"Life Line"


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Doc emails himself to the Alpha Quadrant to save the guy who programmed him.

Jump straight to the Analysis


Meanwhile, back in the Alpha Quadrant . . .

Jupiter Station looks like six huge saucer sections stuck three each on twin barbecue spits. The massive planet glows orange off to the left.

A lone shuttle approaches.

Inside the shuttle is a single occupant. "Shuttlecraft Dawkins to Jupiter Station," says the familiar voice, sounding less neurotic than usual.

"Go ahead," says a pleasant female voice over the comm channel.

"This is Lieutenant Reginald Barclay requesting permission to dock."



What we see next is a clean looking lab, filled with computer displays--and what looks like the striped tail of a lizard, or a snake. Greenish-gray and brown alternate on the lower-right corner of the screen.

The door chimes. An old cranky voice, off-camera, responds. "What? What is it?"

"It's me, sir, Reg Barclay," we hear over the intercom. The camera pans rightward, and we see more of the lab. Sure enough, it's an iguana connected to that tail; it's resting on a cluttered table.

"Come in," says the cranky voice.

The odd thing is, the iguana seemed to be the one speaking.

Hmmm. Starfleet must be severely shorthanded after the Dominion wars. That, or the Gorn have established an intern exchange program.

Reg Barclay enters. He looks even further to the right, off camera. "Dr. Z? How are you?"

Ah--there is someone besides the iguana at home. We see an old man in a white lab coat with a blue-gray undershirt. Bald up top but with a back-and-sides wreath of silvering hair, reading from a PADD.

The old man whirls around. "Nice of you to finally drop by," he says with a glare.

Hey, waitaminit--the old coot looks suspiciously like our very own Holodoc. But how could that be? We saw Dr. Zimmerman in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume," and he looked very much like our Doctor. This guy looks old enough to be Doc's father.

Well, yeah, he IS Doc's father, technically, in a software author sorta way, but you know what I mean. He looks far too old to be the hormonally supercharged love rhino who got to see Leeta naked. But the face is still fairly young.

Barclay stammers a bit. "I've been extremely busy--the, uh, p-Pathfinder project."

Zimmerman rolls his eyes. "You're still searching for that ship? What's it called...Pioneer?"

"Uh, Voyager."

"Voyager," Zimmerman amends. "Any luck?"

Gee--apparently Voyager isn't the center of the universe after all. In some circles, at least, it's just "that ship" and it's not exactly the talk of the town. Not everyone pays as much attention to its plight as Barclay.

"Actually, we're on the verge of a breakthrough--a communications link," Barclay says with some pride.

"Congratulations," Zimmerman says, getting up from his chair. "The first transgalactic phone call." His tone is snide, but snide seems to be the default state. Zimmerman walks over near the iguana and begins to work, trying to ignore Barclay.

For his part, Reg Barclay seems concerned. "Any word from Starfleet Medical?"

Zimmerman snorts. "Doctors," spits the father of the EMH. "I've been scanned and probed a hundred times and they still can't tell me what's wrong."

"I'm sure it's only a matter of time--"

Zimmerman whirls. "I'm dying, Reginald! And there's nothing anybody can do about it."

The crusty exterior hides the truth. The man's eyes tell the tale. He's not ready to die--but the choice is not his to make.

* * *

Perhaps you've played the Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon game. Every actor in every movie ever made is likely only six movie-hops from themselves to Kevin Bacon.

If you want to see how far Voyager is from Earth, we get a little taste.

We see the big blue marble fill our view; its tiny moon hangs in the distance. We hear what sounds like a modem making a dial-up connection to the Internet.

Next, we see the MIDAS array, introduced in "Pathfinder." It's coming on line.

Next, we see a brilliant pulsar inside a large expanse of nebular gases.

And then we see Voyager.

With just a little engineering wizardry, 30,000 light years--a little less than halfway between Earth and Ocampa--is not quite as inconceivably distant as it used to be. With this breakthrough, they may be able to Reach Out and Touch Someone on a regular basis.

This could be good news--nothing closes the gap quite like an open channel.

This could be bad news--nothing closes the gap quite like an open channel.

It all depends on what they end up saying to each other.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Earth has made the call, but Voyager has yet to pick up the phone.

Seven of Nine is alone in Astrometrics when the phone rings. She picks up--and finds her big screen flooded with data--screens full of it. Video, audio, text. Enough to refresh the ship's website for weeks to come.

Seven gathers her first impressions of the incoming data, then slaps her chest. "Seven of Nine to the bridge."

"Go ahead," says Janeway.

"We're receiving a transmission from Starfleet."


On the bridge, Tom Paris blinks, and whips around from his helm station to look at Captain Janeway, betraying more emotion than he did in all of "Fury."

Janeway and Chakotay are no less agitated--this is a hard-core wakeup call from what seemed to be a fairly dull day. "Route it here!"

"It's not a comlink, Captain. It appears to be a compressed data stream...badly degraded."

Janeway looks at her first officer, then leaps out of her chair. "On my way."


The senior officers assemble in the conference room. Janeway is holding a PADD, and paces around the room. Chakotay also stands, near a wall terminal. Paris and Torres sit side by side, for those who keep track of such things.

"They say good things come in small packages. This is all the data they could send us," she says, indicating the PADD, but teasing them with her grin. ". . . Until next month."

"Next month?" Torres asks.

Janeway stands on the other side of the terminal while Chakotay explains. "They're using a cyclic pulsar to amplify signals from the MIDAS array--but the cycle only peaks every 32 days."

Janeway resumes pacing. "So once a month we'll be able to receive a short burst of information. And we'll have about 17 hours to respond." She shakes the PADD at her staff.

"So far, we've gotten tactical updates, letters from home, and news about the alpha quadrant," says Chakotay.

The next question is obvious--and Harry Kim is the obvious choice to deliver it. "I don't suppose they found us a shortcut home?" But after so many disappointments, there's not much anticipation in his voice.

It's a good thing, too. "It doesn't look that way," says Chakotay.

Janeway returns to the Good News. "We don't have much time to prepare a response, and we'll have to keep it short. But I want to give everyone an opportunity to send something...even if it's only a brief note. Inform the crew."

"Yes, ma'am," says Tom Paris.

"Aye, Captain," says Harry Kim.

As the officers file out, Janeway leaves them with a parting thought. "Lieutenant Barclay, the Pathfinder Project...they didn't give up on us. So when you write those letters, you might want to thank them."

There are no objections.


Neelix enters Sickbay in a good mood. "Mail call!" he walks over to the Doctor and hands him a PADD.

Doc is pleasantly surprised. "A letter? For me?" He scans the first lines. "Oh, it's from Lieutenant Barclay!"

The Doctor's smile slowly fades as he reads further.

Neelix can't help but notice. "Bad news?" he asks.

"Lewis Zimmerman. Apparently, he's seriously ill."

Neelix frowns. "Zimmerman?" he asks.

"He's the father of modern holography," Doc explains. "He invented the matrix that made my program possible."

"Oh," says Neelix softly. "What's wrong with him?"

Doc begins reading aloud for Neelix's benefit. "He's suffering from acute subcellular degradation. 'The doctors here are having trouble finding the cause, much less a treatment. I've included his medical files. As you'll see, the prognosis isn't good. They say he's only got a few months. I'm sorry I don't have better news to report but I thought you'd want to know.'" The sadness in the Doctor's voice is evident.

"How well did you know him?"

"I've never met the man," Doc says.

Neelix takes his leave. "If you'd like to send a response the Captain will need it by 1900 hours."

Doc nods curtly, though his CPU is elsewhere.


A short time later, Seven of Nine enters Sickbay, and finds the Doctor poring over the Zimmerman chart ("Patient Profile 1027").

"Here's the information you requested," Seven says, handing him a PADD. Doc thanks her, and returns to work.

"You're reviewing his medical data," Seven says, not that surprised.

"I thought I could send Starfleet a second opinion. It's a long shot, but maybe my experiences in the Delta Quadrant could provide some insights. I was hoping these Borg regeneration techniques might help them develop a treatment for his condition."

Seven looks at the screen. There's a photo of Zimmerman, from a time when his hair--what there is of it--was still the same color as the Doctor's. "You bear a striking resemblance," she says with some surprise.

"He used his own physical parameters as a model for my matrix." Doc smiles as his vanity subroutines kick in. "Can't say I blame him. A doctor needs to inspire confidence in his patients." He rises from his desk. "Compassionate eyes and a strong chin can go a long way," he says, waggling his eyebrows before walking past Seven.

Seven of Nine successfully stifles her gag reflex.


Time marches on.

The Doctor is in the captain's ready room. She is at her desk; the Zimmerman file is up on her terminal.

"I believe I can help him, Captain," Doc explains.


"You remember the Vidiians?" How could we not? They were just on last week. "The early stages of the phage are very similar to Dr. Zimmerman's disease. I believe I can adapt a variety of Borg regeneration techniques to arrest the cell damage--maybe even reverse it." Vidiians and Borg as medical breakthroughs--the Delta Quadrant turns out to have a silver lining after all.

Janeway is impressed. "Make sure to pass along your findings. Thank you, Doctor." She leaves her desk and walks over to the window.

Doc screws up his courage. "Actually, I was hoping to administer the treatment myself."

Janeway's brows rise as she picks up a tea cup by her couch. "What are you suggesting?"

"I'd like you to send my program back to the Alpha Quadrant. None of the Doctors at Starfleet are familiar with these techniques. It would take them months to fully understand them, much less put them to use."

Janeway stops pouring from her silver teapot, and frowns. "Even if we could send you, you're needed here."

"Mr. Paris can take over Sickbay. He's more than capable!" Rosie from Terre Haute cheers--a rare compliment from the Doctor for her Tommy. Doc may be allowed to live after all.

But Janeway's look practically halts the brewed drink in mid-flow. Doc shrugs. "We've done this once before. There weren't any problems."

"Three years ago...and we used alien technology." Actually, it was closer to two years, Janeway destroyed that rickety old 100,00 year-old alien technology, and they were a heck of a lot farther away from Earth at the time.

Doc persists, ascending the steps to the couch area, closing the distance. "I've spoken to Seven of Nine. She believes we can compress my program."

"There's limited space in the data stream. If we send you, there won't be room for anything else." Oh, come now--ANYTHING else? It's not like Janeway to be so limited in her thinking . . .

"I realize I'd be asking the crew to make a sacrifice on my behalf; but they can wait another month! Dr. Zimmerman might not have that time." Doc's voice is soft but passionate.

Janeway's voice is also soft, and though she's not giving Doc any slack, she's also not taking his advocacy personally. Normally, you disagree with a captain's decision only at your peril.

"I'm sorry he's not doing well," she says after a moment's thought, walking back down to her desk, smiling as a memory surfaces. "Unusual man. I met him once at a conference. He managed to offend just about everyone there, but--he was certainly brilliant."

She looks at the Doctor over her shoulder. "I'm sure Starfleet is consulting their best physicians, Doctor."

"They are--but no one's been able to develop a cure. I have! But I can't treat a patient who's 30,000 light-years away!"

Janeway thinks some more. Then, "I'm sorry."


"This is the first time we're attempting to send a response. We don't know if it will even get through." Good point.

"I'm willing to take that risk."

"I'm not."

Doc doesn't give up. "He programmed me. Every algorithm, every subroutine. If it weren't for his years of work I wouldn't be standing here. I owe him something--and frankly, so does this crew. In a way, he's responsible for every life I've saved."

Janeway sighs. "Lewis Zimmerman designed the template for Starfleet's E.M.H. You're one of thousands based on that technology. It's not as though he's your father."

"From your perspective. From mine?" Doc shrugs helplessly, his voice becomes a plea. "He's the closest thing I've got. If I don't try to help him now, I may never get the chance."

Janeway sighs again, but in a different way. "You'll have to find a way to convince Tom to take those duty shifts."

Doc, relieved, beams. "He's already agreed."

Janeway smirks. "Tell him 'Captain Jane' said hello. That's what he kept calling me at the conference. I think he did it just to get on my nerves."

Doc nods. "I've heard he can be difficult."

"I certainly hope you get a chance to find out," the captain says with a motherly smile.

"Thank you, Captain," says the Doctor gratefully.

Janeway watches the Doctor leave her office with a look of concern. She always worries when one of her chicks leaves the nest.

* * *

Doc is at his desk, getting ready for his trip. While he studies Lewis Zimmerman's medical file, he hums the sprightly "La Donna e Mobile" (literally, "The Donna, she has wheels," or "Donna's on the Move"--a naughty Italian aria dedicated to the Tori Spelling character on Beverly Hills 90210). Of course, it's not the kind of song you can merely hum, and Doc eventually succumbs to the urge and belts out the high notes.

Well, some of them.

Then, with a painful sounding chirp, Doc's vocal chords get a Tenorectomy. He opens his mouth, but no music comes out.

He sees Seven of Nine in the main area of Sickbay, working at a terminal. He leaves his office. "My vocal processor! --"

"It's not a malfunction; I've removed your singing algorithms," Seven explains. "They'll be stored in a memory buffer until you return."

Doc is horrified. "Why?"

"Your program is too large for the data stream. I have to extract all non-essential subroutines."

"They're essential to me--they're part of who I am!"

Seven turns her torso toward him. "Are you planning on performing opera during your visit?"

Doc begins to protest, then confesses, "No . . ."

"Will you be reciting poetry?"

A pause. A deflation. "Doubtful."

"Hoverball?" Probably not.


"I may want to take a few snapshots to document my trip," Doc says, drawing the line.

It's a very thin line; the two stand very close together. Achmed from Abu Dhabi, a confirmed Doc/Seven relationship buff, swoons at the proximity. Seven is wearing her sexual chocolate unitard. Love is in the air.

"Sexual activity?" she asks pointedly.

Doc hesitates, then looks into the eyes of the former drone and current flame. (Hey, a hologram can dream, can't he?) "I get the point," Doc says, giving up.

Seven, satisfied, returns her attentions to the control board, and resumes her paring down of the EMH-HCE (Emergency Medical Hologram, House Call Edition).

"How much has to be left behind?" Doc asks, hoping to influence the trimming process.

"12 megaquads," Seven says.

Doc thinks, walking behind Seven to stand by her right shoulder. Their arms are in constant contact. Doc folds his left arm over his chest, holding his right index finger knuckle over his mouth in a manner not unlike Jack Benny's trademark stance. "I suppose you could get rid of my athletic abilities--" BOOP! It's gone.

"And my grandmaster chess program . . ."

Seven smirks--grandmaster or not, she can whup him in chess even while regenerating. "That leaves three megaquads." She does a quick sort by file size and offers a suggestion. "Your painting skills?"

"Oh . . ." Doc winces as if struck, balling his right hand into a fist and pounding the terminal in a mini-tantrum. Seven gives him another one of those looks. The last time he painted anyone, it was Seven of Nine . . . how could we forget? Did he plan on repeating that little adventure with the hussies back in Sector 0-0-1?

Logic wins out. "If you must," Doc sighs.


Oh, the woman is cruel.

"Try to leave a few of my enhancements intact," Doc begs. Seven smirks. She's living every girlfriend's dream-- sorting, prioritizing, and excising personality traits like a butcher with a side of beef.

Doc begins pacing. "I don't want to look like every other E.M.H. on the block. I think Dr. Zimmerman will be very interested to see what I've learned. He probably never imagined what one of his own creations could accomplish!"

Then he lets his imagination run away. "I could spark a whole new field in holographic research," he muses.

Seven merely rolls her eyes and puts on a longsuffering smile.

Foul vixen. At least Janeway had enough compassion to hit the Pause button on Michael Sullivan before she began reprogramming the poor sod.

Oh, please. You're gonna tell me there's no romantic subtext to this scene? The two are perfect for each other.

Just ask Achmed.


Astrometrics is the site of the grand farewell. Janeway is here, and Seven of Nine. Harry Kim is also here.

"Bon voyage," says Janeway, keeping her fingers crossed.

"See you in a month," Doc says, mostly to Seven, who is sporting a serious case of Pouty Face, which she always gets when someone she cares about goes away.

Harry Kim, on the other hand, doesn't really give a rat's patoot. He does the honors. "Don't get lost." He then unceremoniously yanks the portable emitter from Doc's arm.

And with that, Doc is on his way.


Meanwhile, back in the alpha quadrant . . .

We get another look at Jupiter Station, and Jupiter. The coolest part about it is the ordinariness of it, a thing to be taken for granted, a mere suburb of 24th-century Earth. Hasten the day . . .

Inside the station, we see a salad. And we see a fly ON the salad.

Then we see a hand brush away the fly. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times…stay off the food!" says a pleasant female voice. Is she talking to the fly?

Well, maybe it's Brumblefly. Or Superfly. This is the 24th-century, after all. Give the tree-huggers enough room, and you end up with the drosophila emancipatio of 2241, giving insects their very own bill of rights. You can no longer swat flies, but you can give them a stern lecture now and then.

Dr. Zimmerman's voice wafts in on the young woman with the salad. "Haley? Haley, what's the status of my lunch?"

"It's coming, Doctor!" I'm always happy when characters are named right away. Haley--nice name.

"As if things weren't bad enough, now I'm dying of starvation," Zimmerman says in a blatant guilt play.

Haley mutters under her breath, then swats the fly away again, as she throws biscotti and raisins onto the plate and heads for the lab.

But then the door chimes. "Come in!" Haley says.

Reg Barclay enters. "Haley!" He's carrying a bag, and looks harried.

"Mr. Barclay! Is something wrong?"

"No, no, just the opposite," Barclay says, pulling a cylindrical device out of his bag, and tapping on its controls. "Is he in?"

"He's not taking visitors today--"

"Tell him this is important." Barclay's got one of those looks on his face.

"He's in a prickly mood," Haley warns.

"I've brought something with me that might cheer him up." The cylinder begins to glow a purple not unlike Haley's dress. "Computer, is the download complete?"


Rock and roll. Barclay looks at Haley, and smiles.


Zimmerman is working at the circular table in the center of the room when Haley enters with the food. "Lunch!"

Zimmerman takes one look, and frowns. "That's not pork chops."

"It's salad," Haley says, unfolding a napkin and placing it on Zimmerman's lap.

"I didn't ask for salad."

"It's healthy." Haley takes the transparent PADD from Zimmerman's hand, and hands him a fork. She places the salad in front of him.

"I'm dying--a piece of meat isn't going to kill me any quicker. Give the plants to Leonard; he's the one trying to watch his weight." Apparently Leonard is the name of the iguana. Hmmm. A sly Dr. McCoy reference, I wonder?

Haley gives Zimmerman a longsuffering look. "Lt. Barclay is here to see you."

"I told you I wasn't--"

"He says it's urgent." Haley doesn't say a lot, but she conveys much with her looks. Here is a young woman who truly worries about her PITA patient.

"Can't it wait until I'm dead?" Zimmerman asks. This earns him a wounded look. Dang, Haley is adorable.

Even Zimmerman can't resist that look. "All right, send him in. Three minutes--he's got three minutes."

"Be civil to him, Lewis. He's worried about you. We all are." Zimmerman raises a forkful of salad, a conciliatory gesture. Haley figures it's the best she can hope for, and exits.

The fork drops to the plate with a clatter, the salad left undouched.

Barclay enters. "I found a friend waiting for me at home," he says excitedly.

"You don't have any friends," Zimmerman counters.

Barclay's mood slips only a little as he once again retrieves the cylinder. "Well, I guess, uh, you could say he's a friend of yours." With a flourish, he activates it.

And Heeeere's Doc!

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," Doc says proudly, eager for those words of validation from his creator.

Zimmerman's eyes go wide. He promptly turns his back on his creation. "An E.M.H. Mark One? I'm not in the mood for nostalgia, Reginald."

Doc's face falls.

"But--this is the Mark One from Voyager!" Barclay says.

"I was compressed into a data stream and transmitted from the Delta Quadrant," Doc says, trying to regain the happy ground.

Zimmerman leaves his seat. "Congratulations," he says, still making that contorted who-cut-the-cheese face as he resumes his work. "I recommend a tour of Jupiter's third moon. I hear the lava flows are lovely this time of year."

Doc doesn't catch the sarcasm. That must have been deleted too. "I'm not here for a vacation! I'm here to treat your illness!" He walks over to confront the man who gave him life.

Zimmerman turns around, aghast. He looks past the Doc as though he's not even there, and gives Barclay a baleful look. "You brought a Mark One 30,000 light years to treat me? I was wrong about you, Reginald--you do have a sense of humor." With that, he turns back to his work.

Doc looks at Barclay, then at Zimmerman. "Care to let me in on the joke?"

Zimmerman looks back at Barclay. "You didn't tell him?"

"Tell me what?" Doc demands, tired of not being addressed directly.

Barclay stammers. "Well, I, uh--"

Zimmerman throws up his hands, then gives Doc his attention. "You're obsolete! Extinct! Yesterday's news!"

Doc looks sick. "My program was retired?"

"Retired? Not at all!" Zimmerman says, his voice rising. "The E.M.H. Mark One was reconfigured to scrub plasma conduits on waste transfer barges!" So much for Doc's hope for a celebrated homecoming.


As I understand it, the EMH is no small program. Voyager tried for years to add holoemitters in key sections of the ship so Doc could go there as needed, before the 29th-century emitter came into his possession. Sickbay is essentially a custom holodeck with medical equipment, and an awful lot of hardware and memory space goes into making the EMH possible.

And they're going to devote that kind of high-tech, high-cost, high-maintenance equipment (think how many times Doc's program has crashed, degraded, and otherwise urped the last six years) to lowly waste transfer barges? That would be like installing a jet engine in a '62 Ford Falcon.

Marvin the Paranoid Android comes to mind. "Brain the size of a planet and you want me to go open the door . . ."


Zimmerman turns his attention to Barclay, his agitation growing. "I've been treated by the Mark Three, the Mark Four, not to mention the finest REAL doctors in Starfleet. None of them could help me!"

Barclay tries to stand up for Doc; he really does. "He has been running almost continuously for six years. He has seen . . . more things than . . . most doctors can even imagine!"

"I also have an exceptionally high tolerance for difficult patients," Doc adds.

Zimmerman snaps his head around. "I didn't program you for sarcasm," he says.

Doc takes what could be a rare opportunity to preen. "You'll find I'm full of surprises."

Zimmerman grunts, then looks again at Barclay. "Show the good Doctor to the plasma generator. I understand there's quite a buildup of residue."

Doc works up his own lather. "If we had more time I'd enjoy trading barbs with you. But right now, there's a more pressing concern--your life. I'm working on a treatment based on a disease I encountered in the Delta Quadrant, but I'll need to run a complete analysis." Doc tries to get Zimmerman to face him, but Zimmerman pointedly and repeatedly turns his back to the Doctor. They even bump once--which normally wouldn't be worth mentioning, but remember that both characters are played by the same actor--this is one of the more seamlessly interactive scenes I can ever remember, and the added touches like this are quite cool.

Doc gives his sarcasm algorithms a thorough workout. "However, if it's impossible for you to believe that a lowly Mark One could have anything useful to offer, I'll be happy to pack my bags and go explore those sulfur mines!"

Zimmerman gives up--though how much, and for how long, is anyone's guess. He tosses his PADD on the desk and holds his arms at his sides. "Go ahead...scan away," he says, as though directing his own firing squad.

Doc looks at Barclay, who seems relieved--and eager to leave. "I'll be outside."

Doc begins. As he scans, he asks the first round of questions. "What were your initial symptoms?"

"Radical hair loss," says Zimmerman. Ba dum boom.

Doc scowls.

Zimmerman rolls his eyes, and rattles off the symptoms, as he no doubt has a hundred times before. "Fatigue, nausea, joint inflammation--"

"Have you traveled outside the solar system recently?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"Just answer the question."

"I haven't left Jupiter station in over four years." There's a dispute here; I think it's a bit long--the "Dr. Bashir I presume" episode where Zimmerman went to DS9 was only three years or so ago. But others insist it doesn't conflict with the DS9 timeframe. I mention it only for completeness.

"To your knowledge, have you been exposed to theta-radiation?"

Zimmerman gets impatient. "No."

"Neutron flux?"

"Never." Active irritation.

"Have you had intimate relations with a Bolian?" Ewww!! (No, it's not that I'm a Speciesist or anything--I just remember their bathrooms and cartilaginous tongues and electrically conductive skin. I do like the blue color, though--they remind me of Zaahn from FARSCAPE. I like her just fine, and she's a vegetable, for quark's sake.)

Zimmerman loses it. "These are questions first-year medical students would ask!" He hops back on his chair and resumes his work.

"I'm just being thorough," Doc says cheerfully.

"Just being thorough," a voice repeats.

Doc looks over in shock--there's nobody here but Doc, Zimmerman--and the iguana. "Did that creature just speak?"

"His name's Leonard. He's a hologram," says Zimmerman.

Doc is having none of that. "Computer, deactivate iguana." Buh-bye, Leonard.

Zimmerman is furious. "How dare you!"

"I'm a Doctor, not a zoo keeper." It did the trick--his patient is back in his face. The questions resume. "Has there ever been an epidemic on this station?"

Zimmerman is furious, though. "No! Enough questions! Finish your scans and get out of here!"


"I said get out of here!" Zimmerman shouts in a way Doc never would.

Doc stands his ground. "I traveled halfway across the galaxy to treat you. The least you could do is show a little gratitude!"

"Thank you. Get out of here!!!"

"I may be the only physician who can save your life--you need me!"

"Like hell!!!" Zimmerman slams his PADD on the table and leaps out of his chair. "I brought your matrix into this world and I can take it out!" Just like a dad to his rebellious son.

"I'm no longer a prototype!" Doc shouts right back, the son demanding respect he feels he deserves. "I have exceeded my original programming. I'm no longer under your control!" He raises a defiant fist.

"Oh, really?" says Zimmerman. "Computer, transfer E.M.H. to the living quarters."

Zzzzzt. Buh-bye, Doc.


Haley sits at a desk in the living quarters while Barclay paces nearby.

Zzzzzzt. Hello, Doc.

"How did it go?" Barclay asks hopefully, though the look on Doc's face gives them the answer soon enough.

Doc, his fist still raised, takes a moment to reorient himself, and calm himself down.

This is gonna be a hard nut to crack.

* * *

Doc storms into the living quarters, waving a tricorder like a fresh kill. "Power up the MIDAS array--I'm leaving!"

Barclay's eyes go wide. "What...What happened this time?" The phrase suggests that Doc's been here a while, and that frustration has been a constant in their lives.

"I ran a mitochondrial scan," Doc rages. "There was something odd about the results so I spent a full hour analyzing them. And what did I discover? He's a Vulcan marsupial. He reconfigured my tricorder!"

Barclay emits a nervous giggle.

Doc glares. "You find that amusing?"

"A little..." the giggles stop under the Janeway-inspired Glare O' Death. "Well, not really," he amends.

Haley finds the silver lining. "Sounds like you're making progress."

"How so?" Doc asks incredulously.

"He only teases people he likes."

Doc snorts. "Then he must love me."

"I take it that you, uh, still haven't been able to diagnose him," says Barclay.

"On the contrary--the patient appears to be suffering . . . from an acute case of arrogance!"

Buzz buzz buzz goes the Brumblefly . . . Doc hears the noise, and does that little dance people do when they're trying to avoid a flying insect on a strafing run.

"Oh, that's Roy," Barclay explains.

"Don't tell me--a hologram?" Doc says.

Barclay nods. "It was commissioned by Starfleet Intelligence--an experiment in micro-surveillance. Dr. Z keeps it around as a sort of...a pet."

"Undercover insects? Talking iguanas? This isn't a research station..." Doc does the Dance again as Roy flies in low. "It's a three... Ring... Circus!" Waving a book around, he tries to swat Roy. Reg and Haley do their best to avoid the flailing arms. "You should charge admission!"

Barclay pleads for more patience. "Look... Look, you know that we can't send you back for another two weeks so please, just... Just... Keep trying."

"I can't treat a patient who won't let me near him. He's deranged! What he needs is a counselor!"

We see Doc's eyes follow Roy down, down, until they rest on a tabletop.

Down comes the book. Splat.

Doc lets out a satisfied sigh. "Finally...I've accomplished something." He storms out of the room, as Barclay and Haley check on what's left of the late, lamented holographic housefly.


Reg Barclay does what he always does when his life gets out of control--he calls Deanna Troi.

The surprising thing to Troi is, this time it's not Reg who's got the problems.

"I thought you might be able to provide some, uh, insight," Reg says.

"It's not that simple, Reg. Dr. Zimmerman sounds like a very complex individual. I'd need to speak to him in person."

"Then maybe I could get him to agree to a counseling session," Reg suggests.

"The Enterprise is in the middle of a mission. We're nearly seven light-years from you." Ooh, a whole seven light years from Jupiter? That's, what, about twice the distance away from Alpha Centauri? That's practically Earth's back yard. What the heck is Enterprise doing so close to home?

"An important mission?" Barclay asks.

Troi scolds him with a look. "They're all important, Reg." She thinks for a moment. "I could refer you to Counselor Jenzo, a colleague of mine on Earth."

Barclay leans forward. "I need the best, Deanna."

Troi smirks a little. "It would be an interesting challenge."

"Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"Don't thank me yet. I'll still need to clear this with Captain Picard. If he agrees, I might be able to be there by early next week."

Barclay beams. "I'll see you then."


Meanwhile, back in the Delta Quadrant . . .

Janeway's ready room is a chilly place at the moment. Janeway stares at her terminal in a pensive mood.

Janeway admits Chakotay when the door chimes. He's in a relatively good mood. "Good morning." Her response, mm-hmm, grabs his attention. "Problem?"

Janeway's frown lingers. "I haven't decided. I've just listened to a communiqué from Admiral Hayes."

Chakotay smiles. "Nice to have friends in high places."

Janeway makes a couple of elaborate gestures--swivels the terminal around, facing Chakotay. Stabbing at the rewind button, then Play.

We see the fatherly figure on the terminal screen a moment later. Admiral Hayes, I presume. "Hello, Captain. I hope this message finds you well. From what I understand, it has not been easy, but I want you to know that a lot of people here are very proud of what you've accomplished. I also want to assure you that we have not given up finding a way to get you home. We've redirected two deep space vessels toward your position. If all goes well, they could rendezvous with you in the next five to six years."

Janeway stops tape.

Sounds fairly benign so far. Even encouraging. Five or six years--that's still a ways out, but compared to the seventy years they'd been looking at a few years before, and with the promise of monthly back and forth communication throughout, it's hard not to feel optimistic that the end is in sight.

So why is this captain not smiling?

"Computer...advance to time index 121.4."

Hayes is still talking. Admirals have a tendency to do that. "...as we get closer and our conversations become more frequent. When you respond to this message, please let us know of any casualties. I'm sure you've had more than your share. I'm anxious to know the status of your crew, the Maquis, first contacts that you've made, interactions with the Borg. But there'll be time for everything. Our thoughts are with you. Talk to you soon."


The odd thing is, I thought they'd already taken care of some of this. Doc had briefed Starfleet those 2-3 years before ("Message in a Bottle"), and we can only assume he mentioned his patients with the kind of exhausting detail he's famous for. We know that at least one letter from a Maquis back home made it to Chakotay. Then, in "Pathfinder," there was a brief exchange of logs and information--and Admiral Paris apparently knew enough to tell Tom he was proud of him, and Lt. Barclay had learned enough to construct a holographic Voyager, fully peopled.

But, hey--if they're arc-building, I won't complain. Too much.


Janeway stabs the stop button and stares at her first officer.

Chakotay shrugs. "What?"

"'Status of the Maquis.'"

"Do you find that surprising?" Chakotay asks.

Apparently so. "I don't think of you or B'Elanna or the others as Maquis. I think of you as part of my crew."

Chakotay smiles. "You may have forgotten, but we haven't." His eyes do betray some concern, but he covers it with a disarming smile. "You heard the admiral--it'll be years before we have to deal with those issues. Let's worry about it then." (Guess they're already prepping for next season . . .)

Janeway leans in close. "Do you have lunch plans?"

Chakotay leans in closer. "Is that an invitation?"

Janeway hops in his lap. "I was hoping you'd help me compose a response."

Now how could he refuse an offer like that? "You're on." The two share wide smiles and head for the snacketeria.


Haley prepares another meal for Dr. Zimmerman. "Doctor, your lunch is ready."

The other end of the line is a bit unusual--Zimmerman is groaning like a couch potato after too many Olestra-based Doritos.

"Ah-are you all right?" Haley asks.

"Fine, Haley, fine. Give me a few minutes. Ooooohhh . . ."


We see what's causing the good Dr. Zimmerman's grunts.

He's face-down on a massage chair, being worked over by an exotic alien babe in a catsuit even Seven of Nine couldn't shoehorn her fine self into. (Down, Russdog, Down! Bad fan! No autograph!) She's decked out in a high-necked gold number, has a hairstyle that Christophe would charge the GNP of Paraguay to duplicate, and she's got a tiny hiney in the center of her forehead. It's a look, and it works.

From a massage standpoint, she's also got elbows to die for, and she knows how to use 'em. Sharp enough to crack coconuts, they are.

Zimmerman is in seventh heaven. It takes a while for his eyes to roll back down from inside his skull. "Ahhh. Ahhh. Lower. Ah...Perfect. I needed this."

Zimmerman turns his head to the side, and the masseuse, unknown to her patient, breaks out a medical tricorder and scans while digging in with an elbow.

"You have no idea what I've had to endure these past few days! Last night...I woke up and I found him hovering over my bed with a hypospray." The scan continues. "A smattering of photons--that's all he is!"

Then he notices the familiar whirring, and his suspicion grows. "What's that? What is that?" He hops off the bed. "A tricorder? You were scanning me?"

He glares at the silent masseuse. Then his eyes widen with revulsion as a sick thought occurs to him. "Computer...Realign Voyager's E.M.H."

The woman changes into the Doctor. Zimmerman's face contorts with rage. "You!!!"

"Remain calm," Doc pleads. "Emotional outbursts will only aggravate your condition."

"I'll tell you what's aggravating my condition--you!"

"If you'd let me examine you--"

Zimmerman stalks toward the door. "I'll report you to the medical ethics board!"


"Save it for your hearing!"

Doc follows. "If you weren't so stubborn, you'd see I'm only trying to help!"

"I don't want your help! Why won't you leave me alone?!"

"Because for reasons beyond my comprehension I care about you!"

This catches Zimmerman off guard. "You weren't programmed to care. You were programmed to hold a scalpel!" This EMH Mark One is apparently making good on his word--he's full of surprises.

"I told you I'm not the same E.M.H. you created six years ago," Doc says.

Zimmerman gets sarcastic. "Oh, of course--you can sing and dance. I should install you in a Ferengi nightclub."

"The Voyager crew appreciates my attempts to expand my program."

"This isn't Voyager. It's my lab, and in my lab you're still just a hologram!"

"A hologram you created. A hologram who owes you his existence!"

Zimmerman glares. "Is that what's keeping you here? Some twisted sense of obligation? Well, let me assure you, you don't owe me anything!"

The two men stand nose to nose, and both are surprised when the comm line chirps. "Doctor?"

"Yes, Haley, what is it?" Zimmerman asks.

"Doctor, you have a visitor."

The two Doctors look toward the door, which opens less than a second later. "Hello, I'm Deanna Troi. Which one of you is Dr. Zimmerman?"

For the moment, the two men are speechless.

* * *

Zimmerman marches over to the counselor. His silk bathrobe slips open (don't worry, he's fully clothed.) "Deanna Troi. Another one of your tricks?" he demands of the Doctor.

"Excuse me?" Troi asks. Zimmerman pinches her hard on the arm. "Owwww!"

"He thinks you're a hologram," Doc explains.

Troi rubs her arm. "I can assure you I'm quite real."

Zimmerman is too grumpy to care. "Oh, well. The last beautiful woman to walk in here turned out to be him."

Doc smiles. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Did I come at a bad time?" Troi asks.

"Your timing couldn't be better," Doc says. "The patient is suffering from acute anxiety, normally associated with terminal illness. It's made him agoraphobic, paranoid--and extremely antagonistic!"

"I see," says Deanna. Interestingly, she seems to have the same opinion of the Doctor as most people, at least as a first instinct. She had some experience with a Mark One EMH in First Contact. "Mind if I sit down?" Deanna asks Zimmerman.

Zimmerman sits on the massage chair. "Please."

"Reg tells me you won't let the Doctor help you," she says.

"He's a Mark One; he's obsolete. I'd be safer in the hands of a Klingon field medic." Doc stiffens at the insult.

"I understand he's developed a promising treatment," Troi says carefully.

"If you're a Borg drone. He's threatening to use some kind of ghoulish assimilation technique. It's not fit for a lab rat!"

Doc bristles. "You won't even look at my research! From the moment I arrived, you've berated me, treated me like an antique. Well, let me tell you something--antique or not, I took a huge risk coming here. I had to plead with my Captain! Leave my ship without a surgeon!"

Deanna intervenes, and addresses the EMH. "Doctor. Imagine that your program was seriously damaged, and the only person who could repair you was an engineer from, say...a hundred years ago. Would you feel comfortable with that?"

Doc considers. "If he were skilled, intelligent, creative--"

Troi gives that Counselor Look. "Honestly, Doctor? A hundred years ago?"

"Well, I suppose it would give me pause."

"Ha!" says Zimmerman, chortling triumphantly.

But Troi isn't done yet. Next, she addresses Zimmerman. "Now, put yourself in the Doctor's shoes. Imagine you were asked to treat someone you cared about--say an E.M.H. Mark 12."

"There is no Mark 12," Zimmerman snorts.

"But if there were, and you wanted to save his program, he probably wouldn't let you near him. He wouldn't care that you'd won the Daystrom Prize for holography. From his perspective, you'd be out of date. But what if you knew you could save him?" Zimmerman reluctantly concedes the point.

Doc smiles. "Thank you, Counselor, for extending that olive branch. I'm willing to see past our differences if he is."

Zimmerman sighs. "All right." But then the Dark Side returns. "He can start by purging the plasma conduits on Deck Six."

Troi clucks her tongue. "Dr. Zimmerman..."

"I will not put my life in the hands of a primitive!"

Doc loses it. "You'd need a phaser drill to get through that thick skull of his!!"

"Get out!" Zimmerman rages.


"Oh, spare us your psychobabble!" Zimmerman says.

Troi bites her tongue and counts to three. "I came here thinking that you were opposite sides of the same coin--identical, but different. Now I see you're both exactly the same."

And one of those rare occasions occurs. Deanna Troi loses her composure. "You're both jerks!" And with that diagnosis, she stalks off.

"Jerks," repeats Leonard the Iguana, as the twin sons of different technologies stare.


Troi sits down, rubbing her nose bridge with her fingers. "I'm starting to think you called the wrong counselor, Reg."

"You'll figure something out," Barclay assures her. "You always do."

"Things are worse now than when I arrived," Troi says sadly. "Lewis won't come out of his lab and the E.M.H. is hiding in a Holodeck."

"He's feeling homesick. I let him use my Voyager simulation and it seems to be cheering him up," says Barclay.

"A hologram fighting to save the life of his creator...who just so happens to be the same man his own personality is based on. I think I'd need a whole team of therapists just to get them in the same room."

Haley arrives with a bowl of chocolate ice cream. "Mr. Barclay said this is your favorite ice cream," she says, placing it before their guest.

Troi leans back. "I hardly deserve it--but thanks." She takes the bowl, then looks up at Haley as though for the first time. "You're a hologram!"

Haley regards Troi evenly. "How do you know?"

"I'm an empath. I haven't sensed any emotions from you." Haley looks impressed. "When were you first brought on-line?" Nine years ago, Haley says. "No offense, but you're more antiquated than the E.M.H. Mark One, and yet Lewis seems to listen to you. Why do you suppose that is?"

Haley doesn't answer.

"Were you here when the Mark One was created?" Yes, Haley admits. "Any idea why Lewis made it in his own image?" Maybe you should ask him, Haley says. "I did. He evaded the question. I was hoping you might know."

Haley and Barclay share a look. Haley makes her decision. "He was extremely proud of the Mark One. He used to dream about hundreds of holograms in every corner of the quadrant saving lives. He put so much of himself into its development. I suppose it only seemed natural that it should look like him, too."

"But the Mark One failed to meet Starfleet's expectations," Troi says, as another piece of the puzzle clicks into place.

Haley nods. "He was devastated."

"He...he locked himself away in this lab for two years trying to repair the defects," Barclay says. "Finally, he just gave up; started from scratch--a whole new matrix."

"The Mark Two."

"Followed by the Mark Three, and then the Mark Four. He...he was obsessed with perfecting it."

"But none of the later models resembled Lewis," Troi says.

Haley shakes her head. "He made that mistake once. He wasn't about to do it again."

Troi nods. "And now, after all this time, a Mark One shows up. It must be like staring in a mirror at a reflection you don't want to remember."

Apparently, Troi now feels she's earned that first bite of chocolate ice cream. She savors it, as her mind considers next steps.


Lewis Zimmerman is a cranky hellion on wheels to everyone he encounters.

But what is he like all by himself, when the lights go out and his only companion is the pain and the surety of his own imminent death?

In the darkness of his lab, Zimmerman walks around, observing his handiwork. "Computer, resume recording. 'Last Will and Testament, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman.' Let's see, where were we?"

He walks into a dimly lit part of the lab. "Subsection Eight: 'the Trojan Horse project.' I hereby bequeath my latest research in holographic infiltration technology to the only engineer I trust to complete the work--Lieutenant Reginald Barclay." It's nice to know someone appreciates good ol' Lt. Broccoli.

"Subsection Nine: 'holographic art.' I hereby bequeath my entire collection, including the 21st century masterpiece, Woman in Four Dimensions...to the person who has appreciated it the most--I...guess that would be Reg Barclay, too."

"Subsection Ten: 'Haley.'" Zimmerman's voice becomes almost tender. "I realize she's only a hologram, but she's been a loyal assistant for many years. I'd like to request that Starfleet keep her program running for as long as this research facility exists. She's been as real to me as anyone I've ever known. Not that I've known many people. I've created most of my friends." He sits at his desk, and looks at Leonard.

Then, in a quiet, solitary moment, Zimmerman gasps as the illness asserts itself. His fists clench. His head falls down toward the table. His face contorts with pain. "Pause recording," he gasps.

Shakily, when the seizure subsides, he reaches for a teacup and takes a sip. Then he gives his iguana a fatherly look the Doctor would break the Hippocratic oath to receive. "Don't worry. I'll find a home for you, too."


Barclay's Voyager was apparently kept around--a gift from the admirals for his work on the Pathfinder project, no doubt. It's proving useful now; the Doctor has Sickbay to himself, and he can wander about the whole ship as though he had his portable emitter with him.

With most of this recreational subroutines back on Voyager, Doc focuses on his work--Zimmerman.

Deanna Troi enters. "So this is Voyager. I like it."

Doc rises. "It's a remarkable facsimile, but Mr. Barclay did get a few of the details wrong. For one thing, Neelix doesn't purr."

Troi laughs. "I think that may have something to do with Reg's cat. He named it after your friend."

"Neelix would be honored," Doc says.

Then he grows serious. "If you're here for Dr. Zimmerman's medical files, I've nearly finished updating them. Maybe the next physician will put them to better use."

"Actually...I stopped by to ask you to dinner."

Doc is surprised. "I'm a hologram, Counselor. I don't eat."

"I know that, but we'd still enjoy your company."

Red Alert! "We?"

"Lieutenant Barclay, Haley, myself...Dr. Zimmerman."

Doc bristles at the mention of the name. "No, thanks. Unless that man's eating crow I'm not interested."

"It's the perfect opportunity for us to talk things out in a more casual environment."

"Sorry," Doc says stiffly.

"Just one meal?"

"I said no!"

This looks like a good time for a plot complication--

And sure enough, Doc begins to sizzle, a sure sign of software trouble.

"Doctor?" Troi asks.

Doc's eyes widen with panic. "Something's wrong."

"Troi to Lieutenant Barclay," Deanna says.

"Go ahead."

"There's something wrong with the E.M.H."

"Can you be more specific?"

Doc snorts, frustrated. "She's a counselor, Lieutenant, not an engineer." Ba dum boom.

"Stand by."

Doc winks out from Voyager's sickbay--


--and appears in the living quarters. Barclay is here, working at a terminal.

"What's happening to me?" Doc asks.

Barclay stares intently at the screen, and types furiously. "Your program is destabilizing."

"What? Why?"

"They sent you 30,000 light-years. I should have expected some problems."

"It's not your fault, Mr. Barclay," Doc says, trying to reassure him. "We just need to find a way to repair the damage."

"You don't understand." Barclay looks up. "Your primary matrix is degrading--and there is nothing I can do."

Like patient, like doctor. Now Zimmerman and the EMH Mark One have something in common.

* * *

Zimmerman is in his lab, surrounded by Troi, Barclay, and Haley. They've just delivered the bad news.

"Good riddance to bad photons," is Zimmerman's response.

"He's dying, Lewis," Barclay says.

"He's not dying," says the human whose cells are degrading. "His files are just degrading."

"There are people on Voyager who count on him," Troi says.

"I'll send them a Mark Four. They're more reliable." And they look like George Clooney. Bonus.

"They don't want a Mark Four," Barclay says. "They want their friend!"

"No E.M.H. was ever designed to be anyone's friend! He's just a hologram!"

Careful what you say, Doctor. Haley is in the room. "Is that how you feel about me? Just a hologram?"

Zimmerman winces with regret, then falls back on the old reliable defensiveness. "I will not be ambushed in my own lab!"

Haley doesn't quit, though. She approaches her creator. "Stardate 53292: my program malfunctioned and you canceled a lecture on Vulcan and came all the way home to repair me." Emotion fills her soft voice.

"There's nothing worse than addressing a room full of pointy-eared blowhards. I was looking for an excuse to get away," he says, trying to brush it off.

"You came back because you cared about me--just like you care about the Mark One. You just won't admit it."

Haley brings up what has probably been a forbidden subject. "He may not be perfect, but he's still one of your creations--and right now, he needs his creator. Don't turn your back on him."

Zimmerman looks at Haley. Then at Troi. Then at good ole Reg.

Ambushed. Outnumbered. Outgunned.

Not even Leonard comes to his defense.

"Hellllp meeeeee," says Roy.


In case you need a visual bludgeon to know that something significant has changed in Lewis Zimmerman's attitude, here it is--he's eating the salad.

"Computer, activate Voyager's E.M.H." he says through a mouthful of greens.

Doc materializes. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

"You're the emergency," says Zimmerman, moving over to another terminal.

"Where's Lieutenant Barclay?"

"Trust me, you're in far more capable hands," Zimmerman says.

Doc gapes. "You're going to repair my program?"

"Who better?"

"Just yesterday, you threatened to decompile me!"

"That was before your colleagues made me feel guilty." Zimmerman gasps softly as another wave of pain engulfs him. But it passes quickly, and soon he's back on the job.

"You're ill. You're in no condition to perform delicate procedures!"

"I'll survive, but you won't if you don't relax and let me finish," Doc says through another forkful of hedge clippings.

Doc approaches the computer pylon, naturally curious. Doctors make the worst patients. "What are you doing?"

"My scans identified a recursive error in your pattern buffer. I'm trying to isolate it." TAP TAP

Doc looks closer, and gasps. "Is that a fractal algorithm?"

"Very good!" says Zimmerman, impressed. "I'm using it to realign your matrix." TAP TAPPITY TAP

"Fractal algorithms are notoriously unstable!"

"In the hands of a novice." TAP TAP TAP BOOP. "Whoops."

"'Whoops'? What's 'Whoops'?"

Zimmerman sighs. "Computer, deactivate E.M.H."

"Ahh..." but Doc disappears before he can complete his protest.

With a sigh and another mouth full of garden goodness, Zimmerman continues his efforts.


Zimmerman activates Doc again.

"I-I can't move!"

"I know. I had to take your mobility subroutines off-line."

"How long have I been deactivated?" Doc asks, panicked.

"17 hours." Zimmerman looks exhausted. And the sudden groaning suggests the effort is taking its toll. "I'm resetting your parameters."

"You don't look well. You need rest!"

"I'm fine, and so are you. Your program's been stabilized."

"I...I'm going to be okay?"

Zimmerman smiles. "No, you're going to be better than okay!"

Doc frowns. "Now what are you doing?" He disappears--and reappears an instant later. "Welcome to Sickbay. How may I help you today?" He seems shocked that these words have come out of his mouth.

"Well? What do you think?"

"I think you've altered my greeting protocol," Doc says, none too happy about it.

"That's just the beginning. I've also added new subroutines for compassion, patience, empathy, decorum--"

"I don't feel any different . . . "

"Because I haven't installed them yet. I thought you'd like to be awake for the Big Moment." Zimmerman gives Doc an almost paternal smile. "Reginald was right about you. You have exceeded the sum of your programming. You've accomplished far more than I would have ever predicted." Doc preens, happy to finally be getting the accolades he deserves.

"But let's face facts," Zimmerman continues. "You never overcame the inherent flaws in your personality subroutines. You're arrogant, irritable. 'A jerk,' as Counselor Troi would say."

"I believe she was describing you as well," Doc points out.

"Don't change the subject." He starts typing. "I may not be able to turn you into a Mark Four, but I can make you a bit more presentable."

"What if I'm happy with the way I am?" Doc asks.

"I'm doing you a favor."

"I don't want any favors! And I don't want your new subroutines! Why can't you accept me as I am?!"

"Because you're defective!"

Finally the truth comes out--the Zimmerman Family Secret. How he really feels about the "obsolete" Mark Ones.

"'Emergency Medical Hotheads!' 'Extremely Marginal House-calls.' That's what everyone used to call the Mark Ones, until they were bounced out of the Medical Corps! I tried to have them decommissioned, but Starfleet--in its infinite wisdom--overruled me and reassigned them all to work waste-transfer barges."

Doc says nothing, too sickened to speak.

"That's where you'd be, too, if you hadn't been lost in the Delta Quadrant." Zimmerman slumps on a couch, defeated. "Do you know how humiliating it is to have 675 Mark Ones out there, scrubbing plasma conduits...all with my face?"

"I'm sure they're doing a fine job," Doc says. Repenting of his earlier decision, Doc breaks out his tricorder and begins to scan his creator.

"What are you doing? I'm not finished with you."

"I'm trying to do my job. And if you give me a chance, you'll see that I'm pretty good at it." Zimmerman doesn't object--he's in no condition to.

"Frankly, I'd hoped that if we ever met, you'd be proud of me," Doc admits.

"Well...I guess it is comforting to know that at least one of you is still doing what I designed you to do."

The tricorder beeps in a discouraging way. Doc looks worried. "Your intercellular proteins are at a dangerous level. We should begin the procedure."

Zimmerman still looks hesitant.

"Please? Give me a chance to make you proud of me."

Zimmerman relents. "Maybe we could try it; see how it goes."

Doc nods gratefully. "See how it goes."

"Just don't expect me to put you in my will," he gripes.

Doc just smiles.


Barclay, Haley and Troi all cool their heels in the outer room.

Barclay, though, is getting impatient. "I'm-I'm going in!" He hops off his chair.

"Reg..." Deanna warns.

"They have been in there for 32 hours!"

"Be patient."

Their patience is soon rewarded. Doc comes through the door a moment later.

Barclay looks relieved. "Why, you're...you're not fritzing anymore."

Doc glares accusingly. "No thanks to you." He advances on the backpedaling Barclay. "Dr. Zimmerman ran a diagnostic on my subtronic relays and he made a very interesting discovery. Apparently, I was the victim of foul play."

Barclay gulps. "Well, what...what do you mean?"

"He found an algorithm designed to disrupt my matrix. You wouldn't know anything about that . . ." Reg cowers.

Doc looks at Troi, his look a bit more conspiratorial now. "Would you?"

Troi gives a sly smile. "Well, traditional therapy wasn't getting us anywhere."

The Doctor's features soften. "Well, your little scheme worked. Dr. Zimmerman has agreed to the cellular regeneration procedure. It requires several more treatments but I'm optimistic he'll make a full recovery."

There are relieved sighs all around.


Doc has a camera with him--apparently his shutterbug routines are either still with him, or he added a few for the occasion. He wanders around Zimmerman's lab, taking a few snapshots to remember his creator by.

"Trying to steal my secrets?" Zimmerman asks. He pads in, still wearing his bathrobe.

"Another one of my hobbies," Doc says, holding up the camera. "I thought I'd take home a few memories. You're supposed to be in bed."

"I've got work to do."

"It can wait," Doc says gently. "Go to bed. Doctor's orders."

Zimmerman sighs, but there's no heat in his words. "I hope you won't be coming back next month to make sure I'm taking my medicine."

Doc smiles. "Don't worry. My Captain's not likely to authorize another house call."

"Good." Then, somewhat awkwardly since he's out of practice, he says something nice. "The next time she sends a data stream, you might want to . . . drop me a line. Let me know how you're doing."

Doc smiles wider. "If you insist."

Reg Barclay enters. "Ready?"

Doc seems ready to, but then he gets an idea. He extends the camera to the youngish engineer. "Would you mind?"

Barclay readily agrees. "Not at all!"

Doc stands beside Zimmerman, then puts an arm around his creator's shoulder.


Yup--there's no mistaking the resemblance. Like father, like son. Just a couple of loveable jerks who are fortunate in their friendships.


I was so disappointed by last week's episode that this week couldn't help but be a welcome relief. But the difference is so dramatic I'm surprised I didn't get a case of the bends.

In short--I loved this episode.

Robert Picardo is one of my favorite actors on the show, and has been almost from the beginning. Even when I have trouble an episode, I rarely take issue with his performances. He injects so much energy and soul into his roles, it's hard not to get caught up in the narrative.

Here, Picardo plays two roles, but doesn't rely on big theatrical differences. The changes here are subtle but significant--and when you see the two of them in a room together, at times it's a challenge to remember that this IS one guy in two roles. The camera wizardry is impressive--but the most impressive part is how seamless it was, so it didn't intrude in the story.

And what a story.

It's not that it's revolutionary storytelling. The role reversals, the helping each other because they're the only ones who can, it's not uncommon. But the execution worked very well. It rests on caring about the characters--and I did. Barclay, Troi, Doc, Zimmerman--even Haley, a new character but instantly likeable. I can't say I warmed up to the iguana, but it's an acquired, er, taste.

There were other moments I quite liked. Janeway and the Doctor. Janeway and Chakotay. The Doctor and Seven of Nine. These scenes were all standouts. But for me the linchpin of the episode was the scenes between the Doctor and Zimmerman, and all who entered the blast radius of their encounters. Deanna Troi's "You're both jerks!" wasn't very professional, and seemed to be a leap to conclusions (however accurate) but it was an amusing punctuation to the conventional wisdom.

The story walked a fine line. Death isn't exactly a laff riot (unless it's Weekend at Bernies), so doing a show about someone dying is a bit tricky. They managed to strike a nice balance between humor and seriousness--to give us a view of Zimmerman outside of an audience, where it was simply a man alone with his pain and his last will and testament. Compared to the often loud humor elsewhere in the episode, the quiet anguish of the scene humanizes Zimmerman without compromising his essential pricklines.


The heart of the story is one of identity. Doctor Zimmerman, winner--appropriately--of the Daystrom prize for holography, shares some of the hubris of the brilliant but disturbed Daystrom, whose M5 computer wreaked havoc in "the ultimate computer."

As an example of how far the Federation has come, that TOS-era episode was a genuine tragedy--at a time when computers were often seen as an apocalyptic force, the potential replacement for mankind, it suggested that a starship could be completely automated. But because the creator of the computer invested too much of himself -- his frustration, his paranoia -- the computer became a killing machine. Kirk ends up appealing to the computer's humanity and talking it to death. Thirty years later, computers are a routine fact of life, and the big crisis about the "obsolete" Mark One EMH is that it has a lousy bedside manner--again, largely thanks to its creator, who also put too much of himself into the design. What was a life-or-death situation in the 60s, is simply an issue of personal humiliation in the year 2000. People have crashed their Windows and Apple PCs too many times over the years to think of bad software as the end of the world--just as an incredible annoyance.

Where we once feared the computers, we now send grumpy letters to the programmers. That, my friends, is progress.

In the original series episode, we saw Daystrom giving his computer a creepy pep talk--nobody understands us, our genius, and so on. Here, the programmer and the program are more like father and son, using the same arguments that fathers and sons have waged for millennia. "I just want you to be proud of me!" "I have no son!" We see the underlying tragedy through the mask of humor--Zimmerman was proud of his Mark One; the humiliation was as much because the mass rejection of the model was a rejection of himself. Starfleet had chosen to take his pinnacle of achievement and convert it to menial labor.

That gives poignance to the reunion. When Janeway said there were thousands of EMHs out there, she was mistaken--now, it would seem, Doc is the only "true" EMH Mark One left; the rest are no longer EMHs, but more like the poor grunt holograms in "Revulsion." That's got to be enough to give the poor Doc nightmares.

Call it dumb luck, call it fate, only one EMH-1 escaped his cruel destiny and was given a chance to really strut his stuff. For all his faults, Doc had excelled in the purpose for which he was made. If he has personality deficiencies--well, who doesn't? Remember Dr. Pulaski? Heck, watching ER, I'm not sure I'd want to be treated by half of the folks at Chicago General these days. But when a person is insufferable, you just grit your teeth. When it's something as programmable as the Doctor, you don't HAVE to grit your teeth--you can do something about it with just a little upgrading.

The fate of the Mark One says more about humanity than it does about the Mark One. And the news isn't all good. We remember first season Janeway, who--because of all the complaints from the crew--was ready to reprogram the EMH. They could well have done so. He's a hologram, right? He's there as a utility to help the crew do its job. And though the Doctor had his own bad moments, a little respect from the humans would have gone a long way.

It took an adorable, compassionate little pixie named Kes to come along, recognize the potential in the EMH, and encourage him to grow, and to act as his advocate with the captain and crew until he was aware enough of his potential to make such requests on his own. And a funny thing happened--the crew, and the doctor, started to get along. Instead of seeing him as a program, they saw him--at first because of captain's orders, no doubt--as the only doctor they had.

Voyager had no choice--and in the long run, they have benefited from his development. Compare this to the Enterprise in FIRST CONTACT--Dr. Crusher used her EMH Mark One only as a diversion against the Borg.

The EMH, like people, mainly needed to be given a chance. When given it, our Doctor ran with it, stumbling from time to time, but over six years really making something of himself.


But does a piece of software DESERVE such a chance? That's part of the question here.

Do holograms have rights? Apparently not in the alpha quadrant. And Doc is doomed to wear a face that, while he's proud of the strong chin and stuff, is instantly recognized and derided as Zimmerman's Folly back home. The poor Doctor, cut off from home, thought himself a marvel. He returns to the AQ to find he's a joke, through no fault of his own. A little perspective can be a kick in the teeth sometimes. Six years is an eternity in the software business; state of the art never stays there for long.

The conflict between Zimmerman and the Doctor here is a question of perspective. Doc is eager to tell his creator all that he's accomplished, all that he's become, when given the opportunity to seek his own path. Zimmerman, though, only sees the aspects of the EMH that was ridiculed by Starfleet, and has a desire to "fix" him. The interesting part of this exchange is, what Zimmerman focused on most was NOT medical knowledge, but behavior and demeanor--areas in which he has little room to judge. Like a programmer, he's fixated on fixing the defects, while perhaps overlooking the greater functionality.

Heck, people crash their computers every day--and though they gripe, they can still recover and get some good work done. And while here Zimmerman is said to have thrown out the entire EMH matrix, in reality it's bad practice to toss good code out with the bad.

We met the Mark Two a couple of years ago. After a rocky start, the two found they had more in common than one might expect. Even the Mark 3 and Mark 4 models can't have fallen too far from the tree, because Zimmerman is still the trunk and root.

Likewise, Doc and Zimmerman eventually spent enough time together, and endured enough together, to establish something approaching trust.


The other big development, of course, is the introduction of the possibly permanent monthly mail call. This is a significant step closer to home, because that frequent contact brings Voyager within Starfleet's sphere of influence. No longer is Janeway necessarily the last word. The admirals can request (or order) information. They could give assignments. And Janeway gets to wonder about whether and how to respond, as she does here.

Six years of autonomy is a long time. We can see how it spoiled Jim Kirk to be The Man as often as he was, and how it impacted his later career. Janeway has a similar double-edged sword--can she become just another captain again? Or could she become another Kirk, too used to setting her own agenda to listen to the rear-echelon pukes back home?

They didn't answer that question this week--but the asking of it is significant. It's a taste of things to come. The Maquis, the Borg, first contacts, casualties--they're part of the aftermath waiting for them once their journey ends.


This was one of my favorite episodes of the season. The guest performances were terrific, Picardo's dual role was wonderful, and the regulars all held their own quite nicely, particularly Jeri Ryan. She and Picardo have a lovely rapport going. The story moved along nicely, had some excellent continuity from "Pathfinder" and other previous Voyager episodes, and was a good next step in the Homecoming Saga. We've reached the beginning of the end, I think--with a season to go, and less than half the distance remaining, and regular contact, it seems likely that home will play an increasing role onboard Voyager.

I was a happy camper this week, no two ways about it. Five dang stars.

Next week: SCREAM 47.

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Copyright © 2000 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: May 14, 2000
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