In Star Trek: Lower Decks Episode 2, “Envoys,” Ensign Rutherford faces a new version of the famous no-win scenario from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. During a holographic command training program, Commander Ransom puts him in several situations in which it seems like there’s literally no way to save the ship. After the ship is destroyed in the very first simulation, Ransom says this: “In situations like that, try employing the Janeway protocol.” When Rutherford asks “what’s that?” Ransom replies cryptically, and hilariously, with “good one!”
The joke is great. But, what’s even funnier is that we don’t know what the Janeway protocol is. At least not outright. That said, there are a few clues in the scene and those clues could help guide us to what this really might mean. Lower Decks is a comedy, but it is also part of Star Trek canon. Which means there is a Janeway protocol. So, what could it be? Here are three options.
The Janeway protocol means you should go with the flow, but aggressively…
At the beginning of the simulation, Ransom mentions Rutherford should “guide her home,” meaning his job is to get the ship home. This happens before he mentions Janeway, but obviously, Janeway’s goal throughout all of Voyager (after the pilot) was to get the ship “home,” meaning the Alpha Quadrant. That said, in the first Voyager episode, “Caretaker,” what got Janeway and the USS Voyager stranded in the Delta Quadrant in the first place? Well, Captain Janeway was actually okay with getting stranded, because she was trying to protect the Ocampa. So, because the ship was getting drawn toward a temporal rift, maybe the Janeway protocol is to accelerate toward that rift, and see what happens. Rutherford says “maintain course” and that doesn’t work. So, maybe he should have ordered them to get closer to the rift?
The Janeway protocol means you should ram shit…
In the second simulation, the ship is on a direct course with an asteroid, and when Rutherford says “Do the Janeway protocol,” the helm officer is freaked out and says “Are you sure, sir?” So, maybe the Janeway protocol is just all about ramming things. In the episode “Year of Hell,” Janeway famously orders the USS Voyager to ram the Kremin ship. So, perhaps the Janeway protocol is all about trying to ram another object (or spatial or otherwise) with the intent of destroying it and the ship.
The Janeway protocol involves doing everything you can to reset the timeline and start over…
Because the very first simulation mentioned a “temporal rift,” it feels most likely that the Janeway protocol involves something that has to do with time travel. Again, in “Year of Hell,” Janeway’s final orders before destroying Voyager was connected to wanting to reset the timeline. “This is one year I’d like to forget!” she said, before destroying the ship. Now, Ransom might not be aware of this fact, simply because…well…Janeway reset the timeline. However, in the Voyager finale, “Endgame,” an older version of Janeway for an alternate future, traveled back in time to help Prime Janeway reset the timeline and bring Voyager back much earlier than in the other timeline. Also, in the episode “Deadlock,” Janeway was totally fine with sacrificing the crew of an alternate Voyager in order to let her Voyager live. The point is, Janeway has a track-record for using a “do-over” as a strategy toward saving the ship.
So, if Rutherford wanted to “do the Janeway Protocol,” there’s a good chance it involved time-travel or alternate universe reset button.
What do you think “The Janeway Protocol? is? Give us your theories in the comments below.