Thursday, April 24, 2008

Star Trek 503: Basics, Part II

503. Basics, Part II

FORMULA: Arena + (Rascals - kids)

WHY WE LIKE IT: The characters being smart.

WHY WE DON'T: Seska's death.

REVIEW: In what amounts to my new favorite Voyager story (there's not a lot of competition, I admit), the second part of Basics allows the characters to shine without all their usual kit. The grisly matter of survival is well-handled with uniform dew collectors, locks of hair to help start fires and Janeway eating grubs. The location work remains stellar and the lava floes are realistic. If the land wasn't inhospitable enough, they also have to contend with a CGI monster and an indigenous tribe, AND have poor baby Naomi on their hands, sick and frail.

Mr. Hogan, probably doomed since the first time he got a line, gets mauled and eaten by the the CGI monster (which is ok, though of course, you can tell). Too bad, though there's some nice horror-movie camera work in that scene. The primitives are competent creations, and give Chakotay a chance to show off some psychology and anthropology (in addition to his outdoorsman skills). Eventually (inevitably?), a shared danger and selfless rescue affords the crew the chance to bond with the tribe, but it doesn't seem too forced, and the effects support the action.

Back on the ship, Suder and the Doctor make a nice pair of saboteurs. The Doctor gets a nice turn faking out Seska, but it's Suder who remains the most interesting, as a killer unwilling to kill. Though he is sadly killed at the end of the episode, his real sacrifice was that of his soul, and his anguish is palpable. Paris gets his licks in as well, returning with the Talaxian fleet and a good plan. Each character gets to be smart and NEEDS to be smart to get Voyager back. It's the best kind of story where characters are equal to the task, and the task equal to the characters.

As for the villains of the piece, this is the Kazons' last real appearance, and though I won't be sorry to see Culluh go (he never amounted to anything), Seska is another matter. I don't think Voyager ever had a better villain. Her death is strange indeed, since everyone else was zapped just as she was and survived, including her baby. She just... dies. That's cutting off the Kazon arc a little too cleanly, I'd say. Indeed, with the revelation that Chakotay's baby is actually Culluh's (silly Seska, you can't impregnate yourself with spinal fluid!), there's no reason to stick around Kazon space a minute longer.

LESSON: When Michael Piller reminds you about something, you REMEMBER IT, DAMMIT!

REWATCHABILITY - High: Who should have lived or died may be arguable, but the fact remains that this story is filled with tension, excitement, and smart characters doing smart things. The one to beat.


Stephen said...

i like seska as a villian but they never really played up her cardassian-ness properly. she was never as enthralling or captivating as dukat or dumar.

LiamKav said...

The CGI monster was Foundation Imaging's first work for the Trek franchise after their messy split with Babylon 5. (Okay, technically their first work was in the first part, but you mention it here...)

B5 definitely suffered when FI left, so I'm curious as to whether their arrival improved Voyager's SFX. Of course, SFX quality was never really a problem with Trek, probably due to having much more money than B5.