Star Trek: Voyager

"Projections"

4 stars

Air date: 9/11/1995
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Did I program Mr. Paris to be so annoying?"
"Actually, I programmed him. I modeled him after my cousin Frank."

— Doc and Barclay

Nutshell: Brilliant. Easily the best episode of Voyager yet, with a witty script of twists, turns, and phenomenal dialog.

Now here's an absolutely fascinating show. This goes down as the series' best installment yet. Topping even TNG's "Ship in a Bottle," this episode delivers a mysterious sequence of illusions with a genuine sense of style and captivation. Finally, Brannon Braga has written a story that gives him a chance to do high-concept—his storytelling specialty—while shining with terrific character moments and witty twists and turns.

When the Doctor's program is automatically activated, he finds himself alone on the ship which, according to the computer, has been evacuated due to damage caused by a Kazon attack. But then there's a knock on the sickbay door. It's Lt. Torres. She says that she and Janeway stayed on board the ship to stop a warp core breach. Because of the attack, some officers on the bridge have suffered injury and need medical attention. Torres informs the Doctor of the new hologram emitters that have been rigged on various decks the ship, including the bridge. This will allow him to exist outside the sickbay.

Torres transfers him to the bridge where he treats Janeway's injuries, then Janeway transfers him to the mess hall where he helps Neelix subdue a Kazon intruder. Here, the Doctor gets hit on the head and then notices that he's bleeding and experiencing pain. He's rather dismayed, as pain and bleeding is not in his programming. Upon further analysis of himself, the Doctor discovers he has a heartbeat. And blood pressure. And brain patterns.

But there's more. The computer informs him that he isn't a hologram, but a real person named Lewis Zimmerman, with a real history. At the same time, the crew members he scans register as non-existent. Janeway, Torres, Neelix, the Kazon intruder—according to the tricorder, none of them are really there.

It seems like some sort of shipwide computer malfunction but it just doesn't add up, so Janeway attempts to shut down and restart the Doctor's program by deactivating all holographic images on the ship. When Janeway gives the computer this command, "Projections" takes a wild twist—Janeway, Neelix, Torres, and the Kazon all vanish into thin air. They are the projections.

What's really going on here? That's the question viewers will be asking as the show progresses. In retrospect, the ending seems light years away from where everything starts—it just seems to have traveled so far. But there no feeling of non sequitur here, because everything makes sense. This story is unique and completely unpredictable, and the manners in which plot points resolve themselves are so neat and tidy that it almost seems simple.

This episode is, in essence, a series of illusions. First the show has us believe the ship has been evacuated. Then it suggests that everyone is a hologram except the Doctor. After giving us three minutes to digest that, Braga's script throws another twist on us. Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) suddenly appears and tells the Doctor that his past six months aboard the Voyager have merely been a six-hour simulation on a Jupiter research facility designed to study the psychological effects of being isolated in deep space. And Barclay has plenty of remarkably sound evidence to back up his story.

Braga has every potential plot hole covered here, and it's amazing that this all holds together. This is more than just a string of bright ideas—it's also some impressive, well-tuned writing. And the execution couldn't be better. I'm not sure exactly how much responsibility Jonathan Frakes had in overseeing the implementation of such a convoluted plot, but everything works so nicely and efficiently that his directing hand is barely noticeable—which is exactly how it should be.

Picardo and Schultz both turn in exceptional performances and make a remarkable comedy duo. Their screen chemistry is one of the episode's many strengths, and Braga supplies them with some very funny dialogue. What two characters can you imagine would work better together than these two and their quirky mannerisms? The Doctor is fun with his usual sarcasm and dry humor mixed with being flabbergasted over such impossible circumstances. Barclay is, well, at his most Barclayness—always a joy to watch fidget under pressure.

Barclay tells the Doctor he is suffering from holo-transference dementia syndrome, something brought on by a radiation surge that is causing him to lose his sense of identity. If he doesn't leave the simulation soon, he will die of radiation poisoning. The only way to end the simulation, Barclay says, is to destroy Voyager, hence terminating the program. This gives the Doctor a rather hefty decision to make. What if destroying Voyager is really...destroying Voyager? Before making this decision, he must confirm that he is indeed a real person as Barclay claims.

The Doctor's search for the truth brings up a surprisingly engaging character core concerning the nature of his existence. But not only does all this make interesting science fiction, it's also a lot of fun. There's a hilariously well-realized sequence in which Barclay, trying to prove he's telling the truth, restarts the simulation to its beginning—back to when the emergency medical holographic program was first activated. This humorous recreation of "Caretaker" includes the Doctor literally deleting Paris and Kim from the simulation premise, and an exchange with Janeway where he informs her of the crew's imminent abduction by the Caretaker (or "Banjoman" he adds).

Braga's final twist happens when Chakotay suddenly appears and reveals the real truth—that everything, including Barclay and his arguments—is an illusion brought on by a computer malfunction on Voyager's holodeck. All the Doctor needs to do is sit back and wait for Voyager's repair crews to fix the problem.

But just when you thought it was all over, there's one more jarring illusion, just to prove how atypical this show really is. (Did I say the previous twist was the final one? Okay, I lied. This is the final one.) This scene uses a bit of visual disorientation and can be seen as a rather devious trick on the audience. But it's a very neat trick. I like it. A lot.

I like the whole episode a lot. "Projections" does everything just right. The camerawork is effective, David Bell's score is good, the performances are right on target, the pacing is precise, the dialogue is amusing, and the story is a sheer pleasure. It's an excellent hour of science fiction—definitely a very promising episode of Voyager. I'm game for more.

Previous episode: Initiations
Next episode: Elogium

◄ Season Index

55 comments on this review

Nic
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 8:31pm (UTC -6)
Wow, I find it amazing how most of the Voyager episodes you have rated four stars are my least favourite (and Voyager remains my favourite series, even though I have recently warmed to DS9). I thought this one started out good, though I wondered why The Doctor didn't find it incredulous that the Doctor's program was only activated ("when a ship-wide Red Alert was initiated", according tot he computer) AFTER the ship had been evacuated. But as soon as Barclay came in (and I love Barclay, by the way, but not here) it was so blatently obvious how the episode would end that I completely lost interest. And the "punch" at the end really felt like the script came out too short and they had to add something in just to meet the 43-minute episode length!

I guess it all goes to show that if you want to nitpick something, anything, you're always going to find material. And when you don't care, you can concentrate on what really matters.
Russell
Sat, Nov 21, 2009, 6:11am (UTC -6)
This episode was OK, but far from a four star rating. It's one of Brannon Braga's weaker efforts.
Jeff
Mon, Dec 14, 2009, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
Another case of disagreement Jammer. Sorry. Having watched this episode a second time, I'm able to understand the twists and turns better. And it is fun to Dwight Schultz again. But this is the type of VOY episode I care for the least: the holodeck/tech problem episode which has nothing to do with Voyager's "lost in the Delta Quandrant" situation.

It is a well-acted episode, but contributes nothing in the grand scheme of things (although that could be said about most VOY episodes). This would be an interesting idea on TNG, but for me I just feel overall this is a waste of an episode. Especially so early in VOY's run. Unfortunately, in the end, "Projections" come across (to me) as an example of just how quickly the writers were moving away from the series' original premise.
Will
Fri, Dec 25, 2009, 6:03pm (UTC -6)
"oh, piece of shit, it was supposed to be a bottle show... I was out the door". Nah, just kiddinng. That was Maurice Hurley's musings on "Shades of Gray". Very enjoyable episode, this one.
charlie
Sat, Feb 27, 2010, 11:11am (UTC -6)
Despite the weak ending where Janeway explains everything, this was a fun episode, with Picardo & Dwight Schultz making a delightful team.
I also liked the moment where Doc tells Kes that she's beautiful. I always suspected that he had developed feelings for her, similar to Odo's for Kira on DS9.
Sadly, this potential was undermined when TPTB got rid of Kes & not Neelix-UGH!!!!
edgeplay
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 2:32am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode because it raises important questions in Artificial Intelligence. The main issue is "when does an AI entity know that it exists in the right space for itself". Allied to this is "how can an AI entity recognize and possibly communicate between multiple instantiations of itself. This story is closely allied to Vernor Vinge's award winning story "The Cookie Monster" and I suspect Vinge sketched an orignal story for this episode. But the original story would have had to deal with something more complex - "how does an AI entity know that what it is seeing is a projection from reality, even if that may be a holo-projection, or is actually a delusion generated inside its programming that has no existence in reality outside of its own program. I suspect this last aspect was considered too complex for the average viewer to grasp and was written out of the script. But its skeleton remains in the program having the roles of real people and holo-people reversed - a delusional variation that the Doctor would find very entertaining. At the end of the more complex version, the Doctor would have needed to have his delusional variants of himself deleted and some checks put in that he did not create any more alter-egos.

Kieran
Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 7:48am (UTC -6)
I like this episode (I like pretty much any episode that focuses on the Doctor) but the main problem with these kind of episodes is we know that none of it's really happening from the start which makes them hard to get into.
Ken
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
I didn't think this was a 4-star outing. There are much better 4-star episodes in Star Trek than this. Maybe for Voyager, it's 4 stars... but I can even think of several 4-star voyager episodes that absolutely crush this one: Timeless, Drone, and Living Witness. I would say these are the 3 best voyager episodes ever made. Projections is far worse.

The problem I have with this episode is that it really doesn't fit in with the series' premise, and is forgettable.

The ending is the real culprit - it has no impact at all. I just say there, thinking to myself: "Is that it?"

If there was some higher concept about a sentient being in a holographic program trying to come out... or his program becoming more self-aware... it was lost on me. The impact just wasn't there. I can think of many other episodes in TNG that did this kind of concept so much better.

This is a 3-star episode. It's interesting, and seeing Barkley is all well and good. The ending is so lack-luster that this alone creates an anti-climatic payoff that I don't think can be aware 4-stars at all.
Carbetarian
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
I have to join team disagreement over here too. This was a good episode. But, I don't think it was a four star episode.

I particularly agree with kieran. It's hard to get into an episode you know will inevitably be irrelevant to future episodes. Plus, this show could have been done on any Star Trek series. It almost feels like a hold over from TNG.

But, that said, I loved watching the Doctor and Barclay interact. They were wonderful together. I also liked the moment with Kes when he tells her she's beautiful. I even enjoyed the break neck twists at the end of the episode. All in all, I'd say this was one of Brannon Braga's better scripts.

This one gets three stars from me.
Dan
Mon, May 23, 2011, 11:46am (UTC -6)
I was able to buy into most of the explanations given for everything plot-wise. The radiation rationale within the program was well thought out, but the true nature of the problem was not. I would have liked a more specific reason for why the program malfunction was working towards convincing the Doctor to destroy the entire program. For example if it were a virus planted by some rival EMS holoprogram designer, that might work better for me. Simply having Chakotay say it was a malfunction seemed like a cop-out and anticlimactic. Other than that, I enjoyed the acting chemistry, humor, and 'ship in a bottle' theme.
Matthias
Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 7:37am (UTC -6)
I wonder if Barclay's cousin Frank is an intentional dig at late-stage Scrappy Doo-ish A-Team addition Frankie.

I agree with the four stars whole-heartedly. Every time you finally get a handle on things another layer of the onion is peeled off and you're left even more bewildered than before. The Doctor really shines as he tries to power through it all with logic even when confronted with premises that'd convince an ordinary man his sanity had abandoned him.
DeceitfulFish
Fri, Apr 6, 2012, 3:14am (UTC -6)
While this had the workings of a good episode, it was disappointing for a few reasons:

- As mentioned before, it's hard to get into because we know how it'll end. Clearly, the Doctor is not actually on Jupiter Station, but on Voyager. When you get down to it, there's no real conflict to be felt.
- So much talking. Barclay appears and more or less explains the entire plot in one sitting, then Chakotay does the same for a bit, then Janeway at the end.
- The mental turmoil and confusion caused by the Doctor's existential crisis and the struggle to figure out the truth is never really resolved. It's as if the writers said, "OK, show's over, just make all the bad stuff disappear."
- I saw the dream-within-a-dream thing a mile away.

In spite of that, the first half of the episode had me genuinely intrigued as to what had happened to the Doctor or the crew or who or what or WTF.
linguist
Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 3:31am (UTC -6)
This episode became a classic as soon as Chakotay posed the fate of the doctor's existence in terms of the doctor choosing what he (did not want to admit that he) wanted - being human so he could be with Kes - or choosing an unidealized existence. The pursuit of an idealized existence would have led to death, just like in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. This episode in fact rewrites Death in Venice as a comedy rather than a tragedy, since the doctor makes the ethical choice to avoid an idealization, and he thereby gains life, though it is just a "representation." (Hm, just like Kant affirms that empirically real objects are nothing but representations in his Refutation of Idealism of the first Critique...)
Lt. Yarko
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
This is one of my favorite episodes of all trek because of the humor and acting. The whole thing seems implausible, however. I really doubt that such a complex but mostly consistent simulated story (Barclay trying to prove to the doc that he should destroy voyager) would come out of a computer malfunction caused by radiation. And how exactly does Chakotay project himself into the holodeck from an engineering console? Anytime something goes wrong with my computer, I get random garbage results. Still, it's fun because of the replay of the first episode and the humor involved.
inline79
Tue, Aug 20, 2013, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
Why all the bad vibes? Sure, it wasn't a proper "4-star" outing like The Inner Light or Yesterday's Enterprise, and at times it did feel a bit "Total Recall"-esque. But take a breath and a step back: this episode developed a character, was well acted, well directed, funny, and thought-provoking - everything we'd normally want from Star Trek.

3-stars. 3.5 if the writers had bothered to explain why the Doctor is sentient (he's a Moriarty-type hologram, that's why Barclay's involved!).
K'Elvis
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:21am (UTC -6)
This episode would have been better if it had taken place later, after Voyager made contact with the Alpha Quadrant. The reason is that then it would be plausible that Zimmerman was running a Voyager simulation, so we wouldn't have been so sure that he really was the Doctor, and not Zimmerman.
Ric
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 4:11am (UTC -6)
W-o-w! This is a true joy! One of the very best episodes any Trek has ever delivered. Not only because in fact Jammer is right and the execution was perfect, the script impressivly good.

But actually, becase it delivers one of the deepest episode dilemas I've ever seen in scifi show and in a very soft way. Why so deep? Well, when Kas makes the final joke with The Doctor, it just got clear that overall, he had just received in this episode the touch of humanity like the fairy gives to Pinoccio. Not because he will be really a human from now on, but because The Doctor will now know the most quintessential of human's things: the doubt. And among doubts, he will have the most quintessential of the humans'questioning: "who am I?".

For someone who is so certain of this and of his purpose in life - well, because he IS a programmed hologram -, having these certainties at least 1% transformed forever into questions is the closer to being human that any logical race (Spock), android (Data) or hologram could desire.

Fantastic. Absolut joy.
HolographicAndrew
Sun, Jul 20, 2014, 2:14am (UTC -6)
To me this is like TNG's Frame of Mind, in that it's a series of illusions that can be almost overwhelming to keep track of.

But for some reason I like this one a whole lot more. I liked that there's a lengthy build up at the beginning of the episode. I especially liked the callbacks to Caretaker.

Totally agree on the rating for this one.
Vylora
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 9:09pm (UTC -6)
Even knowing how it ends, this episode is about pitch perfect in nearly every sense. I do not think its a slam-dunk classic but one of the closest yet for Voyager up to this point. Fantastic insight into the inner workings of the Doctor abound here. If that's not part and parcel to character growth, which is in turn inherently important to "the bigger picture", then I don't know what is.

Speaking of which, dismissing a whole episode just because it's a plot you don't want to see is not properly judging the episode on its own merits. There's a difference between "it's a bad ep because its not what I wanted" and "its a bad ep because writing, acting, dialogue, etc". No, the episode itself isn't part of the bigger picture, but then the majority of Voyager episodes aren't, anyway. What IS important here is the character insight and development which is a necessary part of great storytelling which, in turn, enhances the bigger picture, as it were. Just my two cents in response to a few above comments.

Anyway, great job here. Really enjoyable all around with fantastic performances and dialogue. The very last scene: Cutest Kes moment ever plus Doctor cautiously poking his arm into the corridor equals huge grin for me.

3.5 stars.
Skeptical
Sun, Nov 9, 2014, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
Glad someone else brought up Frame of Mind. But I disagree, I thought FoM was a better episode than this. And I'm trying to figure out why.

After all, in a way, this episode is more meaningful than TNG's version. FoM was a fluff Riker episode, giving him something interesting to do but not showing much of anything surrounding his character. Whereas here, we do get some sense of the Doc. He does seem to be a bit torn between his programming and his desire to be human. And although I still don't like the thought of the Doctor trying to become human or anything at this stage, at least that''s something a bit weighty.

But what about the rest of it? See, FoM was just a heck of a lot of fun. Yes, there was never any doubt that Riker was really a Starfleet officer, but the twists and turns worked very well anyways. We went back and forth between the Starfleet reality and the mental institution reality, with plenty of crossover between the two to make sure you never know what's going on (a fellow inmate claiming to be from Starfleet, the jailers showing up on the Enterprise, etc). But better yet, they weren't just false flags; it all makes perfect sense once you see the whole episode. And even better yet, they don't completely explain to you what went on; you have to figure out for yourself which parts of Riker's memories were real and which weren't and which ones ended up jumbled together. In short, the plotting was very clever.

And I think the plotting of the confusion was better there than in this episode. Although, really, it's pretty good here. The first act, before Barclay appears, is interesting enough, in which we try to understand what happened to the ship, while the plot sneaks in a few hints that something may not be right (scans not working on the crew, etc). Then we get into the Barclay part, and it becomes a bit more routine. We have the explanation, the initial dismissal, the eventual agreement, then the confusion, and the dramatic "which way will he choose" routine. That's the problem, it's routine. I mean, it's well scripted, but it ends up just going through the motions. If this episode had taken place later in the series (after Voyager had contact with Starfleet), then maybe we could have had some question about what really is real.

But I don't want to drag on this episode too much. What works? Barclay and the Doctor are very fun to watch. Chakotay's speech, as others have stated, was very good. The Doctor portrayed his confusion very well. And all the scenes were mostly entertaining to watch except when technobabble appeared. And heck, it was a pretty fun romp. But most importantly, the Doctor did, in fact, choose his programming. We don't really need another AI wanting to be human yet. Let's keep the Doc wanting to be a program for a little while longer. Even if he is wondering about what a different life would be, it's nice to see him actually be content with what he has. It's not the expected answer, so it works a bit more.
Azdude
Tue, May 26, 2015, 9:18pm (UTC -6)
I'm glad so many fans enjoyed this episode, but definitely not me. The two most annoying characters in the Trek universe (Neelix and Barklay) in yet another holodeck malfunction episode...
InternetName
Fri, Jun 12, 2015, 6:56pm (UTC -6)
It's interesting to me how few comments there are on the most obvious, glaring and massive Plot-Hole ever:
How would Zimmerman, back on Jupiter Station and prior to ANY communication reaching Starfleet as to what happened to voyager know that Neelix and Kes exitsted? At All?
How would it know the original doctor on board was gone and the EMH was the replacement? How would Zimmerman have had ANY idea whatsoever that B. Torres, a Maquis, would end up being a Lt. and Chief Engineer?
How would Zimmerman have known about the Kazon?

This episode was written without thinking the plan all the way through... and how Jammer could say that every potential plot hole was covered is mind boggling. The Plot holes were bigger than the Delta Quadrant.
Yanks
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
InternetName, I agree. Just rewatched this episode and had the same thoughts.

But, we are treated with the first of all the wonderful Doc-centered episodes.

Great performances by the EMH and Barklay and a very enjoyable episode.

But I can't go 4 stars because of the aforementioned gaff.

3 stars for me.

Irene
Fri, Sep 18, 2015, 5:37pm (UTC -6)
InternetName and Yanks, I believe that the implication is that everything we have seen so far on Voyager is a simulation that Dr Zimmerman created. So he would not 'know' about all that happening because in the real world it didn't. He made it up. This is obvious because Barkley says that the Dr was using the program to study the long term effects of a crew stuck out in space with no way to reach home (or something to that effect). Also, when Barkley tries to prove that the Doctor is real he takes them back to the start of the the simulation, which is the first episode. I don't see this as a plot hole.

I really like this episode, and I agree with the review. Its one of the best so far. I am watching through the show for the first time so I don't know how it will progress but I heard a lot of negative things about Voyager before I started watching. I agree its not as good as DS9, but not as bad as I was led to believe.
MartinB
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 10:34am (UTC -6)
The only thing letting this episode down for me is the lapse in logic that occurs within the first few minutes. The computer tells the Doctor that he was activated by a ship-wide red alert, but at this point the crew had been evacuated. This tells us indirectly, contrary to everything we've seen in Trek so far with red alert being automatically activated in emergencies, that Janeway, her ship under attack from hostile aliens and severly damaged, her crew in danger, decides to evacuate the ship and ONLY THEN does she decide to declare a red alert!? A little more thought being put into the script could have avoided that it only my lampshading it.
Dave
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 11:28am (UTC -6)
I'm starting to realize why Voyager was such a failure as a series. It wasn't the writers, it was the fans. I completely agree with Jammer here that this is one of the better episodes of Voyager, able to go toe to toe with some of the other decent episodes from TNG or DS9. But reading through these comments you can see that this episode was still 15 minutes too far into the future for the average slack jawed fan to appreciate. Voyager had some bright ideas, but they were tempered by a need to dumb them all down for the lowest denominator. Shame too. It really could've been something.
TGAinVMH
Fri, Jan 8, 2016, 6:56am (UTC -6)
No one commented on the funniest part in the whole episode. When the doctor asks "Who is Barclay", and it is explained that Barclay was in charge of developing the doctor's social interactions, or something to that effect. Hilarious. And it explains a lot about the doctor's eccentricities.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Jan 9, 2016, 7:51am (UTC -6)
Strong episode for the Doctor, who can clearly carry off being centre stage with aplomb at this point of the show. On the whole this is very nearly a superb episode, but it seems to spend a lot of time circling around itself rather than moving forward and the multiple twists - as well as the deflating ending disappointment - tend to take the momentum out.

We do have some superb dialogue, and the scene with Neelix and the Kazon is crazy fun. "My best sauté pan" indeed. 3 stars.
Justus
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 6:46pm (UTC -6)
"Did I program Mr. Paris to be so annoying?"
"Actually, I programmed him. I modeled him after my cousin Frank."

This line was a missed opportunity to connect Paris back to Nick Locarno, the cadet Robert Duncan McNeill plays in the TNG episode, "The First Duty".
Mike
Sat, Jun 11, 2016, 9:25am (UTC -6)
Reading the negative reviews here, most seem based on the idea that Voyager should have been about being "lost in the Delta Quadrant". And episodes that distract from this are somehow pointless. (There are also some reviewers who are confused about the plot, but they're missing the point, so I'm ignoring that).

This is a solid character episode. We learn that - like Data - the Doctor has to deal with a desire to be human. We don't know this when the series begins. We only learn the extent of it through the series. And, interestingly, the Doctor HIMSELF doesn't realize it. He doesn't realize he has feelings for Kes, etc.

In "Voyager in the Delta Quadrant" terms, perhaps its a 'reset button' episode. But in character terms, we learn a lot about one of the more interesting characters in the ST canon. The episodes really should not always be ranked along the "how well they fit the Delta Quadrant high concept" thing. People miss some really great things that way.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
Dunno why I'm replying to a random comment by "Dave" from last year, but it strikes the right chord of sad irony in me that I just have to.

"I'm starting to realize why Voyager was such a failure as a series. It wasn't the writers, it was the fans. I completely agree with Jammer here that this is one of the better episodes of Voyager, able to go toe to toe with some of the other decent episodes from TNG or DS9. But reading through these comments you can see that this episode was still 15 minutes too far into the future for the average slack jawed fan to appreciate. Voyager had some bright ideas, but they were tempered by a need to dumb them all down for the lowest denominator. Shame too. It really could've been something."

This is a supremely cynical comment about a fan audience renowned for comprising educated, intelligent, and open-minded people. Engineers and physicists are notoriously big fans of TNG, and a lot of fans growing up on TOS are massively hopeful about Trek's view of the future and are in it for the message rather than the explosions. Trek changed the lives of many fans, and inspired others to become astronauts, scientists, and more.

If you're going to insult the fan base of a franchise, this was the wrong one to choose, man. 15-20 years later I can see a case for claiming the mentality of viewers across the board has changed, but Voyager came right on the coattails of TNG, beginning almost right after TNG ended. To blame the TNG audience for any shortcomings in Voyager is beyond ludicrous. I like how, inadvertently, the above comment does seem to grant something inferior about Voyager, but decides it must have all been a deliberate ploy by the divine writers aimed at the stupid fans.

What a crazy turnabout, jeez.
Robert
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 5:18pm (UTC -6)
@Peter - For what it's worth I think you're both right. The UPN promos were often quite clear about the fact that the brass was targeting idiot fans. Now I fans personally think the idiots they were targeting didn't exist and that the brass were morons, but meh. The argument can be made that VOY catered sometimes to the lowest common denominator, bit I don't think the fans wanted that.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 8:31pm (UTC -6)
@ Robert,

Even if you're 100% correct, what you're really saying is that the people promoting Voyager were too stupid for the fans - that they were ignoring the real fanbase and catering to basically no one. How can anyone blame the fans for that?

Even if we grant that there was some kind of lowest common denominator that the producers decided to reach out to, we can simply note that literally every sample group of individuals has a lowest common denominator. It's tautological, in fact. For someone to base policy on that lowest denominator cannot possibly translate into culpability for the rest of the sample group. You cannot blame the majority for the existence of a minority that literally cannot fail to exist in any sample group.
"There should never be the lowest of you!" What a sentiment.

Let's face it. If the Voyager producers marketed for the wrong audience then they are stupid. If they hired writers, and the writers are the ones who wrote for the wrong audience, then once again the producers are stupid. Problems like this originate at the top. The fan base can never be blamed for something like this. The very fact that there *was* an intelligent and loyal fan base is already a godsend. You cannot ask for more; all you can do is ruin it.
Robert
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 10:46am (UTC -6)
@Peter G. - I personally was NOT blaming the fans in my comment. I was kind of saying the same as you that Dave's "Voyager had some bright ideas, but they were tempered by a need to dumb them all down for the lowest denominator." might have been true, but NOT the fault of the fans.

"Even if you're 100% correct, what you're really saying is that the people promoting Voyager were too stupid for the fans."

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

DS9 needed a ratings boost they got a Klingon Warrior and VOY needed a ratings boost so they got Barbie of Borg (the fact that Jeri is an amazing actress and that the writers actually did a pretty decent job with the character is irrelevant, we know what they were trying to do... the poor woman nearly passed out in that costume). Look at the promo with "The Rock" (another good episode despite the fact that they were actually crossing over VOY with their wrestling program), the rumors that they only kept Kim because he made it into that magazine, a lack of continuity that often made TNG look serial and a refusal to step away from the series bible on characters like Kim. All because their viewers were too stupid to follow changes.

That said a lot of good came out of VOY and the cast was awesome. But the powers that be were idiots and they thought we were too.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 11:12am (UTC -6)
@ Robert,

I more or less agree with you. But I think we're talking at cross-purposes, because from the text I was quoting this was the most pertinent part:

"But reading through these comments you can see that this episode was still 15 minutes too far into the future for the average slack jawed fan to appreciate."

His comment was clearly not about the producers or the promoters, but about the stupidity of *average* fans, and in particular, a reference to that stupidity as exemplified by the comments section *here*. We can read between the lines and realize what he meant is that people who criticize the show (or an episode) are morons, because it is awesome.

It's one thing to argue that the execs chose to cater to the lowest common denominator. It's quite another to claim that the average Trek fan WAS the lowest common denominator, and that they were too slow in the head to appreciate the genius that Voyager was producing. That is pure nonsense, and self-congratulatory nonsense at that.
Chrome
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 11:31am (UTC -6)
@Robert & Peter G.

UPN fans in general (especially of that era), we're not the brightest bulbs in the box. I mean just look at UPN's lineup during Voyager's run: Sweet Valley High, Clueless, Breaker High, As If, Homeboys in Outer Space...the list goes on.

Even if Paramount wasn't pandering to dumb Star Trek fans, it was at least pandering to dumb UPN viewers.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 12:10pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

Ok. But is the implication there that the posters on this site are holdover UPN fans? Note again Dave was using the comments here as evidence of the stupidity of Trek fans when Voyager was on the air. He did not make reference to Nielson reports or other information taken from the 90's.

Also, I find it a little far-fetched the UPN's viewership suddenly became a relevant enough subset of Trek viewers that they could plausibly be referred to as the "average" Trek viewer. It's not like UPN was only shown in the remote countryside. The standard behavior for a Trek fan would be to tune in to DS9 at 7 pm on ABC and then watch Voyager at 8. It's not like it's hard to switch the channel from one to the other. Maybe someone who's studied TV production will know more than me, but I seriously doubt major networks at the time had dedicated viewers that would just turn on a channel and leave it on regardless of what show was playing. "I'll watch anything on UPN, I don't care what!" I would suspect that the vast majority of viewers would tune in to a particular show either to try it out or because they already knew it. Someone might be dead-set on watching TV at a particular time, but probably not on a particular channel.
Chrome
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 12:30pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Certainly *some* are holdover UPN fans. But I'm not saying Trek fans are stupid or that Voyager was targeted at dumber Trek fans. More the opposite. I can see a scenario playing out like "Well Trek fans will watch this either way, so let's try to dumb it down so our core audience demographic won't get scared by techno-babble and watch it too."

Also, I think at least some consideration has to be given to UPN fans, even if they aren't the average Trek fan. Consider that UPN was a young network when Voyager aired, and UPN would go to great lengths to keep its viewer base happy, if it meant upsetting some Trek fans (which it apparently did).

That's not to say that Voyager is a dumb show, I think many of the shows were very smartly written, but it's hard to ignore things like "PRO WRESTLING IN SPACE" as obvious gimmicks to non-Trek fans.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

What you say makes sense. Why do you think some people on this site are specifically UPN 'holdovers' (i.e. people who were dedicated specifically to the network, rather to any particular show on it)? The only evidence of this Dave cites are the apparently stupidity of the posts, as he sees it.

In any case I still don't see how any of this translates into to the 'average' Trek fan being too 'slack-jawed' to follow what's going on in an episode.
Robert
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 1:57pm (UTC -6)
@Peter - Wholeheartedly agree. My point was just that Dave drew the wrong conclusion from the right data point.

Data point being that UPN was targeting VOY towards idiots and conclusion being that the people watching were idiots.

Whereas reality was that everyone I knew that watched VOY were very much ANNOYED at the non-existent fans that were being targeted. Or if they existed I never met any.

As to UPN hold overs, I'm a firm believer that just because you can enjoy cheetos doesn't mean you can't enjoy fine wine and caviar. The fact that UPN audience liked Wrestling and As If doesn't mean they couldn't (and did) enjoy some of VOY's more sophisticated fare (like Blink of an Eye).

Or to put it another way, if I could divine information about my wife's intelligence based on the stupidest TV shows she watches we'd not be married :P Liking fluff is ok, it doesn't preclude you from also liking other stuff. But often I felt VOY's powers that be felt a large share of it's viewers couldn't handle intelligent fare, and I think that's preposterous!
George Monet
Mon, Aug 8, 2016, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
To summarize the asshole that is Peter G, "I will classify this 3 star episode as one of Voyager's best so that I can then on this tirade where I call everyone who likes Voyager a basement dwelling neckbeard." The problem isn't the fans, it is assholes like yourself who want to believe that you are a special snowflake who is better than everyone else. When you make such shitty posts like this you do nothing but show that the real common denominator is asshats like yourself who simply refuse to get along with everyone else.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 8, 2016, 8:50pm (UTC -6)
"To summarize the asshole that is Peter G, "I will classify this 3 star episode as one of Voyager's best so that I can then on this tirade where I call everyone who likes Voyager a basement dwelling neckbeard." The problem isn't the fans, it is assholes like yourself who want to believe that you are a special snowflake who is better than everyone else. When you make such shitty posts like this you do nothing but show that the real common denominator is asshats like yourself who simply refuse to get along with everyone else."

Your aggressively toxic remarks speak for themselves. But I find it especially comical that you attribute me as saying that this is one of Voyager's best, which I do not think it is. It's icing on the cake that the exchange you're 'replying' to was me defending the users on this site from an attribution that their posts prove that they are idiots undeserving of good Trek. I guess you've proved me wrong :p
mephyve
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
Lol Barclay bwahahahahahaahaha. A fine romp through the AI doc's mind.
Rob
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 12:34pm (UTC -6)
As a stand alone story it is mildly entertaining.

It does absolutely nothing for the overall series of Voyager, as nothing actually matters in the end.
Jeremy
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 10:10am (UTC -6)
Frame of Mind is a far better episode. This one leans too hard on the technobabble radiation. There's no compelling story underpinning it. Kes and the Doctor's conversation about wondering about the nature of one's existence is too little, too late to bring meaning to the past hour of randomness and arguments about whether to shoot the magnetic constrictor coils.
JohnC
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
I am ok with giving this a 4 solely for Picardo's performance. The Doctor here is deliciously sarcastic, finicky and funny. "Banjoman". LMAO.

Not really getting those who say they immediately dismissed this as a "hologram episode" that didn't move the series forward. Knowing that Voyager was not developed with a serialized storyline, I tend to try to take each episode on its own. This was an interesting study in "reality", well-acted, thoughtfully conceived and kept me guessing.
Ildaf
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 11:53pm (UTC -6)
Doc having trouble when visiting holodeck.
Well.. who's better than Barclay for holodeck problem, our beloved holo-dict character, and the result is.... Awesome!

Barclay even mentioned to Doc he has HTDS (Holo Transference Dementia Syndrome), coming from Barclay.. this is really something, and to prove his point.. he slap Doc in the face!. Picardo reaction is priceless!.

The two man has great chemistry, and watching them changing line with their antique-ness is a real pleasure!

The malfunctioning so conveniently provide everything the program need to trick the Doctor into believe he is a real person (Barclay his assistant, Kes as wife, life-sign, and complete bio Zimmerman of holo-Voyager). All of this can be explained by read and using the memory data on Doc to create the delusion.
But one thing that bother me and the big game changer for all of this is the ability to feel pain, where that come from? His program doesn't need and have this, so that's kinda come from nowhere.

The delusion of Doc also suggest his desire to become a 'real person', not only just a programming. That's expected actually, with The Doc pretty much is a Data version of Voyager.
The ending is interesting, show us that Doc accept his nature that he is a 'mere program', but with an obvious foreshadowing he is (or will become) more than that.

Great episodes, but I don't think it has a big impact, depth, outstanding, or become a classic one to warrant 4 stars.

3 (***) stars
anchors away
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 10:36pm (UTC -6)
when the Doctor views the last log left by Janeway,.....who would stop RIGHT in the middle of a catastrophe to stop, chat to a camera,, and record a log?
Skeevee
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Jammer 100%. This is absolutely the best Voyager episode yet. One of the better Star Trek episodes in general.

I think part of that, at least for me, is that I don't really care for many of the characters on Voyager. Too many of them annoy me. The Doc doesn't and neither does Kes. And I always liked Barclay. The three of them being the main characters in this one helped alot.

And Kes telling the Doc not to tell Neelix they were married in his delusion because he would get jealous, only goes to show what a terrible character Neelix is, yet again.

I hate plot holes with a passion, and I couldn't see any obvious ones in this episode. That's impressive, seeing how convoluted it was.

I would have liked a little better explanation of how this all happened, other than 'a radiation surge', but that's a minor point.

And Kes is hot.

4 stars from me for sure

Startrekwatcher
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
2 stars. Vastly overrated

Michael Piller once mentioned that “it all happened in your head” episodes were kinda cheap and unsatisfactory and I fully agree. This had some intrigue and WTF?!? Vibe going on much like TNG Remember Me, Future Imperfect, Night Terrors but unlike those excellent outings it went the TNG Eye of the Beholder route with its dream ending or at least the holodeck equivalent which made this episode a major disappointment. A great episode needs BOTH a good set up AND a satisfying payoff. This only had a part so I find it a very lacking hour
Ruth
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 6:06am (UTC -6)
This episode is deeply fascinating BECAUSE it all happens in someone’s head - someone who’s not meant to have a head that things happen inside like this! Seeing Janeway’s weird dream for an hour would be boring and pointless. Of course she has weird dreams, we all do. But the doctor doesn’t.

All of the supposed plot holes too, it’s dream logic. Each new revelation or event only follows from the one directly preceding. It feels just like a dream. But the doctor isn’t supposed to be someone who dreams, or someone who madly tries to force logic in a place it doesn’t belong, only noticing after strange things happen that they were strange - he’s meant to be a program that follows strict logical steps. But he’s clearly not, and if you didn’t get it more subtlely from previous episodes, this one spells it out.

The feedback loop is that the doctor doesn’t know if he’s real or not. Wanting to be real indicates that you’re real. A holographic doctor doesn’t, shouldn’t want to be real. Yet if you’re real, you don’t want to be real, you just ARE. You can see this episode as the one where he truly came to life in a way. So he’s thinking - can I be real if I’m not flesh and blood? If I’m stuck in one room? And he feels like the answer is no, but that still doesn’t stop him believing he is real. So he is confused.

This is part of one of the long stories on voyager, the doctor’s existence as a person. This is what people who dislike Voyager claim to want out of Voyager so I don’t understand the complaints. I’m glad Jammer likes this one as much as I do anyway.
Rahul
Tue, Feb 13, 2018, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
Definitely feels like a Braga episode -- and one of his better ones. All these illusions seem to have some bizarre way of "making sense" with radiation bursts / anomalies / holodecks etc. and it made for an entertaining but mostly inconsequential episode.

Picardo and Schultz make a fine team -- good writing in terms of their lines and the overall concept for the episode which is to make Doc question his existence. There was one final part that I didn't understand -- after Tuvok and Kim in sickbay explain what had happened, then Barclay and Kes (as Doc's wife) reappear. I take it this was one last glitch before Janeway sets things straight in the holodeck. But the episode is all about unexpected twists and it just does these things a bit too arbitrarily for me. It's like the perfect storm has to take place for specific subroutines in Doc's program to be affected by some BS radiation while he's in the holodeck.

Gotta give credit to this episode for messing with my mind -- was perfectly prepared to watch Doc phaser the warp core and then have the episode resolve itself, but then Chakotay pops up. Thought the commander could have been more forceful with Doc in telling him to forget Barclay's advice.

3 stars for "Projections" -- a lot to like here as the tables are turned on Doc with Barclay's explanation seeming so sound as an experiment Dr. Zimmerman was conducting. The episode did give the sense of almost helplessness for Doc in the early part. It's a good experiment in putting a character through the ringer and keeping the viewer guessing, but I don't think it's as good as "Cause and Effect" (as Braga efforts go). Might be, however, a landmark episode as far as Doc's character development and future efforts to experience humanness.
SouthofReality
Sun, Apr 1, 2018, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
No way this is a 4-star episode. Maybe 3-stars, but no more. The basic flaw in the story is that we KNOW that Barclay story is the illusion because if it isn't, there is no Voyager tv series. So what we're left with is the Doctor looking anxious trying to figure out what is reality and that can only take you so far.

Here's where it might have been better. If the Barclay version referenced the messages received via the Romulan scientist and then built the simulation based on the known facts contained within that message (the crew makeup, the Kazon, etc.) Then we would still have the Voyager universe from the tv series but also with a reasonable belief that the Barclay story is true. It would have kept us guessing, rather than - well, quite frankly - annoyed.
Cmj
Sun, Apr 8, 2018, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode. I'll watch every Star Trek episode that Jonathan Frakes or Lavar Burton directs because they almost always do a phenomenal job. I wouldn't give this on 4 stars, but I enjoyed the comedic chemistry between Schultz and Picardo.
Elliott
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 10:58am (UTC -6)
Teaser : **** , 5%

The EMH is activated in sickbay, which is empty. Hmm. The computer informs him that he was activated automatically when a red alert was declared. He calls the bridge to get some answers, but it turns out the entire crew is gone. Like with “Faces,” this is the perfect way to tease an episode.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

The computer reads a laundry least of problems; in addition to the missing crew, half the ship systems are down, there's damage and main power is gone. The EMH access Janeway's last bridge log, which gets him a little more up to speed—the crew abandoned ship and Janeway and Torres stayed behind to try and stabilise the warp core, apparently succeeding. And of course, after all of that, THEN Janeway decided to call a red alert. Hmm. With appropriate melancholy, the doctor records a log summarising his situation. Seeing as how his “usefulness has come to an end,” he determines to delete himself. But then, there's a rap-tap-tapping at the door. The EMH arms himself...with a hypospray. Cute. But it's only Torres—she says the sensors are malfunctioning and gets him a little more up to speed. The Voyager was attacked by the Kazon which led to their current predicament, who then tractored the escape pods and warped away...leaving the valuable Federation technology behind? Hmm. More mystery...none of the doctor's tricorders are registering Torres' lifesigns, so he has to diagnose her by eye before treating her minor injury. However, the captain is trapped on the bridge and needs immediate medical attention, so Torres is going to send him there. Send you say?

TORRES: For the past few weeks we've been setting up holographic emitters on critical decks. We were hoping to set up a remote holo-projection system, give you access to other parts of the ship.
EMH: Why wasn't I told about this?
TORRES: We hadn't even tested the system yet. There was no guarantee it was going to work. I guess the Captain didn't want to get your hopes up.

Really? That's awfully considerate of her to spare the hologram's feelings. Hmm. Well, after a short while, Torres completes the tech tech and transfers him to the bridge, while Torres will head back to Engineering. He arrives on the highly-damaged bridge and remarks, “Well, it's bigger than I thought.”

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

The EMH finds Janeway unconscious under a girder...the tricorder up here isn't working either, so he guesses at the right hypo and helps her to her feet. Within about 2 minutes of his arrival, Torres calls, having successfully crawled back to Engineering and repaired the comm system. Hmm. Well anyway, before they can get underway with repairs, there's a call on the newly-restored comm system from Neelix who reports an emergency in the mess hall. Janeway's only option for rescue is to transfer the EMH. So he arrives to find Neelix in a food fight—yes really—with a Kazon. Neelix is keeping the oaf at bay by throwing the contents of his kitchen at him, while the EMH sneaks around (and hilariously). He tries to attack the invader, and manages to distract him long enough for Neelix to knock him out with a frying pan. Slapstick and Star Trek aren't always the best combination, but Picardo and Phillips make it work. Neelix has reverted to his pre-”Jetrel” puffed up self, damn it, but the exchange leads to a curious discovery: the EMH has been injured in their scuffle—and is bleeding. Something must be wrong with his programme. The doctor calls Janeway to have himself returned to sickbay.

He is further disturbed by the fact that his injury is causing him pain. A tricorder scan reveals that he, unlike everyone else he's scanned today, is emitting lifesigns. When he asks the computer to analyse his programme, the computer is unfamiliar with that programme. Hmm. The EMH is maddened by this odd contradictory information, culminating in the reveal that the CMO of the Voyager is listed as Lewis Zimmerman, who was established as the EMH's creator in “The Cloud.” HHHMMMM. The doctor pulls up a profile on Zimmerman, who looks exactly like Robert Picardo. The interplay between him and the computer is highly amusing. This little investigation is interrupted by the arrival of the whole cast so far, Janeway, Torres, Neelix and the Kazon prisoner. Man these people are moving quickly today. He explains the odd problems with his programme, the computer database and his new biography. Janeway thinks their new remote projectors are confusing the computer, so she orders it to shut down all the Voyager's holograms, and in a genuine WTF moment, everyone in sickbay except the doctor disappear. This gives Doc quite the headache.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

“Simulations? I'm talking about real people.”

The entire crew is stored in computer memory (bloc 47 [duh] alpha). Well, the EMH is going to need to talk about all of this with somebody, and lucky him (and us), that somebody turns out to be Reg Barclay, who appears in holographic form. Apparently, after his therapist/masturbation fantasy crashed the Enterprise, he found himself a job as Dr Zimmerman's assistant on the Jupiter Station. In fact, holo-Reg tells the EMH that they are actually on Jupiter Station at this very moment, that the Voyager is actually a computer simulation, and that the EMH is actually Dr Zimmerman. Oh, and he has a wife, too. This information is delivered marvellously by the ever reliable Dwight Schultz. I love the way he paces about the room before telling Doc not to panic. Hilarious.

The Voyager is a programme that Zimmerman wrote in order to study the effects of putting Maquis and Starfleet together in an isolated starship, in other words, the premise of the series Star Trek: Voyager. Reg explains that there was a radiation surge on the station which caused an accident on the holodeck (of course), injuring Zimmerman and affecting his memory. Reg of course isn't real—I mean he is real, but he's a hologram—I mean he's a holographic *projection* of the real Barclay who is really in a control booth; the Voyager isn't real but the danger is to the EMH, who isn't really an EMH (which isn't really a thing), but to Dr Zimmerman, who the EMH really is, who is real. Got all that?

BARCLAY: Look, Doctor, it's very important that you believe me. You're losing your sense of identity. You're starting to think that you're part of the programme and that's, that's not good. It's called HTDS. Holo Transference Dementia Syndrome.

Ho ho ho...and who would know more about that than Barclay? Well, Reg needs to prove to the Doctor that he is being truthful, so, in a callback to “Phage,” he slaps him in the face, inciting Doc to give it right back. The slapstick, again, is carried magnificently by the actors. Barclay dematerialises for a few seconds, then re-appears having consulted with the neurologist AND tech crew—the transporter won't work, the holodeck is locked up and Zimmerman's brain is melting. Man these people work FAST. Barclay says the only answer is to complete the programme so it will end and they can access the holodeck. And the programme (the series) ends one of two ways: the Voyager makes it back to the AQ in one piece or is destroyed. So, “Lewis” is going to have to blow the ship up to hasten things along before his brain melts.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Well, the Doc is going to need more convincing than holo-Reg's word and the readings of a tricorder Reg hands him. So, Reg resets the programme, and we find ourselves in the EMH's first scene of the series, right in the throws of “Caretaker.” Tom and Harry are there, just as they were before, but the Doc realises he's reliving events and humorously quizzes the lovers about their situation, beginning to show genuine skepticism. The Doctor takes a...slightly disturbing pleasure in deleting the characters of Paris and Kim, but he remains skeptical. So he decides to destroy the holographic memory core on the ship. If Doc is a hologram, he should disappear for ever.

The pair arrive in Engineering as Janeway is in the midst of those repairs to the warp core. Doc tries to repeat his trick: “Computer, delete Janeway!” And it doesn't work. Oooo boy, buddy. Reg explains that the programme is freezing up or something. The Doc prattles on to Janeway about the plot their in, about Banjoman and the excruciating pain they're all about to suffer. Picardo's delivery is pure gold, of course. Then of course, the entire crew is beamed to the array. So, Reg hands him a phaser and he shoots the memory core, and the computer confirms that all of the hologram are offline. Doc finally concludes that he is a real person—one in mortal danger. Reg begs him to phaser the warp core as the Doc's headache returns—a result of his brain melting. He takes aim, but right before he fires, Chakotay appears and tells him to stop. HHHHHMMMMMMMM.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

Chakotay *also* has an explanation about what's going on; today's events are a projection being created by the EMH's programme. There was indeed a radiation surge, but it was on the Voyager's holodeck, and the pain he's feeling is a result of damage to his programme. If he destroys the ship, he destroys himself. Seems equally plausible to Reg's explanation, but Reg has a trump card:

BARCLAY: You don't have memory circuits, you have a mind, and it's being damaged.

Eventually, Doc starts to become overwhelmed with the pain and Kes appears, as a human, saying she's his wife and doesn't want to lose him.

BARCLAY: Lewis, how would you rather think of yourself? As a real person with a real life, with a family that loves you? Or as some hologram that exists in a Sickbay on a starship lost in deep space.
CHAKOTAY: This isn't about what you want. This is about what you are. Just because you're made of projected light and energy doesn't mean you're any less real than someone made of flesh and blood. It doesn't matter what you're made of. What matters is who you are. You're our friend, and we want you back.

This is pretty fascinating stuff. Both Barclay and Chakotay are offering the Doc alternative realities which bestow him with personhood, either as a real human being with a life, or as a hologram who has real relationships.

The EMH wakes up sickbay, in the midst of telling his wife, Kes, that he thinks she's beautiful, only to find himself telling Ocampa Kes the same. The crew explains that they've extracted him, and how Barclay (the real Barclay) actually did interact with the EMH during his design phase, hence the all-to-accurate personality. The senior staff are called to the bridge and Kes appears to give the EMH some shit over his “beautiful” comment, but this quickly devolves into another episode—Kes wants to save their marriage, Barclay re-appears, fish-eye lens, Zimmerman is injured and speaking with Janeway's voice—it's very creepy and effective, but finally we find ourselves in the holodeck, where we've been all along, with the crew standing around him, having finally teched the tech.

In the epilogue, the EMH wonders aloud to Kes why his programme got so existential and esoteric in the face of a tech issue. This time, Kes really does play a little trick on him:

EMH: I know exactly who I am and what my purpose is. I am the Emergency Medical Hologram aboard the starship Voyager.
KES: Are you sure about that?

The Doc pokes his hand out the door to confirm that it vanishes, a subtle nod to Barclay who pondered that data cube in the epilogue of “Ship in a Bottle,” and asked the computer to “End programme,” just in case.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

This episode succeeds on multiple levels, capitalising on the excellent character groundwork laid in “Heroes and Demons,” but using the central character question to generate, or perhaps project the plot into existence. To begin, with the exception of the epilogue in sickbay (the EMH's usual abode) and the establishing shot beforehand, every single scene of the episode is actually taking place in the holodeck without us realising it. In a franchise with eight years of holodeck stories behind, pulling off this illusion is extremely impressive. Moreover, having all of the scenes take place on the familiar sets, but with the Doctor feeling so out of place cues us in to the claustrophobic perspective of the Doctor himself. When he isn't faced with medical drama or in computer oblivion, what is the Doctor to do but ponder his own existence, stuck in a room that doesn't even have a window into space?

Of course, the reset to “Caretaker” also cues us in to the episode's metatextual commentary. The EMH's function on the series is/will be the same as Zimmerman's alleged function in the programme—to observe, to comment on and to evaluate the human condition of the “real people” on the Voyager. This is very much the Spock/Data/Odo role, of course, but framing it like this and and leaning heavily against the fourth wall is something Trek doesn't usually handle this well (c.f. “Explorers”). *This* is Doc's purpose.

The episode is also extremely funny, capitalising on the talents of Schultz and Picardo, both in the witty banter and the slapstick. This comedic glue ties together the disparate tones of plot weirdness and meaty characterisation. We are shepherded through explanations to the impossible mystery through to the existential questions by dialogue, which is nothing short of brilliant.

The way in which the EMH's mind casts the different crew is also very illuminating: Torres is his saviour, with her tech tech providing a promise of one day opening up his world; Janeway is a soft antagonist, with the power to expand or curtail his exploration into personhood on her whim; Neelix is a clown; Kes is his greatest champion, her unique affection expanded into full-blown romantic love; Chakotay, the spiritual one, is the angel who appears to bestow meaning on his life *as it is*; and Barclay is a reminder of his past, when the delineation between hologram and real person was absolute.

While the fake-out at the end seems like just another narrative trick (and perhaps it was intended to be), what works so well about it is that it re-casts Chakotay's somewhat trite little speech to him (“it doesn't matter what you're made of!”) That's not THE ANSWER, because this is still taking place within the projection. The answer is actually far more nuanced. Barclay posits that what makes Doc/Zimmerman “real” is the fact that he has a family, a life and a fleshy mind, while Chakotay counters that the EMH can be real too, because he has friends who care about him. But what if Barclay was wrong to begin with? Why is having a wife and a job and a brain that can be melted by technobabble “real”? Why does the Doctor have to measure himself against the metrics humans use to establish their intrinsic value? It isn't a case of 'we are all real and if you make yourself more like us, maybe we'll let you join the club.' No, the Doctor is free to define his own existence on his own terms. In the beginning of the episode, the Doctor, believing the crew to be gone or dead, decided to delete himself, having no discernible purpose. In the end, as a hologram, he may indeed be confined to a single room all his life—but in that very holodeck, he can be anything, go anywhere, and never die.

Final Score : ***.5

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 © 1994-2018 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.