Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Lower Decks - The Janeway Protocol Explained

The animated series Star Trek: Lower Decksis full of Star Trek Easter eggs for long-time fans to unpack, such as the mysterious "Janeway Protocol" mentioned in the show's second episode, "Envoys." The reference is clearly to the Captain turned Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway — but what exactly is the maneuver, and how did it get its name?

Commander Jack Ransom recommended "The Janeway Protocol" during a command training simulation with Ensign Sam Rutherford, who was woefully unprepared for the exercise. When the latter asked what that was, Ransom responded with laughter, assuming Rutherford was making a joke. The exchange establishes how ill-suited Rutherford is for a position in command, while also teasing the audience, who similarly don't know what the protocol is.

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The exchange also sets up the subsequent bit in which the inexperienced Rutherford attempts to employ "The Janeway Protocol" in a completely inappropriate manner, leading to many simulated child deaths. While the exact nature of the strategy is kept vague — audiences are only shown the ramifications of using it — the events in the scene suggest the move is a reference to an iconic Janeway moment from Star Trek: Voyager season 1.

In Voyager season 1, episode 3, "Parallax," the crew find themselves trapped inside a type-4 quantam singularity that alters the experience of time, following their attempt to rescue a ship in distress (which was actually their own ship, in the future). With the destruction of the U.S.S. Voyager imminent, the crew's best option is to escape through the rift the ship created when it entered the singularity; however, the opening is not large enough to accommodate the size of the starship. After an attempt to increase the rift has mixed results, Janeway makes the decision to force their way through, delivering one of the show's most memorable lines:

The ship does indeed "punch" through the rift, and the U.S.S. Voyager escapes from the anomaly. Given that the circumstances of the original simulation in Lower Decks also featured a "temporal rift," it makes sense why Ransom would have recommend using a strategy similar to the one ordered by Janeway; it also explains why Rutherford trying the protocol for the second circumstance ended so poorly: one can't "punch" through an asteroid.

While the scene in Lower Decks is one of many comedic references to Star Trek, it stands out for a number of reasons: not only does the Easter egg pose a riddle for fans of the franchise to solve, it also shines a spotlight on a character who is sometimes overshadowed by other beloved Star Trek Captains. Furthermore, there is the added parallel of the episode's position in the show's broadcast history: "Parallax" is the second story in Voyager, airing the week after the two-part series premiere "Caretaker." It's fitting then for Lower Decksto reference "The Janeway Protocol" in its second week — especially in another circumstance involving time and repetition.