Star Trek: How the Story of Voyager's Doctor Affects Picard

Star Trek: Voyager stars Robert Picardo got back into character as the Doctor for Star Trek: The Cruise IV. He's said that he's been approached about returning to the role again in the second season of Star Trek: Picard. It turns out that the Doctor's story may have influenced Star Trek: Picard's story already. Picard deals extensively with the results of a synth ban that was put into place after synths working on the Planitia Utopia shipyard on Mars went rogue and destroyed the shipyards. Since then, no one has been allowed to develop new artificial lifeforms, and any that were active at the time of the ban were shut down.

And yet, holograms with personalities are still functional. Picard encountered one at the Starfleet Museum. Rios has several aboard the La Sirena. Why weren't they banned? Picard showrunner Michael Chabon says it has something to do with Voyager's Doctor.

"It was certainly debated by Federation policy makers, but a distinction was drawn, possibly because some failsafes and limitations had already been put in place, in the wake of the experience with Voyager's Doctor," Chabon wrote on Instagram, in response to a fan question. Fans of Voyager will remember that the Doctor was left online for years while the USS Voyager made its journey home from the Delta Quadrant. As a result, his programming evolved to become a fully fleshed-out individual. He even wrote a novel inspired by his experience, which was of interest to other EMHs of his generation that had been made obsolete and relegated to manual labor.

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Learning that EMHs are capable of evolving in that way, it is possible that the Federation made some guidelines and laws that would prevent such an evolution in the future. With these guidelines in place, they felt no need to eliminate holographic programs as they did with physical androids.

Of his possible return in Star Trek: Picard, Picardo has said, “I am pleased that they (CBS) have expressed interest in me. They have reached out to my agent about next season. So I’m looking forward to seeing what it is. As you know I play two characters, primarily the Doctor but also Lewis Zimmerman. Lewis Zimmerman, the engineer who created the Doctor’s program, certainly would have aged. He’s in the same timeline as Patrick Stewart and all the [Star Trek: The Next Generation] folk. The Doctor, of course, like Data doesn’t age, but there are ways to address that, as we all know. I joked the other day that my daughter does visual effects, that’s exactly what she does is digitally correct actors so I said, ‘If they hire the two of us, she could make me look 25 years younger. Anyway, it will interesting to see when something happens, if something but, but I might have a chance to be onscreen with Jeri again. It would be an honor and a delight, obviously, to have scenes with Patrick Stewart so, you know, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

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