In Star Trek: Voyager, the EMH is clearly more human-like than Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation:

  • When a hologram died in "Heroes and Demons," the EMH

does not want to keep the name he chose, because it reminds him of her death.

Thus he has emotions as there is no logical reason for choosing this. Data doesn't truly have emotions without the emotion chip, which is made much later.

  • He spends a long time (especially by computer standards) thinking about decisions, or figuring out how to do something. Data can almost instantaneously calculate at a tremendously fast rate.

EMH: Well, there was the time I managed to stop the spread of Paronisti measles before it became epidemic. For a while, things were touch-and-go. Six people came down with it. Fortunately, I was able to isolate the endoplasmic virus and replicate it in order to form an antibody. Even then, it wasn't altogether clear I could create an effective vaccine, but I worked at it for seventy four hours straight and managed to create an inoculation that successfully protected the crew.

  • He can become bored if left active for a long time with no tasks, as confirmed in "Eye of The Needle," whereas Data could wait indefinitely without getting bored:

EMH: Could I ask a favor of you?

Kes: Anything.

EMH: If you do leave, before you go, would you check to make sure I've been deactivated.

Kes: I promise.

This doesn't make sense. The EMH was designed to be a hologram used for medical purposes and Data was designed specifically to be human-like. While having intelligence is required for the EMH to function, having a personality and being human-like seems secondary, and it seems like a waste to use such a sophisticated program only for this purpose. In fact, he could perform his tasks more effectively if he didn't have to think for a long time to figure something out and use paper records.

Why is the EMH so much more human-like then Data?

  • Data was a semi-prototype. Soong improved on the model and designed androids that were all-but indistinguishable from humans.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 15:22
  • 3
    Holograms are the entertainment technology of the future and a lot of development went into the simulation of people and interacting. Data is building a person both physically and mentally starting at zero. Ultimately it is a shame that the normally Luddite Star Trek broke the universe by making AI so trivial even with TNG's Moriarty. Thus Data is reduced to being special only for being a portable AI. A hologram - if we accept it truly is self aware - is merely the avatar of a computer the size of a building. Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 17:36
  • 1
    I wish that the EMH could have been given a tough calculation or randomly asked how long it'd take to get to a planet at Warp 5---just to see how fast his artificial mind could work numbers. Presumably, he'd be just as fast or faster than Data, but unfortunately we don't know for sure. Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 3:09
  • 1
    Strange, I watched 'Eye of the Needle' yesterday (7th time for STV) and I thought "How could a Doctor be bored in that place and time?" Answer: They wouldn't be.
    – n00dles
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 10:22
  • @HamSandwich I think there are numerous instances where we see the Doctor asking the computer directly for such information, using the same voice interface as other characters, or by using a PADD to work something out portably, or using a large screen for a presentation. When such technical things are asked on the bridge, etc., it was always understood to me that whatever officer on duty would run the calculation on his terminal and then report the result. Nowadays we might switch over to Google to look something up, before coming back to you a moment later with an answer.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


I'd challenge the assertion that Data was specifically designed to be human-like, in regard to human emotions. His older 'brother,' Lore, was designed to possess human-like emotions, but that didn't go as planned, as he turned out to be a bit of a sociopath.

Data was created, and designed to be without emotion, as a direct response to this failure. Soong eventually created an emotion chip for Data, having presumably overcome whatever design flaws were present in Lore, but that wasn't until some time later.

LORE: You did what you had to do? What kind of answer is that?

SOONG: The only one I can give you. You were not functioning properly.

DATA: Lore told me the colonists envied him because you made him so completely human.

SOONG: I wouldn't exactly have used the word envious, Data.

LORE: You disassembled me. You took me apart.

DATA: Lore also told me the colonists petitioned you to replace him with a less perfect android.

SOONG: The last thing you should think of yourself as, Data, is less perfect. The two of you are virtually identical, except for a bit of programming.

DATA: It was a lie. Another lie.

LORE: I would have proven myself worth to you, if you'd just given me a chance. But it was easier just to turn your back and build your precious Data.

SOONG: You were the first. You meant as much to me as Data ever did, but you were unstable. The colonists were not envious of you, they were afraid of you. You were unstable.

DATA: I am not less perfect than Lore.

LORE: Why didn't you just fix me? It was within your power to fix me.

SOONG: It wasn't as easy as that. The next, the next logical step was to construct Data. Afterward, I planned to get back to you, to fix you.

LORE: Next logical step.

DATA: I am not less perfect than Lore.

LORE: I am not less perfect than Lore.

SOONG: Enough! Both of you, sit down. Sit down. For all these years I've been plagued by what went wrong. With all of your complexities, Lore, your nuances, basic emotions seemed almost simple by comparison. But the emotion turned, and twisted, became entangled with ambition. Lore, if I had known you were no longer sitting in pieces on some distant shelf, if I had known that I could simply press a button and bring you here, I would have spent those years trying to make things right for you as well. But all I knew of was Data. So I worked long and hard, and now I believe I've succeeded. This is why I brought you here, Data. Basic emotions. Simple feelings, Data. Your feelings. I've imagined how hard it's been for you, living amongst beings so moved by emotion.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Brothers"

As for The Doctor, it's worth remembering that although he started out as a standard EMH Mark I, he grew well beyond his original programming as a result of being left running for far longer periods of time than he was designed to be.

ZIMMERMAN: This isn't good. The EMH has a level 4 memory fragmentation. How long has the programme been active?

EMH: I have been active for, for

TORRES: Almost two years.

ZIMMERMAN: Two years? Well there's your problem. This programme was developed as a short term supplement to your medical staff, fifteen hundred hours tops.

Star Trek: Voyager: "The Swarm"

Encouragement from Kes played a key role in The Doctor's personal growth, and this led to his personality subroutine taking up more space in the ship's computer memory than it was originally intended to.

ZIMMERMAN: Please don't talk. Stay fixed on the fractal patterns while I analyse your data path integrity. Hmm. Hmm? Oh, well there it is.

EMH: What? What is it?

ZIMMERMAN: I told you not to talk! This is the problem all right. The personality sub-routine has grown to more than 15,000 gigaquads. That's the source of the degradation. Look at all this useless information floating around your buffer! Friendships with the crew, relationships with women? Do they find you attractive?

Star Trek: Voyager: "The Swarm"

Although the creator of the EMH Mark I, Lewis Zimmerman, did base its appearance and personality on his own, it wasn't designed to be truly sentient, or as idiosyncratic as The Doctor ended up becoming.

(Note that the 'Zimmerman' speaking in the quotes above and below was not the real Lewis Zimmerman, but a holographic simulation of him, with the same holographic matrix as the EMH Mark I.)

ZIMMERMAN: Ah, just the person I need. Perhaps you can tell me who's been feeding all this useless information into its database.

KES: What do you mean?

ZIMMERMAN: I'll give you an example. Ah, here's something in its personality sub-routine.

EMH: O soave fanciulla, O

KES: He's been studying opera. What's wrong with that?

ZIMMERMAN: It wasn't programmed to be a tenor, it was programmed to be a physician!

KES: What's wrong with wanting to be more than that?

ZIMMERMAN: It's superfluous! Look at me, I've got the same matrix, the same holo-array, the same neural pathways as it does. You don't see me cluttering up my circuits with irrelevancies. I'm content to be the best possible diagnostic programme I can be. Your EMH should be happy to be a fine physician.

KES: The Doctor has taken it upon himself to become a person who grows and learns and feels. It's made him a better physician.

EMH: An EMH programme can't feel anything. It's emotional reactions are simply a series of algorithms designed to make it easier to interact with.

KES: Oh he's much more than that, and I've known him for most of my life. He's one of my closest friends.

Star Trek: Voyager: "The Swarm"

The Doctor's personal growth was such that Janeway, who initially regarded him as just a program and not a person, eventually changed her mind about that, and even advocated that he deserved the same legal rights as a human being.

JANEWAY: I'd made myself clear. But the Doctor disobeyed my direct orders. In the process, he endangered the ship and crew.

ARBITRATOR: That's hardly commendable behaviour.

JANEWAY: No, it wasn't. But it was human. Starfleet had programmed him to follow orders. The fact that he was capable of doing otherwise proves that he can think for himself. Your Honour, centuries ago in most places on Earth, only landowners of a particular gender and race had any rights at all. Over time, those rights were extended to all humans, and later, as we explored the galaxy, to thousands of other sentient species. Our definition of what constitutes a person has continued to evolve. Now we're asking that you expand that definition once more, to include our Doctor. When I met him seven years ago, I would never have believed that an EMH could become a valued member of my crew, and my friend. The Doctor is a person as real as any flesh and blood I have ever known. If you believe the testimony you've heard here, it's only fair to conclude that he has the same rights as any of us.

Star Trek: Voyager: "Author, Author"

  • One must have been B-4. Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 21:24
  • 1
    If the most interesting person on the ship is a holographic emergency program - you might have a writing problem. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 0:41
  • 1
    Or, @lucasbachmann, the writers might have been hamstrung by echoes of Roddenberry's edict that We don't have conflict in Starfleet. We are all friends. We hold hands and sing "We are the world" (or something like that.)
    – RobJarvis
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:09
  • @robjarvis I never bought all the whining Berman and others did about that. The ENTIRE point of being on a starship is to go new places and have dramatic conflict with them. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 23:18
  • Exactly my thoughts!! Nice one. .... And Neelix is the most interesting character imo. wrt Acting, story, dynamic character and potential for backstory etc. Close behind is the EMT Mk1. I think Neelix is one of the best characters in ST as a whole.
    – n00dles
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 10:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.