VOY: S2E01: “The 37’s”

In which Roswell aliens are terrible about leaving highway litter. 

"Please, it's not Herbie, it's Herbert."

“Please, it’s not Herbie, it’s Herbert.”

A year into the journey, Voyager is still cruising along at sublight, and Janeway is tracking down the mystery of some space-rust. There’s a trail of iron oxide and they’re following it because iron shouldn’t oxidize without oxygen. There are also traces of chemicals one would expect from a manufacturing process, specifically gasoline. Or rocket fuel. Nope, gasoline. Any guesses as to what a prohibition-era Ford is doing in space?

Paris’s hobby is studying old cars, so when they bring it aboard he’s thrilled to have an antique like this, whereas Kim thinks it’s an early hovercar. Come on, Harry! And while Paris can recognize a car from back before WWIII down to the manufacturing year, Janeway’s hobbies incluse horsesh… uh… manure. I invite you to try to keep track how how often the writers seem to be approaching dangerous levels of self-awareness.

After Janeway recovers her poise by showing that she’s at least as expert at something in the room as one of her crew, Tom gets to work on starting up and restoring the car. Of course, he’s got to talk himself through the fact that this is before voice-command systems. Keys are still in the ignition, there’s still a charge on the battery, and everyone’s skittish when it backfires a few times. He also turns on the AM radio, and locates an SOS. An actual morse code transmission, which of course we must track down. Since it’s sublight, Voyager wasn’t monitoring that frequency for communications, and apparently they have limited bandwidth and no interesting stellar phenomena usually happen on that frequency.

Okay, but imagine how vindicated the crewman assigned to repair these things after the Caretaker incident must feel.

Okay, but imagine how vindicated the crewman assigned to repair these things after the Caretaker incident must feel.

The third planet in the destination system is class L – barely habitable and full of turbulence that will disrupt both transporters and shuttle flights. This is a perfect time to show off Voyager‘s landing struts. This will be Paris’ first time, so everyone’s going to try to be gentle. Part of the procedure is taking the warp engines offline, which seems like a really good detail. It’s probably wise to lock down all the antimatter on this ship when actually touching a planet, even before you account for the way the warp field bends space and time. It’s not entirely a smooth ride down due to tri-nimbic turbulence, which is half again as bad as the bi-nimbic kind.

Also, the thickness of those struts and the fact that the forward wedge doesn’t collapse under its own weight really makes you appreciate the tensile strength and durability of Starfleet materials engineering.

On the planet, Chakotay goes to investigate a power source, while Janeway and all the actual recurring characters get to go to the source of the signal, an old twin-prop rigged up with an alien fusion core. Meanwhile, Chakotay’s found a cave. Janeway splits off from her group to go back with Chakotay and Torres to where the exciting non-drudgework is, and locates some cryo stasis pods. Full of humans, from the 1930s. So far, a member of the Japanese Imperial Army, some dude we don’t recognize, and Amelia Earhart. As usual, Harry is hopelessly ignorant.

Paris and Janeway are eager to wake them up, plus use whatever method they were brought by in order to get home. Which you’ll admit is at least a new angle for this setup. The Voyager crew successfully break into the cryo storage tubes and revive everyone successfully, including the requisite angry dude in a tie. Janeway also confirms that the Universal Translator is in the commbadges and works on everyone in the area. Handy. Janeway tries to explain the situation.

Amelia Earhart’s last memory seems to corroborate the theory that they were all abducted by aliens, but at this point, Fred Noonan pulls a gun and holds Janeway at gunpoint until he can talk to J. Edgar Hoover. And for a group of people with clearly supporting memories and in the presence of a lot of really strange technology, the earthlings are remarkably resistant to the idea. But Janeway has the angle – she’s a captain, inspired by Earhart, and has a starship 2 kilometers away.

The ploy has worked, and Earhard backs Noonan down, and a few of them go up to the surface, while Paris volunteers himself and Kim to stay behind. Chakotay’s rescue party, meanwhile, gets ambushed by aliens with plenty of time to aim and therefore no skills whatsoever. Or it was a warning shot designed to suppress. Nah, they shot Noonan. Maybe they knew him. Chakotay also calls for artillary backup from Voyager, perhaps forgetting that the ship is on the ground and only has LOS energy weapons and antimatter warheads, neither of which is suited to the situation.

Pretty sure I've seen those outfits in Pulp Fiction.

Pretty sure I’ve seen those outfits in Pulp Fiction.

Janeway has flanked the ambushers, who are also human, and on the defense from something called the Briori. Presumably the kidnapping aliens. They negotiate a truce and Noonan gets to sick bay, where he’s so drunk that future-medicine is having a hard time saving him. Just enough for him to thoroughly embarrass himself with some last words.

The ’37s’ have become something of a religious icon to the more modern locals on the planet, who were even maintaining the radio signal as some sort of Eternal Flame. The locals are the descendents of the 37s, brought by the Briori, kept as slaves, revolted, and built a settlement. And kept Earhart, Noonan, and the others on ice, thinking they were dead. Oh, and the Briori ship was destroyed, so no shortcut home.

Paris shows off Voyager to Earhart and pegs warp 9.9 at four billion miles/second, or about 21472C, putting Voyager‘s trip home at that speed at a little over three years. Now, I get that this isn’t exactly sustainable cruising speed, but if their expected trip takes 70 years and maximum speed could get them home in three, then they’re spending well over half their time not making any progress at all as part of their built-in expectations. Maybe Paris is just bragging?

Janeway now has the conundrum of whether she can let any of the crew disembark to join the settlement of humans and colonize the Delta quadrant. The concern is that if too many want to leave, the ship won’t run. After all that, though, she has to make the offer.

I guess with all that’s gone on, and since the Japanese hadn’t actually attacked America yet, the lack of emnity should’t be that surprising. Somehow it is. Also, even Harry Kim is considering staying on planet.

I don’t want to be unreasonable to Janeway here, but it strikes me as incredibly pretentious for her to compare herself with Earhart. Amelia Earhart broke records, shattered gender barriers, was a giant in the fight for women’s equal rights. Janeway was born into a world where that struggle has been over for so long that pretty much everyone finds the idea of that battle needing to be fought kind of fanciful. Sure, Janeway’s the first female captain with her own show, but Rachel Garrett saved the Federation. Nacheyev runs a war. Sure she’s representing something for 20th century viewers, but in-universe Janeway is basically just another very accomplished person who commands a starship. I don’t want to be an ass, but Janeway just isn’t a pioneer or breaker of barriers. That’s a good thing.

In the end, nobody decides to stay behind on the planet, and both she and Chakotay are visibly relieved, and Voyager lifts off to start crawling Earthwards once more. Which is a damn shame, because, as a season opener this would have been a perfect time to introduce a new character. I guess the writers had to focus on figuring out the ones they already have.

Did we miss something awesome?