The Doctor on Voyager is a hologram. He is just as competent as the human doctors on other starships. In fact, I would argue that the hologram Doctor is even more competent than the humans, as he was able to devise a weapon that defeated Species 8472. Even the Borg which crushed Starfleet were defeated by Species 8472. The victor's victor was no match for a hologram.

Starfleet missions are very dangerous. They are exposed to risk all of the time. Given that human lives are more valuable than holograms, wouldn't it be a great idea to replace most of the human crew with holograms which are "cheaper" and arguably more competent? In today's context, the Pentagon is exploring the idea of using machines to do the risky job of soldiers on dangerous missions.

Why doesn't Starfleet do this on a massive scale, given that it makes so much sense to do so? I am also surprised that the Vulcans have not been doing this, given the logic. The hologram technology should also be available to Vulcans, as Vulcans are more advanced than humans. The logic is clear. Resistance is futile.

  • 25
    Are human lives more valuable?
    – Adamant
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 1:42
  • 15
    The Doctor is considered (at least to begin with) a new, untested and unreliable technology. It's only after he's been on for hundreds of hours, well past his designed maximum that the crew begin to realise how special he is.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 1:52
  • 10
    Red shirt lives are worth even less than holograms, apparently.
    – Deepak
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 9:40
  • 9
    “Since human lives are more valuable” — that’s exactly the kind of toxic anti-hologram attitude that is so artfully skewered in the Doctor’s holonovels. Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 10:40
  • 3
    “Even the Borg which crushed Starfleet” — if by “crushed” you mean “took them on twice, lost both times, and then got soundly defeated in their own back yard by one relatively small ship”, then sure, the Borg crushed Starfleet. Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 10:42

5 Answers 5


In short, the EMH is not "just as competent as a human doctor", at least not until he's had a chance to go beyond his original programming. In the earlier episodes his lack of bedside manner, abrasive attitude and general lack of interpersonal skills are noted by many staff along with his obvious shortcomings as a crewman and inability to enter areas where his holo-emitter doesn't work.

TUVOK: It is an Emergency Medical Hologram and its abilities are limited. It can only operate within the confines of Sickbay.

PARIS: Not to mention its lousy bedside manner.

Voy: Parallax

He even acknowledges his own limitations

KES: I thought Tom Paris was assigned to you.

DOCTOR: Like I said, no one to assist me. And now I have a patient with severe and possibly long term emotional problems and there's no counsellor on board. I am an emergency medical supplement. A supplement, that's all. I wasn't programmed for any of this. It's just unacceptable.

Voy: Phage

We see that he's attracted substantial (negative) attention from the crew.

JANEWAY: Well as a matter of fact, I've been hearing the other side of the coin. Many of the crew have complained that the Doctor is brusque, even rude, that he lacks any bedside manner. We've been talking about reprogramming him.

KES: You can do that? It doesn't seem right.

JANEWAY: Kes, he's only a hologram.

Voy: Eye of the Needle

Given their lack of respect for holograms and their prejudices about their shortcomings, the idea of replacing an entire crew with holographic crewmen is something that Starfleet Command would definitely balk at.

  • Also: The doctor on voyager performed far far better then expected. His designer newer anticipated that he wold run the entire sickbay for a long amount of time. All the versions of the doctor, which were left at starfleet, were withdrawn and put to work in the mines because they did not work as good as expected. This can also be seen in star fleets interest in cloning Commander Data(Measure of a man) because Data is the only AI which reliable have performed as well as any Human on a starship.
    – MTilsted
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 11:58

Given that humans are not forced into military service by economic circumanstances like many are now, we have to assume other motivations for why humans would join starfleet. That same motivation would be unfulfilled by replacing human crews with holograms.

That said, we see that the EMH is an early experiment in holographic crew - we see an attempt at a new medical hologram program intended for long term service in DS9, and also a command hologram program in Voyager.

However, the initial programs are rigid and limited - it's only with extended activation that the EMH becomes a fully acting member of the crew (along with future tech to allow him to leave the medical bay and even the ship). By which point, he is arguably as "valuable" as a human.

  • "Given that humans are not forced into military service by economic circumanstances like many are now" your opinion on that subject is undesired not to mention inaccurate. Nobody is forced into military service for any reason. Is offering a GI bill which is another form of monetary compensation, considered forcing you into military?
    – enorl76
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 20:41
  • @enorl76 - your defensiveness is telling - I'm a British-born Australian, neither country has a GI bill... I don't want to get into the politics of it here: you're right, the GI bill does not force people into the military: the lack of other viable options to elevate from poverty does.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 21:55

Starfleet tried something like that in Kirk's era (TOS: The Ultimate Computer), and it was a disaster. Large-scale automation may be a lingering taboo, similar to how Earth is unwilling to revisit eugenics even after centuries of scientific and social advancement following the Eugenics Wars.

Some of the societies encountered by Voyager experienced violent crime (Revulsion) and rebellion (Body and Soul) stemming from exploitation of holograms ("photonic lifeforms"). The Voyager crew inadvertently contributed to this problem by giving holographic technology to the Hirogen (The Killing Game, Part II; Flesh and Blood). As a result, the Federation will likely continue to be cautious on issues of holographic rights.


Leaving aside the technical difficulties...

Starfleet was founded with the goal "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

As shown in The Measure of a Man, the federation doesn't really consider AIs to be people. Though there has been movement on this over the course of the shows, AIs mostly remain tools to be used and discarded rather than actual members of civilization.

Thus they are not able to be the one to go "where no one has gone before". A ship manned by holograms would simply be considered an unmanned probe.

  • The Federation often use unmanned probes.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 16:25
  • “If scientific knowledge was all we were after, then the Federation would have built a fleet of probes, not starships. Exploration is about seeing things with your own eyes.” (Captain Kathryn Janeway, One Small Step, Star Trek Voyager S06E08) Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 1:57

A Starfleet vessel often has the firepower to toast a continent, and the crew are often armed with lethal force.

Trust an AI with that kind of power?

Not just "no," but "{filtered} no."

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