Emergency medical hologram
An emergency medical hologram (or EMH) is a computerized medical system to attend patients on a Federation starship if the ship's medical staff is incapacitated. The system uses holodeck technology to project a humanoid image with force-field support to allow the image to manipulate medical equipment. An AI program connected to a medical database operates the image like a puppet.
A typical Starfleet EMH has technical proficiency in many fields of medicine, but they tend to have a poor bedside manner, not having been designed to deal with patients on a regular basis for routine care. Attempts to rectify this in later revisions of the EMH program proved unsuccessful, and many EMHs were repurposed for menial tasks.
When the chief medical officer of the USS Voyager was killed, the ship's EMH was forced to serve as CMO for the ship. Consequently, this medical hologram spent far more time actively running than any other EMH in Starfleet. Since the EMH program is an artificial intelligence with learning ability, the Voyager EMH developed a far more complex personality than most EMH programs. Voyager's EMH is probably the only truly likable personality on Voyager.
The Doctor, as he came to be called, served in an initially unsupportive social climate, as the crew failed to accept him as an individual. As such, he had to deal with being turned on and off at rather uncomfortable times and was not initially treated with respect by his patients. This was partly due to his initial cold bedside manner, as the EMH was never intended to serve on an extended basis. He was also treated with distrust by many members of the crew, with the exceptions of perhaps Kes and Tom Paris, who spent the most time working with him. Crewmembers would often refuse to converse directly with the Doctor, preferring to address Kes or Tom, to their annoyance as well. The technical issue was addressed fairly quickly, allowing the Doctor to control whether he was switched off. His annoyance with Neelix's refusal to accept his authority as CMO did have the satisfactory result of seeing him toss Neelix's interfering hide out of sickbay on at least one occasion.
For the early part of his career on Voyager, the Doctor was confined to sickbay and only able to interact with patients or personnel actually in the room with him or over the com system. Later, the engineers deployed holographic emitters throughout the ship, allowing him to respond to medical emergencies away from sickbay if needed. Amusingly, among the areas deemed critical for emergency access by the Doctor included Neelix's mess hall. He later acquired a futuristic mobile holographic emitter, allowing him to leave the ship itself and go on away missions when medical skills were required off the ship.
As the mission progressed, the Doctor's personality evolved, as did his interests. Initially, he had no interest in hobbies, but as he remained online, he slowly developed these interests. One of reasons that he was soon loved by the Voyager audience was that the very nature of his character meant that he was required to develop, as he started out as a basically clean slate. In one of the first few episodes, Neelix asked if he could sing to entertain him, as Neelix was now forced to lie still on a bed, and the Doctor scoffed at the idea. In later seasons, we saw him develop an interest in singing, especially opera. By the end of the show, he became a complex and very likable character.
- The Doctor (Doctor Who) for information about the BBC science fiction character, who fortunately has no relationship to Voyager.