(written from a Production point of view)
As Gwyn struggles to find her role aboard the USS Protostar, Dal tests his leadership skills in the newly discovered holodeck.
The USS Protostar drops out of proto-warp, and Dal is the first to recover, asking how fast they went. Jankom Pog, waking up off of Murf, tries to give an answer, but is completely queasy. Zero, however, notices the proto-drive is offline and inoperable and proceeds to shut down the drive components. Gwyn asks if her father was still after them, but Dal reassures her that they got away. Rok-Tahk worriedly asks where they were, prompting Janeway to ask the computer where they ended up at. To the hologram's shock and confusion, they've landed four thousand light years away, and are now in the Gamma Quadrant. Jankom doesn't buy it even as Janeway tries to make sense of it.
Later on, Dal is busy playing a game in his ready room when Jankom, Zero, and Rok-Tahk enter. They explain that their best course of action is to head for the Federation for help. They explain that they barely escaped The Diviner, and he's still out there and the proto-drive is still inoperable and can't help them if it's shut down. Dal refuses as he believes they'll be arrested for stealing Federation property. Jankom counters that they're refugees and that the Federation should understand. Dal's upset that they're going against their captain, which Jankom counters as "self-appointed". Zero points out that, outside of him, the decision is unanimous. However, Dal talks his way out of this by pointing out that Murf hadn't said anything. This prompts the group to wonder where Murf wandered off to. Murf is, somehow, on a frozen tundra planet.
As the group hunts down Murf, Dal wanders into sickbay, where Gwyn is hiding. Dal turns to leave her alone, but Gwyn stops him and thanks him for saving her life. Dal attempts to brush it off, claiming that Janeway wouldn't allow them to leave anyone behind. Before he leaves, he lets her know she has a bunk cleared off for her when she's ready to join them. Elsewhere, Jankom finds a room and pops its door open, watching as Murf races out. Dal joins him on the tundra and soon calls for Janeway, revealing that this is a holodeck program of Andoria IV. This piques the boys' curiosity, prompting Janeway to showcase a few of them, from skydiving over Ceti Alpha V, battling in a kal-if-fee gladiatorial match, battling Count Dracula, or even going through one of Janeway's beloved Jane Eyre holo-novel series (one the boys agree with a silent look at each other that they're not going to try anytime soon). One, however, catches Dal's eye – the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
Janeway simply describes it as "an advanced Academy training module designed to test the greatest captains Starfleet has to offer." Dal sees it as a chance to prove he's the best, much to Jankom's annoyance. Janeway knows that Dal is in no position to win and appears to deliberately bait him, suggesting continuing with the "silly little" Ktarian game as being "more his speed". Predictably, Dal dismisses her ready to prove he's just as good as anyone in the Federation and she obliges, but with a knowing smile. Activating the program, the boys find themselves on the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D and soon asked by the computer to choose personnel, various Starfleet badges through the decades flashing up before them.
Elsewhere, Rok-Tank finds Murf in a storage room, chowing down on photon grenades, much to her horror. In sickbay, Zero scans Gwyn on a biobed by tricorder and is impressed that her fractured leg has already fully healed. She is perfectly fine outside of low serotonin and asks why she hasn't left, summing it up with a phrase Janeway taught them, "a penny for your thoughts." Gwyn explains that she's sad, that she doesn't belong on the ship with the rest of them or out in the universe after what her father did. Zero sympathizes with her, explaining that they felt loneliness when they were separated from their Medusan hive mind by The Diviner. However, despite this, they found a place with Dal and the others and so shall Gwyn. Gwyn is confused – why would they need a translator when they have a computer doing so? Zero explains that it isn't what's translated, but its interpretation. They admit they struggled to figure out why The Diviner chose a ship over his daughter and that while they're certain Gwyn doesn't have the answers, they'll find out together.
The Diviner had grown weak over the years in his search for the Protostar. With his species on the verge of extinction, he requests that Drednok create a progeny for him. Drednok objects, stating that doing so would defy The Order and an offspring represents an emotional liability. The Diviner counters that The Order would become irrelevant if his species died with him and that they were close to achieving their goal. Drednok relents and creates a female clone from The Diviner as a daughter, Gwyndala.
Dal and Jankom are still in the holodeck choosing crewmembers. Jankom suggests one JT Kirk, but Dal points out that he's the captain, and they don't need another one. In the end, Dal asks for some of the best on record and are given Communications Officer Nyota Uhura, Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, Chief of Security Odo, and Science Officer Spock. The simulation begins when they receive a distress call from the Kobayashi Maru, which is in the neutral zone and requesting urgent assistance. Jankom mocks them for being "whiners". As Crusher and Spock warn Dal of the fact that the ship has 87 lives in danger yet entering the neutral zone constitutes an act of war, Dal asks if they know anyone onboard the ship. Since no one does, Dal orders the ship turned around and warped out. Spock and Crusher express their disappointment and when Dal attempts to assert his authority, Uhura adamantly refuses while Odo outright resigns. Jankom is excited over the idea of a mutiny, but Dal ends up relenting and orders the ship into the neutral zone, complaining when Odo points out, again, that this is an act of war. Soon, they are surrounded by three Klingon Birds-of-Prey and are hit with a single photon torpedo, ending the simulation. Dal groans as the computer gives his scores, which are sadly very low. Refusing to let Jankom mock him over this failure, Dal demands the simulation be restarted.
Down in engineering, Gwyn and Zero muse as to why The Diviner wants such a powerful engine and why Janeway was so shocked at its capabilities. Figuring out it was easier to ask the source, Gwyn calls for Janeway and asks about the Protostar's mission. However, the most she can get out was to "enter the Delta Quadrant" before something blocks her. She can't even answer why it was on Tars Lamora. Gwyn thinks her memory core is damaged, but Janeway says it's fine - the information's classified. When Zero suggests trying to find the answer in her memory banks, Janeway replies that she's gonna need coffee for this. Rok-Tahk runs in, calling for Zero. Briefly pleased to note Gwyn out and about, she asks Zero what happens if one ate photon grenades. On Zero stating that one would cease to exist after a burst of gamma rays, she panics and quickly runs off.
In the holodeck, Dal's losses are piling up as Jankom mocks him. After 42 attempts, this is now personal. Attempt 49, Crusher suggests that Dal's stubbornness should be in a medical textbook. Attempt 61, an unhinged Dal snarls "Fire... everything!", prompting Spock to ask if he was alright before the Enterprise is shot down. Attempt 78, Dal gets into an argument with Odo, who turns and leaves before they're shot down. Attempt 99, the Klingon captain watches in confusion as there was an empty bridge. As it turned out, everyone was hiding behind the tactical console. Spock surmises that Dal has lost all capacity for rational thought with Uhura agreeing and not understanding how anyone can stand it. After more and more failures, Dal is at his wit's end: why can't he win? Jankom suggests that maybe he just can't. Dal is incensed: what does someone in Starfleet have that's better than him? Jankom claims lots, but can only suggest that, maybe, he should listen to his crew more. Dal feels betrayed by this and summoning the arch, kicks Jankom out and asks the computer to give him a new engineer, summoning Chief Engineering Officer Montgomery Scott.
In the hangar, Rok-Tahk worries about Murf when the photon grenades finally go off, causing the blob to belch out light, stretch and twist as it easily shrugs off the weapon with a tiny fart. Rok-Tahk, Murf and Jankom return to the bridge to find Gwyn trying to decode the data that's blocking Janeway's memories. She has bypassed the command functions but has found a passcode encryption. Zero notes the translator isn't translating one part and Gwyn realizes it's because it's the language of her homeworld, Solum, a curiosity as the Federation never met the Vau N'Akat. Gwyn points out that she and her father are the last of their kind, so there's no way anyone from her race could have done this but sets about to try and solve it. Reminded by Zero that language is not merely about translation but interpretation, Gwyn tries the phrase "There is no barrier we cannot overcome. For we are Vau N'Akat." After a few tense moments, it works and they're given access.
In the holodeck, Dal's finally figured out how to beat the simulation. Activating the simulation again, he plays AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" on all channels at full volume, has the ship go into impulse and performing a barrel roll loop as the warp core is going critical at 130% power. Dal has decided the only way to win the simulation is to go full chaos. Once the Birds-of-prey arrive, Dal orders the warp core ejected and, once it gets close, phasers fired at it, obliterating the ships in a massive antimatter explosion. Spock picks up nothing on sensors and Crusher notes that, despite his insane actions, the crew of the Kobayashi Maru are still alive. However, as Dal cheers, a fourth Bird-of-prey arrives, sending him into despair as the Enterprise is dead in the water without the warp core, and he wishes he could leave the bridge. To his shock, he and Spock are transported over to the Klingon ship's bridge, Dal not understanding how the holodeck is so much 'bigger' than he knows it to be.
The Klingon captain spots the two and orders his crew to attack. Fumbling with his phaser Dal fights back and gets a lucky shot, but with the rest of the Klingons focused on Dal, Spock easily incapacitates them one by one with the Vulcan neck pinch. With all aggressors defeated, Dal questions Spock as to why he said nothing about having such a skill before declaring victory. He contacts the Enterprise, requesting the crew to clean up his mess while he goes and escorts the Kobayashi Maru personally to safety and wishes the Enterprise a safe journey before signing off. However, as he sits down and kicks his feet up onto a console, he triggers the Bird-of-Prey's photon torpedo launcher which is already targeting the Enterprise: a single photon torpedo is fired and destroys his own ship. Horrified, Dal drops to his knees in despair, not understanding where he went wrong. Spock points out that he can't afford to be seen by the crew as being anything less than perfect, or his crew will lose their faith in him and he'll lose command of the situation. Dal admits he's no captain, and that he's never had a ship or a crew before. Spock adds that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, which Dal figures he means that the needs of the crew come before his own and admits he needs to listen more instead of just giving commands. Spock tells him that it's the only logical conclusion, but in his own way, his stubbornness does remind him of another captain of the Enterprise he knew before bidding him farewell with the Vulcan salute, which Dal misinterprets as a high five.
As the program shuts down, Dal finally asks the computer what the winning solution that he was supposed to follow. On learning the actual purpose of the simulation as a no-win scenario, he chuckles to himself and remarks that he almost had it figured out. Returning to the bridge, he goes to apologize to the group and suggest taking them up on their offer to go to the Federation when he sees the others surrounded by holograms of the corrupted data fragments Gwyn unlocked, but which are still readable. Janeway discovers from one fragment that the Protostar is a prototype ship and the fastest in Starfleet, while Jankom notes it'll take months to go through everything. Zero tells him that their answers may lurk in there, with Jankom remarking to Gwyn that it was a good thing Dal insisted to the others on saving her, causing the girl to bashfully smile. Rok-Tahk notices a picture of a man and presses it, sending a data stream towards the captain's chair, revealing him to be Captain Chakotay making a mayday call as mysterious boarders attack the ship. As the fuzzy video shows the hologram Janeway approaching Chakotay, the present-day Janeway makes a stunning revelation - the kids are not her first crew.
"Why would you need someone who speaks a few languages on a ship that can translate all of them?"
"Ah. But language is more than translation; it is interpretation."
- - Gwyn and Zero
"Entry into which by either side, would constitute an act of war."
"If you're gonna poke around in my head, I'll need some coffee first."
- -Hologram Janeway, before projecting a mug of coffee
"What would happen if you ate photon grenades? Asking for a friend."
"One would explode into a burst of gamma rays and cease to exist."
- - Rok-Tahk and Zero
"The phenomenon of your stubbornness belongs in a medical textbook."
- - Hologram Crusher, commenting on Dal's performance
- - Dal, trying to beat the Kobayashi Maru
"No. I'm not going to let this happen again." (Explosions) "NOT AGAIN!"
"I believe he has lost the capacity for rational decision."
"Yes, he's infuriating, sir, how can you stand it?"
- - Holograms Spock and Uhura, commenting on Dal's performance (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident", "The Mark of Gideon")
"Thank you, sir, and call me Scotty."
"There is no barrier we cannot overcome. For we are Vau N'Akat."
"I've blown up so many times... I see now the only way out is chaos."
"Am I correct in my assumption that you've been disturbed by what you consider to be a failure on your part?"
"And what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? No disrespect intended, but you must surely realise you can't announce the full truth to the crew. You're the Captain of this ship. You can't afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If you do, they lose faith, and you lose command."
"That the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"So a good captain puts the needs of the crew first before himself?"
- - Hologram Spock and Dal (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
"In your own way, you are as stubborn as another captain of the Enterprise I once knew."
"The Kobayashi Maru is a no-win scenario, designed to test how one reacts to a hopeless situation."
- - Computer
"Mayday, mayday! This is Captain Chakotay of the USS Protostar!"
"Chakotay? He's the captain?"
- - a holo-recording of Chakotay and Hologram Janeway
"I'm suddenly realizing... you aren't my first crew."
- - Hologram Janeway
- This episode was dedicated to Rene Auberjonois, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy.
- Several archived audio clips (of varying quality) were used from multiple Star Trek episodes and movies for a number of the guest characters, including clips of:
- Spock, in the order of TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome", "Balance of Terror", "The Enterprise Incident", "The Ultimate Computer", "Journey to Babel", "The Doomsday Machine", "The Changeling", "Obsession", "The Enemy Within", Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and TNG: "Unification II";
- Uhura, in the order of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion", "The Enterprise Incident", "The Mark of Gideon", "Space Seed", and "The Trouble with Tribbles";
- Odo, in the order of DS9: "Shadowplay", "Heart of Stone", "The Way of the Warrior", "Call to Arms", "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", "What You Leave Behind", and "Things Past";
- Montgomery Scott, in the order of TNG: "Relics" and TOS: "The Doomsday Machine".
- Aaron Waltke tweeted that the Dixon Hill series was originally part of the holoprogram montage but had to be cut for time. 
- Dal is seen playing the Ktarian game, which was introduced in TNG: "The Game".
- Hologram Janeway's overview of holodeck programs includes Janeway Lambda One from VOY: "Cathexis", Sherlock Holmes in London, England from TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data", the Ancient West set in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1885 from TNG: "A Fistful of Datas", and the Paxau Resort from VOY: "Macrocosm".
- The holographic simulation of the Kobayashi Maru scenario is set onboard the USS Enterprise-D, whose name and registry can be seen on the hull of the ship debris after Dal accidentally destroyed it.
- When the computer presents Dal with a list of personnel he can choose to assist him, Starfleet insignia and combadges from throughout history are shown. These include:
- Starfleet combadges from the 2270s-2350s. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, et al.)
- Starfleet combadges/insignia from the 2350s-2370s. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", et al.)
- Starfleet combadges/insignia from the late 2360s-early 2380s. (DS9: "Emissary", et al.)
- Combadges from the years 2370 and 2404 of alternate timelines. (TNG: "Parallels" and VOY: "Endgame", respectively)
- The combadge used by the Bajoran Militia.
- The insignia used by Starfleet in the 29th century. (VOY: "Future's End", et al.)
- Command and medical division insignia used on board the USS Enterprise in the 2250s-early 2270s.
- Nyota Uhura, Odo, Beverly Crusher, Spock, and Montgomery Scott all appear as holographic recreations, to assist Dal in his test. He gave each nicknames during the scenario, "Earpiece", "Jellyman", "Big Red", "Pointy Ears", and "Mustache".
- Both Lieutenant Uhura and Commander Spock appear as they did during Star Trek: The Original Series, each wearing 2250s-early 2270s Starfleet uniforms, while Captain Scott appears wearing the same late 2270s-2350s Starfleet uniform he wore in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek Generations. Crusher appears as she did while serving aboard the Enterprise-D around the later seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- This is the second time that Scott and Crusher appeared on screen together, the first being TNG: "Relics". Likewise, this was the second time Odo and Uhura appear together on screen, the first being DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations".
- Dal's strategy of blasting AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" to defeat the Klingons in the Kobayashi Maru test is reminiscent of how Captain James T. Kirk defeated Krall's swarm by drowning out their communications with the Beastie Boys song "Sabotage" in Star Trek Beyond.
- A holographic recording of Captain Chakotay is also seen, depicting a past event onbard the USS Protostar, and marking his first appearance since VOY: "Endgame".
- The flashback that shows the creation of Gwyn takes place on Stardate 43929.9, which would place it between the events of TNG: "Sarek" and TNG: "Ménage à Troi".
Links and references
- Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk
- Dee Bradley Baker as
- Brett Gray as Dal
- Angus Imrie as Zero
- Ella Purnell as Gwyn
- Jason Mantzoukas as Jankom Pog
- John Noble as The Diviner
- Jimmi Simpson as Drednok
- Kate Mulgrew as Hologram Janeway
- Robert Beltran as Captain Chakotay (holographic recording)
- René Auberjonois as Odo (hologram) (archive audio)
- James Doohan as Scotty (hologram) (archive audio)
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura (hologram) (archive audio)
- Leonard Nimoy as Spock (hologram) (archive audio)
- David Ruprecht as Kobayashi Maru Captain (off-screen voiceover) (archive audio)
- Bonnie Gordon as Ship Computer
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher (hologram)
- Brook Chalmers as Klingon 1
1885; 2366; AC/DC; Andoria IV; advisor; aft; "all hands"; Alpha Quadrant; Amber; arch; arrest; barrel roll loop; battle stations; blood; bunk bed; canapé; Ceti Alpha V; Changeling; chief medical officer; chief of security; Chimerium; Class III neutronic fuel carrier; clone; coffee; communications officer; computer; cotillion; course; day; Deadwood; deck; Delta Quadrant; distress channel; Dracula, Count; ear; earpiece; emotion; engineer; England; Enterprise, USS; Enterprise-D, USS; farting; Federation; freedom; friend; Galaxy-class; Gamma Hydra; Gamma Quadrant; gamma ray; gladiatorial match; gravitic mine; holodeck (aka holographic simulation room); holodeck program; holo-novel program; hour; hull breach; impulse; impulse power; Jane Eyre; Janeway Lambda One; kal-if-fee; Kirk, James T.; Klingon; Klingon Bird-of-Prey (aka Klingon battle cruiser, Klingon warships); Klingon Neutral Zone; Klingonese; Kobayashi Maru; Kobayashi Maru scenario; Ktarian game; language; laughter; leader; leadership; light year; lirpa; London; loneliness; Medusan hive mind; memory core; meter; metric ton; Milky Way Galaxy; mission; month; morning; motion sensor; mouth; mutiny; no-win scenario; Order, The; Outpost 2; Paxau Resort; phaser; photon grenade; photon torpedo; plasma intercooler; poetry; postprandial; power; proto-drive; recital; refugee; resignation; saying; science officer; Sector 25712; serotonin; skydiving; Solum; song; South Dakota; spirit; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; Tars Lamora; Tau Ceti IV; Tempest, The; "Thunderstruck"; tibialis anterior; trajectory; transporter; universal translator; Vau N'Akat; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan (species); warp core; warp factor; year
access; auxiliary fusion generator; auxiliary power distribution network; Bussard collector; cargo bay; cargo capacity; communications; communicator; cruise speed; data file; dead weight tonnage; emergency speed; flowchart; fuel assembly; fusion generator; intercooler; ionization chamber of source range; LCARS; library computer; matter-antimatter reactor; mission ops; mix valve chamber; orbital scan; primary hull; proto-core; proton synchroton; scan; scan coordinates; tactical analysis; tractor emitter; turbine; valve chamber
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