In Star Trek Voyager, Tom Paris sometimes runs a holodeck simulation called "Captain Proton".

The simulation is similar to that of 1950's U.S. serials.

One of the most notable things about the simulation is that everything is in black and white: including the people using it.

For example, here are Tom and B'Elanna in the simulation:

Tom and B'Elanna in the simulation

This is easily created behind the scenes by desaturating the image, or filming in black and white.

But in-Universe, how does the holodeck change the colour of Tom, B'Elanna, and their uniforms?

I could understand the holodeck simply creating props in the right colours, but how does it change the physical people?

Is there any in-Universe explanation for this?

  • 6
    I always assumed that the holodeck projected a 'second skin' onto the user, which could be coloured accordingly.
    – Longshanks
    Apr 19, 2017 at 20:38
  • 3
    Well, if I were going to do it, I would change the color of the light I'm projecting onto the object so that the result was always black or white. Not easy today, but presumably simple in Star Trek land. Apr 19, 2017 at 20:43
  • 2
    Have you ever tried to look at a red object while driving through a tunnel filled with yellow lights? (Well, while someone else is driving you through, but you get the idea.) The only thing the holodeck would need to do is solve the same problem for all colours (using technobabble, I would assume.)
    – Steve-O
    Apr 19, 2017 at 21:03
  • 1
    It's actually similar to 1930's serials, specifically Flash Gordon.
    – jwodder
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


Manipulating light should be able to create that effect.

Shining the right colors of light on something can change its perceived color. Even now, with nowhere near as advanced technology as the holodeck, people have figured out how to use this. There are entire nighttime shows at the Disney theme parks based on this. They use light to change the colors of the big icons - usually the castle - and are able to totally change their perceived colors.

  • 1
    Total desaturation though?
    – Tim
    Apr 19, 2017 at 23:22
  • 5
    That's where the technobabble comes in. Clearly, the holodeck can project beams of light in very precise directions in order to create holograms of varying sizes that people can interact with without accidentally blocking the projector and ruining the effect. Perhaps the holodeck an also detect all the colours the people are wearing and project pinpoint-accurate beams of the "wrong" colour in each area, to illuminate the "room" without actually reflecting visible colours...
    – Steve-O
    Apr 20, 2017 at 2:57
  • 5
    ... This would require a lot of processing power to do it all in real-time, for sure, but we ARE talking about a machine that created artificially intelligent life as an unintended consequence of an over-simplified human language request.
    – Steve-O
    Apr 20, 2017 at 2:59

Holodeck techology is in part photon-based... 'Nuff said.

But if technobabble is required, then Physics 201-1 (and in simplified version):

Color of any given object is simply a photon with a frequency specific to that color, and which it acquired by being reflected by the said object. So, to change color of the object perceived by the person in holodeck all that's required is to:

  1. change frequency of the photons reflected by that object or
  2. cover the object with a force field (which is a another part of holodeck tech) that will give photons impacting the object desired frequency or
  3. cover the object with a thin layer of replicated paint (or something; replicators are yet another part of holodeck) of desired color

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