Voyager receives another surprise from Starfleet Command – a new means of direct and instantaneous communication with home, allowing the crew to finally talk with their long-lost family and friends.
Using an opportunity of communication with home, the Doctor publishes his memoirs as a holodeck novel, which portrays an EMH on a ship called Vortex in an attempt to draw attention to the oppression of his fellow holograms. Unfortunately, he uses his own situation as the setting for his story, changing the names of crew mates only slightly and using 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 Voyager crew. In the opening scene, the analogue to Captain Janeway, Captain Jenkins, shoots a severely injured crewman to force the doctor to treat her helmsman who has a minor injury. The story proceeds with the entire crew of the starship Vortex treating the EMH as a slave devoid of all feeling. The holo character doctor's mobile emitter is portrayed as a heavy metal pack. In the end of the story, Captain Jenkins orders the EMH to eliminate all his subroutines not strictly related to the medical profession. The EMH refuses and is then decompiled by the Captain as a result.
After the story has been transmitted to a publisher as a rough draft which the Doctor has asked to be allowed to refine before release, the crew takes turns running the program and are horrified by a portrayal which will obviously be interpreted as being the real conditions aboard Voyager. Furious with the Doctor, they ask him to alter the holonovel to eliminate the similarities between the holo characters and themselves. The Doctor refuses, claiming that the characters are not truly based on the Voyager crew. The next time the Doctor runs his holonovel 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 job off onto the medic. The physical appearance of this holo character 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 this the Doctor does realize that he needs to alter the holo characters to not cast doubt on the reputations of his friends, however, the crew finds that the rough draft of the holonovel has already been published. Outraged, the Doctor demands an explanation of the publisher who makes the claim that since the doctor is not a person, he has no rights as author of the novel.
This results in a Federation tribunal to determine the Doctor's rights carried out across the 13 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. In the end, the arbitrator leaves the decision of whether or not the Doctor is a person as out of the scope of the case, however, he does declare that the legal definition of "artist" ecompasses the Doctor, and as such the Doctor has full rights concerning the distribution of his holonovel.
Unfortunately, the novel has already been seen by thousands. The consequences of this for the crew are not shown. However, the episode ends by showing 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 running the Doctor's holo-novel. The viewer is left with the notion that the Doctor's holo-novel may have stirred a revolution in the fight for holographic rights.
- 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.
"This is outrageous!"
"What's outrageous is that I'm going to miss my tee time."
- - The Doctor and Paris' fictional doctor
"Sorry, it's just frustrating to hear that I have no more legal standings than a replicator."
- - The Doctor
"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
"It's called Photons Be Free. It's quite provocative."
- - EMH Mark I telling another EMH Mark I in the dilithium mines about The Doctor's novel
The initial scene of the episode portrays the shooting of one critically injured crewman to force treatment of a lesser injured crewman. A similar situation took place during the episode "The Killing Game, Part II". Turanj, a Hirogen commander, tried to force the Doctor to treat a slightly injured Hirogen over a more injured crewman, and when the Doctor refused, he was deactivated for his trouble. One could guess that the Doctor needed to vent his frustration from this event in the holonovel.
The question about The Doctor's rights as an individual is reminiscent of similar discussions about Lieutenant Commander Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Measure Of A Man". However, during the tribunal, there is no mention of the similarities (a non-"person" being given rights for the first time). The question of "holograms' rights" would later be explored in Voyager novels.
- 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.
- Barry Gordon previously played Nava in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Nagus".
- With this episode, Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang become two of three Voyager cast members to wear all three department colors on his uniform; the other is Robert Picardo. (Paris usually wears red, wore gold in "Worst Case Scenario", and wears blue here; Kim usually wears gold, wore red in "Endgame", and also wears blue here).
- Ensign Kim's mother implies that she has never spoken to Janeway (she says Janeway "sounds like a lovely woman"), yet in "Caretaker", Janeway, describing Kim's mother as "delightful", says that she had told her that she couldn't send her son's clarinet on to the ship as there wasn't time.
- The smoking jacket worn by Robert Picardo and Robert Duncan McNeill in the intros of Photons Be Free was auctioned off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction.
- In this episode, Voyager's crew complement is given as 142 (including the Doctor).
Links and References
- Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway/Captain 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
- 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
Adventures of Captain Proton, The; Alpha Quadrant; aortic rupture; artificial lifeform; Bajoran; Bolian; biradial clamp; Borg; Broht & Forrester; coffee; concussion; Cooking with Neelix, a Culinary Tour of the Delta Quadrant; Daystrom Prize; dermal regenerator; dilithium; dilithium matrix; Dixon Hill series; Federation law; Ferengi garbage scow; Ferengi mating dance; gigaquad; Happy Birthday; holo-cookbook; holo-novel; hyper spanner; hypochondriac; isolinear chip; K'Ratak; Kessik IV; kilogram; The Killing Game, Part II; Klingon aphrodisiac; McKinley Station; Miral; mobile emitter; North America; Operation Watson; optronic pathways; Paris, Miral; Pathfinder Project; plasma burn; plasma conduit; Photons Be Free; 47-beta; quantum singularity; Qo'noS; San Francisco; slavery; solar flare; Starfleet Command; strawberry, strawberry tart; tachyon beam; Theta-15; Toby the targ; Talaxian; Tolstoy, Leo; tonsillectomy; Twelfth Guarantee; Type-6 shuttlecraft; Vedek's Song, The; Vortex, USS; Voyager, USS; Voyeur, USS; Zimmerman, Lewis
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