Originally I thought this strip was going to involve a much more elaborate metaphysical argument on Picard’s part, about the nature of being, the continuity of consciousness, thoughts on the implications of sleep and stasis and transporter technology on our sense of ourselves as constant beings, etc.
But it wasn’t really gelling, and so: Riker sex jokes. I hope you will forgive me.
But! It did get me thinking about something: the use of montage as a core storytelling technique in television and film work, and how it seems possible that that might fall almost entirely by the wayside in a future where holodeck programs were the new norm.
A montage of disjoint scenes in sequence works great in a film as a way to convey a sense of a story progressing quickly — Rocky Balboa is jogging, looking very winded! Now he’s working a punching bag! Now he’s sparring in the ring, takes a shot to the ribs, the coach hollers at him! Jogging again, but now with more strength! He’s sparring again, blocks the rib shot, jabs the other guy clean! etc. — but it depends on edits to work, depends on the ability to cut from one scene to the next to the next without logical transitions or explicit continuity, letting the viewer do the interpretive work that reassembles the collection of scenes into a meaningful story.
Which in a passive, interpretive medium like film obviously can work very well, but how well would it work in an interactive, fully-realized 3D worldscape with direct viewer/player agency? Seeing Rocky zip through weeks of training in a couple of minutes is fine, but imagine playing as Rocky in virtual reality and having your jogging track disappear suddenly, or your punching bag turn into a sparring partner, or so on. It’d likely be pretty jarring! Sympathetic immersion in the scene seems like it’d create a serious challenge for abrupt scene transitions.
You can see hints of this in the editing of contemporary 3D films, I think; the more information-rich visual field carries with it more of a need for visual continuity, a meeting of the viewer halfway in terms of mechanical expectations from the film. We’re not used to changing focus on the fly while viewing films; we’re also not used to dealing with the kind of impossible focus changes that editing two 3D scenes together can introduce, like having one scene with a distant foreground wipe cut into another scene with a foreground much closer (perceptually) to the viewer, or with depth of field changing abruptly across a cut. There are edits that work great in 2D film that are at best problematic in 3D, at worst Escher-esque, and in general the editing of 3D films seems from what I’ve seen to be at least incrementally more conservative about smash cuts and fast edits.
There’s a parallel here to the introduction of sound to film in the early 1900s, actually. Before talkies, the only limit on what worked in edits was what worked visually — if it was effective to look at, you’re all set. Adding sound to the equation created new constraints: your cuts had to make sense not just visually but audibly, and suddenly there was the problem of things that might work well on the screen but not make sense to viewer’s expectations in terms of the sonic logic of a transition.
Maybe it’s hopeful for 3D film to look at the change in viewer savviness over the ensuing decades to the point where clever editors and passively film-literate viewers make it possible to do unusual and jarring things with picture/sound editing that would have been seen as too esoteric 70 years ago to work. But then, maybe not!
Also, on the silent vs. sound film front and returning to the montage editing idea: consider how the classic montage scene in modern films and TV often dispenses with realistic sound in favor of a musical backdrop with maybe some incidental sound effects or maybe none at all. There’s the argument that music over montages is just an effective tool for emotional manipulation, but I think it’s more than that; it’s a smoothing out of that editing process, a way to let the viewer not be treating each edit as a new disorienting scene. (Look at how effectively unsettling it can be when a horror movie uses jarring edits without attempting to smooth them over with a nice soundtrack chaser!)
And there’s a whole additional, and probably actually pretty central, argument to be made about the parallels to video game experience vs. film/tv editing. But this is already pretty long, so, another day? Another day.
But so yes! Holodeck. Montage. Never the twain shall meet, is my Speculative 24th Century Film Studies thesis.