The Good: Decent character work, Good acting, Moments of humor, Special effects
The Bad: Continuity issues, Conceptual problem for Star Trek: Voyager
The Basics: When the Doctor is teleported across an alien network to a StarFleet prototype, the viewer gets the first realistic glimpses of hope for Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant!
Somewhere early in the series, Star Trek: Voyager lost its sense of purpose. The show, which was essentially plotted out to be Star Trek: Voyager’s version of Lost In Space, quickly became a rehash of Star Trek: The Next Generation and became forgetful of its own purpose, namely that the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager was attempting to get home. One of the few legitimate statements Seven Of Nine made in her first season on the show was to point this fact out. “Message In A Bottle” presents an episode that refocuses the show on the idea that Voyager is trying to get home.
“Message In A Bottle” presents an episode that gives the Doctor a mission and reframes the rest of the episodes that deal with Voyager’s attempts to get home. It also, unwittingly, reworks the Star Trek universe in a way that potentially weakens it. But on its own, “Message In A Bottle” is an entertaining and solid episode of Star Trek: Voyager and well worth watching.
Taking on more responsibilities, Seven Of Nine boosts the sensors in the Astrometrics Lab. There, she discovers an alien communications network that reaches back to the Alpha Quadrant. Utilizing the network, Seven Of Nine discovers a StarFleet vessel on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant where the network ends. Unfortunately, trying to send a signal through the network leads to a feedback signal because it degrades too quickly. Reasoning that a more complex signal will not degrade as quickly, Torres reasons that a holographic signal might not degrade and could move through the entire network, she and Seven Of Nine send The Doctor through the network.
On the other side, the Doctor discovers the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus. Unfortunately, the Doctor arrives after the crew has been killed and replaced by Romulans. Dealing with the Prometheus’s EMH, mark 2, the Doctor has to thwart the Romulans and try to let StarFleet know the Voyager is alive.
“Message In A Bottle” introduces the Hirogen, an alien race of hunters who will become a major villain for the rest of the season. The network that Voyager is tapping into creates a problem for the series, though. Either it is an ancient network that the Hirogen have simply taken over or the Hirogen are a race that has more territory in the Delta Quadrant than the Borg. Fortunately, the implication is far more the former than the latter.
Aboard Voyager, the crew rightly begins getting their hopes up about the possibility of getting messages to the Alpha Quadrant. To the credit of writer Rick Williams, he seems to get that not all of the characters would be as excited about getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. While the episode focuses on the Doctor, the focus on Paris’s contentment to stay on Voyager, happy to be lost is a nice character detail.
Unfortunately, Williams is somewhat weaker on the continuity for the franchise. Firstly, he has the Romulan Commander Rekar mention that he intends to turn the Prometheus over to the Tal’shiar. In addition to him and his people wearing outfits that look more like the Tal’shiar than Romulan military, it neglects the idea that this episode follows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “The Die Is Cast” (reviewed here!), which essentially destroyed the Tal’shiar.
Conversely, Commander Rekar is a decent villain. The Romulan Commander is a sensible adversary and he is one of the smarter villains in the Star Trek franchise. Played by Judson Scott, Rekar may be dispatched simply, but he is well-rendered.
Andy Dick plays the EMH-2 and this is one of his best-acted roles. He is funny, but he is not the ridiculously crazy performer he usually plays as EMH-2. A decent progression from “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” (reviewed here!), the idea of the EMH-2 is a good one and Andy Dick plays him well-enough to make one almost wish it were a recurring character. Dick and Robert Picardo play off one another exceptionally well. The episode, which could be overly serious is nowhere near as dreary as it might have been because the comedic elements work.
“Message In A Bottle” has the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus and the effects surrounding the ship and its multi-vector attack mode are very cool. In fact, with the way Star Trek: Deep Space Nine frequently reused special effects, it is surprising that the vessel, which could split into three parts for battle, never appeared in that show!
“Message In A Bottle” is a little low on character development, but it is a pretty necessary plot and it is well-executed. Fans are likely to enjoy it, though those just getting into the series are likely to be confused or not appreciate where this falls in the larger series. Even those who are not into Star Trek: Voyager but who love the franchise will likely enjoy “Message In A Bottle.”
For other works with Judson Scott, check out my reviews of:
The X-Files - Season Eight
“And The Sky Full Of Stars” - Babylon 5
“Symbiosis” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
V The Television Series
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the gamechanging middle season here!
For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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