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In the Deep Space Nine episode For the Uniform the holo-communicator is introduced. This tele-presence device allows for people in a long range conversation to appear as though they are in the same room.

After this episode the only other time I recall it being used is at the end of Doctor Bashir, I Presume, when an Admiral is parceling out punishment to Julian's father for his part in Julian's genetic engineering.

Why was this communication device hardly ever used after its introduction?

holo-communicator

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  • 2
    Because the Illusive Man sued them for stealing his idea.
    – eidylon
    Mar 4, 2015 at 2:47
  • 5
    In-universe or out of universe?
    – Izkata
    Mar 4, 2015 at 3:00
  • 3
    The real question is why was it used in the first place? Just to make the trial seem more dramatic?
    – IG_42
    Mar 4, 2015 at 3:45
  • @Richard An IU answer would be preferred, but if OU is all there is then that's all there is.
    – Xantec
    Mar 4, 2015 at 13:39
  • Great question. I always wondered about this.
    – Praxis
    Mar 7, 2015 at 1:23

4 Answers 4

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In an interview with the Deep Space Nine Companion, Gary Hutzel (Visual Effects Supervisor for Star Trek DS9) described his deep misgivings with the holo-communicator. In short, it was difficult to shoot and light as well as requiring a lot more blocking and set design than a normal viewscreen shot.

"It was a terrible idea from the get-go. The idea was to create this amazing 3-D image, but TV's a 2-D medium, so it's hard to show that it's 3-D. So you have to move the camera around so that audience can see that it's 3-D, but then it could look to them like the guy beamed in. So you have to find a way to deal with that. It created all these problems that the writers hadn't thought about, and it missed the whole point of why Gene Roddenberry wanted a viewscreen: so you could avoid unnecessary expense."

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  • 1
    Money, or lack thereof, the greatest motivator in trek tech
    – user16696
    Mar 4, 2015 at 20:54
  • Its too bad they never thought to half-way address on the show why they stopped using it. Maybe say something about it accidentally transporting or duplicating people. That could have made for an interesting issue of the week.
    – Xantec
    Mar 5, 2015 at 0:26
  • Note that this also explains the transporter, the fact that you don't even see a shuttle for most of the first season and why you never even get a sniff of the captain's yacht, etc etc
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2016 at 6:05
  • @Xantec: While I second your desire to hear some remark about why it wasn't used any more (or maybe even show it once or twice again, much later, to imply it's still around, just used very infrequently), I hope the suggestion of a story about a holographic communicator "accidentally transporting or duplicating people" was a joke. I know especially VOY authors were prone to creating quite incomprehensible plots by mixing up holograms and the underlying programs, but having a communicator accidentally duplicate a person would have been a runner-up to Threshold in terms of absurdity ;) May 22, 2016 at 9:55
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper - Hospitals try out "experimental" drugs all the time as part of drug trials, then they disappear for a while whilst the results are evaluated by clever people, then some of them come back. That's what I assumed was happening here.
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2016 at 10:12
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In-universe, I'd say it took too much energy and the constant combat made it a waste of resources, especially for the Defiant.

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I think that in-universe Captain Sisko was visibly upset by the new contraption, thinking that it was a stupid idea for his ship and that it was too personal. How would you like the enemy you're fighting appear as if they are in same room as you while at the same time fighting in space with ship against ship combat?

Out of universe (to the TV watcher) it was irksome. It made things seem not as exciting when not on viewscreen.

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It might be the case a normal viewscreen is more practical, as a dedicated piece of hardware. Technically many viewscreens are holographic so the image displayed is indeed a hologram, simply 2D viewed.

In ST: Discovery the holo system was put into place and prone to glitches, which is why Captain Pike resorted to the old fashioned way of viewscreens. In the novel "Demons of Air and Darkness", Starfleet uses an advanced version of this system to hold a meeting of numerous starship and station captains across the Federation. Each captain entered their own holodeck to communicate with a huge array of people simultaneously. In the show "Picard" the technology is in use. So the technology does indeed work, but 2D or 3D is a matter of preference, speed or energy efficiency. Also some of these signals are being transmitted many lightyears, thru subspace, so interference, various instances of stellar phenomena, etc can interfere or worse generate a possible feedback which may cause harm to systems or people. Viewscreens are thus presumably deemed more suitable, safer and more practical.

Another issue may be security, a 3D hologram that can visually see all of his surrounding environment in transmission if it's an enemy my also transmit crucial information that maybe a security risk if they can see certain displays or information. A viewscreen has the option of aperature control thus ONLY showing what they want shown.

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