(written from a Production point of view)
The Doctor is informed that he is actually Lewis Zimmerman, the creator of the EMH, he is trapped on a holographic Voyager on Jupiter Station, and his whole Voyager experience was on a holodeck.
The Doctor materializes in an empty sickbay, but finds no one present. The computer tells him he was activated automatically, so he starts to call out to the others, but, unable to contact anyone, the computer tells him that no one is aboard.
The Doctor manages to get a ship's status from the computer and replays the last bridge log. He discovers that the ship has been attacked causing sufficient damage to force the crew to abandon ship. Seeing his usefulness at an end, The Doctor makes a log entry and prepares to deactivate himself when suddenly Torres enters sickbay, explaining that the ship had been attacked by two Kazon warships. She and Captain Janeway had remained behind to attempt to prevent a warp core breach, which they did. The crew's life pods have been tractored by the Kazon, and Janeway is injured on the bridge. The Doctor attempts to discern her injuries, only to find the medical tricorders aren't registering her life signs. Torres informs The Doctor that holo-projectors have been installed on other parts of the ship including the bridge so that The Doctor can enter them. By diverting power from life support systems to activate the holo-projectors, Torres is able to send The Doctor to the badly damaged bridge and revive Janeway.
The Doctor succeeds in waking Janeway up, but without the use of the bridge's tricorder, as it's not working either. Torres calls up, having gotten communications online and they start to coordinate their efforts to repair the ship. The Doctor prepares to assist the captain with bypassing a power relay when a call for help is received from Neelix, and The Doctor is transferred to the mess hall instead. There, Neelix has cornered a Kazon. After helping Neelix subdue him, The Doctor finds something that surprises him… he's bleeding and able to feel pain from the wound. Having his program transferred back to sickbay he runs a medical tricorder over himself and finds that his body is projecting life signs. He attempts to run a diagnostic on his program, only for the computer to deny that the program exists and instead lists Lewis Zimmerman as the ship's chief medical officer. The Doctor recognizes the name as the man who created his program and resembles him, but knows that Zimmerman is on Jupiter Station in the Alpha Quadrant. Checking Zimmerman's service record, he finds that he looks exactly like him and the computer confirms it… The Doctor is Zimmerman.
Just then, Janeway, Torres, Neelix, and the Kazon arrive in sickbay and Janeway prepares to question the Kazon, but The Doctor explains what's happening with his program apparently being real. Janeway is confused, and theorizes that the holoemitters are confusing the computer and tries to shut his program down, and nothing happens. Janeway then has the computer shut down all holograms throughout the ship… at which point Janeway, Torres, Neelix, and the Kazon vanish.
The Doctor is now very confused, and asks the computer what happened to the crew, to which it confirms that their programs were shut off. Examining the memory block they were stored on, he oddly also finds holograms of the entire crew. As he stands in disbelief, Reginald Barclay appears, happy to see him. Seeing as he doesn't recognize him, Barclay collects himself and informs The Doctor he is actually Lewis Zimmerman, currently working on Jupiter Station, and trapped in a malfunctioning holoprogram. The Doctor is told that Zimmerman created a holo-program about the fictional USS Voyager, theoretically lost in the Delta Quadrant, in order to study the long-term effects of deep space isolation. Now, however, the holodeck can't be shut down due to kinoplasmic radiation. Barclay also supposes the radiation is affecting his memory, and is now living the delusion that he is actually Voyager's EMH, a character whose role he set up for himself, so that he could observe the crew from within the program. The Doctor doesn't believe anything he's saying, as he has clear memories of six months. Barclay says he's only been there six hours, and even slaps him to remind him he feels pain, impossibly.
Barclay leaves and comes back to confirm they can't shut down the program and to convince him he has to play the program out instead. Zimmerman programmed only two possible endings to the program: success or destruction. Barclay tries to convince The Doctor of the quicker route, destroying the ship, because, according to the neurologist, Doctor Kaplan, being in the holodeck is killing him. He has only about an hour left.
The Doctor refuses to destroy Voyager, not only because he doesn't know how but he also can't rule out Barclay is an impostor. Barclay gets an idea and disappears. The Doctor suddenly finds himself back at the moment when Voyager found itself in the Delta Quadrant; Barclay explains that they cannot stop the program, only reset it. The Doctor deletes the Paris and Kim holograms. After The Doctor questions Barclay, the man responds that indeed, he had programmed Paris to be annoying, like Barclay's cousin, Frank. The Doctor concludes that he must destroy the main holographic matrix. That will stop all holographic programs and prove once and for all that The Doctor is not a hologram, and is indeed Zimmerman.
The Doctor arrives in main engineering to find Captain Janeway. She promptly asks how he is in engineering and who Barclay is. The Doctor tries to delete Janeway but it doesn't work. Barclay explains that the protocols are freezing up and no longer working, including the safety protocols. Faced with an angry Janeway and armed security officers, The Doctor attempts to explain himself then tells Janeway they are about to be transported to the Caretaker's array. The crew begins to get transported to the Array and Janeway looks at The Doctor wide-eyed before vanishing.
With the crew gone, The Doctor destroys the holomatrix and is surprised to find he is still there. He promptly asks the computer if any holographic programs are running and the computer replies that none are. Barclay tells The Doctor that ending the holographic programs on a ship that is itself a holographic program is futile; he has to destroy the warp core (necessary for the destruction of the ship, and therefore the program ending) and hands him a phaser.
As The Doctor is preparing to fire at the warp core, Chakotay appears and tells The Doctor to stop, as Barclay has been lying.
The commander explains that The Doctor is on the holodeck on Voyager and had taken a day off at the suggestion of Captain Janeway. They suffered a radiation surge and it caused a feedback loop within the holodeck, trapping him there. Chakotay is actually being projected into the holodeck from engineering, and tells him that the pain he is feeling is the sensation of his memory circuits being destroyed and if he destroys the simulation Voyager then The Doctor's program will be destroyed too. The Doctor asks Chakotay what he needs to do, and Chakotay tells him to just wait as they almost have the problem fixed.
The Doctor falls to the ground in pain and a Human Kes appears, telling him that she is being projected from Jupiter Station, saying how much she loves him and doesn't want her "husband" to die. Chakotay explains that the delusions are being drawn from his own memories. Barclay asks The Doctor what would he rather be; a Human being with a real life and family or a hologram trapped in a sickbay on a ship lost in deep space. Chakotay tells him that what he's made of doesn't change who he is to the rest of the crew; he is their friend and he's no less real than anyone else. When Kes kisses him, The Doctor begins: "I always wanted to tell you, Kes…"Suddenly, The Doctor finds himself in sickbay and completes his sentence: "…that you are beautiful", very embarrassed as the Ocampa Kes is standing over him and heard everything he said. Kim and Tuvok explain that Voyager encountered a subspace anomaly which was the cause of the radiation surge, confirming there was no Kazon attack and the crew didn't abandon ship. The two officers then leave and The Doctor goes to continue the catalogue he started that morning. Kes starts questioning him on what he said and asks him if he meant it. With The Doctor making polite excuses, assuring that he finds her merely beautiful in a platonic way, Kes presumes that he doesn't love her anymore and their "marriage" is over, calling him "Lewis". Thoroughly confused, The Doctor's consciousness wavers. He turns and sees Barclay who claims that he can still destroy the warp core to save himself. A hand is placed on his shoulder The Doctor sees Paris on his first day in the Delta Quadrant. Paris yells that a crewmember needs help and brings The Doctor to a biobed where Dr. Zimmerman himself lies, injured. Zimmerman begins speaking in Janeway's voice.
The real Doctor suddenly finds himself in the holodeck grid. Captain Janeway is there and asks him if he knows who he is, and where he is. Though a little unsure of his true identity during the holodeck problem, he answers both decisively. He is Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram, and he is on the Holodeck. To be sure that he is truly back, he asks Captain Janeway whether Kes is not his wife. When the captain's reaction is mere surprise, it is obvious that he is truly back. He asks to be transferred back to sickbay and Janeway does so but not before telling him its good to have him back.
The Doctor tells Kes of his adventures, keeping in mind that Kes is his assistant, not wife. Kes laughs and warns The Doctor not to tell Neelix, as he might get jealous. "It will be our secret!" she cautions. The Doctor puzzles over why his program created an elaborate delusion rather than detecting the radiation's threat. Kes says everyone asks themselves existential questions at some time, but The Doctor is entirely confident as to his own nature and purpose. He is Voyager's EMH. Kes playfully asks him if he's sure about that, prompting The Doctor to pass his hand through the open sickbay doors. It can't be projected outside, providing him with the confirmation he needs, and returns to his duties, content.
- (log entry made by Captain Kathryn Janeway)
- …heavy casualties. The warp core is going critical and the ejection system is off-line. I've ordered all personnel to abandon ship. Lieutenant Torres and I are…
- Chief Medical Officer's log, stardate 48892.1. It appears that Voyager has suffered a disaster. What kind I don't know, but one thing is clear – the crew was forced to abandon ship. It would therefore seem that my usefulness has come to an end. I am terminating my program. If anyone finds this log, I can be reactivated by…
"Did I program Mister Paris to be so annoying?"
"Actually, I programmed him. I modeled him after my cousin Frank."
"Computer, delete Paris."
- - The Doctor and Barclay
"Computer, delete Janeway."
- - The Doctor, annoyed by a holographic Janeway who is asking inconvenient questions.
"He looks a lot like me. In fact, he looks exactly like me. Computer, is this me?"
- - The Doctor and the Computer, upon seeing the personnel file for Lewis Zimmerman
- - Neelix
"You mean… the ship's empty?"
- - The Doctor inquiring to Voyager's computer on who is in command
"You're starting to think you're part of the program and that… that's not good!"
- - Barclay, to The Doctor
- - Barclay, visibly panicking
"It doesn't matter what you're made of, what matters is who you are. You are our friend and we want you back."
- - Commander Chakotay
"The array you discovered is controlled by an entity you will come to know as the Caretaker… or, Banjo-Man."
- - The Doctor
"No one gets the best of me in my kitchen!"
- - Neelix
"Well, I'm glad everyone bothered to say goodbye."
- - The Doctor
"Doctor, are you listening to me? That man needs HELP!"
- - Tom Paris, in The Doctor's delusion
"Well, it's bigger than I thought."
- - The Doctor, describing the bridge of the USS Voyager
"Barclay was part of the original engineering team that designed your program. He was in charge of testing your interpersonal skills."
- - Ensign Kim, to The Doctor
- Like "The 37's", this episode was written and produced for the first season of Star Trek: Voyager (following "Learning Curve" and preceding "Elogium"), but was held back for airing during the series' second season.
Story and script
- Making The Doctor unsure of his reality provided the genesis for this episode. Writer Brannon Braga recalled, "I just wanted to do a doctor show, and basically a one-liner just popped into my head one day: What if the doctor discovers that Voyager is a hologram and he is real? Then I got into the argument 'I think, therefore I am'; what does being real mean? I just thought it was an opportunity to do a real mind-bending kind of story." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages) Soon after having penned the episode, Braga noted, "The one-liner was, 'What if The Doctor started to realize that he was a real person, and Voyager was the holographic simulation?' It becomes a kind of creepy, philosophical quandary for The Doctor [....] It has been a while since I've done one of those reality-bending stories. The great challenge in this episode was to keep the audience wondering, 'My God, could this really be happening?' The fun is not in believing it, the fun is in considering all the different twists and turns along the way. As I always say, the tale is in the telling." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 50)
- After coming up with this theme, Brannon Braga struck upon the idea of involving a character from Star Trek: The Next Generation in the story. Originally, however, this character was to have been Geordi La Forge. Braga recollected, "We came up with the idea of putting Geordi La Forge in there, but then I thought it would be much more fun to have Barclay [a recurring character from TNG] and the doctor." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
- Analyzing the story shortly after having written it, Braga mused, "At one point, Barclay comes in and says, 'You're real; we're at the holo-programming center. I'm your assistant; you're having a mental breakdown; nothing here is real.' In essence, it becomes analogous to the stories written by the philosopher René Descartes, of the man plagued by an evil demon, out to prove that he doesn't exist, and in this case, the demon is Barclay. The story culminates in Descartes' famous quote, 'I think, therefore I am.'" (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 50)
- The episode's final draft script was submitted on 30 March 1995. 
- Brannon Braga once remarked that the plot is a cross between the TNG episodes "The Measure Of A Man" and "Frame of Mind" (the latter of which is another episode he wrote). (Star Trek Monthly issue 7) In both this episode and "Frame of Mind", the main character (in that case, Commander Riker) must decide which of two realities is the correct one.
Cast and characters
- Prior to appearing alongside Robert Picardo (as The Doctor) in this episode, Dwight Schultz had initially been considered to portray The Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 50)
- Ultimately, Brannon Braga was highly pleased with how this episode depicted the relationship between Barclay and The Doctor, remarking afterwards, "Those two were so good together they should have a spin-off series." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
- Barclay actor Dwight Schultz was pleasantly surprised to be asked to appear in this episode. He commented of the installment, "'Projections' was an interesting use of Barclay. It wasn't really Barclay. It was some idea of Barclay. I will say it was nice to be brought back. I had no idea that they'd ever think of me for Star Trek: Voyager, so it was a lovely surprise." (Star Trek Monthly issue 30, p. 34)
- After working on this episode, director Jonathan Frakes noted that Robert Picardo, the performer of The Doctor, and Dwight Schultz "were brilliant together." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 105; Star Trek Monthly issue 11) Concerning his relationship with Robert Picardo, Schultz recalled, "Meeting Bob Picardo was a pleasure. We knew a lot of the same people in New York City, spent a lot of time doing silly voices and cracked each other up on the set. We just reminisced about our pasts in New York City and talked about the theater, which is what stage-trained actors tend to do when they get together." (Star Trek Monthly issue 30, p. 34) For his part, Robert Picardo said of the episode, "It was great fun to work on, primarily because of Dwight Schultz and Jonathan Frakes." Picardo went on to enthuse how much he liked Dwight Schultz. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 10) Additionally, Picardo commented that this episode was "a wonderful shooting experience because it was a delight [to work with] Jonathan Frakes, and Dwight Schultz." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 95) Picardo also stated that, between him and Schultz, filming this episode was like having a party. (Delta Quadrant, p. 54)
- Robert Picardo also cited this episode as being one of the two finest outings for The Doctor in the first two seasons of Voyager, the other episode being "Heroes and Demons". (Star Trek Monthly issue 20) On a separate occasion, however, Picardo implied that he thought this episode had not been quite as good for his character as "Lifesigns" had been, going on to imply that it also had been less challenging (in certain ways). Nevertheless, Picardo still counted this episode as being one of the two best Doctor-oriented episodes from the second season. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, pp. 95 & 96)
- Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres, Neelix, and Tuvok appear only as holograms in this episode.
- After directing this episode, Jonathan Frakes said it had been "a real joy to do." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 105; Star Trek Monthly issue 11)
- This episode is a bottle show. (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 285)
Reception and aftermath
- Of all the episodes that were produced for Voyager's first season, this episode was Brannon Braga's favorite as well as the one he most enjoyed writing. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 50; Star Trek Monthly issue 7) He commented, "I'm very proud of that one." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages) Braga also opined, "It's a really fun story." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 50)
- Executive producer Michael Piller enjoyed how the episode questioned The Doctor's reality, enthusing, "This is a wonderful show [....] It's a fascinating episode." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 6.1 million homes, and a 10% share. Star Trek Monthly issue 11, p. 14) Along with the later Season 2 installment "Persistence of Vision", this was the joint fourth most watched episode of Voyager's second season (on first airing), with the same Nielsen rating as "Persistence of Vision" but a slightly higher share percentage than that episode. A contemporaneous fan poll, to which executive producer Jeri Taylor paid particular attention, ranked this installment as the third highest-rated episode of the second season. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 108, p. 18) The installment also achieved an NTI (National Television Index) rating of 8.4. (
- In the lead-up to this episode's VHS release, Star Trek Magazine reviewer Stuart Clark wrote a review which praised the installment, commenting, "This intriguing episode has some genuinely clever twists, which you'd expect from writer Brannon Braga." Clark also highlighted Barclay's role in this episode as a "special appearance" that provided "an interesting piece of continuity to link the series." (Star Trek Monthly issue 10, p. 63)
- Cinefantastique gave this installment 2 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 78)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 55) scored the episode 8 out of 10.
- This episode was one of a few that Paramount Pictures studio executives reviewed, when evaluating Jonathan Frakes' ability to handle the film Star Trek: First Contact. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 112, p. 19) Having become friends with the director while working on this episode, Robert Picardo was able to arrange a cameo appearance in that film. (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 45)
- After appearing in this episode, Dwight Schultz considered returning to Star Trek: Voyager as the starship Voyager's holographic Barclay. Schultz remarked, "[Barclay]'s there in the USS Voyager's computer, so he could turn up again. Of course, I'd love to go back and do another episode." (Star Trek Monthly issue 32, p. 54)
Continuity and miscellaneous trivia
- This is the second episode in which The Doctor leaves sickbay, after "Heroes and Demons". In both episodes he visits the holodeck.
- This is the second episode in which the holodeck malfunctions and traps members of the crew, after "Heroes and Demons".
- After his appearance (albeit as a hologram) in this episode, Barclay made a brief appearance in Star Trek: First Contact before featuring in five more episodes of Voyager – Season 6's "Pathfinder" and "Life Line", plus the seventh season episodes "Inside Man", "Author, Author" and series finale "Endgame". Owing to the fact that the character appears in this episode only as a hologram, his future appearances make no reference to this episode.
- As Tom Paris does once in the second episode of Voyager, "Parallax", Barclay here refers to Voyager using the definitive article "the" several times.
- 47 reference: The crew's data in The Doctor's fantasy/illusion is stored in memory block 47-alpha.
- The Doctor refers to the Caretaker as the "Banjo Man", which is how he is credited in the series pilot "Caretaker".
- This episode has the second shortest teaser of Voyager's second season, being slightly shorter than the teaser of "Maneuvers" but slightly longer than the teaser of "Non Sequitur", both of which are (like this episode's teaser) under a minute in duration.
Video and DVD releases
- CIC Video released the four season 1 "hold-over" episodes in their production order, as part of the first season release. This is the first episode in Volume 1.9, which continues with "Elogium". Volume 2.1 begins with "Initiations".
- As part of the VOY Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Biggs-Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes/"Kes Zimmerman"
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor/Lewis Zimmerman
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Special guest star
access hatch; autonomic response analysis; "Banjo Man"; Barclay, Reginald (holograph); blood pressure; brain pattern; brig; Caretaker; Caretaker's array; compassion; concussion; coronary bypass; crew manifest; Delta Quadrant; dilithium matrix; disorientation; dizziness; Emergency Medical Hologram; emergency power; Federation; Frank; headache; heart; heart rate; holodeck; holographic emitter; holo-engineer; holomatrix; holo-projection system (aka projection system); holo-transference dementia syndrome; Jefferies tube; Jupiter Station; Jupiter Station Holoprogramming Center; Kaplan; Kazon; Kazon ship; kinoplasmic radiation; life pod; magnetic constrictor; Maquis; medkit; memory block; memory center; memory circuit; mess hall; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; nausea; neotrinate; neural tissue; Nondoran tomato paste; Ocampa; orderly; oxidation; percussive injury; plasma relay; plasma torpedo; power relay; Predator-class; pus hog; red alert; remote projector; reserve power; sauté pan; senior officer; shore leave; snake; Starfleet; subspace anomaly; surrender; tractor beam; tricorder; turbolift; vocal command
- Crew manifest: Cabot, Zayra; Canamar, Valerie; Charnock, Jr., Ed; Chattaway, Jay; Chess, Joe; Chichester, John; Christenberry, Ian; Chronister, Richard; Codron, Art; Curry, Dan; D'Angelo, Dick; De La Garza, Bob; DeMeritt, Michael; De Moraes, Lisa; Djanrelian, Jon; Dorton, Louise; Livingston, David; Lowry-Johnson, Junie; Madalone, Dennis; Magdaleno, Jim; Mayer, Michael; McCarthy, Dennis; McKay, Shawn; McKnight, Scott; Mees, Jim; Miller, Patricia; Moore, Ronald B.; Moore, Tom; Mossler, Helen; Nelson, Greg; Nemecek, Janet; Speckman, Gary; Sternbach, Rick; Stimson, Mark; Stipes, David; Stotler, Simon; Stradling, Michael; Surma, Ron; Tampoya, John: Taylor, Jeri; Thomas, Jamie; Thoms, Bill
- Lewis Zimmerman biographical information: 2320; 2342; 2361; Fritz, Sandra; Grover's Mill; Holo-Doc; New Jersey; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Academy Command School; Starfleet Command; Zimmerman, Gregory
- "Projections" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Projections" at Wikipedia
- "Projections" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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