Star Trek: Voyager

"Life Line"

***1/2

Air date: 5/10/2000
Teleplay by Robert Doherty & Raf Green and Brannon Braga
Story by John Bruno & Robert Picardo
Directed by Terry Windell

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Enterprise is in the middle of a mission. We're nearly seven light-years from you."
"An important mission?"
"They're all important, Reg."

— Troi and Barclay

Nutshell: A winner. One of the year's more entertaining shows.

Watching "Life Line," one can see just how effectively Robert Picardo disappears into his character week after week, or in the case of this week, two characters. The plot of "Life Line" permits Doc to meet his creator, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, face to face. We know the story: The original EMH was modeled in appearance and personality to resemble Zimmerman. So Picardo plays Doc and Zimmerman right alongside himself. What's interesting is that it's not a carbon-copy performance. There are subtle differences that allow Zimmerman to become his own character.

We previously saw a rendition of Dr. Zimmerman's character in the third-season installment "The Swarm," as well as in DS9's fifth-season episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume." I can't recall in detail Zimmerman's demeanor, whether the same subtle differences as compared to the Voyager EMH were evident in those episodes. (Although, in looking back at my review for "Presume," I see that I did praise Picardo for creating a character who was similar but not identical to the Doctor.) No matter; the differences are evident here, and it's an impressive feat.

The episode is a successful follow-up to "Pathfinder" from five months ago, even though the main story being told here is mostly self-contained and completely different (reminiscent of TNG's "Brothers" in its basic idea). Starfleet has found a way to send a data transmission to Voyager once a month when a certain cosmic alignment makes it possible. Voyager then has a window of opportunity to send information back.

In an interquadrant e-mail, Barclay sends news along to Doc that Zimmerman is dying of an unknown terminal illness. No one in the Alpha Quadrant has been able to treat him successfully, but Doc, adapting methods learned out in the Delta Quadrant wilderness, believes he may have a cure he can administer. He's the only one with the experience, and he wants to treat Zimmerman himself. He asks Janeway to transmit his program to the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway reluctantly grants Doc's request.

So there's your premise, a neat tech idea that makes sense and is believable. The rest of the story takes place almost exclusively in Zimmerman's holography lab at Jupiter Station, where we have ourselves a story that focuses on personalities, dialog, and an interesting relationship between Doc and his programmer—and not exactly having the dynamic Doc had in mind.

Zimmerman is an irascible fellow—even more abrasive than Doc ever was. Of course, knowing that he's dying probably doesn't help form a positive attitude. It's almost painful to watch Doc building himself up to present himself to his creator as a hologram who has grown beyond his original program, simply because Zimmerman is truthfully beyond caring. The moment when Doc materializes in Zimmerman's lab shows Doc nearly in a state of glee. That glee is met with a cold Zimmerman shoulder: "An EMH Mark 1? I was wrong Mr. Barclay; you do have a sense of humor." Ouch.

If you listen closely, you'll notice the subtle way Zimmerman's speech differs from Doc's: Zimmerman has a more relaxed, "human" way of talking, with slightly less articulation on each spoken syllable. Doc tends to articulate each syllable just so and with more song in the inflection, which has become so much part of Picardo's performance that it's almost strange to hear it scaled back through Zimmerman.

A lot of the episode focuses on the Doc/Zimmerman friction. Make no mistake: Zimmerman wants no part of Doc's treatment, and in several scenes Zimmerman flat-out insults Doc and his limitations. For Zimmerman, this is an issue that runs deep. Doc is getting nowhere. Even an attempt to scan his patient while masquerading as a masseuse fails.

Doc also makes some unsettling discoveries: The original EMH has been rendered obsolete by several new versions—Marks II, III, IV (although, is it really likely there'd be a Mark IV already? Mark III, possibly, but Zimmerman seems to have a faster development schedule than Intel). The original line of EMHs, much to Zimmerman's dismay and what helps explain his distress at Doc's appearance, has been relegated by Starfleet to scrubbing conduits in garbage barges after being bounced out of the medical corps because of defects.

Zimmerman's unyielding resistance to Doc's attempts eventually prompts Barclay to call in Counselor Troi for help. Maybe she can get to the bottom of the friction between these two stubborn personalities. Then again, maybe not. Between the two of them, they have enough stubbornness for 10 people.

From a technical standpoint, "Life Line" is flawlessly executed. Director Terry Windell and the Voyager visual effects team have assembled scores of shots that are so completely convincing that you won't even be thinking about the techniques that allow Picardo to interact with himself on the screen; you will simply believe that there are in fact two Picardos. Of course, Picardo deserves credit for acting these scenes out against what are really voice recordings, stand-ins, or, for all I know, empty air. This must've been a lot of work to pull off, and it shows—but most importantly, it's not evident while you're watching. Like the most "responsible" special effects, the technique is a function of the story and no more. If Picardo had an identical twin playing opposite himself, I get the feeling the scenes would've ended up looking just like they do here. Great work.

As a character study with depth, "Life Line" is not the equal of "Barge of the Dead" or "Pathfinder," but it's high on the Voyager list. It's often quite funny, it's well acted, has sharp dialog and some moments of poignancy. The stubbornness is only part of Zimmerman's problem; the biggest problem is in revisiting the pain of the EMH-1's failure. When defect reports of the original EMH began rolling in, so did nicknames like "Emergency Medical Hothead" and "Extremely Marginal House call." Zimmerman was humiliated and has carried the pain with him for years.

Troi's detour into the plot is perhaps a bit contrived, although the story makes reasonable use of her. Barclay's presence makes more sense given past history; he's the actual link between Doc and Zimmerman, since he was established in "Projections" as having once been Zimmerman's assistant in developing the EMH. In a sudden twist of fate, Doc's program malfunctions and is threatened with destruction unless Zimmerman intervenes, forcing the two into the same room until Zimmerman finally confronts his own agonizing issues. (The fact that Barclay and Troi manufactured the crisis works better than if the plot had arbitrarily done so.)

I also appreciated the little touches here, like the way Zimmerman is surrounded by his intriguing holographic creations, like pet Leonard, a holographic iguana that occasionally talks like a parrot (which is a hoot). And there's Roy, the holographic insect that buzzes around, much to Doc's annoyance until he finally squashes it.

But most interesting is Haley (Tamera Craig Thomas), who is revealed in an unexpected but understated scene to also be a hologram. Her role is crucial because she predates even the EMH; she's Zimmerman's personal assistant and a friend he has grown very attached to. She helps him realize that he cannot turn his back on the EHM.

There's also a brief scene back aboard Voyager that gives me hope about some of the larger issues that deserve to play into the seventh season. Within Starfleet's transmission is an interesting question Admiral Hayes (Jack Shearer) asks Janeway: He wants to know the "status of the Maquis"—a single line that plants a seed which could become an interesting issue for the Voyager family in the upcoming year (whether or not it does is another matter). How will we deal with these things as re-entering the Alpha Quadrant becomes closer to a reality?

The bottom line: "Life Line" is a very likable show with people we can care about. Picardo and the others are constantly watchable; the plot is simple and benefits from good dialog; we feel at home in Zimmerman's lab, which is a triumph of set design; the comic timing is on; and the problem at hand is an empathetic dilemma of one man's troubled feelings. It's hard to believe an episode like this and an episode as incompetent as "Fury" can pass the same studio export test. Here I cared. There I didn't. And that's the secret.

Next week: Ghosts in the machine.

Previous episode: Fury
Next episode: The Haunting of Deck Twelve

◄ Season Index

49 comments on this review

Immanuel
Sat, Sep 15, 2007, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Robert Picardo is such an amazing actor. Whenever I watch "Life Line", it's easy for me to forget that he really *is* playing both of these characters. And as you mentioned, the visual effects are excellent and have held up well over the years. Plus it's always great to have Troi and Barclay in the mix.

I would love to give this episode a perfect 4-star rating, but I can't say that I enjoy it *quite* as much as other Voyager masterpieces like "Caretaker", "Before and After", "Year of Hell", "Timeless", "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Muse" or "Body and Soul", so I agree with your 3.5-star rating.
gion
Sat, May 16, 2009, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
This is another of those shows that leaves me bewildered why the Doctor's program files can't be copied. The whole risk of transferring the data across the galaxy should be a non-issue.
Ken Egervari
Mon, Dec 14, 2009, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
Okay... I haven't read the review, AND I am only 9 minutes into the episode. Even still... I cannot believe Janeway is agreeing to send the doctor. ARE YOU FREAKING MAD! Why can't the characters do anything that make sense on this show? WHY?!

Belanna wants to enduce death for spirtual reasons? SURE! Why not? We don't need out chief engineer if you die!

The doctor wants to save his creator? Sure! We don't need a Chief Medical Officer the next 30,000 light years! Nosiree!

What a joke. What a freaking joke. The show may turn out to be good, but I have lost respect for the premises of these shows. The writers CANNOT create a sound premise for a show to save their life. It either has plot holes, continuity problems or has characters not acting logically and out of character for it to work. Ugh... why do I even bother watching?
Jeff
Thu, Feb 4, 2010, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
Ken, I couldn't agree with you more. While Picardo's dual performance is fun to watch, the fact that the whole crew supposedly agrees to forgo sending/receiving messages from loved ones so the EMH can take an "ego trip" of sorts strikes me as very unrealistic. Just look at how much Harry was whining in "Author, Author" that he wouldn't be able to have comm time in time to wish his mother happy birthday? You're telling 150 or so others would just happily say "Sure, Doc. Go ahead." I think not.

And just the general risk to losing the EMH isn't worth it in the end. Very bad command decision by Janeway to allow it. The EMH should have transmitted a message stating what the cure was and left it at that.

While I've enjoyed Picardo as the EMH, I've never believed the Doctor was anything more than a piece of technology. Letting him (yes, I call him "him") run pell mell when he's the sole medical officer on this ship just doesn't make any sense.

The premise doesn't justify the episode. This would've made more sense (had the series done this) to have the EMH meet up with Zimmerman once Voyager had returned and then show us the bittersweet reunion.
Michael
Wed, Jul 14, 2010, 6:44am (UTC -5)
This was an O.K. episode. Too much talking at times but, as others already said, Picardo carries it thru.

Of course, Ken, Jeff and others already pointed out that the premise of the show is absurd on many levels, but it's an entertaining 40-odd minutes. 2.5-2 stars.
Jay
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Originally, Neelix was supposed to be the breakout character on this series. Instead, it turned out to be the only character even more excruciating than he is.
Jared
Sat, Mar 12, 2011, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
The Enterprise is only 7 years from Jupiter Station...that puts them in Sector 001. Not exactly deep space.
Jared
Sat, Mar 12, 2011, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
And frankly, if after the horror of the Dominion War, Starfleet is still hot and bothered by the likes of the Maquis (who aside from some Voyager crew are long dead), that's pretty sad.
Jared
Sat, Mar 12, 2011, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Also hilarious is that an empath needed to ask which of a flesh and blood person and a hologram is Dr. Zimmerman...
Jared
Sat, Mar 12, 2011, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
The Doctor was on Vulcan on Stardate 53292 (which is only months earlier), but dialogue earlier in the episode said he hadn't left Jupiter Station in over four years. Canon violation within a single script...
Cloudane
Sat, Apr 2, 2011, 12:18pm (UTC -5)
Ooh good point on detecting which guy is which. Presumably she was playing dumb to be polite, they probably do a lot of that as empaths (aside from the tactless and annoying Lwaxana).

To be fair the Captain did argue VERY strongly against sending him so I consider it suitably addressed (it was that or he goes without permission which would raise worse questions about security, or the episode doesn't happen at all). He just happened to raise a fair point about prioritising saving someone's life, and when you think about what Zimmerman does, arguably many other lives too.

Excellent episode, loved every minute. It's good to see the other side again along with Broccoli and Troi, it seems to be returning to continuity again (it has to really, they're 1 season away from home) and we get 2 lots of Picardo. AND some decent commentary on the "realness" of holograms with a sustained uptime. What's not to love.

It's not gobsmacking whilst still being one of the best, so 3.5 seems spot on. Agreeing with many of these ratings as of late.
Iceblink
Sat, Sep 10, 2011, 4:34am (UTC -5)
I greatly enjoyed this episode too, it's always lovely to see Barclay and Troi (TNG was the series I grew up with, that and DS9), but the real star of the show is Robert Picardo however, who proves time and time again that he was the show's greatest asset. Charmingly done, funny and even a little touching. We have a winner.
Cappo
Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 11:27pm (UTC -5)
Holy crap! I didn't even *think* about it until I read this review, but I never even gave the 2 Picardo characters being onscreen together a second thought. And normally effects like that catch my attention immediately. But in this case, I never gave it a thought. I really did just accept that there were two of him and it wasn't until I read this review that I realized I'd done that! A testament to both the tech team and the actor.

About copies... quite frankly, I think the only reason that 'rule' exists is because you could have infinite doctors... who cares if he gets killed, reboot him. That would be weird. It would also be hard to write for a TV show, just send the Doctor first anywhere there might be trouble. It's ok, we'll make more! It would have turned the show into Holographic Captain Scarlet.

It doesn't make sense, but from a TV standpoint I guess they had to. Except in that one episode that pulled the backup copy out of it's aft so he could testify in the future.

Anyway, I liked it. Picardo was good, and that other guy who played Zimmerman was good... oh wait.

Barclay can sometimes be almost painful to watch, (as he attempts to finally spit out a sentence) but since he was among friends or at least acquaintances, he wasn't having a panic attack the entire time, unlike his previous appearance. I liked him better as Murdock, to be honest, but in this episode it all worked. I loved seeing him trying to not laugh when the angry Doc was yelling about what Zimmerman did to the tricorder. lol
Cail Corishev
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 8:28am (UTC -5)
Excellent acting makes it a worthwhile episode, but the premise violates everything the show has told us for 6 years about the doctor's program. Typical Voyager disrespect for its own consistency.

On one hand, they stress that there's room for only a very small amount of data. Janeway even stresses that everyone better keep their notes short, so they can include something from everyone. So we're talking kilobytes, maybe megabytes, certainly not gigabytes.

On the other hand, we've been told that the doctor's program is so unbelievably large and complex that the ship can't possibly make a copy of it. Words like zettabyte have been thrown around. How's that fit in a floppy disk's worth of data?

Just to make it obvious: the entire crew could have dictated their notes to the doctor, and he'd have no trouble remembering them and taking them with him as a tiny fraction of his memory. But this never occurs to anyone.

The worst thing about Voyager's inconsistencies is that they're so often unnecessary. Why have the "very short message" premise at all? The suddenness of the discovery was enough to keep their messages short anyway, if they didn't like the idea of allowing too much information to be shared. The doctor could have gone, along with the messages they could throw together quickly, and it makes sense. And I just thought that up while I was typing. Why couldn't the writers?
Jack
Fri, Jan 25, 2013, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
From the establishing shot that opens the episode, Jupiter Station looks like it's insanely close to Jupiter...
Leah
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
Loved it! Beautifully done.
Nancy
Sun, Aug 18, 2013, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
An entertaining and enjoyable episode. I agree that there are several plot holes, though. One that bothered me and hasn't yet been addressed is the fate of the other EMH Mark 1s... scrubbing plasma conduits on waste vessels. That's completely ridiculous. If you need a hologram to do that kind of duty, you can whip up a basic one designed for simplistic menial labor rather than re-programming an extremely sophisticated medical matrix. If you wanted an ice scraper, would you go dig out your old iPod, or would you actually use something designed to scrape ice?

Indeed, considering how holograms can only function in areas where there is holo-projection equipment, why even use any hologram to do such tasks?

It was a ridiculous contrivance in order to get laughs and maximize Zimmerman's humiliation but it didn't make sense, even though I was granting the typical suspension of disbelief I allot to the use of holograms on ST. They don't need to play by the rules of modern technology, but they at least should play by rules they themselves established.

Picardo's delightful performances and the great character moments allowed me to enjoy the episode anyway, but every time that was brought up, I was jerked out of the moment.
azcats
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
I am amazed! such a great episode and it only has 17 comments? and 5 of them are from Jared?

i loved this episode. one of my favorites. I loved the last line between Z and the doc about dropping a line next time.

i dont know why so many people harp on "plot holes." geez, we know in real life that the captain could not send her doc 30,000 light years in fears of losing him. but it is a SHOW. they had an idea and they have to find someway to explain how to get the doc to the jupitor station.

in truth, if you are going to blow away the plot holes, at least come up with ANOTHER scenario to do the same episode.

i am saddened that most of the comments on this show are about plot holes and not how much fun this episode was.

the holograms, the witty banter between the doc and z. z trying to fix the doc. reason why z hates the doc. just brilliant story telling. entertaining and funny.

4 stars!
Nancy
Tue, Aug 20, 2013, 1:10am (UTC -5)
@azcats - The reason people (myself included) bring up plot holes is because, as I implied earlier, it makes it harder to get caught up in the fantasy when plot weaknesses are blatant and egregious. It makes the show less enjoyable. Writers typically understand that and do their best to avoid such holes, so when they don't, it's disappointing.

However, I agree that it's a shame a good episode as so many negative comments and that I contributed to that. Sometimes it's easier to get caught up in the negativity even when you enjoy the episode, so I'll throw in a few more positives.

I loved seeing Troi again even if it was a bit contrived, and I thought the show did a terrific job of quickly and effectively painting a portrait of Zimmerman that made you feel like you understood his motivations. He's so freaking obnoxious and unsympathetic at the beginning (just because you're dying doesn't mean you get to treat everyone else like crap), but by the end, you understand where his pain is coming from.

I also liked how they explained why only the first EMHs looked like Zimmerman, something that I hadn't given much thought to before although I remember on DS9 that they were going to model one after Bashir before finding out about his enhancements, and wound up going with Andy Dick (and what a huge step down that was, amirite ladies?)

I don't typically "rate" shows but I'll go ahead and say 3 and a quarter stars (wow, just had a Star Search flashback).
SpiceRak2
Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I am a huge fan of Robert Picardo's acting. He draws you in and keeps you there. I was saddened to see the episode come to an end.

I am a huge fan of Dwight Schultz, too. Barclay is one of the genius characters of Star Trek. Think about it: every other character, regardless of their role in the varying plots, good or bad, is overwhelmingly confident; confident in problem solving, tech analysis, scheming, morality, protocol, politics, war-mongering, you name it. Everyone KNOWS what they are doing at all times. Yes, there may be conflicted characters based on the storyline at the time but confidence is never in question. Then, along comes Reggie...he's the opposite of anything Starfleet as far as confidence. Yes, he's brilliant, but he is the one character that doesn't believe that his genius is enough to inspire confidence. In this way, he is so much more relatable to all of us.
Niall
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 11:49am (UTC -5)
The notion that outmoded holograms would be used to do manual work, as presented in this episode, is completely ridiculous, for the same reason that the machines supposedly using humans as "batteries" in The Matrix is ridiculous. It costs far more energy to run a hologram or keep a person alive than that hologram or person can possibly generate in return.
Chris
Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 11:30am (UTC -5)
It is odd, as Jared noted, that Troi can't tell the real Zimmerman from the Doctor, especially since in dialogue not five minutes later, not sensing emotion is the reason she gives for being able to tell that Haley isn't a person.

Now we could assume that the enhancements over the years have made the Doctor have genuine emotions (though unlike Data, he seemed to have them from Day 1), but Haley seemed every bit as capable of matching him emotion for emotion, so who knows what is going on here.
Joseph S.
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
On that note, may I give a special word of praise to the actress who played "Haley", Tamera Craig Thomas.

Note the apparent contrast between her face and her voice when she confronts Zimmerman on his view of holograms. Her face remains, with a few slight exceptions, somewhat emotionless, expressionless. Her gaze as she recites the date when Zimmerman canceled his lecture on Vulcan is as if she were simply reading a log entry.

But her voice has such a deep, wounded cry to it, as if she were about to burst into tears at any moment. And even here, what does she do? She doesn't raise her voice, but continues speaking meekly, humbly, and then physically approaches her creator—as if, even though he's "offended" her, she still wants to be close to him because she cares for him so much, with an innocent and childlike love, and even knows the kind of man he truly is, or can be.

It's not every day that a guest star can believably pull off such a wide range of emotion. Well done!
Cloudane
Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
Regarding plot holes, in sci-fi and fantasy most can be explained away one way or another either in the story or in your head. But sometimes with the really deep plot holes, it can come across as laziness.

I think if you're going to be lazy and not care about plot inconsistencies, at least be honest about it and turn it into a humorous thing (see Doctor Who for many examples of "wibbly wobbly hand waving stuff")
Caine
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
@Joseph S.: Your powers of perception are impressive, Jedi Master! I hadn't noticed it, but upon reading your review of Thomas' performance I have to agree with you: her performance is stellar - understated but skillfully excecuted in such a way, that it carries a "ninja impact".

Reagrding th episode as a whole: I'm afraid I'm surprisinlgy unimpressed. "Surprisingly" because the script (apart from the huge plotholes) is actually really good, especially the dialog - ad because the acting is generally pretty good.

However ...

Normally I adore Picardo in the role of Doc. BUt in this epsidoe, as Doc vs. Zimmerman, I didn't buy it. It seemed overacted and annoying to me. I don't know, maybe it's because of the bad timing in the dialog between Zimmerman and Doc, quite clerly caused by the technical challnegs caused by having the same actor talking to himself - because, contrary to Jammer, I'm not at ALL convinced by the scenes where Picardo plays up against Picardo. The timing is, quite simply, off. It bugged to the point where it, more or less, ruined the entire episode for me, however great I otyherwise find Picardo, the script, the dialog, Schultz as Barclay and Sirtis as Troi (yowza, Marina Sirtis looked FIT, better than EVER!)

To me, this epsiode seems like a great idea, excellent actors and a really good script (save the plot holes) ruined by the techs working on the Zimmerman/Doc scenes (and possibly the director and the editor).

A casualty of the general mess that is "Star Trek: Voyager".
Nissa
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
...Um, am I the only one who really hates Doc? He's my Neelix, and I really hate watching his selfish antics. Everything he does is "me, me, me!" and this episode is no exception. He doesn't even go so far as to say "all my fellow crewmates gave up communications with their families just so I could come and help you." Instead, it's just Doc being self-centered, with his self-centered creator. Oh joy.

Also, Deanna is more useless than usual. In TNG, the plot usually took her more seriously, and at least pretended that her banal advice had merit. this time she just sort of freaked out and gave up after maybe ten minutes of actually trying. Weird.
Nathan
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Although I enjoyed this episode for the acting and characters, I tend to agree that the premise and the reuse of the Mark1 as menial labor makes me cringe. What is this- Red Dwarf? I don't mind humor, but this whole style of cheekiness is a little extreme. The actors definitely make it work despite the holes.
I have said this is from my previous reviews, but it begs the question if there was ever a writer's Bible to keep things consistent.
Cloudane
Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Hehe, Red Dwarf :) Quite true..

I think the problem is, it was just that - it was a sitcom style "and those guys are scrubbing plasma conduits, hahaha!" (or mining or whatever it was they ended up doing) but it's totally out of context in Trek, which wasn't a comedy but rather supposed to have a bit more realism / believability.

I guess that's why Trek's other attempts at comedy (episodes involving heavy use of Ferengi, Mrs Troi etc) tend to fall flat as well. They're just so out of place that they feel 'off'
Ric
Tue, May 27, 2014, 3:11am (UTC -5)
I am usually very fast in criticizing Voyager due to relying on episodes' plots that are infuriatingly bad.

However, in this one I have mixed feelings. Of course I though "how the hack can the captain let him go again in this suicide-like mission". I myself complained about that in the first episode they sent him. But thinking about it, it is funny that the same people that like the character development of The Doc, who debate his humanity and etc, often complain about the captain allowing him to do what he wants.

Sure, the captain has made a ton of misled command decisions over the seasons. But I don't think that respecting the freedom of will of someone who has gained the status of conscious being is one these mistakes. Out of character and out of Trek morality it would be to deny him such freedom and such rights. What we would be criticizing as well if that was what happened.

So, the "premise" of this episode does not have the huge issue that many have being appointing. Maybe only a bit more drama should have been put on the issue. Overall, this episode was in fact quite strong, moving, fun and, why not, brought still more human development to Doc's character.
Sean
Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 1:12am (UTC -5)
My big issue here is that Troi, after trying to work with Zimmerman and the Doctor about halfway through the episode shouts out that they're both jerks. That doesn't really seem like something an experienced counselor would do, much less Troi. I'm no counselor, of course, so it could all be some elaborate scheme.
Jack
Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
Nissa, I can't stand the Doctor either, and at his worst he can make an episode of a show I otherwise like be nearly unwatchable. He's similar in some ways to Sheldon Cooper on BBT, another excruciating character that can make some episodes of a show I otherwise like unsuitable for repeat viewings.
colincostello
Sun, Sep 14, 2014, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
I reaaly enjoyed this episode, It confirms my opinion the Robert Picardo is by far the besr actor ever to wear a Star Fleet uniform. If only the rest of the cast could match this high standard of acting. The only one who can even come close to his level is 7 and their scenes are dekightful to watch.
Colin
Chris
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 10:58pm (UTC -5)
Nissa said: "...Um, am I the only one who really hates Doc? He's my Neelix, and I really hate watching his selfish antics. Everything he does is "me, me, me!" and this episode is no exception. He doesn't even go so far as to say "all my fellow crewmates gave up communications with their families just so I could come and help you." Instead, it's just Doc being self-centered, with his self-centered creator. Oh joy."

Nissa, I hate him as much as you. And you made a good point. Doc didn't say "all my fellow crewmates gave up communications with their families just so I could come and help you." Instead he says "I left my crew without a surgeon so I could come and help you."
DLPB
Tue, Jan 13, 2015, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
This episode is not a 4 star or anywhere near it. First, the whole "crisis" is manufactured and forced. Zimmerman would not be behaving in that manner. No scientist like him would behave in that manner given the situation.

It's got some humour to it, and is fun, but it's just a regular filler episode. And Troi? Please... we had enough of that useless character on TNG.
Stuart
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
This episode takes place sometime after First Contact. I thought when Admiral Hayes' ship was destroyed in First Contact, he would have gone down with the ship. Seemingly not because he's still around! Maybe the admiral is a hologram! Or like Weyoun...Weyoun-5! Maybe he faked his own demise Section 31-style. Or he was the first one to the escape pod.
John
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 2:13am (UTC -5)
Plothole: Zimmerman says he hasn't left Jupiter Station in "over 4 years." But he was on Deep Space Nine just 3 years ago in the 5th season episode "Dr. Bashir, I Presume?"
Chrome
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
Every once in awhile, Voyager has a great episode, and we're reminded why we still watch this show. This episode goes beyond great. Unlike the earlier "Pathfinder", Mirina Sirtis is intelligently brought into the story. She administers therapy; my mind is blown. She does more real counseling work in this single episode than she ever did in The Next Generation.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What a great outing for The Doctor! I love how Janeway tried to quash The Doctor's idea, and then we got to hear a very compelling speech as to why to let the Doctor go lightyears from Voyager into the Alpha Quadrant. Likewise, The Doctor having to put up with a very ornery (and justifiably ornery) Zimmerman.

What's great about this episode is that it really explains why The Doctor is special when compared to other EMHs. Zimmerman is an engineer, and doesn't see past the programming to see the Doctor like a person the way we do. But the Doctor's own personality, efforts, and quirks show has exceptional he is. It's basically a codifier for the character.

The one thing that didn't impress me was the Marquis B-story with Janeway. It seems like a simple response of "We've let bygones be bygones" would've been sufficient. I don't see why Janeway would need to belabor that point. Surely her field commissions would hold even under Starfleet scrutiny.

Oh well, a minor point in an otherwise superb character story.

4+ stars.
TRIP
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
4 stars for Robert Picardo alone. I remember looking up Picardo to see if he had a twin after watching this episode the first time. Excellent job.

I can understand Troi's frustration in this episode. She is trying to help a hologram she can't read. She is used to being able to read people's emotions to aide her. Remember how useless she felt in TNG when she lost her mind reading ability in "The Loss".

Off topic: When they get back to Earth, they should hookup Barclay with Celes from Good Shepherd. A perfect match if there ever was one.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Colour me the contrarian, but I didn't get along with this at all. Setting up a contrivance so that Picardo can chew the scenery frantically with himself is a cheap shot, and to me it gets old real fast - basically two arrogant assholes shouting at each other, with the Doctor showing a really weird approval seeking mentality ("I just want you to say you're proud of me, Daddy" or somesuch). Awful.

The return of Barclay and Troi also smacks of another ratings stunt. Probably the best thing about this episode was Haley - a strong and subtle performance that showed what nuance might have brought - and the merest hint of trouble ahead back on Voyager. 2 stars.
Chrome
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
@Diamond Dave

Dave, let's be honest here: All Voyager episodes smack of ratings stunts. In fact, The Rock makes a guest appearance and layeths the Smacketh down on Voyager.

Also, this episode was anything but cheap. Getting a single actor to have a dramatic exchange with someone who isn't physically there is not a simple task as Jammer's review explains. I'd be curious how you rated "Brothers" or "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", the latter of which basically sets up this episode.
Skeptical
Sun, Apr 3, 2016, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
For most of the episode, I was agreeing with Diamond Dave and the other contrarians here (Diamond Dave and the Contrarians, sounds like the name of a 60s era rock band...). I've been more skeptical of EMH-centered stories here than most (even though Latent Image is my favorite Voyager ep), and so doubling the fun of having two Picardos around isn't necessarily my cup of tea. And the way Zimmerman acted annoyed me almost as much as he annoyed everyone else. It's one thing to be a condescending jerk all the time. It's another thing to refuse to consent to the only possible cure that can treat you because... uh, reasons?

But, surprisingly enough, I found myself agreeing that the reason they gave actually did make sense. The sheer humiliation of his failure with the EMH-1, particularly given how self-centered he is, may very well have been enough to throw away his one chance for survival. It's clear he has issues expressing himself (he is Barclay's friend, even though he treats him like a jerk, and does really care about Haley, even asking Starfleet to allow her to stay "alive" afterwards, despite never showing that to her), so running away from his failure is conceivable. It also hurts the fact that, in part, the failure reminds him of his OWN failure. It's clear one of the problems of the EMH-1 was the attitude, which is easily linked to Zimmerman's own irascible nature (the Season 2 comment that he was programmed by Barclay notwithstanding). So people criticizing the EMH-1's medical skill or usefulness? Well, Zimmerman might take it personally, and probably does, but that can be fixed in later models. People criticizing the EMH-1's attitude? yes, it can be fixed in later models... but it also is a direct criticism of him, and he can't be fixed.

Given that humiliation (even if the humiliation is only in his head; it's clear that Starfleet still respects him if he can keep making a Mark IV and has other projects), it makes sense that he wants nothing to do with the Doctor. It also makes sense that, when he needs to fix the EMH, he also tries to fix the attitude. He is a man facing death, with (presumably) no children or family to carry on his line. His only "child" left is this Doctor, who will forever imprint on everyone the fear that Zimmerman feels deep inside - that everyone hates him because of his attitude. If he's going to die, let him change that part of the legacy first. Let him be remembered in his last EMH as a friendly, warm personality. It's the tiniest bit of redemption he can have.

But it's enough to make him realize that, well, he cares about redemption in the first place. And the best way to do that is to be alive. Most of these humiliations are probably in his head, appearing due to his huge ego. In reality, both Haley and Voyager's EMH are huge accomplishments for him. Maybe, when the Doctor started refusing getting his personality changed, Zimmerman saw something of Haley in him... an independent mind. Maybe he saw that, if this EMH did have such an independent mind and wasn't just being annoying because he was programmed to be, maybe his treatment would work. Maybe it wouldn't be a humiliation to be saved by what he deemed as his greatest failure.

So Zimmerman's plight did work for me. The EMH's plight, well, not so much. I mean, I can kinda get the "Daddy doesn't love me!" angle to some extent, but the shouting matches and sulking in the holodeck? It got a bit too much for me. Does it really make sense that the Doctor would get so angry just because one of his patients refused treatment? Does it make sense to get so angry because his daddy was a jerk? I know the Doc/Zimmerman scenes were supposed to be the highlights, but it kinda just doubles the annoyance of the character. Don't get me wrong, Picardo did a fine job. But it annoyed the heck out of me.

The coincidence that the Doc's program started to stabilize also annoyed me as being contrived, but I guess that wasn't the point. So kudos to the episode for not falling into a cliche there. That, and her conversation with Haley, was probably the best use of Deanna in this episode. Certainly a lot better than a trained psychiatrist yelling at her patients and storming out within two minutes of meeting them.

By the way, one annoyance I'm finding with Voyager that I realize stretches all the way back to the second season, if not the first: what's with the constant scenes of Janeway changing her mind when a crewmember asks her something? It's always the exact same format. 1) Crewmember requests something. 2) Janeway says no. 3) Crewmember pleads that it's important. 4) Janeway says that it's too dangerous or whatever. 4) Crewmember gives a heartfelt story of why it's important to them. 5) Janeway pauses and then agrees. Every. Single. Time. I get that they want to acknowledge the risk involved in sending the Doc as well as to provide some character insight or whatever, but the scene plays out the same every time! Surely I can't be the only one sick of it by now. Is that really all it takes to change Janeway's mind about stuff; a sob story from your childhood or wanting recognition from your creator or claiming your mom is in Klingon hell or whatever you can come up with?

So on the whole, I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. It was a good episode, mainly due to the focus on Zimmerman as well as strong guest roles in Barclay, Troi, and Haley. The Doctor's side was much weaker overall, but at least an acceptable idea. Better than Fury though, that's for sure...

Meanwhile, one tiny nitpick: "We're nearly 7 light years from you." Really, what kind of superimportant mission would the freaking Enterprise be doing 7 light years from Earth? The ONLY star system that fits that criteria is Luhman 16, a pair of brown dwarfs with certainly no life on board. You would think that the citizens of Earth would have fully explored the 3rd closest star system to them by now...
icarus32soar
Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 11:06am (UTC -5)
What a pity they ruined a potentially stellar episode with Troi and Barclay. This insistence on cross pollinating episodes with characters from other series is vexing in the extreme. Barclay should be locked up permanently in a holodeck and Troi exiled to Betazed. Hayley should have been given more screen time and character development. She's the absolute highlight of the episode. And the holographic fly doing microsurveillance.
Yanks
Thu, Jun 16, 2016, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Skeptical,

You've represented my thoughts on this episode to a tee.

I usually skip this one because there is just too much ham to chew off the bone.

Picardo is fine when he's not he center of an episode (there are good ones of course, but those are comedic) but this one brought be back to 'Darkling' WRT our Doc. ... and of course this one is EMH headache X2. Double condescending doesn't an episode make.

Nothing gained except Doc now knows that whoa-is-me-Doc is proud of him?

2 stars because there is some good fun in there.

Chrome
Thu, Jun 16, 2016, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
@Yanks

I actually like how Picardo's Doctor seems *less* condescending than his creator, Zimmerman. We can conclude that while Zimmerman was an eccentric who even programmed his EMH to be like him, yet the program could socialize and grow in ways that Zimmerman couldn't. Perhaps Zimmerman even recognized his personality as being caustic (He's did mention it in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume"), but since he couldn't really fix it, he did the next best thing and create an evolved version of himself that could.

This one feel's like TNG's "Brothers" to me. Except instead of the Doctor reaching out to the "son", the situation is reversed.
Yanks
Thu, Jun 16, 2016, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
Chrome,

I get your point, but I guess I look at this like the current Sherlock (British series) and Elementary (American series).

I understand brilliant and eccentric, but that doesn't need to make you a prick.

I tried to watch Sherlock and couldn't get over Cumby's Holmes. Elementary is a far superior series to me because Holmes isn't a dickhead.
Voyager Fan
Fri, Jul 8, 2016, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode. I did, however, wonder at whether it was a good idea to send the ship's Chief Medical Officer on such a mission, particularly considering that the backup doctor is also the main pilot. I guess if the ship is getting attacked, Paris would have to first fly the ship and then run down to sickbay and treat the wounded. And then if additional enemies attack, go running back to the bridge to fly the ship. Hope he's good at multi-tasking. :)

Of course it is true that the EMH has saved the lives of many of the crewmembers on Voyager and he wouldn't exist if it weren't for Zimmerman so I guess it could be argued that they did owe him something.

Overall, a good episode. And the amusing scene where Troi calls both of them jerks or says that they're acting like jerks (I can't remember the exact words) and the holographic iguana also says "jerks" is one of my favorite scenes.
Nicholas Ryan
Sun, Aug 28, 2016, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Why does Troi say they're nearly 7 light years away like that's very far?
Adam
Thu, Sep 1, 2016, 9:09pm (UTC -5)
I liked the premise of the episode, but it grew tiresome after so many scenes with the Picardos shouting at each other. Zimmerman's behavior was not believable at all. I would think a scientist, especially one near death, would be eager to exhaust every treatment option.

The constant references that the EMH Mark 1's were scrubbing plasma whatevers was ridiculous. The programs could be upgraded or deleted. That's like saying "my Windows Vista is outdated so I have it relegated to being my calculator."
mephyve
Fri, Sep 9, 2016, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
I don't say this often for voyager. Excellent episode (****)
Reg tells Troi that he wants the best (counsellor) Then why was he calling Troi? If he had said 'the best looking counsellor' I'd understand.

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