Star Trek: Voyager

"Message in a Bottle"

3 stars

Air date: 1/22/1998
Written by Lisa Klink
Directed by Nancy Malone

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What are they doing?"
"Firing on us!"
"They must think Romulans are on board!"
"They're RIGHT!"

— EMH-2 and Doc

Nutshell: Quite a bit of fun, but not everything it should've been under the circumstances.

There are a lot of elements in "Message in a Bottle" that epitomize what has obviously become the statement of Voyager's fourth season as a whole—namely, that Voyager is a faster, funnier, snappier, and generally better series all around, but that the stories are primarily lightweight science fiction concepts and adventures that don't take real risks that go the extra mile to probe deeper into the characters. Strangely, the deepest, most substantive episode yet this season was "Mortal Coil," a vehicle for Neelix, who is generally the embodiment of lightweight.

And now, the sense of fourth-season lightweight whimsy in the interests of gleeful entertainment finally gets in the way with "Message in a Bottle," an effective episode on its own terms, but an episode that made me seriously wonder if it was the right episode for its given premise. Although this episode is tons of fun and jam-packed with amusing dialog, there's too much plot here (or, more specifically, too much of the wrong type of plotting), and not enough reflection.

Yet "Message in a Bottle" is one of the most entertaining episodes all season—an episode that made me care and had me in anticipation over how the end would be handled and how the starship Voyager morale would be benefited. I guess a big part of this episode's selling point is in finally seeing a real victory for the Voyager crew. We've seen this crew defeated and anguished on several occasions—shows that offered them potential tickets to the Alpha Quadrant ("Prime Factors," "Eye of the Needle," "False Profits," etc.)—but time after time the Voyager crew had their hopes crushed. Finally, here's a show with a true moral victory for the Voyager crew—something that would make the Delta Quadrant feel less lonely.

There's some familiar characterization early in the episode—a sense of urgency that's reminiscent of season one, back when finding a way back to the Alpha Quadrant actually had an impact on the crew's feelings. Like in "Eye of the Needle," the crew members find themselves with the chance to send a message to the Alpha Quadrant when Seven of Nine stumbles across an alien communications array that covers huge areas of space. By relaying the signal across the array, they are able to locate a Starfleet ship in Federation space. The only problem is that a communications signal degrades before it can reach the other side of the network. The solution: to send a stronger signal that won't decay—namely, Doc's holographic program.

The most effective emotional undercurrent in "Message in a Bottle" is the sense of doubt created by the hopeful yet uncertain situation. As Chakotay puts it, "We've been here before"—why get your hopes up (as I mentioned earlier) if you're setting yourself up to be crushed? There's nothing that's certain about the plan, either; It's a risk—even Doc's signal may not survive the transfer across such unknown technology over such a great distance. But the decision must be made immediately, because time is short and once the Federation ship is out of range, the opportunity will be lost.

Now, although I've heard for months now that Voyager would finally be sending a successful message home, "Message in a Bottle" was still effective in creating suspense and drawing me into the crew's plight. Seeing the anticipation amongst the crew was compelling in its limited doses, although I wish there had been much more of it (more on that later).

The signal takes Doc 60,000 light years to the USS Prometheus, a brand-new experimental vessel. As luck would have it, this ship has been boarded and commandeered by the Romulans, who have killed the Federation crew that was on board. Having stolen the experimental ship, they plan to deliver it to the Tal Shiar (apparently back in business to some degree), who assumedly could use the technology.

So Doc now finds himself with a challenge: As the only member of Starfleet aboard the ship, he must thwart the 20+ Romulans in their attempt to deliver this ship to their superiors. If he fails, his message to Starfleet will probably never be received. For this mission, Doc recruits some help: The Prometheus' EMH program, an updated version (Mark II) with new capabilities and a new face (the EMH-2 is performed by Andy Dick), but with the same overactive ego.

What can I say about this plot? Far-fetched? Probably a little. Superficial? You bet. Amusing? Most definitely. Fast, snappy, entertaining—typical of season four? Yep.

The stunt-pairing of Doc and EMH-2 makes for the highest level of all-out, go-for-broke comic energy on Voyager that I've seen in a very long time. While I wouldn't rate the dialog quite on the level of Doc and Barclay's sparring in "Projections," I did find the funny and fast-delivered verbal jousting to be well worth the time. Both Robert Picardo and Andy Dick have their characters' senses of smug superiority working alongside their senses of ever-worry, and the unlikely setting of "two lowly holograms versus a squadron of Romulans" makes for a particularly good framing of two bemused and unwitting heroes playing against the odds.

While their nonstop self-congratulatory dialog begins to tire near the end, these two remain utterly watchable through most of the episode, their one-liners and tendency to panic in the face of danger allowing the comedy to breathe. The initial idea of the "veteran EMH" playing opposite an EMH who has just been activated is milked for a few fresh notions, bringing out a respectable determination in Voyager's Doctor that refuses to see a fellow EMH duck the opportunity to expand his horizons into heroic action. I won't go into the way these two disable the Romulans and take over the ship (let's just say it involves the use of fumes that invoke unconsciousness), but the road to get there is entertaining.

Meanwhile, the Prometheus itself is an interesting gadget with some new abilities, like a separation sequence that allows it to split into three pieces and combat its opponents. The Romulans, alas, are fairly cardboard as the requisite villains, although it was nice to finally see them again after all this time. (DS9 hasn't utilized them in quite some time, throwaway lines notwithstanding.)

Another issue that "Message in a Bottle" works in by way of a B-story, and which I'd like to comment on, is Seven's rudeness and impulsive action. In short, it must be dealt with. This isn't a complaint about the episode; on the contrary—I think that Seven's inept social graces are a necessary part of her integration into the crew that I'm glad we're seeing. But it's still something Janeway has to take control of; Seven's decision to cause a feedback surge and shock into unconsciousness the hard-headed alien (who is threatening Voyager for using his communications array) because "he was not responding to diplomacy" is not the kind of unauthorized action a captain can afford to have a member of her crew taking. It worked this time (and Janeway's decision to tighten her jaw and let it slide was appropriate under the extreme circumstances), but it's not something Janeway can just ignore. She needs to find a way of putting Seven in her place—and it needs to happen soon.

A C-story also proves pleasant in a slight manner, involving Tom's desperate plea for Harry to design a new doctor in Doc's absence thus rescuing him from sickbay duty. It's nicely played, with some light laughs and good characterizations—but isn't this just filler? Couldn't a more effective use of screen time been conceived in an episode that should have a stunning emotional impact on the crew?

And that brings me back to the overriding problem with "Message in a Bottle": its serious and emotionally gripping general premise is held back (and held back to a fault) by its utterly inconsequential action/comedy plot. Consider the potential of a story in which Voyager finally, after more than three years, makes contact with home. Is there any substantial speculation by the crew about what this will mean for the future of the ship? Not really. Is there any discussion of events that have transpired in the Alpha Quadrant (like, for example, the Dominion war) while Voyager has been away? Not really. Is there anybody on board Voyager wondering what their loved ones are thinking back home now knowing that the Voyager crew (most of it, that is) is still alive? Not really. All we really get is the final two-minute scene where Doc discusses his off-screen dialog with Starfleet Command, which promises to search for a way of getting Voyager home as quickly as possible. As much as I was moved by Janeway's reaction to hearing this news (even though "60,000 light years feels a lot closer today" is a fairly trite, cornball closing line), it's just not enough.

As much as I liked "Message in a Bottle," I'm only giving it a marginal recommendation. This is an episode that, for all its merits, should've been so much more. The Season Four Sense of Fun needs to know when to step back and get out of the way.

Upcoming: A couple reruns, followed by what has been promised by rumors as a multi-part arc involving the race of aliens introduced in this past episode.

Previous episode: Waking Moments
Next episode: Hunters

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

80 comments on this post

Wed, Jan 9, 2008, 5:09pm (UTC -6)
That was a really good episode but'd think the Dominion war would be little more discussed than that
Tue, Mar 18, 2008, 6:57am (UTC -6)
H. Klinton vs Obama. How you consider, who will win elections in Unated States of America?
Thu, Jul 17, 2008, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
I completely agree with your review of this episode, almost word for word. Even though I laughed out loud numerous times, it was just superficial. But kudos to Dick and Picardo--they handled their roles well.

However, one cool thing did come from this episode--instead of "Be quiet!", my daughter and I now use "Disengage your vocal subroutines!"
Tue, Oct 28, 2008, 4:16am (UTC -6)
I just watched this episode again and I have to say that I completely agree with the review though I'd give it a 1/2 star more. I know the C-story should have been scrapped for more time on the main plot and the importance of the main-plot wasn't realized enough (likely 'cause of C-story) but god damn this was wickedly entertaining and very funny.

I've never been the biggest fan of Voyager (DS9 is the best of trek IMHO) but this episode was one among several in this series that showed the potential that sadly had never seen fruition.
Sat, Apr 3, 2010, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
Hey Jammer,

I was just wondering why you thought 60,000 light years feels a lot closer today was a trite, cornball line.. trite implies it or something similar has been said or used before and is cliche.. but I don't believe I've heard it before or nothing comes to mind.. maybe a similar sentiment.. but I wouldn't say that makes it trite.. so just wondering if you could point out the reference. Thanks
Bad Horse
Tue, May 25, 2010, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
Why would the Doctor's program be lost? Why isn't there Ctrl-C in the future?
Mon, Jun 21, 2010, 3:17pm (UTC -6)
"A C-story also proves pleasant in a slight manner, involving Tom's desperate plea for Harry to design a new doctor in Doc's absence thus rescuing him from sickbay duty. It's nicely played, with some light laughs and good characterizations--but isn't this just filler? Couldn't a more effective use of screen time been conceived in an episode that should have a stunning emotional impact on the crew?"

Oh, you gotta be kidding me! "Emotional impact"? Look, this is not Dr. Phil; I don't want personal drama, introspection, people exploring their feelings and whatnot. Star Trek is a sci-fi series: I want the science and I want the fiction, in that order, and preferably with the ration 70:30.

For that reason I thought this "C-story" was extraneous and boring. Not only does it adamantly NOT deserve an episode of its own (god forbid!!!) but it should've been excised even from this one. Paris and Kim's repartee is never riveting, especially not when it's over Paris' antagonism about having to do sick-bay duty. SNOOZERS!

The Doc and the Doc were great, and those two alone make this a great episode. Add to that the technological premises (the relay network and its operation), the change of scenery on the Prometheus and its capabilities, the Romulans and the showdown toward the end, and you got yourself one of the best episodes ever. Four stars minimum.
Thu, Nov 18, 2010, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
Wouldn't you think Starfleet would configure its ships -- any ships, not just a badass prototype like the Prometheus -- so they are incapable of firing on other Starfleet ships (the events of ST:TWOK notwithstanding)? I would.
Sun, Mar 13, 2011, 3:03am (UTC -6)
"Star Trek is a sci-fi series: I want the science and I want the fiction, in that order, and preferably with the ration 70:30."

In that case read a physics textbook. You have missed the point entirely. Sure, it can be fun to think about kewl future tech and all that, but the best SF takes it a step further and considers what effect it will have on people. Fiction is, in the end, about exploring the human condition (there is very little fiction featuring cats and mice aimed at anyone older than ten), and if we are not able to feel some sort of emotional connection with the people in the story then then story has failed. The only significant exception I can think of is "2001," but then that was a deliberate choice by Kubrick and not done to show off gee-whiz fanboy tech. In fact "2001" was about humanity, rather than any one human.

"I don't want personal drama, introspection, people exploring their feelings and whatnot."
Translation: "I don't want people."
Sun, Mar 13, 2011, 9:50am (UTC -6)
Incidentally, this applies particularly to "science" fiction like Trek, which is about as close to real science as Harry Potter. Instead of wizards and wands we have magical transporters and DNA, so we *have* to have some good character interaction ("fiction") to make up for the lack of science. Otherwise it's just eye candy.
Sun, May 29, 2011, 3:42pm (UTC -6)
What I would have liked to see was the Doctor's visit to Starfleet, seeing their reaction at his evolution over the last three years and hearing about the Dominion War. The EMH vs. Romulans plot was definitely FUN (Dick & Picardo togather is a hoot) it seemed to get in the way of scenes that really mattered. Fortunately the lack of character work here will be made up for next week.
Sun, May 29, 2011, 6:11pm (UTC -6)
The "C" story was mostly forgettable but I can't help but laugh out loud every time the replacement EMH reads the beginning of Gray's Anatomy and then says "paragraph."
Fri, Sep 2, 2011, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
To expand on what Nic said, it is at this point that Dr. Zimmerman should have heard about the remarkable accomplishment of his Mark 1. His obnoxious behavior two years later in Lifeline was ridiculous.
Fri, Nov 4, 2011, 11:36pm (UTC -6)
EMH-2 had a similar personality to Bashir. This aired about a year after "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", so perhaps the original intent was to use Siddig?
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 12:47am (UTC -6)
I realize the review was written when the episode aired, but I still think Jammer was a bit too hard on "Message In A Bottle." Especially towards the end when he is disappointed that it didn't live up to its potential in regards to the characters' reactions to finally getting a message home. Nearly all of that was addressed in subsequent episodes involving the Hirogen's communications net. And the repercussions of the Dominion War were addressed in the excellent "Extreme Risk," at least as far as the Maquis were concerned.

"Message In A Bottle" did what it set out to do - it entertained. It was fresh, it had hilarious dialogue, cool contraptions and ships, and a satisfying emotional ending (for me anyway). It has also gone down as a fan favorite. Small quibbles aside, I'd have given it 1/2 more star.
Thu, Oct 4, 2012, 4:06am (UTC -6)
Justin- Maybe Jammer overthinks like Overthinker. ;)
Jo Jo Meastro
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
I'm with the people who love this episode. It was a classic! I really loved the clever humour, the action, momentum, excitement and big scale. Seeing the Alpha Quadrant again after so long made me realise how much I missed it and all of the new prototype Starfleet ships was also really cool. Everything was well-executed and it's such a blast, almost movie-like!

There was some emotional depth to be sure and I was gripped the whole time; I was drawn in the whole time by all our characters' feelings. But at the same time I certainly agree that the thrill-ride fun and sharp-witted comedy took up just a bit too much room, leaving less room for more powerful drama. I still loved this episode and it still is a favourite so far, and in my opinion still worthy of the monumental event its concept presented.

For me, the humour and fun didn't cheapen the awe-stiking importance of what is achieved in this huge hour of Voyager. It gets 3.5/4 from me...maybe even 4 stars! On a different note, I recognise the actor who played EMH 2 from somewhere, I'm going to have to look him up on IMBD because it's starting to bug me that I can't quite put my finger on where I've seen him before!
Jo Jo Meastro
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
Oh and I'm looking forward to a new mini-arc, lets hope its just a bit better than the Kazon one!
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
When the reset button went unpressed at the end of this episode, I felt a thrill of victory. I had a similar feeling with the teaser of BSG's "Pegasus": the world is suddenly larger for our heroes, and more hopeful (though not wholly better, in both cases).
Sun, May 19, 2013, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
Great character insights into Paris in this episode. We learn, finally, that he wants to be a pilot. He enjoys flying spacecraft, in that he prefers to man the helm. He also wants to control the trajectory of spaceborne machines, to "fly" them as it were. Deep, previously unexplored stuff here.
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 5:41pm (UTC -6)
Things I would like to have seen: (1) the Doctor's actual conversation with the highest-ranking Starfleet officer among the ships that attacked the Prometheus, and the officer's reaction and how the Doctor convinced him/her he was being truthful; (2) the Doctor's actual conversation with Starfleet headquarters and their reaction; (3) personal moments, like maybe the Doctor's telling Mr. Ensign Wildman (I forget his name -- the Ktarian guy) that he has a daughter; (4) the Doctor's filling everyone in on current events back in the AQ (the Dominion war, and "Hey, they're wearing different uniforms now, maybe we should wear them too!"). Stuff like that, not lame attempts by the V'ger crew to create a replacement Doctor, something you'd think, if it were possible, they would have done already. They frequently said or implied that it wasn't possible to back up the Doctor (the events of "Living Witness" notwithstanding). Seems reasonable -- they didn't know they were going to be stranded in the Delta Quadrant, so they didn't bring any floppies with them. (Remember, this was the mid-'90s.)
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
The best exchange (not only the content but also the delivery) from the episode:

The Doctor: "Stop breathing down my neck."
The Other Doctor: "My breathing is merely a simulation."
The Doctor: "So is my neck -- stop it anyway!"

I heard Picardo came up with that.
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
The Doctor: "Let's just say I made an addition to my program."
The Other Doctor: "You mean you have a holo-weenie?"
Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 3:07pm (UTC -6)
The part that hurts my brain is where the audio signal is "too weak" but sending the most complex hologram on the ship works because he's a "stronger signal". Riiiight. This is like uploading the entire contents of one's hard drive because a single e-mail attachment failed to send.
Wed, Oct 30, 2013, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
I do like this episode and feel that the strength of the "A" story makes up for the bland "B" and "C" stories. It would have been pretty cool is they had gotten Alexander Siddiq to play EMH-2 but despite the usual nature of his roles, Andy Dick does a pretty good job. I like to think that because of the controversy surrounding Bashir, his personality was used but not his likeness when Zimmerman began work on the EMH-2. Hence the fact that the dialogue does sound very Bashir (at least to me).
Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 4:56pm (UTC -6)
You can't blame Neelix for panicking at the mention of "heartburn", if one takes the term literally and doesn't know it really has nothing to do with the heart, it sounds like it would be something extremely serious.
Andy's Friend
Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
@Jack: "You can't blame Neelix for panicking at the mention of "heartburn"..."


You can ALWAYS blame Neelix! :D

To paraphrase Reed in "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part I" (ENT): Aren't Talaxians always guilty of something? ;)

(Sorry, I just coldn't help myself...)
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 12:09am (UTC -6)
Quite a good episode. I only can't take the fact that Voyager easliy sent the only doctor available in the ship to a mission with high likelihood of failure. It does not make sense at all and is one of these many examples of silly lazy wrtting in this show. Also, the lack of imediate consequences for Seven's wild behaviour was a bit annoying.

But again, the rest of the episode is very good. I do think that it managed to balance fun, funny and important storytelling. I can't understand how Jammer could have said this episode was superficial. We saw Seven's behaviour going wilder, we saw a bit of build up on her relationship with Torres, we saw The Doctor delivering a message to the Starfleet! Now they now about Voyager's journey. One thing is to expect deep character moments. Or profound moral choices (this looks a bit like a DS9-addiction). Another is to say the episode, its plot or its consequences were superficial like it was said about past episodes in this season. Lastly, what a joy was the last scene, what a great line delivery when the captain gets the final message...

In another tone, the dialogues between the doctors are frequently really fun. The piece about sex, with our Doc so proud of his sexual experience was amazing. And what about Seven's face when she asks "I am rude?", haha.

Also, I think they have managed to bring the Alpha Quadrant to the show in a smart and sort of believable way. I liked the episode a lot.

PS: Paris asking for more hair to the replacement doctor made me remind of something that I always have though about The Doc. He makes 21th century bald people like me hopeless about the future...
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 11:25am (UTC -6)
"If Picard can baldly go, so can Picard-o." --some damn "Making of" special

As far as we know, Ric, incurable baldness is a side effect of the 24th century's cure for gayness.
Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 11:46am (UTC -6)
Are there bald people in the mirror universe? They have gay people there....

I always just assumed that bald was a fashion choice in TNG era.... after all, the Doctor re stimulates Seven's follicles to let her grow hair....
Sun, May 4, 2014, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
@Grumpy LOL LOL I didn't know such quotes! Amazing.

@Robert Yeah, you are damn right! Thank you, you gave me a new hope - for the 24th century at least =)
Sun, Aug 31, 2014, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
I believe there was a small "inside joke" in this episode, though not a particularly good one or one that had any relevance to anything. When Neelix mentions the recipe for "Rodeo Red's Red Hot Rootin'-Tootin' Chili" (or whatever it was called), he pronounces "Rodeo" "ro-DAY-oh," like the name of the famous shopping street in Beverly Hills.
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 10:17am (UTC -6)
"Rodeo" is a Spanish word, or of Spanish origin. Neelix and Beverly Hills are using the Spanish pronunciation. If there's a joke it's that he's hypercorrecting what is an American vernacular ("rootin'-tootin'") usage.
Sat, Nov 8, 2014, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
True, but a Spanish-speaking person would say "ro-DEH-oh".
Tue, Dec 2, 2014, 5:40am (UTC -6)
Speaking of Spanish jokes, what about "Jah-lapeno"?

Also, Jammer, why does every single one of the locations
say "USA Central"? I'm in Japan, on the other side of the world from Kansas.
Tue, Dec 2, 2014, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
The commenting script is only set up for one time zone, and I didn't take the time to rewrite it to make it possible to choose your own. Since I had to pick one, I naturally picked my own. House rules.
Thu, Apr 9, 2015, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
There was only one particular phrase I caught that was particularly disturbing.
EMH Mark II suggests rerouting power from lifesupport because he and Doc don't need it. Well, maybe they don't, but the two dozen Romulans on the ship do. That's called murder.
Although they apparently end up not doing this, because we see Starfleet members beaming aboard and they seemed perfectly fine.
Mon, Apr 20, 2015, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
Xylar - turning off lifesupport would presumably just stop replenishing the air / filtering out CO2 etc, and turns off the heat. It doesn't mean that all the air suddenly vanishes, we've seen that else where as well. With only a few unconscious romulans breathing i'm sure there's plenty.
Sat, Oct 3, 2015, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
It didn't make sense to me that the Romulans would outright steal a Starfleet isn't really their style as we've seen it. Other than separating into three pieces, what's so great about this ship? The Enterprise-D could separate into two pieces and the Romulans never tried to steal it. The Romulan warbird they already have is pretty kickass.
Mon, Oct 5, 2015, 11:02pm (UTC -6)
The Doctor's getting increasingly annoying this season and i'm already tired of Seven saving the day.
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 10:33am (UTC -6)
Robert and Andy give us many LOL moments, but I'll agree with Jammer, it got to be a little much by the end. The Doctor's humor is much better when it's injected into a scene, not the entire episode.

I about split a rib when Seven zapped that Hirogen :-)

"TORRES: You killed him?
SEVEN: It was a mild shock. He will recover.
JANEWAY: And when he does?
SEVEN: He wasn't responding to diplomacy."

The we actually see B'elanna on the same page as Seven.

"TORRES: Mild shock? Not bad.
SEVEN: Thank you"

lol ....

I also agree that they are going to have to deal with Seven's tact and action without regard to consequence. To credit the writers, they wrote it so we would have to see it. Thank you.

"Sixty thousand light years seems a little closer today." is a great line as only Kate can deliver.

I don't know that we needed to see Doc's conversation with Star Fleet... unless it was with Tom's dad.

Not as emotional as I might have expected contact with home to give us. I was more moved in "Eye of a Needle" and the show hadn't been on 1/2 a year yet.

3 stars for me.
Tue, Dec 8, 2015, 4:08am (UTC -6)
So DS9 told us that Zimmerman is now constructing the LMH (Long-Term Medical Hologram) to replace the EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram). At the end of that DS9 episode, he changed his mind about Bashir, but not about the LMH! And yet, in this episode of Voyager, it seems he constructed an EMH Mark II instead. Did he change his mind?

Oh well. I guess the Krenim did it.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Feb 13, 2016, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
I seem to be saying this a lot recently, but this is another inventive, fresh and fun addition to the series. I'd agree that subject matter of this import might have expected a more serious take, but this rides in with such gusto that it's easy to be swept along. Some of the dialogue is sparkling and often downright funny.

And if the shtick starts to pale a little by the end then it only detracts a little from another strong episode. 3 stars.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 11:19pm (UTC -6)
Seems silly by today's standards that Voyager could transmit a hologram across the Galaxy and back, but Neelix has to hand-deliver PADD's to each crewman for their letters. Can't the lettrs just be forwarded to each person's device or quarters? What? no textmessages, e-mail or Skype in the 24th century? Even if all PADDs are communal and all user's data is in the network, anyone could get the letter at any time.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 12:27pm (UTC -6)

I've just decided that social Media played a big part in starting the Third World War in Star Trek's past, and after the nuclear devistation and EMPs, social Media was basically eradicated in the fallout. And because it was seen as a causal factor, humainty just decided to forgo bringing it back in any meaningful way.

That's my fanon anyway.
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
They have a preserved copy of Khan's twitter account in the San Francisco museum of WW3 history. You should check it out
Sun, Aug 28, 2016, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
Wow, break out the party chips! A great episode of voyager! (****)
Sun, Nov 6, 2016, 7:15am (UTC -6)
@mephyve - totally agree! One of the great episodes. The byplay between the doctor and EMH mk II was classic.

I'd been really struggling with voyager, but there's hope yet...
Sat, Jan 7, 2017, 6:29pm (UTC -6)
We never saw more than one Defiant-Class vessel in any of those huge, thousand-ship battles on DS9, but here two of the three ships sent to intercept the Prometheus are Defiant Class vessels.
Sun, Apr 9, 2017, 7:23am (UTC -6)
@ Dave

"We never saw more than one Defiant-Class vessel in any of those huge, thousand-ship battles on DS9, but here two of the three ships sent to intercept the Prometheus are Defiant Class vessels. "

The only thing I can think of is they had another Defiant class vessel on DS9 called the Valiant which was way way out in deep space on a training mission or something too. And since the area where this battle with the Prometheus took place was also at the edge of the Alpha quadrant it's feasible that other Defiant-class ships were in the vicinity.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
Jammer: “the overriding problem with "Message in a Bottle": its serious and emotionally gripping general premise is held back (and held back to a fault) by its utterly inconsequential action/comedy plot.” “This is an episode that, for all its merits, should've been so much more.”

I have to agree. It was a fun episode, but it could have been a lot more by episode’s end. Got to say though, a half-Klingon complaining about a former Borg being rude, and then giving lessons in courtesy, fun stuff.
William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
I think the episode isn't completely without meaning as it stands. The Doctor's role as counterinsurgent on the Prometheus with the EMH Mark II ties in with what it might mean for Voyager to eventually return to the Alpha Quadrant: should Voyager make it back, it will be behind the times, with out-of-date tech compared to newer Starfleet ships and at sea about the current political realities of the AQ, but the crew may also have unique experiences to contribute. The EMH1/EMH2 is a sort of microcosm of that, and the comic beats of the buddy doc movie feel somewhat appropriate in that sense. Still, I would only go as far as "somewhat." I don't really expect Voyager to hew too closely to the details of what's going on in DS9, but while a Romulan takeover of a Federation ship isn't wholly unbelievable, it doesn't quite fit in with their neutrality in the Dominion War at this point in time, and anyway the Romulans are only a generic baddie foil to get this comedy-adventure plot. It's a *good* comedy-adventure plot, with the Picardo/Andy Dick dynamic being fun and energetic, but I agree with Jammer that it mostly feels misplaced given how momentous the general occasion is. I feel in some ways like this exact story -- of the Doctor returning to the Alpha Quadrant and having an adventure which allows him to stretch out in the absence of the Voyager crew and in the presence of more up-to-date but also less experienced Starfleet denizens (or an EMH, even!) -- would have worked perfectly at some point like, say, around Life Line, where some degree of contact were already established as part of the new paradigm of the show and some inroads to bringing Voyager and the AQ in sync with each other were happening, and when the story wouldn't have to bear the weight of being the VERY FIRST contact with the AQ devolving into an admittedly very fun action-adventure yarn. It feels like a lack of imagination that the only thing they could think of to do with the Doctor in the AQ was to have some ship takeover plot, even if there is some thematic significance (that I mentioned above) and plays in with the Doctor's own arc. So the episode suffers mostly from being a missed opportunity, which (again) would have been mitigated if it weren't the only such story to be happening at this time.

The intro of the Hirogen passes by mostly without much going too wrong, the Seven stuff seems to be heating up (though I can't believe Janeway just lets Seven shocking that guy go without even saying anything about it) and the ending, with the crew finding out they are no longer alone, is quite touching. It's a very good episode that is held back by the feeling that it was not really the most appropriate use of this story opportunity. 3 stars.
Mon, Nov 13, 2017, 6:14pm (UTC -6)
3 stars. Another entertaining episode

Voyager showed that the writers could actually come up with a fresh, clever or inventive plot at times. This episode being one example

I liked the ideas employed here and how they were juggled. We get an ancient relay that allows visual contact with the Alpha Quadrant. the Doctor being transferred to a Federation ship. Said Federation ship is a prototype that has been hijacked by the Romulans allowing an Alpha Quadrant species to make a rare appearance on Voyager. The. We get a take bavk the ship action adventure with the EMHs. We also got Starfleet learning Voyager’s crew is alive and well. Plus we get the tease of the Hirogen who would play a role for vet next few episodes.

The only real weaknesses were the dumb Paris/Harry plot about creating another EMH and the reason behind the Romulans stealing the Prometheus—which was a nice logical next step in ship separation—was ho hum. Was hoping it had to do with the Dominion War but I did get a big smile on my face when the episode referenced the Dominion War
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 8:50pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone

I always liked this episode and was glad to see it come up in my re-watch. A few thoughts:

Romulans: It's in their nature. I was reminded of Chakotay's story about the Fox and the Scorpion... They will always try to get a leg up if they see an opportunity.

Janeway had a hair helmet on. She dropped her head at one point in the episode, and nothing came close to moving.

Heh, Torres and her "Cloak of Belanna". When she was walking, they shot it dark, and the cloak was dark in the middle, and you almost couldn't see the bump.

My favorite little bit was when Doctor pulled the unconscious Romulan off of the console, and as they fell they would have hit a raised section of the floor, so she had to discreetly move and lay down next to it.

Yeah, it could have been better, but it was pretty good as it was. A big thumbs up from me...

Enjoy the Day Everyone... RT
Sun, Dec 3, 2017, 12:53am (UTC -6)
I could have done without the Kim and Paris stuff too, but overall a pretty good episode of The Orville...I mean Voyager. I liked it.

3 stars.
Bote For Lalo
Sat, Jan 13, 2018, 6:12am (UTC -6)
Seven shocking that Hirogen dude was HILARIOUS.

The Hirogen had great potential to be awesome in the beginning. Back when they were all 7-foot tall genetic freaks that had evolved to the point where they basically hunted "PREY" every day for sport. They even were wearing those awesome silver armor masks.

(I believe an iconic film called PREDATOR had the same premise for it's antagonist. VOY should have stuck with copying that.)

Because unfortunately later, the Hirogen suddenly shrunk down to 5 foot 10 dudes just wearing reptile makeup (and NO awesome silver armor masks), and then it became all serious and weird about how the hundreds of years of "HUNTING PREY" has diminished their numbers, and now they want to steal Voyager's holodeck technology.

It makes sense in theory, but to me -- BOOOOORRING!

They introduced this species as 7 foot tall hunters who hunt for sport in cool armor and collect "relics" of the humanoids they kill to display as trophies. A couple episodes later, they now suddenly look like average-sized dudes who look like office middle-managers. Certainly not like "HUNTERS".

They were awesome in the early episodes when they looked like over-sized brutes on a football team, who not only were smart enough to have developed warp technology -- but who also looked like OVER-SIZED BRUTES ON A FOOTBALL TEAM. That's scary! And they also just loudly bark at people when they spoke because they knew there were so intimidating. It was like watching roid-ed up pro wrestlers who also have PhDs in quantum physics.

They were fun while they lasted.

And when Seven completely read the threat of the Hirogen and then just shocked that dude with an electric pulse out of nowhere -- COMEDY GOLD.

Ah, the Hirogen could have been great.
Sun, Mar 25, 2018, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
2 stars - this one for me hasn't aged well. The B'Elanna/Seven/Janeway scenes are by far the best thing here, the Tom/Harry scenes are throwaway but not especially bad - it's the main plot that sinks the episode for me, it's simply too sitcommy and hammy both as written and as played by Dick (Picardo is excellent as usual). As drama it's not dramatic, and as comedy it's not funny - Picardo manages to get some genuine laughs out of poor material, but Dick's over-the-top rendition mostly sinks all their scenes together for me. The whole thing is incredibly one-dimensional (especially the Romulans) and too corny to fly. It's actually the weakest of the Doctor comedies, way behind later greats like Tinker Tenor, Someone To Watch Over Me, Author Author, Body And Soul and even Virtuoso.
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 12:10am (UTC -6)
I think someone else mentioned this in the comments, but I can't get over this.

Why didn't they send some other hologram to deliver the messages? Someone a bit more disposable? Maybe they could send Da Vinci, or one of the countless bikini clad characters from Neelix' holo-resort program.

All they needed the hologram to do was deliver messages. Heck, it didn't even need to be a hologram of a person. They could have just sent a hologram of the letters.

But, of course, then they wouldn't have a story :P
Wed, Sep 5, 2018, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
So wait...are we to assume from the EMH-2s dialogue that the new EMH program WON'T treat an injured person if they're an enemy, such as a Romulan?

Not exactly an upgrade...
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 11:16pm (UTC -6)
Really fun, while still managing to bring a year to my eye at the end.

A nice "first real contact" with home. Brilliant and creatively conceived.

Ok. I'm caught up. Must go to bed now. Good night, don't let the bed bugs bite, Trekkers.
Sean Hagins
Fri, Nov 9, 2018, 7:10pm (UTC -6)
Wow-I really didn't like this episode. The Mk2 hologram was beyond annoying! Funny, I don't feel that way about Neelix as many here do, but I didn't like the Mk2. I guess I'd have to get used to him if he were a regular. Most of the jokes fell flat too
Fri, Nov 30, 2018, 11:26pm (UTC -6)
Fun, action-packed episode that is somewhat important for the rest of the series although I think it definitely could have been a lot more. There is an awful lot going on here -- too much I think, such as the Tom/Harry plot trying to re-create Doc -- so I'd call this episode unfocused. But the highlight is definitely the 2 EMHs -- Picardo and Andy Dick make a great combination. The episode gets farfetched in some respects but that's VOY for you. Comedy is the name of the game here -- and on that basis, it's a success.

I think the Mark II EMH on the Prometheus was a bit too much of an exaggeration, critically speaking, but it made for an entertaining hour. I did think back to "Projections" for Doc to have someone to trade barbs with. The adventure in re-taking the Prometheus was fun but I do wish the episode had been able to spend more time on relaying news of VOY to Star Fleet and getting more about news in the AQ (Dominion War etc.) back to VOY -- instead of Doc's 2-minute recap at the end. Janeway's line at the end was a nice cap on the episode that gives the crew hope, which is what we want after all.

Good that the episode kept up the theme of 7's difficult integration in to the VOY crew -- little bits like this about inter-relationships within the crew should be sprinkled into episodes frequently and not be regarded as frivolous. But the Tom/Harry comedy routine recreating Doc went on for too long. We can certainly appreciate the special relationships between certain members of the crew, but I think this episode is meant to be a pivot point, planting some seeds for new arcs (including the Hirogen) so episode time has to be used more judiciously.

Thought the Prometheus "concept ship" was cool -- but the farfetched part is how the separation takes place and Doc just says attack pattern alpha and that drives away the Romulans. The ending had to be resolved and so the writers waived their magic wands... Poor overall planning in writing this episode.

2.5 stars for "Message in a Bottle" -- Doc is one of the stars of the show and it's rare to have a bad Doc episode ("Darkling" not withstanding). This one was largely an excuse to get Picard and Dick to do a schtick but there's plenty of meaningful stuff here that isn't given enough time to ponder (message from crew to home and back, news about AQ etc.)
Thu, Feb 7, 2019, 11:23pm (UTC -6)
I always enjoy Doctor episodes, and pairing him with Andy Dick was genius. And the Seven subplot was interesting.

But when did the Doctor have sex?

And what's this about a "controversy" involving Bashir?
Sleeper Agent
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 10:41am (UTC -6)
"But when did the Doctor have sex?"

Well he did have a romantic relationship in an earlier season. Plus, he has access to the holodeck just like every body else. But I would imagine that he mostly tried it out to see what it was like, in general he seems very asexual.

Regarding the episode: it was entertaining and had a fair share of interesting ingredients, but in the end left me somewhat underwhelmed. Kudos to Andy Dick though, I was afraid it was going to get cringe-y, but he pulled it off satisfactory. I look forward to more Hirogen action; from the little we saw they look like a very promising villain.

2 Stars.
Fri, Jan 17, 2020, 11:55am (UTC -6)
I don't really understand Jammer's criticism about this episode when he says its missing its aspirations. It's a straight-forward comedy and it should be reviewed on those terms. I suppose there's some major (but really minor) series' plot-progression of Voyager contacting the AQ, but all the details about the impact of the contact don't need to be explained here.

Judging by comedy, I think this works really well. Voyager is often at it's best when it's not trying to be serious. Picardo is great, and the Romulan cast was well-performed (there's a TWoK veteran playing the Romulan Commander). Andy Dick is okay, but a bit grating for me. I do tend to agree with Jammer that we get one too many self-congratulatory doctor monologues from the pair.

The ship itself, the Prometheus - which likely is using a touched up Enterprise E set - is an incredibly beautiful backdrop. I liked the tri-body attack pattern which beckons memories of the saucer separation maneuver Riker attempted in "The Best of Both Worlds" -- only more effective. The prototype Starfleet ship oozes with a sense of a post-TNG Starfleet that we didn't get enough of in DS9. Speaking of DS9, the Dominion got named dropped, and they also had those weird commando-type Starfleet officers we see abundantly in "The Siege of AR-558".

There's probably a message here that AQ is not doing much better than the DQ. Like William B mentions there's something about The Doctor that symbolizes that being in the DQ really is making him - and more broadly - the Voyager crew better people. That speaks to the show's theme and I like that. I won't get into the plausibility of the Romulan scheme, although admittedly convoluted, it was just nice to see the Romulans who weren't around very much post-TNG.

I'll go 3.5 stars.
Tue, May 12, 2020, 7:24am (UTC -6)
This is a pivotal episode in Voyager's overall storyline, without a doubt, and it's interesting that so much of it is played for comedy. It's not that the whole situation isn't dramatic, because it certainly is. There is the possibility that Voyager could lose its only doctor, who the crew genuinely cannot afford to lose. There's the risk of Starfleet losing their experimental new starship to the Romulans. There is the dangerous new adversary in the form of the Hirogen, not to be taken lightly as the next few episodes will show. So there are plenty of high stakes events going on in the episode.

The comedy comes from the Doctor being out of his depth and having to think on his feet and improvise as he deals with the stolen starship and bunch of Romulans. Picardo's role doesn't feel forced, while the EMH Mark 2 does. I always have a hard time taking Andy Dick's EMH seriously as a medical program given the way he plays the character so broadly. Even so, the episode is successful as a comedy team-up between two egotistical EMHs who can barely stop competing with each other long enough to cooperate, and it's always fun to watch. It's also good to see that time has moved on back in the Alpha Quadrant with the updated Starfleet uniforms and mention of the Dominion war.

The ending scene is just so well played, particularly Picardo's earnest delivery of the line "I did it!" For once the Doctor is not puffing himself up, he's genuinely excited to convey the news that he let Starfleet know that the Voyager crew is alive and well. It's a sincere payoff for both the episode and for three and a half years of Voyager.
Tue, Sep 1, 2020, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this one, season four has been an improvement over the previous seasons. It does seem to need a little polishing, but overall I am enjoying it.
Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 10:14pm (UTC -6)
FWIW, I really didn't like this one. I'd have been tempted to subtract an entire star from it.

Am I taking crazy pills? Andy Dick is insufferably annoying. He possesses none of Picardo's charm. I wanted his holomatrix to be destabilized from the instant he started talking. :| Ugh.

Jammer's on the money with the idea that the dramatic stakes in this episode were heavily watered down by the "snappy comedy angle."

Oh, please. (scoff, scoff scoff)
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was ill-conceived. While the Doctor's adventure is a reasonably funny (not as funny as it thinks it is), it's comedic tone clashes oddly against the episode's more serious shipboard drama.

Personally, I'd have preferred the entire episode be played as a straight drama. I'd have had the Doctor visit a Starfleet vessel that is busy surviving attacks from the Dominion. Too preoccupied to care much about Voyager's plight (the Alpha Quadrant has problems of its own!), the Doctor is ignored until the Starfleet vessel is safe. The captain of the vessel then takes it closer to the alien communications relay, where he talks to Janeway. His mood shifts from skepticism (is this a Dominion trick?), to urgency (he contacts Starfleet), to despondency (there's no way to get them back). He has several sad talks across the relay with Janeway, prior to assuring her that Starfleet will do everything it can to help.

I'd have ditched the entire Doctor adventure, ditched Andy Dick, ditched the "Harry Kim makes a Second Doctor subplot", and ditched the awful "Multi-Vector Attack Mode" (which seems out of a "Transformers" or "Power Rangers" cartoon).

Yes, "Message in a Bottle" still works, and yes it's a decent comedy outing, and yes the Doctor's "disconnection" from home and so safety cleverly mirrors Voyager's desire for "connection" with home and so safety, but IMO this episode had the potential to be another "Eye of the Needle". This was the perfect time for a really sombre drama.
Peter G.
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 6:49pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

" the Doctor's adventure is a reasonably funny (not as funny as it thinks it is)"

I think this is actually a core criticism, not one merely incidental to your misgivings about the episode in general. I feel that in general the VOY writers really didn't have their feet squarely on the ground when estimating their own scenes. They seem to be drinking the delusion juice a lot of the time. I rather enjoy Picardo, especially his tour de force work as Johnny Cab, but one has to be in reality in order to know how to move scenes forward. If you've got Robin Williams on your hands, you can hand him the mic and just let anything happen with the blind trust he'll be funny. And the VOY writers seem to almost feel this is what they're dealing with in Picard, and they're just not. He's quite droll, and I like his sarcasm (my favorite iteration of him is in the pilot), but he's not creating hilarity onscreen. And for that matter neither is Andy Dick. But many of his scenes are written in such a way as to only function properly if the audience simply adores him and laughs out loud every time. If they don't, it's not just that the scenes don't come off quite right, but actually don't make sense. The stylized humor in the Picardo/Dick scenes breaks genre unless the laughs fill in the gaps. No laughs, and you're just left with camp.

The same is true, but in a different way, with Chakotay. Aside from the danger of crossing the line into patronizing racism with his native American stories, there is also the basic question of whether anyone cares. If the audience is not positively intrigued by exploration into this topic, any scene of his will end up falling on its face. One has to have a bit of a clue to write material like this correctly (or like comedy).

I don't actually dislike Message in a Bottle outright, I'd even call it above average, but that's mainly because it's energetic and inventive. I tend to agree with you, Trent, that *what* it invents is questionable, but it definitely woke me up when it first aired. For what it's worth, as a teenager I thought the Transformers attack scene was cool. So it has appeal on at least some level of the primitive psyche.
Thu, Nov 25, 2021, 10:11am (UTC -6)

"The EMH vs. Romulans plot was definitely FUN (Dick & Picardo together is a hoot)."

I recall that at the time, at least one reviewer referred to holo-Picardo and holo-Dick as "the Frasier and Niles of Starfleet." They did remind me of those two characters' relationship.
Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 9:26pm (UTC -6)
Among others, this episode featured Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:42pm (UTC -6)
Was anyone else confused by the fact that convincing the computer there was a serious biohazard on the ship caused it to *open* the whole ventilation system, instead of isolating the supposed threat by shutting the system down?
Sat, Jan 1, 2022, 5:33am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.
patronizing racism? Seriously? As a Native American , i am so sick of this argument. It’s ridiculous, and not even a little bit true. Believable Native American representation in popular media is almost unheard of, and voyager achieves this quite effectively. Chakotay’s stories suffer from the same issues as the rest of Voyager, and it has absolutely nothing to do with racism.
Sun, Jan 2, 2022, 2:15am (UTC -6)
Basically it boils down to two EMHs who can't shoot straight while trying to retake a stolen vessel....
Even if the mental effects of the episode's main event could be reduced to a minimum, so much is stuffed into the total package, that the viewer's mind remains under threat of warp core breach. The short list includes (1) an experimental Federation ship that can separate into multiple sections (the so-called multi-vector assault mode), (2) Romulan hijackers of that ship (and its assault mode), (3) a sub-plot about Seven's rudeness (and her first "Thank you") with a connected exchange wherein Chakotay handily dresses down B'Elanna, (4) a second sub-plot arising out of Paris's rebellion against his medical duties as fill-in for the Doctor which features Harry attempting to design a replacement EMH, (5) introduction of the Delta quadrant communication array and its bellicose Hirogen owners (6) Neelix making chili so hot that it doubles over two of Voyager's crew with debilitating heartburn. Nary a Rolaid to be found outside of sickbay.

Add to this roster of elements, the stated death of 27 Federation crew, one demise actually being shown, the destruction (implied) of a small starfleet warship, the wounding of one Romulan, who subsequently lies on a table in sickbay for at least ten minutes in real time, and while evidently semi-conscious, does nothing to alert other Romulans to EMH skullduggery. What a glaring contrivance. The gullibility of the Romulan commander played by Judson Scott (Khan's son ? or acolyte from Star Trek II) when facing the Doctor's suspicious behavior, is completely unbelievable. The final space battle, in which the bumbling EMHs fire on Star Fleet as well as Romulan vessels left me pretty numb.

This comes very near to pulling out all the stops of an episode, but for all that, and even though entertaining on some level, leaves the viewer hungry for real substance.

2 stars.
Chattering Chaingang
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 1:50am (UTC -6)
While I very much missed the potential for more interplay between the 2 quadrants and getting some emotional closure for families and friends for those on Voyager and their loved ones on earth, I did have a swell time with this brother from another motherboard adventure.
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
This was 1.5 for me at best, with the Torres/Seven and Harry/Tom parts being almost the only redeeming qualities.

The urgency of sending a message isn't such that they would take the quick hack of transmitting the Doctor on such a risky mission. Seven just discovered a massive network reaching to the Alpha Quadrant. That a deep space Starfleet ship just happened to be in range at that moment doesn't change that urgency.

But what really sank it for me was Andy Dick. He was insanely annoying. I guess he works for some people.

I would rather have had two Picardos than this. It was completely impossible to believe the EMH-2 would be deployed. The EMH-1's initial personality was callous and rude-- a doctor with bad bedside. Nobody would let the EMH-2 touch them.
Tue, May 2, 2023, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
I think there's some irony in having B'Elanna Torres be the one to upbraid Seven for being rude.
Thu, Jun 15, 2023, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode.

BUT I feel it missed a (potentially) beautiful moment regarding the Maquis and their status with Starfleet.

Imagine, the Doctor upon his return informing Chakotay (and by extension all the other Maquis) that as the Cardassians were now at war with the Federation all charges on Maquis had been dropped? In other words the Maquis were right.

However, I think this was a conscious decision to keep the different Trek properties (DS9, VOY, TNG movies) completely separate, but (as we know now) a shared universe heightens the viewers attachment to the individual media that comprise it. What could have been eh?
Mon, Jul 31, 2023, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
An unfocused episode with good ideas, but perhaps too many - and that is what makes it deliver flat sometimes, and sometimes not.

@Jim The irony is not only already addressed by B'Elanna herself in a previous episode, but it's most likely restated here for it's thematical value.

This episode is about differences in personal growth, propping up the Doctor's achievements in many ways. Seven is a reflection of how the Doctor used to be, specifically more rude, and both are ona path to gaining increasing sentience, agency and humanity. In a sense, this is Seven's first season and she is where the Doctor started years ago.

The EMH MII is even newer, and the Doctor's annoyance comes across not simply as slipping back into his old, aggrevated persona, but as impatience with seeing this kid making the same basic mistakes as he did. I know from my own experience that it can be jarring to see someone younger that reminds you of yourself and your immaturity at that time, as you age.

The C-plot with Tom and Harry feels pretty off and unneccessary, and perhaps it is doubly necessary because the point of it is ALSO to prop up the Doctor - he is, as is proven by their failure, unreplacable. While thematically in line with what the episode is trying to convey, it would have been at least nice to see Tom not being such an asshole for the entire message but perhaps himself come to terms with the fact that the Doctor is his friend and that he shouldn't have tried to replace him. That would have in my opinion helped a lot with cementing the double nature of this episode as both being a comedy and seriously emotional.

As @Andersonh1 put it, the Doctor's more measured and simple "I did it" shows a great deal of growth for such a bombastic person as he is. It is that growth together with the fact that the Doctor has gotten more comfortable in his own outrageousness that sells him as maturing, and, as it seems when the writing isn't at its best, even more mature than the rest of the crew who can't even just be honest with him at times about how he is received but resort to passive aggresiveness or finding excuses to avoid him.

I wish I could have liked this episode more than I did on rewatching it just now, because thematically it is an important episode for a generally good character, that has meaning. I would have been able to swallow the unfocused tries to make all these different plot threads about character growth if they were followed up with some humanity. It wouldn't have hurt if they took one second for Janeway to commend the Doctor for a succesful mission, is what I'm saying, as well as other such honest and positive interactions between these people.

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.