Starfleet, having recently learned that Voyager is far away in the Delta Quadrant, begins sending messages to the crew. The data is being forwarded to the ship via powerful Hirogen transmission arrays, which are run on the energy of micro-singularities (miniature black holes). The crew is excited to receive letters from home, but frustrated when the Hirogen demand they stop using the communications array. Captain Janeway defies the Hirogen as many more letters from home are still in its database.
Letters continue to be downloaded, spreading good and bad news alike. Vulcan tactical officer Tuvok learns there is another addition to his family, while Janeway learns her fiance has married another woman, having given her up as dead for three years. First Officer Chakotay and Chief Engineer Torres learn that a large majority of their Maquis friends have been imprisoned or killed by the Cardassians and their new Dominion allies. Helmsman Tom Paris, facing the possibility of a difficult letter from home, realizes his own problems pale in relation to Torres' news. Tuvok and Seven of Nine go to the array in an attempt to retrieve more of the data, however, they are soon captured by the Hirogen.
Many of the "lower decks" crew are shown by name and face as "postmaster" Neelix delivers the letters around the ship, and Ensign Harry Kim spends much of the episode wondering if he will get a letter at all, due to data loss. Tuvok and Seven undergo questioning and torture by the Hirogen, and the Voyager crew attempt to devise a way to rescue their comrades.
By the end of the episode, Tuvok and Seven are rescued, but their link home is destroyed.
This episode began a 4-episode arc of the Voyager crew dealing with the Hirogen. While this episode and "Prey" were "stand-alone" episodes in their own right, when included with the 2-part episode "The Killing Game," the Star Trek franchise ventured into a story-arc genre that was also seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Enterprise. The "arc" was interrupted between "Prey" and "The Killing Game" by the episode "Retrospect." The death of the Maquis and B'Elanna Torres' reaction to her Maquis comrades' is developed even further during season 5 episode "Extreme Risk." The CGI effect used during the opening scene was also used in the opening segments of the season 2 episode "Deadlock."
There appear to be some similarities between the Hirogen and the Hunter species from the 1st series of Deep Space Nine Captive Pursuit, although they come from the Delta and Gamma quadrants respectively.