“Basics, Part I”
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 26
Production episode 142
Original air date: May 20, 1996
Captain’s log. Tuvok visits with Suder in his quarters. The Betazoid has created a hybrid orchid that he wishes to name after Tuvok. Initially, the Vulcan demurs, though he eventually accedes. Suder also wishes to contribute more to the ship, possibly doing some work with the airponics. Tuvok promises to speak to Janeway about it.
A Kazon buoy sends Voyager a hail—it’s a frantic message from Seska, whose baby has been born. Seska says that Culluh is livid that the baby isn’t his (it appears both Cardassian and human), and he seems to attack Seska right before the message goes dark.
On the one hand, Chakotay can’t be certain that Seska and the Kazon aren’t luring them into a trap. On the other hand, Chakotay doesn’t want to just abandon his child. Janeway supports him whatever he decides, and Chakotay goes on a vision quest where he talks to his father, who tells him of children in their tribe that were the product of rape by European invaders, but were still welcomed into the family, as it were.
Chakotay wants to go after his kid, so Voyager is heading into Kazon space. (Amazingly, said space is still proximate enough to be near a buoy, even though they’ve been moving away from the Ocampa homeworld for over a year now.) Neelix recommends contacting a Talaxian fleet that’s stationed at the Prema II colony, though they’ll be out of range when they enter Kazon space. Kim suggests sensor shadows that can appear to be additional ships, and the EMH expounds on that idea by suggesting holographic ships. They won’t fool the Kazon for long, but every little bit helps.
En route, Voyager encounters a Kazon shuttle that’s badly damaged with only one person on board: Teirna, a Kazon associate of Culluh’s (he was one of the ones who tortured Chakotay in “Maneuvers“). Teirna claims that Seska is dead, and the EMH after examining him says that if Voyager hadn’t picked him up, Teirna would’ve been dead in a couple of hours. The EMH also says he has a bad case of polycythemia, though he can’t determine the cause, nor cure it.
Teirna is willing to assist Voyager in going after Culluh, as his helping Seska has put him on the outs with the maje, even providing Voyager with Culluh’s command codes. Voyager encounters multiple Kazon ships, but manages to fight them all off. Every time they’re attacked, the Kazon ships focus on the starboard ventral, which takes out the secondary command processors. It’s a minor annoyance, but that they’re so focused on that is suspicious.
During a lull in the action, Janeway goes to see Suder with Tuvok, and his eagerness goes into overdrive, to the point of his old psychotic self seeming to come out. After Janeway leaves, Suder is upset with himself for letting his intense enthusiasm get the better of him.
Chakotay questions Teirna about why the Kazon are attacking the starboard ventral so much, but he has no answers. Red alert sounds, and there’s a big-ass attack.
Janeway takes the Kazon head on, and Kim and Torres’s tricks with deflectors and sensor ghosts and holograms works nicely to distract them.
In his quarters—which are right next to Suder’s—Teirna removes a toenail, which has a tiny needle in it. He injects it into himself and then explodes.
The damage from his suicide bombing takes out tons of ship’s systems, including the holographic ships and sensor ghosts. It also blows a hole in the bulkhead between Teirna’s and Suder’s quarters.
Paris offers to take a shuttle to fetch the Talaxians. Janeway lets him go. The Kazon fire on the shuttle about two seconds after it leaves Voyager, and they lose contact with it.
The Kazon board the ship. One officer on the bridge is killed. Janeway tries to set off the auto-destruct, but it can’t engage because the secondary command processors are down, and Janeway finally realizes why they were targeting the starboard ventral.
Culluh and Seska walk onto the bridge, the latter carrying her baby. It becomes clear that Seska told Culluh that Chakotay raped her. They take the ship to Hanon IV and land it. En route, they round up everyone in the cargo bay, but when they go to Suder’s quarters, they’re empty. One of Culluh’s soldiers reports two crew missing (Suder and Paris), as is a shuttle. Culluh says the shuttle was destroyed, but Seska insists that they verify that.
The Kazon put the crew off on Hanon IV without any technology, not even their combadges. Then they take off, leaving them to fend for themselves on the world.
To be continued…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently you need the secondary command processors to engage the auto-destruct. Oops.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok has been working with Suder on both botany and meditation, to good effect, though he still has a bit to go, as seen when he loses it with Janeway. Still, his progress is impressive.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. One of the holographic “ships” that Torres projects in space turns out to be the EMH himself, leaving the doctor floating in space for a bit.
He also can now deactivate himself for a set time, and does so as the Kazon board for specifically twelve hours.
Half and half. Torres insists that they don’t have time to do a final test on the holographic ships. After the EMH becomes one of the “ships” out in space, the doctor snidely comments that he said they should do more tests. (It’s not clear how they can get the EMH outside the ship but not outside sickbay, but whatever…)
“A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology. Let’s see if you manage to survive without it.”
–Culluh’s final words to the Voyager crew before he abandons them to their fate on Hanon IV
Welcome aboard. It’s a whole passel of returning guests! Henry Darrow returns for his second and final appearance, following “Tattoo,” as Kolopak. John Gegenhuber, who last appeared as the Kazon Surat in “Maneuvers” and “Alliances,” is back as a different Kazon, Teirna. Back from “Alliances” is Anthony De Longis as Culluh, back from “Investigations” is Martha Hackett as Seska, and back from “Meld” is Brad Dourif as Suder. De Longis, Hackett, and Dourif will all be back for Part 2.
Trivial matters: This two-parter was Michael Piller’s final script for Voyager and penultimate script for Trek in general (his swansong being the movie Insurrection).
Chakotay once again uses the technological medicine bag first seen in “Parallax” to get a vision of his old man.
Marvel Comics had the Star Trek comics license at this stage, as part of the “Paramount Comics” deal that Marvel had with the studio, which included ongoing monthly Deep Space Nine and Voyager comics (the two shows that were currently on the air) and a bimonthly Star Trek Unlimited that did TOS and TNG stories, plus a couple of original series (Starfleet Academy and Early Voyages, focusing on the Academy and Captain Pike, respectively), and several minseries and one-shots. Voyager comics scripter Laurie Sutton pitched a Voyager story to them that had the Kazon taking over Voyager that was nixed because this story was in development.
Another crewmember is killed on the bridge when the Kazon take over, which brings the number of people living on the ship to 146, though 145 of them are then put off the ship at the end, leaving only Suder behind. (The EMH isn’t counted as part of the running crew complement that I’ve been doing because it’s based on the number given in “The 37’s,” and that number wouldn’t have include the EMH because he wasn’t capable of leaving the ship. I’ll add him to the list of crew when he becomes independently mobile later in season three.)
Set a course for home. “Do you really think we’re going to be rescued, Captain?” When I started writing this rewatch entry, I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to say about the episode, and how much would be good, and how much would be bad. My thoughts, however, coalesced when I realized I had absolutely nothing to say for the “There’s coffee in that nebula!” segment that chronicles Janeway’s part in an episode.
The entire crew is mostly useless in this one, to be honest. It’s a spectacular chronicle of incompetence from beginning to end, starting with everyone falling for Seska’s incredibly obvious trap. Mind you, to some extent, they have no choice. Leaving a baby that Chakotay thinks is his in the hands of the Kazon is, um, not good. But their contingency plans consist of cheap holographic tricks, not actually having the immediate help of the Talaxian fleet (because we have to save them for Part 2, I guess?), and completely not getting why the secondary command processors are being targeted.
That’s the part that really gets me. On this ship in particular, Torres and Janeway and Kim and the entire engineering staff should know the vessel inside and out. It’s been more than a year, and they’ve been living, eating, and breathing this ship, not to mention repairing it from near-catastrophic damage on more than one occasion. Plus, we’ve got a first officer and a chief engineer who are used to fighting guerilla warfare. They can’t do better than this? And they can’t figure out why the starboard ventral’s being targeted?
And then Paris goes off in the shuttle so he can save the day in Part 2. On any other show, it would probably be the first officer who does this, but he’s not a white guy, and as we know, only the white guys can go off and act heroic. Chakotay’s far too busy doing vision quests to be an action hero (never mind that he was the leader of the guerrilla forces on board and is much better qualified to sneak away in a shuttle and find reinforcements).
Yes, Voyager is outnumbered and outgunned, and the Kazon strategy of death-by-a-thousand-cuts is actually a good one, but Janeway should have known that and planned for it, and instead she just sits there and gets her ass kicked and gets her entire crew put off the ship and trapped on a hostile world. Oh, and they never actually searched Teirna with their super-sophisticated sensors, nor kept a security guard or at least some kind of surveillance on him at all times.
And then there’s the matter of how the Kazon can even operate Voyager, much less take it over. This would’ve been a much much much much better endgame for Jonas’ ongoing sabotage than the limp “Investigations,” having him work to transfer command codes for the ship to Culluh to lock the Starfleet and Maquis crew out of ship’s functions. Instead, we’re supposed to believe that any idiot can just walk on and control a starship that is loaded with weapons and defenses that can lay waste to a planet. (Yes, we’ve seen it before, from “Space Seed” to “By Any Other Name” to “Rascals.” It’s still frustratingly idiotic.) Plus, it’s, y’know, the Kazon. Sure, they’ve got Seska to feed them intel, but she’s been away from the ship for a long time, they should be able to defend against her knowledge, and, again, it’s the friggin Kazon. This is not a worthy foe who can match our Starfleet heroes wit for wit like, say, the Romulan Commander who looks like Sarek or Kor or Kang or Tomalak or Dukat. This is just a bunch of aliens with bad hairdos who were introduced to us as being too stupid to figure out how to get water.
The episode has good bits. For all that the vision quest stuff is stereotypical, Henry Darrow’s Kolopak is excellent, and his conversation with Chakotay is a good one. And Brad Dourif is once again superb as a Suder who is trying so hard to better himself and only partially succeeding.
The action is well directed (of course—Winrich Kolbe is one of the best TV directors ever), and the tension builds nicely, but ultimately this is an entire episode of failure in order to bring about a cliffhanger. It’s not as weak-kneed as, say, “Time’s Arrow,” but it doesn’t have the emotional wallop of “The Best of Both Worlds” or the last-minute reveals of “Redemption” and “Descent.” Like all of the above except “TBOBW,” it’s not enough of a cliffhanger to justify waiting three months to find out what happens. (Luckily, y’all just have to wait a week for us to talk about it.)
If the crew had actually scored one or two victories en route to defeat, I might find it forgivable, but ultimately this just makes the heroes we’re supposed to be rooting for out to be incompetents who deserve to lose to a gang of morons.
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be interviewed live by fellow author Russ Colchamiro as part of Russ’ Rollickin’ Rollercoaster live over Zoom on Wednesday the 17th of June. Click here to register for this free event.