After Picard tricks Moriarty into giving up his control over the Enterprise, the latter continues to exist in a memory module. He and his companion continue to have adventures within this "mini-holodeck," completely oblivious to the fact that they aren't actually in the real world.

Data says of the mini-holodeck that there is "no physicality involved."

I'm not certain what this means, or how it separates Moriarty's adventures from what he'd experience in the holodeck. There's no physicality in play on the holodeck, either.

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    in case people aren't aware of it but are interested - there is a follow up novel: memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Light_Fantastic
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 4:42
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    "There's no physicality in play on the holodeck". False. The holodeck makes real items that produce real forces. Those items just happen to be photons and force fields. On more than one occasion, we learn from TNG episodes that "holodeck safeties" can be turned off, making all kinds of things plenty physical for all pragmatic purposes. Bullets will kill, knives will stab, and a blow to the face from a holo-character will make you bleed.
    – user15742
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


A normal holodeck actually does have physicality - or rather, it can. When a human (or other physical being) enters the Holodeck, it has to make some of the features 'solid'. From Memory Alpha's "Holodeck" entry:

A holodeck combines elements of transporter technology with that of replicators, by generating actual matter, as well as projecting force fields to give the objects the illusion of substance.

It goes into further detail, to remind us that "Matter and energy are interchangeable as such objects created on the holodeck can be either matter or energy"

The interesting thing to note is that replicators can be invoked in a holodeck simulation to create real things, such as food. I thought this example was in that article, but I'm not seeing it, so I'll summarize it here: Someone wants to eat, say, an apple, they may load an apple orchard program. The holoprojector creates holograms of the trees. As they approach, they touch the tree, and at that moment, the holoprojector creates a solid force field so that it feels real to the user. Then they reach up and pluck an apple. At that moment, the holoprojector invokes the replicator to replicate an actual apple, so that the user can safely eat it.

Additionally, it must be remembered that people in the Holodeck are actually in an enclosed room. All the movement and subjective space between people (if it's larger than the room's space) is an illusion. If someone approaches the actual wall of the holodeck when there isn't one in the program, they will be moved via a force field "treadmill" (according to Memory Alpha).

Now, Memory Alpha also says this about holoprograms, referencing the very episode you did:

A holodeck also has the ability to create holodecks within holodecks, and holodeck programs are able to be saved to a tech cube that can be inserted into an enhancement module to form an optronic data core with information to "last a lifetime". (TNG: "Ship in a Bottle")

Moriarty and all the characters saved to the tech cube are programs. They don't need force fields or replicated objects, and in fact, the tech cube cannot have them. Nor do they actually exist in a holodeck room. So there is no physicality, as Data says.

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    Reminds me of the old trick in IBM VM/370 of running a VM inside a VM. The top level VM was running on real hardware but the nested VM was purely emulated. The record was 5 levels of nesting before performance issues made the deepest VM unresponsive. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:47
  • @JimGarrison Pretty much. The concept is especially apparent when at the end, the room clears out and Geordi pauses, then says "Computer, end program", just in case his entire existence hitherto has been a simulation. But I mean, who hasn't tried that?
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 17:57
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    That was Barclay, not Geordi. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 18:39
  • Ah, was it? Unlike the tech cube, my memory must be failing
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 23:43
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    I don't know if asking if your reality truly exists is necessarily immature, but we're venturing into a territory better suited for the Philosophy SE now.
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 13:45

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