We start in the Dauntless sickbay, where Admiral Janeway is talking to The Diviner. His memory is in pieces because of Zero’s impact in the mid-season finale but he does remember that someone took the Protostar from him, and that he recognizes Chakotay. He gets agitated as he recognizes Janeway is with Starfleet, and they sedate him. Ensign Ascensia comes in and says they found Frex’s escape pod from the relay station. He was rescued by an unidentified ship. Janeway says they need to find him. She thinks whoever took the Protostar hurt the Diviner and destroyed the station: “This is no longer a rescue mission; it’s a manhunt.”
Meanwhile on the Protostar, Dal’s log lets us know that they still haven’t been able to figure out how to disable the Living Construct weapon. They arrive at the planet that was sending the distress signal.
Murf is still sick and Rok is worried about him. Janeway says he needs rest, and they suggest Rok stays back with Murf while the rest of the crew goes down to the planet. Pog is not so enthusiastic about the mission – his confidence has taken a hit after the last mission and since they haven’t been able to figure out the weapon in their ship.
Down on the idyllic, grassy planet, the crew encounter two men dressed in green, with what look like delta shields on their chests. They stun Pog, but then one of them tells the other to stand down, calling them a “Starflight landing party.” He introduces them as “James’T” and “Sool’u” (with the emphasis on the second u) and he speaks like he’s doing a bad Shatner impression…com…plete…with…pauses…and…overly dramatic hand…gestures (James’T is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who also voices Murf). Dal hails the ship and Hologram Janeway tells him it’s impossible. Yes, James T. Kirk and Sulu are Starfleet legends, but they can’t be here.
They take the crew to “New Endaprise”: what appears to be a town inside walls in the shape of a ship. Gwyn observes it’s like everyone is playing make believe, but Zero doesn’t sense any deception. They say these people truly believe to be Starfleet. The aliens take them to the “bridge” to play the logs: basically they perform a play about how the Enterprise found their planet. They’ve got an Enterprise bridge set and everyone on the crew has an analog, from Sprock (voiced by Fred Tatasciore, aka Shaxs from Lower Decks) to Scott’ee.
One character we’re not familiar with is “En’song,” who goes down to the planet, bringing the ways of Starfleet but also a warning about a great evil that followed him, and how they’d better not go into the woods, lest they be cursed by “The Gallows.” The play continues, showing that some warriors tried to face The Gallows, but no one ever returned. Sickness came to the village, proving the curse. En’song stayed to help them, and with his dying words he promised that one day Starflight would return.
The crew confers among themselves. Gwyn wants to help them but it’s not lost on Dal that in a way, they’re also just performing being in Starfleet. Just then, a little kid called Cadet Huur’a comes in and collapses, saying she saw The Gallows. In a medical facility she explains The Gallows had glowing eyes, roaring smoke, breathing fire and death. Dal tries to explain to James’T that curses aren’t real, but then they see he has the same black splotches on his skin as Huur’a does. Zero says they can synthesize a cure but need to go to the source to learn more about the illness.
Back on the ship, Rok is taking a sample of Murf for analysis, but he’s still feeling rough. Gwyn hails them and says they need Rok to bring down EV suits because Dal is sick. Rok heads down to the planet and asks Janeway to look after Murf.
On the planet Rok, Gwyn and Pog, all suited up, head to the woods. James’T asks Huur’a why she didn’t heed the warning about the curse. She says she believes in Starflight and En’song told them to explore. Zero keeps trying to treat Dal but he’s really stressing out, scratching himself until Boons puts a wood leech on him to ease the itching. he says Dal must judge them for their poor facilities. He says En’song told them they weren’t ready for Starflight, and they know the Prime Directive, but you don’t need a ship to know what Starfleet stands for. But does Dal?
In the woods they start to come across dead trees, and the earth shakes. They find the glowing mouth of a cave and enter to find the ground full of luminous crystal shards. Something belches green smoke and they all take a tumble as the earth shakes again. They see what they think are two glowing, red eyes, but then the smoke clears and they see it’s not The Gallows, but the Galileo: a shuttlecraft with two glowing nacelles.
They scan and figure out the shuttle is leaking plasma, which is reacting with the environment and causing the smoke and poisoning the land. They try to hail Zero but they can’t get through while they’re in the cave. Jankom Pog says he thinks he can fix the comm relay on the shuttle, but Gwyn’s worried it might fall. Pog is determined to fix it, or he won’t be able to call himself an engineer. He uses a line to secure the shuttle to a crystal in the cave floor.
Pog gets through to Zero and tells them that they’re dealing with a dilithium reaction and toxic runoff from shuttle plasma. Zero makes the antidote quickly and treats Dal and Huur’a. Dal wakes up and looks almost immediately better. But he knows the crew is in danger and Janeway can’t beam them out. She says they have to fly in closer without her, because the interference will knock out her program. Dal realizes he needs more hands to help, and beams James’T, Sulu, and Huur’a on board. They are suitably wowed.
Janeway loads the Constitution-class holo-console to make them more comfortable, and the entire bridge changes to look more like the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D). On the planet, they all jump into the shuttle and hear the final log of Ensign Garrovick of the USS Enterprise. So it was Ensign, not En’song all along. TOS fans will recognize Garrovick as one of the rare minor redshirts to survive a mission, in “Obsession.” Garrovick says he tried to do his duty, salvaged what he could from the wreck, and went to save the locals from the danger. They welcomed and healed him, and in the end, they saved him.
Dal and his substitute crew save the day, transporting Rok, Gwyn and Pog out just in time. The ship lands back down on the planet and the population celebrates. Janeway says the laws around second contact are a bit fuzzy, so it’s up to the people to figure out how they want to go forward. We see a montage of them blasting shut the entrance to the cave, learning to use medical equipment, and updating their play to include the Protostar crew.
Rok goes to the quarters to find Murf and sees that he’s attached in a web to the wall, which looks kind of like a spider’s egg sac, purring. Looks like Murf is metamorphosing or going to have babies?