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robert picardo


Robert Picardo


United Federation of Planets

Chief medical officer
USS Voyager

Robert Picardo

The Doctor, an Emergency Medical Hologram Mark I (or EMH for short), is a fictional character from the television series Star Trek: Voyager, played by actor Robert Picardo


The character of the Doctor began his service on the USS Voyager as the standard Emergency Medical Hologram built into almost every newer Starfleet ship's sickbay. The EMH is for use should the ship's doctor be incapacitated. In the series' first episode, Voyager's Chief Medical Officer, along with his Vulcan nurse, were killed, necessitating extended use of the EMH. The EMH eventually developed his own personality, although he generally maintained his acerbic wit. Since he was originally intended as a temporary medical backup system, not as an digital life form (a type of artificial life form), considerable strains were placed on the Doctor's program during the early parts of the journey. He gained assistance from Kes and Paris, both of whom functioned as nurses.

Attempting to develop a realistic personality, the Doctor not only manufactured a holographic family, he had an increasing number of other "human" experiences. This resulted in the Doctor's program evolving to become more lifelike, with emotions and ambitions. He developed meaningful and complex relationships with many members of the ship's crew. The Doctor also developed talents as a playwright, artist, and photographer, and even became a connoisseur of opera.

A recurring theme was the ethical aspects of an artificial, yet apparently sentient, being. In "Latent Image" treating two patients with an equal chance of survival, with only enough time to treat one, the Doctor chose Harry Kim, a friend. The other patient, Ensign Jetal, died. The Doctor was overwhelmed with guilt, believing that his friendship influenced his choice. When the stress nearly led to his program breaking down, Captain Janeway had his memories of these events deleted. When the Doctor later discovered clues as to what had happened, Captain Janeway was convinced by him and others that he had a right to learn to come to grips with the guilt in the manner of any other sentient being rather than be treated merely as a defective piece of equipment.

The Doctor submitted a holonovel titled Photons Be Free to a publisher on Earth, detailing the manner in which holograms were sometimes treated by Starfleet. His characters were closely based on Voyager's crew, but exaggerated to appear more intense and vicious, creating fears among the crew their reputations would be ruined. Tom Paris convinced the Doctor to make adjustments without sacrificing his theme. The Doctor lacked legal rights as Federation law did not classify him as a "sentient being". Thus he was forbidden to make any subsequent holonovel changes. Captain Janeway's efforts resulted in the Doctor being accorded the status of 'artist', (though not a "person"). This permitted him to rewrite the novel. Four months later, it was known throughout the Alpha Quadrant as a very thought-provoking piece of work. Several other EMHs, now relegated to mining duty, experienced the novel.

The Doctor's standard greeting was "Please state the nature of the medical emergency" when activated, though later modified to say whatever he chose. He was later given the ability to activate and deactivate himself.

The Doctor later acquired a mobile holographic emitter from the 29th century. Although he had previously been confined to Sickbay or the Holodeck, the mobile emitter allowed the Doctor to move about freely, making him ideal for missions where the environment would be harmful or otherwise fatal to the crew. In one notable incident, when an away team was trapped on a radioactive planet, the Doctor was able to infiltrate the people and almost single-handedly rescue the team because, as he pointed out, being a hologram renders him immune to the radiation, stating that "being a hologram does have its advantages."

The Doctor's programming evolved to the point where he fell in love with Seven of Nine, though she did not reciprocate. In an alternate future episode, "Endgame", the Doctor adopts the name Joe, and marries a human female, named Lana (played by Amy Lindsay).

In the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager a future version of Janeway also informs him of his later invention of "The internet", something he is fascinated by. This also implies his later transition from medical purposes to programming and other tasks more suited to engineering which was already hinted at earlier on in the series when he came to the aid of other holograms.


The "Emergency Command Hologram", aka "ECH", is first coined by the Doctor in the episode "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy", in which he creates a program that allows him to daydream. In these grandiose daydreams, the Doctor adds routines which allow him to take command of Voyager in the event that the command crew were disabled. A dramatic morph transformation occurs changing his uniform from medical green to command red, his rank pips subsequently appearing. The daydreams are picked up by a Hierarchy vessel in a nearby nebula and believed to be real events. Once the crew discover that the Doctor is daydreaming they use the holodeck to view his dreams. This includes the one expressing his desire to be an Emergency Command Hologram. Captain Janeway promises to consider his proposal. The Doctor soon gets the opportunity to live out his daydreams as, with the assistance of the crew, he pretends to be in charge to neutralize a war fleet.

The ECH made its debut the following season in "Workforce". After an incident with a subspace mine that releases a great amount of tetryon radiation, the crew is forced to abandon ship. To keep the ship moving the Doctor takes over the command functions.

In the episode "Renaissance Man", against the wishes of the crew, the Doctor uses his ECH program to eject the warp core.


Unlike most computer programs, the Doctor's program was never copied or backed up. Voyager has a limited memory capacity; the Doctor's entire program uses 50 million gigaquads ("Lifesigns"). This limitation was also mentioned in "The Swarm". However, "Living Witness" depicts a future in which a backup copy does exist, but the copy is lost from Voyager in the episode, leaving once again no backup.


One recurring theme in the Doctor's life was his lack of a name. Starfleet did not assign a name and initially the Doctor maintained that he did not want one. Later, he adopted such names as 'Schmullus' (by a Vidiian patient), 'Schweitzer' (after Albert Schweitzer), 'Van Gogh', 'Kenneth', 'Jones', and several others. The captioned dialog of early episodes, and early promotional material for the series' premiere, referred to him as "Dr. Zimmerman", after his creator, Lewis Zimmerman. In the series finale, an alternate future timeline is shown where he has chosen the name "Joe".


Before the arrival of the mobile emitter, The Doctor's holo-program was confined only to the Sickbay and the holodecks.

Depending on the amount of hologram patterns he has and capacity of his pattern buffers, The Doctor sometimes has the ability to shapeshift.

The Doctor is also able to download his program and personality subroutines into a humanoid with Borg implants, thus possessing the functions and abilities of that individual. Such is the case when he was forced to hide within the body of Seven of Nine.


The EMH is a holographic computer program designed to treat patients during emergency situations, or when the regular medical staff is unavailable or incapacitated. EMHs are now a standard feature onboard all Starfleet ships, but they are there only to supplement the living medical crew, not replace it. Programmed with all current Starfleet medical knowledge, the Doctor and all Mark Is are equipped with the knowledge and mannerisms of historic Federation doctors, as well as the physical appearance of their programmer, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman.

There has been only one update to the Mark I seen on screen, the Mark II played by Andy Dick in the episode "Message in a Bottle", which supposedly had a "better" bedside manner than the Mark I, as well as possibly some updated medical information. However, later episodes mention that further versions of the EMH exist.


Robert Picardo also had a cameo in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, where he played the emergency medical hologram of the USS Enterprise-E. Doctor Beverly Crusher activates him, albeit reluctantly, as a means of distracting the Borg, while she and other crew members escape from the besieged sickbay. He replies, "I'm a doctor, not a doorstop", an homage to Doctor McCoy's catchphrase line "I'm a doctor, not a ..." (The Doctor also made this reference several other times, on Voyager.) Nevertheless, when the Borg do break in he does attempt to distract them, by noting that Borg implants can cause skin irritation and offering to prescribe an analgesic cream.


Robert Picardo initially auditioned for Neelix. Despite Ethan Phillips getting the part, Picardo was asked by the producers to come back and audition for the Doctor—something that shocked him, because usually actors would be passed over completely. During his audition for the role of the Doctor, Robert Picardo was asked only to say, "Somebody forgot to terminate my program." However, he then ad libbed, "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight!" (Picardo was initially afraid that he may have ruined his chances—ad libbing, he explained, was something that one just "did not do" in an audition.)

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