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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 4 E 13 Message In A Bottle

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The Doc and the Dick. (Andy Dick.)
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A vast alien communications relay gives Voyager a narrow window of opportunity to contact a Starfleet vessel, so the Doctor is transmitted to the Alpha Quadrant. Unfortunately the vessel is an experimental prototype that has been seized by Romulan commandos, and the Doctor must gain the co-operation of its Emergency Medical Hologram Mark Two (guest star Andy Dick IN SPACE!) to take back the ship. Hilarity Ensues.


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This episode provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: EMH-2's first reaction to hearing that Romulans have taken over is to switch himself off. He's so inept at anything outside his programming that he can't even climb into a Jeffries tube properly, but when the Doctor is captured he quickly thinks up an Indy Ploy to rescue him. Justified since, as he later reveals, he is an experimental prototype program like the ship itself and hasn't even been field tested yet.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: It helps if you can climb into the Jeffries tube in the first place.
  • All Holographic Men Are Perverts: When the Doctor reveals he made a certain addition to his program, the EMH-2 eagerly asks if he can copy it onto his own database. The Doctor implies that he'll do it if he gets the EMH-2's cooperation.
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  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Spoofed when the Doctor needs to tell the computer to execute an attack and "Attack Pattern Alpha" is the first wild guess he can think of. Luckily for him, it does turn out to be a real attack pattern.
    Computer: Specify attack pattern.
    Doctor: Attack Pattern ... Alpha?
    Computer: Specify target.
    Both Doctors: ROMULANS!
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: When the Doctor is 'volunteered' to be sent to the Alpha Quadrant.
    Doctor: When I requested more away missions, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.
  • Beady-Eyed Loser:
    EMH-2: Ah yes, you're the Mark One EMH. The inferior program.
    Doctor: Inferior?!
    EMH-2: Beady eyes, terrible bedside manner. I recognize you.
  • Billions of Buttons: The LCARS interface on the Bridge throws both holograms into confusion.
    Doctor: What are you waiting for? Shoot! Shoot!
    EMH-2: There are so many controls ...
    Doctor: Find the one that says "fire" and push it!
  • Birds of a Feather: B'Elanna and Seven, and the two holodocs.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: Neelix's attempt to make "Rodeo Red's Red-Hot, Rootin'-Tootin' Chili" puts three crewmen in Sickbay with heartburn.
  • The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named:
    Doctor: I'm as close to a sentient life-form as any hologram could hope to be. I socialise with the crew, fraternise with aliens. I've even had sexual relations.
    EMH-2: Sex! How's that possible? We're not equipped with a
    Doctor: (cutting in with a smug expression) Let's just say I made an addition to my program.
  • Broken Record: The Prometheus computer, every time the Doctor asks it to do something helpful:
    Computer: Access to that system requires Level 4 clearance or above.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Doctor adopts his Season One restricted personality when interacting with the Romulans, a trick he used on Seska in "Basics, Part II".
    • In the pilot episode, the Doctor snarks at Harry Kim for handing him the wrong medical diagnostic tool. This time he's the one who picks up the wrong medical tool (as Technology Marches On In-Universe).
    • The Doctor brags of having crossed Borg space ("Scorpion"), travelled through time ("Future's End"), and encountered alien invasions ("Scorpion"), macro-viral infestations ("Macrocosm") and sexual relations (either "Lifesigns" or "Real Life").
  • Can't Believe I Said That: Three Romulan warbirds have turned up and their leader Almak is demanding to speak to someone. The Doctor tries to bluff his way out.
    Doctor: (in a deep voice) Our viewscreen is not operational. We've had some trouble with...Starfleet commandos.
    Almak: Where's Rekar?
    Doctor: In the medical bay. He's suffered minor injuries.
    Almak: Identify yourself.
    (The Doctor casts a desperate look at EMH-2)
    EMH-2: (whispers) You first.
    Doctor: You first. (realises what he said and winces)
    Almak: Repeat your last statement. I don't understand.
    Doctor: State your identity.
  • Catchphrase: It's pretty weird to see this being uttered by Andy Dick.
    EMH-2: Please state the nature of the medical emergency ... what the hell are you doing in my Sickbay?
    (Doc responds with Fascinating Eyebrow)
  • Cavalry Betrayal: The Holo-docs cheer when Starfleet reinforcements show up — only for them to fire on the Prometheus, believing the ship to still be under the control of the Romulans.
    EMH-2: What are they doing?
    Doctor: Firing on us!
    EMH-2: They must think Romulans are on board!
    Doctor: THEY'RE RIGHT!
  • Continuity Lock-Out: An in-universe variant, as well as one to fans that haven't kept up with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    Doctor: Is the Federation at war with the Romulans?
    EMH-2: No. The Romulans haven't gotten involved in our fight with the Dominion.
    Doctor: The who?
  • Conversation Cut: The EMH-2 continues an uninterrupted sentence as he and the Doctor are transmitted from the Ready Room to the Bridge.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Prometheus in multi-vector assault mode delivers this to a Nebula-class Federation ship (disabled) and then to a Romulan Warbird (destroyed), though a Defiant-class vessel helped in the latter fight.
  • Cut Phone Lines:
    • Halfway through the episode, a Hirogen who claims the array for his species arbitrarily cuts the link.
    • The Romulans locked down the Prometheus' communications system, preventing the Doctor from sending a distress call to Starfleet.
  • Detachment Combat: The Prometheus can split into three vessels to attack an enemy from all sides simultaneously.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: The Doctor boasts that he's had sex, presumably a reference to either Denara Pel in "Lifesigns" or the holodeck wife he created in "Real Life" (hell, probably both).
  • "Die Hard" On The Prometheus: Hey, you're the one that wanted more away missions, Doc.
  • Dr. Jerk: The Mark-II model of jerkiness.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: After the Doctor gets captured and the EMH-2 has to free him, he can't resist rubbing in the fact to his supposedly more worldly colleague.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: When the Doctor asks the Prometheus computer if anyone's left aboard.
    Doctor: Computer, how many Romulans are on board?
    Computer: 27.
    Doctor: Are there any Starfleet crewmembers?
    Computer: None alive.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: One Romulan Red Shirt cops it in the face, but (surprisingly) doesn't die.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The female Romulan commando who brings her wounded comrade to sickbay doesn't notice that the Doctor isn't "wearing" the new grey-black Starfleet uniform.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The two holographic Dr Jerks can't stand each other at first, but end up being quite proud of how they worked together to resolve the crisis.
  • Forehead of Doom: Tom knocks on the forehead of the EMH that Harry is trying to create. "Do you think we should give him a little more hair?"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Hirogen make their first appearance.
    • The "inferior" EMH Mark One being replaced (and the Doctor being transmitted to the Alpha Quadrant) becomes relevant in Season 6's "Life Line".
    • Apparently the Doc wasn't kidding about his additional subroutine; he later reveals that he fathered a child while stuck on the time-shifted planet for three years in "Blink of an Eye".
    • The EMH Mark 2 comments that the Romulans haven't joined the Federation's fight against the Dominion "yet". Later in the same season of Deep Space Nine, the Romulans would end up doing just that at the end of "In The Pale Moonlight".
  • Forgot About His Powers: The Doctor disguises his voice in a way that an ordinary human would, when he could have simply imitated one of the many Romulan crew members he interacted with. Though as he doesn't demonstrate that skill until Season 7's "Rennaisance Man", he may not have developed the software to do that yet.
  • Friend or Foe: Starfleet attacks the Prometheus after the EMH's have already taken it back, then the EMH-2 accidentally torpedoes a Defiant-class vessel.
    Doctor: You hit the wrong ship!
    EMH-2: It wasn't my fault!
    Doctor: Well then whose fault was it, the torpedo's? You're supposed to tell it what to do!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The "addition" the Doctor made to his program so he could have sex.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: The Romulans stealing the U.S.S. Prometheus.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The comparison to his somewhat naive and obstinate Mark-2 counterpart is a reminder of how far the Doctor has come on this path. It's also reflected with the contrast between how he behaves around the Romulans (basically, how he was in Season 1 before his Character Development) and how he is the rest of the time.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Much of the episode is more or less two cantankerous EMHs arguing.
  • Hand Gagging: Doc does this to the EMH-2 when he's about to tell the computer to sound the intruder alert, which would let every Romulan on the ship know a Starfleet officer was still active.
  • Human Mail: An odd twist on the trope with the Doctor being sent to the Prometheus via long-distance call.
  • How About a Smile?:
    • The Doctor finds an occasional "please" doesn't hurt in getting the EMH-2's help.
    • B'Elanna gives Seven a lengthy tirade on how she never says "Thank you". She gets one after congratulating Seven on zapping the Hirogen.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • After griping over Seven's rudeness, B'Elanna quite likes how she sends a 'mild shock' into the annoying Hirogen.
    • Also, back in "Parallax", when Torres herself, a Maquis, was a new addition to the Voyager crew she physically assaulted an actual Starfleet officer with whom she had a disagreement over an engineering issue! This was in addition to her own tendency towards excessively rude behavior. Making this a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
    • Plenty with the two EMH's snarking each other for being arrogant and out of their depth.
    • The EMH-2 sneers at the Mark One's "lousy bedside manner," but later shoves an unconscious Romulan off a console. (He does say "Pardon me.")
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
    • The Mark Two carries on the noble tradition.
      Doctor: We need to retake the ship!
      EMH-2: I'm a doctor, not a commando.
    • Inverted when Tom Paris worries that he might be stuck in Sickbay forever if the Doctor fails to return.
      Tom: I'm a pilot, not a doctor!
  • Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: Having been programmed in a Federation in the midst of war, the Mark Two is reluctant to treat an enemy soldier.
  • Indy Ploy: Happens constantly as the holodocs are hit by one Oh, Crap! moment after another.
    Doctor: That's the first thing you learn in the real world. Think on your feet.
  • Informed Ability: The EMH-2 has the new grey Starfleet uniform, as well as a few new and improved gadgets in Sickbay. Otherwise, we just have to take him at his word that he's new and improved. Then again, not many holograms in general have our Doctor's joie de vivre or breadth of experience.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Averted; worried that he's going to be stuck as Voyager's doctor, Tom ropes in a reluctant Harry to create another EMH. It starts reciting a medical textbook word-for-word until the program crashes, whereupon Harry downloads the textbook onto his PADD, hands it to Tom and tells him to start reading.
  • Instant Sedation: As usual, neurozine gas puts people out within seconds.
  • It's a Long Story/Shout-Out: To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (who were partway through season 6 at the time).
    Doctor: Is the Federation at war with the Romulans?
    EMH-2: No. The Romulans haven't gotten involved in our fight with the Dominion.
    Doctor: The who?
    EMH-2: (beat) Long story.
    • Incidentally, the episode of Deep Space Nine in which the Romulans do get involved aired less than three months after this one, and in the overall chronology of the shows was not long afterwards either.
  • Karma Houdini: Played with. The Romulan Empire doesn't get into a war with the Federation getting caught red handed in attempting to capture Starfleet's new prototype warship (though due to the Dominion War, the Federation has more pressing matters) and killing its crew with soldiers clearly wearing Romulan Imperial Fleet uniforms. But Starfleet did destroy a Romulan warbird, recaptured their stolen warship, and captured the commando unit responsible for stealing the ship.
    • Considering that the commander of the mission was taking the Prometheus somewhere other than his assigned target, it's likely the Romulan Empire decided to claim he was acting on his own behalf rather than provoke future conflict by claiming responsibility for a failed mission. Also since Federation wants the Romulans to come in on their side against the Dominion, it's in everyone's interests to cover the matter up.
  • Knockout Gas: Neurozine (a medical anaesthetic) is used as an Improvised Weapon to knock out the Romulans.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The Doctor is transmitted to the Prometheus not long after Romulan commandos boarded and killed the crew.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Seven says the Prometheus will move out of range in 41 minutes, which is about how long the episode still has to run. Ultimately, it takes at least several hours and more like a matter of days for the Doctor to complete his mission, report to Starfleet Command, and be transmitted back to Voyager.
  • Lost Technology: Seven taps into an abandoned network of ancient communication relay stations, extending their sensor range far enough to detect a Starfleet vessel operating on the fringes of Federation territory.
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: Prometheus has lost weapons, shields and navigation, and is being fired on by both Starfleet and Romulans. Neither holodoc has any idea what to do, when EMH-2 puts his hand on a console and inadvertently activates the Multi-Vector Assault Mode.
  • Meaningful Echo: The Doctor snaps "The End!" to cut off EMH-2's Badass Boast over having rescued him. Later though the Doctor gives a proud "The End!" at the conclusion of their mutual Badass Boast at having won against all odds ... though he adds "or not" when they see Starfleet officers beaming on board with phaser rifles.
  • Meaningful Name: In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the Gods. In this episode, the Romulans are stealing a powerful new starship from Starfleet.
  • Message in a Bottle: It's the episode title.
  • Mood Dissonance: Despite being a comedic Breather Episode with a generally lighthearted mood and a comedian as the featured guest star, the story starts off with the Doctor finding the dying crew of the Prometheus — a crew which was entirely slaughtered by the Romulans (not that we ever see more than two dead crew members and a handful of disruptor burns on the walls).
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Seven — justified due to No Social Skills and the fact that time is critical.
    Janeway: I've been "summoned". Any guesses what this is about?
    Chakotay: None.
  • Noodle Incident: How the Romulans were able to capture the U.S.S. Prometheus and slaughter the Starfleet crew manning her.
  • No Time to Explain: Justified as they've only a short time to make contact with the Starfleet vessel before it moves out of range.
    B'Elanna: (charging into Sickbay) Doctor, you have to come with me. Quickly.
    Doctor: (not stopping what he's doing) Would you mind at least telling me what all this is abou— (vanishes as B'Elanna downloads him into the mobile emitter)
  • Other Me Annoys Me: The AI version; the Doctor does not like his upgraded model.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: It had been shown as far back as TNG, and would be shown in later VOY episodes, that starship computers can create semi-sapient holographic individuals with specialized skill sets. In the case of Moriarty on TNG, this was actually a bad thing because he was created entirely by accident with one poorly-phrased command. But, just for this episode, they cannot cajole Voyager's computer into creating a hologram that even exhibits lifelike behavior, much less simulate any skills.
  • Power Perversion Potential: On hearing the Doctor has made an "addition" to his program, the EMH-2 suggests he might be allowed to download a copy.
  • Projected Man: Taken Up to Eleven with the Doctor being transmitted 60,000 light years!
  • Red Alert:
    (Warning beeps)
    EMH-2: Be-be-beep? Be-be-beep? I've never heard that one before.
    Doctor: Oh, no.
    EMH-2: What?
    Doctor: I'm not sure, but I think whatever I did initiated a warp core overload.
    • The Prometheus also goes to Blue Alert when its Multi-Vector Assault Mode is activated.
  • Red Shirt: The Doctor finds two in Sickbay.
  • Red Skies Crossover: The EMH-2 mentions the Dominion War off-hand to the Doctor, much to his confusion.
  • Seen It All: Played for laughs as the Doctor tells the EMH-2 about his past experiences, particularly about having sex.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: With two EMH's in the same room, it's a Running Gag.
    Doctor: We've got to find a way to turn this ship around.
    EMH-2: (smirks) How? Waltz on to the bridge and take over the helm?
    Doctor: Refresh my memory. Which of us has the terrible bedside manner?
    EMH-2: You're not my patient.
    Doctor: My first bit of good news.
  • Subspace Ansible: The introduction of the Hirogen Communication Array, one of these in Big Dumb Object form consisting of relays scattered across a huge swath of the galaxy.
  • Super Prototype: The brand-new USS Prometheus, an advanced Starfleet warship packing tons of weaponry, flys faster than Voyager, has a shipwide holographic projection system, and can split into three smaller ships in combat.
  • Techno Babble: Spoofed.
    (Warning beeps)
    EMH-2: Doctor, some... thing just went off line.
    Doctor: ... Specifically?
    EMH-2: The secondary gyrodyne relays in the propulsion field intermatrix have depolarised.
    Doctor: (rolling eyes) In English!
    EMH-2: I'm just reading what it says here!
  • That's an Order!: Chakotay doesn't actually say this to B'Elanna when she gets pissy about Seven, but it's clear in his tone.
    B'Elanna: I'm telling you, Chakotay — if she gets in my way again, I am not responsible for what happens.
    Chakotay: (Death Glare) You're a senior officer on this ship. Act like one. Find a way to deal with her!
  • The Triple / Must Not Die a Virgin: The EMH-2 laments how his holo-life is going to end mere weeks after he's been brought on line.
    "My brilliant existence cut short; no time to explore the universe, no time to smell the roses, no time for ... sex!"
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Janeway tries to negotiate with the Hirogen, but he isn't willing to listen. As he goes to sever the link a second time, he suddenly collapses when his own console electrocutes him.
    Janeway: (alarmed) What happened?
    Seven: (calmly) I generated a feedback surge along our sensor link.
    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.
    Janeway: (Beat) ... Is the sensor link stable?
    Seven: Yes, Captain.
    Janeway: Keep watching for the Doctor. Let me know if our "friend" gives us any more trouble. (casts Death Glare at Seven and leaves)
  • Walk and Talk: Opens with B'Elanna storming down a corridor on Voyager, griping about Seven to Chakotay.
  • Wham Episode: This is arguably the first episode that genuinely moves the metaplot along: Starfleet now knows about Voyager's situation. It might not be a coincidence that this episode comes almost precisely in the middle of the show's seven-year run.
  • Wham Line:
    • Early on:
      Janeway: A ship. What's so special about it?
      Seven: I've analyzed the warp signature. It's a Starfleet vessel.
    • And later when the Doctor finds an Almost Dead Guy on board that vessel.
      Red Shirt: Romulans ... they've taken over the ship! (dies)
    • And after the two holograms have stopped the ship's trajectory.
      Doctor: Unless I'm mistaken, and for once I sincerely hope I am, there are three Romulan warbirds on an intercept course. (followed by the best Oh, Crap! expressions on their faces)
  • While You Were in Diapers: "I was saving Voyager from annihilation when you were only a gleam in your programmer's eye!"
  • You Are Not Alone: At the end of the episode, the Doctor delivers a message from Starfleet Headquarters.
    Doctor: They said they would contact your families to tell them the news and promised that they won't stop until they've found a way to get Voyager back home. And they asked me to relay a message: they wanted you to know you're no longer alone.
    Janeway: (giving her famous Gooey Look) Sixty thousand light years seems a little closer today.
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