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Star Trek: Voyager - Why Robert Picardo Turned Down The Doctor At First

With a career charting all the way back to the late 1970s, Robert Picardo has seen, done, and played pretty much anything an actor can. But for an entire generation of science fiction fans, he'll forever be known as the holographic Doctor from "Star Trek: Voyager." Picardo did, after all, play Voyager's sub-sentient physician for seven full seasons between 1995 and 2001. Over that period, he helped make the good Doctor as beloved a member of the "Voyager" family as any. But according to the actor himself, he initially wanted no part of the role, even turning it down flat when it was first offered.

Picardo made that surprising admission during a 2022 interview with StarTrek.com, telling the site he couldn't quite wrap his mind around playing a hologram when he read the part. "My agent sent me the script, and I remember that the character description was 'a computer program of a doctor, colorless, humorless,'" he said, continuing, "I didn't know what that meant, and then I heard that he was a hologram."

The actor went on to admit his "Star Trek" knowledge was limited to the original series, so he had no concept of how a Holodeck, or its creations actually functioned. As Picardo noted, that lack of knowledge led him to steer clear of the role, stating, "I turned down the audition for The Doctor, because it just didn't sound interesting. It sounded like an automaton."

Picardo first auditioned for a different Star Trek: Voyager role

Though Robert Picardo wasn't interested in playing The Doctor on "Star Trek: Voyager," the actor did eye a role in the script he believed he could really sink his teeth into. "I read the script and I liked Neelix, so I asked to read for Neelix," Picardo told StarTrek.com, adding with a laugh, "and then I didn't get Neelix." Still, Picardo claims he just missed out on landing that role, even testing for the part. Though he didn't even know they were in competition, Picardo goes on to detail that the role of Neelix eventually went to his old acting buddy Ethan Phillips.

Ultimately, Picardo said he was happy he didn't book Neelix, joking, "I didn't get that part, thank God, because I would never have had the patience with the make-up that Ethan Phillips did." Having missed out on Neelix, Picardo admitted he believed he'd also missed out on "Voyager," adding, "Normally, once you have tested and you didn't get the part, you are a used Kleenex and are discarded immediately." 

That was surprisingly not the case, with Picardo claiming the "Voyager" creative team impressed him by instead asking if he might reconsider auditioning for the role of The Doctor. This time, the actor acquiesced, not only auditioning for the role of Voyager's holographic health care professional, but landing the part. Over the course of the show's tenure, The Doctor, of course, became as pivotal to the drama as any of the main players on "Star Trek: Voyager." And quite frankly, it's impossible to think about another actor playing the part.