Starring as the holographic Starfleet medic, or simply "the Doctor", Robert Picardo shined as the witty artificial intelligence in Star Trek: Voyager. Over the seven year journey back to Earth, Picardo turned what many would call a "Data Clone" into his own unique and charming fan-favorite character.
Expanding the Doctor's character took some time for both Picardo and the writers of the series. While his character's popularity would grow over time, Picardo was interested in playing another character aboard the Voyager.
Picardo's initial audition was for the Talaxian cook of the Voyager, Neelix. The chef sparked his imagination as he tried to play him off as a character aspiring to better himself but ultimately failing.
"I played Neelix kind of as a 'dry drunk in a twelve-step program', who had a weaker side and was trying to be a better guy, but he just couldn't always do it and kept sliding back to his basic, weaker self," said Picardo about his audition for Neelix.
Unfortunately, he was passed on the role of Neelix, which would be given to Ethan Phillips. The studio instead offered Picardo the chance to come back and read for their holographic emergency medical doctor. He was less than thrilled at first.
"I read what it said when the Doctor makes his first appearance in the pilot script. I read the scene and didn't get it, and I threw the script on the floor, unread."
In the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager the Doctor only has nine lines.
Seeking more humor in the role than what he had been given, Picardo went into his audition inspired by his Star Trek medical predecessor, Dr. McCoy. During his first scene on the series when the Doctor's hologram wouldn't shut off Picardo ad-libbed the line "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight." They loved the joke so much that they gave Picardo the role and added his improved line into the first episode.
Picardo would continue to add to his holographic character over the course of the series. He was even the one to suggest the Doctor become interested in opera musicals.
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