42 – Basics, Part 1

Grade: C

Basics, Part I (1996) on IMDb


Lon Suder has been in solitary confinement since he was found guilty of killing another Voyager crewman. But he has been learning about plants and has even created a new species of orchid. He has also been meeting with Tuvok on a regular basis for mental therapy sessions. He now wants to do something to help the ship and the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, Voyager intercepts a message from Seska that is directed to Chakotay. If she can be believed, Culluh has threatened her and Chakotay’s child, and Seska asks Chakotay to come rescue them.


This episode has never been one of my favorites. I remember watching this episode when it was first shown on TV, and though at the time I thought it was a good cliffhanger, I didn’t like the use of the Kazon or Seska in this plot. I don’t believe I’ll ever like the Kazon, and I wish they had used some other aliens instead.

Mostly, though, I find this episode to be yet another example of Janeway’s stupidity. If there really were a Captain Janeway, I’m sure she would have been court martialed, stripped of rank, and re-assigned to office duty where she wouldn’t be able to put anyone in harm’s way again.

For one thing, there is not one single person on the entire Voyager ship who trusts or believes in Sesksa – not even her former Maquis associates. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Janeway would allow the entire ship to be put into obvious danger when there has been almost no evidence that Seska is telling the truth. There’s plenty of evidence, however, that she’s untrustworthy and probably just putting Voyager into a trap.

Besides, even if they had proof that Seska and the baby were in danger, shouldn’t there be some kind of accounting for risk and benefit? In other words, what reward would there be to rescue a son Chakotay didn’t even know he had, and was conceived without his knowledge or consent? And what was his plan after the boy is brought on Voyager? Does the ship have a nursery to care for him when Chakotay is on away missions for Voyager? Is Chakotay planning to keep the son on the Bridge?

On the other hand, what are the costs to rescuing this baby? At the very least, Voyager would have to battle several Kazon ships and this might potentially result in deaths of the crew, severe damage to the ship, and perhaps months of wasted time.

Janeway leaves the decision up to Chakotay, and after he sees his father during a vision quest, he is not only convinced that the child really is his, but that he also owes it to that child to rescue him from the Kazon and a life of servitude that Seska told him would be his fate. I suppose any good and decent father would rescue his own life to save the life of his son, but I really find it a stretch that Janeway would threaten the lives of 160 crewmen to save the life of one person who maybe isn’t even his son anyway.

But this is not all there is to the story. Voyager just so happens to come across a Kazon ship with one severely wounded soldier on board. Without any hesitation whatsoever, Voyager beams him aboard the ship directly to Sickbay where the Doctor starts working on him immediately. This is without even having established any discussion with him first. Voyager knows nothing about this man or why he was injured, and they buy his story completely and without any hesitation. He tells Voyager of the locations of Kazon ships and defense forces and even plots a course for the ship through the safest route to where Culluh supposedly has sent Chakotay’s son. After this, they confine him to quarters under guard. Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t just put him on the Bridge and give him the helm. They trusted all of his information without even questioning him (Neelix’s question doesn’t count – it’s a very stupid question to begin with and the Kazon’s answer doesn’t mean jack squat), so why do they think they need to put him under guard?

It’s just one stupid decision after another in this episode. They all know they don’t have the firepower to defeat the entire Kazon fleet all by themselves. So they decide to create three dimensional holographic images that they display out in space to try to trick the Kazon into thinking there are more ships in the area. Theoretically, there’s no limit to the number of ships they can put out there, so why not make it 1000 Talaxian ships? Or why not make it several dozen Voyagers so the Kazon don’t know which one is the real one?

At some point, someone should have tried convincing Janeway of the sheer insanity of her decision. When Worf decided to go find his father being kept on a prison camp held by the Romulans, Picard didn’t send the Enterprise into danger. Instead, he let Worf go on his own. It was too risky for the ship to go there. Janeway should have done the same thing in this case. I honestly have no idea how she ever became a captain given her tendency to set all logic and reason aside once she has made a decision. Picard wouldn’t have done this. Kirk maybe would have, but he would have at least been smart about it.

So that’s the first problem I have with this episode – it just shows how stupid Captain Janeway is. Maybe she’ll learn from this experience and won’t make similar mistakes again in future episodes, but obviously the problem is the writers, not the character. They wrote her to be stupid, so she must be stupid.

There are virtually no character-defining moments in this episode, except perhaps Chakotay’s vision quest. The acting is equally bland, and even though Martha Hackett makes us all hate Seska, she’s not a very good actress in this episode.

Though the cliffhanger is about as effective as it could be, the characters are simply so bland and the story is so rushed that I personally don’t care that the Voyager crew has been left stranded on this desert planet. There’s no question in anyone’s mind that Suder and the Doctor are going to find a way to take back the ship (remember Suder told us at least three times that he really wants to do something for the ship, so we’ve been set up to know he’s going to try something). The only question is if it’s in the very next episode or if it’s going to take several episodes to do it. Personally, I hope they take more than 1 or 2 episodes to do it, but I already know better. These writers aren’t capable of writing intriguing multi-episode story arcs.

Near the end of the episode, Neelix says that the morale of the crew will be affected by the talk of staying on the planet for the forseable future. Janeway tells him to deal with that problem, so he turns around and yells out “help is on the way!” What a useless thing to say. Nobody even knows they’re on that planet, and they have no way to contact anyone who would care enough about the crew to come rescue them. Not only have the writers made Janeway look like an idiot, but they’ve turned Neelix into a useless clown.

Of Note

When they created the CGI for this episode, they finally decided to measure out the distance of the size of the ship so they could frame the shot more realistically. What they found out is how much bigger the ship was than they originally thought. Not surprisingly, they realized they had made the ship way too small in The 37s. That’s why it’s usually better to work with real props rather than fake ones drawn on a computer screen.