Star Trek: Picard concluded its third and final season in April, but it left behind plenty of lingering questions. Chief among them, there is the mystery of whether or not the events revealed in Season 1 led to the deaths of Robert Picardo’s The Doctor and James Darren’s Vic Fontaine.
We learn early in Picard that in 2385 — 14 years before the events of Picard‘s inaugural season — a disaster at the Utopia Planitia Yards on Mars results in a Federation-wide ban on synthetic lifeforms. All research on synthetic AI, along with all production of synthetics, is stopped and existing synthetics are dismantled.
Were The Doctor and Vic Fontaine deleted as part of Star Trek: Picard‘s ban on synthetic lifeforms?
What Picard never reveals, however, is whether or not this ban includes holograms like The Doctor and Vic Fontaine who have managed to go beyond their programming as holographic characters to become true artificially intelligent lifeforms. You might assume that no, it wouldn’t include them because unlike the synths based on Brent Spiner’s Data, holograms — even the rare self-aware ones — don’t exist outside of holodecks or holosuites and so would not be seen as posing the same dangers.
But that isn’t the entire truth. The 29th century mobile holo-emitter The Doctor obtains in the two part Star Trek: Voyager episode “Future’s End” allows him to go just about anywhere he chooses. In fact, considering he doesn’t need oxygen and is not as vulnerable to the elements, The Doctor is arguably even less restricted in terms of where he can go than a biological person.
Long before the events of Picard, it’s clear that holographic lifeforms can represent a threat to others even if they don’t have the means to leave their holographic environments. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Elementary, Dear Data,” the holographic version of the Sherlock Holmes villain Professor Moriarty takes control of the Enterprise after becoming self-aware, in spite of never being able to leave the holodeck.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Vic Fontaine is never shown existing outside a holographic environment (though there is somehow a biological version of him in the Mirror Universe), nor does he ever betray any villainous intent toward the heroes. Still, he is clearly self-aware. He is able to turn his own program on and off at will, and unlike the other characters in his program, he knows that he is a hologram.
Considering this and plenty of instances of things going wrong with holographic characters in TNG, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, it seems likely in the aftermath of the Mars disaster, holograms like The Doctor and Vic Fontaine would be seen as just as much of a threat as synths and so would be taken offline as part of the ban. But the truth is we don’t know for sure.
The Doctor will return to the franchise for Season 2 of Star Trek: Prodigy which will stream on Netflix.
By the end of the first season of Picard, it’s revealed that the attack on Mars was caused not by faulty synthetics, but instead was orchestrated by the clandestine Romulan organization, the Zhat Vash. The Zhat Vash seek to stop the events of an ancient prophecy predicting an AI-caused galactic armageddon. Once Picard and his allies expose the Romulans, the synthetic ban is lifted.
But the lifting of the ban takes place 14 years after its implementation. That’s a long time for The Doctor and Vic to potentially be wasting away in some ship or station’s memory, or perhaps deleted altogether.
We could learn very soon about the fate of The Doctor. He will appear in Season 2 of Star Trek: Prodigy. Season 1 is set in 2384 — the year before the synthetic ban — making The Doctor’s return pretty close to the Utopia Planitia attack.
We have no idea if Prodigy will at all reference the synthetic ban introduced in Picard, but there’s no reason it couldn’t.
Vic Is Probably Okay, We Hope…
As for Vic Fontaine, the good news is we’re about 85 percent sure he’s safe from Picard‘s events, but that missing 15 percent isn’t nothing. See, technically, the titular station of Deep Space Nine is not Federation territory. It’s governed by Bajoran law, and the series ends without the Bajorans ever joining the Federation, so presumably the holographic lounge singer would be safe from any Federation ban.
But DS9 tends to play things a little fast and loose as far as who the station really belongs to (short answer: it depends on what’s more convenient for any particular episode). Not to mention the argument could be made that Vic would still fall under the Picard ban because, even though the station belongs to the Bajorans, Vic’s program was created by a Starfleet officer: Alexander Siddig’s Julian Bashir.
Star Trek, however, is first and foremost about hope. So until we hear differently, we’ll assume both The Doctor and Vic Fontaine are alive and well (and that while both are singing, the former is singing a lot more opera than the latter).