With the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast coming back for the third (and final) season of Star Trek: Picard, bringing characters back seems to be top of mind for legacy Trek stars. Kate Mulgrew has a few thoughts about a live-action return as Janeway and now her Star Trek: Voyager co-star Robert Picardo is talking about some ideas to reprise his role as The Doctor.
Picardo sees Zimmerman as the key
In an interview with The Companion’s To Boldly Ask, Robert Picardo affirmed he is interested in reprising his role as The Doctor from Voyager, saying “the answer is yes, it’s fun to visit the character.” The actor also picked up on how legacy characters returning to Trek is a hot topic:
I’m really happy that Kate [Mulgrew] is now talking openly about it now. That they’ve established the precedent with Star Trek: Picard, there’s a passion in the audience out there to see the legacy actors again in new stories mixed with wonderful, younger, new actors. So, it’s certainly something I’m open to and the character lives on inside me.
Picardo preceded this by discussing how there is a particular challenge in returning as The Doctor, citing “the Data issue,” because, like the android, the holographic doctor “is not supposed to age.” The first season of Picard solved this issue by de-aging Brent Spiner as Data using CGI, although his return as Lore in season 3 seems to be forgoing this trick. Picardo noted that one solution to this is to play a different character (which Spiner also did in the first two seasons of Picard, playing two different members of the Soong family). Picardo already has a character in mind: Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, the creator of the Emergency Medical Hologram.
The actor outlined his idea:
I could easily play Doc Zimmerman again, because Zimmerman is in the same timeline as certain of those Star Trek series… To me it’s a funny idea. What I would find very funny is to have The Doctor and Zimmerman working together… Let’s say you’re a 40-year-old person, imagine your 18-year-old self working side by side with you during the day on some very critical or important mission… Wouldn’t that annoy the hell out of you? I think there are a lot of comic possibilities if you can age down The Doctor to do a scene, now that there’s a giant age gap between The Doctor who’s 41 or 42 and his late 60s creator.
It could work
Picardo did play both Zimmerman and The Doctor together with comedic effect in the sixth season Voyager episode “Life Line.” Picardo isn’t just suggesting playing Lewis Zimmerman as he is now, but also bringing back The Doctor, who would look as he did on Voyager. This would bring back that same “Data issue” he mentioned, requiring the same kind of CGI de-aging, as he noted. Also, playing the characters together adds some complications for the production.
But Picardo is right, there is potential for comedy here. While it’s unlikely a future Star Trek show would include a de-aged Doctor as a regular character, doing a scene like this could be fun, and it would fit in nicely if Picard showrunner gets his wish for a spin-off series set in the early 25th century, a show that would likely prominently feature Jeri Ryan as Seven, who had a special bond with Picardo’s Doctor. Bob Picardo would make for a great cameo. But if Picardo wants a more recurring or regular role, he’s better off pitching himself as just Zimmerman or another character that doesn’t require special visual effects. And perhaps Picardo is just overthinking it; being a hologram, there is no reason why The Doctor couldn’t update his appearance, possibly even to match his own creator, or even the people around him; the alternate future in the Voyager finale, “Endgame,” did show him with a wife.
You can see a clip of Picardo talking about this idea from The Companion below.
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