Star Trek: Voyager's ROBERT PICARDO tells Bryan Cairns about his days in the Delta Quadrant. Please state the nature of the interview opportunity...
The doctor sees us now.
Robert Picardo’s place in Star Trek history is assured. His turn as the Doctor – alias Emergency Medical Hologram Mark 1 – in Star Trek:
Voyager made him a fan favourite. He went on to reprise the role in
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and on the big screen in Star Trek: First Contact. Now he’s sharing his memories of the final frontier...
Can you remember stepping on set for the first time?
I remember stepping foot on the sets and thinking how cool the sets looked and how they had a tremendous reality to them. You make all the jokes about the rickety sci-fi sets, where the door closes and the walls shake. But Voyager was built like a tank. That was impressive.
Is there a prop or costume you would have loved to have taken home?
It would have been great to have an authentic Tricorder. There were so many of my medical “blinkies” that were fun. “Blinkies” was the careful scientific term. The producers did let me have the Doctor’s smoking jacket from the episode where he’s writing a book called “Author, Author”.
Is there a line of dialogue that stayed with you?
I remember the first time I had huge dialogue requirements, since the way the character spoke and the way he spewed technology was pretty breathless. I think it was where Neelix loses his lungs. They were beamed out of his body by the Vidiians, who are this scavenger race that steals organs. I have to create holographic lungs until we can recover Neelix’s own lungs. That was a very technical episode. I do remember in the scene where I am explaining myself, when Tom Paris goes to strike me and his arm wobbles through my image, I say, “The magnetic containment field that creates the illusion of my body can be modified to allow matter to pass through it or be stopped,” or something like that. I remember that line.
When was the last time you actually watched an episode?
Once in a while, especially if it’s dubbed in another language, I’ll leave an episode on. The last full episode I remember watching was one of my favourites to shoot, “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy”, which is the Doctor’s daydreaming episode. It’s some of the broadest comedy we did.
Klingons or Vulcans? Which do you prefer?
I’d have to say Vulcans. I am not only a Vulcan fan, but think Tim Russ is the unsung hero of our show. His performance as Tuvok was terrific and full of dignity.
What has been Star Trek’s greatest contribution to the world?
Its positivism. It’s the fact that Star Trek posits a vision of the future where man survives, where he cooperates with other men and by extension, other beings and races. It’s where technology elevates man and does not destroy him. It’s that it’s possible for humanity – that is capable of so much violence, destruction and homicide – can really rise to its best self. In fact, I think the subliminal message of Star Trek is that we have to rise to our best selves in order to survive.
Do you think we will ever reach the future we see in Star Trek?
Yes, I do. We’re at a real exciting moment in real science as well as science fiction. The real proof of water on Mars, as well as the success of Andy Weir’s novel
The Martian and the movie adaptation, has really given a jolt of interest and enthusiasm in space travel.
Which bit of Trek tech would improve your life?
The answer everyone wants to give is the Holodeck. There are so many applications for it, both ones that are PG-13 and ones that aren’t. But, I would have to say having played the Doctor, it would be the medical Tricorder. The idea of a non-invasive medical scanner that can diagnose just by being waved over an organism is an exciting breakthrough in medicine.
Lost in space.