The Doctor meets his creator and, well, they always say never meet your heroes. Originally broadcast on May 10, 2000 this is Life Line.
Captain’s Log Stardate undetermined: Life Line
The Doctor travels to the Alpha Quadrant to assist in finding a cure for Doctor Zimmerman, the man who created him.
We open on Jupiter Station where Barclay meets with Dr Lewis Zimmerman to discuss the former’s work on the Pathfinder Project, much to Zimmerman’s dismay. It is soon learned that Zimmerman has been ill and it seems that he is in fact dying.
On Voyager Seven receives a data transmission from Star Fleet, who are utilizing a pulsar to send data every thirty two days. Working with Janeway to disseminate the messages she provides messages to the crew and vital information to the ship. Neelix, as the Morale Officer, happliy delivers messages to his crewmates and is sad to inform The Doctor that Lewis Zimmerman is dying of a rare disease. Unable to find a cure Barclay wanted The Doctor to be aware of this potential tragedy. The Doctor, decides to not just send a response, but to send himself in order to possibly cure the person who is practically his father. After a short debate with Janeway, the Captain agrees to send him knowing that Voyager will have to deal without the Doctor for over a month.
The Doctor arrives on Jupiter Station only to find that Zimmerman is not pleased to meet him. Upon seeing The Doctor, He is appalled at the idea that a Mark I EMH has traveled from the Delta Quadrant to treat him and soon dismisses both The Doctor and Barclay. Meeting with Barclay and Zimmerman’s assistant, Haley, the three begin to work on a plan to convince Zimmerman to accept The Doctor’s assistance, despite Zimmerman’s initial reaction. Barclay arranges to have Councilor Troi visit Zimmerman where she begins to help the old scientist get to the source of his dislike for The Doctor. Soon it is discovered that Zimmerman is ashamed of the Mark I EMH as the model has since been demoted to cleaning duties and general maintenance due to their unlikeable nature and hot headed demeanor. The most difficult thing, all of the Mark I EMH programs look like Zimmerman himself and, instead of Zimmerman helping patients across the galaxy, he feels like he has become a joke.
After The Doctor’s Matrix begins to malfunction, Zimmerman is forced to save him only to realize that he one of his this EMH has actually surpassed it’s programming, becoming what Zimmerman always knew it could be. Soon the Doctor finds a procedure that will prevent Zimmerman’s cell degradation allowing the elder scientist to continue his pursuits without the fear of a nearing death. Before departing, The Doctor and Zimmerman share in a photo so that The Doctor has a memento of his time with his father.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is probably my favorite Doctor-centric episodes as we get a wonderful double dose of Robert Picardo and frankly you can’t get much better than that. Picardo is a class act for sure and any episode that focuses on The Doctor is always an absolute pleasure. The thing I love most about this episode is how we finally get a chance to see Lewis Zimmerman and The Doctor meet. Now, we have met Zimmerman in the past on DS9 where he met with Doctor Bashir about the EMH Mark II, but we never learned why a new version was being developed…until now.
I love episodes that dive into crewmember’s pasts, especially those that have a very non-traditional upbringing. Whether it was Data meeting his own creator or the revelation that Worf’s parents were humans from Russia, the depth these events add are priceless. For the Doctor, such a past exploration would be difficult. We all know he was essentially a new ‘standard’ program that came with new starships so diving into his past would be like visiting the manufacturing plan of a Shuttle Craft. While a series based in the Utopia Planitia shipyards could be interesting, it would be hard to explore the origins of The Doctor himself. So, what a better way to accomplish this than focusing on The Doctor’s creator himself and his self perceived fall from grace. Think about it, the revelation that Zimmerman’s visage is now on hundreds of ‘laborers’ feels like an insult to the scientist who created them. Sure, the fact that they look like him was a bit hubristic but still, imagine your greatest achievement being used for much less than it was made for AND for it to actually look like you. Yeah, that would be rough. So it is no surprise that when one of these ‘failures’ arrives to help him, he is certainly not interested. This small amount of conflict opened the doors to a Father/Son story that is equal to the Data/Soong stories from STNG.
Outside of Picardo’s fantastic double role as The Doctor and Zimmerman, there are some fun, albiet unexplored moments in this episode as well. One particular moment that never came to fruition is one that I speculated about for months believing it to be a sign of things to come, an hint of something tragic in the future of Voyager. That thing, a transmission from Starfleet to Janeway asking about the ‘Status of The Maquis’. The thing that set me off on this was that it was a moment that was not needed in the least for the episodes narrative. They could have had any moment that made more sense, Paris lamenting the Doctor’s absence, B’Elanna implementing some new tech, but the writers went out of their way to make it a point that Star Fleet still considered Chakotay and his crew as “Maquis”.
With that tiny fragment, although sorely mistaken, I believed I knew where this series was heading. I thought for sure that Voyager would get home much sooner than expected and, knowing that this series was likely coming to an end, we would see another spinoff dealing with Chakotay and his former crew on the run from The Federation as they would technically still be criminals. I imagined a series I had entitled Star Trek Rogue, where Janeway has to protect her crew at all costs and essentially steals Voyager in order to stop Chakotay and the rest from going to jail. Sadly, the ending we get is much more lackluster and more like a band aid being ripped off, but we still got a while before we get there…
Overall, I adore this episode and it’s implications. Not only does The Doctor get to meet his ‘father’ but we really get a sense that he has become a truly sentient being in his own right. While this is never specifically addressed in any meaningful way, it sets the precedent for something in the future for Star Trek. Who knows, maybe Discovery will explore the possibilities of a race of Holographic people? Maybe this can be addressed in Picard at some point? I am sure Picardo would come back in a heart beat! Until that happens, at least we have this incredible episode.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, -19 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -5 remaining
- The Doctor makes a fun McCoy-ism ‘Im a Doctor Not A Zoo Keeper’
- We learn that there have been Four versions of the EMH by this time.
- Doctor Zimmerman surrounds himself with Holograms such as his housekeeper and partner Haley, a fly named Roy and an iguana named Leonard.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: The Haunting of Deck Twelve
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 2/24/2021
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”