In which Seven provides a wake-up-call, Janeway falls for false hope again, and Neelix hits the books.
Open on a scene of devastation – a technological, highly urbanized civilization is being destroyed from space by energy bolts. This is a species that has at least mastered its own local aerospace, judging by all the helipads. A woman runs desperately for her co-worker, who had to disconnect some bio-pods from their reactor. The two of them get into bio-pods, life support and probably stasis, and go to sleep for what they intend to be five years.
Voyager was cruising at Warp 6, and was subsequently sucked into a warp corridor full of debris and corpses, some of it ancient. Apparently this corridor is part of a maze-like network, and Voyager has just been hailed by a ship that claims the maze as their own. It doesn’t want them there, and hits them with a resonance pulse to push them out. The corridor has pushed them 200 light-years in five minute, but they don’t seem interested in negotiation passage for Voyager. They’re going to destroy the information our crew has already gathered, either by some rm commands or by blowing up the ship. Janeway won’t let him board, so…
The little ship has backup and their weapons pack a punch, so Voyager has to flee to a planet with a radioactive atmosphere they can hide in. Not very well, but eventually they shake the pursuit and find the ruins of a city below the nuclear winter clouds. The planet has been devastated for 892 years, but the ship appears to be able to survive the radiation more-or-less indefinitely, given shielding. They also detect life signs, and Janeway goes to check it out.
Seven and Tuvok are also on the away team, not wearing suits. I guess there’s no comtamination down here, or not enough to be dangerous. This is a geothermal well, a great idea when you’re trying to provide uninterrupted power for all the stasis pods. The stasis pod controls can evidently tell the difference between ‘wiping off dust’ and ‘intentionally pressing buttons’, something which my phone struggles which but that’s probably just an engineering challenge. Seven wakes one up, and they hit him with the bad news – he overslept. His wife didn’t make it, her stasis pod evidently failed.
They take him back to sick bay, where he gets the nature of the Doctor explained to him and Janeway explains the premise of the show. He belongs to the species Vaduwar, which the Borg assimilated 900 years ago, at least partially. The Vaduwar also mapped the corridors, before the Toray and others destroyed them ant took the corridors themselves. There’s certainly more to the story, but we’re not going to hear it all from this survivor. He’s got a lot of ancient knowledge, including information about the prior epoch of Talaxian culture. Interestingly, the word Vaduwar is in the Talaxian lexicon. It means ‘foolish.’ Speaking of getting ganged up on by an alliance of lesser races jealous of their transportation technology and destroyed (and doesn’t that sound familiar?) the city is getting bombed again.
Gedrin, the Vaduway dude, has an idea. He asks to get access to the comms so they can use a Vaduwar satellite to target their weapons. The Universal Translator successfully allows Gedrin to read Federation numerals and handles the communications protocols. Once Voyager scares them off, he shows some of his bloodthirstiness – revenge isn’t exactly sinister, but it’s worrying. In exchange for being carried off-planet, Gedrin promises to give Voyager some subspace corridor maps that nobody else knows about (how would he know they haven’t been mapped yet?), if only she’ll wake up his battalion of soldiers. Chakotay remembers the myth of planting dragon teeth to renew the war, because it was his turn to title-drop.
The subspace corridors, while naturally occuring, decay through use and need maintenance or they start to decay and do things like pull in ships passing nearby. The Vaduwar don’t have written records of the corridors, just Guild Steersman-like savants who memorize the paths. Helping out the victims of a genocide seems noble and all, and helping get home is great too, but I just want to point out… So much for noninterference – again.
Naomi Wildman doesn’t like the Vaduwar children, apparently because they made fun of Neelix’s species for a variety of reasons. About this time, the Torres and the Vaduwar engineer are reactivating ships, and he’s trying to impress her with what he’s picked up of Klingon culture. He admires the warrior attributes, and apparently Vaduwar children are taught to fall asleep imagining a different way to die each night. What kind of culture does that? To drive home the lesson, Neelix explores the etymology of ‘vaduwar’ in the Talaxian Old Tongue database that I guess Voyager picked up from his ship’s library? The first use of the term appears in folklore, and folktales of that kind have names like ‘demon with the golden voice’ and ‘deadly stranger.’ Neelix has some reading to do.
Gedrin is trying to figure out where to settle – first attempts include Borg holdings and claims by a xenophobic regime. Tuvok, meanwhile, is planning for the tactical situation – the Toray have returned in force. His plan is for shock and awe, with Voyager getting backed up by the Vaduwar warships and making distractions for the colony ships. The Vaduwar leader wants photon torpedoes, but it’s not happening. It’s like he wants to make an ultimatum, but their technology is 900 years old and they don’t have anything to enforce the line with. Sure enough, a secret meeting later between the three leaders shows they plan to retake one of their old colonies with Voyager‘s firepower, with only Gedrin demuring, and unsuccessfully.
Seven finds real value in helping rebuild a civilizaiton after helping to destroy so many as a drone. She’s going to be heartbroken when these guys eventually turn on Janeway, but it’s an important step in her development. Neelix calls an end to that little meeting to brief her on Talaxian folklore. The vaduwar are associated with phantom armies that appear out of thin air, destroy colonies, and vanish. Like always happens with species with advanced mobilization technology. Hey, are you catching up on Discovery?
Neelix has briefed the captain, and she’s eager to find out whether Gedrin will tell her the truth about the real use of those corridors. She presents a version of events where the Vaduwar went out and attacked everything. He doesn’t say this is false, just that it was 900 years ago. Or, to all the people they just woke up from stasis, ‘that thing Dad did.’ In light of these new facts, Janeway has already predicted the Vaduwar betrayal, and made some preparations for it.
The Vaduwar leader does not agree to her modifications, since they involve disarming most of their ships. Gedrin, to his credit, really tried to cooperate, if only because he’s better at taking the long view. After these negotiations break down, the Vaduwar launch and start to attack Voyager, nearly forcing a ground-based conflict. Voyager‘s phaser arrays do her proud, but there’s something of a swarm to deal with. Of course, there’s still the Toray in orbit, and Janeway offers an alliance, and the use of their surveilance satellite, all with Gedrin standing right there. Dude was really committed to peace or really good at faking it – he offers to help if he’s transported to the central chamber.
Also, credit where it’s due, rather than executing Voyager‘s crew, the Vaduwar leader is willing to order them to be put into stasis. It’s not great, but it’s better than omnicide. Similarly, Gedrin really seems sincere – he’s staying at the controls to keep the intel going, and Janeway orders Voyager to take on a power boost by inhaling radioactive particles into the plasma manifolds to energize the warp drive. Voyager makes good her escape while the Toray and the Vaduwar battle it out, and they’re on their way.
Two days later, Seven reports that they detected 53 surviving Vaduwar ships entering the subspace corridors. They have determination and a perfect ambush tool, Janeway promises we’ll see more of these guys.