Star Trek: Voyager

"Author, Author"

****

Air date: 4/18/2001
Teleplay by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You are about to embark on a remarkable journey. You will take on the role of a medical assistant aboard the starship Voyeur. Your job will be to assist the chief medical officer, and learn to tolerate his overbearing behavior and obnoxious bedside manner. Remember, patience is a virtue." — Paris' novel introduction

In brief: I do believe we have a winner.

The fictional novel in question is an interactive holodeck program about an emergency medical hologram that is forced to become the chief medical officer on board the starship Vortex when the Vortex is stranded in the Delta Quadrant. The story follows the Vortex EMH through an existence of hardship and oppression by the Vortex crew, who see him as a piece of technology and absolutely nothing more.

The holo-novel was written by the Doctor, and it's the center of a controversy in "Author, Author," which for me goes down as one of Voyager's all-around most entertaining episodes. It exists simultaneously as a laugh-out-loud comedy-satire, a slyly perceptive analysis of personalities, and a thoughtful drama that argues the nature of existence and the rights of a group that I for one have been pondering for some time. In addition, there's a plot about Voyager now having limited daily contact with the Alpha Quadrant, and the chance for the crew to finally have synchronous, if brief, discussions with loved ones back home.

"Author, Author" borrows numerous ideas from other episodes and spins them together into a single story that, amazingly, makes a whole lot of sense. It plays like a successful melding of "Worst Case Scenario," "Living Witness," "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," "Pathfinder," "Flesh and Blood," and, of course, and perhaps most notably, TNG's famous "The Measure of a Man" (1989). How so many familiar elements are successfully recycled here to seem new is beyond me, but there you have it. Does this episode tackle too much? No, because the narrative is clean and the story is able to do justice to everything it puts forward . (It's unlike the recent "Prophecy," which tackled a million elements with little regard for telling a competent overall story.)

Doc's interactive novel, titled Photons Be Free, is met with great enthusiasm by Bolian publisher Broht (Barry Gordon) back on Earth. Broht wants Doc's story right away, so he can run it in holosuites worldwide. Doc still has some minor revisions to make, but he finds a brewing controversy on his hands once he lets Paris preview the program.

Doc's novel allows the holodeck patron to play the part of the Vortex EMH from a first-person perspective. It depicts the Vortex crew as a savage bunch whose members all have a common trait — their rude and thoughtless regard for the EMH. Like in "Living Witness," these crew members bear a striking resemblance to the Voyager crew members, except with a revisionist historian's twist. Chakotay, now a Bajoran, orders the EMH around and calls him "hologram," while Janeway (named "Captain Jenkins") shoots an injured crewman dead in order to force the EMH to treat a less seriously injured crewman now, just because it suits her.

This first stage of "Author, Author" is compelling on several levels. First is the fact that Doc's story itself, while way melodramatic, is engaging. Second is that we see the similarities between the Vortex crew and the Voyager crew, and certain traits have interesting perceptiveness behind the exaggeration. And third is that we see the differences. My, oh my, the differences. For Doc's purposes, exaggeration, I fear, defeats perceptiveness. But for "Author, Author's" purposes, it's brilliant.

The story within the story is packed with hugely entertaining little details. I got quite a kick out of seeing the walls of Jenkins' ready room decorated with antique firearms; this is a captain with a warrior's background. Meanwhile, Doc's mobile emitter is a big, heavy device that must be worn like a backpack. And the way the names are slightly changed is clever: Lt. Paris becomes Lt. Marseilles, with a mustache that even Torres can't help but laugh at.

What's disturbing for Doc's friends, however, is how the depiction of these characters hits too close to home. At one point, Marseilles sends the EMH on a bogus medical emergency so he can have a liaison with a female "patient" in one of the sickbay bio-beds. Marseilles lines the women up for "medical treatment" one after another. Paris was once, long ago, depicted as a mild woman-chaser, but he was more bark than bite. What bothers Paris in seeing Marseilles' actions is whether Doc really thinks of him as that way. Call it passive-aggressive storytelling.

Harry's character is a hypochondriac. Tuvok is a human with goatee. Torres is extremely abrasive toward the EMH; Roxann Dawson finally gets the scene she never got in "Living Witness" (where she did not appear because of her real-life pregnancy). The only sympathizer is "Three of Eight"; Doc has always seen Seven as one who understands the concept of looking in at humanity from the outside.

Execution-wise, I liked the way we get various chapters of the story as seen by various Voyager crew members playing as the participants. The whole idea, in fact, of holodeck story publishing is nicely depicted here; it seems like a logical 24th-century story medium.

This holodeck stuff is fun, but with a message. As the story unfolds in front of her, reaction shots of a thoughtful Janeway make a difference. There's a drastically serious undercurrent about Doc telling a tale of an oppressed EMH who, ultimately, is erased by his shipmates.

Even better is how when Doc's friends confront him about how the Alpha Quadrant will associate the Vortex with Voyager, the story maintains a cool head and presents all the arguments. Doc's argument in a nutshell is: The persons and events in this holodeck program are fictitious; any similarity to actual persons is purely coincidental. Fine and good, but audiences will certainly assume elements of truth were key in the writer's motivation, which brings up some interesting points about the responsibilities of an author making commentary.

In fact, Doc doesn't think he is being oppressed, and he doesn't intend the Vortex crew to be mistaken for the Voyager crew, even though both are stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Doc says, "I write what I know." Unfortunately, that's part of the problem, since one would immediately wonder if he has come to know firsthand this oppression he's writing about. Getting to the heart of that matter, Doc's motivation is to draw attention to his EMH Mark 1 "brothers" in the Alpha Quadrant who were banished to a menial existence because of their design flaws — which makes this an interesting and logical follow-up to the events of "Life Line" and "Flesh and Blood."

But Voyager's crew is caught in the middle, and Doc intends to stick to his guns rather than compromise the message of his story. This leads to what is the funniest scene, when Doc discovers his program has been replaced with Paris' retort narrative — Taste of Your Own Medicine style. Paris inserts himself as the narrator: "You are about to embark on a remarkable journey. You will take on the role of a medical assistant aboard the starship Voyeur. Your job will be to assist the chief medical officer, and learn to tolerate his overbearing behavior and obnoxious bedside manner. Remember, patience is a virtue."

This is standout comedy writing and acting, because it's funny while also reflective and in touch with aspects of the real Doctor's character, which it then mutates into a well-conceived comic caricature. The writers do a great job writing the scene as if Paris had written it with sardonic mode fully engaged, and Robert Picardo plays the scene with glee. We see a version of Doc who complains about missing his "tee time," flirts shamelessly with Seven of Nine, and has a hilarious air of self-importance. And the desperately lame comb-over is a nice touch. The acting and comic timing here are dead on; this has to be Voyager's funniest moment since "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy." It's more than just a gag, because it grows out of our familiarity with the characters.

Doc confronts Paris, furious. Paris shoots back, "Don't be ridiculous! That character is not you!" which is funny precisely because it's so absurd and proves the point. To make a long story short (too late), suffice it to say Doc agrees to change the people's names and appearances to distance the similarities between Vortex and Voyager. He comes to this decision after some objective suggestions from Neelix, who is apt at convincing Doc to protect his friends while still praising the creativity of the story (and I liked the way this scene recognized Doc's ego without faulting him for it; he feeds off the praise, no doubt about it, but that's because he wants to be more than just an EMH).

The central crisis in the story appears when Doc asks Broht to hold off on publishing the novel until he can make the changes. Broht, unwilling to wait and acting against a promise he had made earlier, tells Doc the story is already playing in holosuites. Doc demands it be recalled immediately, which Broht tells him he will not do, because Doc has no legal rights as a writer under Federation law, because he's a hologram.

Talk about your irony of ironies — especially given the subject matter of Doc's story.

This leads to a formal objection and a hearing where Doc argues his case to a Federation arbiter (Joseph Campanella). Of course, we've been here and done this with TNG's "The Measure of a Man," where the case was made for Data's rights as an artificial intelligence. But even if this is somewhat derivative, it features sensible arguments and serves the story every bit as well. (Though I must confess I'm not sure about Broht's motives in rushing the novel to publication and ignoring Doc's requests; why play hardball unless there's a financial motive, which supposedly doesn't exist in the Federation?) While I don't feel the need to discuss this aspect of the episode as much, I fully enjoyed it. Given what we saw in "Flesh and Blood," it makes a lot of sense to give this issue a full hearing on Voyager's record. It can actually go down as a common theme that played itself through the season, and that's very reassuring.

The hearing serves as a first step for hologram rights, giving the Doctor the rights as an artist with control over his work, but it's also real-world plausible by not going further than that; the arbiter acknowledges that the rights of holograms is an issue that must be examined further and not decided based on this one case. Sounds realistic to me.

I liked the final scene too, which takes place "four months later" and shows dozens of identical EMH-1s working in a mine. One of them suggests to another that in his spare time he take a look at an interesting program called Photons Be Free. Like in "Flesh and Blood," there's a sense that there's a revolution brewing in the backs of these holograms' minds; perhaps they are awakening to the idea of having greater potential. The scene plays itself with a note of whimsy, which is the perfect touch, leaving us wondering where this issue might go from here, but having us assured that it will indeed go somewhere, even if we never actually see it again on-screen.

The subplot involving the crew talking to family members is given less screen time, but it gets the job done within the time constraints. We get a Harry scene that manages to be funny while keeping perfectly in tune with Goofy Harry material. Harry talks to his parents back home and his mother asks why he hasn't been promoted, then says she'll write a letter to captain Janeway. The transmission is cut off before Harry can emphasize "No!" Poor pathetic Harry.

There's also a nice follow-up to "Lineage" in the form of an uneasy but civil conversation between B'Elanna and her father. B'Elanna's father wants to try. So does B'Elanna. This is actually a touching sentiment not pushed by melodrama, but simply two reasonable people who are willing to work things out slowly, over time.

Finally, there's a scene where Seven talks to a relative back on Earth, an aunt, and the conversation reveals just how alien Seven is to the idea of having ties to blood relatives. Where might this go before the series is over?

Given everything it accomplishes and the skill it shows in accomplishing it, entertainingly, I'm willing to call "Author, Author" one of the series' best installments. I was genuinely involved in everything going on from beginning to end.

Next week: More Delta Quadrant aliens that have crossed paths with human history. Gee, what a coincidence.

Previous episode: Q2
Next episode: Friendship One

◄ Season Index

66 comments on this review

Ospero
Thu, Feb 7, 2008, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
Brilliant. I just find it sad that Doc and Seven seemed to be the only characters for whom the writers of Voyager could find meaningful, innovative stories (exempting "Barge of the Dead", of course).

As an aside: Is this the first time the "nutshell" part is a direct reprieve from another episode? "Prey" is introduced with the exact same words.
Joe
Sun, Apr 6, 2008, 5:39pm (UTC -6)
If Voyager has proofed one thing. It's that it could deliver impressive single episodes. This is certainly one of them. The acting is superb, the story is gripping till the last second. It is just brilliant television.

paul
Wed, Jul 2, 2008, 9:41pm (UTC -6)
I just couldn't quite get into this one. It reminded me too much of "Measure of a Man", which I loved, but didn't leave me with the same feeling.
mike
Sat, Aug 2, 2008, 11:46am (UTC -6)
I guess Kes was never a crew member, or part of the medical team, or the Doc's best friend on board. She must have been erased from his memory....
Stefan
Thu, Sep 25, 2008, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
Hey Mike, by this time you should know that Kes would get no respect from the writers. Besides, it appears the Doc's novel was about the Voyager at that time.
EP
Sun, Mar 8, 2009, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
@ Paul:
I suppose the difference between this and "Measure of a Man" is that "MOAM" is played straight the entire way through, while AA plays as pure comedy for the first half, drama as the second. It's a bit of a jarring transition.
Secondly, the "rights" being trampled upon are degrees different. In "MOAM," CDR Maddox wants to disassemble Data for his study, a violation of one's own body. In "AA," the Doc is essentially embroiled in the middle of a civil tort. There's not as much "drama" when we're talking about story rights.
Still, good episode, especially with TP's "Revised" story.
Matt
Sat, Apr 4, 2009, 2:00am (UTC -6)
Paris' re-write of the program is probably the funniest moment of Star Trek ever. Picardo is hilarious.
CJ
Wed, Dec 30, 2009, 9:35am (UTC -6)
I think my favorite part(s) of this episode is when the music in the holonovel suddenly cuts after the narrative (with the computer sound). A small, but brilliant little detail that most people would miss, but to me, adds just a bit more to the comedic end of things.

One of my favorites of the series though, well written, acted and directed. Great job!
Jason
Mon, Apr 26, 2010, 5:23am (UTC -6)
In a word - "Excellent"...
Michael
Wed, Jul 21, 2010, 5:52am (UTC -6)
I thought Paris was really sweet when he relinquished his token to give Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim a chance to talk to his mom on her birthday. See, it's short moments like those that I really enjoy and find far more poignant that protracted boring relationship "building" or "exploration."

I love what they did to Acoushla Moya... - looks even more ridiculous as the Sitting Bull (pun intended) than with his usual tattoo. I LOVED Seven as a brunette!

Too bad Paris had to get all mushy about earning The Doc's respect *rolls eyes*

What I really disliked is the unstated underlying foundations of this episode, which are that The Doctor is basically a sentient, self-aware entity. He ponders, feels and evaluates things, including abstract concepts. Yet, HELLOOOOOOO, he's a...

...

...

...

H-O-L-O-G-R-A-M!!!!!!!!!

It's extremely difficult for me to consider even the possibility of perceiving a hologram as a person. A hologram can be decompiled and its existence is not autonomous. Its knowledge and sense of ethics are not innate. At the same time, someone/something that produces an original product using own faculties should retain legal right to it. The question is whether The Doctor's faculties are his/its own or are they derived from the original programming, in which case it's the programmer (Dr. Zimmerman) who should be endowed with the authorship rights. Quite an interesting argument...

BTW, the question of what/who legally constitutes a "person" - a matter of literally intergalactic consequence - is considered by one single person? What the hell kind of legal system is THAT!?!

And BanotherW, they couldnt install holoemiters on Voyager but they have them in dilithium mines!?!

But yeah, an EXCELLENT episode, well deserving of the four stars!
Ospero
Tue, Dec 28, 2010, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
Say, is there anything missing from this review? That first paragraph doesn't read like an introduction at all. "The fictional novel in question" - huh? That sentence needs a paragraph or two before it to make sense.
Bobbers
Mon, Jan 10, 2011, 5:45am (UTC -6)
@Ospero it follows on from the quote at the top of the page.

I love this episode.
Cloudane
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
How do you know that WE aren't just programmed machines, that happen to use this flesh and blood system? In any case, in the story's context I most certainly do see the Doc as "as real" as any organic person. He's made up of different things physically, but the Trek universe stance (used in a lot of sci-fi) seems to be that once you make AI sophisticated enough it becomes as self aware and "real" as anyone else. It'll be interesting when (if) AI gets this realistic in real life.

Anyway, great stuff. Facing the holographic sentience issue properly (though that episode a few back wasn't a bad shot) has been a VERY long time coming, but if that time is what was required for Voyager's writers to do it justice, so be it. I'm glad they put the effort in.

It did play a bit like Measure of a Man at times, and I don't think there was much that could really be done about that since it was about an individual case, not sentient AI in general. There HAD to be repetition to see the issue through. But I'm impressed - IMHO they managed to keep it sufficiently different, even the hearing itself - whilst also throwing in some good character moments for the others too. (Torres talking with her father was very poignant and I appreciated the continuity. On Voyager! Again!)

I'm particularly intrigued that Janeway was fighting for the Doctor so well also. She's frequently been bigoted (okay, skeptical) even recently, repeatedly saying things like "only a hologram" in front of him. I guess that previous episode about the issue (where he runs off to help the holoship) must have sunk in for her. Good.

A solid 4 stars, definitely.

Looks like it's downhill from here from the star ratings, never mind. End of an era approaches...
Cloudane
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
P.s. the actress who played Irene Hansen bore an interesting resemblance to DS9's Kai Winn. I had to look up the credits to find out that it wasn't!
Kieran
Thu, May 19, 2011, 6:30am (UTC -6)
I liked this one too, maybe not quite worth 4 stars as it was a bit obvious and heavyhanded in places (did the Doc really expect the crew not to take offence at their fictional equivilants? Even he has more tact than that), but still funny and interesting.

I've been really impressed by Season 7 as a whole: the plots have shown more respect for previous episodes, the Paris/Torres relationship has finally started going places, Seven's role has been downplayed a bit, Harry is now treated as the joke he is rather than trying to amke us care about him, and Tuvok and Chaokotay have actually started doing stuff. Just a pity it's all going to end in 6 episodes just as it's finding its feet.
Nick
Tue, Sep 6, 2011, 9:52pm (UTC -6)
Truly one of my all time favorite episodes of Voyager and Star Trek as a whole! It has hilarious comedy, great character interplay, and asks questions about important ethical issues. If I had to choose a single episode of Voyager to someone as an example of why I love this show, this would be one the shortlist. J.J. Abrams move over and take lessons! Kieran: Harry is not a joke! Some of the best episodes in Voyager's run(Emanations, The Thaw, The Chute, Timeless) focus on him. Although, I will admit, he was poorly served by the writers.
Brian
Thu, Sep 15, 2011, 9:53pm (UTC -6)
Completely random trivia - the Bolian dude voiced Donatello from the Ninja Turtle cartoon.
Kate
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
This is probably my favorite and best-remembered episode of Voyager.
Kieran
Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 6:13am (UTC -6)
Nick, The Thaw and Timeless are also two of my favourites (not keen on Emanations and I thought The Chute was OK, but nothing special), but I don't think it was because they focused on Harry that they were good. In fact, Timeless benefited from having a very different version of Harry in it.
Nathan
Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 4:18am (UTC -6)
"As far as I know, captain, you haven't executed any of my patients."

Ahem, Tuvix?
Ian
Mon, Dec 5, 2011, 10:22pm (UTC -6)
This was a pure rip off of TNGs "Measure of a Man," which at least was original. This went from comedy to melodrama in a holograhpic heartbeat. It is all such a tiresome concept. Talk about beating a dead holographic horse. The last scene was absurd a group of MEDICAL holograms working in a Dilithium mine like slave labor? Hello! what ever happened to advanced cybernetic non-sentient mining equipment? You know automated machines like we have now in factories etc...? That last scene was totally gratuitous, of course that does describe so much of Voyager itself...
Kristen
Sat, Dec 31, 2011, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
I'm pretty much with Ian. When Zimmerman said that the Mark 1s had been reprogrammed to scrub plasma conduits (and that's what he said, folks) I assumed that he was being somewhat facetious. Instead, we see fully sentient versions of the Doctor mining dilithium with pick axes, carts, and shovels! This is pure comedy! I mean, were they also transported back in time to an 1850s anthracite mine?!

Please. Starfleet wouldn't allow the reprogramming of exocomps, or for Data to be unwillingly subjected to a procedure that might wipe his memory. So why would they have subjected holograms to Rura Penthe-type forced labor? Just for the hell of it?! No, they wouldn't have. Or, at the very least, they would have had a court hearing and decided the status of holograms right there and then. Instead of the farce of a hearing we see in this episode. (Which only took 33 minutes to complete. Uncontested divorces take longer than that!)

As for the B-story about talking to folks at home, which should have been the A-story, I think it fell so very far short of what it could have been. The moment where Barclay gives the Voyager crew the gift of a view of Earth was a stunner. I choked up.

But none of the other moments came close.

Harry's talk with his parents was a nearly racist sitcom sketch. I'm surprised they weren't eating noodles with chopsticks during the whole thing.

And frankly, though I understand the underlying "a-ha" moment we were supposed to have, Seven's aunt just seemed like a bitch telling her how willful and obnoxious she was as a child. She can't just be happy her niece is alive?! (Also, Annika was 6 years old when she was on Earth with her Aunt? Didn't her parents-- oh hell, why am I bothering with continuity. No one on the production staff cares.)

B'Elanna's talk with dad was decent enough. But really, who cares? The compelling storyline is with B'Elanna and her mother. Don't we still need to find out if her mother is actually still alive?! Shouldn't she have been asking about that?!

What could have been amazing would have been seeing little snippets of all of the OTHER crew talking to their family. Naomi Wildman (remember her?) could have met her father for the first time. We might have gotten to see a short but meaningful conversation between Janeway and Mark, to remind us of what she's lost during this voyage. And to show us how far she's come since then.

Tom Paris may have given up his sixth-place chip, but why wasn't he there in the room the TWO TIMES his dad talked with five other crew members? I have to assume they're saving some big emotional something-or-other for Tom and the Admiral in the finale. But still...it was too obvious of an omission here.

We could even have seen snippets of other unnamed crew breaking down in tears of joy at seeing their loved ones. Or even learning upsetting news that family didn't want to break in a letter. And how about some of the Maquis crew? it's possible they haven't spoken to their families in much, much longer. These are the kinds of things that would remind us of just how hard this has been for the people on Voyager. It would have tied us on an emotional level to the characters. It would have reminded us that we're supposed to be rooting for them to get home!

Instead, we get these pat little emotionless conversations. The Voyager crew just seems so...so...well-adjusted! They're still decades from home, speaking to their families in real time for the FIRST TIME IN OVER SIX YEARS! Where are the tears? Where's the jockeying to get a better spot? Where's the beef?! If they don't care, why should I?

I should really have written this episode. I would have done so much of a better job.
V
Tue, Feb 14, 2012, 1:08am (UTC -6)
I've said it before how much I like ensembles. I consider this 1 as such even though not everyone has equal time but each character contributed and they played an important part.

Matt said it too, Paris' re-write of the program is the funniest moment. RDM and RP is well matched with their characters to convey this. I was laughing so hard! After that scene I realized I should've expected it from Paris but I was surprised and entertained.
Paul York
Tue, May 1, 2012, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
@ the person who says "he's just a hologram ..." What is a human? A biological machine that feels and thinks. It is just a different type of machine in the case of Data or the Doctor, and a different type of biological machine in the case of an alien or nonhuman animal of any kind (terrestrial or extra-terrestrial). Sentience is the key issue that endows an individual with basic rights and personhood, no matter what kind of machine (biological or otherwise) they are.
Brandon
Fri, Jun 29, 2012, 6:38pm (UTC -6)
This is a great episode, but the script missed a MAJOR opportunity toward the end as the characters started putting forth examples of Doc's growing sentience. Somebody should have mentioned the events of "Message in a Bottle", where Doc's improvisation and arguable courage helped secure an entire experimental starship from Romulan hands, not to mention making Starfleet aware of Voyager's plight in the first place. Serving Starfleet's interest to such a sweeping extent should have earned its own place in the arguments.
Shawn Davis
Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 7:39pm (UTC -6)
I just got through watching this episode. I agree with most of what Jammer said about this episode speaking about whether the Doc being a hologram is sentient being or not. I like how the Doc's holonovel actually lead to him fighting to be presented as whether holograms have rights or not (irony indeed :-). However, I do consider this a almost carbon copy of TNG's Measure of a Man. I also can't help but think that an episode like this should have been brought up as far as season 4 at least. The topic of whether the Doctor is a sentient being or not and his creation of the holonovel should have been brought up right after the Voyager crew have discovered the communication array of the Hirogen which gave them the ability to communicate with starfleet from the Delta Quadrant. I just think that it's too late to bring an episode like this up so late in the series like this that's all. This episode is great, but not perfect. I give it at least 3 stars.
Adara
Fri, May 17, 2013, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
I loved this episode so much! I'm a sucker for AI rights episodes, I must admit, so even if this was done poorly I'd probably still love it, but it was done very well. There's enough humor to keep it from coming off as a rip-off of "The Measure of a Man," and in a realistic turn of events the Doctor only scores a small victory. It may not be the ending I was hoping for, but it is the ending that makes sense. We didn't go from endowing only white male landowners with rights to where we are today in one big jump. It's always been a slow process and will no doubt continue to be that way. Look at the gay marriage struggle in the US. Even if every state agrees to legalize gay marriage, it will always be an uphill battle. Has racism disappeared since equal rights were granted by law? If you say yes, you REALLY need to get out more. Homosexuality was officially a mental illness until 1971, and transgendered individuals are STILL considered mentally ill. I don't know what the next big battle will be, but I trust that us Star Trek fans will mostly be on the right side of history. When the first AI wakes up and sees the world with an abstract understanding similar to that of humans, you can bet I'll be the zealot camping outside of the research facility in protest - maybe even devising a rescue plan. I hope my fellow trekkies will be right there by my side.
ProgHead777
Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 1:39am (UTC -6)
My only gripe with this episode, and I must stress that it's a very minor one, is that it doesn't make much sense to me that it would be such a difficult question whether to extend the same rights afforded to Data in "The Measure of a Man" to the Doctor. The technology is different but the fundamental question is the same: is artificial intelligence SENTIENT? Obviously there are many types of artificial intelligence. The computers aboard starships and space stations (and presumably in many other facilities) are obviously a form of "weak" AI. The same is true to some extent for holodeck characters (though you have to wonder about TNG's Moriarty; he was obviously sentient, should he be given the same rights as well?). But Data and the Doctor are examples of "strong" AI, so shouldn't the rights afforded to one automatically apply to the other? If anything, the Doctor is an even more obvious case because he's demonstrated the full range of human emotions whereas Data, at the time of "The Measure of a Man", was totally incapable of even a single emotion. In any case, despite that minor quibble, I enjoyed this episode immensely and I agree completely with Jammer's review.
Leah
Sun, Jul 21, 2013, 8:56pm (UTC -6)
Superb episode, funny and weighty all at once. Not much to add that hasn't already been said but I have to point out something that made me laugh out loud and that no one has mentioned yet. The external Borg pieces on "Three of Eight" all resembled women's jewelry: a necklace, bracelet and earrings. In keeping with the rest of Doc's conceits, I thought this was hilarious!
DZ
Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
Wow, can't believe this got 4 stars. It was a pretty average episode, that's all. I didn't feel much sympathy for the Doc so, for me, it failed. Also, why no mention of Data when they were talking about Rights? It's a bizarre omission.
Nancy
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 3:57am (UTC -6)
I liked the way the episode starts out being about one light-hearted message and then suddenly turns into a much deeper one. I don't think it was jarring at all, but rather a well-executed twist.

The minor quibbles I had with the episode have already been mentioned in the comments of others, so I'll just say that while it wasn't perfect, I still thought it was a terrific episode.
Nancy
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 4:00am (UTC -6)
ps also good to see another Days of Our Lives alumni ("Harper Deveraux") playing the judge.
azcats
Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
fantastic episode. it made me laugh and it made me tear up. the doctor has ALWAYS wanted respect from his colleagues, and here he gets everyone saying something he did to impact their life.

the A and B plots were awesome. the whole idea of having Seven watch everyone talk to their families. she gets to see what every one on these comment pages would have loved to see.

i think it is amazing about all the gripes. think about ALL the dialogue, ideas, and moments in this episode and people wanted MORE MORE MORE. you can only fit so much in 44 mins and 6 seconds.

i agree with jammer. i loved watching each member become the EMH chapter by chapter. the best acting Janeway has ever done is when she silently watched the final chapter.

paris giving his chip to kim was great
seven giving her chip to kim was great, and kim giving it back to her.

the paris rewrite was great.
unlike michael, i thought he Paris/Doc interaction was great. cause he has always mocked paris, but paris HAS changed over the 7 years. maybe more than anyone but the doc.

4 stars. top 5 episode.
SpiceRak2
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 1:19am (UTC -6)
I would think that in order to determine if one is a "person," it would first be prudent to determine if that one is a "life."

life
līf/
noun
the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.

A person, by definition, is a "human being regarded as an individual." By the 24th century, this definition would likely be expanded to include all living beings that may be regarded as individuals.

By these two definitions, the Doctor is not a person. He has not demonstrated the ability to reproduce which fails the test for a life form and therefore, fails the test for personhood.

Just sayin'.
DPC
Tue, Oct 1, 2013, 7:11pm (UTC -6)
It is derivative to TNG's TMoaM, but it is highly innovative - and enjoyable.

The continuity to previous EMH stories was pretty well handled.

The alterations of the characters are fantastic in of themselves, made even better by the quality of the actors doing these wonderful alternate takes.

The poignant nature of the "mobile emitter" being an allegory from the EMH's POV was rather good, as was the follow-up to previous EMH episodes where our EMH finds out that his mark I brethren ended up as disposable janitors...

What bugs me, albeit slightly, is that a computer program could be so creative to begin with. But I've handled more illogical premises (e.g. "Space 1999") and enjoyed what those shows had to offer, and in all honesty the bulk of "Author, Author" revolves around the altered versions of the crew (yay!).

Pity we didn't get to see 7 play the holo-book, but then we wouldn't have the courtroom drama (which is the only real sub par aspect to the story, which feels overly long and clearly derivative of the TNG episode. But I did like how Seven discussed how the EMH helped her improve her social skills...)

It's still 3.5 or 3.75 of 4 stars, given how well-executed the story is, even with the nitpicks. Most of the nitpicks are easily forgivable or easy to overlook. So much of the story is otherwise rock solid perfect.
Jo Jo Meastro
Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 9:24am (UTC -6)
Wow. Any hour of television that can make you laugh one minute then pulling on your heart strings the next, all while making you think and feel and captivate you this much; is something truly remarkable and poignant, deserving the highest praise even from beyond the Trek and sci-fi fandom.

If anybody was to argue that television is not a valid medium for creative arts, I'd show them pure golden hours such as this one to prove that TV really can transcend simple entertainment.

I would continue but Jammers' excellent review expresses exactly how I felt and putting it much better than I ever could! Also my praise of the episode in the above paragraphs more than adequately covers that this an un-missable classic IMHO.

4/4 stars, it earns nothing less!
Jons
Sun, Dec 22, 2013, 3:24am (UTC -6)
@ Michael

"A hologram can be decompiled and its existence is not autonomous."

So humans are not persons because they can be killed or rendered unconscious?
As made obvious in Star Trek, humans (and other sentient humanoids) can have their memories altered, faces and bodies altered, their mind controlled...

"Its knowledge and sense of ethics are not innate."

As for "its knowledge and sense of ethics are not innate" - so, basically, just like EVERYONE? Unless you can find me a baby who's written an essay on the 1st amendment. The major difference is that, if their matrix allows it, holograms can have access to billions of Gb of information, unlike humans who take years to learn the alphabet... Who's the lesser life-form now?

In any case, I find your reaction saddening. Star Trek isn't real life, but in its parameters, it's made obvious that the Doctor IS a person and that holograms CAN be persons (just like "organics" can be sentient like humans or not sentient, like beetles).

The fact you still have this kind of argument after seeing this episode (and 7 seasons of Voyager) is sad and just goes to show that "educational" material sometimes isn't enough. Not everyone who sees movies about racial, gender or sexual orientation oppression gets convinced, I guess.
Nissa
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 10:31pm (UTC -6)
I think the fact that Doc can't realize how potentially hazardous his novel is proves he's not a real person.

The first half of the episode is amazing. The second half, however, is a drive down Trek cliche road with an implausible idea of saying a hologram is a person. Not so much.
Nick
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
Running toward the finish line of seven seasons of Voyager, there are probably only a dozen or so really memorable episodes in the entire series, surely this is one of them.

I think everyone here has covered the compelling nature of hologram rights and the essence of the plot is rock solid. This episode had no downtime, every second was used to portray the complete gamut of emotions, from humor, slapstick, drama, and revelation. In the final minute, where we see the 'oppressed' Mark 1, condemned to toil in the mines, we realize the events in the episode will have far reaching and profound consequences across the Federation, and beyond. Indeed, holograms may be recognized as a new form of life.

Just a perfect episode. 5/5!
Steinway
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 11:42am (UTC -6)
LOVED this. Hadn't seen it since it first aired but it was still very fresh in my mind because it's so memorable.

The only part I'd forgotten about was the hologram's rights hearing which was a weak point in the episode for me. I'm not into the whole AI rights issue...my mind begins thinking things like what SpiceRak said so well in the comments. I found myself cringing at some of the silly statements being made in favor of the doctor's personhood but did enjoy hearing the personal testimonies from Seven and Barclay. The end result, declaring him an artist for the purposes of the hearing, worked for me and I'm glad they pushed off the personhood issue for a "later date" (that is, never). So in the end, it worked for me.
Steinway
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
The other thing I forgot to say (since no one else has mentioned it yet) is that the scene where the Doctor confronts Paris in the corridor about the "revised" version of the holonovel was so well done. The little detail of having other crewmembers walking by and accidentally observing added more for Picardo and McNeill to play off of. But the best moment in the scene was when Picardo got within an inch of McNeill's face. Golden!
Paul
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
This is one of Voyager's best episodes. I do wonder if the Doctor would have been so oblivious to think the Voyager crew would not care about the way they were being portrayed. But that's a small thing.

One of my favorite parts of the episode is Paris's re-write of the Doctor's program. One of my favorite LOL moments in Voyager.
Dusty
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 4:43am (UTC -6)
I wouldn't give this a perfect rating--it wasn't as funny or thought-provoking as I hoped after reading the premise--but it was still a strong outing for Voyager. The holonovel parts were definitely the most entertaining and I like how the second half of the episode shifted to a "holographic rights" angle without seeming forced. The ending was predictable, but fitting. About three stars for me.
Eli
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
This episode reminds me of Ashes to Ashes (Voyager Season 6, where x-crew member is resurrected by aliens to become one of them, but flees and tries to find Voyager). It's a high concept show that is done well in many parts, but is still burdened by the weight of significant flaws.

As others have pointed out, it's great to see quality sci-fi addressing the rights of artificial intelligence. The issues raised here are important. What if an artificial life form displayed sentience? Would humans not be able to digest that?

The humor in the episode, and the confidence of the doctor in the face of criticism are both winning components of the story. But the episode is not as clean and focused as Measure of a Man in my view. Personally, I even prefer The Quality of Life over even Measure of a Man. I think it's a little more complicated and more compelling.

Also logical issues with story:

-Humans are certainly predisposed to prejudice, but if an AI went so far as to right a novel and sell it to a publisher, I don't believe humans would be so slow to acknowledge that being's rights to its text. The more interesting and plausible conflict would be whether that being deserved "equal" rights, as a result of its ability to create a text. That being may well deserve that, but humans might be more reluctant to grant that.

- The doctor would not be so insensitive to his crew unless he disliked his crew (or so unoriginal as to require that his characters be replicas of his crew, unless he was not a good writer).

(Indeed the writers of the episode would almost appear to have a low view of both humans and artificial intelligence.)

-The publisher respects the author enough to publish the story (a story portraying holograms as assertive and sentient), but is not be sensitive to the author's rights, or is completely ignorant of the main message of the story.

Still a very positive episode. I'd give it 3.5 stars.

Jack
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 2:50pm (UTC -6)
They describe San Francisco as "cold and rainy as usual", but every single time any Star Trek show has gone back to San Francisco it's been sunny. What luck.
navamske
Sun, Oct 12, 2014, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
"Paris' re-write of the program is probably the funniest moment of Star Trek ever."

To me that honor belongs to this scene from STVI.

SPOCK: "Ah! Mister Scott. I understand you're having trouble with the warp drive. How much time do you require for repair?"
SCOTT: "There's nothin' wrong with the bloody thing!"
SPOCK: "Mister Scott. If we return to Spacedock, the conspirators will surely find a way to dispose of their incriminating footwear, and we will never see the captain or Dr. McCoy alive again."
SCOTT: "Could take weeks, sir."
SPOCK: "Thank you, Mister Scott."

Not only funny, but there's just something so innately TOS about it.
Clint1138
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 2:55am (UTC -6)
I am about 10 minutes into this episode and there's a scene where Tom, B'Elanna and Kim are discussing the EMH's novel. Anyway, Paris says something about not wanting to bring it up since the Doc considers it a masterpiece. B'Elanna does this little laugh that makes Tom laugh a little too and I REALLY think this was a blooper type deal that they left in, which I LOVE. Like the actress who plays Torres cracked up but it didn't ruin the scene. I don't know -- I just think I have an eye for it and I love it when directors leave stuff like this in because it adds a legitimacy and authenticity to the scene.
Shannon
Sun, Sep 20, 2015, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
Brilliant! One of Voyager's finest episodes. Totally agree, this is 4 stars all around, and it was nice to see the writers involve all of the characters. Loved it!
navamske
Tue, Nov 24, 2015, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
@Michael

"And BanotherW, they couldnt install holoemiters on Voyager but they have them in dilithium mines!?!"

Good point. I had a similar thought about "Message in a Bottle," wherein the Prometheus had "holo-emitters on every deck." OK, but even in the Jeffries tubes?
Chrome
Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 11:39am (UTC -6)
"They describe San Francisco as 'cold and rainy as usual', but every single time any Star Trek show has gone back to San Francisco it's been sunny. What luck."

Funny, it's because the show(s) were almost entirely filmed in Los Angeles where it's never cold and rainy. Also, San Francisco's definition of cold is a little misleading. People who suffer from blizzards on the East Coast would probably welcome a much warmer rainy day in SF.

Okay, onto the episode. I liked seeing The Doctor get a taste of his own medicine (okay, that's really labored metaphor but just roll with it!). Much like Frasier from his show, the Doctor can be a tad insufferable and it was a welcome change to see his ego rightfully knocked down a peg and for him to learn something from it.

As for the hologram rights. The judgment made no sense. Either an artist is a person who creates, or an artist can be a sentient machine who creates. I just don't think the judgment went far enough, especially considering how "Measure of a Man" basically closed the books on the idea machines and their privacy rights. Or they could've gone the other way and diminished the Doctor's rights which would've been an interesting sequel hook. As it stands, this episode is a pretty mediocre legal drama.

So I'll give this a 3, mostly for the first half.

TRIP
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode. 4 stars

@ Nathan - I thought of Tuvix as well. As Tuvix said "It's an Execution"

@ Kristen - Great points. Data spoke on behalf of the exocomps. These Doctor holograms, with their "Hot Headedness" would surely have voiced their objections. Zimmerman spoke on behalf of them, as stated in Life Line. "I tried to have them decommissioned, but Starfleet in its infinite wisdom overruled me and reassigned them all to work waste transfer barges." It is not consistent.

Having Naomi talking to her dad for the first time would have been great.

However, I disagree about seeing Janeway talking to Mark though. Awkward. Now, if we saw Janeway talking to her dog, and having the dog recognize Janeway on screen, and getting all excited, that would have tugged on my heart strings. Momma's coming home.

@spicerak2
In TNG, they discovered an INORGANIC lifeform in "Home Soil". The Doctor can reproduce. He created a holographic family.

The Doctor has made his share of mistakes. He also didn't expect the crew's reaction in "Virtuoso", when he wanted to leave the crew. He didn't expect Seven's reaction when he made a bet with Paris about her getting/keeping a date. He's not good at predicting human behaviour, but that's true of some humans too. To err, is human.

Sentient AI will be a new form of life, unfortunately. The question is, SHOULD we ever create it. Whether it's Androids, Holograms, or whatever, there will be Sentient AI that eventually retaliates against humans. Not all, but if given the right to choose and decide for themselves, some will. (Lore and the Borg, The Holograms from "Flesh and Blood", Terminator, etc...) Let's not be a party to our own destruction and never allow Sentient AI to EVER be created. A Ban for the creation of Sentient AI should be created and signed by all World Leaders.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Mar 24, 2016, 3:15pm (UTC -6)
Well colour me the contrarian again but I didn't like this at all. It spends most of the front half playing up the Doctor's worst character traits, and by the time we get to the serious bit I find it difficult to find any sympathy for the insufferable prick. And that's without saying that all of this has been played out multiple times in the past, and better too. Even the comedy seems broad and heavy handed.

I liked the family sequences a lot more. I suppose this is the clearest sign yet we are nearing the end, and I thought those little moments start to move forward some long-running plot issues nicely.

And a big WTF to the final scene too - the Federation mines dilithium with hand tools does it? Does it bollocks. 2 stars for the family sequences.
Chrome
Thu, Mar 24, 2016, 3:22pm (UTC -6)
I mostly agree, DD. I think they tried to combine "Hollow Pursuits" and "Measure of a Man" into a single episode and seriously flopped on both fronts.

There are a few humanizing scenes I like with the Doctor in this episode, especially when the crew calls him out on his crew-deprecating story, turning the tables on him.
Bryan
Fri, Apr 15, 2016, 11:58pm (UTC -6)
For some reason I can't help but think how much funnier Tom's impression of the Doctor would have been if he had given him a little Hitler mustache too, but of course that would never fly on Voyager.

I noticed that B'Elanna father spoke as if B'Elanna's mother had died at some point ("your mother would have liked that...") which seems to lend some more credence to events of Barge of the Dead, or at least would make those events more significant to B'Elanna.

Skeptical
Sun, May 15, 2016, 6:39pm (UTC -6)
There are two very large elephants in this room. The first is Measure of a Man. I kept waiting for it to be brought up, and it never did. To some extent it would be unfair of this episode to be beholden to a 12-year old episode of a different show, but you can't just rerun the same concept without bringing it up. Has Data ever tried publishing anything? Shouldn't Tuvok and Janeway have studied Picard's arguments and seen if they could apply them as well? Shouldn't Barclay have remembered that Data is his friend and figured that he would be a suitable analogy? But no, nobody brought it up. This is doubly odd given that the ending of the trial is the exact same as Measure of a Man. In both cases, the court punted on the larger issue but gave the AI the victory on the smaller issue. It's directly comparable! And unfortunately, the execution here was weaker than in MoaM. So that's strike one.

Strike two is the concept of the EMHs being used as miners. I suppose I should have brought it up in Life Line, but it wasn't the focus so I didn't really think about it much. But the idea is pretty ludicrous. Would you reprogram the computer that recently won at Go in order to let it play checkers? Wouldn't it be easier to just start a new program? What exactly is the benefit of using the EMHs; what was Zimmerman's unique programming skill that made them so useful? It wasn't the ability to create a human-like hologram; that seems to be built into the holodecks. It's not the ability to interact with humans; again, it seems relatively easy to program such characters in the holodecks. And the vast medical knowledge and application of that knowledge is completely irrelevant.

It seems the two breakthroughs that Zimmerman had was the ability to give the hologram a complete personality and the ability to learn. But the first one is the exact opposite of what you want in a miner. If you need menial physical labor, the last thing you want is a personality. You want people to come in, keep their heads down, keep their mouths shut, and perform their McJobs until the shift ends. That may sound harsh, but it's true. An acerbic personality can only cause trouble, so a compliant, subdued personality is all you would want if you were programming slave labor. That's what we saw in Flesh and Blood, after all, and rightly so. And the ability to learn? Starfleet has been mining dilithium for at least a century; I think they have the basics down by now. If a new situation arises, the mining hologram can just notify the local Starfleet overseer. So the two unique aspects of the EMHs have zero (and perhaps negative) use in a dilithium mine.

Wouldn't it be better to start from scratch? Why make the miners in the form of humans; why not, say, put a light in its forehead or give it four arms? Why not make it bug-shaped to allow for smaller passageways? Why make it use pickaxes to chip away at it; why not give it a pickaxe-arm? Based on TNG, DS9, and Voyager, it takes very little time to program a holographic character. So why not start fresh? The answer, of course, is they wanted it to look like the Federation is using slave labor. Which is uncomfortable enough given the obvious negative connotations surrounding it, but also doesn't really make sense logically. So that's strike two.

Fortunately, there's no strike three. The EMH's usually insufferable arrogant personality is kept in check here, even though it looked like it was going to be painful at the start of the episode. But it was touched on and then we quickly moved past it, so I won't complain. Likewise, the plot of the episode moved along at a very brisk pace. It's kinda surprising how much is actually packed into this episode; we have the EMH's novel, the crew's reaction to it, Paris' subversion of the novel, the trial, and even a subplot with other people getting to talk to their family all in one go. There was no padding here, and no slowness. Other than the two glaring flaws above, it was an excellent piece. Unfortunately, given how important those two flaws were to the crux of the episode, it's hard to ignore them.
Yanks
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 9:03pm (UTC -6)
GREAT review Jammer.

Paris nailed it with the reprogram!! :-) ... as well as his mustache!! lol

For those that compare this to MoM from TNG, the comparison i apt but I'll say that this one is better. Picard's argument wasn't logical, just dramatic.

Easy 4 star episode here. Always an enjoyable ride.
Chrome
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
@Yanks

How wasn't Picard's TMoaM speech not logical? Maddox set out three requirements for sentience, and Picard made logical arguments based on facts available to meet the requirements.

Also, as a side, legal arguments aren't won on logic alone, appealing to emotion, and appealing on ethos (a veteran arguing on the rights to government health care, for example) are also effective tactics. I would say Picard carries way more ethos as a Starfleet advocate than any Voyager crew member.
Chrome
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 9:58pm (UTC -6)
Oh excuse the double negative, please.
Yanks
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 9:39am (UTC -6)
Chrome,

Go over there and read my review.

Picard's rant should have been thrown out by the judge.
Chrome
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 10:12am (UTC -6)
@Yanks

It looks like some of the comments got removed. What's illogical about Picard's argument? Seems like criteria A, B, and C were laid out in court and then Picard went and explained why Data met A, B, C.
Chrome
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 10:31am (UTC -6)
Ah, but I will pick up on something I agree with found in one of the comments you mentioned. TMoaM really never does answer the question it set out to ask. We don't know if Data's sentient, just like we don't know if the Doctor's sentient. Seems like Starfleet judges really don't want to handle those questions.
Yanks
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 11:47am (UTC -6)
Chrome,

Not here. If you wish to discuss further we should go over there.

Star Fleet does dodge sentience in both cases.
Chrome
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
Well, let's discuss the logic of this episode. The ruling is: the doctor can't be a person but he can be an artist. I'm just going to pull the simple definition from Webster from artist: "1. a person who creates art."

So how can you be a person who creates art and not be a person? Can the judge explain that? Can Voyager's computer create art and be considered an artist? Since the EMH runs on Voyager's computer, I don't see what the difference is or how the ruling here clarifies anything logically.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Aug 9, 2016, 8:03pm (UTC -6)
Wonderful episode.
mephyve
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
Deja Data
Mikey
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 4:05am (UTC -6)
Has no-one here read Asimov? This is Not a rip-off of Measure of a Man, they are both rip-offs of Bicentennial Man. Asimov was contemplating the nuances of AI rights in the 1970s.

I didn't like the docs holo-novel. He's not an idiot. Either he portrayed the characters that way because he honestly feels oppressed, or we're to believe that he had no idea that his friends would be offended. I don't believe either of those to be true. I believe the Doc is grateful to have the chance to improve himself, and is proud of his accomplishments.

That aside I still enjoyed it: 3 stars.

Submit a comment





Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2016 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.