“Message in a Bottle” is the 14th episode of the fourth season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet and Maquis crew of the starship USS Voyager after they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant far from the rest of the Federation. Using an ancient alien relay network, the ship’s holographic Doctor is transmitted to the Alpha Quadrant to make contact with Starfleet Command.
This episode features a new Federation ship design called the USS Prometheus, which was designed by Rick Sternbach for the show. The starship forms both a major plot element and theatrical location for Message in a Bottle. It is also the first episode to feature the movie gray-shoulder uniform on Star Trek: Voyager, despite that the Voyager crew had already continued to use the old DS9 uniforms, as they are stuck in the Delta Quadrant.
After more than three years of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine uses the newly extended range of the starship Voyager’s sensors to locate an unattended network of alien sensor stations. Patching into this, she is able to locate a Federation vessel in the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant. Hoping to finally make contact with home, Voyager’s crew attempts to send a message along the relay but it is reflected back to them after degrading en route. Thinking that a holographic signal would be stronger and not degrade so quickly, they send the Doctor as a datastream.
The Doctor finds himself in the sickbay of the USS Prometheus, an experimental warship developed in secret by the Federation. He learns from a dying crewman that the Romulans had learned of the prototype’s existence and captured it, killing all crewmen onboard. Being pursued by the USS Bonchune, the Romulans initiate the first test of the new multi-vector assault mode, in which Prometheus splits into three pieces to engage hostile ships. This episode also contains a direct reference to the Dominion in the Voyager series when the USS Prometheus‘s EMH tells the Doctor the Romulans had not at that point entered the Dominion war on either side and is one of only two references to mention the Dominion either directly or indirectly overall in the entire Voyager series.
Seeking assistance, the Doctor activates the EMH, a Mark II version of the program (Andy Dick). The second EMH cites protocol for an EMH to deactivate when its vessel was taken over but Voyager’s doctor notes that as both ships are at stake, they do not have that luxury.
Using the pretence of an infection on board, the Doctor goes to the bridge in an effort to open the atmospheric filters to flood the ship with anesthetising gas and knock the Romulans unconscious. The ruse fails but when he is captured and interrogated, the Doctor keeps the Romulans stalled long enough for the EMH Mark II to fool the ship’s computer into opening the filters, permitting the distribution of the gas. Unfortunately, just moments after they take control, Prometheus is intercepted by three Romulan D’deridex-class warbirds.
Unfamiliar with the helm and weapons systems, the two EMH programs fail to fool the Romulans into leaving, before three more Starfleet vessels arrive to retake their ship. In the ensuing battle, all six other vessels target Prometheus. The EMH Mark II stumbles upon the command to put the ship into multi-vector assault mode. The strength of Prometheus is quickly demonstrated when it easily overpowers and destroys one of the Romulan warbirds. With that loss, the Romulans retreat and a Starfleet security detail transports over to Prometheus.
On Voyager, the crew has learned that the sensor array was not abandoned but is claimed by the Hirogen, who announce themselves and demand that Voyager disconnect at once. Janeway tries to negotiate but the Hirogen officer is recalcitrant. Seven of Nine buys time to await the Doctor’s return by stunning the officer with a feedback loop. After the battle with the Romulans, the Doctor gets through and materialises in sickbay. He has good news, he has briefed Starfleet Headquarters about Voyager. This is the first time Starfleet has heard from the vessel since it disappeared four years ago. Voyager has been removed from Starfleet’s list of destroyed ships and a message sent back, “You’re no longer alone”. Starfleet will be trying their best to help return Voyager and will tell next of kin that the crew is alive.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Nancy Malone.
- Writer(s): Rick Williams.
- Release Date: 21 January 1998.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.