In which Janeway dies a bunch.
Today’s explanation of why Voyager is plodding along at sublight is that Janeway is about to board a shuttle after last night’s performance of something. Rocky Horror, maybe. Neelix doesn’t like Tuvok showing up and ruining the fun, though. On she shuttle with Janeway and Chakotay, we learn it was a generic talent show, where Janeway did ballet and Tuvok read Vulcan poetry. On their way down to the planet, they run into a sudden, unexpected storm, get hit by lightning, and crash, barely skating into a landing on emergency antigravity. When Chakotay wakes up, Janeway doesn’t. She’s pretty dead, and Chakotay has to evacuate the shuttle before it fills with toxic gas, taking her body with him in case he can revive her.
Eventually, with enough CPR and a shot from a hypo, he’s able to resuscitate her, but she’s still in pretty terrible shape. He goes back into the shuttle to get blankets and supplies while she goes about converting a commbadge into a homing signal. Chokotay is also able to determine weapon burns on the hull of the shuttle basically by eyesight. Apparently whatever shot them down operates via known energy-weapon principles. Because someone might be after them, they decide to turn off the homing signal until they can figure out who’s after them and why.
The signatures turn out to be Vidiian, and life signs are incoming. They’re surrounded, trapped, tazed, and Janeway gets re-killed. Next thing we know, Chakotay and Janeway are back in the shuttle, repeating the same loop, only this time they notice it. Time loop! Unfortunately, they can’t communicate with Voyager, since they’re out of range. They send a message out via subspace with the information they have so far, and manage to detect the incoming Vidiian ship. Pay attention to the jinking that the shuttle does for maneuvers, and this time, the shuttle explodes in space, starting the loop over once over.
This time they turn around immediately, but this time there are two Vidiian ships incoming, but they’re able to contact Voyager to appraise them of the situation. They try a tachyon burst, the Vidiian ships vanish as part of the time loop, and the two command officers get back to the ship. Rather than turn tail and run from the organ-pirates and time loop in which she always dies, Janeway wants to stick around to study it. Only, while explaining, everyone starts looking at Janeway like she’s crazy, and not because of wanting to stick around. Nobody remembers the conversation about the time loop, including Chakotay. He only remembers the last loop.
Janeway, to her credit goes to the doctor basically immediately while doubling down on temporal scans. The medical scans show that Janeway has the Phage. The best explanation is that she got it when the Vidiian strangled her to death in the first loop, and this caused hallucinations of concurrent time loops. Apparently after being choked to death, Janeway and Chakotay escaped in ways we didn’t see because the episode is being told by an unreliable narrator. Janeway will now be placed under quarantine while the Doctor tries to slow the progression and cure the disease like the Vidiians haven’t been able two for two thousand years.
Next thing we know, it’s night, Janeway’s changed and covered in lesions, forty hours later. The phage is being particularly virulent, and she’ll face a lingering, painful death. The Doctor ‘offers’ her euthanasia, and fills sick bay with a deadly neurotoxin, because someone removed his morality core. After her swift death, Janeway and Chakotay wake up back in the shuttlecraft, only this time there’s a bright white anomaly in front of them.
They try to run away, although Chakotay suggests they try to fly into it. For myself, I’m wondering why their time loops have been different every time after they caught on. This is the first time they see the anomaly, and it also wasn’t shining into the cabin for the first few seconds of the loop. All I’m saying is it feels a lot more like Future Imperfect than Cause and Effect. The anomaly tears the shuttle apart, and Janeway wakes up watching Chakotay give her CPR. So maybe Tapestry instead. This time, she watches the CPR fail and her body die moments before Voyager shows up. Janeway’s looking a lot like a ghost, but apparently one that can board a shuttlecraft.
Back in sick bay, they have a weak pulse, but can’t maintain it, and Janeway dies on the table. Janeway’s ghost can’t interact with the computer, and Kes’ telepathic gifts can’t hear Janeway, but she does sense it when she walks right through the ghost, and goes to the command staff with this. In Janeway’s place I’d be jamming my face into Kes’ skull to confirm it. Maybe also Tuvok. Then again, since the rest of the crew seems perfectly willing to run with this. While Harry and Torres work away in engineering, the bright anomaly pops up in engineering, and Janeway’s dad walks out of it. I am getting unpleasant deja vu.
Apparently Janeway’s dad died by frowning under a polar ice cap. Janeway refuses to believe that this is really her father, but he argues that her scientific doubt won’t work here. I mean, to be fair, her scientific doubt is pretty weak at the moment – her proposed test can do literally nothing to distinguish between ‘father who haunted her after she died’ and ‘entity with access to her memories and sensory inputs.’ But at least she recognizes this.
Pappy Janeway is trying to convince her to leave the mortal coil behind and move on to the next plane of existence. Not pushing, and not objecting when she says she’s going to Kes. Speaking of which, Kes and Tuvok are meditating and sensing outward for traces of Janeway. Janeway’s calling out for recognition, but completely failing to wave her hands through either of them. And given that, Kes and Tuvok are getting ready to give up. Kim and Torres are also on the verge of giving up.
The next step of this formula is the funeral service. Torres makes a speech about how Janeway is a good manager who works on the potential of her subordinates. harry gives a “the captain would want us to move forward” speech, and they fire Janeway’s corpse off into space with all the honors. With this closure, Pappy Janeway has a little more leverage to pull Janeway to the other side, but she needs to stick around to watch her crew grow and learn. A captain doesn’t abandon her ship, and when she makes that determination, we flash back to that cave, with the Doctor in the middle of efforts to revive her.
With this new information, and Pappy Janeway getting pushy about his agenda, Janeway starts fighting back. She wakes up again, and overhears Tuvok mentioning some entity that’s burrowing into her brain. The alien-in-her-father’s-form admits to being an alien when confronted, but claims that what they do is a kind of mercy. They help the dying understand their status, so they can pull their consciousness into their terrarium to store it forever. Of course, he doesn’t seem pleased that she might survive. He sounds a lot more like he’s losing a meal, or about to miss a sales quota. When she states her final refusal, he gives an ‘I’ll be back to eat your soul’ speech and leaves. This could be an interesting recurring antagonist, except that if it tries again she just has to keep giving it the finger and denying it her psychic residue out of spite. I’d kind of like to hear references to the hallucinations in her logs after every near-death experience from now on, though. ‘Captain’s log. Hit my head playing springball. Alien showed up again. This time he was wearing a chicken suit for some reason. Not really sure what his gambit was, didn’t stick around to find out.’