It seems as if you could get a lot more out of them instead of just simple rooms. You could live in a cabin, on the beach, etc..

Plus, it seems like you could get A LOT more people in a smaller space. I'd imagine you could save a tremendous amount of room as holodecks can house several people at once in a fairly limited space.

I understand it probably uses a lot more resources, but surely the pros outweigh the cons, right?

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    A holodeck malfunction is bad enough when there is only 1 deck (tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HolodeckMalfunction), imagine how bad it would be if every living quarter was a holodeck and it malfunctioned.
    – onewho
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 14:38
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    "We have developed beyond love, Mr. Rimmer. That is a short-term hormonal distraction which interferes with the pure pursuit of personal advancement. We are holograms. there is no risk of disease or pregnancy. That is why in our society we only believe in sex. Constant, guilt-free sex." Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 14:56
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    Good luck getting many people to ever come out of their rooms.
    – jwodder
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 17:30
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    @jwodder Good point, Barclay would be in big trouble.
    – Shane
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 19:59
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    Is it possible that holodecks require a lot of volume of emitters and so on behind the walls of the room? This wasn't my impression of how they probably worked (given that holograms are 2D diffraction patterns that produce 3D images), but I'm wondering if anything rules this out. Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 6:41

7 Answers 7


It isn't because of power. If the crew's quarters were decorated with holodeck technology, the hologram would only be generated while the crewman is actually using his quarters.

If the crewman was on duty, asleep, or if the crew went to battle stations, the hologram would be shut down. And this wouldn't result in people living in closets, because while at battlestations, crewmen are at battlestations - not their quarters. A crewman would generally never notice when it is shut down.

The ship's computer had the spare cpu cycles to create and run an entire sentient being in Moriarty. Hundreds of static 'cabins on a beach' quarters are even a drop in the bucket by comparison.

So here is my answer: Holodecks are simply too new.

Holodecks are a relatively new technology. Starfleet simply hasn't had enough time to integrate them into the basic design of a starship.

We don't know exactly when they started to be installed into starships, but we can be fairly certain it was after the between the end of the TOS movies and the start of TNG. That means at some point between 2293 and 2364. I'd be willing to venture that it is far closer to 2364 than 2293.

The system is very much riddled with bugs. In just a couple of years on TNG the holodeck nearly destroyed the ship half a dozen times. That isn't a technology that has seen widespread use for 70+ years. It is possible that the Galaxy class is the first ship to be fitted with the holodeck, at all.

In a modern day military, hulls are designed to last 50+ years. The Excelsior class was in service for over 100 years.

I don't think there would be too much impetus to retrofit older models with holodeck quarters. The main advantages to ship design (making quarters smaller) couldn't really be achieved with a retrofit. What you are proposing would only even be considered after the holodeck is a well proven technology and all the bugs and kinks are worked out.

So perhaps 50 years after holodecks are introduced and they are drawing up plans for a new ship class, they'll throw in holodecks. Unfortunately that time won't be 50-150 years after the end of Voyager.

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    Can you clarify this part of your answer: "It isn't because of power [..] the hologram would only be generated while the crewman is actually using his quarters."? Presumably most of the crew is using their quarters at any given time, when they're off-duty; wouldn't that mean a relatively steady and constant drain on power?
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 18:14
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    For note, in the 2370's, starfleet WAS building ships with holodecks throughout, namely the Prometheus and the holo-ship from Insurrection.
    – Tritium21
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 21:13
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    @MikeEdenfield The other answers believed that the holodecks would draw enough power to cut into available power during combat. The point about power is that if you can run shields, engines, phasers during combat, you can likely run a lot of holodecks. Yes there is usually a steady drain from most of the crew, but at no time would you be running both at the same time. Non-critical systems are powered down during a call to battle stations.
    – Shane
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 16:53
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    @Tritium The Prometheus had sufficient holo-emitter capability to project an EMH around the ship; that doesn't implicitly mean it has full-up full-realism full-environment holodeck capability everywhere. One character is a much simpler task. As for the holo-ship from Insurrection, we never see it again - it was clearly a purpose-built vessel, designed and built in secret by shady people for a specific task.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 12:58
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    What would happen to the physically real items and mementos that the crew hold dear? Riker owns a real trombone because he enjoys playing it in his quarters and occasionally in Ten Forward. Where does that end up? What about pictures of loved ones? Or the rare archaeological artifacts that Picard collects? Where does Data's cat Spot go when Data is on duty? And what happens in the case of a malfunction, despite how "proven" the technology ends up being? There are way more reasons (and more important reasons) why the crew still have physical quarters.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 18:29

Holodecks draw a lot of power. Anytime you had a need for shields or weapons you would likely be distrupting the Holodeck environments. It is a lot more energy efficient to have non-holographic beds and rooms for crewmen.

Additionally, even though it may seem like you are in a wide open field with a cabin, in reality there is a finite amount of space inside that room. If you had a lot of people in the room, eventually the Holodeck would be unable to hide everyone from your line of sight, or sound.

There is also something to be said for the privacy of intimate coupling.

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    And if you take a dump in a holodeck toilet, where exactly does your waste end up? Think about it - having to sidestep those little piles would be problematic, and the noise from all the exhaust fans required to vent the ever-building odours would be considerable.
    – Bohemian
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 19:22
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    It could be set up to beam your turd into space. Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 19:33
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    @Bohemian Any waste would be converted by the holodeck system into energy and sent where ever any other holodeck items go when they're no longer needed. Remember, Nog on DSN lived on a holodeck for several weeks.
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 20:12
  • The TNG Enterprise only had one toilet (says the guy who played Riker in the end-of-series "episode"). Presumably they'd figured out how to deal with waste already.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 7:28
  • It wouldn't necessarily need to be a bunch of people sharing the same holodeck, could just be a bunch of smaller holodeck rooms similar to the holosuites on DS9, either way each person can make due with a lot less floor space than in the TNG living quarters, so less of the ship's volume would need to be devoted to living space.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 16:04

In addition to the other, more technical answers : I don't think people would want to give up the feeling of, no matter how limited, having a home out there.

Coming home to your quarters, with pictures you or a loved one may have painted, a printed book you treasure made of real paper, an ancient musical instrument you play, in short with real things is something to ground you, even in outer space.

The holodeck is a wonderful toy, but not something to come home to and be at ease and relax and go to sleep in.

The personal touches you add to your quarters are real and therefore really personal; the unlimited possibilities of creating illusions simply can't replace this reality.

The reality of objects can't be fully replaced by holo-objects. Data doesn't feel the difference (yet?), but Picard feels the value of touching the 'real thing'..

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    This does come up a lot throughout the series. Commander Sisko insists on cooking with real food, various people have real musical instruments, Data keeps a real cat, etc. Sometimes it's just the way they wrote it, but often the characters make a big deal about it.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 7:42
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    There were similar references in Year Of Hell.
    – ClickRick
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 20:02
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    Possibly also promoted by business to deter cheaper alternatives. Replicated/artificial diamonds are even more perfect than real blood ones, for instance. Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 19:59
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    +1 for the psychological aspect. Additionally, constant Holodeck exposure could lead to the kind of symptoms/reliance we see in Lt. Barclay.
    – DavidS
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 8:47
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    All enlisted members and all Ensigns and LT.JGs share communal quarters. They would have more of a home with holodecks than without. Even if you are hot bunking in a holodeck, you'd be able to add personal touches with a holodeck. 3/4 of the crew can't do any of the things you are saying WITHOUT the holodeck.
    – Shane
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 23:27

My initial thought would be that it would be energy and computing resource intensive.

On top of that, even if you had excess capacity of those resources, during an emergency or power loss, everything would crash to the ground and people would be stuck living in dismal closets.


I agree with User51311 in that the power necessary to maintain a holographic crew quarters would be a huge waste of a starship's resources. Having physical living quarters would not put an strain on ship's reserves. I'd reference the third act of the episode "booby trap". The Enterprise is running out of energy, and "the programs running unnecessary energy are terminated, including the holodeck program Geordi is running"


I would also like to point out that you could NOT get a lot more people into a smaller space in the holodeck. The room has a physical size. Take a look at this previous question

How does holodeck keep people from running into the walls?

When people move around in the holodeck the illusion of size is created, but the room is always the same size. You couldn't put but so many people in the holodeck before you'd be hitting the walls.

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    The answer to that question mentions they use force-field treadmills to create the illusion of a larger space. So I think it's true they could fit more people into a room, if each person had a square of floorspace to themselves that was say 10 feet on each side (so as long as they were each kept at the center of their square, they wouldn't be touching each other no matter how they oriented their bodies) then the force-field treadmills could probably give each one the illusion of an arbitrarily large space.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 15:06
  • Also, note that the holosuites on DS9 were significantly smaller than the TNG holodecks, see this image.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 15:15
  • The only conflict with the reasoning that it would take too much power is that by the time Voyager was built holodecks were built with a separate power source, independent from ship's main power (see: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/55105/1234)
    – Xantec
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 20:09
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    The major benefit to holodecks in terms of space, is they make hot bunking more practical. If your personal effects were mostly holographic, and disappeared when you go on duty, you're a lot less bothered by sharing a living space with another crewmate. If it were a whole deck, it would allow you to use any room whenever you wanted one as your own - so you know you have 3 shifts, 50 crew members a shift, so you have 75 rooms available and the 50 asleep plus half the off duty/awake can have a room whenever.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 21:11
  • @Joe: Big time. Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 17:10

Holodecks are a form of entertainment, relaxation and escapism:


TROI: You know, I don't spend nearly enough time on the holodeck. I should take my own advice and go there to relax. Next time I'll choose the programme. If you like the Black Sea, you're going to love Lake Cataria on Betazed.


DOCTOR to JANEWAY: I've checked Starfleet regulations. The Chief Medical Officer outranks the Captain in health matters. Now I realise this may be the first time a hologram has given an order to a captain, but I'm ordering you to report to the holodeck, now.

But holodecks are also a distraction:


JANEWAY: It seems to me that people have been getting a little too comfortable around here lately. They're late for their duty shifts, taking mess hall privileges during non-designated hours. And a lot of people are spending more time on the holodeck than they are at their posts. You are Security chief. Don't thirteen department heads report to you every day?


DOCTOR: I see. I realise your Sickbay training is purely voluntary, but you haven't spent any time there in several weeks. And when I try to find you, you're always in the holodeck. PARIS: Correct me if I'm wrong, Doc, but we haven't been treating anything more serious than an ingrown toenail. DOCTOR: That's beside the point. If an emergency were to happen you must be prepared. You're too far behind in your medical texts to be wasting your time in the holodeck.

Restricting holodeck time is thus a tool for crew discipline:


CHAKOTAY: You're not doing anything against Annorax. That's an order. PARIS: What are you going to do, take away my holodeck privileges?


DOCTOR: If I weren't your only doctor, I imagine you'd confine me to the brig. Confiscating my emitter would be an equivalent to punishment. JANEWAY: I'm not sure that's appropriate. DOCTOR: If that's not enough, you can take away my holodeck privileges. And my autonomy protocols.

Holodecks are the main form of recreation on the TNG / VOY ships. Their use is rationed, as too much use distracts crew members from their duties. Putting a holodeck in everyone's quarters where use is uncontrolled could therefore cause a problem. Furthermore, it would take away a tool for enforcing crew discipline.

  • This is an interesting point. You could have holo-quarters without interactive / programmable facilities that the resident could use. This might make people more unhappy, though, to know that the capability is there but they're simply prevented from using it by rules and regulations. Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 6:38
  • Brief niggle, I got the impression that on Voyager the potential threat of restricted/rescinded holodeck privileges stemmed mainly from the fact that (like replicator usage) it was already being fundamentally rationed, so a system was in place to control usage that could then be leveraged as a "punishment". Of course there's no reason that holodeck privs couldn't be restricted more generally on a ship without resource constraints but I do wonder whether anyone had actually thought of it on other starships. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 11:24

I think one of the big answers to many "why don't they just..." questions with Star Trek is it would take the crew's experience too far from our standard experiences.

In order to keep the characters grounded to a level typical viewers can identify with, almost everyone on the main shows are human. Those who aren't human are constantly striving to be more human (or struggling with some mythical "human half", as if a person can only be one race or the other). They constantly make references to people and literature modern people have at least heard of. The social and political struggles reflect those of the viewers' presumed experience. The writers constantly find ways to make sure genetic engineering, cybernetic modification, or other post human ideas can only make it into the show for short stints, or in small doses.

In this case, if the crew members had holodecks for bedrooms as a normal thing, it would create too much disparity from this our-Earth-on-a-spaceship mentality.

Plus, it seems like you could get A LOT more people in a smaller space. I'd imagine you could save a tremendous amount of room as holodecks can house several people at once in a fairly limited space.

I don't think so. Holodecks aren't just the walls. They also require power systems, computer systems, and other support infrastructure. By the time you account for all of that, the expense and mass of a 10-man holodeck is probably at least as much as 10 normal crew quarters, if not far higher. You might take a little less volume with the holodecks, but by the time holodecks are in play space is obviously not at a premium. Otherwise, they'd be sleeping with 10-20 people in each of those giant crew cabins, hotbunking, etc.

  • 1
    Welcome to SFFSE! Just letting you know that unless otherwise stated, questions tend to be seeking in-universe reasons and the bulk of your answer is addressing an out-of-universe perspective. As valid as your points are, they are out-of-universe and so don't really address the question. The rest of your answer is basically reiterating the previous answers. I don't mean to be so critical of your answer, just thought I'd give you my 2c regarding your answer Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 8:35
  • I'm not actually seeing my in-universe anywhere else on the page. The other answers seem to miss the point that physical rooms also "drain the power" by way of taking more energy to move them and so forth. Nothing is free, especially in a spaceship. The question is which is cheaper.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 8:55
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    The out-of-universe answer though, is also an in-universe answer. It's a rather silly thing, but lots of shows do it. The writers have an agenda of some sort, so it constantly crops up in-universe. They don't want genetically-engineered people, so all but a tiny handful of genetically-engineered people in-universe naturally turn into monsters. They don't want cyborgs everywhere, so 99% of cyborgs are unstable or defective somehow. Etc. In this case, the people in-universe either believe, or have evidence that living more like us is better than being all futuristic all the time.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 8:57
  • Take a look at Jack B. Nimble's answer Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 9:23
  • Exactly my point. His answer assumes holodecks draw extra power, while ignoring the fact that physical quarters do too. You can't move the mass of physical quarters without extra power. So if you could re-create physical quarters with holotech at a fraction of the mass, it would be worth it. If the shields or weapons are suddenly needed, you'd just shut down the holodecks and divert power accordingly. Those crew members need to wake up and get to their posts anyways.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 9:40

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