VOY: S4E14: “Message in a Bottle”

In which the Doctor goes on an away mission, Janeway makes an enemy, and the Doctor gets asked for some dick.

"I care sooooo much about your feud with Seven."

“I care sooooo much about your feud with Seven.”

B’Elanna is still grumpy from lack of sleep, and because Seven’s particular style of social dysfunction meshes so well with her own. Chakotay’s even fed up with playing peacemaker. Chakotay’s summoned away from the conversation by Seven, along with Janeway. She’s discovered a Starfleet ship on long-range sensors, which is a pretty good reason.

They are not detecting this Alpha-quadrant ship directly. Seven has instead found an abandoned, alien network of relays. One can only guess at the signal latency over so long a distance, unless the relays use a ‘deeper’ subspace protocol, or unless messages ‘drop out’ of subspace over time and that’s what accounts for the signal delay back in my old calculations. The Federation ship is just barely within range of the farthest reaches of the network, and Seven is tasked with sending a signal before the Federation ship moves out of range. She makes it with sixteen minutes to spare, and Janeway sends out a message into the dark. Sadly, all she receives is a bounceback, even though Seven’s scans show the message was sent across the whole network first. And with barely any latency.

Because of Science, they determine that they need to send a holographic data signal instead of an analog one. The rationale is that it ‘won’t degrade as quickly.’ They rush to send the Doctor, for his greatest away mission yet. He risks death and degradation on the network, and gets sent, arriving aboard the Federation Starship Prometheus, another of the spearheaded design that the Intrepid-class is a member of. Much in the same way that the Honshu takes advantage of the Galaxy-class saucer section, the Prometheus seems to do the same for the Intrepid, suggesting some economy of design when it comes to the shipwright designs. Unfortunately, the Prometheus has a restricted internal comms, and everyone nearby is dead of plasma burns. No, nevermind, the Doctor manages to revive someone just long enough to learn that Romulans have taken the ship. It would be nice to believe that this will all be taken care of with the secret passcodes Voyager was able to get during their last contact with the Romulans some two decades ago.

Ooooooo, shiny.

Ooooooo, shiny.

The Prometheus is being pursued by a a Starfleet ship, and the 27 Romulans are having trouble running silent in the new experimental deep-space-tactical hull. It also has something called Multi-vector assault mode, which the Doctor doesn’t get to elaborate on before the Romulans are fired on by the pursuing Federation ship and the Romulans go to test it. MVAM is a battle-ready separation mode that creates three independent ships – the saucer section, the upper nacelle pairing, and the lower pairing. This means that the Prometheus has at least two fusion generators  and a warp engine, and quite possibly two warp cores. It also suggests multiple main-computer core modules that network together, a dedicated tactical coordination routine, multiple battle-bridges each staffed by a high-(enough-)ranking officer. I can see a few logistical hurdles here, but it’s a pretty spiffy toy.

In fact, the saucer section seems to have its own dinky little nacelle, suggesting a third ancilliary warp core, enough to get any non-combatants to safety if need be. The MVAM works pretty well, but a console burned out, and one of the Romulans gets a shower of sparks to the face and has to be taken to sick bay. While the Doctor is trying to finagle his way into the systems, the Romulan sub-commander comes in, and he has to play Factory Settings. Once she’s gone,the Doctor activates the Prometheus‘s EMH so he can get some insurgency work done, only to discover that the EMH Mk2 is not Bashir like we were promised, but Andy Dick.

The EMH recognizes that the Doctor is not part of the regular crew, and on prompting recognizes the EMH Mk1. One Mk2 stops running its mouth, the Doctor gives the unneeded exposition, and then has to stop Mk2 from giving away their conspiracy to the Romulans over and over again. It’s as if there’s some sort of law of conservation of malevolent incompetence. Neelix has been getting less and less of a Jar-Jar so they need to introduce a new one to keep up the quota. Once the Doctor explains the situation, Mk2 deactivates himself because protocls dictate that they’re supposed to wait for rescue. Mk2 gives an “I’m a Doctor, not a commando” and hasn’t even been field-tested yet. The Mk2 also doesn’t believe in the Hippocratic oath, but eventually they come to an understanding – Andy will stay in sick bay, and the Doctor will go off to play Die Hard.

Voyager is stuck waiting for the relay to respond. Janeway is updating some letters home, and Paris is taking over doctoral duties because of Neelix’s cooking. He tried to make chili, and the universal translator fritzed out when trying to translate spanish-derived fruit names into Talaxian phonemes.

Oh how I wish I could say I was joking when I tell you that it's not even subtext that this look is "I'll give you my genetals when you've earned them."

Oh how I wish I could say I was joking when I tell you that it’s not even subtext that this look is “I’ll give you my genitals when you’ve earned them.”

The Prometheus is heading at Warp 9.9 (faster than other Federation ships) towards Romulan space, so they’ll have to knock out the Romulans. While preparing canisters of aerosol gas, they get to bragging about how well-endowed they are. First in terms of holo-emitters and freedom of movement, and then suddenly not a metaphor. Everything was going fine until Andy Dick showed up. The Doctor sends Mk2 to deck 17 with the gas, while he goes to the bridge.

He makes up a story about a rare contagious virus in order to stay on the bridge, and overhears the Romulan commander exposit about giving the Prometheus to the Tal Shiar, and gets caught when he goes for the environmental controls.

Paris is going stir-crazy in Voyager‘s sick bay after only a day or two, and demands Harry build a new doctor. Gee it sure would be nice if they had some backups, or even a factory default. Also, with nothing better to focus on, we next cut to the inevitable fight between Torres and Seven beginning to boil over. B’Elanna, to her credit, does start off with using her words, although honestly you’d think that an engineer would find it within herself to come up with “your lack of social graces is causing widespread inefficiency due to interpersonal friction. A small adjustment in your mannerisms would lead to greater efficiency over time.” You know, instead of “stop being rude.” You gotta use the right compiler. While they argue over whether recalibrating will lose the link, an incoming transmission comes through from the owners of the relay system, the Hirogen, who sever the connection.

The Romulan commander tries to interrogate the Doctor, who’s not intimidatable. The logs, however, reveal his entry time onto the ship, and they make the assumption that the Doctor is a dedicated Starfleet operative. At this point, the Doctor gives them the truth,  because it’s too ridiculous to believe. Fortunately, as they begin to decompile him, the Mk2 comes through. By simulating a biological attack and forcing the ventilation systems… open? That seems like exactly the wrong behavior. Either way, they now have the problem of piloting  a prototype ship with an unfamiliar layout. None of the controls are labeled, but the Doctor manages to burn out the clutch anyway, and initiate an increasingly angry series of warnings. The first one being a warp core breach, and the second being an incoming Romulan signal.

Janeway tries to negotiate with the Hirogen face-on-a-screen. He doesn’t seem amenable, so Seven creates a feedback surge that makes his console shock him. Admit it – you’ve always wanted to be able to do that to someone. She does seem to have taken the idea that it’s bad to just randomly kill people on board, although that’s probably just going to make things worse. Harry has finished programming the Doctor’s physical appearance, and is now uploading WebMD into him. This causes the replacement program to read Grey’s Anatomy out loud before crashing. If the Doctor doesn’t come back, Tom’s the new Doctor.

The Doctor and Mk2 seem to have cleaned up all the bodies on the bridge, and are now panicking at each other and flailing around, followed by some comms-channel shenanigans that delay the handoff long enough for Starfleet to show up and start firing as well. They fire off a torpedo and accidentally hit a Defiant-class, and then Mk2 accidentally activates Multi Vector Attack Mode. The good news is that MVAM, as was established earlier, is automated and takes voice commands, and the two of them narrate their victory.

After some sort of debrief, Voyager finally gets a response from the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager was declared lost 14 months ago, but has been declared un-lost. Starfleet knows of their plight now, and is working to help. They’re no longer totally alone, just at the end of a very long lead. Hopefully that feeling will make up for the brand new enemy they’ve just made – one with the power and reach to create a relay system that stretches 60,000 light-years.

Did we miss something awesome?