Friday, 4 July 2014

Review: Voyager 3.1: Basics (Part Two)

The more eagle-eyed members of my meagre readership will notice that it's been six months since I wrote anything to do with Voyager - this article being inspired by the end of my exams yesterday and the fact that the review of Basics (Part One) went up this morning. Here goes, then. :D
Chakotay can communicate with alien cavemen.
From Doc Oho
Star Trek: Voyager - Season Three, Episode One - Basics (Part Two)
Written between 20th and 21st June 2014

I've always thought that cross-season two-parters were weird. A two-part story is supposed to establish continuity within itself, both in terms of plot and tone, and one of the points of having different seasons is that each develops its own distinctive voice. The result is that Season Three's premier is quite deeply entrenched in the Kazon politics of its beleaguered predecessor - except, well, this time it's a damn sight better. While this vast improvement mostly comes from the fact that "take over the ship again" stories are more fun to watch than "see Voyager get its ass kicked" stories, there are also a few interesting musings on Star Trek's core philosophy which, while ultimately forgotten for the A-plot, were appreciated.
      On the pre-historic planet they were dumped on at the end of the last season, our intrepid heroes (I think I've used that term so many times ironically that it's become 100% serious) run into a tribe of caveman-esque aliens who kidnap Neelix and Kes before leading to an encounter with a weird space-dinosaur. Their animosity is put on hold when a nearby volcano starts to erupt, and the two groups bond. Out in space, and Tom Paris is on one of Voyager's infinite shuttlecraft, planning to attack the Kazon-controlled Voyager with the help of a fleet of Talaxians. On the ship, The Doctor does his best to act as an insurgent, with the help of crazed Betazoid Lon Suder who made two guest appearances in Season Two. Suder has trouble with the task, seeing as he's spent the past year trying not to give into his violent tendencies, but eventually he intervenes when The Doctor is deactivated and manages to aide Tom and the Talaxians in re-taking the ship, dying soon afterwards. Everyone back on board, they head off back to Earth, with Seska dead and Maje having done a runner with his baby.
     It was a bit weird that one of the episode's main focuses was on the adventures of the crew stranded on the planet. Ostensibly, this two-parter was about examining how the Voyager crew would react when their technology is taken away, but they react to it with a surprising level of acceptance - within a few minutes they've found food sources and made deadly weapons. It felt so tangential and most of the time incredibly weird, and there was little character development for them besides a few awesome moments with Chakotay, and Tuvok for some reason becoming a murderous little shit. (Apparently Vulcans have Professors of Archery, which is mind-boggling and is never mentioned again.)
Just before she goes - one thing I've always wondered
is why, after the restoration of her Cardassian physiology,
Seska still has pink skin and light features. Weird.
From Trekcore
     The episode is significant for ending (pretty much for good) the Kazon storyline, as the Kazon Nistrim scuttle away into insignificance. They would make only four more appearances (to my memory) in the rest of the show, all of which were deliberate call-backs. Despite the build-up this conclusion to their story had in the second season, it all goes rather splat, as the Kazon do what they normally do - they ignore every last piece of advice that Seska gives them, which inevitably on all fronts leads to their downfall. Added to that is the last-second script turnaround which results in Seska's death, and the revelation that Seska didn't impregnate herself with Chakotay's DNA after all, because she was already pregnant with a Kazon baby. It was somewhat fitting that the abject stupidity that often led the Voyager crew into the Kazon's traps is now exactly what causes their defeat.
     As I said, Basics II doesn't really fit in with the tone of the season it premiers, and it spends most of its time entertaining a story concept which doesn't really make any headway. The story could have been a single stranded, epic conspiracy in which the Voyager crew used espoinage and trickery to win back the ship. Instead, we wobble between Lon Suder undoing all of his character development and Chakotay playing Fred Flintstone. While it was probably a difficult thing to give characters like the Kazon a good send off, the episode's main problem is that it doesn't seem very interested in them at all - and that says everything it needs to, really.


NEXT WEEK: Voyager celebrates Trek's 30th anniversary with an appearance by Sulu in the imaginatively titled Flashback.

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