In the pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery they used Star Wars-style holograms for communication with Starfleet. I don't recall seeing that in the series set before or after, but perhaps I'm wrong?

I know that holograms have been widely used in TNG and even more in Voyager but I just don't remember them being used for communications like this.

  • I remember reading that they had wanted to use holograms a lot more in TNG (not for communications but in briefings) but the budget didn't allow for it. Sep 25, 2017 at 14:15
  • Depends on your definition of communication. One way, beyond the grave, communication holograms have been used. Sep 25, 2017 at 14:15
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    @Wikis That's a good reference. I meant with Starfleet like in Discovery though. I felt like I was watching Star Wars.
    – Hack-R
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:07
  • It looks like ST:Discovery is going to produce lots of anachronisms like this. It will simply be too difficult to show a world that seems techologically "cool" to millenials when it also has to be more primitive than ST:TOS and the other series (except "Enterprise").
    – Barmar
    Sep 25, 2017 at 19:52
  • It was more advanced than Star Wars communicator. The resolution and color were better. And, that Vulcan really moved and sit in holographic form on a table in receiver's end.
    – user931
    Sep 25, 2017 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


In the in-universe chronology, no; Discovery is the earliest known example of hologrammatic communications in the Star Trek universe.

In the production history, holograms were used for communication a couple of times on Deep Space Nine; if I recall correctly, the first pair we see were installed on the Defiant and the USS Malinche in season 5's "For the Uniform":

enter image description here

Sisko: Is the new holo-communicator ready?

Kira: The Chief's had it online for six hours now. I think he's eager to have someone give it a try.

Sisko: Always like to please the Chief. Open a channel to Captain Sanders on the Malinche.

Deep Space Nine Season 5 Episode 11: "For the Uniform"

It got used a handful of times in future episodes, but it never really caught on and was quietly dropped.

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    I think this was an unfortunate choice then. It's hard to imagine that Holograms were used like this then it became a lost art for a century or so. I think they are putting their desire to use special effects over having a sensible chronology in the Star Trek universe.
    – Hack-R
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:09
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    @Hack-R: There's another thing to consider: Star Trek attempts to predict technological progress. This seems obvious for a scifi show, but it's been about 20 years the writers of DS9 had to do this exercise, and our real-world technology hasn't stood pat. I would expect that the writers for Discovery are doing a similar exercise, and thus have to strike a balance between better predictions and preserving Star Trek canon from material that is set further into the future. As for holographic communication, there can be a sensible in-universe reason why it was dropped for a period of time.
    – Ellesedil
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:48
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    @Hack-R I find it hard to believe that we've had video chat technology for face-to-face communication for decades and yet I still call my friends and coworkers on a voice-only telephone. :)
    – apsillers
    Sep 25, 2017 at 19:45
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    In-universe this could be as simple as "the technology wasn't as reliable as more conventional methods, and it turned out it wasn't any more effective". By Sisko's time, that lesson had been forgotten and it seemed like a cool new idea. Briefly. Sep 25, 2017 at 20:18
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    @HarryJohnston this happens about every 10 to 20 years in IT.
    – Leliel
    Sep 25, 2017 at 22:15

Federation/Starfleet technology in the time of TOS was limited to view screens. It was only in TNG/DS9 era that we see Starfleet using holographic communication. This puts the appearance in Discovery (pre TOS) out of strict canon.

  • I agree. Or, prehaps more technically accurate (since they have the legal rights to make canon whatever they choose), it makes the canon not make sense.
    – Hack-R
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:32

The problem that any new Trek series will have is that present technology has progressed to they point that it makes it difficult to make something look futuristic when it's less capable of what we have now.

For instance, the smooth touchscreen displays of The Next Generation Era looked really cool and futuristic...in 1987. Now you probably carry one in your pocket. So going backward to what Star Trek had for controls and displays in the late 1960s would look really pathetic. And Burnham's EVA suit with the heads-up display; firefighters and divers today have breathing apparatus where the masks display critical information, so suddenly having something in the future that doesn't have it (like the old suits seen in TOS) would raise bigger issues.

So really, it's something that old Trek fans, and I'm one of them, are going to have to deal with: the technology of Star Trek is going to be retconned, so stop worrying about it.

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    Just for the record I'm not the one who downvoted you, but I would say that this is more of a justification for them choosing a different time period for their new series than it is an answer to the in-universe question.
    – Hack-R
    Sep 28, 2017 at 3:41

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