Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Heroes and Demons"


Air date: 4/24/1995
Written by Naren Shankar
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"It brings on the spirit of the bear and gives us strength to swing our swords."
"It's more likely to bring on profuse sweating, convulsions and acute delirium. This is a fungus common to sub-arctic climates and, let me assure you, quite poisonous."
"Yes, but those it does not kill it makes strong. A most hearty plant."

— Freya and the Doctor

When Ensign Kim runs a holodeck program of the medieval tale "Beowulf," a mysterious presence seizes control of the holodeck, causing crew members who enter to vanish without a trace. Only the Doctor may have the ability to successfully investigate and retrieve them.

When Kim disappears inside his program, Janeway sends Chakotay and Tuvok to investigate. Upon entering the holodeck, they discover the shutdown routine and safety devices do not work (surprise). They come across a warrior named Freya (Marjorie Monaghan)—the king's daughter—who has information that may help them. Kim, who was playing the part of the hero Beowulf, was killed by the evil monster Grendel, she explains. Chakotay tells her that he is Beowulf's kinsman, here to avenge his death, and that he wishes to face Grendel. Tuvok and Chakotay hope to find answers to the holodeck takeover from Grendel. They find evidence that Kim apparently went through the process of matter-energy conversion (uh-oh) due to some unthinkable malfunction. When they encounter Grendel, however, they become victims of matter-energy conversion.

Sporting the ultimate in anti-climactic teasers and a completely by-the-numbers first act, "Heroes and Demons" initially looks like a failed Voyager concept to be the first to join the series of cliched Next Generation holodeck plots. Fortunately, the story takes a perfectly appropriate and creative twist in the second act by putting the holographic doctor in the center of the action.

Using information Chakotay and Tuvok retrieved before vanishing, Janeway concludes that Grendel is the key to the mystery and that sending more people into the holodeck would likely result in their vanishing as well. This leads to the idea of transferring the Doctor's program into the holodeck to investigate. Since he's a hologram with no matter, he conceivably would be unaffected by the problems in the holodeck.

This is where the episode starts to pick up. One limitation Picardo's character has faced up to this point is that he's a doctor—and only a doctor. Not only is he often limited to spouting medical technobabble, he's been faced with the prospect of doing all his acting on the sickbay set. This plot gives Picardo an opportunity to escape the confines of sickbay and play the hero while also offering a startling amount of depth to his character. Several scenes reveal that this character has feelings and desires beyond the limitations of his programming, and, hopefully, future episodes will put the Doctor's new characterizations to use.

The Doctor even chooses a name before leaving for his mission—Dr. Schweitzer. (However, since he decides to abandon the name by episode's end, I will continue to call him "the Doctor" to avoid confusion.) In the holodeck program, the Doctor meets Freya, who takes him back to the perishing kingdom hall, which sits in defenseless terror of another attack by Grendel. The setting benefits from a number of lively holodeck characters. Freya's strength and compassion balance to make a respectable heroine, while the menacing Unferth (Christopher Neame), a warrior who doubts the Doctor's abilities, proves to be a believable roadblock to our hero's progress. King Hrothgar (Michael Keenan) is a pitiable, helpless man who has to watch his kingdom fall in front of him.

The Doctor's ability to allow matter to pass through him convinces the kingdom that weapons can't hurt him. Perhaps they have hope of repelling Grendel after all. The kingdom hall cheers and labels him their savior. Here, Picardo's looks of confused bewilderment are priceless.

In fact, this is a good episode for Picardo all around. It features his genial presence at its best, working well for the episode's humorous moments and dose of mild goofiness, as well as the serious character-driven scenes. A scene between the Doctor and Freya provides some genuinely effective soul-searching dialog. The moment when these two holographic characters kiss works surprisingly well. (The idea may seem slightly inane, but it displays one of the best qualities about Star Trek stories—their ability to take the audience anywhere.)

The plot, alas, turns into another lame-brained exercise in the obvious when Torres and Paris discover the mysterious entity in the holodeck is another misunderstood lifeform which the crew had beamed aboard the ship after mistaking it for an energy source. The "Grendel" alien changed the crew members into energy in retaliation for the crew's inadvertent "kidnapping" of two others of its race. Give me a break. You would think the crew would've learned their lesson after "The Cloud." This revelation can be so easily predicted a mile away that I wanted to slug the characters for taking so long to figure it out.

But I don't care too much that the life form plot isn't particularly inventive. The Doctor's adventures in the holodeck are much more important, and they work. In order to negotiate a peace treaty with the aliens, the Doctor must hand deliver one of the captured life forms to the "Grendel" alien as a gesture of good faith. On the way he is confronted by Unferth, who attacks him after mistaking the lifeform for a talisman to destroy the kingdom. Freya shows up in time to save the Doctor's life but pays with her own. Freya's death scene also works very well with a bit of theatrical aura.

Naturally, the Doctor is successful in his task, and all three crew members are released unharmed. Janeway logs a commendation in the Doctor's file for his successful first away mission. "Sounds like you had quite an adventure in that holodeck, Doctor," she says. Yes, he did.

Considering how many facets of the Doctor's personality and emotions this hologram program ends up tapping into, it's quite a substantial episode for the Doctor. Some viewers may find themselves saying, "It was just a program. Freya wasn't a real person, and she didn't really die." I say don't overanalyze the situation. Remember, the Doctor is only a hologram himself. (I guess, in a sense, these holo-characters are his own people.) Restarting the holodeck program to bring Freya back may sound like an easy and obvious solution but would also constitute poor drama.

Aside for the recycled bit with the lifeform, I'd like to see more like this from Voyager. An ambitious score by Dennis McCarthy and convincing production design supply added bonuses. But please give the Doctor a name already.

Previous episode: State of Flux
Next episode: Cathexis

Season Index

26 comments on this review

Mal - Tue, Oct 20, 2009 - 1:29am (USA Central)
Since we know the Doctor doesn't ever really get a name, remind me again: do we ever at least get a "Doctor... Who?" joke out of the show :-)

The Doctor was definitely a highlight of VOY. This episode is only one of the first where he gets to, ummm, shine!
Ken - Wed, Feb 2, 2011 - 10:02pm (USA Central)
I don't know if anyone noticed this problem... but didn't we just see an episode like this with "The Cloud"?

Sure, it's totally different... but this is 2 times that Voyager mistakenly did something bad to an actual life-form that they thought was an energy source.

I guess they need energy in the delta quadrant, but these kinds of episodes seem a little out of place as a whole. It reeks of the "anomaly of the week" problem, which has been overdone so many times on Star Trek.

As a whole, this series didn't really give us anything *new*. It was just more of the same, for 7 straight seasons.

People love and hate DS9 - but you can't argue that it was a new and different from its predecessor. Voyager, and later Enterprise, didn't offer anything new. And so after 11 seasons of mostly crap, we no longer have Star Trek on television, and might not for a very long time to come.
Carbetarian - Fri, Apr 8, 2011 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
I can't get over how dumb it is that they are desperately searching for a new power source, and yet are still using the holodecks. Incompatible power sources my ass! Power is power, the whole thing is just ridiculous.

Holodeck episodes are the worst. In my opinion, they're worse than ferengi episodes. There have been a small handful of interesting holodeck episodes, but usually they are just goofy and annoying. The only truly great holodeck episode I can think of was Paper Moon on DS9, and this episode is no Paper Moon.

The holodeck program on this one was far too reminiscent of TNG's Qpid for me which, apart from a few hilarious one liners from Worf, I never want to be reminded of ever again. The Alien of the Week was totally lame and forgettable, and I could definitely have done without ever having to watch Tuvok and Chakotay trudging through the forest discussing poetic ways to describe Harry Kim.

All that said though, the doctor is wonderful. He somehow managed to make this show watchable for me. His sense of timing and humor is really dead on, and he is always a joy to have on screen.

The doctor gets four stars for making something likable out of this turd of an episode, and the plot gets zero stars for being another cliche, cornball, derivative holodeck adventure.

So, all in all, this one gets two stars from me!
Matthias - Fri, Aug 12, 2011 - 5:36am (USA Central)
For the love of god is there any non-sentient form of energy anywhere in this entire freaking quadrant!?

Starfleet folk are always so respectful of the holodeck's 'rules' even when there are lives at stake and the safeties are malfunctioning and there's a seemingly malevolent entity running around disappearing their crewmen. What exactly is stopping them from simply stomping through shooting everything on sight? How come the Mysterious Entity of the week apparently agrees to be bound by the grendel_event program flag? The doctor isn't even solid, there's no reason for him to waste time interacting with anything at all here (though unlike Tuvok and Chakotay he at least has a motivation to want to take it all in.)

Ah I know, these are petty complaints, but I ran clean out of suspension of disbelief about 20 minutes in due to sheer boredom (having seen the semi-recent and entirely-horrible Beowulf movie certainly didn't help).
Ken - Fri, Aug 12, 2011 - 6:14am (USA Central)
Yeah, it's not hard to find so many logical problems and faults with the plotting with these episodes. It almost like the writers were just pumping out stories out of manufacturing plant... just putting all the basic genres into a pot, stirring it up, and seeing what shit came out.

Having said, if you take the episode for what it is, it's not bad. But the premise of the show - such as most shows in this series - is awful.
Nick - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 11:15am (USA Central)
This is one of the standouts of Voyager's first season! I, for one, put a far greater emphasis on the EXECUTION of an episode than whether or not some element of its plot may be derivative of another episode that has come before. "Heroes and Demons" has terrific production value, a stand out performance from Bob Picardo, memorable guest characters, and typically first rate direction from Les Landau. I've come to realize that episodes directed by Les Landau are wonders of light. Some which spring to mind: Sins of the Father, Family, Time's Arrow Part I & II, Chain of Command Part II, and The Chute.
TDexter - Thu, Nov 24, 2011 - 8:53pm (USA Central)
Along with the above commentators, I expect a high standard of realism out of my 24th-century space-exploration sci-fi television shows.
Kazon Hornblower - Wed, Oct 10, 2012 - 6:09pm (USA Central)
Ugh, watching this episode is like realizing too late that you didn't wipe well enough. And now you have an hour's drive ahead of you on a hot summer day.
T'Paul - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Tuvok: I would point out there are no demons in Vulcan literature.

Chakotay: That might account for its popularity.

Perfect Vulcan human interaction... what was missing from T'Pol in Enterprise, and definitely reminiscent of Spock... excellent line
Ric - Tue, Mar 4, 2014 - 2:55am (USA Central)
Once more, a very stupid premise for the malfunction of a holodeck. Really really silly. Not to mention, as others have already pointed above and before, how it hurts to watch the holodeck being used when the ship is short on energy supply. The excuse of different types of energy is unberable.

Even though, in the end it was an interesting episode when it focused on the existencial questions of The Doctor. Just as Spock in TOS, Data in TNG and Odo in DS9, The Doctor has a lot of potential for development and is nice when it starts to be delivered. I hope it keeps coming, since he highlights the show quite a bit. If only the rest of the episode was not so ridiculous, with a plot so embarrassing...
Andrew - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 1:19am (USA Central)
I liked this episode, it was a fun holodeck romp that's executed well. The plot is a mishmash of things we'd seen before but the doctor stuff makes it unique.
Vylora - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 11:24am (USA Central)
The holodeck scenario was pleasant. The aliens were very Star Trek. The Doctor was fantastic. Only real complaint is I wish to have learned more about these aliens. All in all, not bad. Quite entertaining in fact.

I don't complain too much about holodeck usage on Voyager (excepting that holodeck episodes will become overused). I realize they are an independent subsystem with their own reactors. I just wish for some better explanation on how it all works together.

3 stars.
Charles - Sun, Oct 5, 2014 - 12:13pm (USA Central)
I hate "theme episodes" (often holodeck episodes). ST is already a genre TV series: science fiction. If I wanted to watch another genre (cowboys, medieval, vampire...), I would watch another show!

That episode is the first in, unfortunately, a long list of theme episodes on Voyager (although they also appear on TNG and DS9...). Bleh.
Dave in NC - Sun, Oct 5, 2014 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
@ Charles

They are still humans, right?

If we actually had a holodeck, where do you think history buffs would like to spend their time? I'm sure plenty of people would like to try their hand as an Old West Sheriff, or maybe Caesar of Rome.

At least I would. ;)

Skeptical - Sun, Oct 26, 2014 - 9:59pm (USA Central)
Ugh, I hated this one. But before I get into my rant, just a few comments on the episode itself. It was awful. I mean, it's not just that the show was yet another holodeck malfunction episode. Or even that it was yet another random energy being episode (seriously, that's the third one this season!). It wasn't just the rotten awful science, which just sounds like stringing a bunch of random words together (a trend I'm starting to get real sick of). I mean, unusual photonic energy? Really? How are photons unusual?

But it was a dumb plot too. So Grendel just sits in the barn or whatever instead of going out to find his little comrades? Why did the Doc hang around talking to everyone when he was immaterial, and so could have waltzed right to the barn? Meanwhile, the whole point of sending the Doctor was that everyone thought Grendel couldn't kill him, but then Grendel chopped his arm off (now that's ironic...). So Janeway says it's a delicate first contact situation, but then sends the Doc back. Which is ridiculous, since he's not in any less danger than anyone else! Not that it matters, since the "delicate negotiation" was quite simplistic. Quite lucky that all it required was releasing the caged being in front of Grendel.

But no, that's not the real problem of the episode. The real problem is that there's no use pretending anymore. The Doctor is clearly sentient.

And that's terrible.

See, up to this point, we could believe that he wasn't sentient. He certainly didn't act like it in the pilot, freaking out at the thought of being the only Doctor. Sure, it kinda went back and forth, but we could still claim he wasn't sentient. That all of his odd personality quirks were just programmed into him. He wasn't singing yet, and he wasn't living his own life yet. But now he chose a name, built a friendship with some holodeck character, and felt heartbreak. He's sentient.

Doesn't anyone remember Measure of a Man? People claim it's one of their favorite TNG episodes, but it is destroyed by the Doctor. See, Picard and Guinan didn't actually prove Data's sentience. They only pointed out the devastating consequences if they were wrong. If Data was sentient, and Starfleet judged against him, then Starfleet would be allowing for the creation of a slave race. It was that reason why the magistrate refused to judge against him. This was a message partially reinforced in The Offspring and fully reinforced in Quality of Life.

And yet the message is blatantly, brutally eliminated here. Starfleet has essentially created a slave race. That's what this episode means. If the Doctor is sentient here, then it presumably means that he was always sentient. It's hard to imagine him becoming sentient in only a month or two, after all. Which means there are hundreds of sentient beings, locked away in computers, summoned only when needed, ignored the rest of the time. Hundreds killed without a choice in the Dominion War. Crusher sacrificed one to the Borg. All sentient, all without a choice.

And yet he's such a popular character. Just because he's sarcastic and snarky and Picardo does a great job. But it's hard to enjoy his character when it goes against everything the show claims. Now, I'm not one to say the show should always agree with me. I find Starfleet ethics to be poorly thought out, juvenile, or downright evil at times. But the problem is that this goes against everything in Trek ethos. It's a joke of an idea. And no one seems to care. This little problem is never, ever brought up. Well, I vaguely recall it being brought up a lot near the end of the show, but they had to turn the doctors into miners (the universal symbol of creating evil slave owners) in order to show it. They didn't want to admit that they made a huge mistake here.

It didn't have to happen that way. Instead we could have had the Doctor denying his sentience for a season or two. Why not? Why do we need a repeat of Data? Why not have a character that doesn't want to be human? All they had to do was keep him wanting to be nothing more than a Doctor for a little while longer. Kes would need to keep working at it, or maybe even give up. Perhaps he would eventually gain sentience over time. But then that would make him unique among the holographic doctors. Then it would be ok for Starfleet to use them like that. But alas, the damage is done.

Nice to know the producers no longer care about Data.
Robert - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 8:29am (USA Central)
Just to throw a bit of a monkey wrench in your argument.... I think the doctor was not sentient at this point in the sense that he is more than the sum of his programming inputs/commands.

He's specifically programmed to have compassion because he's a doctor. I think he might experience some stray feelings for her, but it's not until Lifesigns that I personally consider him sentient.

"EMH: I've been experiencing periodic lapses in concentration and difficulty handing objects. There may be a malfunction in my tactile acuity subroutine."

"EMH: You said before you knew me that you were just a disease. Well, before you, I was just a projection of photons held together by force fields. A computerised physician doing a job, doing it exceptionally well, of course, but still it was just a profession, not a life. But now that you are here and my programming has adapted, I'm not just working anymore. I'm living, learning what it means to be with someone, to love someone. I don't think I can go back to the way things were, either."

Before he figured out he was falling in love he thought the symptoms were a malfunction. Which, to me, means this was the first time he really experienced events that triggered "feelings" that weren't part of his original program.

So to recap

1) In S2s Lifesigns he starts experiencing feelings that were not part of his initial programming. Kes suggests that it was his adaptive program adapting.

2) In S3s Darkling and Real Life he starts projects to improve himself... tweaking his personality and imagining having a family. These are things that teenagers go through (trying on new personality aspects/imagining their life in the future). So now we have him experiencing emotions that weren't intended and life goals beyond being a doctor.

3) In S4 he finds a kindred spirit in Seven, another outsider and takes her under his wing as they explore the human condition together.

4) It all comes to a head in S5's Latent Image when he uses those emotions to affect a decision. In the situation in this episode I imagine his program flips a coin as he himself suggests "Two patients, for example, both injured, for example, both in imminent danger of dying. Calculate the variables. My programme needs to ascertain which patient has the greater chance of survival, and that's the one I treat. Simple. But, what if they have an equal chance of survival? What then? Hmm? Flip a coin? Pick a card?"

It was here when he first made a decision based on his own emotions, friendships and life. If you don't consider him sentient before now he certainly is by this point. And this happens 18 months earlier, right before Seven joins... so I'd peg his sentience as occurring somewhere between late S2 (Lifesigns is episode 19 that season) and late S3 with him fully realizing/dealing with the implications of it in early S5.

To me, saying he is sentient as early as this episode grants sentience to Vic (he has emotions/frienships as well), Minuet, Janeway's Michael (who experiences heartbreak) and other assorted holodeck characters. I'm just not willing to concede the Doctor is sentient here.
Robert - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 8:37am (USA Central)
I actually think that despite Voyager's flaws the Doctor has one of the top 5 or higher personal arcs in all of Star Trek.

He starts off little more than a tool, begins to consider having a life, makes friends, aspires to be humanoid (because being such an outsider is isolation), falls in love, develops his personality and hobbies, has goals, deals with the consequences of sentience (Latent Image), takes on a pupil, eventually stops wanting to be human and embraces what he is, dabbles with wondering where he belongs and eventually even gains the ability to side against his friends in a hologram civil war and even nearly murder someone in Critical Care.

The only serious misstep in his arc (in my opinion) is the way that in Equinox deleting his ethical subroutines turn him into a mindless slave for the Equinox crew. I feel like that did him a disservice considering how far he'd come. I'd sort of preferred for them to have deleted the ethical subroutines and to have had him turn around and murder Ransom. Without ethics I'd still be me, I'd just not care how I went about accomplishing my goals anymore. So it sucked that they deleted that and he wasn't him anymore.

But really that's one of very, very few problems with his arc over 7 years and it's the only glaring one to me.
Yanks - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 12:07pm (USA Central)
Skeptical & Robert,

The EMH is one of my all-time favorite characters.

Robert expertly listed and discussed his path throughout the series so I won't regurgitate.

The issue of "sentient" was brought up by Skeptical.

I don't think in any way how Doc was treated/revealed throughout the series counters or minimizes the "Data is not a toaster" decision in MoM (the most over-rated episode in Star Trek history). After all the hub-ub, Data wasn't proven sentient, he was granted permission to choose.

That specific term wasn't even brought up in 'Author Author" (VOY’s MoM episode).

Here is the ruling:

"ARBITRATOR: We're exploring new territory today, so it is fitting that this hearing is being held at Pathfinder. The Doctor exhibits many of the traits we associate with a person. Intelligence, creativity, ambition, even fallibility. But are these traits real, or is the Doctor merely programmed to simulate them? To be honest, I don't know. Eventually we will have to decide, because the issue of holographic rights isn't going to go away. But at this time, I am not prepared to rule that the Doctor is a person under the law. However, it is obvious he is no ordinary hologram and while I can't say with certainty that he is a person, I am willing to extend the legal definition of artist to include the Doctor. I therefore rule that he has the right to control his work. I'm ordering all copies of his holo-novels to be recalled immediately."

So I think ST has aptly dodged the "sentient" issue with Data and The EMH.
Skeptical - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 6:48pm (USA Central)
Thanks for the comments. I freely admit to not being as well versed in the Doc's story as others; this is my first time watching Voyager since it was on the air. So perhaps the Lifesigns episode does make it clear that he wasn't sentient at this point.

But I've been specifically watching for this since Caretaker, and he passed my Turing Test in this episode. There were some arguable points beforehand, namely his encouraging nature towards Kes' studies and his bruised ego when Lt. Extra refused to talk to him. But the first one could be seen as an outgrowth of his nature as the EMH (Kes' studies would improve his efficiency), and the second can be somewhat argued in that sense. But here? He chooses a name and, more importantly, chooses to avoid that name because it was associated with an emotional loss. There's no way to reconcile something that personal with programming for an EMH to me. That was very personal on his part, very emotional. How was it anything but sentience?

As an aside, Minuet never seemed to be sentient to me; everything she did was in accordance with the goal of keeping Riker in the holodeck. Vic is a bit trickier, but he was specifically programmed to be genial and to appear sentient (as in, specifically programmed to realize he was a holodeck character). The most questionable part of Vic was his sneaky way of getting Odo and Kira together; that seemed above and beyond what a program might do. But only maybe, so one can still assume Vic was not sentient.

By the way, one point I forgot to mention. In the episode where the Doctor gets transferred to the Alpha Quadrant and meets the EMH Mk 2, the new EMH seems awfully jealous of the Doctor's experiences, particularly regarding sex if I remember correctly. And this EMH was brand new and had no life experiences. Again, this is sounding like a character that is sentient right away, rather than one that can become sentient. Of course, this is the Mk 2 version, so maybe it's just more advanced programming. But then my complaint about the Federation creating a slave race would still apply to the new set of EMHs, even if it doesn't apply to this set.

In any case, if Lifesigns walks this episode back some, I will be a bit happier, although I still think the producers were too cavalier with this character. And I'm glad to see, as Yanks pointed out, that even the Federation seemed to view this particular EMH as unique, which suggests he did gain sentience rather than always had it (or gained it way too easily). While there may be some ethical concerns with dealing with mass producing a group of non-sentient programs that have the capability of becoming sentient, it's a different question than mass producing those that are sentient, so I'll let it slide. At least Beverly wasn't throwing a newly born sentient being at the Borg in First Contact.

I agree that Picardo's Doc is an absolute joy to watch, but I fear sometimes that the characterization itself is not that great. I enjoy watching him, even if I don't agree with the way the writers handle him. Personally, I always liked the Data episodes that help to highlight his IN-humanity, because that's what makes him different or unique. My impression at least is that there weren't too many of those shows for the Doctor (Latent Image being one I did like). Personally, I would have been happy watching an EMH that was completely against learning anything new or thinking like a person for a season or two. It'd be a refreshing change of pace to see a computer not want to become human for once.
Robert - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 8:27am (USA Central)
"But here? He chooses a name and, more importantly, chooses to avoid that name because it was associated with an emotional loss. There's no way to reconcile something that personal with programming for an EMH to me. That was very personal on his part, very emotional. How was it anything but sentience?"

A dog can mourn their owner but I'm not sure a dog is sentient.

I think that in this episode the Doctor became more than a toaster (it's definitely the first real step on the journey I mentioned), but I'm not sure I'd grant you sentience.
Robert - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 8:31am (USA Central)
And I do get your point about a slave race and that the EMH Mk2 having... "desire for improvements" out of the box may have been problematic.

I will also throw out there that it is possible (although never mentioned) that Voyager's EMH can only become sentient because of the bio gel packs. Some of his circuitry is biological. I'm actually kind of sad they never went there with that.
Yanks - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 8:36am (USA Central)
I've always thought Data was sentient. Data was a commissioned officer in Star Fleet and should have had all the rights along with the responsibilities that come with that. One of the reasons I'm not a MoM super-fan like most. The trial should have never happened. You can read my review here on the MoM page if you want further elaboration.

But the question of "Sentience" is quite the discussion.

From MoM [TNG]:
"PICARD: Commander, would you enlighten us? What is required for sentience?
MADDOX: Intelligence, self awareness, consciousness."

From Webster:
"1: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions
2: aware
3: finely sensitive in perception or feeling"

I would say Data has demonstrated throughout the series that he has met that criteria. With #3 and "consciousness" being debatable as Data has stated many times he has no feelings.

So I guess the big question mark when talking about the EMH is do these definitions reveal him to be sentient?

I'm not so sure. He is a computer program, while data has the positronic brain. I think I see a difference there.

Topic for another day I guess :-)

But I find it a little surprising that Trek never really took a stance on this subject.
Elliott - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 10:38am (USA Central)
@Robert, re: Gel packs :

It's a good thing they didn't go down that road, because it would weaken the precedent set in MoM, Quality of Life and the Doc's arc (especially "Flesh and Blood") that AI is just as valid as organic life. I think it's a stronger argument to say that what makes a life truly worthwhile is not whatever endowments are bestowed by a lifeform's creator (be it parent, programmer or divinity), but how those endowments are put to use. That idea is fully embraced in "Latent Image," vis-à-vis "La VIta Nuova."
Robert - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 10:44am (USA Central)
I didn't mean that he should have been brought to life via the gel packs because life can only be organic, I just meant that if, in THIS case the Voyager Doctor was special because the organic circuitry components had bestowed a uniqueness unto him in the vein of Data's positronic brain... it would have made the slavery issue with the other EMHs less disturbing.

And our EMH is not always in contact with the organic gelpacks (like when he's in the mobile emitter) but maybe they could have been the thing that gave him the so called "spark of life".

It would of course weaken some S7 storylines (like Flesh and Blood and Author Author) but I think S1-S6 would hold up just fine under those conditions (and then S7 would have had to be a bit different).
William B - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 11:14am (USA Central)
I'm not sure why it's a storytelling problem if the EMHs are sentient, or are capable of becoming sentient in a really short period of time. It is certainly true that it paints the Federation in a negative light -- but that makes quite a powerful point, which is that through ignorance it is possible for people to be complicit in horrible acts. The title, "The Measure of a Man," has a double meaning (at least); it is not just about whether Data is a person, but about whether the Federation, as represented by Picard, can recognize the dangerous patterns they can fall into, and can do the right thing regardless of how hard it is. The measure of a man is partly his ability to correct himself when he finds that he has, through ignorance or insensitivity (or, indeed, malice or deliberate wrong action, though these are not the case here), in other words; and such is the measure of societies, as well.

I think it's clear that no one *thought* they were making a sentient holoprogram with the EMHs, and I think that the EMHs' personality etc. were primarily just so that people could interact with them as if they were humans. However, as was pointed out in The Quality of Life, the fact that it was not the *intention* of the creators to create a sentient life form does not mean that this life form is not sentient. The Doctor doesn't immediately recognize his own potential, either, but comes to recognize it over time.

If the problem here is that the Federation should have corrected itself more extensively, and sooner, and its failure to do so is evidence that it is an evil organization and thus trashes the Roddenberry ideal, well, that's something to consider -- but I think it makes sense that it's really, *really* hard for the Federation (and indeed, for the Voyager crew) to properly identify the line between artificial creation with no internal life and sentient, self-determining being.
Robert - Tue, Oct 28, 2014 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
It's an ethical problem, not a storytelling one. And in some ways it's dealt with in Author, Author with the plight of the EMH MkIs.

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