Star Trek 542: Message in a Bottle

542. Message in a Bottle

FORMULA: Eye of the Neede + Rascals + Basics

WHY WE LIKE IT: Seven tasers a Hirogen.

WHY WE DON'T: The comedy holograms.

REVIEW: With this episode, Voyager embarks on an actually pretty good Hirogen story arc. We're only teased with this new race here, but their first appearance must nonetheless be noted. All we know about them - except the fact they're not friendly - is that they use an ancient far-spanning communications network Voyager might possibly use to contact the Alpha Quadrant. Message degradation being what it is, they have to send the Doctor (a stronger data stream). The premise is ridiculous, since you risk destroying your medical officer just for a chance of letters from home. Actually, it wouldn't be so ridiculous if Star Trek didn't routinely ignore how computer uploads and downloads actually work. You're not supposed to lose your copy of a file if you upload it! (We'll have to wait for Living Witness to see a sensical, if anomalous, take on this.)

But that's all set-up. Once the Doctor reaches the USS Prometheus, you forget about the ridiculous premise and concentrate on the ridiculous plot. Though I'm not saying there aren't some fun elements at work here, the scales tip way too far into comic territory. Andy Dick isn't as funny as they would hope him to be as the smug but cowardly EMH Mark II, and while some of the brains vs. experience repartee is humorous, the slapstick is limp. The Doctor is good as good as ever as an insurrectionist, but when required to fight Romulan ships, doesn't even know where the helm might be located. By the time they're activating ultra-secret prototype defense systems by hitting buttons accidentally, your eyes are rolling so far inside your head that you can see your own brain short-circuiting.

One must agree that the Starfleet shown in this episode is one that has teeth. The Prometheus' rescue party includes two Defiant-class ships and one Akira, and the Prometheus itself can turn into its own little fleet. I guess the multivector assault mode is supposed to be cool, but it seems a real stretch from the days of the Enterprise-D's battle bridge. Three sections, all ably computer controlled? There must be a reason we never saw this design in the last battles of the Dominion War. Despite its new-fangled technology though, the Romulans have apparently taken it over with a minimum of fuss. Sadly, they're cookie cutter Romulans, none of them interesting in the least. A big yawn there.

Back on the Voyager, the humor is more grounded and so works better. Nurse Tom is always fun, and Harry's attempts at creating a new EMH have ridiculous results without seeming stupid. B'Elanna's personality conflict with Seven comes to a head and she has to call her rude. Somehow, this rather tame confrontation makes me chuckle. The episode tries to end on a more serious note as contact with the Alpha Quadrant is made at the series' mid-point. I'm not sure I'd agree that Voyager "is no longer alone", nor that the scene has the right impact thanks to all the preceding silliness, but at least it's progress. Progress that threatens the show's premise, but progress nonetheless.

LESSON: The bigger the file, the easier it is to up/download.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: An episode that desperately wants to be cool, clever and important, but is way too silly to achieve those goals.


Anonymous said...

EMH:Stop breathing down my neck!
EMH2: My breathing is mearly a simulation.
EMH: So is my neck! Stop it anyway!

Silly? Sure
Funny? I think I soiled myself the first time I heard it!

Siskoid said...

Some of it works, I agree. The cumulative effect is underwhelming.

Stephen said...

the ship design is really cool though and worth the episode alone

LiamKav said...

I kinda think it veared a bit too far into MASK or Transformers terratory. Now, I do think that Transformers are cool, but there's a world of difference in how you suspend your disbelief for starships in the future in a sci-fi show and alien robots from a cartoon.


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