“Basics”

Chakotay: Captain, I need to head back into Kazon space... for my baby momma.
Chakotay: Captain, I need to head back into Kazon space… for my baby mama.

Part one: Voyager receives a message from Seska indicating she and Chakotay’s child (spawned without his consent back in “Maneuvers”) are in danger. Chakotay and Janeway decide to go into Kazon territory to try to recover the child, but Seska’s message turns out to be a trick to lure the ship into a trip. The Kazon take over the ship — with only the Doctor and Betazoid psychopath Lon Suder (Brad Douriff, returning from “Meld”) on board — and desert the crew on a harsh planet with no resources. Paris, however, does escape in a shuttle with the hopes of asking a Talaxian convoy for assistance. But his fate — as the episode ends — is unclear.

Part two: Janeway and Co. must survive on the barren planet, which is home to primitive humanoids, at least one dinosaur-like monster and volcanic activity. Seska and Culluh, though, are happy aboard Voyager and are moving away at high warp. The Doctor — who makes Seska believe he has no real loyalty to Janeway and informs Seska that her child is in fact Culluh’s son and not Chakotay’s — hooks up with Suder, who wants to save the ship but doesn’t want to kill to do it. Paris, alive and relatively well, convinces the Talaxians to help retake the ship and contacts the Doctor with a plan that requires Suder to do something or other in engineering, which is heavy with Kazon. The plan works, Suder kills a bunch of Kazon (but is killed as well), Seska is killed in the attack and Culluh takes the child and abandons Voyager. Paris then takes the ship back to the barren planet where the Voyager posse (minus a couple dead crew members) returns to the ship and heads for home.

You think killing my character will make the show better? Hunh.
“You think killing my character will make the show better? Hunh.”

Why it’s important

This two-parter essentially ended the Kazon/Seska arc, so it’s significant in that regard. As noted in previous reviews, the Kazon storyline was pretty much the through line for Voyager’s second season, and there were several other bits of continuity in this episode, including Chakotay consulting his dead father (seen in “Tattoo”) through a vision quest and, of course, Suder. More on him in a moment.

But the events here are essentially forgotten, otherwise — other than the death of engineer Hogan (Simon Billig), which is a key part of a later episode. This two-parter doesn’t feature a time-travel reset that essentially erases what actually happened. But it also could have. The Voyager crew doesn’t seem changed by its experiences and everything post-“Basics” is about how things were pre-“Basics” (minus Hogan and Suder) — other than the fact that the Kazon aren’t popping up every other episode to mess with our heroes.

There's an old earth show... Land of the Lost... that may be applicable here.
“There’s an old Earth show… Land of the Lost… that may be applicable here.”

What doesn’t hold up

Oh, boy. Where to start?

There’s the whole issue in part one of Voyager going deep into Kazon territory to get Chakotay’s “son.” The action is sort of compelling, but the implication is that Voyager is far outside Kazon territory — when we’ve seen essentially the same Kazon faces since “Maneuvers” or even back to “State of Flux” — and needs to get into it. This is a spot where the creators messed up their attempts at serialization, as we’ve noted in prior reviews.

The previous episode, “Resolutions”, involves Janeway and Chakotay contracting a disease on some random planet that they then can’t leave. Voyager departs without them and is actually captained by Tuvok for several weeks. Eventually, the ship gets a cure from the Vidiians (Voyager’s second-tier bad guys in the first two seasons) and recovers Janeway and Chakotay. Then, because it’s Voyager, things are back to business as usual.

The creators probably shouldn’t have had Voyager move away at warp for more than a few days in “Resolutions”. But given that they did — and that Voyager is out of Kazon space after “Basics” — Tuvok’s decision to go back for Janeway and Chakotay essentially put the ship at risk. Without reversing course, Seska’s message might not have even reached Voyager, to say nothing of the fact that Tuvok would have likely opted not to save the child if Janeway and Chakotay were not on the ship.

If the creators really needed to have a Tuvok-led Voyager move away from Janeway and Chakotay for several weeks, they should have noted in “Basics” that returning for them likely put them back near Kazon territory. Or, “Resolutions” and “Basics” shouldn’t have aired back-to-back. Hell, “Resolutions” is a pretty interesting episode — especially for the Janeway/Chakotay romance fans — and it might have worked well to end the second season with both parts of “Basics” with “Resolutions” kicking off season three. Then, some time would have elapsed between the episodes.

As for “Basics” on its own, I’ll give the creators the detail that Janeway would have put her entire crew at risk for Chakotay’s “child,” as she did the same thing to save Chakotay in “Maneuvers”. But I don’t buy — for one second — that Culluh wouldn’t have simply killed the Voyager crew (rather than deserting them) or that the Kazon would be so adept at running the ship. Part two is even worse, really, because it relies on the Talaxians helping Paris — their rationale for doing so is weak at best, especially given how dealing with Paris put them in danger in “Investigations” — and that Paris’s plan would work so perfectly. It’s also odd that Paris is able to find Voyager so easily and that the Talaxians are even available to help him. And why, exactly, did Culluh give up the ship so easily? It’s sort of implied that he’s heartbroken over the loss of Seska. But that’s not in keeping with the character.

Final thoughts

Then, there’s the matter of Suder.

I give the Voyager creators credit for bringing him back after the very good “Meld”, rather than simply having him join the ranks of that weird alien Riker met in “Future Imperfect”. In fact, we almost reviewed “Meld” as the introduction of Suder is key in retaking the ship in “Basics”. Looking back, maybe we should have …

But, then Voyager decides to be all Voyager and unnecessarily kills Suder. Bringing him back as a recurring character would have been extremely interesting. Making Janeway decide what to do with a psychopath who saved the ship would have been even more interesting. But this two-parter (and what we see in subsequent episodes) makes me think the creators decided season two was a misstep and that it was time to wash their hands of it. That we never again see the Kazon or Vidiians (aside from flashbacks) and that Voyager becomes even more episodic (sigh) in season three makes me think they looked at season two as a failure. And, it was — but not because the serialization was bad. It was the execution.

Coming later this week …

More TNG in the Delta Quadrant, but a good example of it.

 

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