Robert Picardo had another role he wanted to play
Robert Picardo’s role as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager created a legion of fans who fell in love with the holographic physician. Little did he know when he accepted the role that it would result in such a committed fan base. In fact, Picardo was so unsure about the role which he thought would confine him to one set for his scenes that he was reluctant to accept it at first. He had his eye on another role, one that seemed to be more fitting for him.
According to What Culture, the role of Neelix still hadn’t been filled, and auditions were ongoing. The part was for a comic-relief character that really appealed to Picardo. So he asked the producers if he could audition for that as well. Just in the nick of time, though, Ethan Phillips was given the role of Neelix, the exuberant Talaxian that ruffled more than a few feathers aboard Voyager, especially Tuvok’s.
Robert Picardo wouldn’t have played Neelix for very long
When expressing interest in the role of Neelix, Picardo asked about the make-up process and how long it would require to get the character ready for his scenes. Fifteen minutes was the answer he was given, but that wasn’t the correct answer as Ethan Phillips discovered. He spent about three hours sitting in the make-up chair every day to become the Talaxian. Fortunately for Voyager fans, Picardo didn’t get the role of Neelix because he said he would have eventually quit the series if he’d had to spend that much time in the make-up chair every day.
I can’t imagine anyone else playing The Doctor but Picardo just as I can’t imagine Neelix as anyone but Phillips. The production team may have created those characters, but the actors brought them to life in such unforgettable ways.