Follow TV Tropes


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

Go To
The Doc and the Dick.

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.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: As Neelix only read the recipe for chili, he pronounces jalapenos with a hard J, making it sound more like Jolla-penas.
  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time Judson Scott played a part in stealing a Starfleet vessel. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Joachim (Scott) helped take over the USS Reliant with Khan.
  • 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.
  • Almost Dead Guy: When the Doctor first arrives in the Prometheus' sick bay, he discovers one of the crew members lying around is still alive, albeit gravely wounded. He revives the man, but he only survives long enough to tell him that the ship has been taken over by Romulans.
  • 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, as he had added too many jalapenos.
  • 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.
    EMH-2: Before you leave, perhaps you could download those subroutines into my database?
    Doctor: We'll see.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The EMH-1's activation greeting has clearly been passed into the next model.
    EMH-2: Please state the nature of the medical emergency. (sees the Doctor) What the hell are you doing in my sickbay.
  • 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 gives Mark-2 a List-of-Experiences Speech in which he brags of having crossed Borg space ("Scorpion"), travelled through time ("Future's End"), and encountered alien invasions ("Scorpion") and macro-viral infestations ("Macrocosm"). He then reveals that he's had 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.
  • 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!
  • Character 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)
  • Continuity Overlap: This episode overlaps with mid-Season Six of Deep Space Nine, meaning the Federation is currently embroiled in the Dominion War. As the Alpha Quadrant scenes are taking place in the post-First Contact era, this episode also marks the first appearance of the new black-and-gray uniforms on Voyager.
  • Conversation Cut: The EMH-2 continues an uninterrupted sentence as he and the Doctor are transmitted from the Ready Room to the Bridge.
  • Cool Starship: The Prometheus is a sleek warship packed with bleeding-edge Starfleet tech, and can split into three separate pieces all on autopilot to deliver Curb Stomp Battles.
  • 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: While they play it for laughs with a C plot on Voyager of Tom and Harry trying to program a replacement EMH, it makes a clear point. Tom is simply nowhere near competent or skilled enough to be a replacement CMO for the Doctor. Janeway's decision to more or less pressure the Doctor to transmit himself across an alien relay network to a Starfleet ship and hope he makes it really seems reckless in the extreme given the fact that if the Doctor is lost, they will essentially be losing perhaps the one irreplaceable member of the crew. While getting word to Starfleet of Voyager's situation would be ideal, it's hardly an immediate life-or-death situation and could have had catastrophic consequences for the crew if they lost their single qualified Doctor.
  • 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 an X: "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.
  • Expospeak Gag: Neelix brings a couple of crewmembers to sickbay, who are suffering the consequences of eating his "Rodeo Red's Red Hot Rootin' Tootin' Chili". Tom Paris (filling in in the Doctor's absence) diagnoses them with "acute functional dyspepsia".
    Neelix: What's that?
    Paris: Heartburn.note 
  • Face Palm: Tom's reaction when the replacement EMH doesn't work as well as he'd hoped.
  • 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 "Renaissance Man", he may not have developed the software to do that yet.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded", it's explained that each Starfleet ship has its own unique prefix code, which allow another Starfleet ship to access their computer and make commands remotely, thus preventing an enemy who doesn't know it from maintaining control. Curiously, none of the Starfleet ships sent out to stop the Prometheus think about using it. Of course, the prefix code can be changed easily (Spock himself mentions in Wrath of Khan that their gambit would only work if Khan didn't change his, for example), so it's possible Starfleet tried this trick off screen and only attacked once that plot failed.
  • 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!
  • 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.")
    • The Doctor, hardly a paragon of brevity, tells Mark Two that he should start a personal log instead of subjecting others to his boring rambling.
  • 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.
  • Internal Reveal: Starfleet and the Federation of course finally learn what the audience has known for over three Seasons: That Voyager (and the Val Jean) were not destroyed in the Badlands, but were pulled across the galaxy and left stranded in the Delta Quadrant. In turn, Voyager is informed that Starfleet had officially declared their ship and crew lost 14 months ago (so, at some point during the show's third season) before the Doctor told them what happened.
  • It's a Long Story/Locked Out of the Loop: This episode acknowledges what was going on in 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: (is about to respond) ...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. And 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 the 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. Also, Prometheus is sometimes regarded as the god of technology for giving that fire to humans. Makes sense for a powerful weapons platform filled with experimental tech to carry his name.
  • 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. Though in fairness, Moriarty was a fully-programmed character when he was altered; Harry was trying to make a new Doctor from scratch.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Cool: Multi-Vector Assault Mode. Sure, it looks awesome, but if you think about it logically, the space, power, and resources required for the separation and reintegration systems, as well as 2 extra sets of every ship's system to allow each segment to function individually, could have instead been used to simply give the Prometheus more powerful shields, weapons, and engines overall. Alternatively, they could have just built 3 small ships designed to work in concert, without even bothering with the separation and reintegration gimmick.
  • Seen It All: Played for Laughs as the Doctor tells the EMH-2 about his past experiences, particularly about having sex.
  • Series Continuity Error: Possibly with the Doctor not knowing who or what the Dominion is. "Caretaker" took place several months after the events of Deep Space Nine's disastrous first contact with the Dominion ("The Jem'Hadar" and "The Search"). Knowledge of the Gamma Quadrant would have been public by the time of Caretaker and thus the Doctor should have known. However, Starfleet only really had minimal intel on the Dominion at that point in the 24th Century chronology. Plus, the Doctor himself was first-generation technology and programmed for medical emergencies: hence, loading him with extraneous information might have been counter-productive. Also, as has been previously mentioned (and is shown again in this episode) creating or altering such a complex program is exceptionally difficult; in twenty-first century software parlance the Doctor might have "gone gold" some time before his installation on Voyager was finalized, with the designers counting on regular maintenance to upgrade his database.
  • 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!
  • "Too Young to Die" Lamentation: The Mark Two has only been active for six weeks. The Doctor's List-of-Experiences Speech makes him realise what he'll be missing out on if the Romulans blow them out of space.
    Mark Two EMH: My brilliant existence cut short; no time to explore the universe, no time to smell the roses, no time for ... sex!
  • Unusual Euphemism: According to the ship's computer the Prometheus is designed for "deep space tactical assignments". In short it's a purpose-built warship just like the Defiant, but Starfleet is clearly reluctant to admit that.
  • 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.