I remember this is an issue in some other episodes, but at least in the episode The Big Goodbye it definitely happens.

Picard and some crew members are in the holodeck in a program. A computer malfunction occurs and they can't leave the holodeck. I understand this, because they cant see the exit and have no access to a terminal or something else and the computer does not react to voice commands.

But Riker, Wesley and Geordi try to open the holodeck from the outside. Because the computer has a malfunction they can not open the door and need to repair the computer.

But why can't they open the door in a mechanical way (manual emergency switch) or by force (phaser, some tools) or just beam them out (maybe beaming does not work because of the computer malfunction or some holodeck-restrictions, but it is not mentioned in the episode).

Are the holodeck doors somehow secured by force fields or by some special unbreakable materials or is there a danger to people in the program when the door is opened by force when the program is running? Wesley mentions something that everybody will disappear if he does not repair the computer, but doesn't that disagree with the canon about how holodecks work?

As said, I am not sure, but I remember there were some more episodes with the same issue (maybe the Moriarty ones, but then the situation was more complicated because Moriarty controlled the ship).

An out-of-universe answer is easy: if they could open the door, the episode would have been boring and short. But was there ever an in-universe answer about the problems with opening the holodeck from outside without the computer?

Edit: If the people inside would die because of this, then why would they die? We often see the holodock still running when the door is open...

  • 1
    Because A) Everyone inside will die and B) Because that would ruin the episode
    – Valorum
    Oct 2, 2015 at 18:11
  • 1
    b i mentioned as out of universe answer ;) and a makes no sense, as far as i read about how holodecks works... but maybe what i read was wrong, then the question would be, "why would everybody die inside?"...
    – kl78
    Oct 2, 2015 at 18:19
  • Even if the Enterprise's transporters were also down due to malfunction, couldn't they use a shuttle transporter?
    – iMerchant
    Jun 17, 2016 at 3:28

1 Answer 1


From what I know about Holodecks, it is using forcefields and photons to create images. So we can assume that images are projected on the walls where necessary to give the illusion of depth. But there is the door, which is not a very flat surface, so the easiest solution is to overlay it with a forcefield and project whatever is necessary on to that.

Even if you pry the door open, you'd most likely end up in front of a forcefield. There are multiple ways to disable forcefields, but do you really want that? The easiest way would be to fire on it with a phaser... not a very good solution to fire in the general direction of the people you want to rescue. Another one that comes to mind is some form of dampener, but that is dangerous as the complete holodeck might be affected, crates you're standing on suddenly giving away, and in the worst case you'll find yourself inside a barely functioning forcefield.

The best option is to shut it down.

  • 1
    The holodecks on the Enterprise D had the door set back from the wall in a small alcove, which was then covered with a hologram/force-field to hide it from the inside. In theory one should be able to enter the room without disturbing the running program by remaining just in that alcove.
    – Xantec
    Oct 2, 2015 at 21:29

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