In Voyager's "The Thaw," Kim, Torres, and others are held hostage by a virtual reality "clown." The original hostages were to be in stasis for a set period, in which time "The Clown" manifested itself, resulting from the fears and brain patterns of those in stasis.

When Moriarty became self-aware, due to Geordi's error, it seems that the Enterprise considered him to be a legitimate life form, even though he was still just a hologram ("Ship in a Bottle").

On the other hand, the EMH from Voyager never was considered a genuine life form. The Clown was not alive, per se, but neither was Moriarty.

  • 1
    Are you making a distinction between "artificial intelligence," "life form," and "sapient"?
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:12
  • Apparently not. But wasn't Moriarty, after becoming self-aware, considered a life form? Also, the Enterprise, in "Emergence," apparently became "alive," so these examples seem to give some credence to the idea that the clown was truly alive, despite its origin.
    – user30592
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


No, The Clown is an artificial intelligence (and not a very smart one at that).

The script makes it pretty clear that it was the manifestation of the original user's fears about the future. The virtual environment, which was intended to create a utopia while they waited, sensed their constant fear and made that into a tangible character that they could interact with.

Unfortunately, as so often happens when you go around building high level AIs, it decided not to let them out and went Skynet on them:

VIORSA: It happened over months without our even realising it. All of us had fears about survival, recovery. We never anticipated the computer would manifest those fears into him.

KOHL WOMAN: He's generated by the system, and our brains are monitored by the system.

  • Skynet was a hell of a lot scarier. How do you make a clown not scary? Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:35
  • @JamesSheridan - I would quite happily put clowns on a par with skynet for scariness.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:37
  • Clowns are way more horrifying. But that episode was so bad that it actually made the crappy Terminator: Salvation Skynet seem frightening in comparison. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:40
  • Data and Nomad were both artificial intelligences, yet both were considered alive (at least Data certainly was).
    – user30592
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 18:29
  • @T-1000 - There was no evidence that the Clown was a fully actualised life-form. Aside from being able to pass the Turing test, it showed only malevolence and a mono-maniacal desire to survive so that it could continue to cause pain and suffering.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 19:38

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