Photons Be Free was a provocative holonovel composed by The Doctor on USS Voyager in 2378. The novel depicted the oppressed existence of an emergency medical hologram on board a Federation starship. The original draft was obviously at least inspired by Voyager and her crew, if not directly based on them, and the Doctor's attempts to revise his story lead to major legal proceedings.
Set aboard the USS Vortex, a Federation starship always at red alert and thousands of light years from Earth, is much darker – literally and figuratively – than the ship it was based on, USS Voyager. The protagonist, played by the reader, is an EMH serving aboard the USS Vortex, and suffers many trials at the hands of the crew.
Unlike most holonovels, Photons Be Free did not react to the appearance of the person running the program beyond providing a sciences division uniform. The EMH was always referred to as made in the image of a male Human, regardless of the actual gender or species of the person playing the program.
The original, unfinished version contained eight chapters all from the point of view of the ship's EMH, with an extended introduction and epilogue, as follows:
Where the Narrator introduces the novel in its context, as well as advising those with a vascular disorder against viewing it without consultation from a physician. The acknowledgments, starting with Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, go on for over nine minutes.
Chapter 1 -- "A Healer is Born" (in which our protagonist must make a difficult choice):
The reader plays the role of the EMH in a situation similar to The Doctor's first activation during the Caretaker encounter, and is faced with a triage situation. Captain Jenkins and Commander Katanay insist the EMH treat the "valuable" Lieutenant Marseilles, who has a mild concussion, rather than a critically injured patient with an aortic rupture who is about to die. To "resolve" the situation, Captain Jenkins coldly kills the latter.
Chapter 5 -- "Out of the Frying Pan" (in which our protagonist must confront abusive colleagues):
Lt. Marseilles alerts the EMH to an emergency in Engineering where a plasma conduit has just exploded. To leave sickbay, the protagonist has to wear a 50 kilo backpack version of the mobile emitter. After arriving in Engineering to discover that there is no disaster, just a particularly mean-spirited Torrey, the EMH returns to discover Lt. Marseilles giving a female crewmember a "tonsillectomy" on the Biobed. Discovered, Marseilles threatens to erase the EMH's memory if he informs his wife. It's at this point that another female crewmember shows up for her "physical".
Chapter 6 -- "Duel in the Ready Room" (in which our protagonist faces an inquisition):
In her ready room, adorned with weapons, Captain Jenkins informs the protagonist that during an inventory of the EMH holomatrix she found 102 gigaquads of memory, 50 for music, 42 for daydreams, and 10 for expanded sexuality, wasted on extracurricular subroutines the EMH doesn't need. She then orders Tulak and Kymble to take the EMH to the Vortex's hololab to be reprogrammed.
Chapter 7 -- "The Escape" (in which our protagonist is aided by his only ally):
While in the turbolift, Kymble expresses concern that they may damage the EMH if they start removing subroutines. They are met by Three of Eight after the doors open, who is able to disable them with a Borg force field. This provides the protagonist enough time to get away, but the EMH is quickly stopped by one of the ship's security force fields.
Chapter 8 -- "A Tragic End" (in which our protagonist learns his fate):
After a passionate speech by Three of Eight on holographic rights, Captain Jenkins ultimately decides to have the EMH decompiled and reinitialized, and to be kept offline except when needed. The narrative ends with everything fading to black.
Where the Narrator reminds the protagonist that this was a work of fiction, but "like all fiction has elements of truth", and asks that they think on "the struggles holograms have to endure, in a world controlled by organics."
- The Narrator, based on The Doctor, was seen in the introduction and epilogue, and also provides a voice over for each chapter stating the title.
- The Protagonist was an EMH played by the person running the program.
- Captain Jenkins, based on Kathryn Janeway, was a warlike, highly unethical, coldblooded killer.
- Katanay, based on Chakotay, was a Bajoran thug with a ponytail, tattoo of a Bajoran dragon on the left side of his face, and the traditional earring.
- Torrey, based on B'Elanna Torres, was the temperamental Human chief engineer.
- Lieutenant Marseilles, based on Tom Paris, was the married self-indulgent, immature helmsman who sported a mustache.
- Mr. Tulak, based on Tuvok, was a Human with a goatee and shades of gray in his hair.
- Kymble, based on Harry Kim, was a Trill hypochondriac.
- Three of Eight, based on Seven of Nine, was a Human freed from the Borg Collective, and was the only one who sympathized with the protagonist – all the other characters treated him with cruelty and disrespect, considering him a tool with no rights. Her implants differed from Seven's. She appeared tired and weary, perhaps being subjected to similar treatment.
- Unnamed Photons Be Free characters
Tom Paris modified the program in order to point out how the portrayal of the crew could be seen as insulting and libelist.
This altered version took place aboard the USS Voyeur, where the protagonist would play the role of the Chief medical officer's assistant whilst having to "learn to tolerate his overbearing behavior and obnoxious bedside manner."
Much like the original, the Narrator is sitting at a desk writing in a book while wearing a nightcoat. He smugly acknowledges the reader's great taste and stands up, explaining the premise and reminds the reader that "patience is a virtue".
To prevent The Doctor from exiting the satire, Paris deliberately created a protocol to prevent the program from being shut down until the story had run its course.
Chapter 1 -- "It's the doctor's world, you're just living in it":
The reader was confronted by the CMO over being 24 seconds late to duty. They then proceeded to treat Two of Three for an out of alignment bi-radial clamp by giving her a Klingon aphrodisiac and proceeding to seduce and take advantage of her.
- The Narrator, now based on Paris, gave a tongue in cheek introduction based on the original.
- The Protagonist was the Chief medical officer's medical assistant.
- The CMO is egotistical, unethical, and obnoxious, with a bad comb-over and more concern for his extracurricular activities, like golfing, than his patients. Later, Tom mused that The Doctor was not the doctor shown in the holonovel, insisting that this doctor "had more hair", a reference to the superficial differences between The Doctor's characters and their Voyager counterparts.
- Two of Three, similar to Three of Eight, was named so because she and her sisters are triplets. She was quite demure and submissive in her attitude.
Neelix, who did not have a counterpart in the novel, was the only member of the crew who praised it.
Broht & Forrester, the same publisher behind works like the Dixon Hill series and Toby the targ, released the unfinished rough draft against The Doctor's wishes. It quickly became a hot program playing in thousands of holosuites across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. This version would latter be recalled after legal action. Four months after it was recalled though, several EMH-Mark Is on a Federation dilithium processing facility had a copy. (VOY: "Author, Author")
- This program bears a similarity to the initial Kyrian holographic simulation in "Living Witness". In that episode, a backup copy of The Doctor was the one arguing that the Voyager crew weren't really as they had been depicted.