Robert Picardo is on the phone and very much into this interview with StarTrek.com. “Questions from the fans; great idea,” enthuses the actor, who spent seven seasons as the cranky, quirky and yet lovable Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. “What have you got for me? Let’s go, and let’s start with Voyager, since that’s the reason I’m here.” And with that, Picardo spends the next half hour-plus answering all kinds of questions – serious, playful, familiar and new – providing informative, amusing, and/or reflective replies to each and every one. So, here goes part one of our exclusive conversation, and be on the lookout tomorrow for part two:
Have you heard anything about the possibility of a Voyager reunion project?
Picardo: The only talk of a Voyager reunion project that I hear about is when the guys from Voyager get together. We get together twice a year to have dinner, and we’ve done that since the show ended.
Combining a couple of related questions here; is there any chance that you’d be willing to participate in a New Voyages film or perhaps get involved in the Star Trek Online game?
Picardo: Star Trek Online is voice only, right? That’s the online game. I know that Zachary Quinto is playing a holographic doctor for Star Trek Online. I have not been approached. I’m not opposed to doing it, but I have not been approached. There was also talk of me doing one of the New Voyages films. They sent me some script ideas, but I haven’t heard further than that. So it’s always possible I’ll appear in the Star Trek world again, but there are no present plans, nothing imminent.
Why didn’t they ever ultimately give the Doctor a name, and did you have own name or nickname for him?
Picardo: I called him Dr. Fancy Pants, actually. That’s what I referred to him as, and so did (executive producer) Brannon Braga. The reason they didn’t name the Doctor was because of me. I suggested to (executive producer) Rick Berman right before the show premiered that if they were going to make a plot point of whether or not the Doctor should have a name and what it should be, then perhaps we shouldn’t kill the suspense by listing me in the opening credits as Doc Zimmerman. In fact, they’d already made my credit frame with the name Doc Zimmerman. Rick agreed with me that that might undermine the suspense of what name the Doctor might choose and they changed my credit from Doc Zimmerman, played by Robert Picardo, to The Doctor, played by Robert Picardo. And then they continued to play that joke on and off for all seven seasons, because I think the idea of an indecisive computer program is an intrinsically funny one. Once I’d been given permission to choose a name, the fact that I couldn’t quite decide on one was really a funny running gag.
As the actor, how important to you was it that you played not just the Doctor, but also his creator?
Picardo: It’s always fun to play your twin, evil or not. In this case, I guess the joke was that Doc Zimmerman was even crankier and more difficult to get along with than his technological offspring. So it was fun to play both. The hard part was we decided to try to mess up Doc Zimmerman’s hair, and I don’t have much hair to mess up. So that was also a challenge.
You stepped right into another fan question, which is why did you not choose to shave off all your hair, like Patrick Stewart?
Picardo: That question really refers to a decision I would have made before the Voyager pilot. Well, that’s hard to say. I have shaved my head for certain roles over the years. But I think, frankly, I would have looked too much like a Patrick Stewart wannabe if I’d shaved it all off for Voyager. Also, being named Picardo, which sounds so close to Patrick’s character, Picard, would have been one clue too many as to whose wake I was trying to steal.
How nuts do you think you would have gone if they’d not ever come up with the portable emitter and the Doctor – and therefore you -- had been confined to that one set for the seven years the show ran?
Picardo: I think I would have gotten a little bit nuts, but nowhere near as nuts as I would have had I been cast as Neelix. I’d come very close to getting that role, within a hair’s breadth. I think that the 5,448 hours that Ethan Phillips spent in the makeup chair (preparing to play Neelix) would have driven me insane, not to mention the claustrophobia.
Who on the Voyager set was the most fun to act with?
Picardo: Oh, that one’s not fair. I had great fun with everybody, really. I will say that I had greatest fun with Ethan Phillips, Robbie McNeill, Jeri Ryan and Kate Mulgrew. Those were the ones that I laughed the most with. I had a lot of fun working with Jeri once I figured I figured out that she wasn’t going to sue me for sexual harassment if I stayed within certain limitations. Ethan always tried to make me laugh, and he often succeeded in doing that. Robbie has a very dry and appealing sense of humor to me. And Kate is just balls to the wall out there and great fun to work with, because there’s no hiding with Kate. Actually, Tim Russ is very funny, too. He’s a great practical joker and certainly made us all laugh, but the Tuvok character didn’t leave a whole lot of room for humor. If you watch that Funnyordie.com movie he and I did together (entitled Chad and the Alien Toupee), you can see just how funny he is when he gets the chance to play for laughs. I watched it with my wife and he got far bigger laughs from her than I did.