"Basics, Part Two"

Season Three, Episode 1
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:
Martha Hackett as Seska
Anthony De Longis as Maj Culluh
Nancy Hower as Ensign Wildman
Brad Dourif as Ensign Suder
Simon Billig as Ensign Hogan
Scott Haven as Kazon Engineer
David Cowgill as Alien #2
Michael Bailey Smith as Alien #1


The crew of Voyager are having a tough time getting by on the inhospitable world in which they are stranded. Ensign Hogan is killed by a serpent creature and Kes and Neelix are kidnapped by a race of primitive tribesmen. Chakotay leads a team to rescue them and whilst they succeed they are chased into the serpent's cave. They try to pass the sleeping creature quietly, but it awakens. Chakotay manages to bring the roof down on it just as his group manages to escape. But then they have a new problem -- a nearby volcano is errupting.

Back on Voyager, the Doctor discovers that Suder is on board and has yet to be detected by the Kazon. They receive a coded message from Paris who has managed to secure help from the Talaxians. But he needs the Doctor to disable the ship's phasers aboard the ship, which he manages to do with the help from Suder. Suder is forced to shoot a room full of Kazon and is shot killed himself, just after he manages to disable the phasers. The Talaxians manage to re-take Voyager, but Seska is killed in the attack, prompting Cullah to take the baby and flee. Meanwhile, the stranded crew manage to escape the volcanic erruption and are relieved when Voyager returns to rescue them.


Can I just say something? This episode is just an insult on the intelligence of any half-way sentient being. I thought the first part was a little shaky, but this is even worse. There are some good moments though and I'm convinced there was some potential in a premise that strands the crew on a barren world, forcing them to try and survive without technology, but...yuk. As predictable as nightfall and downright embarassing in its sheer silliness, this is plays out like a parody -- the frightening part being that it's meant to be taken seriously. Naff just ain't the word for this.

First of all, there were some nice touches. Again it was the excellent Brad Dourif's Suder that was the highlight of the episode, lending a grievously hollow story a modicum of depth and resonance. He is utterly compelling throughout as he plays perhaps the most sympathetic, three-dimensional serial killer I've ever seen in Hollywood. Having made such progress in his rehabilitation it's almost painful to watch as he is forced to kill once again in order to save the ship. The only problem is (and boy, it's a big 'un) THEY HAD TO GO AND KILL HIM, DIDN'T THEY! Having almost single-handedly elevated this two-parter from the pits of unequivocal awfulness, they go and let the character slip through their fingers. He could have made such a wonderful recurring character, which is probably just what the show needed. Bah!

I also greatly enjoyed Robert Picardo's performance as the Doctor. He's so wonderfully entertaining, nabbing the few good lines there are (including "I'm a Doctor, not a counter-insurgent). And I have to hand it to director Winrich Kolbe -- he is a really talented guy, bringing life and lustre to a pretty dire script and keeping the pace tight and the proceedings lively. He utilises the special effects quite nicely and coaxes decent performances from most of the cast. It's thanks to Messiuers Winrich and Dourif that this episode scores a 4 and not a 2.

But however well-executed the episode is, I just can't forgive the actual scripting. This is Michael Piller's last effort for Voyager and I can't say he leaves on a good note. The script is pretty awful, sabotaging any potential interest of the premise, making the entire plots seem like something out of a mediocre Saturday morning kid's cartoon. The plotting is strictly by-the-numbers as we jolt from one overwrought "peril" to the next with laughable ineptitude. One moment we're running from silly cavemen, the next we're trapped in a cave with a giant snake, the next we're running from an errupting volcano. Don't forget the bit where Chakotay risks his life to save one of the cavemen, resulting in friendship between them and the Voyager crew. As a result of this one of the cavemen manages to cure baby Wildman's fever. I was just about in stitches. Not only is this gratingly predictable but almost unbearably trite.

There were other moments that had me choking back tears. Let's see, there's the death of Hogan which was about as cliched as they come (the shaking camera comes zooming toward him from behind and we cut away, hearing only his scream) and I had to repress a chuckle when Neelix presents Janeway with Hogan's neatly folded uniform stating, quite matter-of-factly, that this is all that remains of him. Kes and Neelix's abduction by the cavemen was just embarassing. The severe over-acting of the actors playing them didn't help one bit, for they act like MPs from the House of Commons on ecstasy. It wouldn't have been so bad had Piller taken the time to stop and look at how our people were actually coping with being stranded (with all likelihood for the rest of their lives) on this planet. If he had focussed on character instead of this silly catalogue of "encounters" faced by the crew then the episode MIGHT have struck a chord, and I MIGHT have been able to take it seriously.

As for our villains -- well. Seska's death wasn't handled especially effectively, though I must admit I wasn't all that sorry to see her go. She started off as an interesting character back in State of Flux but has since degenerated into a cartoon villain. Martha Hackett seems to think she's in a pantomine, and proceeds by hissing and strutting her way through the thing with no remorse. I all but expected her to explode in a puff of smoke at the ending. The Kazon are even worse, remaining the most ineffective, unconvincing and downright boring "villains" we've ever seen on Trek. I was overjoyed when I heard this was the last we'll ever see of them -- it's not before time, let me tell you.

Another major grievance was the ending. After Seska's death, Cullah takes the baby and flees the ship. Once Janeway and crew are back aboard, Chakotay seems to have forgotten all about the baby! It was the baby that brought them on this deadly mission in the first place, it was because of the baby that they lost the ship! So not only did they nearly lose everything for this mission, but they never actually completed the mission in the first place. How utterly pointless.

Oh, this just ain't good, folks. It's nicely directed, yeah and I loved the presence of Brad Dourif's Suder, but really. This is very poorly plotted, predictable, trite and downright stupid. When you're laughing at a supposedly serious drama then it's a very bad sign indeed. Basics, Part Two brings new depth of meaning to the word "naff".

Rating: 4

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