Thursday, July 20, 2017

Voyager 3x1 "Basics, Part 2"

rating: ****

the story: The crew survives being marooned long enough for Paris, the Doctor, and Suder to retake the ship from Seska and the Kazon.

what it's all about: The big shift in storytelling from the second to third seasons is evident in how little Chakotay is involved in events.  This was literally the culmination of an arc that directly involved him, even as late as the first part of the story, which was also the second season finale, where Seska tries fooling him into thinking she's having his baby.  That's how the crisis began.  How it ends is almost a letdown, but it's also still one of the biggest stories the series ever attempted, and the closest the crew ever came to actually losing the ship. 

So the irony is that the dramatic heft of "Part 2" falls to Suder, the character who debuted in "Meld" and whose struggle to get control of himself while being asked to do everything that would otherwise make him lose it...basically it's the closest Voyager ever came to doing a Deep Space Nine story, focusing on a guest character at the expense of the main cast.  In "Meld" Suder at least had a strong counterpoint in Tuvok.  Here he's working alongside the Doctor, who's constantly at risk of being deactivated the invaders, which of course happens, which means Suder really is all alone this time. 

Watching the crew survive various manufactured crises on the planet is actually a huge drawback for the episode.  It's completely unnecessary, one of those times the producers wrongly assumed the first problem (being marooned) wasn't big enough (another would be Enterprise's "The Catwalk," where the crew being holed up in one of the nacelles to survive a storm wasn't somehow enough; Star Trek can really be scared of just letting human drama play out), so they piled on plot points that could just as easily have been entirely unrelated episodes, and should have. 

Anyway, aside from Suder there's of course Seska, because that's really what the story was about, finally concluding her arc.  Predictably, her Kazon lover feels no real qualms of moving on without her once everything blows up in their faces.  It's a shame we never saw him or Seska's baby again.  Would've at least given Chakotay another fantastic character moment.  But "Part 2" feels like it's deliberately moving on from prior storytelling because it is, much like Enterprise would hastily conclude its long-running Temporal Cold War arc, bowing to the pressure of apathetic (or maybe just pathetic) fan complaints about how things had been going.  Those same fans would nonsensically complain that serialization vanished from Voyager, or seriously claim it was never there.  Yeah.  Okay.

The good news is that when it counts, the episode feels epic, in ways later two-part event episodes frequently struggled to match.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Concludes one of the longest arcs in Star Trek history.
  • series - So by necessity is a defining Voyager moment.
  • character - Suder and Seska drive this episode.
  • essential - The first big climax of the series.
notable guest-stars:
Martha Hackett (Seska)
Brad Dourif (Suder)
Anthony De Longis (Culluh)
Nancy Hower (Samantha Wildman)
Simon Billig (Hogan)

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