Star Trek: Every Hologram That Gained Sentience (& Their Fate) – Screen Rant

Posted: December 22, 2020 at 6:59 pm


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There have been many holographic characters to gain sentience in Star Trek, and some of their fates ended up being unexpected despite their origins.

Star Trek has explored many storylines about holograms since the introduction of the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with some of them going on to gain sentience. Because starship crews could use it to run programs in any time period or setting, the holodeck provided The Next Generationand subsequent series with the ability to do a story that wasn't strictly sci-fi every once in a while, from westerns to spy thrillers and everything in between. Generally, the holodeck acted as the storytelling vehicle for the main characters in any given episode, but occasionally it was the holograms themselves who ended up being the main characters.

Star Trek has always been interested in the concept of artificial life. This idea is probably best represented in the character of Commander Data, the android second-in-command on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apart from Data, however, many Star Trek shows used holograms to explore the concept of AI. There have been many episodes that dealt with the concept of both naturally occurring and artificially created "photonic" life forms.

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Naturally occurring photonic life was by nature sentient, but artificially created photonic life, or holograms, have been shown on numerous occasions to gain sentience and awareness of their surroundings as well. This idea was started in Star Trek: The Next Generation and continued into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, where it was explored to great effect. So far in the Star Trek franchise, there have been 7 holographic characters who gained sentience, all of whom have had subsequently fascinating storylines.

Star Trek: The Next Generation began exploring the concept of sentient holograms beginning in the season 1 episode "11001001" with the character of Minuet. Minuet was created by Commander William Riker to be part of his jazz program set in a bar on Bourbon Street, New Orleans in 1958. From her conception, however, it was clear that she was no ordinary hologram. She was incredibly intuitive and quickly evolved to become aware of the fact that she was a computer program, something holograms were not supposed to be able to do. As it transpired, The Enterprise was in the process of undergoing an upgrade by a race of technologically advanced beings called the Bynars, who were using the upgrade as a ruse to commandeer the Enterprise and use it to save the main computer on their homeworld.

The Bynars programed Minuet as a distraction for Riker so that they could accomplish their mission, but she ended up being the one to tell Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Riker about what the aliens were up to. Once the crew had uncovered what the Bynars were doing and subsequently helped them save their main computer, Riker returned to the holodeck hoping that Minuet would still be there. Unfortunately, her program had lost the enhancements the Bynars had made to it, and she was once again a normal hologram. Riker was severely disappointed, as he had begun to fall in love with Minuet. Although he was never able to recreate her successfully, Riker never forgot Minuet, and the character was referenced twice more during the series in seasons 2 and 4.

A hologram of Professor James Moriartywas the next hologram to gain sentience onboard the Enterprise, during the season 2 episode, "Elementary, Dear Data". Moriarty was created by Geordi La Forge, who wanted to make his Sherlock Holmesholodeck program a challenge for Data. Geordi asked the computer to create a character that would be capable of defeating Data. This led the computer to create a version of Moriarty that possessed Data's considerable knowledge, which caused the hologram to almost immediately become self-aware. In keeping with his villainous ways, Moriarty abducted Dr. Pulaski and attempted to take over the Enterprise so that he could continue to exist outside the holodeck. Captain Picard was only able to take control back by convincing Moriarty to allow his program to be put in storage until Starfleet could find a way to fulfill his request.

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While performing maintenance on the holodeck 4 years later, Lieutenant Barclay was inadvertently responsible for reactivating the Moriarty program. Enraged by the fact that the Enterprise crew seemed to have forgotten about him, Moriarty once again attempted to take over the ship, trapping Captain Picard and Data in a simulation of the Enterprise on the holodeck in an effort to get the ship's command codes. Once Picard and Data uncovered the ruse, Picard trapped Moriarty in his own simulation, containing his program within a data core that would keep it running and allow Moriarty to think that he had left the holodeck and was exploring the real world. The data core had enough power to let Moriarty have a lifetime of experiences and likely kept him busy until his program eventually degraded.

Vic Fontaine became a semi-regular guest character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from season 6 onwards. Played by accomplished actor and singer James Darren, Vic was created by a holoprogramer friend of Doctor Julian Bashir's and modeled after personalities such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Vic was part of a Las Vegas lounge program in Deep Space Nine's holosuites and not unlike Minuet was programmed to be immediately self-aware. He was intuitive, designed to learn from interacting with the program's participants, and even possessed the ability to turn his program on and off when he wanted.

Because of his self-awareness and extremely engaging personality, Vic became friends with many of the senior staff aboard Deep Space Nine. Most of them sought him out as a confidant and began to see him as a person in his own right the more they got to know him. The character was used as a way to explore the idea of a hologram that was programmed to be self-aware and subsequently allowed to evolve and become his own being, similar to Star Trek: Voyager's holographic Doctor. Vic was featured in Deep Space Nine all the way up until the end of the series and presumably continued to live in Deep Space Nine's holosuites even after the senior staff had left the station for other assignments.

The Doctor's storylinewas very similar to Vic Fontaine's, more fully exploring the concept of what could happen when a sentient hologram was allowed to evolve. Created to be Voyager's emergency medical holographic system, The Doctor was forced to become the full-time Chief Medical Officer on board the ship when the first CMO was killed during Voyager's abduction to the Delta Quadrant. Since Voyager was 70,000 lightyears away from Federation space and a replacement CMO couldn't be acquired, The Doctor's program remained in operation for the full seven years that Voyager traveled through the Delta Quadrant.During that time, The Doctor was allowed to evolve and expand his program to gain complete sentience.

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Initially treated dismissively by his colleagues, The Doctor's evolution allowed him to become a respected member of the crew and senior staff. By the time Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant, he was considered just as much a person as any organic member of the crew, had formed friendships and relationships, and had expanded his program considerably to include personality, hobbies, and even new emotional subroutines. During the show's course, The Doctor also gained full control over his own program and even acquired the ability to move around the ship freely through the use of his mobile emitter, a piece of 29th-century technology that Voyager obtain in events that involved time travel. Having gained full sentience, The Doctor was presumably allowed to remain in control of his program after Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant.

Dejaren provided fans with a darker take at what sentience could look like in a hologram. He was created by a Delta Quadrant species called the Serosians, who used their "isomorphic projections" as they called them to perform manual labor and often hazardous tasks aboard their starships. The isomorphs were entirely aware of what they were, but still considered little more than tools. In the Star Trek: Voyager season 4 episode "Revulsion", The Doctor and Engineer B'Elanna Torres responded to a distress call Dejaren sent out when he was left abandoned on his ship after his crew was killed. The two beamed to the ship, where Dejaren became intrigued by The Doctor as a fellow hologram and expressed troubling sentiments about organic beings.

Over the course of the episode, it became clear that due to a malfunction in his programming, Dejaren had become psychotic and killed his crew as revenge for their terrible treatment of him. He also attempted to kill B'Elanna when she uncovered what he had done, but with The Doctor's help, B'Elanna was able to destabilize Dejaren's holomatrix and terminate his program permanently. Although Dejaren's murderous actions were inexcusable, his story did provide a cautionary tale for what might happen when sentient artificial intelligence is subjugated by a given society.

Haley was the holographic assistant of Doctor Lewis Zimmerman, the holo-engineer who created The Doctor's EMH program. The Doctor met Haley in the Star Trek: Voyager season 6 episode "Life Line", when he transferred his program to Jupiter Station to help Zimmerman after he got word that his creator was dying of a degenerative virus. Zimmerman created Haley to be fully sentient, and she had worked as his assistant on the station for over ten years by the time she and the Doctor met.

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Haley was portrayed as a kind and caring assistant, and extremely loyal to Doctor Zimmerman. Zimmerman, likewise, held a great deal of affection for Haley and even put his in his will, requesting that should he die of the virus, Starfleet should keep her program running for as long as Jupiter Station was in use. Haley assisted The Doctor in getting Zimmerman to agree to treatment for the virus, and Zimmerman luckily recovered as a result of the treatment, meaning that the request in his will wouldn't come into effect quite as soon as he had thought. Haley continued to live on Jupiter Station and work for Doctor Zimmerman after he recovered, and developed a strong friendship with Lieutenant Barclay, who occasionally worked with Zimmerman.

Badgey was created by Ensign Sam Rutherford as a training program on the holodeck of the USS Cerritos in the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "Terminal Provocations". Rutherford made him in the form of an anthropomorphized Starfleet badge and used him to try and help Ensign D'Vana Tendi get over her fear of spacewalking. While Tendi and Rutherford were in the holodeck, however, an attack on the Cerritos caused the holodeck's safety protocols to go off and Badgey's program to malfunction. He flew into a murderous rage and attempted to kill Rutherford and Tendi before Rutherford subdued him.

Although it was not entirely clear how far Badgey's sentience extended, he consistently referred to Rutherford as "father", suggesting he was aware of the fact that Rutherford created him. After Rutherford reset the program, Badgey seemed to be back to normal, but when Rutherford tried to use him to create a computer virus to disable an attacking alien ship, Badgey once again attempted to murder Rutherford by blowing the ship up. Rutherford managed to escape the explosion, which presumably killed Badgey in the process, ensuring that his murderous streak came to an end.

While most holograms on Star Trek never got the chance to achieve sentience, the ones that did have provided fans with a fascinating exploration of what sentient, human-created AI might look like someday. Some, like Badgey and Dejaren, served as humorous or downright terrifying cautionary tales respectively, while others like Vic and The Doctor displayed the best of sentient holographic intelligence. Ultimately, sentient holograms have added a lot to Star Trek, and will hopefully continue to do so as the franchise progresses.

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Dana Hanson is a freelance writer for Screen Rant, covering stories about Star Trek for the Movie/TV feature writing team. She attended Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 2019 with a degree in Media Arts production and a concentration in Writing for TV and film. She has previous experience working with an online and print publication as a freelance editor and has been passionate about both writing and Star Trek for years. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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December 22nd, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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