Category Archives: 2374

“Message in a Bottle”

It says "Welcome to the AT&T Long Distance Network. Please insert 25 cents to place a call"
“It says, ‘Welcome to the AT&T Long Distance Network. Please insert 25 cents to place a call’.”

Voyager finds an ancient relay network that allows Seven to spot a Starfleet ship thousands of light years away. When a traditional message can’t get through to the ship, Janeway sends the Doctor to make contact. But the ship (the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus) has been taken over by Romulans, and the Doctor must work with the vessel’s holographic doctor (Andy Dick) to save the vessel. Amid some fairly witty banter, the two EMHs are successful, the prototype ship is returned to Starfleet and the Doctor returns to Voyager with news that he’s informed the Federation of Voyager’s whereabouts.

Why it’s important

Voyager making brief contact with the Federation is hugely important, even if the ability is relatively short-lived. The cartoonish bad guys who control the relay network (the Hirogen) destroy it in the subsequent episode and Voyager doesn’t again have regular contact with Starfleet for a while.

As bad guys go, the Hirogen are pretty stupid, though the creators seemed to put a lot of time into their development and they show up a lot in season four. Still, we only mention their introduction here as a side note. The Hirogen aren’t that significant in the larger scope of Voyager or Star Trek as a whole.

The USS Voltron everyone.
The USS Voltron, everyone.

What doesn’t hold up

While this is a fun episode, there is just so much that makes me scratch my head.

For one thing, how did the Romulans get aboard the Prometheus in the first place? I don’t expect a ton of backstory on that — only so much plot and dialogue can fit in a 45-minute show — but presumably, they got there on a ship, and it’s odd that we don’t see that ship escorting the Prometheus back to Romulus.

This episode also is probably Trek’s worst example of using extras who clearly can’t have lines of dialogue. The most glaring moment is in sickbay when Neelix speaks for crew members suffering from indigestion (thanks to Neelix’s chili). Paris and Neelix talk as if the crew members have no ability to talk! The Romulan commander and helm officer on the Prometheus also seem to be the only two Romulans with verbal abilities. Oh, and did anyone else notice that the Doctor and EMH-2 talk openly about their plot while an injured Romulan is nearby and clearly conscious?

Last point. EMH-2 mentions the Federation’s war with the Dominion, which was going on at this time — with Voyager unaware — on DS9. But it’s weird that the Voyager crew seems to have no knowledge of the Dominion (the Doctor has none and Chakotay and Torres are seemingly unaware in the next episode), even though hostilities with the Dominion started a half-season before Voyager’s trip to the Delta Quadrant. But, bigger picture, shouldn’t the events here have pretty much killed any chances of a Federation/Romulan alliance against the Dominion? At least one Romulan ship appears to have been destroyed. Granted, a few months pass before Sisko’s skulduggery in “In the Pale Moonlight”. But still. I know this is supposed to be a light-hearted episode, but there was a major war going on in the Alpha Quadrant at the time — and the Federation and Romulans doing battle in previous Trek was always viewed as something that could lead to war.

Our antics are just about the only redeeming thing in this episode.
“Our antics are just about the only redeeming thing in this episode!”

Final thoughts

This episode is classic Voyager, and that’s not entirely a compliment.

It’s well-acted and amusing (Picardo really shines) and the side stories back on Voyager as the crew waits for word are actually pretty amusing. But there are just so many goofy logic and continuity issues. Hell, you could argue that Janeway was reckless sending the Doctor to the Alpha Quadrant when he had a good chance of being lost and considering that Paris is the ship’s next most qualified medic. At this point in the series, there’s no word of a backup Doctor.

Aside from that, the EMHs might be the luckiest photonic beings in the universe, given how they activate the “multi-vector” attack mode in a way that defeats the Romulans. Everything else on the ship requires a lot of specific knowledge that the EMHs, not surprisingly, don’t have. But EMH-2 accidentally hits a button and everything is fixed? Weak.

All that said, it was a nice development — with follow up in the next episode — that allows Voyager to communicate with Starfleet and let their families know they’re still alive. There are some things that don’t get mentioned — like the 10-20 Voyager crewmen who died in the previous three years and whether Janeway notified Starfleet about them. It’s also odd that there’s no discussion (yet) of how Starfleet would likely view the Maquis on board as criminals. Again, these aren’t items that wreck this episode or the next one. But not addressing them was a missed opportunity, IMO.

Coming next week …

Species 8472 is back — and it’s pissed.


“The Raven”

Incoming message / From: The Borg Collective / Subject: We'd like to add you to our professional network on LinkedIn
“Incoming message / From: The Borg Collective / Subject: We’d like to add you to our professional network on LinkedIn …”

Janeway is negotiating passage through a part of space controlled by the B’omar, possibly the stupidest (and worst dressed) aliens we’ve met in all of Star Trek. Meanwhile, part of Seven’s Borgness reasserts herself, she steals a shuttle and makes off into B’omar space for what she thinks is (in effect) her Borg mothership, which is summoning her with a homing beacon — making her think she should return to it and be re-assimilated. Tuvok and Paris take off in another shuttle to retrieve her, again violating B’omar space. Turns out Seven actually was being summoned by the ship (the Raven) that she and her parents used to travel to the Delta Quadrant, which was partially assimilated by the Borg (or something) and then crashed on the planet. The encounter makes Seven relive her original assimilation, but Voyager attacks the B’omar and saves Seven, Tuvok and Paris. Back on Voyager, Seven begins to think about her human origins.

Even we don't know what these things on our faces are for. But they're telling us you need to slow your roll Janeway...
“Even we don’t know what these things on our faces are for. But they’re telling us you need to slow your roll, Janeway…”

Why it’s important

This one’s open to interpretation.

At this point in Trek, Seven is pretty clearly the first human ever assimilated by the Borg. So, learning how that happened is important. That said, there are a lot of reasons why that doesn’t quite make sense.

For one thing, if Seven, her parents’ ship and possibly her parents were assimilated “nearly 20 years” earlier, it means the Enterprise’s encounter with the Borg nine years earlier (in “Q Who?”) was a lot less significant. Up until this episode, there was enough ambiguity around Seven that maybe you could figure she became a Borg without the collective knowing about Federation technology. But “The Raven” clears that up, which is really stupid ret-conning as it undercuts one of TNG’s best episodes and the suspense leading up to the original Borg invasion.

What doesn’t hold up

Putting aside what I noted above, Janeway really goes over the line in this episode with her interactions with the B’omar. She essentially declares war on a space-faring people (!) to save Seven. Or, at least, she won’t respect sovereign boundaries.

Now, sure, the B’omar are ridiculous, stupid and petty — and their demands before Seven takes off make very little sense (why would they require Voyager to go at a slow warp velocity if they want the ship to get out of their space as soon as possible?). But that doesn’t really matter. Janeway, acting as the ranking Starfleet officer in the Delta Quadrant, discards borders and attacks B’omar ships in their space. That she dismisses their hails late in the episode because she doesn’t “have time for this” is frankly alarming. Kathy’s certainly not helping the Federation’s Delta Quadrant reputation in this episode. But why start worrying about that now, right?

Then, there’s the matter of Seven’s parents and their ship. Back in “Scorpion”, information on Seven’s parents seemed pretty minimal. But here, Janeway sure knows a lot about them (this gets worse in future episodes, by the way). And why did the Borg “partially assimilate” Seven’s parents’ ship and then leave it behind? There are some ways this might have worked, but the creators don’t really try to address it. And, without the “partial assimilation,” Seven’s homing beacon wouldn’t have been activated.

Oh, and how did Seven’s parents even get to B’omar space? We’re talking 60,000 light years from the Federation! Again, there are ways this could have been explained, but the creators opt not to. Huh.

Lastly, Voyager loses yet another shuttle in this episode. Unreal.

Why do they bother locking the doors to the shuttle bay when we have an unlimited supply of them!
Why do they bother locking the doors to the shuttle bay when we have an unlimited supply of them!

Final thoughts

This is such a weird episode, as there are a lot of good things despite the goofiness. I really liked the scene in which Neelix tries to teach Seven to eat solid food (Ethan Phillips really brought his top form) and Tuvok’s interaction with Seven as they approach the planet where the Raven crashed.

But Janeway just comes across as so dumb and hard-headed. It’s a shame.

Coming later this week …

Andy Dick. For serious.

“The Gift”

“I require something… sexier… to wear.”

The crew is getting used to its newest addition, Seven of Nine (introduced in the previous episode). Unhooked from the Borg collective, Seven’s human physiology is beginning to reassert itself (hmmm) so the Doctor is removing a bunch of her Borg stuff. Meanwhile, Kes’s mental powers (noted sporadically throughout the first three seasons) are beginning to get kind of crazy, as she can see beyond the subatomic. Seven, who wants to go back to the Borg, eventually sends a partial signal to the collective and Voyager is faced with the likelihood that they might end up in nanoprobe town. Meanwhile, Kes is phasing in and out of reality and is affecting the ship, so Janeway puts her on a shuttle (which are like Pez to this crew, but whatever). As Kes phases out of reality, she sends Voyager 10 years closer to home and out of Borg space. As the episode ends, a now mostly human Seven begins her life on Voyager — in a skin-tight catsuit that made pants tighter for nerds for the next four years.

Why it’s important

From a production standpoint, replacing Jennifer Lien’s Kes with Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine is a big domino. But from a Star Trek universe perspective, this is the first time Voyager gets appreciably closer to home. We’ll see a few landmarks like this one in Voyager’s next four seasons, and we’ll likely review them all.

Please, great producer in the sky. Let me stay!
“Please, great producer in the sky. Let me stay!”

What doesn’t hold up

Well, putting Seven in the catsuit was pretty ridiculous. Granted, sexy women have been a hallmark of Star Trek since “The Cage”, but it’s too bad that the series that took the step forward of having a female captain — and had a cast that was notably PC — took a step backward and so objectified its newest character. Jeri Ryan probably doesn’t get enough credit for making Seven a strong and sympathetic character given the hand she was dealt.

Also, it’s interesting that the Voyager is said to have been taken out of Borg space by Kes’s gift, considering we see the Borg so often the rest of the series. I suppose Janeway was unaware at this point of what the Borg could do to get around the galaxy — we learn about their transwarp hubs later — but getting out of the heart of Borg territory really wasn’t that big a deal. By way of the Borg’s attacks in Federation space, Janeway should have SOME idea of the Borg’s abilities to cover vast distances.

I’m frankly not convinced about the whole idea of Seven’s human physiology “reasserting itself” once she was cut off from the collective. We didn’t see anything like that happen to Hugh in “I, Borg” or to the Borg freed from the collective by Hugh and led by Lore in “Descent”. The creators could have just had Janeway order the Doctor to remove all of Seven’s Borg stuff instead of making it seem like something the Voyager crew had to do. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have done that, as they make a big deal about how Janeway has to act as a de facto guardian to Seven who’s not yet able to make her own choices.

Another thing with the Borg, which we could have discussed in our last review: Does it strike anyone as odd that there’s no discussion of where the Voyager crew was during the events of “The Best of Both Worlds”? Remember that 40 starships were destroyed as the Borg made their way to Earth. We know that some Starfleet personnel escaped and we know that there were many unaffected Starfleet ships (given how many we see in late TNG and DS9 that couldn’t have been built after Wolf 359). Would it have killed Voyager’s anti-continuity creators to have had some dialogue about where Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris, et. al, were during the attack at Wolf 359? Voyager hadn’t been commissioned, of course. But those four were all in Starfleet during the Borg invasion (with the possible exception of Paris, who might have already been kicked out of the service). Maybe one of them could have been on a ship in the battle and managed to escape — or maybe one of them would have been on a ship that was too far away to get there on time? Why the Voyager creators constantly avoided this kind of easy point of continuity just blows my mind.

I find this appropriately... sexy.
“I find this appropriately … sexy.”

Final thoughts

Although Seven joining the cast looked like it could have been a disaster, it basically turned out OK. Her character added a lot to the series — especially her relationship with Janeway — and added some life to a struggling show. The worst thing about Seven over the years was that she often learned big lessons about being human and then needed to learn them again.

OTOH, Voyager became a show centered mostly around Janeway, Seven and the Doctor over the final four seasons, marginalizing some characters (with Chakotay and Tuvok faring worst). And that’s too bad, because Robert Beltran and Tim Russ both were good in their roles and the writers could occasionally find good vehicles for their characters (Tuvok in “Meld”, Chakotay in “Maneuvers”, etc.).

Coming next week …

Seven’s origin story and (possibly) the Borg’s first interaction with humanity.

“Tears of the Prophets”

We're all in love here. So nothing bad is going to happen. At all. Have fun in the battle I'm going to go read some Anton Chekov.
“We’re all in love here. So nothing bad is going to happen. At all. Have fun in the battle I’m going to go read some Anton Chekov.”

Sisko is tasked by Starfleet with planning a new offensive against the Dominion. As Damar and Weyoun ready for the attack in their closet/headquarters on Cardassia Prime, Dukat shows up, telling them that he can use a captured Bajoran artifact to enlist the Bajorans’ pah-wraiths (introduced back in “The Assignment”) and destroy Sisko in the process. Sisko readies to attack a planet in Cardassian space and is contacted by the Prophets, who tell him not to leave. Sisko, of course, chooses his duty over the Prophets’ warnings. The battle is a success, but a possessed Dukat shows up on the station as it’s happening and deposits a bunch of evil energy — I’m not really sure how else to describe it — into one of the Bajoran Orbs, killing Jadzia in the process. Sisko returns to the station with the wormhole gone and Jadzia dead (though the Dax symbiont is saved and sent to Trill). As the episode ends, a saddened and somewhat lost Sisko is back at his father’s restaurant on Earth, searching for answers.

It's as if millions of voices cried out at once then were suddenly... sorry, wrong franchise.
“It’s as if millions of voices cried out at once then were suddenly… sorry, wrong franchise.”

Why it’s important

This is another episode in the Dukat random-element series. It also connects him with the pah-wraiths, which is an important relationship through the end of the series, as we’ll see.

The Federation and its allies going on the offensive is big, too. The tide of the war was clearly turning at this point.

And then there’s Sisko and his slow and steady march toward a stronger connection with the Prophets. That will come to fruition more in the next few episodes, but it’s shown here. The Prophets clearly are watching and mindful of everything Sisko does — which is a (believable) departure from what we saw way back in “Emissary”.

Scene from the unreleased military procedural spin-off "NCIS: Lakarian City"
Scene from the unreleased military procedural spin-off “NCIS: Locarian City”

What doesn’t hold up

First of all, it’s weird — and clearly contrived — that Dax was left behind in command of the station. The more natural and common thing would have been to have Kira on DS9 and Dax on the Defiant with Sisko. But then, Dax wouldn’t be on the station when Dukat arrived and wouldn’t be caught in the crossfire.

Also, I find it hard to believe that Sisko would allow Garak on the Defiant’s bridge after “In the Pale Moonlight”.

Oh, and this is as good as time as any to bring this up. Dukat beams aboard the station (from parts unknown) because Dominion transporters can operate over extremely large distances (we learn it’s like three light years in a few episodes). So, why wouldn’t the Dominion get three light years away and just beam hundreds of Jem’Hadar on board the station?

Here I am, in a place where I'm almost never at. Asking the prophets if they like Becker.
“Here I am, in a place where I almost never go, asking the Prophets if they like ‘Becker’.”

Final thoughts

Sisko’s talk with Dax’s coffin is a high point of the episode, but so is the initial discussion with Damar, Weyoun and Dukat. One of DS9’s strengths was the great supporting cast who played truly well-developed characters. Jeffrey Combs, Marc Alaimo and Casey Biggs just hit it out of the park in this episode, and Alaimo’s delivery about Dukat being a “new man” was pitch perfect.

Oh, and I don’t care for Vic Fontaine so I won’t write about him much. Sorry!

Coming next week …

New Dax, same as the old Dax. Except shorter.

“In the Pale Moonlight”

Sisko's had it up to here. This far and no farther... wait. Wrong captain.
Sisko’s had it up to here. This far and no farther… wait. Wrong captain.

The war isn’t going well and Sisko’s fed up with looking at casualty reports. He decides that he’s going to find a way to bring the Romulans — who’ve had a non-aggression pact with the Dominion since “Call to Arms” — into the war to help the Federation. He enlists Garak’s help, and the plan starts getting messy. Garak suggests that Sisko invite Romulan Senator Vreenak (Stephen McHattie) to the station for a secret meeting and provide a forged recording of Damar and Weyoun discussing invading Romulus. After going to great lengths and doing a bunch of unethical things to create a recording that will pass muster, the deception fails, and Vreenak heads back to Romulus. Then Sisko learns that Vreenak’s shuttle has been destroyed, by Garak, in a way that makes it appear the Dominion was behind it. The Romulans declare war on the Dominion … but at the cost of Sisko’s self respect and possibly his soul. The episode ends with Sisko telling himself (in a personal log entry) that he can live with his actions, but he’s clearly not sure himself.

Why it’s important

Sisko’s actions though morally questionable, likely won the war for the good guys. The Romulan entry in the war changes the math and the Federation/Klingon/Romulan alliance goes on the offensive later this season. By the seventh season, the tide in the war had clearly turned.

Now that we've lied and cheated together are we besties ? Want to have lunch at the replimat?
“Now that we’ve lied and cheated together are we besties ? Want to have lunch at the replimat?”

What doesn’t hold up

For the second consecutive episode, DS9 really shook the Star Trek “way” to its very core. Sisko, by his own admission lied, cheated, made bribes and was an accessory to murder. It’s hard to imagine Roddenberry signing off — considering he was against his heroes even having cloaking devices. It’s arguable as to whether that makes this episode not hold up — the moral ambiguity of DS9 actually makes it hold up better than some other Trek in an era of shows like “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire”.  But as far as consistency within the Trek universe, what we see here is a big departure.

What truly doesn’t hold up is the idea that Sisko would take this all on by himself. Keep in mind that the Federation and Starfleet are HUGE organizations. Sisko’s plan here is the kind of maneuvering that really would have made more sense in early DS9, when Sisko was involved in the politics of Bajor, just one planet. But the idea that Sisko — in just two weeks! — could make such galaxy-altering moves is kind of ridiculous.

It's an ale!!!
“It’s an ale!!!”

Final thoughts

If DS9 hadn’t already established itself as the Trek series with the darkest tone prior to the sixth season, it certainly got there with “In the Pale Moonlight” and “Inquisition” before it. The creators really must have decided not to F around anymore. That’s not really a bad thing, but it was a clear uptick — a HUGE uptick — in the show’s narrative approach. Put another way, it’s hard to imagine Kirk, Picard or Sisko in early DS9 doing what Sisko does here.

Coming later this week …

Terry Farrell heads to “Becker”.