My Fair Borg:
Behind the scenes of fifth season's
"Someone to Watch Over Me."

April 2000
© Frederick S. Clarke
by Anna Kaplan

When thinking back on Voyager's fifth season, executive producer Brannon Braga enthused, "One of my favorites of the year is "Someone to Watch Over Me," the Doctor-Seven show. It's very, very charming, and heartbreaking. " In the episode, Seven finally decided to go on a date, and the Doctor coaches her on proper etiquette. Along the way, the Doctor realizes he is falling in love with Seven.

Noted scriptwriter Michael Taylor, who worked from a story by Braga, "When an action show finds that it can do a comedy, its gains a certain level of confidence in its actors, in its writing staff, just in a general sense of what the show is about, that it can loosen up a bit."

Enthused Jeri Ryan, "Even the editors were coming up to me on the set and saying, 'This never happens, but everyone was coming out of the other editing room, and stopping what they were doing and watching this show while we were cutting it together.' They said it was just so charming that everybody loved it."

Robert Duncan McNeill, who plays Tom Paris, directed the show. "It was a very unusual episode for Star Trek, because it's a very traditional romantic comedy," he said. "I have to admit, when I first read it I was a little nervous. I thought, this is not what someone would expect from a Star Trek show. But the response has been just incredible. A lot of people are saying it's going to be one of our best episodes. It's got the Doctor and Seven of Nine in a kind of My Fair Lady situation, with the Doctor trying to teach Seven about love, and improve her social skills, and in the process finds himself having feelings for her."

In a subplot, Ethan Phillips as Neelix gives a tour of the ship to a repressed alien monk, played by Scott Thompson of Kids In the Hall. "We want to get something from his race," said Phillips. "They are a highly moral race, and before they can give it, we have to make sure that they see us as an equally moral race. I am entrusted to show him our ship and all our functions, so that he can assess our righteousness. The guy turns out to be a lush, and a complete drunk. It's kind of like that movie with Peter O'Toole, My Favorite Year; the guy is entrusted with keeping him sober. It's a funny part and a really neat role."

McNeill continued, "I really enjoyed working with Bob. He never gets tired of figuring out new ideas, and funny moments, and quirky things to do. Jeri found, I think, a different kind of humanity in Seven of Nine than we have seen before, a real kind of child-like sense of humor in her character. Seven and Bob sing together in a real, nice little moment."

McNeill added, "The ending wasn't written we shot the whole episode. When the whole script wasn't written, we were just sort of making it up, shooting it as it was being written. It's very hard to plan ahead and say, 'You don't want to give away too much in this moment. You want to save it for the end when you realize your feelings.' It definitely kept us on our toes, kept us aware of how much we were telling, in what order we were telling the story, and not to have the Doctor fall in love with Seven in Act One, to really find the whole journey, and fill it out fully. It's a real actors' show, so I felt particularly excited, being an actor, to work on a show that really depended on the performances and the subtleties that the actors could bring to it."

What about the end? Said McNeill, "Because it's two series regulars that are playing around with love, that's always a very dangerous subject. If you go too far with it, you've got to live with the consequences. If you're not ready to deal with on an ongoing basis on the series, then you have to be really careful with how far you go."

The ending was filmed some time after primary shooting finished. Laughed Robert Picardo, "This episode is like the movie Casablanca, because we shot it without knowing what the end will be. It's like shooting a romantic story, without knowing the payoff. But Casablanca turned out pretty well. I'm hoping that we will be equally fortunate."

The writers chose not to reveal the Doctor's feelings to Seven. At the end, the Doctor is alone at Sandrine's, playing the Gershwin tune "Someone To Watch Over Me."

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