Projections (Star Trek: Voyager)
|Star Trek: Voyager episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Jonathan Frakes|
|Written by||Brannon Braga|
|Featured music||David Bell|
|Cinematography by||Marvin V. Rush, A.S.C.|
|Editing by||Robert Lederman|
|Original air date||September 11, 1995|
"Projections" is the 19th (3rd in the second season) episode of the American science fiction television program Star Trek: Voyager. Originally slated for the first season, the episode originally aired on September 11, 1995, and tells the story of Voyager's holographic doctor having an identity crisis on the holodeck regarding whether he or the world around him is the illusion.
Brannon Braga compared "Projections" to the work of René Descartes, and wrote the episode around the premise of cogito ergo sum, questioning whether the Doctor or the Voyager is the illusion. Beating out LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) for the guest appearance, Dwight Schultz as Reginald Barclay was praised by the cast and crew, especially for his on-screen chemistry with co-star Robert Picardo. The episode received decidedly mixed reviews, ranging from 50–92% approval with critics commenting on predictability and the underutilization of Schultz and Picardo.
Voyager's Emergency Medical Holographic Program (EMH), "the Doctor" (Robert Picardo), is activated due to a red alert. Despite the computer's (Majel Barrett) assertion that nobody is aboard, B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) soon arrives in sickbay. She informs the Doctor that the ship was attacked by Kazon and that all except herself and Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) have abandoned ship. After treating her injuries, Torres transfers the Doctor's program to the bridge using newly installed holographic emitters there. After treating the captain and then assisting Neelix (Ethan Phillips) to defeat a stray Kazon in the mess hall, the Doctor discovers he's bleeding and feeling pain, neither of which are functions of his program. In sickbay, making inquiries with the computer, the Doctor is told that there are no holographic programs matching his own and that he is actually Lewis Zimmerman (Picardo)—whom the Doctor recognizes as his programmer.
With the computer insisting that the crew of Voyager is only a collection of holographic programs, a new hologram appears in sickbay and claims that he's Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), Doctor Zimmerman's assistant at the Jupiter Station Holoprogramming Center. Barclay explains that the Doctor is really Lewis Zimmerman and that the Voyager is actually a simulation in which he's been stuck and is suffering mental damage due to radiation poisoning. To end the program and rescue Zimmerman, Barclay suggests destroying the ship before he suffers irreparable brain damage. To convince the Doctor that he's Zimmerman in a simulation, Barclay restarts the Voyager program and the Doctor finds himself reliving the events of "Caretaker" when he was first brought online.
Convinced of Barclay's claims, the Doctor prepares to destroy the ship when Chakotay (Robert Beltran) arrives and gives an alternate story: he is the Voyager EMH, but his program is stuck in the malfunctioning holodeck. The crew is trying to extricate his program so he only needs to wait it out; if he destroys the ship as Barclay suggests, it will prematurely end the program and the Doctor will be lost. Even though Barclay introduces Kes (Jennifer Lien) as Zimmerman's wife, the Doctor finally opts to believe in his holographic existence. The simulation ends and the Doctor finds himself on the holodeck; Chakotay's story was true and the Doctor is safely returned to sickbay.
Brannon Braga wrote the story from the initial idea of the Doctor having an identity crisis, "What if the doctor discovers that Voyager is a hologram and he is real?" From there, Braga questioned the axiom "I think, therefore I am" and what it means to be "real". Calling it a "creepy, philosophical quandary", Braga related the story of "Projections" to the work of René Descartes, where "the [character is] plagued by an evil demon out to prove he doesn't exist"; in this instance, Braga made Barclay (Schultz) the demon. The episode was written to keep the viewer guessing as to which reality was true; Braga would later say that the fun of the episode wasn't in the story itself, but in the telling of the story, "in considering all the different twists and turns along the way."
The final draft of the episode was submitted on March 30, 1995.
Writer Brannon Braga came up with the idea of having Dwight Schultz guest star as Lieutenant Barclay, later saying that he and Picardo worked so well together that "they should have a spin-off series." Episode director Jonathan Frakes would also laud the chemistry between the two actors. Schultz was pleased to be back on Star Trek, and was surprised to be considered for a Voyager guest appearance. On meeting Robert Picardo, he recalled they spent their time joking with each other on set, discussing mutual friends, and comparing notes on their theatre experiences. Picardo would call working with Schultz "like having party."
Writer Brannon Braga called "Projections" his favorite installment of Star Trek: Voyager in a 1996 interview with The Official Star Trek Voyager Magazine. Series co-creator and executive producer Michael Piller called the episode "a wonderful show" and "a fascinating episode", specifically praising Robert Picardo's performance alongside fellow co-creator and executive producer Jeri Taylor. Picardo himself would rate "Projections" as one of the two best Doctor-heavy stories of the second season, second only to "Lifesigns".
In an interview with the Star Trek Communicator magazine, Jeri Taylor would point to an ongoing Internet survey that ranked "Projections" as the third-highest ranked episode of the second season. In his book Delta Quadrant: The unofficial guide to Voyager, though David McIntee would ding the episode on its ultimate predictability and the characterization of Barclay near the end of the episode, he found the interplay between Picardo and Schultz to be overwhelmingly in the episode's favor; he rated the episode 8 out of 10. Cinefantastique's Dale Kutzera was less impressed by the episode, saying it lost momentum in the middle and that it ill-used "[Star Trek]'s greatest inferiority-complex and greatest egotist." Kutzera gave the episode two out of four stars.
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Ian Spelling talks to Star Trek: The Next Generation's Holodeck addict Dwight Schultz, alias Reginald Barclay…
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Robert Picardo has made Doc Zimmerman the show's most popular and entertaining character.
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