and Seven remaining distinctly unimpressed.
Leonardo da Vinci
There was a time when I liked John Rhys Davies and the da Vinci hologram, but that was a long time ago – and certainly long before his recent antics on Question Time. Even before that, however, my feelings towards da Vinci had long since changed.
Although I quite like the workshop holoprogram itself, it is much improved by da Vinci’s absence. Yes, he’s only in a couple of episodes, but it manages to feel much longer, thanks to his bombastic pontification and self-absorption. I guess Janeway wanted the genuine da Vinci experience, or she could have reprogrammed him to be less abrasive.
The Doctor’s Family
In the episode Real Life, The Doctor decides to try to experience family life by programming his own holographic wife and children. Unfortunately, he’s clearly been watching too many 1950s sitcoms, as he opts for simpering, stay-at-home wife and two adoring, perfectly behaved children – all of whom adore and worship The Doctor.
This situation is cringe-inducing not just for the viewer, but for everyone’s favourite holodeck reprogrammer B’Elanna, who takes it upon herself to make The Doctor’s family a bit more realistic. Now his wife is a busy career woman, his son hangs out with Klingons, and his daughter is much more demanding. This new version of the family is somewhat more bearable, but it hardly serves to improve this episode much.
Which were your least favourite Voyager holodeck programs? Comment below and let me know.