‘Star Trek: Voyager’s’ Doctor Was Almost This TNG Character

Robert Picardo as The Doctor in "Star Trek: Voyager"

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images Robert Picardo as The Doctor in "Star Trek: Voyager"

The “Star Trek: Voyager” character known only as The Doctor until the show’s finale became one of the most beloved characters in the series. Robert Picardo’s portrayal of the hologram who wanted to become more than his programming was both hilarious and heartwarming.

The Doctor’s appearance and pre-loaded personality were based on Starfleet holo-engineer Lewis Zimmerman, the man who created the Emergency Medical Hologram program. Picardo also played Zimmerman in one episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and a few episodes of “Voyager.”

However, The Doctor was almost based on a completely different “Star Trek” character, one who was already very familiar to Trek fans.

Reginald Barclay Was Almost The Doctor

Star Trek | Barclay Under PressureLt. Reginald Barclay is definitely the most stressed member of the Starfleet. He struggles with social anxiety, holo-addiction or transporter phobia every day. No wonder that this man is under pressure all the time.. (I must admit that the choice of the song is not my idea. After watching "Star Trek – Barclay's Day" I…2015-03-14T22:41:40Z

According to “A Vision of the Future: Star Trek Voyager,” the producers of “Voyager” knew they wanted to introduce The Doctor before “Voyager” premiered. They were trying to figure out how to include the character in either an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or “Deep Space Nine.”

One idea they discussed was making TNG’s Reginald Barclay the mind behind the EMH. Though socially awkward to a fault, Barclay was a gifted engineer. He was also an expert at creating holodeck programs as evidenced by his own addiction to the programs he created.

The writers came up with a story idea that featured Barclay taking a leave of absence from his duties on the Enterprise-D so he could finish the Emergency Medical Hologram. When he finally revealed the program to Starfleet, they would be shocked to discover that he’d made the EMH look exactly like himself.

If they moved forward with this plan, then Dwight Schultz, the actor who played Barclay, might have ended up as The Doctor on “Voyager.” Alternately, the writers could have created an in-canon explanation as to why “Voyager’s” EMH looked different than the one debuted in TNG.

Coming Up With Lewis Zimmerman

Zimmerman opens up to the Doctor (VOY: Life Line)From Star Trek Voyager S6E24: Life Line2020-08-14T18:55:18Z

Obviously, the writers decided not to move forward with this plan for The Doctor. Instead, they came up with Zimmerman and introduced him in “Deep Space Nine.”

According to “A Vision of the Future: Star Trek Voyager,” the intention was always to show the audience the programmer behind the EMH. The showrunners envisioned that the programmer had created this incredibly complex program, but made the personality too bland. This setup would be the springboard for the EMH’s mission to enhance his program with additional personality traits.

Initially, Zimmerman’s only purpose as a character was to introduce The Doctor and establish the fact that the program was created in his own image. However, a pitch from Picardo himself made Zimmerman a fully fleshed-out character.

According to “Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration,” Picardo came up with the idea of The Doctor meeting the man who’d created him. He thought it would be really interesting to explore a father-son relationship in which both parties were disappointed. Picardo worked with “Voyager” director John Bruno to develop an origin story for Zimmerman that informed The Doctor’s personality.

Their ideas turned into the episode “Life Line,” which featured The Doctor going back to Earth in an attempt to save the life of his creator/father figure.

Though it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Picardo playing The Doctor, it is interesting to imagine a holographic Barclay as Voyager’s EMH.

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