very Short Treks’ “Holograms All the Way Down” in Review
Let’s be honest. These very Short Treks are controversial at best and downright derided by the Star Trek fanbase at worst. The social media platform formerly known as Twitter is chock-a-block with viewers calling them “rubbish,” “an insult,” and “godawful.” One user even called for “reparations” for those who have been subjected to them. But then, along comes “Holograms All the Way Down” and now, those voices of dissent may need to, in the words of Star Trek hopeful Taylor Swift, “take several seats,” because this two-minute, non-canon, high-speed, Sliding Doors-style video may save the galaxy… or at least this series.
This video opens with a shot of my beloved NX-01, aka Archer’s Enterprise, which was an awesome surprise. But then, an even bigger shock: Trip Tucker III is alive and in command on the bridge! Now, let’s agree to table the debate over whether Trip actually died while committing a selfless act of suicide/sabotage in the controversial Enterprise finale or if that was merely a holographic depiction witnessed only by Will Riker and Deanna Troi. That may actually be the conceit of this very Short Trek: a reckoning for the abrupt end of ENT, which many believe was bigfooted by two TNG stars.
Giving a shoutout to the venerable Enterprise theme song, Trip says, “It’s been a long road…” after an unnamed treaty is signed. Then, a Klingon battle cruiser suddenly opens fire, and once again, those damn exploding bridge consoles appear to claim another victim.
As Trip is sent flying by the force of the blast, we hear Commander Riker calling for the computer to freeze the program. It’s revealed that what we’ve been watching was merely one of his “historical holoprograms.”
The bridge of the NX-01 fades away, replaced by the familiar grid of a holodeck on the Enterprise-D. Just as Riker and Troi turn to leave, another familiar voice calls out: “Computer, freeze program.” It’s Quark, and he’s getting chummy with Garak in a holosuite aboard Deep Space 9!
Apparently, Quark is using the scene of Deanna and Will to demonstrate to Garak how accurate his recreations can be — accurate enough to be used as war propaganda… “for the right price.” This scene calls back to the DS9 episode “In the Pale Moonlight” and brings to mind Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #34: War is good for business. These two infamous scoundrels then make their way to the bar, where Quark literally sweetens the deal with “root beer floaties”.
But before they can shake on it, the voice of Lower Decks Ensign D’Vana Tendi (still wearing a single pip) calls out: “Computer, freeze program!” And, you guessed it, the scene with the bartender and the tailor is another simulation! After Tendi derides Boimler for his Gorn slash fiction, the lower deckers are interrupted by a surprise that’s nearly as big as the resurrection of Trip Tucker III: the Prodigy kids!
Zero, Rok-Tahk, and Gwyn — all in their Starfleet uniforms — are watching this play out on their version of a holodeck. Zero freezes the scene with Boims in mid spit-take and adds another layer of meta to this already super-self-referential saga, saying they are disappointed in the program they hoped would be more “educational.” This is definitely a riff on the fact that Prodigy always includes subtle lessons in science and problem-solving, suitable for a younger audience, as part of each episode.
This scene is also the first time I can think of that Prodigy has been mentioned in any official capacity since the announcement that the second season was not going to air on Paramount Plus and that Season 1 was leaving the platform as well. The fact that this video is the brainchild of Prodigy Executive Producer and writer Aaron J Waltke probably had a lot to do with that!
Next, the Prodigy kids are interrupted by Uhura and Sulu from The Animated Series. Sulu asks the computer to “pause the rec room” and then invokes “the Great Bird of the Galaxy,” a tongue-in-cheek nickname for Gene Roddenberry that George Takei famously made canon in “The Man Trap”. Sulu then blames “The Practical Joker” for causing all this “nonsense” (referencing when the Enterprise computer was turned into a practical joker in the “Kirk is a Jerk” episode of The Animated Series, which also, fittingly, features the first appearance of a holodeck in Star Trek history — the aforementioned “rec room”).
Then, in rapid succession, Saru from Star Trek Discovery calls to freeze the program, revealing Strange New Worlds Season 1’s chief engineer, Hemmer. He also asks the computer to end the simulation, which is quickly revealed to be a holo-novel in a PADD held by Voyager’s Neelix, who calls it all “silly stories.”
This rapid-fire roller coaster then shifts to reveal that Trip Tucker III is back again, but this time he’s at the center of a conjoined quintuplet, made up of Riker, T’Pol, himself, Spock, and Uhura. They are all standing at the foot of Neelix’s bed, all wearing a single, massive, red uniform top. Trip calls on the computer to end playback, looks at his fellow Starfleet officers, and asks, “Are we real or part of the program?” That’s when the computer itself calls to freeze the program…which causes a real glitch in the matrix, leaving our cast flash-frozen. Where are they? Who was the computer talking to? Are they just ghosts in the machine? Only Professor Moriarty knows for sure!
I liked this very Short Trek for a lot of reasons — not the least of which is the return of Commander Trip Tucker III’s folksy space drawl — but it’s also impressive that Aaron J. Waltke was able to feature all the iterations of TV Trek into one two-minute short. Add the subtle Easter eggs and visual touchstones, and you’ve got a super silly love letter to some of the holodeck absurdities that we’ve all come to know and love.
Computer, end program.
Grayson Thagard is a sci-fi fan from the US who is currently looking for his next mission after a twenty-five-year career in cable news, where he wrote and produced for several national broadcasts, including Morning Express with Robin Meade. Grayson also managed social media for HLN (CNN’s sister network) and served on the team that created digital content for Investigation Discovery. Star Trek has been a part of his life since he watched Spock mind-meld with a ‘lasagna monster’ on The Original Series in syndication in the ’70s. More recently, Grayson can be heard reviewing “the Moopsie episode” of Lower Decks as a guest-host on the Let’s Talk About Treks podcast.