Star Trek: Voyager‘s Holographic Doctor, the Emergency Medical Holographic Program, was first activated on stardate 48308, during the premiere episode, “Caretaker.” The EMH program was designed on Jupiter Station by Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, a holoengineer, who used himself as the physical and psychological pattern for the program. The Holographic Doctor has variously been described as “cranky,” “irascible,” “arrogant,” “condescending”… and “vulnerable.” He’s programmed with the medical knowledge of forty-seven of Starfleet’s finest physicians and the collected medical information of three thousand cultures, and yet the lowliest crewmember aboard the starship Voyager can turn him off with the simple command, “Computer, end program!” As a result, the Doctor suffers from paranoia. As Robert Picardo himself said several years ago on the Sci-Fi Channel‘s “Sci-Fi Buzz,” speaking (more or less) as the Doctor; “I like to think of myself as an optimistic paranoid. I’m not saying that I’m… I’m not a pessimistic paranoid. I’m a very positive, optimistic… paranoid personality!”
Robert Picardo also thinks the Holographic Doctor has the makings of a soul. As quoted in Star Trek: Voyager #10, he said of the Doctor; “He has intonations, but I don’t believe at this point that he has a soul. Let me put it this way: I think he has a soul in the making.” Indeed, over the seven years of Voyager‘s run on UPN, the Doctor has softened somewhat in his general estimation of the average Voyager crew member. “There was a time,” says Bob, “when Kes was his only friend, but now I think he’s a little more cordial to the average crew person on the ship.” And he seems to have made more friends. Of the Doctor’s relationship with Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), Bob says “I think our relationship is developing well, and I’m less cantankerous toward her than I used to be. I will, however, and this is Bob Picardo talking, treasure the fact that I have the freedom to speak and act inappropriately as the Doctor. Because I’m not a Starfleet officer and am not beholden to the Starfleet protocol, I get to tweak Janeway a bit, which is nice.” Most recently, in the seventh-season episode “Renaissance Man,” the Doctor and Captain Janeway seemed to be developing a full-fledged friendship.
Having lost his confidante when Kes left the ship, the Doctor developed alliances with helmsman/medical assistant Lieutenant Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and chief engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), and assumed the role of mentor for “ex-Borg” Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), assisting – no doubt to the consternation of his shipmates – in her development of “social graces.” This caused a romantic difficulty for the Doctor, one which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have worked out in the Doctor’s favor.
Besides appearing weekly from January 1995 – September 2001 on Voyager, the Holographic Doctor also delighted fans by popping up in Star Trek: First Contact and, along with his even crankier creator, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Dr. Bashir, I Presume”.