While awaiting repairs to the Protostar, our characters take some downtime to explain how they ended up in their common banishment to Tars Lamora. Meanwhile, aboard the Dauntless, the undercover "Ensign Asencia" reveals her shared history with the Diviner. "Preludes" puts this show's usual narrative mostly on pause to tell us the backstories of numerous characters through flashback sequences. The result is a welcome return to a more substantive storytelling form that doesn't rely on zany action.
Most valuable here is the Vau N'Akat backstory, which is relayed back to the memory-gapped Diviner through Asencia — actually named the Vindicator — who was his peer on the mission to destroy the Federation by traveling back through time (in their effort to save their planet, Solum, from its catastrophic fate as explained in "A Moral Star, Part 2"). This backstory finally puts together all the pieces that have been missing, and they actually add up.
We now understand why there have been so many head-scratching timeline questions — because Chakotay had traveled forward in time through a wormhole before encountering the Vau N'Akat survivors of the devastated Solum. The Vau N'Akat took Chakotay prisoner, but not before Chakotay could send the Protostar back through the wormhole on an automated course. (I guess Chakotay is still stuck several decades in the future on Solum?) The Protostar, as well as the Diviner, traveled back — apparently 20 years before the original departure date — through the wormhole. The Vindicator also went back in time, but only three years — explaining why she is so much younger than the Diviner. The rest of the Vau N'Akat soldiers were lost in the wormhole. I imagine when my kids eventually get around to watching this, I'll have plenty of timeline explaining to do, but I'm glad that I now have all the pieces to finally explain the things that weren't making sense.
There's also value to the various backstories of our young Protostar crew. Rok was an arena fighter who had a deal to put on a staged show in exchange for (the bare minimum in) food and shelter. When she decided she was tired of losing and decided to try winning, she was hauled away. Zero roamed free as a disembodied entity until being captured by Kazon. And Jankom Pog marooned himself in the Delta Quadrant in a calculated act of self-sacrifice to save the rest of his ship's crew.
I appreciate the detail showing us all these origin stories. It's a nice little set of short stories, which I guess the entire writing staff got together to assemble. And Janeway finally realizes in her investigation that the kids are just kids — just in time to be knocked unconscious by the Diviner, who intends to continue his original mission.
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