ver the past seven years, Star Trek: Voyager's hologram--known simply
by the moniker
of "Doctor"--has evolved further than anyone first imagined he could. Much of that
credit goes to actor Robert Picardo, who time and again has infused his character
with a depth and life energy of his own. It's not surprising, then, that the Doctor
has had a number of strong episodes throughout Voyager's run, and this season is
no exception. As always, the Doctor is the one character on Voyager who can bounce
between drama and comedy with ease. Early in the season, Picardo had a
thought-provoking outing in the medical ethics episode "Critical Care";
in "Body and Soul," there's a comedic twist when, in a pinch, the
Doctor's program must be stored in Seven of Nine's optic nerve.
And at the end of the month, the Doctor is in the dramatic spotlight
again--this time as the driving force behind the show's two-part November
sweeps movie, "Flesh and Blood."
So tell us the idea behind "Flesh and Blood," this season's
big two-hour November sweeps event.
Picardo: Three years ago, at the end of the [two-part] episode
"The Killing Game," Janeway offered the Hirogen our holodeck technology, so
that they may satisfy their biological need to hunt in a virtual reality
setting, without killing people, [or] the races that they're preying on.
Since then, the Hirogen have progressively improved, or upgraded, their
holographic prey to the point that the prey are now capable of hunting
the hunters. So the holographic prey have actually slaughtered people,
slaughtered the Hirogen; and now they're on an apparent joyride on a
the Doctor factor into this equation?
Picardo: Janeway basically offers to help [the Hirogens], but she
doesn't quite trust them. Meanwhile, the Doctor's program is hijacked from
Voyager to help fight the Hirogen. [And because] they have the Voyager
database available, there are all of these characters from the Alpha
quadrant programmed [into their fighting game]; it's a chance to see
a Jem Hadar on a Voyager episode. And the Doctor
basically suffers from Stockholm Syndrome--he's kidnapped, but
eventually he comes to identify with his captors. They are
holograms, but they have been programmed to fight. They live
in sheer terror of being chained and killed. And all they're
looking for is to get out of this terrible situation that they're
in and set up a holographic paradise on some planet [where] they [can] generate
a life of their own.
And they're under the charismatic leadership of
a Bajoran hologram named Iden [Jeff Yagher]. Basically, over the course
of the two hours, the story tracks Iden going from [being] a very sympathetic leader
to being a holographic renegade, and the Doctor becoming sympathetic to
them--and actually disobeying Janeway. It's a great examination of how power
can corrupt. It's pretty exciting; we built a lot of new, big sets, and had
great guest stars, including Jeff Yagher, who's a great pal of mine.
[Editor's Note: Yagher is no stranger to the science fiction universe;
the actor starred on the short-lived series V 15 years ago]
This isn't the first time that the Doctor has had to assert
his rights as a hologram--as well as the rights of other holograms.
In the last year alone, it happened in "Virtuoso," when the Doctor
asked Janeway for permission to leave the ship, and again in "Fair
Haven," the holodeck-centric episode.
Picardo: [In "Fair Haven"] Janeway, against her will
and better judgement, starts becoming very attracted to and
interested in one of the local townspeople in this program.
So it's basically her entitling herself--with my encouragement and
the encouragement of other people--to have an emotional involvement
with a non-real partner. And of course I'm arguing for the sake of
"my people" so to speak, since I'm not real.
Looking back at the series thus far, do you have a favorite episode?
Picardo: The most fun I've had in shooting the entire series is
[last season's] episode "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy." It was great fun and
one of our most successful outings at humor on our show. Basically, it's
a retelling of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." The Doctor has attempted
to alter his program so he has the capacity to daydream. In his daydreams,
he is consistently the hero who saves the day--regardless of the circumstances.
And of course all of the women are in love with him and need his help.
Would you have liked to have seen Voyager return to Earth sooner
than it apparently will?
Picardo:: I understand the logic. We got lost in the
pilot episode, so there's a certain dramatic logic to having us
return in the final episode, and not return early in the season or mid-season,
and then have a potentially anti-climactic series of shows of us dealing with
things back home. The show was really founded in our being lost all of these
years from home; so the emotional climax is advisable. I think they've made
the right decision, by having us arrive late in the season.
Do you think we'll ever see the Voyager crew again after this final season finishes?
Picardo: You know, I have no idea whether the Voyager as a whole,
or any of the characters, will be in feature films, but it would be nice to
find out what happens to everybody in the future.
What are you going to miss most about Voyager?
Picardo: I would have to say that I am going to miss the
people the most. And the steadiness of the experience--it's nice, because
we don't get many steady jobs as actors. I had a place that I got to come
to and be creative, [where] I consistently enjoyed myself and looked forward
to working with the people I was working with on either side of the camera.
It's going to be a sense of loss.
Have you started to think about your post-Voyager plans?
Picardo: I have, and I'm working on a few things.
I have a movie idea that I'm pitching.