Last week finished on a cliffhanger, with Janeway in the brig and both the Protostar and Dauntless arriving in Federation space, met by an armada of Starfleet ships summoned by Asencia/the Vindicator.
Opening this episode, Janeway tries to persuade her guard to let her out, but initially has no luck. On the Protostar bridge Dal lets the others know that Janeway might not be able to help them much because, thanks to his antics in her body last week, they think she’s crazy. On the Dauntless bridge Jellico is being briefed by her first officer. Jellico is hopping mad that they brought this potential danger to Starfleet’s doorstep and asks what the plan is – or maybe that is just Jellico’s only mood. He approves a plan to fire on the ship until they can board it.
Meanwhile Zero hot-wires the Protostar to regain control of ship’s systems. But they can’t fire up the proto-core because the core isn’t online yet, so they boost the shields and try to evade the phaser fire of the Federation ships at impulse speed.
Dal tries to motivate the crew by saying that one day they’ll laugh about this at Starfleet Academy, and Gwyn looks up guiltily. Rok starts to break the bad news to him but Gwyn knows now is not the time and interrupts her.
In the Dauntless brig, the Ensign guarding Janeway’s cell tells her that she was one of the Brenari refugees that Janeway helped escape from the Devore (in the epic Voyager episode “Counterpoint”). The Ensign decides to trust her and let her out of the cell. Fun fact: the Brenari ensign is voiced by friend of our show (and voice of the Protostar computer) Bonnie Gordon!
The Protostar is about to be boarded and Gwyn heads to the armory to try to hold off the boarding party. Dal follows her and urges her not to fire on Starfleet, which will hurt her chances of getting into the Academy. Gwyn pauses and says that there’s something she needs to tell him. As she summons the courage, Dal misinterprets her intention, leans in, and kisses her. She pulls back in surprise and he apologizes. He asks what he needed to hear and Gwyn tells him that Starfleet won’t allow Augments to join. He sinks down in despair. Then stands and takes the phaser rifle from her, because if he can’t join Starfleet, he can at least make sure the others can.
The boarding party prepares itself in the transporter room, but Asencia/the Vindicator attacks them, with the help of the Diviner and Drednok. The Diviner agrees with the Vindicator that they need to shoot anyone who stands in their way…except Gwyn, whom he argues is one of them.
Dal runs off the bridge and tells the others not to let the boarding party reach them. Dal, Rok, Jankom and Zero face off against Drednok and the Vindicator and the Diviner and Vindicator easily make it to the bridge, where Gwyn is hiding and waiting for the right moment. In the hallway, Drednok uses gravity mines and other devices that zap and freeze the crew members. Murf tries to come to their rescue but Drednok freezes him to a window. Meanwhile on the bridge the Diviner goes to check the weapon, and Gwyn springs out to fight the Vindicator with their heirloom weapons. The Vindicator says she’s not one of them, just a mistake that shouldn’t even be here.
When the Diviner comes back the Vindicator grabs Gwyn and holds a weapon to her head, ordering her father to hail the Federation. Gwyn screams for him not to. He approaches the console, but instead of opening hailing frequencies he uses his control of Gwyn’s heirloom weapon and tries to fire it at the Vindicator. She catches it and says, “You were always the weak one,” throwing it back at him, where it impales him in the abdomen. She opens hailing frequencies.
Back on the Dauntless, Janeway rushes onto the bridge and tells them not to answer the hail, but it’s too late, and the Vindicator appears on their screen, cackling. The construct activates and a wave sweeps out over all the surrounding ships, whose lights turn red. Janeway orders her crew to deactivate comms and weapons, but controls aren’t responding and shields are down. The Vindicator says that Starfleet left her people to tear themselves apart, so now she’s going to watch Starfleet do the same. Ships start firing on each other and there’s nothing Janeway can think of to do.
On the Protostar, Dal thinks they’re finally defeated, but Rok says no. She asks Jankom for the blowtorch in his prosthetic arm, and from that position they use it to thaw Murf, and together they get Zero and Dal free and deactivate the gravity mine. They come to the bridge and order the Vindicator to stop, but she won’t. If she pays for this, it won’t be today. Drednok turns into a new form that is like an escape pod, and surrounds her. She blasts through the roof of the bridge and escapes.
Gwyn kneels over her father, and they share some touching words before he passes away and dissolves into blue glowing dust. Gwyn’s forehead ridges glow blue and Dal puts a hand on her shoulder.
The crew now has control of the bridge again but the construct has also impeded their universal translators so they can no longer understand each other. Dal reflects that it’s just like Tars Lamora. On the Dauntless, the crew likewise can’t understand Janeway, who’s trying to order them to abandon ship.
Gwyn stands up and realizes that she can bring people together because she can speak their different languages. She hails Janeway and they can communicate. Janeway says that there’s no way to stop every Starfleet ship from destroying themselves, so Dal asks how many allies they have closeby that don’t have Starfleet ships.
Janeway knows this is a big ask, but she helps Gwyn send a distress call in a variety of different languages to any ships close by. She reaches a Klingon woman captain, who asks why she should help.
“Because in the infinite of space, everyone needs to know there is a place out there willing to accept us all, no matter how different we are.”
It’s a great speech that so clearly captures Star Trek values in a way that hits home for viewers of all ages. But the Klingon captain doesn’t reply so Janeway keeps trying to work on evacuation. Gwyn hangs her head, but just then a Bird of Prey shows up and blocks a shot aimed at the Dauntless. Many other species’ ships show up, and as the Protostar crew recognizes them they realize they can talk to each other again; the translator is fixed.
Still, it looks like Starfleet’s emergency protocol will be the end of them all, as when a ship is attacked it sends an automatic distress call, and more Starfleet ships keep arriving. What will our crew do? We’ll find out next week in our Season 1 finale!