A mess: "Message in a Bottle"

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Voyager' started by NewHeavensNewEarth, May 11, 2019.

  1. NewHeavensNewEarth

    NewHeavensNewEarth Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2019
    The bad news: the entire crew of the Prometheus has been slaughtered by Romulan intelligence services
    The good news: Andy Dick is here for comic relief!

    As part of VOY's tradition of "good concept, poor execution," here we have an episode that represents a momentous occasion: establishing contact with Starfleet for the 1st time since arriving in the Delta Quadrant. But continuing with the writers' pattern of only putting real effort into the writing of 1-in-4 episodes, we're given another one that's thrown together with bizarre scenarios along the way that is simply sloppy work on the writers' part - while still being regarded as one of VOY's better episodes.

    Examples:
    - The alien communication network absolutely cannot handle an audio transmission by Janeway to the Alpha Quadrant. Solution: send the ship's only doctor as a file and hope for the best.
    - The prototype ship of the slaughtered crew is about to fall into enemy hands, but amid the comedy, there's a need to talk about previous sexual experiences and sexual anatomy.
    - While the ship is at high warp, the main viewscreen shows stars at a standstill. (This mistake was later acknowledged by the show's production.)
    - We're told that nothing can catch up with the Prometheus, but oh wait, here are 4 Starfleet vessels that have caught up and are ready to save the day.
    - Somehow the Doctors unwittingly initiate a warp core overload on the Prometheus, but neither actor is invested into the moment at all, seemingly expecting the scene to be cut. The warp core overload is halted after pushing a few more buttons. Crisis averted.
    - Ensign Kim tests out a potential EMH replacement for the Doctor, and as the replacement Doctor is reciting a section from a medical textbook (from memory), Robert Picardo's eyes are going side-to-side, clearly reading cue cards that are nearby off-camera.
    - For whatever reason, the Prometheus' EMH has info on Starfleet deployment as well as current political/military knowledge about the Federation-Dominion war. He also refuses to treat the injured Romulan because he's "the enemy."

    The only way in which comedy can be tolerated in this episode is in the fact that they made the entire Starfleet crew disappear without a trace. The 2 bloodied crewmembers we initially see are quickly hidden from view, and it's like the whole crew was never there. Andy Dick is great, but this was an odd episode to place him into. They clearly intended for it to be a comedic episode from the beginning, but it played out in a way that was strangely disconnected from basic points of the plot. It was 1 more way that VOY chose to be cute & silly rather than take a grittier & more realistic approach to its circumstances. This followed for the rest of the series as it more or less went into auto-pilot.

    It's nice that the Doctor gets to play hero. It's nice that Voyager makes contact with Starfleet. But this is one more episode (among many) that is based on an alright concept that's poorly done in the execution. For most loyal VOY fans, the sentimental nature of it will make them overlook virtually all of this, but it's an important part of the autopsy of what went wrong with Voyager, because there are far easier episodes to pick apart (like "Threshold"), but deconstructing an episode like this says a lot about the overall writing when it had to do with a momentous event and wasn't a completely random stand-alone episode that can be easily written off.

    For those good 1-in-4 episodes, I'm a fan. But this wasn't one of them.
     
    Cutie McWhiskers likes this.
  2. Discofan

    Discofan Vice Admiral Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Discofan
    I agree that this episode doesn't make sense just as say: ST TVH but I find it very enjoyable. The duet is funny as hell and completely redeem an otherwise nonsensical episode. Hurray for levity! But I appreciate serious episodes as well.
     
    Seven of Five and DonIago like this.
  3. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    Location:
    usa
    Prometheus class starship:techman:
     
  4. Discofan

    Discofan Vice Admiral Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Discofan
    Prometheus was sentenced by Zeus to have his liver eaten by an eagle for eternity. The liver would grow back between two eating sessions... I don't why someone would call a ship after him...
     
  5. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    Location:
    usa
    I like the design. Not the name.

     
  6. TedShatner10

    TedShatner10 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    It was a fun, memorable episode, and the ship looked impressive.
     
  7. NewHeavensNewEarth

    NewHeavensNewEarth Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2019
    Yeah that Prometheus had its share of difficulties, too. :lol:

    I definitely appreciate lighthearted episodes (as long as they're still well-written), but this particular blend of gruesome + comical wouldn't have occurred in any other incarnation of ST. For some people, they'd consider that one of Voyager's strengths and makes it unique/different. But in reality, it reinforces the fact that VOY was more of a pleasure cruise in its latter seasons, and couldn't take itself seriously.

    I can point to several lighthearted episodes that I like very much, but the show didn't know when to get back to the grittier realities of its situation - and those lost things were what actually made it unique/different from the other Treks.
     
    Galileo7 likes this.
  8. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Location:
    A type 13 planet in its final stage
    I thought it an odd choice to do a comedy episode as the one they finally make contact with home, but I enjoyed the episode nonetheless.
     
    Galileo7 likes this.
  9. Farscape One

    Farscape One Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2017
    Regarding naming the ship Prometheus, he did bring fire to humans, among other things. So naming a ship after such a great figure makes sense.

    There was one thing that was an obvioud goof in the effects. Phasers were fired at warp.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    I'm not sure where this "gritty doesn't go with comedic" thing comes from. Doesn't every episode of TOS ever written combine the two?

    Anything with tribbles in it involves Klingons plotting gruesome mass murder. Anything with Harry Mudd in it involves disgusting crimes and mortal threat to the galaxy or at least the human way of life in it. The comedic relief character Neelix himself is the direct product of planet-sized Hiroshima bombing. But there's always a silver lining to every mushroom cloud, a stand-up routine built into every gunning-down.

    Frankly, I wouldn't expect much sense of fear from the EMH, who is the only hero character in this episode and, as he quickly points out when wrongly suspected of heroism in "Living Witness", invulnerable to phaser fire. Plus, he's designed to be unruffled by grit and gore by his very profession. Why should the medical hologram get excited about casualties or space battles? OTOH, him meeting another hologram results in perfectly natural interaction: imagine two dogs meeting in a burning city where their owners have been caught in a zombie armageddon, and finally finding something that catches their interest!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. NewHeavensNewEarth

    NewHeavensNewEarth Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2019
    Great example. In the earlier seasons, before silliness became the rule of thumb, they addressed that very issue of genocide on his homeworld. And there was nothing zany about it. They were able to take a serious approach to a serious topic, and it was a powerful episode. Putting Andy Dick into that episode would've been bizarre and unfathomable from the perspective of goofy comedy.
     
  12. Discofan

    Discofan Vice Admiral Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Discofan
    The successful comedic duo on the Prometheus was in high contrast with the failed comedic effect of Harry and Tom arguing over making a new EMH. Harry especially, is not meant to be funny. I think it's a problem with the actor more than with the material he was working with.
     
  13. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Location:
    A type 13 planet in its final stage
    Phasers are fired at warp all the time in Trek, dating back to TOS. It's a weird comment in the TNG Technical Manual which started the whole "can't fire phasers at warp" thing.
     
  14. Discofan

    Discofan Vice Admiral Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Discofan
    That's nothing! In "Relics" they beam people through the shields which is normally a no-no.
     
    King Daniel Beyond likes this.
  15. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2001
    Location:
    Great Britain
    ST like most if not all other TV shows is filled with continuity errors.
     
  16. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2001
    Location:
    Christopher Pike, future Orion Pirate
    Weren't they beaming through the shields of a hundred-year-old vessel? The advancements in tech could explain that.

    Kor
     
  17. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Or then the shields were dropped and then raised again. We're explicitly missing chunks of action there, out of a spelled-out "1 min 40 sec". VOY itself features beamings during heated combat (say, "Maneuvers" or "Dragon's Teeth"), without necessarily implying anything about shield penetration - merely about the speed at which shields can be dropped and then raised again.

    Phasers at warp is indeed bizarre. Why should it not be an everyday occurrence? Every single incarnation of Star Trek has done it, without any comment, from TOS on - save for TNG, presumably because the combined VFX of warp streaks and phaser beams was too expensive back then, and DSC, which simply hasn't gotten to it quite yet.

    ...Okay, not quite without comment. When our ENT heroes first do it, in "Fallen Hero", they are anguished when everything doesn't go smoothly on the first shot. Even to them, phasering at warp was already old news, something the manuals said the guns would do when told. But enough of that. The battles in "Message in a Bottle" are curious in a completely different way. Supposedly, the Romulans want to keep the new ship intact till the very last, but then Starfleet comes and starts firing, at which point the Romulans ought to wish for the ship's destruction, too. Three Warbirds, an Akira and two Defiants firing at the EMH duo (at least half the time), and they survive? Gotta hand it to those "regenerative shields"!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  18. NewHeavensNewEarth

    NewHeavensNewEarth Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2019
    And when the ship separated at warp, the huge top section just had 1 tiny warp engine that looked smaller than a runabout's.
     
  19. Discofan

    Discofan Vice Admiral Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Discofan
    Wow! I never noticed that!
     
  20. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Location:
    The clinic located by the Q Continuum
    Can't disagree. The episode felt piecemeal, but if nothing else the redress of the Star Trek V bridge looked cool! :)

    No audio but can easily handle a data stream since enough technobabble exists to get around transporters to send anyone else over.

    And I found it hard to believe any old EMH can get to any ship with EMH capabilities, and V2's backward compatibility must be nice. As I recall, our EMH didn't have the same access rights so that was a plus.

    I think they were (trying) in suiting to Andy Dick's comedic strengths, except Star Trek's attempts at comedy rarely worked to begin with. Maybe I was expecting a more serious character, or maybe everyone was just going through their lines without any passion that week. Even Judson Scott, who was more effectively menacing as Lt. "James" in the 1985 ill-fated "V" series, especially his earlier episodes.

    :)

    I don't read these ahead of schedule so I think we're on the same page about the script and actors not being so enthused.

    That and I find it hard to believe that AI like these EMHs could trigger something so, um, fatal and by accident.

    Homer Simpson averted crises by pressing buttons too... and that didn't need 45 minutes. :D

    I didn't catch that cue card bit, LOL. Was too busy thinking about the Red Dwarf episode where the crew find a replacement for Rimmer after he leaves in "Holoship".

    There shouldn't be any. It's definitely a plot contrivance to coast on. And the Hippocratic Oath. And so on.

    It does lead to questions begging for answers, except the story - which tries to be big - just feels less than the sum of its parts and I can't really pin what aspect of the story is the weakest, definitely script level, but the knock-on effect it had was felt throughout.

    The episode does want to be epic, but placing so much emphasis on comedy - rarely does EPIC combine with COMEDY, and this is an episode that reminds us they don't mix very well. Especially with the Romulan threat and stealing an experimental warship of all things... ball dropping has never been as disappointingly cringe.

    I think people adore the concept of the ship splitting, each with its own warp drive no less. For a ship it's radical, innovative, and way-cool. But the rest of the plot only shows how it was shoehorned very badly into VOY, as opposed to something DS9 would have made far better use of. And maybe that's the real problem, given the way VOY evolved. It's in the same universe as DS9, but in its own niche. It just doesn't mix.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019 at 1:05 AM
    Timo and NewHeavensNewEarth like this.