In the episode "Hollow Pursuits", Barclay built really creative and fun holodeck fantasies. Why did he join Starfleet and be burdened with huge responsibilities and stress when he can simply be a loafer in the Star Trek world and play on the holodeck all day long to feed his wildest fantasies?

In the Star Trek world, nobody works for a living. A Vulcan would conclude, after watching kids and even many adults today, that most humans' preference is to play the holodeck all day long and not answer to a demanding boss at work. Someone like Barclay would surely be addicted to the holodeck.

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    This is not a serious answer, but . . . maybe Barclay's biggest fantasy was the belief that he was capable of becoming a socially and professionally successful person outside of the artificial environment of a holodeck? So he tried hard to "live his dream"?
    – Lorendiac
    Oct 15, 2016 at 3:49
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    So... you're comparing today's humans to fictional future humans... and assuming they're the same motivations? This sounds like a question where you've already chosen an answer. Have fun with it.
    – Radhil
    Oct 15, 2016 at 4:04
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    I think you're mistaking insecurity for lack of motivation. Many insecure people are very driven and hard-working. Sure, Barclay sometimes had bouts of escapism, doesn't mean he didn't also want to prove himself.
    – Junuxx
    Oct 15, 2016 at 4:05
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    I agree his holodeck fantasies were creative and fun! Did he write them I wonder. If so, I wonder why he didn't become a holodeck program author? Seems like it might be more up his alley.
    – 1252748
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


Canonically I don't think there's an answer to why he joined. However Barclay is relatively competent at his job and he seems to enjoy being in Starfleet.

With that being said, if I remember correctly in the episode you mentioned Barclay is addicted to the holodeck but not because he is lazy and wants to play all day it's because he has social anxiety issues and in the holodeck he can't anger people or annoy them or disappoint them in any way.

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    “Barclay is relatively competent at his job” — just for posterity, Barclay is extremely competent at specific aspects of his job. He’s a great technical diagnostician, and he goes on to make great contributions to solving the problem of how to communicate with the Delta Quadrant in real time. Oct 15, 2016 at 11:10
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    Adding to what you wrote ... A regimented military lifestlye has bonuses for people with social anxiety. Many social interactions among ranks are well defined that people don't have to think about how to interact when protocols and rules already say how to do that.
    – RichS
    Oct 16, 2016 at 6:39
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    This. Also, assuming there are holodecks available to the general public, you'd likely have to reserve a timeslot or something. I doubt they would let you live in one. An attempt to do so would probably be considered a sign of mental illness, leading to treatment and likely the revocation of holodeck privileges.
    – miltonaut
    Oct 16, 2016 at 10:02
  • @miltonaut What if you want to own your own holodeck? Oct 16, 2016 at 17:24
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    @zabeus: Then It's Only a Paper Moon happens.
    – Kevin
    Oct 22, 2016 at 19:25

Out-of-universe, i.e., so far as canon was concerned at the time this episode was written, Barclay had simply never encountered a holodeck before joining the Enterprise crew, so never had a chance to become addicted up until then.

(While this was later retconned, Encounter at Farpoint made it clear that the holodeck was a brand new technology which none of the crew that were shown using it had previously encountered. In this context, it is unlikely that any of the previous starships Barclay served upon had this technology, or that he had encountered it in civilian life before joining Starfleet.)

As for an in-universe explanation, it wasn't too hard to come up with one; I'm not a psychologist, but it is my understanding that addictions can be unpredictable in some people, so perhaps he only developed the holodeck addiction as a result of the additional stress of serving on Starfleet's flagship and/or his failure to fit in there as well as he did in his previous posts.

  • Do you have a reference for this? I initially thought the same thing, but then recalled that The Animated Series had holodecks. However it could be advanced technology only on Starships and not yet available to the general public. Oct 16, 2016 at 5:06
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    @zabeus: my only reference is the episode itself, which is pretty darn unambiguous IMO. I would guess that this means that the writers of TNG (and in particular, Encounter at Farpoint and presumably also Hollow Pursuits) didn't consider TAS to be canon. You might consider posting a question about this discrepancy, someone will probably know. Oct 16, 2016 at 5:40
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    Even if holodeck technology was relatively new at Encounter at Farpoint, there were plenty of other escapist opportunities for loafers in the 24th Century. So the basic point of the original question still stands. Why would he take on the responsibilities of being a Starfleet officer when he can watch movies on YouTube all day? I think the other answer provides a better explanation. He's somewhat competent and enjoys being in Starfleet.
    – RichS
    Oct 16, 2016 at 6:37
  • @RichS: perhaps, but if you interpret the question that way it applies equally well to any member of the crew. The OP specifically mentioned Hollow Pursuits and Barclay's addiction, so it seemed to me that he wanted an answer that addressed it. And if not, surely this is a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/q/82442/5930 ? Oct 16, 2016 at 20:43
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    @Zabeus - You are mistaken. The holodeck in TNG was qualitatively better than existing Federation holodecks, but it wasn't a unique property. We see in Voyager that Janeway had access to one when she was a kid.
    – Valorum
    Oct 22, 2016 at 22:04

IIRC Barclay would escape to the holodeck as a response to the stress he experienced in personal interactions. It wasn't to escape or avoid work but to escape or avoid conflict or unpleasant/difficult situations with other people. The triggers for his escape behavior were interactions he could not control or in which he felt powerless. His program characters were basically his crewmates tweaked such that he was always in control, always had respect, always given emotional support. It was LaForge who hung the "holodiction" label on him; it would be applicable only in the sense that when he came under stress, he needed to get a "fix" via the holodeck.

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