(written from a Production point of view)
The crew begins to experience vivid nightmares, all containing the same mysterious alien.
Lieutenant Tom Paris is flying a shuttle when it suddenly begins to malfunction and he crashes into a planet; Lieutenant Commander Tuvok forgets to put on his uniform and arrives at the bridge naked with the entire senior staff present and laughing at him; Captain Kathryn Janeway walks into a darkened mess hall to discover members of her crew sitting at a table, dead, because she didn't get them home in time, and Ensign Harry Kim dreams that Seven of Nine tries to seduce him in a Jefferies tube; however, after passionately kissing, he suddenly sees the face of a mysterious alien instead of that of Seven. In fact, the same mysterious alien appears in the dreams of everybody shortly before they wake up.
Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres arrives at Paris' quarters upset that he missed their breakfast date. Paris apologizes, telling her that he had a wild nightmare and was out like a light. He then goes to the mess hall to get a cup of coffee, but Neelix inadvertently pours him a steaming cup of cooking oil instead. He apologizes and says that he has in fact had a rough night. Paris makes his way to the bridge, apologizing to Captain Janeway for his rather late arrival when he discovers that the captain herself has been late this morning. Captain Janeway, who had arrived just moments before Paris, appears somewhat disoriented and groggy, and explains to Chakotay the nightmare she had last night and the mysterious alien she encountered in her dream. Chakotay explains that he also had a nightmare in which his father turned into a vicious-looking alien when they had gone deer hunting. Janeway is surprised that both had this strange alien in their dreams. Paris, who couldn't help but overhear their conversation, interrupts and comments about an alien in his dream as well. They soon discover that Tuvok had a nightmare too: one nightmare that – just like everyone else's – involved an alien with ridges on his face and neck. Realizing that the appearance of this mysterious alien in all of their dreams couldn't have been a mere coincidence, Janeway calls the senior staff together, but Harry Kim is nowhere to be found.
After repeated unsuccessful hails to reach Kim, Janeway and Tuvok finally go to his quarters. Upon entering his room, they find Kim asleep but cannot wake him. They decide to bring him to sickbay. After a thorough examination by The Doctor, it turns out that Kim and several other crew members are in a so-called hyper REM state – or simply speaking, just fast asleep. For some reason, however, he cannot wake them up – not even with direct cortical stimulation. The Doctor advises that everyone avoid going to sleep for the time being until he knows more. Janeway concludes that all this must be related to the alien in their dreams.
In the briefing room, Torres, Chakotay, Janeway, Paris, and Seven of Nine each describe the alien in their dreams in an attempt to reconstruct his image. Eventually, they arrive at the picture they want and Seven states that the Borg have never encountered this species before. They cannot find any starships in this vicinity or planets capable of sustaining humanoid life. Chakotay suggests that they use their dreams to make contact with the alien, because that is the only place anyone of them have seen the alien. He suggests a technique called lucid dreaming in which the dreamer takes complete control of his or her dream. He tells the senior staff that he can use the same techniques he uses during a vision quest to enter a lucid dream. He will do so by remembering a visual cue – such as Earth's moon – to remind him that he is dreaming. He can use this cue to wake himself up by tapping himself on the back of his hand three times. This is their only option, as they cannot stay awake forever and have to come up with ways to get themselves out of this situation with the means they have.
In sickbay, The Doctor is ready for Chakotay to go to sleep. When Chakotay falls asleep and is in his dream, he is holding a spear and is deer hunting through the corridors of the USS Voyager. When the deer enters the mess hall, Chakotay sees the full moon outside the window and confirms that he's dreaming. He now has complete control over his dream. He goes to the other end of the mess hall and finds the deer turning into the alien. Chakotay tries to strike it, but it knocks the weapon out of his hand.
In a confrontation with the alien who is surprised that Chakotay is aware of his dream, Chakotay finds out that they are dealing with a species that exists in the dream state only. The alien believes that Voyager – as yet another "waking species" – is out to destroy them. Chakotay assures him that Voyager had no intention to destroy them and that they are only interested in waking up the rest of their crew and leaving immediately. The alien explains that when Voyager passes through their space, its crew will awaken. He tells them to go to a six-planet system – which marks the nearest border of their space – less than a parsec away. He warns Chakotay to pray that he will never dream of them again. Chakotay taps his hand three times and is instantly awake in sickbay.
Chakotay heads to the bridge with Captain Janeway and they begin laying in a course toward the six-planet system the alien talked about. Chakotay talks about what the alien told him, referencing Australian aborigines whose creation mythology states that the world was in fact dreamed into existence. He wonders if the aliens ever wake up and how they evolved this way. Janeway states that they may in fact never know as sometimes first contact is the last contact.
After they reach the border of the alien territory, Kim and the others finally wake up. Interestingly, Seven of Nine asks Kim to join her in a Jefferies tube similar to that he had dreamed about being with her; this time, however, he gives her an excuse to stall for time. In the mess hall, Torres, Neelix, and Tuvok are discussing their respective nightmares. They tease Kim about his dream, which Torres believes involved a woman of sorts. They laugh it off and then turn to Tuvok, wondering what a Vulcan nightmare would be like. Even as Neelix jokingly suggests that it would involve being trapped on a planet where the only means of communication is laughter, Tuvok, remains rather stoic and does not entertain the group's funny inclinations.
Suddenly, the ship is under attack by the same aliens responsible for the dreams. The crew of Voyager realize that they had been led into a trap. The aliens surround Voyager with a dampening field and Voyager suffers a complete power drain.
A squad of aliens board the ship and escort the crew to the cargo bay. There, Janeway decides that they should create a diversion so that someone can access a Jefferies tube and retake the ship. Seven of Nine punches Kim and explains quietly that she is creating a diversion. Janeway pretends to handle it while Torres and Chakotay access a Jefferies tube. While accessing manual control, Chakotay suddenly sees the full moon on the control panel – realizing that he must still be dreaming and that he, in fact, never woke up the first time around. The aliens try to restrain Chakotay but he taps the back of his hand three times and instantly is awake in the real sickbay.
Finally really awake, The Doctor explains that Chakotay has been asleep for nearly two days and that the rest of the crew has fallen asleep one-by-one, leaving only Chakotay and The Doctor ("No rest for the never weary"). Based on readings The Doctor took, they conclude that all of the crew are sharing the same dream, when a monitor identified Blain, Foster, Swift, Samantha Wildman, and other crewmembers with the same pattern of brain waves, as the result of an alien neurogenic field.
Chakotay is convinced the aliens are somewhere, also asleep, and chose this way to attack others. He realizes they need to be searching for the neurogenic field's signature to find them, and leaves for the bridge. Later, The Doctor comes with an injection to keep Chakotay awake. Finally, Chakotay finds the aliens and sets a course, having to move Paris' body in the process.
In the common dream, the senior officers are speculating about what is really going on because Chakotay has strangely disappeared. They assume that maybe he was right and that they are all dreaming. Janeway says that they should still treat this like it is an alien invasion, so she, Torres, and Tuvok eventually make their way through a Jefferies tube and into main engineering.
Torres tries to shut down the dampening field, but the warp core suddenly turns on. The computer then warns that a warp core breach will occur in sixty seconds. The core cannot be ejected, so they surround engineering with a containment field and evacuate. Janeway hesitates and orders Tuvok and Torres to go out while she stays in. When the breach occurs, the ship shakes but is not destroyed. Janeway comes out of engineering a few seconds later and concludes that they are definitely still dreaming.
Janeway suddenly appears on the bridge with Chakotay and explains that she woke up the same way he did. The crew gradually begins to wake up. They set a course away from the alien space, but then Chakotay sees the full moon on the viewscreen again. He tries to wake up but cannot. The Doctor explains to Janeway that Chakotay is paranoid and tries to sedate him and despite Chakotay's resistance, he succeeds. Just then, Chakotay wakes up on the bridge again. The Doctor says that he fell asleep again and that he had to inject him with a powerful compound to wake him up. When they scan for a certain neurogenic field, they are finally able to locate the exact location of the aliens. The Doctor sends Chakotay down to the alien's planet with a hypospray to keep him awake.
In the dream world, Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres cannot wake themselves but they know that they are dreaming and are thus in complete control. They grab phaser rifles and come across the aliens near the cargo bay. The aliens try to shoot them, but they cannot be harmed. Janeway orders everyone to stay in control of the dream, but the aliens threaten that they will slowly waste away because they are not getting nutrition or muscle stimulation in the waking world.
Meanwhile, Chakotay is on the planet and cannot disable the field that is making the crew sleep. He finds a whole population of sleeping aliens lying around, all of whom seem to be in a dreaming state. He begins to have trouble concentrating and is about to inject himself when he decides to inject one of the aliens instead because they look weak. He orders The Doctor to target that chamber with a photon torpedo and destroy it if he does not hear from Chakotay in five minutes. Chakotay wakes one of the aliens and orders him to turn off the field or he will start shooting, but just then he falls asleep and enters the dream. There, he tells the aliens that they will all be killed if they do not stop this dream immediately.
- "Chief medical officer's log, stardate 51471.3. With the neurogenic field neutralized, I've been successful in reviving the entire crew. Unfortunately, the experience has produced a troubling side effect for many of them – acute insomnia."
The Doctor is able to successfully revive all the crewmembers after the aliens deactivate the field, however now no one can actually fall asleep. After Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Tuvok, and Neelix find each other up early in the morning in the mess hall, Chakotay suggests that Neelix might as well start breakfast.
"Resistance is futile."
- - Seven of Nine, seconds before kissing Harry Kim rather forcibly in his dream
"It appears, that in my haste to report to the bridge, I neglected to put on my uniform."
- - Tuvok, after reporting to the bridge naked during a dream.
"What are you looking for?"
- - The Doctor, while Chakotay tries to prove he is not dreaming
"Either I've become impervious to antimatter explosions, or we're still dreaming."
- - Janeway, in the shared dream after a warp core breach
"Captain, Ensign Kim, Commander Chakotay. I'm glad to see you all up and about…"
- - Dream alien, to the crew through the viewscreen
"I wonder what a Vulcan nightmare would be like."
"Alone, exiled on a planet, where the only form of communication is laughter."
"Oh, come on, Tuvok."
"I won't dignify this inquisition with a response."
- - B'Elanna Torres and Neelix, poking fun at Tuvok's "Vulcan dreams"
"And the next thing I knew I was being boiled alive in a pot of my own leola root stew."
"Talk about a nightmare!"
"Well, it was perfectly seasoned."
- - Neelix and B'Elanna Torres
"A-koo-chee-moya. Far from the sacred places of my grandfathers, far from the bones of my people, I seek to sleep to meet the one who has visited us in our dreams. "
- - Chakotay, before he falls into a lucid dream
"Sometimes first contact is last contact."
- - Janeway to Chakotay
"Congratulations, commander. You're awake."
- - The Doctor to Chakotay
"As captain, you should not be taking risks with your life."
"I'm touched by your concern, Tuvok."
- - Tuvok and Janeway
Story and script
- This episode had the working title "Sleep of Reason". 
- The episode's writer, André Bormanis, usually worked as science consultant on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This installment was the second of seven Voyager episodes that bear a writing credit for Bormanis, although this is the only one for which he alone is credited as having written both the story and script. He later said of the episode, "I used to have lucid dreams…I have not had them for a number of years now. I was thinking about a possible story for Chakotay. Given that he has a Native American heritage I thought this would be a good area for him. I pitched it to [executive producer] Jeri Taylor and then I sat down in the writers' room and we broke the story. [Producer] Ken Biller helped a lot on the script." 
- During the episode's development, co-executive producer Brannon Braga was anxious about the dream-themed outing. "I was the only guy on the staff who didn't want to do that episode," Braga recalled. "I felt that we do too much dreaming on the show." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 95)
- The episode's final draft script was submitted on 7 October 1997. 
Cast and characters
- Chakotay actor Robert Beltran enjoyed this episode. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 82) He also felt that the episode helped establish his character's vague spiritual beliefs. Beltran mused about Chakotay, "I don't think his spirituality is very defined [....] When you don't have definition to that sort of spiritual mysticism, you can't use it that much. You can only use it as it pertains to a certain episode [....] If they need me to enter my dreams in order to take care of a problem or a dream alien or something like that, which is in [this] episode […] then you deal with that." (Star Trek Monthly issue 38, pp. 22-23)
- Even though this episode's script called for a dreaming Tuvok to apparently find himself naked on Voyager's bridge, Tuvok actor Tim Russ believed that, while a typical Human would doubtlessly be embarrassed by such a situation, a typical Vulcan wouldn't allow his or her self to feel embarrassment and wouldn't even bother to experience such a sensation. Russ noted, "In fact, Vulcans probably don't have the same hang-ups Humans have about being naked. So my take on that, as the actor playing a Vulcan, was to find a way to make that moment work." Rather than focus on any such embarrassment, Russ decided to concentrate on playing Tuvok's reaction to breaching protocol by being improperly out of uniform, in a setting where he was meant to be in uniform. Russ also believed that Tuvok would know his nakedness would make the other bridge officers uncomfortable, another facet that the actor tried to include in his performance of the scene. Shortly after working on this episode, Russ admitted, "That was interesting to play. We never had a chance like that to look at the societal differences between the cultures in so specific a way. I hope we get to do more of that." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 17)
Production and effects
- According to the unofficial reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 218), Tim Russ (for the filming of the scene wherein Tuvok seemingly finds himself naked on the bridge) had the makeup department mold a ridiculously large physical appendage that the actor wore on to the set, where – upon Russ removing his dressing gown to reveal that he was wearing the molded attribute instead of underwear – the entirety of the cast and crew broke out laughing.
- This was the last episode of the series (and of Star Trek) to be directed by Alexander Singer and is thus far the last episode of television directed by him.
- The footage of the deer that a dreaming Chakotay sees aboard Voyager was filmed by the second unit filming crew. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 95)
- Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore managed to create the cavern full of sleeping aliens, compositing three actors together with CG matte paintings. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 95)
- The over-jacket that B'Elanna Torres wears in this installment made numerous other episodic appearances in Star Trek: Voyager, continuing to help hide Roxann Dawson's pregnancy. In fact, although this episode was the first time the over-jacket was shown "on air," "Message in a Bottle" also features the item of clothing and was produced before this episode. Brannon Braga said of the over-jacket, "[Roxann Dawson] had on some bad costumes to hide the pregnancy. We went through the same thing with Gates McFadden." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91) Indeed, this wasn't the first time Star Trek's costumers used an item of clothing to hide an actress' pregnancy; Gates McFadden wore a large lab coat during her pregnancy throughout the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Roxann Dawson's pregnancy was, however, written into the two-part "The Killing Game" and "The Killing Game, Part II".
- Chakotay visualizes the moon in its pre-colonized state. In the previously-released movie Star Trek: First Contact, Commander Riker states that the moon appears quite different in the 24th century than in the 21st century.
- When told that a nearby planet is "less than a parsec away", Chakotay responds that Voyager can be "past it in one day". This implies a speed of around 222 million miles per second. Voyager's speed capabilities have previously been noted in "The 37's" ("4 billion miles per second" at Warp 9.9) and "Maneuvers" ("2 billion kilometres per second").
- Before this episode's first airing, several fans and members of the production staff expected that the installment would be extremely boring. A production staffer who ultimately revised his opinion of the episode was Brannon Braga. "In the end, I was wrong, of course," he conceded. "It actually had a very good premise driving it, which was the idea that some species see dreams as just as valid a reality as the waking state. That is a fascinating idea." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 95)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 3.7 million homes, and a 6% share.
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 3 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 94)
- Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 60 scored this episode 3 out of 5 stars.
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 219) gives the installment a rating of 7 out of 10.
- The Star Trek: Voyager 25th Anniversary Special describes this installment as one of the "hidden gems" of the program's fourth season, along with "Unforgettable".
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 4.7, catalog number VHR 4628, 6 July 1998
- As part of the VOY Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- David Keith Anderson as Ashmore
- Richard Bishop as operations officer
- Steve Carnahan as operations officer
- Stuart Coleman as dream species alien
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Gunnel Eriksson as operations officer
- D.P. Fitzgerald as dream species alien
- Sylvester Foster as Timothy Lang
- Kerry Hoyt as Fitzpatrick
- Mark Major as dream species alien
- Arthur Murray as command officer
- Noriko Suzuki as operations officer
- Adrian Tafoya as dream species alien
- Piper Taylor as operations officer
- Unknown performers as four dead/zombie crewmembers
2374; 47; all hands; animazine; antimatter explosion; assimilation; Astrometrics; auxiliary power; away mission; battle stations; Blain; brain wave pattern; breakfast; chief medical officer's log, USS Voyager; centimeter; Chile; coffee; collective consciousness; collective unconsciousness; communal dream; comparative pharmacology; cooking oil; cup; dampening field; deer; defense procedure omega; delirium; derivative; dream; Dream Alien; Dream Alien's homeworld; Dream Alien ship; dream reality; Earth; eggs; first contact; Foster; Friday; holodeck; hoverball; hyper REM state; hypothalamus; isolation door; Jefferies tube; Kolopak; leola root; lucid dream; Luna; moon; napping; neurogenic field; neurogenic transmitter; nightmare; nudity; phaser rifle; photon torpedo; physical activity; physical being; power generator; reality; red alert; REM pattern; Saint Moritz; self-hypnosis; shuttle; scrambled eggs; sickbay; skiing; Sleeping Beauty; somnolence; spear; spring; stimulant; Swift; Three full moons; turbolift; Type 8 shuttlecraft (illusion); vision quest; Vulcans; waking species; waking world; warp core breach; water skiing; Wildman, Samantha; wind chill factor
- "Waking Moments" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Waking Moments" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Waking Moments" at Wikipedia
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"Message in a Bottle"