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An Evening With Robert Picardo

By Iain Baillie
Posted at January 14, 2002 - 5:03 PM GMT

On 11 January 2002 Robert Picardo (the EMH) attended a special event at the Central Station Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland. Iain Baillie was in the audience and sent along this report.

'Robert Picardo - Courtesy Iain Baillie. Do not reproduce without permission. We were first shown some video clips of 'Voyager: The Return,' a huge convention, held in Blackpool during summer 2001, which I sadly missed.

The evening began by watching two of the first season episodes of Enterprise, which have never been broadcast in the UK, but were from an American source. The universal cries of "no!" to the theme music showed how awful many fans thought it to be. For many, this was their first viewing of the show.

Then the main event arrived. Mr. Robert Picardo, dressed very smartly in a dark grey suit - minus the holo-emitter! BUT, he did come complete with a goatee beard!

He started off the evening, discussing how his friends are expecting twins - the lady in question appeared in an episode of Voyager. He talked about how he came to be involved with Star Trek. As a pre-med student, at university, he shared a flat with two philosophy student - both of whom would always watch the Original Series on TV. Picardo would always make fun of the silly uniforms, and stereotypes of Kirk's love interests, and the ever dying red-shirts.

When he first got the script of 'Caretaker,' the Voyager pilot, he looked at the character of The Doctor, and said "Yuck - a character who is bland, and has a tiny part" - so he asked his agent is he could audition for the part of Neelix - which he did, along with a certain Ethan Phillips.

Picardo, at the time, really couldn't have cared less, and went along to the audition with a handkerchief, covered in Talcum-Powder, which he brought out whilst auditioning, to simulate the dust that Neelix was covered in. He made the producers laugh, but failed to get the part. The producers invited him back to read for the Doctor, which he did - "After all, money is better than no money!" he rationalised. And it was there it happened - he made an unintentional "I'm a doctor, not a..." pun during the audition and landed the part.

The actor also told a story about his appearance on the Star Trek special episode of the Weakest Link. Sharp-tongued hostess Anne Robinson asked Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) "So, you're a model then?" Denise answered that she was. Anne Robinson responded with: "And sometimes you even manage to keep your clothes on?" This was a reference to Crosby's appearance as a centrefold in Playboy. Picardo said that Crosby was so thrown by that question that it was edited out. He was sad to have lost to LeVar Burton, on a mis-pronunciation, and donated his $10,000 fee to his charity anyway.

He then opened up the floor to questions.

Question: How much of yourself do you invest in The Doctor? Your facial expressions are usually excellent.

Robert Picardo: The writers began to notice that I was funny after the first few episodes. I got to deliver my first "I'm a doctor not a.." in episode two, which cracked the fans up, and the crew.

Question: Do you prefer TV, films or the theatre?

Robert Picardo: I love them all. I really want to have the best of all worlds. I've done a lot of theatre, as the lead role, and I've just read for a part that I can't discuss right now. I've also finished filming my appearance on the Frasier show.

Question: You've been voted as one of the sexiest men in the world - how do you feel about that?

Robert Picardo: First time I've heard about it! I suppose it comes with working with the likes of Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) - her beauty must rub off on me!

Question: What did you get for Christmas?

Robert Picardo: Well, I got music CD's from my children, and my wife gave me some storage devices - my favourite being a baseball cap holder. [Points to his head] You can guess why I've got so many!

'Robert Picardo - Courtesy Iain Baillie. Do not reproduce without permission. Question: The infamous "black and white" cast photograph, shows you all bent over laughing - what was so funny?

Robert Picardo: Well, they had Ethan and I on opposite sides. Our heads acted like large light reflectors, and we kept making funny jokes between us. As you can see from the photos, I made the funny joke. I honestly can't remember what it was, and Roxann [Dawson] just bent over laughing. Yes, I've heard all about the jokes of what she was doing down there! I also think it's a far better one than the dead-serious Next Generation back and white photo.

Question: Can you confirm the internet rumours that Jennifer Lien, who played Kes only found out that she was fired when she got the script for 'The Gift,' and that as a result of her shabby treatment that you threatened to walk out?

Robert Picardo: Jennifer knew well before that point that she was leaving. Before the summer break, I asked if we were ALL coming back. I knew that I'd be coming back, as I was a popular character, and knew that I could risk asking naughty questions. I was told yes.

The writers really wrote themselves into a big hole with Kes - in the pilot episode, you saw loads of middle-aged Ocumpans, and they only have a 7 year lifespan, and they didn't want to change actress, or add aging makeup to her.

The went and tried to turn her into a babe, by giving her long hair, which didn't really work, in my opinion. But the honest answer is that Jennifer is a very quiet woman, and she's never really discussed those things with me in great detail. The long hair didn't show off her pixie ears.

How did Jeri Ryan's addition to the cast affect the chemistry?

Robert Picardo: Well, I really liked it. I was concerned that I would be stuck in the sickbay all by myself again, but I got the role of showing Seven her humanity, and I even got to kiss her too! By this time, I got my holo-emitter, and got to wander around the ship anyway. That was Brannon [Braga's] idea, for which I'm very grateful.

Question: What's your favourite episode?

Robert Picardo: I loved the episode where you saw what I was daydreaming ['Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy']. One of my favourite scenes was where Janeway, Seven and B'Elanna were all fighting over me, and Kate [Mulgrew] put her hand on my bum, but sadly it was cut.

'Robert Picardo - Courtesy Iain Baillie. Do not reproduce without permission. Question: What do you think of Enterprise?

Robert Picardo: I hate the theme music! I put my face in my hands when I first heard it. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had brilliant, slow moving, epic pieces. I really wished they had got Jerry Goldsmith to score the song.

I know they wanted to get away from the Star Trek brand name, which is why they dropped it from the word Enterprise, to try and get in new viewers, who might have been put off by the name Star Trek - which is why they picked a contemporary piece of music, and dropped the space special effects from the intro sequence.

Question: I was watching Enterprise with my children, and the shower scene, with T'Pol and trip came on. I was very embarrassed - why'd they do that?

Robert Picardo: I agree. It's shown at 8pm over in the States. It was completely unnecessary, and gratuitous. If they wanted to develop a future romantic relationship - that was no way of doing it.

The character of T'Pol, is also a suspicious copy of Seven. If I was Jeri Ryan, I'd be a little bit annoyed. It's a case of pandering to teenage boys, on "let's put another woman in a tight catsuit." I didn't think it was necessary to do that again.

The silliest question I ever got asked was "How do you get your head so shiny?" I think this woman wanted to know the answer, so it'd vastly improve her life, or something!

After this question and answer session, Robert then went onto sign autographs and posed for photographs. The event made for a fantastic evening, and one I'd like to go to again.

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Iain Baillie is the moderator of the Trek Gaming forum at the TrekBBS, where's he's known as daedalus5. He's a physics graduate from Glasgow, and is currently working in the steel industry in Middlesborough. More photos from the event can be found here at his web site.

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