I watched a couple of Star Trek Voyager episodes today. This one, Latent Image, is one that Robert Picardo (The Doctor) calls his favourite. It’s about the choice that the Doctor had to make regarding treating two patients, with the same injuries and with the same chance of survival. He can only treat one at a time and so has to choose between the two patients. He makes a choice – which he later thinks is because he was closer to that ensign and though of him as a friend.
Ensign Ahni Jetal is shown as having celebrated her birthday in the mess hall in a surprise party thrown by the senior officers. Later she joins Ensign Harry Kim and the Doctor on an away mission in one of the shuttle crafts. During the mission, an unidentified ship attacks the trio and one of the aliens beams himself into the shuttle and fires his deadly weapon on all three. Being a hologram, the Doctor is unhurt and quickly beams the alien out of the ship. Voyager rescues the shuttle and the Doctor has little time to treat the two injured ensigns.
He is faced with a decision – choose one patient to treat first. He looks at both the ensigns and starts the surgery on Kim. Once he is done, he turns his attention to Jetal but she dies. There was not enough time to save them both. Later, the Doctor’s experiences a conflict in his programming that couldn’t be resolved. His ethical & personality subroutines develops a feedback loop over & over – in essence, he is finding it difficult to reconsile with the fact that he chose a friend over another patient for treatment and he blames himself for Jetal’s death.
The Doctor feels guilt over this and starts ruminating loudly and is unable to perform his duties. So it was decided to have his memories deleted about this incident and reprogrammed. 18 months later he comes to find out about this and starts to have the same effect. Only this time, he is allowed by Captain Janeway to go through the issues and come to terms with it & resolve them in due time.
This is one of those episodes which leads me to sometimes think that Robert Picardo was the best ever actor in the Star Trek universe and that the Doctor was the best character too!