High Crimes and Holodecks
- Grand Larceny (or, 5th degree larceny in some states both regarding the $1 million as well as the ship, Voyager] )
- Accessories to murder (with forethought, as was the expected result of what would happen to Frankie Eyes aka Frank Chalmers)
The holodeck, or holosuites, offer a grand rejection of reality. However, it is through that dismissal of the restraints of reality that we see the crews of Voyager and Deep Space Nine inject themselves into a cascade of criminal conduct. In the Voyager episode “Worst Case Scenario” (1997) and the Deep Space Nine episode “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” (1999), the crews negotiate with everyday ethics towards the end-goal of spirited competition and fantasy (as was the case with “Worst Case Scenario) or dramatically specific deterrence – without guilt – from moral behavior (such as with “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang”).
The framing of the necessity of holodecks and holosuites as a location for ethical abandonment:
The mutiny holoprogram in “Worst Case Scenario” was initially authored by Tuvok as a training program for Starfleet security not long after Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Having had the crew combined between Starfleet and Maquis, Tuvok wanted a simulation to train security officers to prepare for a possible real-life mutiny that he foresaw as a possibility; a possibility he soon felt was less likely as the two crews began to work so well together. Tuvok attempted to delete the program, but when B’Ellana discovered it soon dozens of the crew were eager to play out this salacious, scandal-ridden holoprogram and participate in a mutiny that would result in stealing Voyager, leaving Captain Janeway and the top officers stranded in the Delta Quadrant, and doing whatever it took to get back home without regard to Starfleet regulations.
It is not just a fantasy of mutiny, it’s a daydream enactment of the dismissal of duty.
Similarly, the plan to steal $1 million from Frankie Eyes’s casino in “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” is framed as necessity. The programmer behind Vic Fontaine’s lounge had embedded an easter egg that overthrew the lounge king and replaced the classic Las Vegas hotel scenario with a mafia-run gambling establishment; all with a unique history that tied back to Vic’s childhood. The crew of Deep Space Nine conceive of the plan to rob the casino with the noble effort of restoring the Vic holoprogram’s original programming.
However, there is no transition from ethical conduct to unethical conduct in the carrying out of the plan. For each of the players there is an immediate and instinctual understanding of how to adroitly manipulate, according to their own resources, weaknesses and timing in the events of the holoprogram for the benefit of the crime. There is, arguably, one reason to perform this crime: to free Vic’s from the mafia-ridden easter egg, but the actors in the crime are all too willing – and able – to commit an act normally too egregiously and personally hands-on for even some Ferengi.
What can we deduce about the true nature of the participants of these holocrimes?
B’Ellana and Paris did have some redeemable qualities as they initially participated in stealing Voyager and overthrowing Janeway. B’Ellana was, at first, visibly nervous. She was uncertain if even the fictional act was a measure of the temperament expected in the standard behavior for an officer on Voyager. Paris, too, initially fought back on the bridge and tried to prevent the mutiny; that is, before he turned and engaged in immersively engrossing himself in contributing to the act. It could be said that Tom Paris’s ability to subdue his conscience and “play along” with the nuances of make-believe mutiny give credence to his additional acting abilities as a character that we see represented in “Investigations” (1996) when he fools the crew into thinking he has grown frustrated with his duties on Voyager and leaves the ship.
However, for most of the players in the mutiny “game” there is unreserved enjoyment in the very concept of betrayal by violent insurgence. Additionally, what of Tuvok in the manifestation of this crime? It was his imagination that brought this mutiny-play to life. Just as he was able to place himself among the Maquis and convincingly lie his way into a position of trust in “Caretaker” (1995), he is also able to manipulate his Vulcan born logic to performatively imagine a hostile takeover of the ship. Tuvok is not innocent. His intentions may be functional, but his abilities are transformative in the sense that from a Freudian perspective Tuvok is a carrier of manipulative traits and abilities. These abilities we see are also present in the crew as they laughingly play out the mutiny fantasy. Tuvok is so talented with this work that he stands alone in the ability to capture the imagination of others in how they relate to these criminal fantasies.
Likewise, or the crew of Deep Space Nine, they eagerly participate in the theft that will lead to the holomurder of Frankie Eyes. They are first-born participants in the crime and accessories to holomurder. What of the ethical implications of killing a holocharacter? The carry-through of the crime of theft, again, like Tuvok, was functional, but the holomurder was essentially premeditated. How is this different from when Ibudan murders his clone in the holosuite in “A Man Alone” (1993)? As Odo states, murdering your own clone is still murder. Considering the fact that Vic Fontaine is near sentient, it is natural that the following conclusion for scientists and Starfleet officers would be to at least give a second thought to committing an act that would lead to holomurder.
Though, of course, those considerations are never given to characters in the holosuites of Deep Space Nine and the holodecks of Voyager and Enterprise. There is an exception with the case of James Moriarty, but even he was locked inside a matrix of a closed circuit to prevent him from reappearing with, as Moriarty states, no real consideration on how to free his program. Only Voyager’s The Doctor enjoyed the compassion privileged for sentience and even so that was more of a measure that was barely tolerated. Given the abject denial of rights it is a miracle that The Doctor was allowed to grow to the extent that he was and it is equally no surprise that a clan-family of holograms sought out their own independence in “Flesh and Blood” (2000) who themselves were subject to repeated ritual murder and torture.
The theft of the $1 million from Frankie Eyes’s casino was treated as just another mission for the crew of Deep Space Nine. Bashir, Nog, O’Brien, Kira, Dax, Odo, even Kasidy, all envelope themselves to the cause. Only Sisko at first finds the act distasteful, though that rejection is based on the realities of the historical representation of Las Vegas in the program that in truth was still segregated and did not present equal opportunities for African Americans; a historical inaccuracy that repels Captain Sisko. Still, Sisko is eventually drawn into to the cause by Kasidy and plays a pivotal role in succeeding with the crime. All hands commit to the theft and all those involved are responsible for the holomurder that follows. For a crew that is largely representative of that which is in opposition of Gul Dukat, they each for certain fail purity tests typically reserved for heroes.
What we can take away is that the crews of Voyager and Deep Space Nine are left to linger in their acts and lives as officers and scientists and in that space they find reluctance towards the rejuvenation of consistent moral stances. It is not atypical for moral actors to be presented with tests, with abject appraisals of what it means to be alive in an unequal galaxy that acts upon participants of universal order with shielding integrity or dismissive reprehension. However, like faith in life’s natural order, we see these participants play to the role of comfortable normativity. Without the sequence of stellar heights that enable their persuasion that they are, in fact, moral, there is little preserved in the way of a convenience of order that neatly fits in a bottle of transpiring consequential contemplative time. They are, with aptitude, cohorts of moral performers reacting to the binds of integrity, though that does not cement a consistency of trembling creed.