WHY WE LIKE IT: They don't care what they do to their basic premise.
WHY WE DON'T: Gwyn's amnesia was hardly a thing.
REVIEW: Time has passed during the mid-season hiatus, enough that Gwyn's memory has mostly returned (which makes a hash of the cliffhanger, but then, how long did we want her to be "reset"?), except the bit about the Protostar being a Trojan horse that carries a computer virus designed to tear Starfleet apart, but once the weapon IS activated, she'll remember everything anyway. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The opener is actually a quick mission to save a whale from hunters on some water planet, a gorgeous-looking homage to The Voyage Home, a title that cleverly resonates with the kids' quest to join Starfleet. It's a quick eco-fable that shows the crew practicing the tenets of the Prime Directive so Starfleet will see them in a positive light.
And that's put immediately to the test when the come across a comm relay outpost at the furthest reaches of the Federation in the Delta Quadrant. It's manned by a comedy Denobulan called Frex and that's it (shades of Discovery's arrival in the future). Frex is actually the first Denobulan ever seen in Starfleet, but he's got weird pips (2 normal and 1 Maquis-style), so does this mean he's some kind of transfer from a Denobulan service? Not sure. T'Lyn in Lower Decks also had this and she was from a Vulcan ship, so I guess that's how they're using it on the shows in this era. It would certainly explain why he's such a goof, cutting corners and not too altruistic when the going gets tough. Generally, he plays like a Lower Decks character with all the references to past Trek, trying to impress the kids by calling his remote station the "Final Frontier" (they don't get it) and hoping he won't be reassigned to Nimbus III. Through him, we do learn things about three of the "new" species in the group. Rok is for the first time referred to as a Brikar on screen (we knew from the promotional material, but this conclusively canonizes the race introduced in the New Frontier novels). Murf is a "Mellanoid slime worm", which really doesn't sound like a sentient creature, and that's a deep cut - Wesley was called this by the Zaldan in "Coming of Age"! Finally, Dal's genetic scan is flagged for Starfleet to look at. The mystery deepens, but there's an answer out there and another reason for Dal to seek them out... and so more tragic when the kids find out they can't on account of the virus.
When the virus hits, it's the middle of various activities aboard the station - lunch, research into the sciences, and Gwyn taking a nutrient bath to regain her memories - the malfunctions causing problems, some humorous (flying sausages), some dangerous (Gwyn almost drowning). Someone tell Dal not to open a tank with a phaser by pointing it straight at the person under the glass. Frex uses the one escape pod for himself as the station starts to destroy itself (partly from using its own phasers against itself, so we have an inkling of how the virus works, it could potentially be more damaging than just exploding the warp cores, but seems inefficient), leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Dude. Rok "sciences it" and calculates a jump off the station and to the Protostar (whose transporters are kaput), and would have missed but for the tractor beam. It's the kind of trick we'll see again in the future (the show is very good at teaching its characters things and having them practice later).
So is this a case of "Voyagerism", where the show's goal can never be achieved because it would mean the end of the show? It may seem like it, but no. Admiral Janeway's participation in this episode puts the lie to that. She's now actively looking for the Protostar and Chakotay, actually moving into this area of space, finding clues of the ship's passage. Her crew members have been voice-cast and they're big guns - Daveed Diggs as the Andorian Commander Tysess and Jason Alexander as the Tellarite Doctor Noum - and at episode's end, she finds the Diviner in stasis where the Protostar left him. Surely, HE'LL have answers, right? Wrong way, Janeway!!! Looks like the Protostar might want to avoid Starfleet, but it's not going to be easy.
LESSON: There are many branches of science. Who knew?!
REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: The second half of the season (which might as well be Season 2 the way these things are paced) finds several ways to refresh the tension inherent in its larger arc. A good mix of humor and action in this one.