10

The Holodecks and Holosuites of Star Trek fame have a number of security measures designed to ensure that no part of the simulated environment can harm the user. Assuming there is no malfunction and no override, no harm should come to a user of the holodeck (and clearly that would never happen).

However, in Star Trek: Generations, we see that both Commander Worf and Doctor Beverly Crusher are fully capable of being submerged in Holodeck water.

Water can be a dangerous substance - if you are underwater and swallow too suddenly, you could choke. If you choke on water or cannot breathe under it, you'll drown.

The Holodeck is supposed to keep the user safe from physical harm, such as from blades, bullets, and even holographic punches, but it uses simulated molecules - so all these objects are still real. So it should still be able to block the user's airway.

Is there some way in which the Holodeck can prevent this? Can it actually stop the user from drowning?

  • Related, possible dupe: Is it possible to die in a Holodeck? – phantom42 Nov 21 '14 at 16:22
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    the holodeck also tracks the vitals of the person inside of it, should the person start to drown, the holodeck would either end program or remove the water that is drowning the people. drowning takes a little while to actually kill you anyway – Himarm Nov 21 '14 at 16:24
  • @phantom42 I'm specifically asking about drowning...though that might be a trivial difference I admit. – Zibbobz Nov 21 '14 at 16:30
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    @Himarm If you could provide a reference to the Holodeck tracking vitals of those inside, I'd definitely accept that as an answer. – Zibbobz Nov 21 '14 at 16:31
  • Right, that's why I didn't VTC myself. – phantom42 Nov 21 '14 at 16:31
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Yes and no, depending on the status of the holodeck's in-built safety systems.

Safeties off :

This one is pretty simple. We know from the TNG episode "Encounter at Farpoint" and Star Trek: Generations that the water on the holodeck is often replicated (i.e. real), rather than simulated with force fields. In the unlikely event that the holodeck safety protocols are turned off, were you to fall into water then there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't result in your death from drowning.


Safeties on :

Now this one's a little trickier and relies on some slightly dodgier sources so bear with me...

In the deleted scenes from Generations, before Worf is made to walk the plank there's an exchange between Beverly Crusher and Geordi LaForge about the holodeck safeties:

Dr. Crusher : Geordi. Did you remember to engage the holodeck safety program? I don't know if Klingons can swim.

This clearly suggests that the safety systems have some way of preventing swimmers from drowning:

The scene also made it into the film's official graphic novelisation

a frame from the graphic novel, showing that scene


In the TNG novel After The Fall by Peter David (writer of several authorised Star Trek comics for DC) it's stated that the holodeck won't allow participants to drown:

"Putting aside that you never could have have drowned inside a holodeck recreation..."

And a slightly fuller explanation is offered in the TNG novel Metamorphosis after Data becomes human and has to re-learn how to swim:

"It can't short you out anymore, can it?" Geordi asked reasonably.

"No. [said Data] Now all it can do is drown me.".

Geordi laughed. "Not on the holodeck. The water would simply disappear if anyone started to drown. This is the safest place in the world to learn."

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    Nice use of a deleted scene for evidence. Never would have thought to look for those. – Zibbobz Dec 1 '14 at 14:10
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    @zibbobz - It would have been nicer to find a fully canon source but info about the "holodeck safety protocols" is very sparse. – Valorum Dec 1 '14 at 14:16

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