"Message in a Bottle"


The following is a SPOILER Review. I tell you pretty much everything that happened in the episode, so if you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. Otherwise, welcome aboard, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.

I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it, not necessarily on how good I think it is; I leave the objective takes to others. I don't claim to be accurate or objective, though only on occasion will I deliberatly try not to be. But with luck, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.

So kick back and roast up a s'more. Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.


Doc goes a long way to learn he may be yesterday's technology, but he's far from obsolete.

Jump straight to the Analysis


It just wouldn't be Voyager episode if it didn't start with folks walking down a corridor. Torres and Chakotay do the honors this week.

Torres is spitting bile about Seven of Nine, who's been assimilating bits and pieces from engineering for the Astrometric lab and saying "irrelevant" way too dang often; Chakotay is getting sick of all the squabbling. He admits Seven is "difficult" -- but I just bet he says the same thing to Seven about B'Elanna.

"Part of the problem is your attitude," Chakotay says. "You've never tried to accept Seven as part of the crew!" Torres huffs that her attitude is totally justified. "What do you want me to do?" Chakotay asks at last. "Throw her in the brig for the rest of the trip home?"

"I've heard worse ideas," Torres says with a half smirk and a toss of her head. (Funny; that's exactly what Lt. Carey had said shortly after their arrival in the Delta Quadrant, as Doc was treating his shattered nose--mangled by the nearly brig-bound Torres.)

Seven of Nine chooses this tense moment to hail Chakotay and instruct him to report to the Astrometrics lab "at once." Chakotay winces at the tone, seeing Torres' reaction as well, knowing there's two kinds of hell he hasn't caught from her yet. Torres just looks smug. Nevertheless, he says he's on his way.

"Did you hear that? She's giving orders now," Torres rages. As Chakotay begins walking away mayhem dances in her eyes. "I'm telling you, Chakotay--if she gets in my way again, I am not responsible for what happens."

The last time she tried this power play, in "Day of Honor," Chakotay put her in her place with a rivet gun. History repeats itself. He pivots and strides toward her, growing in size as a dark cloud forms over his head. Torres blanches, realizing she just pushed too hard.

"You're a senior officer on this ship," Chakotay rasps, each whispered word tearing through her like shrapnel. "Act like one. Find a way to deal with her." He doesn't have to say "that's an order."

As he walks away, Torres shivers from the arctic chill of his parting glance.


Chakotay is met in the corridor by Captain Janeway. They share a bemused expression over being "summoned" by Seven. Any way you slice it, the ex-Borg's efficient speech, unfettered by such inhibiting factors as tact, is not winning friends, even among her greatest supporters.

Chakotay wastes no time when they arrive in the Astrometrics lab."Your call sounded urgent," he says; Janeway lets him handle the preliminaries while she stands back and looks put out.

"It was," says Seven, rushing from station to station, observing and monitoring the entirety of the galaxy as well as a lone creature can. It's a pale shadow of what she knew as a Borg--seeing the galaxy through a billion eyes at once--but it's no wonder the lab seems the closest she's come to her former comfort zone.

"I've been working to increase the range of the astrometric sensors," Seven continues, "and I have detected something that you should find of particular interest." She taps some controls, and the galactic map is replaced by a field of stars, with a tiny but partially recognizable silver speck in the center.

"A ship," says Janeway, approaching the screen. "What's special about it?"

"I've analyzed the warp signature," says Seven, showing she's learning the art of suspense. "It's a Starfleet vessel."

Janeway's jaw drops.

* * *

"The ship we're seeing is in the Alpha Quadrant," Seven says.

"You couldn't have extended the astrometric sensors that far!" Chakotay says, surprised.

"No. But I increased the range far enough to detect a large network of relay stations. They're alien in origin -- abandoned but still functioning. By establishing a sensor link with the nearest station I'm getting readings from the entire network. The Starfleet ship is within range of one of the farthest sensors near the outer edges of the alpha quadrant."

The screen changes again, showing the galaxy, with dozens of points lit up in an arc around the galactic core. Seven taps some controls, and the computer connects the dots, showing the fir-tree pattern of branches and backbones of a massive sensor network. When the range of the sensor "bubbles" is added, it's clear that this alien technology is vast enough for them to be in contact with it and everything within range of that monstrous grape-cluster of sensor bubbles right up to the moment they enter Alpha Quadrant City Limits. It could allow for sensor readings more detailed than even Astrometrics had made possible, every lightyear along the way home.

If anyone but Seven were making this announcement, they'd be hyperventilating. This is incredible news.

The only question is...what's the catch?

What would a Federation ship be doing on the outer edges of the alpha quadrant? They wonder. "It must be on a deep space mission," Janeway says without irony. When it comes to deep space, Voyager has rewritten the book.

Janeway grasps the significance of seeing Voyager's dot on the galactic You are Here map, and another dot over 60,000 light years away--then to see what that dot represents, almost close enough to touch. Odysseus may have felt something similar when he caught that fleeting glimpse of the home soil of Ithaca before the winds tore him and his crew away once more. Her mind furiously considers possible uses of this discovery.

Seven says their window of opportunity is short--a mere 41 minutes, according to the trajectory of the ship she's discovered. A red line cuts through the tiny bubble nearest the bottom of the screen, and the dot moves slowly toward the bubble's edge. Chakotay asks if they can use the network to transmit a message. Seven says yes, with some system modifications. Janeway gives the go-ahead, leaving the task in Chakotay's capable in-box.


With sixteen minutes remaining, Seven of Nine sends the final frequencies to Ensign Kim; she is alone in Astrometrics; he and the rest of the crew are on the bridge. Torres announces that they're ready. Janeway orders a channel opened, and speaks the words of their message.

"Starfleet vessel. This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. We are in the Delta Quadrant, at coordinates 18, mark 205, mark 47. Remodulate your signal to match our interlink frequency."

A few tense seconds pass. Nobody so much as breathes.

"We're receiving a transmission," Tuvok announces. Janeway gasps a little, then orders playback. The voice comes through in patches. The interference is heavy, and only a word or two is recognizable.

But the voice is Federation Standard.

Unfortunately, it's the Captain's.

Janeway hails Seven for an explanation, who registers surprise. "My readings show that the station picked up our message and relayed it across the entire network." Torres suggests that they widen the subspace bandwidth and try again, and Janeway approves. Seven tracks the new signal throughout its journey.

"The signal is being relayed. No sign of interference...Wait. It's being deflected back again." Sure enough, the message that returns is Janeway's, a tad clearer this time. A frustrated Janeway waves to Tuvok to cut the audio.

"I have a possible explanation, Captain," says Seven. "As our carrier wave moves along the network it may be degrading."

Paris asks, "Can we try a different kind of signal? Something stronger?"

"A holographic data stream might work. It wouldn't degrade so quickly," Torres adds. Chakotay points out that it would take too long to prepare such a message, "...Unless!"

"The Doctor!"

Janeway tells Torres to bring Doc to Astrometrics. "I'll meet you there. We don't have much time."

Torres runs as fast as her smock-concealed pregnancy will allow to Sickbay. (Speaking of which, congratulations are in order to the "Torres" and "Paris" families! Emma Rose Dawson was born January 16, 1998; Carter Jay McNeill was born January 21, 1998.) Those four metal emblems on the lapel opposite her combadge have yet to be explained; they jangle as she runs. [Update: many people tell me that these "emblems" are in fact the tops of tools peeking out from a pocket protector--an Engineer's best friend in any century. I know, I know, if I weren't so hung up on the number 47 I might notice obvious things like this. I'll try to do better in the future.]

Doc is cheerfully working on something medical when Torres rushes in, breathing heavily that he's got to come with her.

Doc doesn't even finish his sentence before she transfers his program to his mobile emitter, which she palms before sprinting to Astrometrics, heedless of the items that clatter to the ground when his body fades out.


"When I requested more away missions, this isn't exactly what I had in mind," says Doc drily, though there is little humor in his eyes. He stares at the galaxy, with the flashing icon following the bright red line, the Federation Starship on the verge of leaving the bubble of opportunity.

"You may be our only chance to communicate with that ship," the Captain tells him.

"When you get there you'll be downloaded into their EMH system," Torres says. "I'm sending an initiation code along with your program so you'll be activated immediately." Seven says they have 90 seconds before the ship moves out of range.

Doc asks how he's supposed to return. "When you've completed your mission, instruct them to move within range of the sensor network," Janeway instructs. "With luck, they can send you back the same way you came."

"Luck?" demands Doc, who's not used to trusting his fate in such an ephemeral concept.

"I won't lie to you, doctor. A lot of things could go wrong. We're relying on an alien technology to send you across thousands of light-years."

"So there's a chance my program could be lost," Doc says, gulping.

"Yes. I'm asking you to take that chance." It's a definite mark of progress that Janeway asked, rather than ordered, or simply did it without saying anything to him.

"35 seconds," announces Seven. Janeway gives Doc a pleading look.

Doc takes a deep breath. He sees the faraway ship on the verge of being lost for good. "Far be it from me to turn down an opportunity to become a hero. I'm ready."

Torres hails the bridge with an update. Doc stands in front of the galaxy, so we can see the ship's position. It's going to be close.

"Good luck, Doctor," Janeway says to him.

Doc frowns. "There's that word again."

He shimmers out of sight just as the tip of the Starship icon reaches the edge of the sensor bubble. Janeway's eyes offer a silent prayer to Luck--the greatest, some said, of the Roman deities, at least to those on whom Fortuna smiled.


An arrowhead pierces space. Similar to Voyager in shape, but more sharply angled. The shiny hull has clear Federation markings--and a registry designation that begins NX, the mark of an experimental vessel.

The scene shifts to a Spartan circular room with a bed in the center, almost entirely the pale color of Boston cream. It looks functional but unfinished. A wide, low-hanging ceiling light rests over the bed. It is into this New Snow of Federation genius that Doc appears in a triple flash of violet light. He looks happy to be here, intrigued by his new surroundings.

"Hello? Is anyone here?" he calls out. Nobody answers, but it doesn't sour his mood.

"Computer, identify this ship," he says, and is greeted with the familiar voice of Nurse Chapel. "This is the Federation Starship Prometheus."

"Are we in the Alpha Quadrant?" he asks, and gets a solid Affirmative. Doc beams.

He moves to a wall panel and taps in a few commands. "Sick Bay to bridge," he says, grinning broadly, thinking this may be one of the easiest missions he's ever been assigned.

Nobody responds. His smile fades.

"All right, this is Sick Bay calling any crew member. Please respond." Nothing. He begins pacing nervously. "Computer, is the com system malfunctioning?" Negative, he is told. He paces more rapidly, beginning to look like a caged animal in a deserted zoo at feeding time.

"Then why can't I reach anyone?" he demands..

"Access to the communications system has been restricted."

"Restricted? But this is important," he shouts, beginning to search every nook and cranny of sickbay looking for someone, anything, that might let him complete his mission and get back to Voyager. "Isn't there some sort of emergency com channel availa...?"

Wait, Doc, go back. This room isn't quite so off-white as we thought--there are a few oval scorch marks on the walls...and you just passed something on the floor.

As he tries to pry something open, he notices it--a crewman, looking somewhat less than alive. He finds another, slightly less dead. He grabs a hypospray and manages to revive the young Ensign. Barely.

"Try to lie still. You have severe phaser burns. What happened here?"

"Romulans," the boy gasps. "They've taken over the ship." With that final report, the boy's lungs rattle their last breath.

Gee--have you noticed that every time Voyager manages to make contact with the Alpha Quadrant, it's Romulans who pick up the phone?

* * *

On the shiny white bridge of the Prometheus, Romulans man (or woman) every station. The navigator, for example, is a pointy-eared Helm Girl. The navigator's female as well. The captain's a guy..but I doubt he's the sharpest scalpel in Sick Bay, if you know what I mean.

"Commander, there's a vessel approaching on an intercept course," Helm Girl announces. "It's Starfleet." The commander growls something about masking their warp trail, but Helm Girl says it's not easy using an experimental top-secret Starship stolen mere hours earlier. "We should have left some of the crew alive," she says, not quite accusingly.

The commander sits back in the lone Big Chair at the top of the OSHA-nightmare stairs at the bridge's center. "You'd be surprised how stubborn humans can be," the commander says, his smile cruel and cryptic.

As the pursuing ship closes, the commander orders shields up and phasers prepped.


Doc grills the computer for information. 27 Romulans are on board. As for Starfleet crew: "None alive." Not good. He asks the computer to give him details on the ship. The computer shows a wireframe view of the ship as it reads the sales brochure aloud. "USS Prometheus -- experimental prototype designed for deep-space tactical assignments. Primary battle systems include regenerative shielding, ablative hull armor, multi-vector assault mode--"

"Multi-vector assault mode? Describe."

"Access to tactical data requires level-four clearance."

Wait a minute. You mean they have internal security measures on this ship? Access to everything onboard isn't available to anything with a pulse?

This can't be a Starfleet ship. That makes too much sense....

Then again, it's currently overrun by hostile aliens, so I guess it can be.

Even so, Doc is clearly frustrated. "What can you show me at my clearance level?"

Hang on, Doc dude. You're about to find out.

The floor shakes. Hard.


A cool all-saucer Starship begins peppering the hull of the Prometheus with phaser shots, but Helm Girl reports that shields are holding.

"Engage the multi-vector assault mode," the commander says pointedly.

"That system has never been tested," Helm Girl objects.

"Then we'll test it now," the commander says, jutting out his jaw.

The ship takes a couple more hits, though the shields seem to be handling things easily. The serious fire is being exchanged between the eyes of the commander and Helm Girl. One guest: this is not a happy crew. Helm girl practices passive resistance. She makes no move to engage the MVAM. The commander finally leaves his chair and "commands" -- it's closer to a whine -- her to engage the cool new Multi-Vector Assault Mode. "Noooooooowww!"

He may be a weenie, but he is also armed. Helm Girl complies, despite her obvious reluctance.

The bridge flashes a deep blue as the computer begins counting down from Ten.


So does Sickbay. It is bathed in pulsing blue light.

"Auto-separation in ten seconds," announces the computer. Doc demands to know what's happening, but he is ignored.

"...Three. Two. One. Separation sequence in progress."

The room shakes harder than it had from the incoming phaser blasts.


The Prometheus, we see now, has four nacelles rather than the typical two.

The ship comes apart faster than the Warsaw Pact. We've seen a saucer section detach before, so that's nothing new. But when the drive section splits into two fully-functional, nacelle-bearing, warp-capable halves, we realize we're onto something new: a three-piece ship.

There's only one word for this display: Wow. One ship can become a squadron.


"We are in attack formation," Helm Girl reports. "Each section is armed and responding to our command."

A hit from the pursuing vessel causes a bridge panel to explode, sending a Romulan to the ground in obvious distress.

"Computer! Attack pattern beta four-seven," shouts the commander, his voice trembling with excitement.

"Specify target," says the computer.

"The Starfleet vessel. Bearing 162, mark 7."

"Pattern and target confirmed," says the computer, totally unconcerned that it's firing on one of its own.


Three pieces of Starship simultaneously attack the Federation vessel, surrounding it in a roughly triangular formation. The weapon and propulsion systems of the other vessel explode, but it looks disabled rather than destroyed.

"I think we should consider that a successful test," says the smug commander, as the navigator and Helm Girl share a catty look. "Begin the reintegration sequence. Then get me a full damage report." Helm Girl acknowledges, but notices the writhing crewman behind them. She rushes to his side and says the man is badly hurt.

The commander waves dismissively over his shoulder as he returns to his seat. "Take him to the medical bay." Yeah, I wanna serve with this guy. Not.

Helm Girl slings the injured crew boy's arm over her shoulders, hauls him up, and helps him limp to the turbolift.


"Reintegration sequence complete," says the computer as the room jolts again.

Doc's still thinking furiously. He has little idea what just happened. "Computer--is there any way for me to gain access to the communication system to send a message to another ship?"

"Negative. Communications access requires level-four clearance or above."

Note to self: get level-four clearance. There's stuff galore in that access level.

Doc hears footsteps and the swish of an opening door. He hides behind something as a Romulan woman assists an injured Romulan male onto the bed. He quickly composes himself and puts on his Bedside Manner.

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," he says pleasantly, announcing his readiness to serve as the injured Romulan lies down, breathing only with difficulty.

"Who activated you?" the woman asks.

"You did. Automatically, when you entered sickbay," he ad-libs.

"Can you treat him?" she asks, frowning. "Of course; that's my function." He scans the injured man as the woman observes him closely, not quite believing that Doc will really help him. "Third-degree burns, hairline jaw fracture, and a ruptured blood vessel in his brain. I'll have to operate." He walks over to grab the operating instrument try.

"You're a Starfleet program. Why should I trust you?" asks the woman, her distrust beginning to wane. Her options are fairly limited, unless like her Helm Boy counterpart she's a doctor and a pilot.

"I'm a doctor," Doc explains in a weird but not uncommon tone of voice.

There are times, like this, when his voice sounds very different. It's devoid of personality, a voice clearly programmed to speak in measured, soothing tones. You wouldn't think much about it from an EMH, until you realize that this Doc has become so much more, that his voice usually has a good deal more character to it.

I think it's intentional--Doc on autopilot is far more two-dimensional than when he's the more developed off-duty character we've grown used to over the years. It's a nice, subtle reminder of how far he's come.

"Whether my patient is human, or Romulan," he continues in that two-dimensional voice, "I'll do everything in my power to save him. You're welcome to assist me if you like--or maybe you'd just prefer to supervise," Doc's airy sing-song cadence concludes.

He has already begun operating, waving an instrument over the skull of the injured man, whose gasps diminish. He appears to be improving by the second under Doc's ministrations. Satisfied--for now--the woman accepts the situation and puts her comrade's fate in Doc's hands. "Report to me when you're finished," she says. Doc mumbles a pleasant Mmm-hmmm and continues working as she exits.

Once he's sure she's gone and the injured Romulan is thoroughly sedated, Doc gets an idea. "Computer, can I access this ship's EMH program? Or do I need some kind of clearance for that, too?"

"Access to that program is unrestricted." Huzzah! "Activate him!" Doc shouts.

A new figure shimmers into existence. Wearing the grey-shouldered DS9-style uniform with the aqua turtleneck of Medical. Tall, blonde, and pompous, the new Doc stands at attention and says the immortal words, "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

He turns and notices Doc. His demeanor changes instantly.

"What the hell are you doing in my sickbay?!?"

It rarely happens, I know. But Doc is speechless, open-mouthed with shock.

* * *

The EMH advances on Doc. "I've been programmed to identify every member of this crew. You aren't one of them." Apparently the EMH on such a security-conscious ship would be equally suspicious. Truth be told, this is not a view of Starfleet I like to see. Picard didn't react well to the secrets of the Pegasus; he might not be so happy now, either.

But then again, a lot has happened since Voyager left. This is not the same Alpha Quadrant by any means.

"That's because I'm--"

"State your rank and security clearance," the new EMH demands.

"I don't have clearance; I'm an Emergency Medical Hologram. I've been sent here to--"

The EMH's tone changes. Paranoia is replaced by arrogance. "Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes," he drawls, amusement creeping into his smug features. "You're the Mark One EMH--the inferior program."

"Inferior?!" Doc repeats with snooty indignation, yelping as if slapped.

The EMH smiles with self-satisfied superiority. "Beady eyes, terrible bedside manner--I recognize you." Doc blanches at the unflattering depiction of himself as the EMH moves over to a computer console. "But you're not part of this database. What are you doing here?"

Doc walks after him. "If you disengage your vocal subroutines for one second, I'd explain. I was transmitted onto this ship by a Starfleet vessel over 60,000 light-years from here."

"Sixty thousand light-years? We don't have ships that far out," says EMH, dubious.

"It's the Starship Voyager. We were taken into the Delta Quadrant four years ago by an alien force...what are you doing?" EMH is rapidly punching commands into the system.

"Activating intruder alert."

Doc panics. "That's the last thing you want to do!"

EMH stands at attention. "Security!" he shouts, but he's muffled as Doc slaps a hand over his mouth.

"Listen to me!" Doc whispers harshly. "This vessel has been taken over by Romulans. The crew is dead. You and I are the only Starfleet officers on board! Do you understand?"

"Inh unhrsnannh."

Satisfied, Doc lets him go.

"Computer, deactivate EMH," EMH says rapidly, defiantly, as Doc looks on in disbelief. The new doctor disappears. (Gee--it took a lot of persuading for our Doc to get the ability to turn himself off. I guess experience taught Starfleet that this was a necessary enhancement.)

Doc just shakes his head. "Computer, activate EMH."

EMH returns. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency." he sees Doc. "Now what?" he asks in frustration.

"I need your help!" Doc says.

"Starfleet security protocol 28, subsection D," EMH quotes in his own defense. "'In the event of hostile alien takeover the EMH is to deactivate and wait for rescue.'"

"I'm afraid you don't have that luxury. There are two ships at stake here: yours and mine! Now, I need to know more about what's happening. Is the Federation at war with the Romulans?"

EMH has calmed down enough to respond. "No. The Romulans haven't gotten involved in our fight with the Dominion."

"The who?" asks Doc.

EMH opens his mouth several times, then settles on "long story." The big question is whether DS9 will mention this. Assuming the two Docs can get a message through.

"In any case we need to take control of this situation," says Doc.

INCOMING!!! "I'm a doctor, not a commando!" [Who didn't see that one coming?]

"It's time you became a little of both," says Doc.

"You don't understand! The Prometheus is an experimental prototype, and so am I." He's pacing now, and finds himself staring at the unconscious Romulan on the operating table, which prompts a stutter of revulsion. "I, I, I haven't even been field-tested yet. I'm not designed for this kind of duty!" he wails.

He gasps and springs backward when Doc puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. I'd say his first activation is shaping up to be even more traumatic than our Docs's was.

As EMH hyperventilates, Doc does his best to reassure him. "Try to calm down. You'll do fine as long as I'm here. I have plenty of expertise in this area. Now, first things first. We've got a patient. You treat his burns. I'll repair the bone fracture."

A brief argument ensues; EMH doesn't feel like treating the enemy. "I assume you're familiar with the Hippocratic oath?" Doc reminds him. EMH accuses him of being a tool for the Romulans. Doc scans him and reports with a wicked grin that "your holo-matrix is unstable. It may explain your erratic behavior."

EMH's facade crumbles. "I told you, I'm a work in progress! I was only installed six weeks ago," he says, desperately trying to return to the blissful restrictions of his programming.

"Stable or not, I need you, and so does he!" Doc says, handing EMH a medical scanner.

EMH looks at it for about two nanoseconds. "He'll live," he says, voice cracking, throwing the scanner back at Doc. "I say we leave him and deactivate ourselves!" Naturally, Doc won't abandon a patient. "You're free to do as you please. Go cower inside the data processor if you'd like. I'll work alone."

EMH is halfway out the door before turning around. "We're medical holograms. What can we expect to do against a ship full of Romulans?"

"I'm not sure. Not yet. But I've faced my share of challenges--alien invasions, macro-viral infestations. I've crossed Borg space, traveled through time--" Heck, Doc should have tried out B'Elanna's Day of Honor Holodeck program. The Klingons would have loved him.

But EMH can only stare, wide-eyed. "Have you run a self-diagnostic lately? The EMH Mark One is designed to function in Sickbay only!" Doc tells him he's been running for four years, since the death of Voyager's CMO. "Four years? No wonder you're delusional. Your program's degrading after being active for so long."

Doc wisely avoids the truth of that assertion; it took radical engineering to fix his matrix a year earlier. "I assure you I am in perfect health. I was saving Voyager from annihilation when you were only a gleam in your programmer's eye! Now are you going to help me take back this ship or not?" His words are too forceful to ignore.

EMH (can I call him Mark 2?) thinks long and hard. His jaw sets. "Get me the thrombic modulator," he says at last.

Doc smiles at his victory, moves to the medical instrument table--and pauses. Some of the instruments are unfamiliar to him, and the thrombic modulator is something he's never heard of. He picks up a tiny pizza cutter-shaped item and raises it speculatively.

Mark 2 rolls his eyes. "It's the cone-shaped device! Hand it to me, please," he sighs in a voice of infinite suffering. Embarrassed, Doc complies.

"Medical science has made a few advances while you've been off in the...Delta Quadrant, did you say?" Mark 2 says, words dripping condescension the way his programmers intended them to. "We don't use scalpels or leeches anymore. I suggest you let me handle the medical side of things. As for retaking the ship--I'll leave that in your...experienced hands." Feeling proud of himself for a change, Mark 2 stalks off to do more superior medical stuff, leaving Doc to sigh in frustration.

The Romulan, wisely, remains unconscious.


Back on Voyager, the word of the day is Wait. It doesn't settle well on the tongue for any of them. Holding position, sticking to their posts with nothing to do but try not to get their hopes up. Torres, Paris and Kim look miserable.

Heck, if they look this miserable, you just know it's gonna end well.

Chakotay enters with an update from Astrometrics--holding steady but quiet down there. Seven of Nine says she's good for a few more days' work before she needs to regenerate. (Torres' face clouds a little at the mention of Seven's name.)

Chakotay sits, and notices Janeway staring at a PADD. He gives her a querying look. "Letters home," she says. "I started them a year ago. One to my family...one to Mark," she adds with a shy smile. "I'm making a few updates just in case....I know. It's premature," she admits.

Chakotay agrees. "It's probably a mistake for us to get our hopes up at all. We've been through this before."

Janeway stares at him. He breaks into a smile.

"All right, I'll admit it. I just finished a letter to my cousin in Ohio." Janeway slaps his arm playfully with the PADD and they share a cautious chuckle.


Neelix paces in Sickbay, casting guilty glances at two groaning crewmen sitting on diagnostic beds. He launches himself at the door even before he knows who it is, almost knocking over Lt. Paris.

"The doctor is in," Paris says with forced cheerfulness. He gets right to work, examining the two as Neelix says their troubles started shortly after they began eating. Paris' diagnosis is swift: heartburn. As he replicates the Rolaids, Neelix apologizes profusely. "It's heartburn, Neelix, not the Terrilium plague," Paris assures him.

"What did you feed them, anyway?" he asks, curious...and concerned for his own stomach.

"Rodeo Red's Red-Hot, Rootin'-Tootin' Chili," Neelix says with pride, as Paris snorts. "I've been brushing up on classic American cuisine. When we get back to Earth, I want to make sure I have marketable job skills."

Ooh, don't jinx it, dude. "Don't you think you're jumping the gun a little bit?"

"The Doctor is going to make it back and he's going to bring a plan for Starfleet to rescue us. I have complete confidence in him," Neelix says.

"I hope you're right. If not, I'm going to spend the rest of this trip treating upset stomachs..." Paris says, realizing the implications if the Doc doesn't make it back. The prospect clearly worries him.

Neelix assures Paris, "This is never going to happen again. It's just a matter of perfecting the recipe. Next time I'll use a few less Jaloby-nose..."

Paris silently vows never to set foot in the mess hall again.


Aboard the Prometheus, Doc and Mark 2 ponder their dilemma. Doc learns the ship is hauling hiney at warp 9.9 toward Romulan space. Mark 2 says proudly that Prometheus is the fastest ship in the fleet...so they'll never get rescued, he concludes, beginning to mope.

Doc says their task is to slow or stop the ship before they reach enemy territory. "How? Waltz on to the bridge and take over the helm?" Mark 2 asks.

"Refresh my memory," asks Doc. "Which of us has the terrible bedside manner?" "You're not my patient," Mark 2 huffs. "First bit of good news," Doc sighs.

Doc asks what kind of anaesthetics are available; "only the best," he is told. Doc picks Neurozine for its gaseous potential. "Show me a schematic of the ship's ventilation system," he orders.

Mark 2 balks, staring at Doc, who finally rolls his eyes. "Please?" Mark 2 gets to work. He discovers that the bridge presently controls the whole ship, including environmental control.

Doc then gets some good news. "It looks like there are holo-emitters on every deck!"

"There are. Unlike you, I'm not condemned to a Sickbay." The two constantly find ways to one-up each other. Too bad for Mark 2, he just picked an argument he can't win.

"As a matter of record, I have free reign on Voyager, and I can even leave the ship as well."

This catches Mark 2's attention. "Leave your ship? How?"

"My mobile emitter," Doc says as casually as his grin will allow. "A little piece of 29th-century technology we obtained....I'm as close to a sentient life-form as any hologram could hope to be. I socialize with the crew, fraternize with aliens. I've even had sexual relations."

Exqueeze me? Hold the phone, Bubba. Since when?!?

"Sex?" Mark 2 asks, interest clearly piqued. "How's that possible? We're not equipped--"

"Let's just say I made an...addition to my program," Doc says, rubbing it in further.

I can only imagine the fanfic this little revelation will generate....

The big question is...when did he make this little (okay, knowing Doc, not so little--he wouldn't settle for it) addition to his program? Was it for Denara Pel, or for his holographic wife Charlene? He is a father of two (well, one), after all.

Mark 2 shuffles his feet. "Before you leave maybe you could...download those subroutines into my database."

Doc gives him the you-scratch-my-back look. "We'll see."

First the carrot...then the stick.

Mark 2 suddenly seems more willing to cooperate.

"It looks like the only place I can access environmental control is from the Ops console on the bridge," Doc says. Mark 2 points out that there's Romulans on the bridge. "That's the first thing you learn in the real world--think on your feet," Doc says.

"Well, good luck then. Computer, deactivate--"

"Not so fast! You're going to Jefferies tube 17. The moment I unlock the controls you release the gas into the ventilation system."

"Jefferies tube 17? That's five decks up. What if I run into Romulans?"

"Improvise! Your journey begins here," Doc says, opening the Jefferies tube hatch.

Mark 2, clutching the three large canisters of Neurozine in both arms, makes several attempts to crawl into the tube. If you know Andy Dick from News Radio, imagine his character there trying the same move, trying to crawl in feet first with his arms full. We're talking wacky, madcap visual humor.

Doc finally grabs the canisters from Mark 2. "Traditionally, one crawls in headfirst." Mark 2 tries this approach, and finally succeeds. He pokes his head out and reaches for the canisters, before disappearing once more.

Doc slams the hatch shut, offering a silent prayer to the software gods that Mark 2's neural network had been thoroughly debugged.


Doc arrives on the bridge, offering his best smile. Helm Girl asks about the surgery on her comrade. Doc assures her the man will be fine. But he says he believes from the man's blood work that an outbreak of the Torothka virus could be a danger, so he's here to scan the rest of the crew.

"No one here is sick," the commander growls, not quite as smart as the average bear.

"Not yet," Doc says cheerily. "I understand the stomach cramps are unbearable--although some say the rash is worse." The commander suppresses a shiver and allows the scans.

While Doc mimes running his instruments over the crew, the commander orders a course change. They're no longer heading for Romulus, he says, but to a rendezvous with the Tal'Shiar (the Romulan KGB--which must be rebuilding after the bloody spanking the Dominion gave them a few years ago). His crew looks at him like he's nuts.

How he retains his command, I have no idea.

While the Romulans bicker, Doc tries accessing environmental controls. The commander, whose Paranoia Quotient at least is operating on all cylinders, notices and intercepts him immediately. "What are you doing?" he demands.

"I'm checking the biofilters for evidence of the virus," Doc improvises.

The commander peers suspiciously at the tricorder. "You haven't taken any readings at all!"

D'oh! Busted. Doc stares at the scanner and lets out a curious "Hmm!"


Paris slaves away over a hot medical tricorder, dousing the last fires raging in the GI tract of the unwitting victim of Rodeo Red's. (Truth be told, I want that recipe. I wonder if they'll sell it at Star Trek: The Experience.) Paris tells the guy to try the chicken salad next time before shooing him out the door. The exiting crewman crosses paths with Harry Kim, who always seems far more interesting when he's around Tom Paris.

Tom greets him warmly. Harry's instantly on his guard. Smart boy.

"What's the emergency?" Kim asks.

Paris throws an arm around his buddy and do-se-dohs with him in a full circle. "Take a look around you, Harry. What do you see?" Harry ventures a guess. "Sick bay?" "Exactly!" "So?"

Paris sighs. "So, it's not the helm of a Starship, is it?"

"Did you accidentally inject yourself with some kind of psychotropic agent?" Harry asks. (I can't imagine him speaking this easily around Seven. I like this Harry a lot better--and I think Seven would, too, if that's the direction they want to go.)

(But what do I know.)

Paris pleads his case. "I am a pilot, Harry, not a doctor."

"This is a temporary assignment--just till the Doc gets back," Harry assures him.

"What if he doesn't get back?" Paris says, revealing that his nightmare in "Waking Moments" was only his second greatest fear. "I need your help, Harry. Rescue me from medical exile. You're an expert in holo-technology. You have got to design a new doctor!"

Harry laughs. "You really are delirious. It took the greatest holo-engineers in Starfleet years to develop the EMH. I can't just design a new doctor!"

Paris turns on his country doctor charm. "Think of it as a challenge, Harry--a chance to make history! And save your best friend all at the same time."

Awww...how could Harry resist those puppy-dog eyes? That shaggy coat of hair on his head? That--is that a double chin?

Paris is gettin' porky...


Seven enters the Astrometrics lab and notices Torres working away. Her eyes show a little bit of panic over this intrusion into her domain, but she politely acknowledges the chief engineer's presence.

Torres doesn't return the favor.

Seven notices almost immediately that changes have been made. "You are re-calibrating the relay interface," she says.

"That's right," says Torres, an edge to her voice, refusing to look at her.

"State your reasons for making these modifications."

Torres can no longer stay silent. "'State your reasons, please.'" She whirls on the former Borg. "It's not what you say, Seven. It's how you say it!"

"I don't understand," says Seven.

Torres sighs. "You may have noticed that some of the crew seem a bit...on edge when you're around."

"I was Borg. I elicit apprehension."

Torres throws up her hands. "No, that's not what I mean. We're not afraid that you're going to assimilate us. We're just not used to...you just..." Torres struggles to find the words...then finds them.

"You're rude."

Seven considers this. "I am...rude."

Now that she's said it, Torres finds the words more easily. "Yes. Yes! You order people around; you do things without permission; and whether you realize it or not you come off as a little insulting. You don't even say 'please' or 'thank you.'"

B'Elanna backs off just a tad. "Look, I don't expect you to change overnight. But try to remember that we are not just a bunch of drones."

A classic rejoinder would have been, "Try to remember...please," which could either have elicited a laugh, or sent Torres screaming towards the weapons locker. But Seven takes the high road, giving an evil eye to Review Boy for his incendiary suggestion.

Can't blame a guy for trying. I'm still bummed they didn't show that fracas in the mess hall in "Concerning Flight."

Seven returns to her check of the astrometric controls. "Your attempt to re-calibrate the interface is ill-advised. The risk of disrupting our link is too great."

Torres bites her lip. "In your opinion. You see, that is exactly what I'm talking about! You haven't even been listening to me! I don't know why I try to talk to you if you don't even--"


"Are we losing the link?" Torres asks, afraid Seven may have been right.

"No. We're receiving a transmission from the relay station."

Now that's unexpected.

The view of the galaxy is replaced by static, then changes again to reveal a lone figure in an imperial stormtrooper outfit.

"What are you?" the alien demands.

"I'm Lieutenant Torres of the Starship Voyager."

"You're using our technology," the alien says, and it's clear he's not pleased about it.

"You mean the sensor network? We thought that it was abandoned."

"It belongs to the Hirogen; terminate your link." Torres asks him to listen, but within seconds it's all over.

"The link has been severed," Seven says. She looks as bummed as Torres.

* * *

The Romulan commander interrogates Doc. All he manages to do is make Doc look good.

"What else have you done to this ship? I will deactivate you unless you start answering my questions!"

"If I answer them you'll very likely deactivate me anyway, so I fail to see the point."

"You are nothing but a computer-generated projection. I find it hard to believe you're capable of taking these actions independently."

"How flattering," Doc drawls.

The commander's voice rises. "Tell me who is operating your program! Is it someone on this ship? A Starfleet crew member we missed? Or one of my own men?"

Doc clucks at him. "Paranoia is a way of life for you, isn't it?"

Helm Girl enters; she's learned when Doc arrived, and how--but not from where, or by whom, though the signature was Starfleet.

"So, Starfleet has managed to sneak a holographic operative aboard," says the commander. "Very clever. Were you only sent to spy on us or does your mission include sabotage?"

Doc tells all--he came from the Delta Quadrant via an alien sensor network.

"The Delta Quadrant? That's absurd!" says Helm Girl.

"This is pointless," growls the commander.

"I couldn't agree more," says Doc, rising up from his seat before Helm Girl places a restraining hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down.

Helm Girl, clearly the brains in this crew, suggests there's a better way to retrieve information from a hologram. "I suggest a complete algorithm extraction. We can analyze his subroutines one by one." Ouch! (Ummm...leave that algorithm the EMH Mark 2 is so interested in, will you?)

"Isn't there some kind of convention regarding the treatment of prisoners?" Doc asks, sounding less nervous than he looks.

Before the interrogation can begin, Helm Girl and the commander start coughing, grabbing their throats, and collapsing where they stand. Helm Girl falls onto the table-height computer terminal.

Into the room, Mark 2 materializes, looking way too pleased with himself. "Did it work?" he asks.

Mark 2 notices Helm Girl blocking his way to the terminal. "Sorry to interrupt," he says genially, then tosses her backward. (She cheats a little and lands way too softly, breaking her own fall, but I won't tell if you won't...)

"Did you anesthetize the entire ship?" Doc asks. "How did you manage to release the neurozine? I never opened the ventilation system."

Here's Mark 2's Big Chance To Brag. Grab the snacks, kick off the Birkenstocks, and put the kids to bed, folks--this one's for the Emmy. He speaks as if recounting the felling of a water buffalo on his first hunt as a man, gesticulating wildly, jumping around for effect, punctuating his sentences to near-Shatnerian perfection.

If you think a newly-activated medical hologram can't emote....you don't know [Andy] Dick.

"Trapped in the Jefferies tube! Alone, nowhere to run...His smug comrade captured by Romulans! EMH Mark Two had to improvise. Inspiration! He accessed the main computer and simulated a ship-wide bio-hazard," he says, miming typing at a keyboard, "making the computer think there was a microbiotic contamination on all decks."

Realization dawns on Doc. "And the ventilation system opened automatically!" It's so brilliant, he's amazed he didn't think of it himself.

"Presto!" yells Mark 2, on a roll now, speaking in rapid-fire staccato. "He then...crawled back out of the tube; accessed the holo-emitters, transferred here; excused the Romulan...saw the dumbfounded look on his comrade's face--"

Doc can't stands no more. "The End! You know, you really should keep a personal log. Why bore others needlessly?"

BWAHAHAHAHA!!! Talk about irony. That's like being called "bloody lucky anyone knows your name" by the Spice Girls. Or "Incredibly dang lucky" by John Elway. Or--

No, no Clinton jokes. It's just too darn easy this week.


Doc says they need to get to the bridge and turn the ship around. Mark 2 points out that only four people in Starfleet were trained to operate the Prometheus, it's so top secret and so darned new. (Like that matters. Doc wouldn't be any better off if it were Voyager. But Mark 2 needs something to worry about or he's just not fulfilled.) "I hope your myriad adventures included piloting les--"

As he speaks, he implements the controls that transfer their programs to the bridge.

"-sons because there's nothing in my program that will help us fly this thing."

"I've had my share of piloting experience," Doc says. "Actually...only two lessons...and they were in a shuttlecraft...on the Holodeck. But I showed great intuition," he adds cheerily. "Where's the helm?"

"You'd better intuit it fast. We're only about eight minutes from the Romulan border."

Doc finds it, with a Romulan slumped over it. Now it's Doc's turn to toss an unconscious person aside like yesterday's Spam Helper. He takes a seat, takes a look at the Helm controls...and says Hmmm. Not good.

"This is all very...complicated," Mark 2 notes, his chin practically on Doc's shoulder.

"Stop breathing down my neck!" "My breathing is a simulation." "So is my neck. Stop it anyway."

"Is this a thruster control?" Mark 2 asks, reaching for a button.

"Don't touch that! We don't know what it does. It could be the self-destruct!"

"You look worried."

"I'm just... concentrating," says Doc, looking worried.

"You don't know what you're doing!" says Mark 2, mocking him even in time of crisis. "This is not a shuttle and we are not on a Holodeck!"


"Mr. 'I can leave my ship!' The Voice of Experience!"

Long story short, Doc finds something he recognizes, remembers something he saw Tom Paris do once, and gives it a try. (Irony! Paris is stuck in Sickbay, and Doc is frantic at the helm. Poetic justice, sez I.)

Something happens. The ship rocks. The perception of high warp velocity ends.

"I did it. We've stopped! Ah... all we have to do now is find a way to send Starfleet a distress signal and..."

Three sets of triple-beeps catch their attention.

Mark 2 is confused. Doc is worried. He locates the beeping panel and discovers that a warp core overload is in progress. While Mark 2 panics, Doc frantically looks for the right button to press.

He presses something. The beeping stops.

Only to be replaced by a double-shot of triple-beeps.

"What now?"

Doc finds the beeping panel and takes a look. "Unless I'm mistaken--and for once, I sincerely hope I am--there are three Romulan warbirds on an intercept course."

Dang. When it rains, it pours.


On Voyager, Seven and Torres are joined by Janeway as they work to reestablish the link with the sensor network. They seem to make some headway when the alien appears again. (On second thought, he looks a lot like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

His name, according to the closed captioning, is Idrin. "I warned you."

"I apologize for our intrusion. Allow me to explain," says Janeway hastily.

"No explanations!"

"Your relay network gave us the unique opportunity to communicate with our people. They are very far away and we're expecting a message back from them."

"All messages will be intercepted!"

Nice guy.

"He's trying to jam the link again!" Torres shouts.

"There must be some room for negotiation. Isn't there anything you might accept in exchange for...?"

Idrin begins to convulse as tendrils of electricity caress his metallic armor like a lethal lover. He collapses and falls out of the picture, and the sensor net image is restored.

Janeway's jaw drops. "What happened?" she demands, almost as shocked as the alien.

"I generated a feedback surge along our sensor link," Seven says, looking mighty proud of herself.

"You killed him?" Torres accuses.

"It was a mild shock. He will recover," says Seven, not seeing the big deal.

Janeway's eyes are larger than an EMH's ego. "And when he does?"

"He wasn't responding to diplomacy," Seven replies with impeccable logic.

Janeway fights back a dozen responses, all of them unpleasant. She finally reins in her outrage and turns to Torres, asking if the sensor link is stable. Torres says it is.

"Keep watching for the doctor. Let me know if our friend gives us any more trouble." With a vicious glance in Seven's direction, Janeway exits.

Torres shakes her head. "Mild shock." Seven says nothing.

"Not bad," she says, her mouth quirked into a Mona Lisa smile.

"Thank you," says Seven.

Maybe there's hope for these two yet.


Harry and Paris work on the replacement EMH program in Sickbay. Well, Harry works on it while Paris urges him on. Harry finally announces that he's got the Doc's physical characteristics coded. Paris says to fire him up.

Doc appears. More or less. He stands in place, showing no sign of life. A holographic statue, at best.

Paris logs his first bug report. "Do you think we should give him a little more hair?"

Harry suppresses a groan. "What do you say we try to get him working first, and then we can worry about personal grooming?" Just like a developer; UI bugs are always low priority.

"Right. You're the boss. What do we do next?"

"I've downloaded the ship's entire medical library and compressed it into a single data file. It's got all the classics, from Gray's Anatomy to Leonard McCoy's Comparative Alien Physiology."

"And once we transfer all the data into Stone Face's matrix," Paris said, knocking on Doc's inanimate skull a few times, "we'll have ourselves a brand-new medical expert."

"That's what I'm hoping."

"Harry, you are a genius!"

"Don't congratulate me yet. This is only the first step."

"Yeah, but it's a step in the right direction."

"I'm telling you, this probably isn't going to work," Harry says.

"What happened to all that youthful optimism?" Paris scolds playfully.

"Being a doctor is a lot more than knowing facts. We need to create analytical subroutines to help him diagnose patients; tactile protocol so he can perform surgery! Not to mention a personality profile."

"Oh, I've been thinking about that. Maybe we should make this one a little more...pleasant than the old doc."

Geez, Helm Boy! I'd love to see how the Doc would redesign you if given the chance. I'm sure he's got plenty of ideas.

Starting with the hair.

Harry gives Tom a passable Glare O' Death over the latter's lack of sympathy for their absent comrade, then tells the computer to dump the library file into the EMH replacement program.

The computer announces that the transfer is complete. The new Doc immediately begins speaking. In a continuous stream.

"What's he doing?"

"I think he's reciting Gray's Anatomy."

"Can you stop him?"

"I'm trying!"

Paris gets in the pseudo-Doc's face and yells at it to shut up.

"He doesn't have speech recognition protocols yet!" Harry yells about his experiment gone awry.

"Give him some, would you?"

The Doc starts to flicker and fade.

"What's happening?" Paris asks, eyes widening.

"Overload. His matrix can't accommodate all the data!"

"Contain no nuclei..." Doc says before vanishing.

Oh well.

Paris looks glum. Harry looks surprisingly complacent as he taps some controls into the computer, then touches a PADD he's holding.

"What are you doing?" Paris asks.

"I'm downloading Gray's Anatomy chapter by chapter."

"I thought you said it was too much data for his holomatrix to handle."

"It's not for the EMH," says Harry with a wicked grin. "It's for you."

Paris' scream can be heard all the way to Earth. We see him furiously tapping the back of his hand three times the way Chakotay told him, looking desperately for a view of the moon.


Doc and Mark 2 are still trying to get the ship moving again, without much success. They're having more success arguing with each other.

"Try rerouting power to the impulse engines," Doc says.

"Reroute power, reroute power....Here we go. I'm finally getting the hang of this!" Mark 2 punches a control.

Doc begins to fade out. "What's happening?" he shouts.

"Sorry," says Mark 2, quickly correcting his gaffe. "I must have transferred power from the holo-emitters. I'm taking power from life support. We don't need that," he says with a smirk. (The Romulans might, but oh well.)

While they struggle with the controls, the warbirds approach. They manage to get shields up before the Romulans arrive.

They are hailed by one of the Romulans. Doc tries to bluff, but he does a hideous job of it (though his phone company operator voice is a scream). The Romulans' suspicion grows, until they finally tire of talking to Doc and start firing. Shields hold but diminish rapidly.

They panic at first when sensors report three new ships coming in--then they rejoice when it turns out to be three Starfleet vessels.

Then they panic again when the Starfleet ships fire on the Prometheus as well.

"They must think Romulans are on board..." Mark 2 realizes.

"They're right!" Doc screams.

In space, we see six ships (two of the Starfleet vessels are Defiant-style) ganging up on Prometheus.

At least the Federation and Romulans agree on something.

* * *

Mark 2 does his best to hail the Starfleet vessels, but Doc says the Romulans are scrambling all com frequencies. They suffer a brief malfunction that threatens to tear the ship apart, but they find the right button to set things aright. "Good work, mark two!" Doc says. "You'd better get to tactical. We're going to have to defend ourselves." Doc stays at helm while Mark 2 heads to the weapons controls.

"What are you waiting for? Shoot. Shoot!" Doc shouts.

"There are so many controls...."

"Find the one that says 'fire' and push it!"

Phasers are down, he reports. Doc says Fire a Torpedo. Mark 2 finds the button and pushes it.

A torpedo spits out of the Prometheus. It heads for a Romulan ship...

And misses.

It heads for another...

And misses.

And finally connects with one of the Defiant-style vessels. Fortunately, it doesn't blow up.

Yeah, that'll get them on your side.

"You hit the wrong ship!" Doc shouts.

"It wasn't my fault!"

"Whose fault was it, the torpedo's?!? You're supposed to tell it what to do!"

When they bicker, things go bad. Systems start failing left and right. And the Romulans are closing in for the kill.

Mark 2 starts Emoting again. "My brilliant existence cut short...no time to explore the universe...no time to smell the roses...no time for...sex." He leans heavily against the helm controls.

And activates something.

The blue lights begin to flash.

"Initiating decoupling sequence," the computer says. "If I recall correctly this next part gets a little bumpy," he says as the computer counts down. He grabs onto something solid, and Mark 2 follows his lead. The ship jolts them around as it splits into three pieces.

"Specify attack pattern," the computer says after the separation is complete.

"Attack pattern... alpha?" Doc says, hoping any Greek letter will work.

"Specify target."

Doc and Mark 2 look at each other. "Romulans!" they shout in unison.

The ship's components gang up on a Romulan vessel. In short order, the enemy is reduced to a fireball.

Alpha beats Beta Four Seven, it would seem.

"Bulls-eye!" Mark 2 yells. "Doctor, we've done it!"

The orchestra swells with appropriate heroic music. Doc and Mark 2 Go For The Emmy.

"Two holograms, alone! Romulans on one side, Starfleet on the other! Alarms beeping everywhere!" says Mark 2.

"EMH Mark Two--newborn but filled with courage!" Adds Doc proudly.

"EMH Mark One--armed with years of experience," beams Mark 2.

"Together they emerged--triumphant!" enunciates Doc for the folks in the cheap seats.

"The End!" Mark 2 says.

We hear three beeps.

"Or not," says Mark 2 bleakly as the orchestra fades.

A transporter whine announces the presence of two heavily armed Starfleet types.

"Welcome to the Prometheus, gentlemen," says Doc pleasantly. "It's about time."

That was just too darn cool for words.


Seven of Nine announces the arrival of a transmission from the sensor network. "Origin...the Alpha Quadrant."

Torres is almost afraid to ask. "Does it contain a holographic subroutine?" Seven does some checking before answering in the affirmative.

Torres gets a huge smile on her face. "Transfer it to Sickbay! Torres to bridge! Captain, I think he's back."

She could have at least said Thank You. This was all possible thanks to Seven's efforts.


Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok arrive in Sickbay as Doc's matrix begins its arrival. There seems to be a bit of interference, but a few taps at a console by Janeway and the Doc solidifies.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

"Doctor...report," says Janeway.

"I... I did it!" says Doc.

"You completed the mission?" Janeway asks, hoping against hope.

"Yes. Once the Romulans were out of the way."

Everyone's eyes go wide. "Romulans?" Tuvok asks.

"They'd taken over the Prometheus--the ship I was on. I managed to turn the tables on them with help from a fellow EMH." It's a story you can tell he's dying to recite in detail, but he knows what's on their mind and holds himself back.

"You got through to Starfleet?" Chakotay asks.

Doc's demeanor turns serious; his voice softens. "I spoke directly with headquarters." Janeway and Chakotay stare deeply into each others' eyes. Four years after their odyssey began, they finally score a major victory in their quest for home, their first contact with Headquarters since the Badlands.

"Apparently, Voyager was declared officially lost 14 months ago. I set the record straight. I told them everything that's happened to this crew. They said they would contact your families to tell them the news...and promised that they won't stop until they've found a way to get Voyager back home."

"And they asked me to relay a message. They wanted you to know...you're no longer alone."

Janeway gets all misty, and I don't blame her a bit. "60,000 light-years seems a little closer today," she says.


This may well be the funniest hour of Star Trek I've ever seen. And that's saying a lot.

There's a whole lot happening in this episode. Perhaps too much. I'll try to tackle them one at a time, starting with the simplest. If I seem to complain, don't worry--I'm scoring it high. But since this episode marks a watershed for the series, a little of this may be in order.

First, there's Tom Paris.

At the moment, he's the only medical assistant we know of onboard. Until the departure of Kes, the medical staff had some depth--Doc as the font of all medical knowledge, Kes as the rapidly-maturing medical assistant, and Tom Paris as the medic-in-a-pinch, back for his second part-time stint in Sickbay.

Given Paris' importance to the crew as the Best Dang Pilot yada yada, his backup role as the Only Medical Option If Doc Program Crashes is a tenuous one. If I were Janeway, I would seriously look at adding some depth to the medical staff. I'd have at least three crew learning the rudiments.

Part of this is sheer logic--use the Doc while he's around. Hopefully he'll last until you reach home, but as is pointed out again in this episode, the EMH Mark One is already operating way beyond his original programming, and is vulnerable to system degradation. They should have begun the training of the next generation of doctors, or at least the current generation of backups, long ago.

There's nothing wrong with using Paris in Sick Bay. But it is not the best use of his talents, and it is easier to replace him in Sickbay than it is at helm. He's a lot better this time around at doing his medical duties, but it's clear he would not be at all happy being stuck there full-time.

The crew needs a full-time medical staff. They should be planning ahead. This episode nicely points out the dilemma; the crew would have a major void without Doc. For practical purposes we can expect Doc to always be there, but come on--what's wrong with having a nameless crewman helping Doc out, even in a mere scene or two? Just to see that someone else is getting trained in case the script would be better served with Paris at helm.

Let's just say I felt for Paris this week in a big way. I like the chemistry between Picardo and McNeill, so I wouldn't do away with Paris' second job entirely. He's done his job with a minimum of fuss, but this week the prospect of being The Doc made him truly desperate.

His scenes with Kim were classic--a return to the First Season chemistry between the two I liked so much, and have missed since Paris' pursuit of Torres began in earnest. Kim is at his best when he's playing off Paris; he's confident, sarcastic, and candid, and even charming. We saw a bit of that from him in "Revulsion" with Seven of Nine, but apart from that one brief shining moment, Kim and Seven have been a painful mismatch. (This could be intentional, and it's not entirely out of character for Harry; he has been reticent about dating since the first season.)

I like Harry more when he's allowed to shine; we see him a bit too often when he's bumbling, stuttering, and shy. I'd love to see him either step up the relationship with Seven, or decisively break it off, so she doesn't make him so jumpy anymore.

Anyway--the attempt to make a new doctor was quite funny, and Paris' attempts to remake the doctor, and to "fix" him, told us a lot about Paris' mindset. (It should be pointed out that in "Before and After," the Doc that was at least partially lost during the original Year of Hell was restored with more hair and a gentler disposition--I imagine Paris and Kim had something to do with that.) Harry's reactions, his willingness to play along (it is quite a challenge, after all) and his final handing of Gray's Anatomy to Paris, also pointed out that Harry is, at least around Harry, not quite the wide-eyed innocent he was at the series' start.


Next is Seven and Torres.

You just knew these two wouldn't get along from the get-go. What surprises me is how long this has been allowed to go on. It's long past time for Chakotay to tell Torres to act like a senior officer and handle the problem between herself and Seven.

Granted, Seven is a loose cannon. Many have remarked that the former Borg gets away with murder (or in this episode, electrical assault) when it comes to breaches of protocol. She's new here, she has some major recovery issues, and she's potentially dangerous as a result. She's also a very dominant personality, severely set in her ways, who sets many peoples' teeth on edge.

Sounds a lot like Torres. The two have a great deal in common, but they're just different enough to clash, and clash hard.

One of their differences is their reactions to situations. Seven has strong opinions, but there's no obvious emotions behind them. She can be adamant, but she doesn't waste time on extraneous feelings. Torres, on the other hand, has all sorts of emotions to deal with.

If you were to color code their personalities, Seven would be a Red (dominant logical), and Torres would be a Blue (dominant emotional). There's always fireworks when the two square off.

Anyway, Chakotay steps in and tells Torres to grow up and act like a senior officer. Torres does a semi-credible job, pointing out what bothers her most and suggesting improvements. Seven doesn't pick up on the advice immediately, but we do get at least one Thank You out of her. Ironically, the closest the two get is from a renegade act--Seven shocks Idrin, the species that claims to own the sensor array. Seven does what Torres would no doubt have loved to do. So while Torres officially sides with the captain in the unspoken rebuke, off the record she shares her approval. It wouldn't be the first time Seven has reminded Torres of herself.


Seven and Janeway: Though Mama Kate has been awfully tolerant of Seven's demeanor, we get the hint that she's beginning to tire of it, and when Seven shocks the Hirogen she looks ready to put some redheaded hurt on the girl. The previews for February Sweeps suggest that this growing tension will only get worse before it gets better. Janeway is usually quite understanding--except when the ship or the mission or her crew is at stake. When she considers it a crisis, she is a stickler for protocol, and will steamroller anyone who gets in her way. (This is frequently not, as I've said before, a good thing.)

Frankly, I'm looking forward to the standoff between Seven and the Captain. Seven of Nine seems more in the league of the senior senior officers--Janeway, Tuvok, Doc, Chakotay--than she is with the junior senior officers--Paris, Torres, Kim, Neelix.


Astrometrics Lab: I see the Lab as a mini-Collective for Seven. As mentioned in the synopsis, I think the lab gives Seven a chance to become as close to One with the Galaxy as she can get outside of the Borg. If Neelix and his mess hall are inseparable; if Doc and Sickbay are incomplete without each other; if Paris has mind melded with his helm station; then Astrometrics is the place where Seven is able to be her truest self, monitoring the entire galaxy at an intricate level of detail. If she can only see it through one set of eyes, she can still grasp, at least in part, some of the scope she could as part of the Collective.

This is a benefit to the ship as well as to Seven. It is an impressive intelligence-gathering tool, navigation tool, resource-hunting tool, etc. It's not omniscient--it's best for looking at the macroscopic galaxy, the system-wide data and items such as the massive sensor array discovered this week. It won't tell them who's friendly, or necessarily point out where the best place is for R&R or where exactly to pick up needed supplies. It's an improvement, a tool--like Doc's 29th-century holoemitter--but not a magic carpet or technobabble fix.

In short--the discovery of the sensor array is exactly the sort of thing I'd expect the Astrometrics lab to find, that they may not have found otherwise. It was a nice use for the new lab, and a nice way to include Seven in a natural way. (One criticism of Seven's character in some episodes has been that her role has been "tacked on"--a scene to give her screen time that might have been better used in the main plot. I might not put it that strongly, but I will say that this week's show, and "Waking Moments," featured Seven in a more seamless way than, say, "Random Thoughts."


Sensor Array: Damn. I can only hope they'll keep this thing around.

I thought that something that could help the show this season was to find something that would speed their journey home. The sensor array allowed at least Doc to make it home for real--this century, this timestream, this reality. Doc made the long-awaited For Real phone call to Headquarters that doesn't need to be taken back to keep the show running. They're no closer to home, but they are now known, and Starfleet is officially committed to getting them back.

It will no doubt take years.

The nice thing about this sensor array is that it has been used successfully to send messages both ways. Assuming they have the ability to use it after the big Hirogen arc is over, even the occasional contact between the ship and Home could prove useful. Or not, as admirals can often be a pain in the hiney. They could order the Maquis folk to be tossed in the brig, for example, or reveal secrets that otherwise cause strife onboard.

I think Voyager should still be primarily alone in its quest for home, but the occasional contact could be a good plot device. At the very least, they could order a promotion for Harry.


Doc: Clearly, this is Doc's show. It's a great State of the Holodoc episode, because we once again get to ask the question about what a holodude is capable of. In "Projections" Doc questions the nature of his existence, and freaks when he's almost convinced that he's a Real Boy named Zimmerman, and not the ships EMH. He didn't want that--he didn't want to leave sickbay or any of that. He liked the comforting confines of the parameters of his program.

What a difference two years makes.

Here, he gets the chance to Mentor another EMH, and help him see beyond the boundaries of his programming. He can speak from experience what it's possible for entities like them to accomplish. Some of the arguments he uses with the Mark 2 EMH could have come straight from Kes' mouth, and I have a feeling she'd be proud to see Doc here. He really has come a long way the last four years.

The revelation that he's (1) had sex, and (2) given himself holo-genitalia, was a bombshell. I've speculated on it in the past, but I never expected them to come out and say it. All I can say is, yow. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Lisa Klink provides the revelation--she does a spectacular job with the characters, particularly in the small but important details that make characters truly interesting.

This episode wouldn't have been nearly as fun, though, were it not for the inspired selection of Andy Dick as the EMH Mark 2. Dick and Picardo played off each other masterfully, with great rapid-fire timing, a nice chemistry of competitiveness and neurosis, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. The two were clearly not programmed for the task at hand, and Luck had a good deal to do with their survival a hundred times over. But they were no less heroic for the effort. They went above and beyond the call of duty in every sense of the word. Andy Dick was able to portray the various aspects of his character remarkably well; it was easy to see the similarities as well as the differences between the two generations of EMH technology, and his joy at discovering he could exceed his programming was heartwarming, even as his missteps along the way were hilarious.

I know many folks don't care because "they're only holograms; they're not real people." My response is twofold. First, none of 'em are real; it's fiction. I care anyway. Second, the Doc has more than proved himself more than a mere program. Though he would have vehemently denied it back when Kes first suggested it, Doc now admits, "I'm as close to a sentient being as any hologram could hope to be." He thinks, therefore he is. He's loved, he's lost, he's lived, he's saved lives, he's faced his own mortality. He strives to improve himself. That's more than many "real" people do.

He's as real as Data in my book. Data is hardware-based; Doc is software-based--though with the portable emitter, it may just be splitting hairs.

No, not all holographic characters are Real Boys. Even the Leonardo character, so well played by John Rhys-Davies, is a pale shadow of a real person. Doc may have started out as a very limited personality, but he's grown. He interacts with the crew in their real-world lives, not in their holodeck fantasies. He deals with real-world problems. His actions have consequences. To me, that makes him real.

Despite the humor, this episode poses a strong argument for the Doc's sentience. Torres does kidnap him out of sickbay, but Janeway treats him as a member of her crew rather than a piece of equipment when she asks him to take on the mission. She gives him a pep talk. She puts trust in him. And he delivers.

That he's able to give Mark 2 a crash course in his creative potential is further evidence. He's got life experience, and he passes it along, motivates the next generation of his kind to look beyond the limits of his design to help save the day.

I love Andy Dick in this episode (did I say this already?). I just can't say enough good about him.

I guess I should mention the Prometheus itself. It looks like a cousin to Voyager, but it looks more like a fighter than an explorer. The cool-ass Multi Vector Assault Mode makes a lot of sense in a Dominion-embattled quadrant--one ship can run perfectly-coordinated squadron battles all by itself by splitting into three pieces. Its "warp 9.9" is technically slower than Voyager's maximum cruising velocity of Warp 9.975, but I think they've run away from that "Caretaker"-cited ability in the years since. The downside of the Prometheus is that it's a paranoid piece of hardware from stem to stern, anal about security clearances...and still unable to prevent getting taken over.


Romulans: Since they got Doc into the alpha quadrant, I was half hoping for a Dominion-based episode. I can understand why they might not have wanted to do that (the logistics would have been kinda scary, though TNG and DS9 managed to cross-pollinate a little bit), but DS9 did help a little by making the Romulans a "neutral" group in the whole Dominion thing. They fight neither for nor against the Dominion. They're a traditional adversary of the Federation. They were there in "Eye of the Needle," so for those unfamiliar with the other Trek series they're a good choice since they've been shown before. And, frankly, they're a little easier to defeat than Klingons, Cardassians or Jem'Hadar, or even Ferengi, who ran circles around Voyager in "False Profits." (Romulans may be Vulcan cousins, but as a species they've rarely shown the same level of mental superiority.)

I thought the Helm Girl character was the most interesting of the lot; she got the most screen time, and showed the most range. The Romulan commander was pretty weak overall, though. In fact, as performances go, the Romulans were on the whole as unconscious as the dead Starfleet guys.

The motivations of the Romulans isn't entirely clear--sure, it's a cool ship, but stealing ships and killing Starfleet people is serious business, and frankly this crew didn't seem like the sort of crack unit I would expect to be sent on this sort of mission. I wonder how they got the ship, or how they even knew how to get it.

Mainly, I wonder what the Romulans may do on DS9, since the alpha quadrant is Romulan home soil. If this episode suggests rising Romulan hostilities, I'd expect to see it on DS9.

As if they don't have enough troubles already with the Dominion.


The major news in this episode is that Voyager is now known to be alive and on its way home. If I have any complaints about this episode, it's that this part of it gets less treatment than I'd have liked.

I guess you can say that Doc accomplished his mission to contact Starfleet and return. But I wish we'd have seen that, or at least part of it. Who did Doc talk to at Headquarters? When Doc says he told them everything that's happened to the crew, what does that include? Did he return with any instructions? Did they schedule any future contacts? How will they signal each other from now on?

Unlike "Waking moments," which was high on fun but low on message or issue, this episode demands much more than "you're not alone" and "60,000 light years feels a little closer." Doc's Romulan adventure was a wrinkle in his mission, but what really matters in this episode is the mission itself.

I often hope, but don't expect, that they'll follow through on some of the things they introduce into their episodes. DS9 does a terrific job of following through on plot developments. Voyager tends to be choosier about what is remembered. But with this, I expect follow-through, or this episode's score will be revised downward at the end of the season.

I know some elements will be remembered. The Hirogen will be seen again, and soon. Since they own the sensor array, the chance of the array playing a part during that arc is strong. Whether Voyager will be allowed USE of it after this is another matter. I, for one, sincerely hope so.


One other thought. I had written a story of my own that I'd hoped to turn into a teleplay. I can give a hint: alien communication technology and letters home. This ep reminded me very slightly of my idea--enough that I won't submit it, but not so much that I don't still want to tell my story. You may see it as fanfic on my site one of these days.

After I finish "Best of Both Girls," of course.


Okay. Final analysis. For humor, this one goes to eleven. Klink's script is an absolute joy. Just about everyone gets something to do, and the Paris/Kim and Torres/Seven subthreads were well handled. For Promises Made, I'll give it a ten--this is a huge moment for Voyager. For Promises kept, I'm reserving judgment. For performances, the Romulans get points off, but Andy Dick and Robert Picardo get highest marks. The orchestration was also first-rate, adding to the mood as appropriate, and providing a nicely comic mood at the end of the Romulan battle sequence.

I've always said I'm a sucker for fun, and this episode is about as fun as I've seen from Voyager.

On a 0-10 scale...if I gave "Waking Moments" a 10, I can do no less now. Give this one a 10, two snaps, and a high five. But I reserve the right to knock this down to as low as 3.5 stars if I don't get some dang follow-through

The End.

Next week: A repeat of The Raven.

If you want a second opinion, check out Julia's, or head on over to the lounge where Kris and some of her pals offers their musings from the Rec Room O' Reviews.

Copyright © 1998 Jim Wright

Star Trek (R) is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Star Trek: Voyager is a trademark of Paramount Pictures.

Last Updated: January 26, 1998
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