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STAR TREK: VOYAGER - 'Life Line'
Two Picardos are better than one.
By Anna L. Kaplan
May 08, 2000
If one Robert Picardo gets viewers to turn on STAR TREK: VOYAGER, how about two? That's just what they will see in the upcoming 'Life Line,' scheduled to air May 10th. The episode also brings back Marina Sirtis as Counselor Troi, and Dwight Schultz as Reginald Barclay, as the Doctor uses the technology revealed in 'Pathfinder' to get back to the Alpha Quadrant.
Not only does Picardo play both the emergency medical hologram and its creator, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman; he also receives a story credit for the episode. Picardo explains, 'I share story credit with John Bruno, who directed 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy.' John and I became friends after that show. He said, 'Have you ever pitched them ideas for your character?' I said 'Yes, a number of them over the years.' One of the ones I reviewed to him that I'd pitched was a story about my programmer, which was basically, 'I Never Sang For My Programmer,' a father-son drama in which father and son are identical, except one of them is the engineer who created the holographic doctor. He liked that idea. We worked it, reworked it, and changed it considerably, and went in and pitched to [co-executive producer] Joe Menosky. At first Joe wasn't sure he liked it, and then changed his mind and thought he did. We went back and pitched to all the writers. They said yes, so we wrote the story document.'
After that, the story went through many revisions while becaming a telenplay, worked on by much of the writing staff, led by executive producer Brannon Braga. Picardo says, 'The show we ended up with was changed quite a bit by Brannon, as so many of our stories are. Ours was considerably more dramatic. I think the Zimmerman character was a little darker, not just a curmudgeon, but he had a darker intent in our original story. Brannon successfully transformed it into more of the essence of a father-son drama, I guess, than I could have even hoped for. The pioneer of the emergency medical hologram program, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, is very seriously ill, and they can't figure out how to save him, so the holographic doctor is kind of e-mailed back to the Jupiter station in an effort to save his 'dad.' The catch is that Zimmerman is dying of some sort of un-diagnosable disease that his own subsequent emergency holograms can't really diagnose, nor do the doctors in Starfleet. It's Barclay's bright idea to solicit the help of his EMH Mark One, who has racked up the most operating hours, collected the most experience, even had all these medical experiences gathered from the Delta Quadrant, which would bring a new perspective that any Starfleet doctor or EMH wouldn't possess.'
Picardo does not want to reveal exactly what the Doctor is able to do, if anything, for his creator. That would be spoiling the episode for fans, who may want to see for themselves how these two work out their relationship, and whether or not the Doctor can cure Dr. Zimmerman.
Picardo enjoyed the guest stars, saying, 'It was a lot of fun to do, to work with Dwight again. To have the opportunity to work with Marina Sirtis was great. I had a couple of scenes with her, one major scene with her. I guess I worked with her two days. Then she has a couple of scenes with Barclay.'
In an earlier VOYAGER episode, Picardo met a hologram of Barclay on his ship, and in 'Pathfinder' Barclay interacted with a hologram of the Doctor. Laughs Picardo, 'Dwight and I had a lot to do together in the episode that was shot in season one but shown early in season two, 'Projections.' That wasn't the real Barclay. I said to Dwight, we have to pretend we have never met.'
Picardo also played Dr. Zimmerman previously, in the DEEP SPACE NINE episode, 'Dr. Bashir, I Presume,' as well as on VOYAGER. He explains, 'He's an engineer. He's a doctor, but not a medical doctor. It's the character I played in season three on VOYAGER, in 'The Swarm.' I was a hologram of him. Now he has aged six years. He's ill, and he looks like me, ill, with long hair on the sides, the bozo hair on sides. I had about an hour makeup change-over. That made it tough, the change-over, sometimes twice a day. The challenge, of course, was that so much of the show occurs between the Doctor and Zimmerman that I was working by myself an awful lot. Every scene had to be shot twice, completely, because of me playing both characters. There are quite a few comic scenes with a lot of Zimmerman's bad, bad humor used to good purpose, his yelling and huffing and puffing, and being impossible to deal with, being a curmudgeon. So it took a lot of time and energy and the days were long. It was grueling, but I think it's going to be a pretty special show.'
Just how does the Doctor get e-mailed? Says Picardo, 'The micro-wormhole, the project that Barclay has been working on, we use that. There is, every thirty days, or thirty-two days, a phenomenon happening with a particular star where we can utilize some phase that it's in to enhance our ability to transmit data. It's some kind of a pulsar. We are basically establishing that there is an opportunity every thirty or thirty-two days to send or receive data, during a particular window of time.'
During 'Life Line' that phenomenon is used to transmit the Doctor. But it is expected that it will be used for more later on. Braga won't say exactly, but has indicated that this technology could play a role in the ship's return to the Alpha Quadrant. Speculates Picardo, 'What that will mean is, next season, I think, as we get closer, and we can get information back from Starfleet, and perhaps even technological data, we'll have that opportunity on a regular basis. I think it's going to help guide us home.'
TREK honcho and executive producer Rick Berman says about 'Life Line,' 'It was a show that was perfect for bringing back Marina and Dwight, because it takes place back on Earth. A combination of double Picardos, and a great performance by both Marina and Dwight and we came up with a show that I am really pleased about.'