Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Basics, Part II”

“Basics, Part II”
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 3, Episode 1
Production episode 146
Original air date: September 4, 1996
Stardate: 50032.7

Captain’s log. After getting a summary of Part 1, we look in on the crew stranded on Hanon IV. The crew breaks into groups charged with finding tools, food, water, and shelter. Hogan finds some humanoid bones outside a cave, which Neelix tells him to gather for tools. Neelix downplays the danger from whatever might be in that cave, which proves fatal, as Hogan is eaten by a local animal.

Janeway is not pleased and says that nobody else is going to die if she can help it. (Spoiler alert: she won’t be able to help it.) When told that they can’t find any plant or animal life that can be eaten, Janeway suggests turning over rocks—there are worms down there, and if anyone has a problem eating them, they should suck it up.

In addition, Tuvok has started to fashion weapons, and Chakotay, for all that it’s icky, suggests using the remnants of Hogan’s uniform to make solar stills to give them water.

On Voyager, Seska goes to sickbay and activates the EMH, who pretends to be aloof and uncaring and simply a program that will treat whoever comes into sickbay. He examines the baby and informs a very surprised Seska that the child has no human DNA—he’s half Cardassian, half Kazon. Seska is stunned, as she injected herself with Chakotay’s DNA, but that trick didn’t work, apparently.

A stunned Seska departs with the child and deactivates the EMH. He reactivates himself and tries to figure out what to do. A scan of the ship reveals that there are 89 Kazon and one Betazoid on board. Realizing that the Kazon missed Suder, the EMH has the computer hide Suder’s combadge from sensors so the Kazon don’t find him and he tells the Betazoid to head to sickbay.

Chakotay is having trouble starting a fire (he apparently sucked at it when his father taught him as a kid, too), but so is everyone else. Using some of Janeway’s hair as extra kindling, they are finally able to get a fire going. Kim and Torres also find some eggs to eat, thus sparing folks from having to go in the corner and eat worms.

Neelix goes off to find rocks to help keep the fire contained, but disappears, as does Kes when she goes after him.

Paris is trying desperately to repair the shuttle and not get killed by the Kazon. (He manages to blow up one of the Kazon ships that finds him.) He contacts the Talaxian fleet at Prema II and begs for their help. The Talaxians are reluctant, but Paris insists that he knows Voyager like the back of his hand, and he already has a plan. Once the Talaxians agree and sign off, saying they’ll be there in an hour, Paris says to himself that he has an hour to come up with a plan…

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Janeway sends out search parties to find Neelix and Kes. Tuvok has, at this point, fashioned several spears, as well as a bow and some arrows for himself. Chakotay’s group finds them with a group of natives. Tuvok, Kim, and some others wait in reserve while Chakotay approaches the group unarmed. He tries to negotiate with them through a language barrier, including having to refuse the offer of one of the natives’ women in exchange for Kes. Eventually, the three just get up and walk away, and when the natives give chase, Tuvok and the others attack.

The chase is on, and Chakotay eventually must take refuge in the caves, since the natives know not to go in there because of the beast that killed Hogan.

When Janeway sees that Chakotay hasn’t come back, she takes a group to find them, and realizes they’re in the cave when they see the natives waiting outside it. Janeway drives them off with fire and then calls Chakotay’s group back. Most of them make it out, but one crewmember is killed by the beast.

Suder comes to sickbay, and is not pleased by the notion that he may have to commit violence in order to save the ship from the Kazon. The EMH tries to be encouraging, and saying that even Tuvok would agree that, to defend the ship, it’s worth reopening his old mental wounds and be violent once again. Suder moves throughout the ship performing bits of sabotage, which frustrates Culluh and Seska since they don’t think there’s anybody else on board. Unfortunately, Suder encounters a Kazon and is forced to kill him before he could alert Seska. The EMH offers him meds to help mask his depression, but Suder refuses.

Paris manages to send a covert message to the EMH, asking him to block the discharge from the backup phaser power couplings. He intends to attack the primary phaser array, and he wants the backups to blow up when they switch to the backups. The EMH sends Suder off to do that.

The Kazon are having trouble finding the sabotage because of a thoron leak, but Seska remembers the Maquis trick of using thoron fields to fool tricorders. She accuses the EMH of harboring a member of the crew; instead, the EMH takes credit for the sabotage himself, using the ship’s computer, and even shows them the corpse of the Kazon Suder killed, taking credit for the kill himself. Seska’s response is to disable all voice commands directed at the EMH from any Starfleet personnel and to blow up the holoemitters, which shuts the doctor off.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

On Hanon IV, the senior staff meets. Chakotay wants to try to find a rapprochement with the natives, since they’ll all be stuck together. Tuvok is more pragmatic, thinking they will likely need to again use violence. In addition, the Wildman baby is sick and getting sicker and Wildman is worried.

Then one of the volcanoes on the planet erupts. Both the Voyager crew and the natives seek higher ground, and Chakotay rescues a native woman from a lava flow, which leads to the very friendship he’d been hoping for. The natives are also able to cure the Wildman baby of her illness.

Suder returns to sickbay but can’t activate the EMH. However, the doctor left a message for Suder in case he was deactivated to encourage him.

Paris and the Talaxians (which is totally the name of my next band) arrive and the fight is on. Suder sabotages the phaser array, which succeeds in crippling the ship enough for the good guys to go on the offensive, though Suder is killed while doing so (but not until after he kills a lot of Kazons). Seska is also killed, and when Culluh abandons ship, he takes his child with him.

With the help of the Talaxians, Paris takes Voyager back to Hanon IV and picks the crew up. They re-board and head back toward the Alpha Quadrant.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Voyager crew has to get by with stone knives and bear skins, building their own fires, foraging for food, and fashioning their own weapons. Meanwhile, Suder crawls through Jefferies Tubes and does lotsa sabotage on Voyager to mess with the Kazon.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway wastes no time taking charge of the stranded crew, giving people assignments, dealing with each crisis as it comes up (including rescuing all but one of Chakotay’s group from the cave), and making it clear that if they have to eat worms, they’ll damn well eat worms.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok fashions weapons for everyone, because he’s just that awesome.

He also has two really unfortunate exchanges with Chakotay that show an appalling level of tone-deafness on the part of scripter Michael Piller. First Chakotay assumes he made the bow and arrow for Chakotay, and the first officer tells him that his tribe never used them, but Tuvok tartly points out that it’s for himself, as he taught archery at the Vulcan Institute of Defensive Arts. (Ha ha, Indian stereotypes, ha ha!)

Much worse is the second, where Tuvok says to Chakotay, “You may find nobility in the savage, Commander, but he is only interested in killing you,” a sentiment that was routinely expressed by white people about Indigenous folk, and which is right down there with Nicholas Meyer putting “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” in the mouth of Uhura (and at least Nichelle Nichols had the good sense to refuse to say that line).

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH does a great job of pretending to be uncaring about who’s in charge when Seska first talks to him, and then elsewise goes from neurotic about how to save the ship to being utterly badass in encouraging Suder and faking out Seska.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix feels guilty for Hogan’s death, as well he should.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Before he discovers that Suder’s still on board, the EMH is wondering how he can possibly take the ship back, and he sardonically wonders if he can storm the ship with the gang from Chez Sandríne or if he can create a holographic Che Guevara or Nathan Hale.

Do it.

“One hologram and one sociopath may not be much of a match for the Kazon, but we’ll have to do.”

–The EMH giving something resembling a pep talk to Suder.

Brad Dourif in Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Back from Part 1 are Martha Hackett as Seska, Anthony De Longis as Culluh, and Brad Dourif as Suder. It’s the final appearance by the latter two; Hackett will return as a holographic image of Seska in “Worst Case Scenario” and again in a time-travel adventure to the events of this episode in “Shattered.”

This is the only third-season appearance by the Wildmans, with Nancy Hower again as Samantha and the twins Emily and Samantha Leibovich again as her baby. They’ll be back in the fourth season’s “Mortal Coil,” with the child finally given the name Naomi (not given here, as I mistakenly said in the “Deadlock” rewatch entry) and played by Brooke Stephens.

Simon Billig makes his final appearance as Hogan, and the various natives are played by David Cowgill, Michael Bailey Smith, and John Kenton Shull.

Trivial matters: For budgetary reasons, UPN requested that four season-three episodes be produced at the tail end of season two’s production period. However, this one was not filmed back-to-back with Part 1. Instead, after filming Part 1, they produced “Sacred Ground,” “False Profits,” and “Flashback,” then did Part 2, mainly to take advantage of the latest possible filming date so they’d have more daylight available for the extensive location shooting in Lone Pine, California for the scenes on Hanon IV.

After filming this episode, Michael Piller stepped down as executive producer, remaining as a creative consultant. (He’s still listed as executive producer with Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor for the four episodes filmed in season two and held back for the third.)

Hogan’s remains will be found by the Voth on Hanon IV in “Distant Origin.”

Voyager is now down to 143 people on board. They left the Ocampa homeworld with 154. Seska left the ship (and she’s now dead, too) in “State of Flux,” but then the Wildman baby was born in “Deadlock,” so that’s a wash. Durst died in “Faces,” three people died in “Alliances,” Darwin died in “Meld,” Jonas died in “Investigations,” Bennet died in “Innocence,” an unnamed bridge officer died in Part 1, and Hogan, Suder, and another unnamed crewmember all died in this episode.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I will not let this planet destroy my crew.” One of the biggest issues with TNG’s season-spanning cliffhangers is that Part 2 never lived up to the promise of Part 1, which is especially frustrating when Part 1 is all setup for Part 2. But in each case (“The Best of Both Worlds,” “Redemption,” “Time’s Arrow,” and “Descent“) the conclusion is a letdown after three months of waiting around.

So it’s rather a pleasant surprise to see that Voyager’s first shot at it reverses this. It helps that Part 1 was pretty dreadful, but even so, Part 2 is a strong action-adventure hour. We’ve got Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok doing an excellent job keeping everyone safe on the planet. (Neelix, not so much. He’s supposed to be the scavenger, the native guide, the one who knows the area, and all he does is get Hogan killed, fail to find any useful foodstuffs, and get his stupid ass kidnapped.) And then there’s the unlikely duo of the EMH and Suder fighting a guerrilla war on Voyager.

The latter is particularly compelling, because the two actors in question are at the top of their game. Robert Picardo is never not amazing, and he kicks sixteen kinds of ass here. I particularly like the way he modulates from the very Lewis Zimmerman-esque caustic wit with Seska to the neurotic paranoid wondering how the hell he’s going to stop this after she leaves. (“I’m a doctor, not an insurgent.”)

And that’s as nothing compared to the bravura performance of Brad Dourif. There’s not a hell of a lot of characterization elsewhere in the episode, as most everyone is focused on the plot—staying alive on Hanon IV, taking the ship back in space—but in Suder we get a compelling character study. Suder has been trying so hard to move beyond his psychotic past, and the situation has been shoved into his face that forces him to backpedal. The sadness etched on Dourif’s face as he does what has to be done is heartbreaking, and adds tragedy to the events on the ship.

The one downside of the fantastic work done with Suder, culminating in his sacrificing his life to save the ship, is that it shows how rote the rest of it is in danger of being. The death of Hogan is a mild surprise, as he’s been a constant presence throughout the second season, so killing him at the top of the third is more of a gut-punch than it might be with another crewmember—like, say, the poor unfortunate who gets killed in the cave and on whom nobody even comments. (At least a stab is taken at mourning Hogan.)

Still, at least the crew comports itself with competence, which is a nice change from Part 1. Janeway takes charge beautifully (her “fuck you, eat the worms” moment is epic), and Chakotay does a nice job of rescuing Neelix and Kes with a minimum of violence (though not an absence of it, sadly, but at least he tries).

Of course, it’s a little too late, and it’s kind of hilarious that a hologram and a sociopath do better against the Kazon than the entire crew did last episode. For that matter, Paris is more successful in a damaged shuttlecraft against the Kazon than Voyager was last time. And, again, if the Talaxian fleet was willing to help out this time, why didn’t Voyager bring them along into the incredibly obvious trap the Kazon laid for them last time?

The ending is just a mess. Seska could have been one of the strongest Trek antagonists, the former seeming friend turned implacable foe, and she’s made the crew look like idiots more than once. Having her die from a console exploding is anticlimactic to say the least, and it’s pathetic that she dies while Culluh, who’s pretty much Seska’s puppet, and also her biggest impediment to success thanks to his tired sexism, gets to live with his bastard child. After all the angst about the child and Chakotay going on vision quests and such, nothing is done with it. Chakotay doesn’t even mention the kid at any point in Part 2.

And then the crew comes back on board and supposedly everything’s ship-shape, which makes no sense, given that Suder and Paris between them did a lot of damage to the ship, and then they fly off and they haven’t even put their combadges back on yet, which means they left immediately. What the heck?

At least we won’t really see the Kazon again, save for flashbacks and time travel. They didn’t deserve a better ending, but Seska did. At least the conclusion was better than the prelude.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido knows how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, but he’s not telling. So there.

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