Robert Picardo played The Doctor wonderfully on Star Trek: Voyager for seven years as well as his creator, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman when the need arose. He imbued the character with arrogance and smugness but also a sense of heart in later years which was unusual for a hologram. He didn’t get that last part from his creator, though as Zimmerman was curmudgeonly and considered himself superior to just about everyone because of the knowledge he possessed when it came to creating and working with holograms. But he almost didn’t create the Doctor’s hologram.
When The Next Generation was coming to an end and Jeri Taylor was getting Star Trek: Voyager ready to go, she though about introducing the Emergency Medical Hologram on The Next Generation to get things established. The EMH was to have been created by Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) which would have made him in charge of all of the doctor’s routines. In addition, Taylor even suggested that Schultz could portrayed the doctor as he would have created the hologram in his own image as Zimmerman did.
Though Dwight Schultz was great in his role as the holodeck-obsessed, nervous crew member aboard the Enterprise, having him full-time aboard Voyager would most likely have been a bit much. The role required someone with self-assurance right out of the starting gate, and if the EMH was designed in Barclay’s image, he would have probably been endowed with all or most of Barclay’s traits.
While Barclay was different when he was playing characters on the holodeck, would he really have been that different as a doctor? It’s hard not to picture him as a shy, uncertain doctor who was nervous around authority. And I’m just not certain that would have worked as that wasn’t what Voyager needed. With the ship being stuck in the Delta Quadrant, the crew needed a doctor who could give tough love, even if it came with an air of superiority. Robert Picardo delivered that and more. It’s one of the many reasons why we love his character.