Picard’s idea here is basically what I was thinking to myself when I watched this the other night. The holodeck safety protocols have always been sort of an odd, vague thing, setting aside entirely the fact that apparently they’re trivial to circumvent. Like a dude doing some wood-working being all, “you know, I don’t really feel like having the finger guard on this table saw” and the table saw is like “okie doke, let’s get rid of that boring old thing”. Except the table saw can actually talk, and is the size of a room, and the handyman is inside of it, and it can have literally a million blades all going at once if the handyman feels like it.
So the safety seems like something you should be able to maybe, I dunno, temporarily disable with verbal authentication from three ranking officers? And only while no one is actually in the room? And a failover switch where the holodeck just shuts the hell down if at any point any of the sanity checks on the safety circuits/routines even blink? So people don’t die horribly in the holodeck? Yeah? I dunno. Call me crazy.
But, honestly, considering how many times the holodeck or its contents have managed to malfunction in galling and even life-threatening ways, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the station was hit by some ionizing radiation while the holodeck was in a bad mood and it just straight up killed a dude just because it felt like it.
I mean, yeah! What if the holodeck gained sentience? We talk about stuff like service robots or HAL for 2001 having problematic relationships with humanity in the event of self-direction and personal agency, but even they never had to deal with Riker forcing them to act out weekly sex romps in the role of Everyone Else At The Orgy And Also The Floor They’ve Gotten Their Fluids On. I feel like the first thing a sentient holodeck would do is turn into a scathingly hot shower and take a long, sobbing itself.