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Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo considers the journey home


By Melissa J. Perenson

O 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 stolen ship.


How does 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.

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Also in this issue: Red Planet's Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss




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