(written from a Production point of view)
The Doctor completes work on a holonovel that depicts the crew of Voyager in rather unflattering roles as they abuse and scorn the Emergency Medical Hologram. When the holonovel is published without his permission, the issue of The Doctor's legal rights is brought into question. Seven reconnects with her aunt.
The Doctor is writing a holonovel about himself, Photons Be Free.
The highly anticipated Operation Watson, allowing a intergalactic com link to exist between USS Voyager and Starfleet, is a success. Captain Janeway congratulates Lieutenant Barclay on his memorable achievement, but he shrugs off the praise since Harry Kim and Seven of Nine helped come up with the idea of bouncing a tachyon beam off a quantum singularity. Admiral Paris informs Janeway that the singularity only remains in the correct position for eleven minutes a day so he leaves it up to her to allocate com time among the crew. Barclay has another gift for the crew, and transmits a live image of Earth. Everyone is very grateful for the gesture.
It is decided to allocate com time through a lottery, with three crewmembers getting three minutes a day to talk to people back in the Alpha Quadrant. Harry Kim, wanting to surprise his mother, isn't so lucky; his slot is six weeks later. He tries to trade with The Doctor for his slot which is today, but The Doctor won't budge. Kim has more success with Tom Paris, who offers up his spot, which comes within two days.The Doctor uses his time to communicate with his publisher about the holonovel he sent earlier. After the three minutes are up, Seven promptly cuts off the feed, irritating The Doctor. Later The Doctor boasts to Paris he has spoken with Ardon Broht of Broht & Forrester, a well-known publisher of holonovels. He is willing to have Paris take a look at his work and sends him off covering the rest of his shift in sickbay.
After getting bored listening to the introduction, Paris skips to the first chapter. He is suddenly propelled into sickbay portraying an EMH with wounded personnel pouring in. Katanay, a character resembling Chakotay, but with a different facial tattoo and a Bajoran earring, is supporting a character named Marseilles – resembling Paris himself, but with a mustache. "Katanay" tells the doctor to treat "Marseilles" first. The doctor refuses because another person is in more immediate danger. When "Captain Jenkins", the analog to Captain Janeway, comes in, she eventually kills the other patient so the doctor can treat "Marseilles", leaving Paris at a loss for words.
In the mess hall he shares his experience with Neelix, Torres, and Kim. Everyone is in it, but with other names and other personalities. Everyone thinks Paris is overreacting, so he challenges them to play the holonovel themselves.
In Chapter 5 Torres has to use a backpack sized mobile emitter and finds "Marseilles" using sickbay as a means to cheat on his "wife" with the "Delaney sisters". In Chapter 6 Neelix finds "himself" convicted to a reprogramming. Then in Chapter 7, Kim escapes his escorts "Tulak" and "Kymble" on the way to engineering with the help of "Three of Eight". In Chapter 8, Janeway finds herself decompiled despite a plea by "Three of Eight". The Doctor/Narrator then makes a note, saying this is fiction in an attempt to portray the struggles holograms have to endure in a world controlled by organics.
The captain summons The Doctor to her ready room.
Here, the senior officers address their issues with The Doctor's creation. Their biggest issue is the fact that The Doctor changed the names of crewmates only slightly and used their physical parameters as a base for the characters, making only superficial changes to their appearance and names. Their personalities, however, bear no resemblance to the USS Voyager crew. The Doctor doesn't budge.
Kim finally gets to talk to his parents for the first time in six-and-a-half years, and while they enjoy a warm conversation, he is put out when his mother decides to write to Captain Janeway, asking why her son hasn't been promoted even though he tries to explain that there are only so many positions available. Before he can ask her not to, his connection gets severed halfway by interference from a solar flare. Kim is irritated, and when Seven tells him he'll have another chance in two months, he tells her she wouldn't understand why he's upset since she doesn't have a yearning for relatives on Earth.
When The Doctor runs his holonovel to fine tune it he finds that Tom Paris has switched the file with his own holonovel. This holonovel portrays a doctor aboard the USS Voyeur who cares nothing for patients he cannot seduce and pursues his own recreational activities while forcing his duties off onto the medic, Paris' role. It starts off with the doctor telling the real Doctor that he is late, by a matter of just a few seconds. He then goes over to "Two of Three", and hastily scans her, then drugs her. The physical appearance of this doctor holocharacter is, of course, nearly identical to The Doctor.
The Doctor is appalled and confronts Paris, who throws The Doctor's own logic that the character was not based on The Doctor back at him. The Doctor does not seem swayed and Paris relents and tells him where to find the backup copy of the original holonovel.
After Neelix provides comforting advice (he was the only viewer to enjoy the holonovel), The Doctor realizes that he needs to alter the holocharacters to not cast doubt on the reputations of his friends. He gets his publisher to agree and tells the crewmembers.
During a face to face time with her father, Torres, with Paris at her side, finds that her father wants to reconnect. Torres tells her father she will write, with Seven observing in the background.
On Earth, Barclay brings the rough draft of the holonovel, which apparently has already been published, to Admiral Paris' attention. The admiral informs the captain. Outraged, The Doctor demands an explanation from the publisher, who makes the claim that since The Doctor is not a person, he has no rights as author of the novel.
Tuvok informs the crew of the legal dilemma. While strictly speaking The Doctor has no right, Tuvok thinks the prematurely released holonovel could be suppressed by claiming classified information. Paris disagrees, because that would surely give the impression that there is truth in the story. Defamation of character is mentioned. The captain finally decides to try something else.
This results in a Federation tribunal to determine The Doctor's rights carried out across the thirteen or so minutes of communication that can be managed each day. Captain Janeway brings in various members of the crew as witnesses to The Doctor's claim of person-hood.
While waiting for the arbitrator's decision. Seven offers her com time to Kim so he can talk to his parents again as she has come to understand the importance to speaking to family from the rest of the crew. Kim apologizes for overreacting and won't accept the gesture, since he feels Seven should use the time to contact her own family. Although Seven's parents were assimilated, she knows of an aunt in the Alpha Quadrant, Irene Hansen. Kim urges Seven to make contact, knowing Irene would be thrilled to hear from her niece. Despite her apprehension, Seven does and the two discuss her childhood.
The arbitrator returns with his decision. He admits that he is still unsure of if The Doctor is a person or just a sophisticated program. He knows that the matter of holographic rights will soon have to be addressed properly but is unwilling to declare The Doctor a 'person' at the moment. However he does agree that The Doctor is more than just a hologram and declares that the legal definition of "artist" can be extended to include him. As a result, The Doctor has full rights concerning the distribution of his holonovel and orders that all copies of Photons Be Free be recalled immediately, much to Broht's anger.
Even though he has managed to take the first step in establishing holographic rights, The Doctor doesn't feel like its much of a victory, since the novel has already been seen by thousands. Janeway assures him that the crew will be all right, and they encourage him get started on the revisions.
Four months later, in a Federation mining colony where hundreds of EMH Mark I's are engaged in mining operations, one is told to report for his recurring maintenance by another EMH, who recommends he ask the operator to run Photons Be Free, telling him it's "quite provocative".
- "Captain's log, stardate 54732.3. It's been three weeks since we received Starfleet's instructions in the last data stream. We're finally ready to begin Operation Watson. We're all holding our breath."
- "Chief medical officer's personal log, stardate 54740.8. Although the decision has made me unpopular with the crew, I've decided not to compromise my work. I'm making some final revisions to the program before transmitting it."
- "Captain's log, stardate 54748.6. A Federation arbitrator has been assigned to determine whether The Doctor has the right to control his artistic creation. Because of our limited com time with Earth, the arguments should take about three days."
"When I tell you your shift begins at 0800 that doesn't mean you can stroll in here at 0800 and 24 seconds. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME, ENSIGN?!"
"This is outrageous!"
"What's outrageous is that I'm going to miss my tee time."
- - Paris's fictional doctor and The Doctor
"Your program is about as subtle as a Ferengi mating dance!"
- - Paris, about The Doctor's holoprogram
"I could use your help with the rewrites."
"Really?! Well, you realize, as a writer, I'm a little unsophisticated."
"No, I believe the phrase you're looking for is 'low-brow'."
- - The Doctor and Paris
"Sorry, it's just frustrating to hear that I have no more legal standings than a replicator."
- - The Doctor
"I would never have believed that an EMH could become a valued member of my crew, and my friend. The Doctor is a person as real as any flesh and blood I have ever known."
- - Janeway
"The Doctor exhibits many of the traits we associate with a person. Intelligence, creativity, ambition, even fallibility, but are these traits real or is The Doctor merely programmed to simulate them? To be honest, I don't know. Eventually we will have to decide because the issue of holographic rights isn't going to go away, but at this time, I am not prepared to rule that The Doctor is a person under the law. However, it is obvious he is no ordinary hologram and while I can't say with certainty that he is a person I am willing to extend the legal definition of artist to include The Doctor. I therefore rule that he has the right to control his work and I'm ordering all copies of his holo-novels to be recalled immediately."
- - Arbitrator
- - EMH Mark I, telling another EMH Mark I in the dilithium mines about The Doctor's novel
"As far as I know, Captain, you haven't executed any of my patients."
- - The Doctor, to Captain Janeway
"Chapter one: It's The Doctor's world, you're just living in it."
- - Tom Paris, narrating his version of The Doctor's novel
"This Captain Janeway sounds like such a lovely woman. Maybe I should write her!"
- - Mary Kim and Harry Kim
"Doctor, I need your help."
"Unless you're suffering acute symptoms, go away."
- - Neelix and The Doctor
"I made myself clear. But The Doctor disobeyed my direct orders. In the process, he endangered the ship, and crew."
"Hardly commendable behavior."
"No, it wasn't. But it was Human."
- - Janeway and Arbitrator
"It hurts when I do this."
"Well then, don't do it."
- - Two of Three and Paris' fictional Doctor
"I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but it feels like a hollow victory. Pardon the pun."
- - The Doctor
- In this episode, Voyager's crew complement is given as 146 (including The Doctor).
- This episode reveals that B'Elanna Torres did not personally name her Toby the targ stuffed animal mentioned in the previous season's "Tsunkatse". Toby is actually a popular children's holoprogram character published by Broht & Forrester.
- As in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Measure Of A Man", the rights of non-organic lifeforms are at issue in this episode. While it had been determined that Data, although being a machine, was not Starfleet property and thus had the right to choose what to do with his life (and thus could most likely be considered a person), it seems the whole process had to be repeated for The Doctor and fellow holograms. The situation here is even more complex than with Data, since Data was a unique single being who was not created by Starfleet (he was found by Starfleet personnel), while holograms were programmed and designed by Starfleet and integrated into ships, space stations and other Starfleet property. In the end, it is not acknowledged in this episode that The Doctor is a person, but he is rather granted the status of an artist.
- Tuvok's fictional counterpart, Tulak, sports a goatee, not unlike the mirror universe's Spock in TOS: "Mirror, Mirror", Soval from ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" and Sarek at DIS: "The Wolf Inside" . Tulak, however, is not a Vulcan, since he does not have pointed ears. He also chuckles at one point. The other computer counterparts that differ in appearance from the originals are: Katanay (Chakotay) is Bajoran, Kymble (Kim) is Trill, Marseilles (Paris) is Human but wears a moustache, Torrey (Torres) is full Human.
- This is one of the few episodes of Voyager in which the Occupation of Bajor is mentioned. It was also mentioned in passing in the previous episode.
- During their allowed COM-time, Ensign Kim's mother tells him "This Captain Janeway sounds like a lovely woman", which could refer to the call she made to Captain Janeway shortly after Kim left Earth to ask if she had time to send Kim's clarinet to Voyager, as Janeway confides to Tuvok in "Caretaker", in turn calling Kim's mother a "delightful woman".
- In Paris' altered version of Photons Be Free, the USS Voyeur chief medical officer tells Two of Three that her biradial clamp is out of alignment. In "Human Error", Seven suffered from the same misalignment.
- The epilogue of the episode takes place four months after the main events of this episode. The previous episode "Human Error" takes place three months before the series finale "Endgame", meaning the epilogue of this episode takes place after Voyager, and by extension the Doctor, return to the Alpha Quadrant.
Behind the scenes
- This is the last episode of the series to be directed by David Livingston.
- This was the 600th live action episode of Star Trek produced. Both this episode and the 700th live action episode (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly") were written by Mike Sussman. According to Sussman, on his Memory Alpha User Talk page, this episode was "a tough episode to write but [he] thought it turned out nicely". In an interview for StarTrek.com, Sussman said of this episode, "'Author, Author' is probably my favorite Voyager script. The Doctor writes a holonovel, a roman à clef that portrays the Voyager crew in a less than flattering light. The heart of the story was The Doctor's struggle to be accepted as a legitimate writer and a regular person. Bob Picardo really made that episode and he brought the funny – you could give Bob the phone book to read and he'd be terrific." 
- Barry Gordon previously played Nava in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Nagus".
- Robert Duncan McNeill, who usually wears a red uniform (and had previously worn a gold uniform in "Worst Case Scenario"), dons the blue sciences division uniform becoming the second of three Voyager cast members to wear all three department colors on his uniform, the first being Robert Picardo (EMH, ECH, Lewis Zimmerman). Garrett Wang, who also donned the blue uniform in this episode (and usually wears gold), became the third when he was given his red uniform in "Endgame".
- The smoking jackets worn by Picardo and McNeill in the intros of Photons Be Free were auctioned off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction.  According to Picardo, the producers allowed him to keep his smoking jacket from this episode. (SFX, issue 270, p. 65)
- This episode shares plot similarities to the Desilu-produced I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Writes A Novel". In it, Lucy Ricardo writes a novel based on her life that also includes unflattering portrayals of people in her life (in her case, her husband and neighbors) using thinly disguised character names.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 7.10, 3 December 2001
- As part of the VOY Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway / Jenkins
- Robert Beltran as Chakotay / Katanay
- Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres / Torrey
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris / Marseilles
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor / CMO
- Tim Russ as Tuvok / Tulak
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine / Three of Eight / Two of Three
- Garrett Wang as Harry Kim / Kymble
- Richard Herd as Admiral Paris
- Barry Gordon as Ardon Broht
- Joseph Campanella as Arbitrator
- Lorinne Vozoff as Irene Hansen
- Juan Garcia as John Torres
- Robert Ito as John Kim
- Irene Tsu as Mary Kim
Special guest star
- Brock Burnett as Male N.D.
- Jennifer Hammon as Female N.D.
- Heather Young as Sickbay N.D.
- Majel Barrett as Computer Voice
- Richard Bishop as operations officer
- Carter Edwards as command officer
- Andrew English as operations officer
- Bernie Escarcega as command officer
- Joyce Lasley as Lydia Anderson
- Brita Nowak as
- Stephen Pisani as operations officer (unconfirmed)
- Keith Rayve as command officer
- Richard Sarstedt as William McKenzie
- Pablo Soriano as holographic operations officer
- Brita Nowak – stand-in for Jeri Ryan and Heather Young
- Piper Taylor – photo double for Roxann Dawson
47-Beta; Adventures of Captain Proton, The; Alpha Quadrant; analogy; Antares-class (ore freighter); aortic rupture; arbitrator; artificial lifeform; artist; assimilation; auditory subroutine; backpack; Bajoran; bedside manner; bigotry; Bolian; biradial clamp; Borg; Broht & Forrester; Chakotay's sister; classified information; cloud cover; coffee; concussion; Cooking with Neelix, a Culinary Tour of the Delta Quadrant; cup; Daystrom Prize; defamation; Delta Quadrant; dermal regenerator; diagnostic subroutine; dilithium; dilithium matrix; Dixon Hill series; draft; double-barreled shotgun; Earth; eighth grader; EMH miners; ethical standards; Excelsior-class (starship); expression; extracurricular subroutine; Federation; Federation law; Ferengi garbage scow; Ferengi mating dance; fiction; first-person narrative; flintlock; gender; gesture; gigaquad; Hansen, Erin; Hansen, Magnus; "Happy Birthday to You"; holo-cookbook; holo-lab; holo-novel; hyper spanner; hypochondriac; isolinear chip; Janeway's mother; K'Ratak; Kessik IV; kilo; Kim's students; Klingon aphrodisiac; landowner; life story; logic; McKinley Station; medical standards; microsurgery; Miral; mining; mobile emitter; namesake; North America; novelist; Operation Watson; operator; optronic pathways; organic; palace; Paris, Miral; path; Pathfinder; plasma conduit; Photons Be Free; prejudice; protagonist; quantum singularity; Qo'noS; race; replicator; ripeness; road; San Francisco; second degree plasma burn; sentient species; setting; slavery; small talk; social commentary; solar flare; Starfleet Command; strawberry; strawberry tart; tachyon beam; Talaxian; tee time; Theta-15; Toby the targ; Talaxian; Third triplet; Tolstoy, Leo; tonsillectomy; triage; triaxilation; triplets; Twelfth Guarantee; Type 6 shuttlecraft (unnamed); vascular disorder; Vedek's Song, The; Vortex, USS; Voyager, USS; "Voyager's EMH"; Voyeur, USS; work of art; Zimmerman, Lewis
- "Author, Author" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Author, Author" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Author, Author" at Wikipedia
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