ST Voyager "Flesh and Blood":

EMH: You've given me extraordinary freedom over the years. I've obviously abused it.

JANEWAY: Maybe. Or maybe you've simply become as fallible as those of us who are made of flesh and blood. I'm just as responsible for allowing you to expand your programming as I am for giving technology to the Hirogen. How can I punish you for being who you are?

EMH: I don't know what to say.

JANEWAY: I'd like a complete report on your away mission.

EMH: You'll have it.

So the doctor disobeys a direct order by not reporting to the mess hall and goes to sickbay instead. He then commits subterfuge by downloading the strategy that's going to be used by Voyager and coming up with a defense against it. He then gives Voyagers shield frequencies to an enemy ship in the middle of a battle. He transports to that other ship and gives them the info needed to create an overload in Voyagers deflector dish, which completely disables Voyager and leaves it adrift in space. As a result Torres is kidnapped.

Tom Paris is put in the brig for 30 days without visitation, and is demoted to ensign for doing what he thought was right by trying to save an entire ocean. In the process he tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to destroy a mining operation.

I can give many examples when the captain was disappointed or gave marks on peoples records. For example Ensign Kim got a mark on his record by falling in love and disobeying an order to see the alien girl he fell in love with. He took her out one time in a shuttlecraft and made some phone calls. This hardly rises to the level of what the doctor did here.

Janeway says, "How can I punish you for being who you are?" We do this all the time in societies, if who you are is violating the rules/laws and putting people in danger.

Janeway decides instead to change the status of the doctors actions to an "away mission?!?"

Can somebody explain to me why the doctor wasn't punished here and Janeway would give this comment about "who you are?"

In universe canon, or writers notes/out of universe answers are welcome.

  • 1
    How do you punish a hologram? Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:31
  • 3
    @maguirenumber6 force them into the world of Captain Proton and don't let them leave - ever... ;) Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:36
  • 1
    @maguirenumber6 in the episode the EMH offers to give up his holo-emitter, rollback his programming, etc. He even states that giving up the emitter would be like confining to quarters or going to the brig. He offered to give up his holodeck privileges, etc. But he got nothing.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:41
  • 1
    @N_Soong I just watched the episode where the ship is cut into a bunch of pieces, and somehow they sneaked proton into that episode. I sure hope I've seen the last of that damn death ray. I love voyager but there was some really questionable writing in some of the episodes. Like right now I'm watching the episode where B'elanna tries to genetically alter her baby, what a bore...YAWN!!!
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:58
  • @JMFB Now you mention that I do vaguely recall it Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 17:38

3 Answers 3


It's an interesting question, and certainly wouldn't be the first questionable decision made by Captain Janeway. In fact, I like to think that when they returned to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway spent the next week having to justify all the weird decisions in her logs.

At any rate, the "who you are" comment by Janeway indicates that the Doctor has taken another step towards true sentience. Unlike a computer program, which would simply do as it's told, the Doctor made a decision based solely on ethics & principles - something a program could not have done. He then followed that decision with action, knowing full well that he was disobeying orders and that the actions would have consequences.

Essentially, in Janeway's eyes, this revelation appears to cancel out the negative aspects of what The Doctor did, thus resulting in no punishment.

  • 2
    "In fact, I like to think that when they returned to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway spent the next week having to justify all the weird decisions in her logs." Clearly, she did a really great job justifying them, since she was promoted.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 9:19
  • 1
    @Ellesedil - perhaps she went to the Sharon Stone School of Interrogation.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 14:00
  • 5
    I was researching a question I had about Picard and came across a forum thread on this topic. Someone commented that after Starfleet Command read all of Janeway's logs when Voyager returned, they promoted her to keep her as far away from space as possible.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 14:20

Warning answer contains supposition supported by observations of the universe

technically there really isnt much Janeway can do to the doctor aside from lobotomizing him or an equivalent of the death penalty and he is to valuable to the crew for either of these options (IMO)

she can restrict his privileges which could have happened behind the scenes but the doctor has no rank and cannot be demoted

the doctor has no personal file as far as starfleet is concerned the doctor is a tool not a crewmember

the doctor is highly knowledgeable but in essence is like a young child when it comes to social interactions one theory of child rearing is at some point actual punishment for an infraction is counter productive while letting the child know why what he did was wrong and that you are dissapointed that he or she chose to make the decisions that they made

there are similar incidents throughout the series involving both the doctor and seven of nine where Janeway could have or should have severely chastised either of them but instead delivered a slap on the wrist

  • Could you be more specific about the similar incidents with Seven? That'd just boost the quality of your answer :D Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:20
  • off the top of my head I cant remember specifics I would have to watch the episodes again to separate incidents of actual decision making on the part of the character and technology messing with their head causing them to act irrationally
    – revenant
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:36
  • I think you need to rewatch the episode. The doctor offered his hollow emitter which would be like being confined to quarters or being in the brig. He offered to rollback his programming because of his decision, etc. There were many options available to Janeway and she elected to make it an away mission. FYI I couldn't disagree more that he is like a young child when it comes to social interaction. He's trained seven and is very adept when it comes to social interaction. He's fallen in love several times and been betrayed in love. He was a celebrity in front of an entire civilization, etc.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:56
  • @JMFB pretty sure it's a holo-emitter ;) Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:36
  • @N_Soong when i typed that it gave me a red line and corrected to that spelling. It seemed wrong to me as well. Too late to edit it now, my 5 minutes is up!
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 6:38

I can see several reasons here.

First, yes the doctor violated orders. But as far as we know, there's no Starfleet regulation that requires that the captain punish him. This is ultimately at her discretion. In modern times, many crimes happen, where the prosecuting attorney chooses not to prosecute the case for some reason. Furthermore, legally speaking, the doctor is not a person, so even if such a regulation exists, there's definitely a loophole that can be exploited here.

Second, he had many points throughout the episode where he tried to balance out his actions:

  • He was the one who killed Iden.
  • He told Iden not to fire on the Hirogen or Voyager several times in that episode.
  • He tried to rescue Torres, and was pissed about her abduction.

Maybe Janeway considered his time served.

Also, the Doctor compares his defection to Torres working for the Maquis at one point, and his logic behind it is sound. Maybe Janeway decided to overlook these infractions, because if she punished a crewmember for defecting to a terrorist organization out of conscious, with a crew that's at least a third Maquis, that might be a mutiny waiting to happen. She wouldn't be the first leader to ignore crimes for political reasons.

Also, we the viewers actually saw all things that happened in the episode, whereas Janeway only got secondhand information from Kejel, Torres, and the Doctor. We don't know if Janeway even knows about all of the things he did or didn't do. Perhaps their story was altered in a way to cover for the doctor, out of sympathy; and Janeway bought their doctored story. (I swear that pun was unintentional, please don't execute me.)

In summary, there were many possibilities. Ultimately though, it's an unanswered mystery.

  • I didn't say she has to punish him, I just don't understand why she didn't. Secondly by the middle of season seven it's well established that the doctor is a full fledged, trusted, member of the crew with all the rights and responsibilities of all the other members of the crew. Next just because I do something good doesn't take away from what I did bad. A person can't rape a woman and then buy her flowers afterwards to make up for it. What the doctor did in this episode was egregious, re-read the series of events and what he did. The maquis analogy is not the same.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 21:53
  • Torres did not complete her starfleet training, dropped out, and joined the Maquis. The doctor was a member of voyagers crew and helped sabotage the ship, crew, and mission in the middle of a battle. As for the details, Janeway knows in the episode, and it's stated to her, exactly what the doctor did, the transport, the deflector, the plan, etc. The transgressions are not unclear to her. Anyway, I didn't want you to think I didn't read your answer and consider it. If you have writers notes or something to back your assertions up, it'd be helpful.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 21:56

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