"Basics, Part One"

Season Two, Episode 26
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe 
Main Cast:
Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Jennifer Lien as Kes
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Guest Cast:
Brad Dourif as Lon Suder
Anthony de Longis as Maj Cullah
Martha Hackett as Seska
Henry Darrow as Kolopak
John Gegenhuber as Teirna


Voyager receives another transmission from the devious traitor Seska. She claims she has had her baby (of which Chakotay is the father) but upon discovering the child was half human, Cullah went ballistic and will kill both her and the baby. She pleads Chakotay to help her. Chakotay doesn't want to endanger the ship, but Janeway is adamant that the crew are willing to take the ship into Kazon Nistrim space to rescue the baby. Upon entering Kazon space, the ship suffers continuous attacks and discovers a wrecked vessel containing a badly injured Tierna, Seska's aide. He says that he tried to escape the wrath of Cullah and claims that Seska is dead. But Chakotay isn't deterred and refuses to trust Tierna, who has an abnormally high number of red blood cells according to the Doctor, who has no idea why. The ship is ambushed by Kazon destroyers and suffers heavy damage. Tom Paris takes a shuttle to try and get help from nearby Talaxian allies. Tierna, who has basically been rigged as a bomb, activates the mechanism causing severe damage to the ship and he explodes. Voyager is boarded by the Kazon and is taken over by Cullah and Seska, complete with baby. It was all a trap and it worked perfectly. Cullah takes the ship to a harsh, barren planet and off-loads the entire crew (bar the Doctor and Suder), stranding them there with no hope of escape.


Hmm. This season finale seems to have sprung from the desire to end the season with a spectacular cliff-hanger -- which it most certainly is. Unfortunately there's been very little thought put into how we get to that ending. Aside from one or two nice touches, which I'll talk about in a minute, Basics, Part One is all action and special effects, little else. There's nothing wrong with action per se, it's just that it cannot sustain an episode itself, it simply must be supported by good scripting and characterisation. It should be used as a seasoning or side dish, but not as a main course. As a result this is an episode which feels pretty hollow. It's certainly entertaining, but between the lack of substance and some questionable plotting, it's a somewhat dubious end to the season.

Quite easily the best thing about the episode is the welcome return of Lon Suder, Voyager's resident reformed serial killer. It's about time we had some follow-up to Meld -- though this being Voyager I never actually expected any in the first place, making this all the more pleasant a surprise. Brad Dourif is just superb in the role. He's darkly intense and almost unnerving, yet he also manages to convey a man who is trying so desperately to "reform" and become a valued member of the crew.

The character of Suder is a real coup for Star Trek; so very rarely have we seen such a provokingly sympathetic look at a man that most would condemn right off as purely evil. It will no doubt scare many people to see a serial killer portrayed in such a way; and all the more terrifying to be able to relate to him in some way. Whilst it's true to say that Suder is the episode's saving grace, it's just a shame his appearance was limited to only a couple of scenes. I couldn't help but be a bit annoyed with Janeway, however, when she storms out on him in their scene together. The look on her face is one of contempt. Pot, kettle, black, I couldn't help but think, for she's a murderer herself. (Or have you forgotten the whole Tuvix fiasco mere episodes ago?). I will say no more.

Having already questioned Janeway's morality, I must also call into question her competency as a Captain. I simply don't believe for a second that a commanding officer with any shred of intelligence would risk the lives of those under their command by taking the ship on such a foolish mission. I can understand Chakotay's wish to rescue his baby (as is nicely explored in a vision where his father speaks to him) but I cannot see the justification of endangering the ship by taking it into the heart of enemy territory, all for the sake of a love-child! What makes matters even worse is that Janeway knows there's a big chance that this is all a trap orchestrated by Seska. That the ship so easily falls into this trap, hook, line and sinker, is a very bad reflection on the ineptitude of Janeway's command abilities. In other words, IT'S HER OWN FAULT! I just don't buy this dumb decision on her part and it leaves a gaping lack of credulity at the very heart of the story. That does not bode well.

Add to that the fact that the Kazon have to be the dullest, most uninteresting, unconvincing villains we've ever seen on Trek. I can't believe that the writers have struck with them as long as they have - besides which, Voyager is meant to be on a journey home, yet for two seasons now they have kept running into the same races (specifically the Kazon, the Talaxians and the Vidiians). How come? Have they been flying round in circles? But that problem isn't specific to this episode, it's merely symptomatic of the misguided direction the series has been taken in by its writing staff.

So then, you may well ask what I did like about this episode? Well, I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed Suder's appearance, but there were other reasons this episode wasn't a total loss -- for a start, it's well-executed. Winrich Kolbe's directing is just spectacular and he helms the action scenes with a great visual flair that is particularly noticable as the crew are being herded into the cargo bay by the Kazon. He beautifully achieves a appropriate feeling of chaos and confusion. The sequence where Tierna explodes was just cool. Cool, cool, cool. Aside from the "fireball" the special effects weren't all that great, particularly given some of the amazing pyrotechnics we've seen on DS9. But that cliff-hanger...wow! The episode certainly used some very questionable means to achieve this aim, but what a cliff-hanger!

The only thing is that when you start to think about it, the more it seems far-fetched and silly. You see, you can predict almost exactly how the next episode will play out. It's obvious that the crew are going to have to deal with that serpent creature and the cavemen while the Doctor and Suder work together aboard the ship to try and regain control, with help from Paris and the Talaxians. Anyone doubting that the crew would all be back aboard the ship by the end of the next episode clearly needs to book an immediate appointment at their psychiatrist.

How should I sum up this episode? Perhaps by highlighting the irony: Basics, Part One features one of the best cliff-hangers in Trek history, while in actual fact also being one of the weakest season finales in recent times. Not bad, but a shallow, calculated episode which treads pretty shaky ground to reach it's objectives.

Rating: 6

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