I don’t know about you guys, but I loved the holographic communicator that was seen on the bridge of the USS Defiant in the season 5 episodes “For The Uniform” and “Doctor Bashir, I presume”.
The device was the brainchild of supervising producer Ron Moore. His idea came about because he thought it was lame that all intership communications happened over the viewscreen, when holographic technology was used all the time for recreation in the form of the holodeck.
“That’s something I had been pushing for because I just think it’s so absurd that in the twenty-fourth century they have holodeck technology that allows them to recreate Ancient Rome, but everybody talks to each other on television monitors. The viewscreens have been around for over thirty years. Can’t we move to something a little more interesting?
Ira Steven Behr was also sold on the idea, noting that pulling off viewscreen conversations was a difficult;
“The longer viewscreen scenes are, the more boring they are, and having a character talk to someone on a viewscreen is very distancing. And it did work in this episode. We never could have had Eddington on the viewscreen for all of his scenes. It would have been dramatic death.”
Not everyone was a fan of this technology though, among it’s critics was Gary Hutzel, VFX Supervisor;
“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.”
Holographic communicators on the Defiant were nothing new. As far back in the Star Trek chronology as the 22nd century, the Xindi had similar technology. In the 23rd century it would seem that Klingon’s used holographic technology to communicate, albeit, a crude, fuzzy projection that was seen during a conversation between Azetbur and the Federation President in “Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country”.
Back to the 24th century, even the Cardassian viewscreens on DS9 seemed to be some form of holographic technology as the picture was generated between two separate devices, and not an integrated device as those seen on starships.
The Enterprise-E had a holographic viewscreen in “Star Trek: First Contact” – the forward bulkhead changed into a display screen whenever communications or a tactical display were called for. This device also wen the way of the dodo after only 1 movie, reverting back to a static viewscreen in “Insurrection”.
Shinzon, the human clone of Picard and Romulan Praetor used a holographic communicator when he conversed with Picard in his ready room. Shinzon’s device seemed to be a little more advanced as the projection could be established into a room with no holo emitters.
As well as being used for communications, the holo-emitters were also used for recreation (the afore mentioned hollodeck) such as the bi-plane simulator seen in a San Francisco Bar on Earth in the 23rd century.
On Galaxy class ships, an integrated table-top projector was installed in the conference room and the ready room. These were only seen in the first season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.
It would seem that either because of a dislike of the technology or budget reasons, the production crew toyed with different forms of holographic devices, the only one that really survived the run of TNG, DS9 and Voyager were the holodecks/holosuites and the EMH program.
I for one think more could have been done to keep this technology on board starships, especially the communications device seen on the bridge of the Defiant.
Ronald D. Moore has suggested that was moved into the Defiant‘s ready room for season six. As for the production reason, he stated that the writers never had a “viewscreen-type scene” that would be more effective with the holo-communicator