Voyager Flashback: “Message in a Bottle” (s4e14)

With all the buzz surrounding the upcoming Voyager documentary, it’s hard not to feel the call of the Delta Quadrant. With four shows since it’s premiere, and at least two more on the way, it’s easy for fans to forget about The Little Ship That Could (And Did). Before we get caught up in the nostalgia, this series will note some of the significant yet rarely mentioned contributions of the USS Voyager and her crew.

In its fourth season, Voyager reached a point in it’s arc where the prospect of returning to the Alpha Quadrant seemed more and more unrealistic. After they survived their conflict with the Borg and the Undine (Species 8472), however, the crew had a renewed sense of purpose towards their goal. Having a new, supremely efficient crewmember in Seven of Nine was helpful as well, but the crew had difficulties adjusting to the brash nature of their former drone.

Despite the friction, Seven not only managed to locate a seemingly-abandoned communications array, but through it, found a Federation starship all the way back in the Alpha Quadrant. The crew was understandably hasty to communicate with Starfleet, and set themselves to the task of getting their message home. Little did they know, the array was actually property of the Hirogen, a nomadic, hunt-based culture that wasn’t exactly known for their diplomatic skills. Still, they bottled up the Doctor and sent him to the USS Prometheus to deliver the message in person.

The Doctor arrives in good spirits, but quickly discovers that the conditions onboard the Prometheus are dire. An experimental deep space tactical vessel, the Prometheus has been commandeered by a Romulan crew, leaving no surviving Starfleet officers onboard.

By using the ship’s new multi-vector attack mode, the Romulans evade capture by pursuing Starfleet ships, and continue back towards Romulan space. Pressed for time, the Doctor activates the Prometheus’ EMH, and banters back and forth in an attempt to convince the newer model to assist him in his endeavors. Like a true Starfleet officer, the Doctor immediately sets about to reclaim the ship from the Romulans, though it takes a considerable amount of effort and teamwork from the two holograms to do so.

The Doctor eventually gets back to Voyager, but before he does, there are several facts about the mission to note:

  • The USS Prometheus NX-59650 was an absolute powerhouse of a ship, equipped with ablative hull armor, regenerative shielding, and the aforementioned multi-vector assault mode.
  • Development and construction of the Prometheus suggests that Starfleet was attempting to build a fleet of deep space vessels capable of leading and supporting long-term missions, just in case Bajor’s wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant became inaccessible.
  • As the Doctor attempted to recruit the EMH-2 to assist him, he quickly realized that not all medical holograms were built the same, further highlighting his exceptional adaptive capabilities.
  • This was the first appearance of the Hirogen, setting the tone for another heavy-hitting Delta Quadrant adversary.

Ultimately, both EMHs were able to retake the Prometheus from the Romulans and pilot her through a potentially dangerous combat situation. Back in the Delta Quadrant, Lt. Torres and Seven of Nine kept the lines of communication open, despite the Hirogen and their stinginess regarding their communications array.

While Starfleet Command doesn’t make official contact with Voyager until nearly halfway through Season 6, “Message In a Bottle” does an excellent job of updating the Federation regarding Voyager’s status, as well as the quadrant-wide anxiety of the Dominion War.

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