Home Entertainment Star Trek’s EMH: Emergency Medical Holograms, Explained

Star Trek’s EMH: Emergency Medical Holograms, Explained


In early episodes of “Voyager,” the EMH mentioned that his program was designed by someone named Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, a human engineer from back on Earth. The EMH didn’t have the same personality as Zimmerman, but did look exactly like him. Trekkies would finally get to meet the real-life Dr. Zimmerman in the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?” In that episode, DS9’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) is approached by Dr. Zimmerman as the potential next model for a new series of EMHs that he is developing: the Mark III model (Mark II was played by Andy Dick). The new EMHs would also emulate Dr. Bashir’s personality, as the last model lacked bedside manner. 

As one might assume, Emergency Medical Holograms are mere projections of people, and don’t have blood or organs, or even skin under their uniforms. Indeed, with a few button pushes, an EMH can deactivate its force field function, and become an intangible projection of light. In later episodes of “Voyager,” it was explained that the EMH doesn’t have genitals, although he did eventually become clever enough to program a set onto his body. 

The EMH was originally confined to sickbay, as the sickbay’s walls were outfitted with his projectors. Later, clever engineers on the Voyager found a way to transfer the Doctor’s massive program onto the ship’s holodeck, and he started visiting his own imagined holographic worlds. 

The EMH also couldn’t initially activate and deactivate himself, as he was only meant to be used for emergencies. As the hologram began developing a consciousness and a sense of agency, though, the same clever Voyager engineers gave him the ability to turn himself on and off at will. 

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