08:38:21 on April 20
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: TrekWeb Features
What’s In a Name?
An Interview With Robert Picardo - Part 2
Listen to Robert's Welcome (MP3, 101k)
Written by Steve Krutzler with thanks to E. Cristy Ruteshouser for her assistance with this feature.
Continuing on from Part 1, we asked Robert to talk about some of the creative directions his character has taken of late. Ever since his episode “Life Line” at the end of season six, the question of holographic rights has been pushed to the fore of Voyager’s concerns, and this season’s November tele-film “Flesh and Blood” plunged head-first into the issue, pitting fellow holograms against their organic oppressors in a rebellion that tested The Doctor’s loyalties and his crewmates’ commitment to the Federation spirit that by all accounts should by now entitle The Doctor to personal rights akin to those enjoyed by Next Generation’s Lt. Cmdr. Data.
For all its November Sweeps hype, however, many critics argue that “Flesh and Blood” failed to really resolve or truly address the question of holographic sentience; Janeway dismisses The Doctor’s error in judgment as a problem with his technology and not the free choice of a fully self-aware individual. “Well, I think that it’s pretty clear that The Doctor, and Iden, and many of the outlaw holograms are sentient holograms. As far as their rights as individual[s] and how far they extend, I pretty much agree that The Doctor is treated at the end like a computer program gone bad,” Picardo explains. “However, Janeway does say explicitly ‘that you’ve just become more like flesh and blood, the fact that you are fallible, that your emotions can control a decision that should be an intellectual decision, makes you more human. So, she does in fact say that The Doctor’s very fallibility in these circumstances make him seem more like an organic individual than a computer program. But, he’s being punished, just as an insubordinate organic officer aboard Voyager would be punished.”
“I think that you’ll find that in the episode “Author, Author” (aired April 18th), that Janeway finally, truly acknowledges The Doctor’s status as a unique individual as well as a crewman, an officer, and an artist.”
Though, Picardo’s character has over the show’s run become somewhat of a favorite for the writers, the last few seasons have seen an exorbitant amount of cross-over appearances of characters from previous Trek series—more so than in either Next Generation or Deep Space Nine (on which Picardo himself appeared as Doctor Zimmerman, the EMH’s creator, in the episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”).
We asked Robert how, as part of the Voyager team, it feels when you realize that the Borg are becoming regulars or that Next Generation characters Troi and Barclay will be getting their fourth episode; do these sorts of creative decisions steal thunder away from the characters Voyager has striven to develop? “Not at all. I think that that kind of continuity from the earlier Trek shows is extremely gratifying to the fans and I happen to be so fond of each of them as people, first of all, as actors, and as characters, that I am surely delighted every time Marina, or Dwight, or the two of them join us for an episode. So I have only good feelings about that and I don’t think that detracts from us in the slightest.”
But Picardo suggests that while these sorts of decisions may be wonderful in and of themselves, they do perhaps highlight a weakness of Voyager as a series: “I wish we had created a particular villain, say, as popular as ‘Q’ has been, and enduring—” he says, “but John de Lancie is an extraordinary and unique actor and I don’t know that more than one character like that comes along—so I feel great that we’ve had the opportunity to have John, Marina, and Dwight join our cast on a number of occasions, and remind all of the loyal Trek fans of the friends that extend through all four of the shows”
Now, as promised, here are the rest of Robert’s answers to questions submitted by TrekWeb visitors:
Terence asks: How did being the holographic doctor for seven years affect your life? Did you learn anything out of this whole experience?
That a character can develop a life of his own to such an extent that I rarely have to make conscious decisions about my performance as The Doctor. He pretty much does what he wants to do, as long as I show up that day.
Sheena asks: In the future, if Star trek were to do a film or guest appearance featuring the Doctor, say if he was 17 years old, how do you think his character would have changed?
I think that The Doctor would progress along the lines that we’ve seen him grow in the last seven years. He would become more sensitive, more understanding, more of his rough edges that have been disappearing over the last seven years would have disappeared and he probably would appear to be even more human, with that much more activation. That is assuming that technologically there were no problems that developed with his program having been running so continuously for so long.
D. David asks: Bob, I recently caught Message in a Bottle and can't help but wonder whether you have any engaging stories about when they shot the "test EMH" scene w/McNeill & Wang. It's where you have to stand absolutely still while McNeill acts around you, knocks on your head, etc. Was it hard to keep that straight face?
[Laughter] It was hard to read that medical text at high speed with all of that going on; of course, since it was straight out of Gray’s Anatomy or some medical textbook, I did not memorize that, I tried to read it without moving my eyeballs. But I’ve had Robbie talking in my face and knocking on my head for seven years, so that doesn’t really throw me [laughter].
Joel asks: Considering both popular and Oscar winning movies of the past 25 years
or so, which films would you have loved to have played lead in? Which ones looked most fun?
The last 25 years? [considers for a moment…] Usually a film that’s that successful, the performances are so indelible and the success of the actors so strong in the role that it never occurs to me that ‘gee, I would’ve liked to have played that role’ [laughter]. If they did a great job, I’m delighted to have seen them play the role. So, I’m actually proud to say that I don’t think that that’s ever crossed my mind. Of actors of my generation, I particularly admire Tom Hanks, even though Tom is probably three years younger than I am, and admire both his work and the variety of roles he’s played and the choices he’s made in his career. So, I suppose if I were to suffer the sin of envy, it would be pretty much for the kind of talent and the kind of career that he has.
Bernie Seilhamer asks: When will you be releasing a CD of your song parodies that you perform at Star Trek conventions?
Glad you asked, Bernie! As promised at the Grand Slam last year, I completed work on my CD for the Grand Slam this year. So I’m happy to say that as of today, and today happens to be April Fool’s Day, but I happen to be telling the truth just on a whim, that my CD called ‘basic bob’, which includes nine original lyric song parodies that I’ve done at conventions plus at least one that no one’s ever heard live that is a Trek actor-newly-unemployed begging for his next convention opportunity in “Brother, Can You Spare a Con?” I am delighted with how it turned out, it makes me laugh; it’s a little edgy at places, there are some racy lyrics, I have a little ‘Galaxy Quest’-style fun with a Star Trek convention in one of the songs, but it’s all in good fun. I’m convinced that Star Trek fans can stand a joke made about conventions in the same way that a Star Trek actor can make a joke about himself and have it all be in good fun. So I invite you to check my web site, robertpicardo.com, because I hope it’ll be available over the web site, in addition to all the conventions and personal appearances that I make.
See also: www.robertpicardo.com
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