Sorry for the delay this week gang. My local UPN pre-empted Voyager for a stupid hockey game (I’ll spare you my rant about professional sports being the bane of modern society). At any rate I caught a rerun of it this weekend. You know the rest of the drill.

Author, Author

Cast and Crew

Directed by: David Livingston
Story By: Brannon Braga
Teleplay By: Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman

Starring:
Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B’Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Guest Cast:
Dwight Schultz as Barclay
Richard Herd as Admiral Paris
Barry Gordon as Broht
Joseph Campanella as Arbitrator
Lorinne Vozoff as Irene Hansen
Juan Garcia as John Torres
Robert Ito as John Kim
Irene Tsu as Mary Kim
Brock Burnett as Male N.D.
Jennifer Hammon as Female N.D.
Heather Young as Sickbay N.D.

Original Airdate

April 18, 2001

What Happened

While the Doctor creates a working draft of his new holonovel, the U.S.S. Voyager prepares for “Operation Watson,” whereby the ship will establish a two-way com link with Starfleet by receiving a tachyon beam bounced off a quantum singularity. Reginald Barclay and Admiral Paris from the Pathfinder project on Earth appear on the Astrometrics domescreen and tell Captain Janeway that the com link will only work for only 11 minutes a day. Three people can talk to their loved ones in the Alpha Quadrant for three minutes per day, so Neelix has the crew draw numbered isolinear chips. The Doctor draws number one, so he contacts a well-known Bolian publisher on Earth — Ardon Broht of Broht & Forrester — to discuss the holonovel which he had previously transmitted to him. Broht raves about the piece and wants to distribute it right away, but the Doctor insists on making revisions first. Later, the Doctor brags to Lt. Tom Paris about his conversation with the publisher, which raises Paris’ curiosity about the hologram’s opus. He convinces the Doctor to let him experience the holonovel, which he learns is titled "Photons Be Free."

Paris finds himself in the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) aboard the “Starship Vortex,” and he sees that the first chapter plays out almost identically to the Doctor’s own experience of being first activated. The other characters resemble the real crew, but altered slightly in their appearance — for instance, Chakotay is a Bajoran. When Paris, as the Doctor, decides to treat a critical patient ahead of a bridge officer, Captain “Jenkins” (Janeway with black hair) enters Sickbay and kills the dying crewman, so that the bridge officer can now be treated. Shocked at how the crew is portrayed, Paris tells B’Elanna Torres and Harry Kim about it, and they think he’s overreacting. So Paris tells his crewmates to try it out themselves.

Torres experiences for herself how badly the "Vortex" EMH gets treated by the holo-crew, especially her own look-alike; Neelix is scolded and threatened by Captain Jenkins; and Kim becomes part of a escape plan with help from “Three of Eight.” Finally, Janeway experiences the final chapter of the holonovel, where the EMH is brutally decompiled. She immediately orders the Doctor to report to her Ready Room.

The Doctor defends his work, claiming it’s a work of fiction with an important message. Janeway asks if he feels oppressed, but he explains he intended to draw attention to the plight of his “brothers” in the Alpha Quadrant, other EMH Mark Ones like him who have been condemned to menial tasks. Janeway asks him to consider how his writing makes his friends feel, but he won’t compromise on his self-expression.

The Doctor returns to the Holodeck to review his narrative. When he enters the program, he notices that Paris tampered with it by programming the Doctor to take on the role of a medical assistant. The Doctor notices that the EMH resembles his own physical appearance and role. The Doctor becomes aggravated because the EMH character portrays the Doctor in a bad light. When the Doctor exits the program, he confronts Paris about distorting his program and that he feels insulted by the way the EMH portrayed him. Paris argues that the Doctor is hypocritical. Paris also tells him that he is offended because the Doctor’s narrative reveals what the Doctor really thinks of him.

Neelix talks to the Doctor and helps him realize that by publishing his book, he may hurt the people he cares about. The Doctor agrees that he should make adjustments on his program by altering the setting and the characters’ physical appearances. However, the Doctor’s dilemma is that his publisher is expecting his final draft the next day. Neelix offers his com link time to the Doctor to explain his situation to his publisher and the Doctor accepts. Later, Janeway and the crew show their appreciation to the Doctor for taking their feelings into account. Paris agrees to help the Doctor with the revisions.

When Torres turn arrives to use the com link, she agrees to speak with her father, who abandoned her when she was a child. During their awkward session, her father explains he was profoundly affected when he heard Voyager disappeared. He also tells her that he would like to get to know her again and Torres agrees to write him. Later, Seven uses the com link to contact her aunt and begin making her connections with Earth.

Admiral Paris and Reginald Barclay contact Janeway to tell her that a novel by the Doctor was published, which portrays the Voyager crew in an unflattering way. Concerned, Janeway and the Doctor contact Ardon through the com link. Ardon tells them that he had the right to publish it because according to Federation law, Holograms have rights.

Janeway advocates a hearing with the Federation regarding whether the Doctor has the right to control his “artistic creation.” The Voyager crew argues that the Doctor should have that right because he is a real person with human traits such as intelligence, creativity, ambition and fallibility. The Federation Arbitrator replies that he is not prepared to rule that the Doctor is a “person” under law, however, is willing to extend the legal definition of “artist” to include the Doctor. He rules that the Doctor has the right to control his work and orders that all copies of the Doctor’s holonovel to be recalled immediately.

Skip ahead four months to see several EMH Mark I’s working a dilithium mine. One suggests to another that during his diagnostic check-up, he should view the holo-novel “Photons, Be Free” telling him it’s “quite provactive.”

Review

We’ve been skirting this issue since day one of Voyager and now that two-way communication with the alpha quadrant has been made possible, we dive right in. This episode has shades of the TNG episode, “Measure of a Man,” which in an of itself is not a criticism. “Measure” is still one of the best Star Trek episodes ever of all the series. Now, “Author, Author” merely has shades of “Measure,” lacking the emotional punch, but still covering the same basic territory.

This episode also digs into the Doctor’s inner self and his relationships with the crew. Some of it is trite, some of it deep.

We also are getting the beginning of the final arc of episodes, characters are now talking with loved one’s back home, re-establishing relationships. This clears up room in the final episode for more plot and less denouement. This may or may not be a good thing. We may get a less rushed feel (like DS9’s finale), but it will have less emotional weight. We’ll just have to see.

High Point

Tom Paris’ version of the Doctor’s story was a hoot. And his conversation with the Doctor afterwards shows us how deep his character goes. And for pure emotional sap value: The Voyager crew getting a live view of Earth.

Low Point

The cop out. We spend half the episode debating the issue of the Doctor’s sentience, but we’re given a weak opt-out answer from the federation consul. Highly disappointing. I hope this is remedied sometime before (or during) the finale.

The Scores

Originality: Its been done before by TNG, but instead of a direct copy, the writers give us a unique vehicle for the issue, thus allowing us to deal with both the Doctor’s rights, and his relationships with his crewmates. 4 out of 6

Effects: I don’t think we saw anything really new or exciting. A phaser shot here, Holodeck fade there. 2 out of 6

Story: Unique plot, well scripted. The dialogue really moves the story along. Several sub-plots for rounding down the series are introduced. 4 out 6

Acting: Strong performances by everyone, which is really odd for Voyager. Normally we only see two or three core characters with anything worth saying. 5 out of 6

Emotional Response: Good build-up, weak resolution. Several of the sub-plots really make you feel for the characters, especially Harry (“Mom, don’t write Capt. Janeway!”). We feel for ya man. 4 out of 6

Production: Well directed, with excellent pacing. This is a strong achievement considering all the sub-plots introduced. 4 out of 6

Overall: I liked this one. Well-rounded. 4 out 6

Total: 27 out of 42

Stills

Brand new episode next week: “Friendship One” Only five more to go!