For Robert Picardo, it has been a long and illustrious career. His acting in film and on television is now entering its sixth decade and is littered with notable performances and memorable roles. He could be considered one of the more accomplished character actors of his era, but calling him a character actor may not be giving Picardo the credit he deserves. Maybe we should just call him The Doctor.
A PROLIFIC CHARACTER ACTOR
Robert Picardo began his acting career where he seems to have found his most success: on television. His first role came on the series Kojak, his next on the hit comedy Taxi. Picardo was seen in the mini-series The Dream Merchants before his feature film debut in the gory but fun werewolf flick The Howling playing the serial killer werewolf Eddie. This movie also put actress Dee Wallace on the map.
Robert Picardo’s role in The Howling would bring him plenty of work as Joe Dante was The Howling’s director and really took to the actor. He would appear in other Dante films such as Explorers (playing a few different characters), Innerspace, The ‘Burbs, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Matinee, Small Soldiers, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Picardo’s early career, as with pretty much his entire career, would take a series of twists and turns as he alternated going back and forth from television to features.
His career in the ‘80s saw Robert Picardo on many TV shows that included Archie Bunker’s Place, Silver Spoons, Steambath, The Golden Girls, and Benson. Picardo also grabbed a recurring role on the comedy series Alice. His list of guest-starring roles throughout the remainder of the 80s is quite impressive. Too many to list but here are a few more: Hardcastle and McCormick, Amazing Stories, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Mr. President, and St. Elsewhere.
Robert Picardo was as dependable an actor as a director could ask for. He also was in some notable features during this time such as Star 80, Get Crazy, Oh, God! You Devil, and Legend.
The late ‘80s also saw Robert Picardo join two series that helped further his career. The first was as Coach Cutlip in the dramedy series The Wonder Years, then as Dr. Dick Richard in the hit series China Beach.
The ’90s saw Picardo continue to build his resume with movies like Matinee, Wagons East, and Small Soldiers. He also continued showing up on TV shows, but it was in 1995 that Picardo nailed the role that he is now best known for.
ROBERT PICARDO ON STAR TREK: VOYAGER
While Robert Picardo’s role as the EMH (which is short for Emergency Medical Holographic program) was one of the most beloved on the series Star Trek: Voyager, Picardo told StarTrek.com he felt, at the time, that he “got the worst part” on the series. But after getting the role of “The Doctor”, his mind changed.
He explains, “I was the last guy to come in, and everybody else had already established relationships. So I come in and say ‘Hello,’ and everyone knew each other already. That meant that there was that little feeling of I had to prove myself. But I just had so little to do in the pilot. I remember, when I first got the role, I was telling everybody, “I got the new Star Trek pilot. I’m sure it’ll run. I’m sure it’ll put my kids through college. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got the worst part on the show.” That was an irony that I’ve lived with ever since. I thought I’d gotten the dull role in the show and that made the experience so much fun for me.”
It took him some time, but Robert Picardo eventually realized just how special his role as The Doctor would be. “I just learned that I’d gotten the outsider character without being smart enough to realize it. I assumed the Spock character on our show would be the Vulcan, would be Tim Russ. I didn’t know enough to realize that the artificial intelligence character, at least on Voyager, was the heir, the successor to that kind of role on our show. And that was very cool.”
Picardo would go on to play The Doctor for Voyager’s entire seven-season run. While his character was one of the franchise’s most popular, don’t expect The Doctor to beam over to the second season of Star Trek: Picard. Robert Picardo explained to ComicBook.com, “Well, I can say this: as of now, there are absolutely no plans and there is nothing in the works,” he told them, adding, “I admire the show. I think everything is possible. I also know that the fans are a great driver, often, of what is done in Star Trek. We have not been driven to that particular point, so I’m not saying it couldn’t happen in the future, but there are zero plans for it happening now.”
Rumors began to swirl about a possible appearance after Picard successfully brought back Picardo’s Voyager co-star Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. “I thought it was very, very well-done. Jeri, her performance is great in it. I thought that the writers were very savvy in what they did. And it’s very gratifying for the audience to see a beloved character like Seven of Nine and, of course, to see Riker and to see Deanna Troi, to see those characters that are so loved, and of course, they got married rather late in the saga.” But with Picard scheduled to go at least one more season and when in Hollywood, never say never.
STEPPING THROUGH THE STARGATE
Star Trek wasn’t the only big franchise Robert Picardo found himself in. He also landed a part on Stargate SG-1. With his role as The Doctor on Voyager ending two years prior, Picardo moved on to other series and movies, but finding a new home on SG-1 was another boon for the actor.
Robert arrived on SG-1 in 2004 and held that position until 2007. But as SG-1 was rolling, the franchise also premiered a new show, Stargate: Atlantis. Robert Picardo was able to take his role as Richard Woolsey to Atlantis for three seasons.
ROBERT PICARDO AFTER STARGATE
We can seriously go on and on with Robert Picardo’s accomplishments in features and television. He truly is a remarkable actor, slipping in and out of roles both familiar and challenging.
Throughout the 2000s, after his time on Stargate, and beyond, Picardo has never let up. He’s been seen on Castle, Justified, he returned to Richard Woolsey in Stargate Universe, Harry’s Law, Body of Proof, Hawaii Five-O, The Mentalist, the list goes on and on. Lately, Picardo’s been seen on The Orville, The Flash, Dickinson, and the comedy series Space Command.
ROBERT PICARDO NOW
Fans of Star Trek: Voyager probably remember some of Robert Picardo’s memorable singing moments on the series. In particular there’s an infamous duet between The Doctor and Seven of Nine, which is probably top of mind. But Robert Picardo’s vocal talents aren’t limited to making his holographic character sing. He also took on an android.
Robert Picardo felt he needed to one up his long-time friend Brent Spiner (Data on the Star Trek franchise). See, Spiner had just released a fun song and dance quarantine video that shows off Spiner’s musical talent (which he tauted early on in the Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon comedy Out to Sea).
Picardo, in his comedic glory, responded in kind. “A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Brent Spiner tweeted a hilarious musical spoof of himself that inspired me to do something in my characteristically more sophisticated manner, as an homage.”
The video is called Spent My Life an Actor and is featured on Robert Picardo’s YouTube channel.
Picardo’s channel is fun for more than just this video. It shows clips of him on Star Trek: Voyager but also shows clips from other movies including Innerspace and Gremlins II: The New Batch. Here is a sample.
Thankfully, Robert Picardo is not slowing down. He continues to work at a high rate and who knows, maybe, just maybe Picard will resurrect The Doctor for even a cameo. I’ll be waiting for his signature, “Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”