(written from a Production point of view)
|"Basics, Part I"|
|VOY, Episode 2x26|
Production number: 142
First aired: 20 May 1996
|←||41st of 168 produced in VOY||→|
|←||41st of 168 released in VOY||→|
|←||419th of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
|Arc: Basics (1 of 2)||→|
|←||Arc: Seska (6 of 9)||→|
|←||Arc: Suder's Penance (2 of 3)||→|
On a mission to rescue Chakotay's son from Maje Culluh, Voyager is captured by the Kazon-Nistrim in a sneak attack, the crew taken hostage, and Paris is believed to be dead. (Season Finale)
Lieutenant Tuvok visits Lon Suder in his quarters to find that the confined sociopath has created a new hybrid species of orchid. He wants to name it the Tuvok orchid in honor of the assistance the Vulcan has given him. He also has a plan to develop the airponics vegetable garden, which Tuvok promises to mention to Captain Kathryn Janeway. As the two of them begin Suder's therapy session, the bridge receives a hail from an unmanned Kazon buoy. It is Seska, a former member of Commander Chakotay's Maquis crew who turned out to be a spy. She says that she has borne Chakotay's son, which infuriated Maje Culluh of the Kazon-Nistrim, and the boy is in danger of becoming a slave. She begs Chakotay to help her.
Troubled by the message and unsure of what to do, Chakotay talks privately with Janeway. Although they both know that Seska is capable of conceiving such a plan to lure Voyager into a Kazon trap, Seska claimed previously that she impregnated herself with Chakotay's DNA and the baby in the message looked part Human. Janeway assures Chakotay that the crew is behind him if he wants to mount a rescue mission but he goes to his quarters to consider it. There he experiences a vision quest and sees his father, who reminds him of how the white men raped women from their tribe and the people embraced the children as their own. His father gently insists the boy is a part of Chakotay and is therefore his responsibility.
Janeway holds a meeting of the senior staff, where they come up with several ways to fight off a Kazon attack in the event of a trap. Neelix suggests requesting help from a Talaxian colony on Prema II, although they will be out of communications range by the time they reach Kazon space, while Ensign Harry Kim comes up with an echo-displacement method to make it seem like they have reinforcements. The Doctor has a more extreme idea: using the holoemitters to create literal holographic starships. Kim and Lt. B'Elanna Torres are skeptical, but they think it might work.
Voyager follows the warp trail leading away from the buoy and finds a lone Kazon shuttle, the life support system of which has been destroyed. Inside is Tierna, one of Seska's aides, who claims Seska is dead and that he would be, too, had he not bribed one of the guards who was ordered to execute him. Chakotay remains suspicious, even though the evidence seems to corroborate Tierna's story and the Kazon appears reluctant to help them return to Kazon-Nistrim space. However, when Tierna, under duress, gives them the command code for the Kazon defense net, allowing them to see the location of the Kazon ships they need to avoid, even Chakotay seems convinced.
The only problem with their route is that the area is inhabited by Kazon factions loyal to no one, who will attack anyone. Voyager is impervious to the first such attack, so as they pass out of contact range with the Talaxian colony, Janeway meets with Suder to talk about his proposal. She seems optimistic and promises to discuss it with Kes, but to Suder's dismay does not agree immediately. He reminds her that he only wants to do something for the ship.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. None of the four Kazon attacks have caused serious damage, but the starboard ventral has been hit each time, complicating repairs on the secondary command processors."
Tierna claims he does not know what the motive could be, so Janeway orders the ship to turn back. Just as Voyager reverses course, eight Kazon attack cruisers head toward them. There appears to be an obvious escape left open to them, so rather than evasive maneuvers, Janeway opts to charge at the lead ship while implementing Kim's deflector trick. It works, diverting half of the ships away from Voyager, and they manage to destroy at least one Kazon ship with the added diversion from The Doctor's holographic ships. A humorous accident during the implementation of his idea accidentally projects him into space for a moment, making him very indignant towards Torres.
Meanwhile, alone in his quarters, Tierna takes off his entire toenail (apparently artificial) to reveal some kind of needle. Sticking himself with it, he gets a pained look on his face as his body expands exponentially. He explodes, blowing a hole in Suder's wall, rupturing a plasma conduit and damaging several of Voyager's systems in the process. As the holographic ships disappear and the crew desperately attempts to get Voyager functional, the Kazon ships concentrate their firepower on it and close in. Lt. jg Tom Paris offers to take a shuttle to head back and ask the Talaxians for help. Janeway agrees, however the shuttle is immediately fired upon and Voyager quickly loses contact with him. The Kazon begin to board the ship through its cargo bay, at which point Janeway realizes the futility of the situation and activates the auto-destruct sequence. However, the sequence fails to initiate; it cannot do so without the secondary command processors.
The Kazon-Nistrim board Voyager and fight their way to the bridge, killing two bridge personnel, and Janeway quickly realizes that there is no use in resisting and orders her officers to hold their fire. She demands to speak with Maje Cullah, who gladly enters – accompanied by Seska and her child. Under the impression that Chakotay raped Seska, Culluh has decided to raise the boy as his own. Seska and the Kazon round up the crew and take them to an empty cargo bay, however The Doctor deactivates himself and sets himself to reactivate in twelve hours before he's discovered and Suder is missed when a Kazon soldier checks his damaged quarters. The rest of the crew are held until Voyager reaches an M-class planet, where the Starfleet officers are unloaded and stripped of their combadges. The Kazon note that two crew members (Paris and Suder) and a shuttle are missing, however Cullah claims that the shuttle was destroyed when it tried to leave the area (although Seska demands he confirm the destruction in case).
"A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology," Culluh gloats as he holds Janeway's combadge in his hand. "Let's see if you manage to survive...without it." The Doctor reactivates and Suder hides in a Jefferies tube As Voyager takes off, staffed by Culluh's officers, Janeway and the crew are abandoned on a barren, volcanically active planet without their technology, shelter or any means of sustenance...
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"Unable to initiate self-destruct sequence due to damage to secondary command processors."
- - The computer, to Captain Janeway, who realizes in horror why the Kazon had been targeting Voyager's secondary command processors: to prevent her from destroying the ship before they could capture it
"Help! Man overboard!"
- - The Doctor, after inadvertently being projected out into space
"I've never seen you so troubled, Chakotay."
- - Kolopak, speaking to his son in a vision quest
"This is outrageous!"
- - Neelix, on being forcefully pushed around by a Kazon
"Why would these factions of Kazon loyal to no one all have the same agenda? And why would that agenda focus on a non-essential area of the ship?"
"I don't know. But it feels like we're being pecked to death by ducks."
- - Commander Chakotay and Captain Janeway discussing the tactics of the attacking Kazon
"A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology. Let's see if you manage to survive without it."
- - Culluh
"Do you really think we're going to be rescued, Captain?"
"You're the morale officer, Neelix. You tell me."
"Help is on the way!"
- - Neelix and Captain Janeway
Title, story, and script
- With this episode, departing executive producer Michael Piller wanted to provide the series with a second season coda that would incite the excitement of his acclaimed TNG Season 3 cliffhanger "The Best of Both Worlds". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
- In coming up with the story, there was some question as to whom the alien enemy would be, but it was Michael Piller who promoted the idea of featuring the Kazon, influenced by their use in previous episodes in the season. "When we were going in," Piller recalled, "there was a real question of whether it was going to be a new alien group who steals the ship or the Kazon. I was the one who really drove the unit toward the Kazon, because I felt we had built up this arc with them and it was a natural conclusion. The issue of [Seska's] baby was still unresolved, and I just felt it was a natural way to go." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages) Executive story editor Kenneth Biller commented, "Michael liked the story, liked putting us on a planet, and he felt we had to play out the Kazon arc." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 107)
- The final draft of the episode's script was submitted on 23 February 1996. 
- According to Star Trek Monthly, the episode's title reflects the stranding of USS Voyager's crew on a primitive planet without their technology, forcing them to go "back to basics" in order to survive. According to Michael Piller, however, the title was also a message to the Star Trek franchise and to the writers who, unlike him, were remaining to work on the series. "The last thing I wrote for Voyager was 'Basics'," he recalled, "and it wasn't by chance that it was named, 'Basics'. And it wasn't by chance that it was about some fundamental issues confronting this Starfleet crew, because it was my message to the franchise to say... the key for success, the way to make this show work, the way to make this franchise fresh, is to stay with the basics that [Gene] Roddenberry set forth to us to begin with, to do the stories that have themes, to always ask, 'What is it about?' [....] That's what Roddenberry taught me and that was my last message to the staff of Voyager." (Braving the Unknown: Season Two, VOY Season 2 DVD special features) Piller also said of the name, "The title of the cliff-hanger I wrote, my final episode for the show, is 'Basics.' The title was not chosen casually. Basics. It's my last will and testament." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
- Michael Piller was very proud of the theme that is introduced at this episode's conclusion. "'Basics' was a show about this very high-tech crew suddenly stripped of all of their technology, their ship taken away and sent to this prehistoric planet. What do you do if you don't have your toys? What a great theme." (Braving the Unknown: Season Two, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- Despite enjoying the making of this episode's two-parter, director Winrich Kolbe found this installment's plot to be slightly problematic. He explained, "I liked both of those shows a lot. My only problem with them was that, plotwise, why are we going after a baby if we're running out of fuel and everybody wants to get home? It was a not-quite-well-thought-out device to get us on a planet." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #15)
- Winrich Kolbe was pleased with the selection of guest stars for this episode's two-parter, such as Seska actress Martha Hackett and Suder actor Brad Dourif. "We [...] had good guest stars in those shows," Kolbe noted, "with Martha and Brad Dourif." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #15)
- Robert Picardo was impressed by the acting of Brad Dourif herein. "He was very good in [...] 'Basics, Part I'," Picardo opined. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #10)
- Robert Picardo also considered the scene in which his character of The Doctor is inadvertently projected into the battle as a typical but amusing moment for his character. "It's pretty funny," Picardo remarked. "I get humiliated well, I think, which is why they like to do this to me. They like to shrink me down [as happens in both "Parallax" and "Persistence of Vision"] and stuff like that. They think it's fun when the character gets out of sorts." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 96)
- Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew criticized this episode's story, feeling that – compared to how the episode turned out – it should have been more action-oriented and the Voyager crew should have been portrayed as more cautious. "'Basics, Part I' should have been bup-bup, bup-bup, bup-bup, bup-bup," Mulgrew said, imitating a fast heartbeat. "We should have known what was happening. We're Starfleet officers. There should have been more control on our part, especially from the captain's point of view." Tuvok actor Tim Russ added, "We had to do some changes on the set to make that work as well as it did." (Starlog, issue #231, p. 49)
- Filming the Kazon's takeover of Voyager's bridge turned out to be a humorous experience. Culluh actor Anthony De Longis later commented, "It's a confined space to begin with, but with 10 people huddled together in the middle plus all us Kazons you needed an Arthur Murray dance lesson to maneuver through the scene." A particular moment that some of the cast found funny was during filming of the scene wherein Culluh smacks Janeway. "I remember us standing on the set," De Longis recalled, "and [Kate Mulgrew] jokingly saying, 'I bet Anthony has been waiting months for this.'" De Longis had made a sarcastically criticizing comment to Mulgrew during production of "Alliances". "So we both got a good chuckle when she came out with the remark about me slapping her," De Longis concluded. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #18)
- The scenes involving the primitive planet were shot on location in Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- The sequence wherein The Doctor momentarily appears in outer space was extensively planned prior to filming. Visual effects producer Dan Curry explained, "That sequence was very carefully storyboarded, so that we knew exactly what shots we needed and it also allowed us to budget accurately what we had to do." (Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- The same sequence involved Robert Picardo performing aerial feats. Dan Curry stated, "To get The Doctor in space, we shot him on a hanging rig, which is... something that looks like football pants with little pins at the hips, at your center of gravity, so you can balance well. So we shot Bob [Picardo] against a blue screen and then composited him into the space scene. We shot him wide enough that we could move him around." (Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2, VOY Season 2 DVD special features) Robert Picardo ultimately felt uncomfortable about his performance in the sequence but his two young daughters were delighted to watch the footage. "They got a kick out of that," Picardo said. "They actually saw me shoot that in front of a blue screen. That I personally consider my most embarrassing moment, acting-wise, on the show thus far. I would say that's the most over-the-top I've been, so I learned a big lesson that day. If they put me up, hang me in a harness again, I'll ask to watch the playback." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 92)
- Tierna's removal of his own toenail was actually a slimy special effect. "For the Kazon suicide bomber," Dan Curry recalled, "the prop department made a prop toenail that he was able to remove with a little dab of the same Methocel on that I think fast food companies use to thicken milkshakes. So it had this disgusting slime when he pulled the toenail off." (Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- On the other hand, the sequence in which Tierna detonates his internal bomb required visual effects. "As he went up and expanded," Curry said, "we shot him against blue screen so we could have him isolated from the background, and then used some of the built-in effects capabilities in the compositing box and were able to make it look like he was expanding and about to explode." (Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- Landscape shots of the primitive planet were modified by adding active volcanoes in the distance. "In a lot of the wide shots," Dan Curry remarked, "we wanted to add volcanoes, so I would paint the volcanoes on a Paintbox system, by hand. And then we used... sometimes real lava, but sometimes baking soda tapped up through a piece of black velvet, to make the kind of spurting magma look. And just tinted that to make it look hot and scary." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- Each of the episode's close-ups of the Voyager landing sequence were evidently reused from "The 37's".
- Prior to filming scenes involving the landed Voyager, Dan Curry and visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore visited the location and used a rope to measure out the size of Voyager, in order to physically see how big the ship would be. Moore recalled, "So we got this rope and we measured out, so we knew how big Voyager is. And, uh..." He chuckled, before continuing, "It was just Dan and I, and we had a teamster that had taken us out there. So, we just told the guy, 'Just take the end of this rope and head out that direction, you know? We'll tell you when to stop.' This guy's taking off and we're just feeding out the rope and this rope is the length of Voyager." Laughing wholeheartedly, Moore further recalled, "And we're looking and we can't even see the teamster at the other end!" Returning to a serious demeanor, he added, "We'd just keep feeding out the rope and we're like, 'Wow!' It was big." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 2 DVD special features) Additionally, Moore reflected, "From one end of that rope, you could barely see the guy on the other end. It really defined just how big the ship is. It gave us some kind of idea with landmarks of where the ship sat." This measuring process actually informed the visual effects team that, in the second season premiere "The 37's", they had made Voyager smaller than it would be in reality. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 110)
- The visual effects crew not only had to create the illusion of the landed Voyager but also design its departure from the primitive planet. Dan Curry recalled, "The other thing we had to do was have the Voyager fly over people, and so we would do things to cast shadows on [the actors and ground] and, in those shots, Voyager was CG." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
Reception and aftermath
- So that this episode would not clash with a certain issue of Marvel Comics' run of Star Trek: Voyager comics, Paramount Pictures requested that the Kazon not attempt to take over Voyager in that story. Writer Laurie S. Sutton recalled, "I wanted the Kazon to be [taking over Voyager], but Paramount told me it would conflict with what was going to happen on the season finale. I guess I was on the right track! A minor adjustment had to be made at the last minute in my story. I had to change it to the Trabe." A similar incident later occurred with the third season installment "Flashback". (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #9)
- Shortly before the second part of this episode's duology first aired, Chakotay actor Robert Beltran enthused, "I don't think anyone will be disappointed by 'Basics'. It's got a great cliffhanger and it resolves the subplot concerning Chakotay and Seska's baby. I think everyone will enjoy it." (Star Trek Monthly issue 20)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.9 million homes, and an 8% share. It was the joint third least watched episode of Voyager's second season (on first airing), along with "Investigations" (which had the exact same viewing figures as this installment).  Furthermore, the episode failed to appear in a contemporaneous fan poll of the top five episodes of the second season, a poll that executive producer Jeri Taylor paid particular attention to. (Star Trek: Communicator issue #108, p. 18)
- Following the episode's initial airing, however, Jeri Taylor cited this as being, in her opinion, one of the best episodes of Voyager's first two seasons. She further commented, "'Basics, Part I,' rivaled only the pilot in terms of being a crackling action-adventure show." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #10)
- Ken Biller also thought highly of the episode, especially its visuals. "I thought it looked terrific," he enthused. "It was a slam-bang action story and certainly one of the best-directed episodes of Voyager." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 107)
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 3 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 107)
- Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 4 out of 5 stars, defined as "Trill-powered viewing". (Star Trek Monthly issue 21, p. 57)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 126) gives this installment a rating of 6.5 out of 10.
- A currently ongoing, widespread Internet fan poll ranks this episode as the third most popular installment of Voyager's second season. 
- There were rumors that, following this episode, the crew would spend either the rest of the next season or a good part of it struggling to survive on the surface of Hanon IV. (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 295) In fact, there was some consideration to this or a similar idea. "We discussed the idea of having us on a planet for a number of episodes," Ken Biller said at the time. "That has not been ruled out, but it's not happening now." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 107)
- This episode and the following one constitute the first two-parter in Star Trek: Voyager.
- This is the second episode of Voyager to feature the series' title ship landing on the surface of a planet. Other occasions in which the starship Voyager can be seen landing on a planet include the Season 2 premiere "The 37's", the fourth season's "Demon", the Season 6 episode "Dragon's Teeth", and Season 7's "Nightingale".
- This is also the second of three episodes in which the character of Lon Suder appears, having been introduced in the earlier second season episode "Meld" and reappearing in "Basics, Part II". He is also referenced in the fifth season installment "Counterpoint". Although a Vulcan mind meld that he and Tuvok engage in during "Meld" is referred to only in the past tense here, actor Brad Dourif suspected that, in this episode, Suder is anxious of the meld's personality-changing effects wearing off. Dourif mused, "In 'Basics, Part I,' Suder's really beginning to develop a third personality, which is more tenuous, child-like, and it's probably harder for him to maintain. In that situation, I think he's also running on a lot of fear. He feels that the techniques of mind control and Vulcan meditation aren't going to work any longer because the mind-meld is wearing off. Suder has to learn to do this, to control his emotions, quickly, so that he can really be a different person. That's his dilemma, and we got more into it in 'Basics, Part II'." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #9)
- Ken Biller thought this episode's plot bore too much of a resemblance to previous Kazon episodes, such as his earlier second season installment "Maneuvers". "I have to agree that it was another instance of us getting outsmarted by the Kazon. Here are these semi-primitive aliens who seem to be smarter than us at every turn. That was a discussion and a concern [....] I did the first one of those episodes, 'Maneuvers', and thought the first time was fun seeing Seska using our stuff against us and outsmart us. To have it happen again was a bit frustrating." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 107)
- B'Elanna Torres is skeptical about The Doctor's suggestion for Voyager projecting holographic ships to fool the Kazon despite the fact that she did project holographic ships into space while in the Maquis as a diversion, mentioned in VOY: "Prototype".
- The Doctor's program now includes an automatic reactivation feature called, "Medical Holographic Recall." The Doctor is able to set the time to be off, and opts to be reactivated again in twelve hours in this episode. When reactivated, The Doctor is in the same position as he was when he initiated the recall feature. This feature is never seen again.
- The Doctor is now capable of faking his own deactivation. This feature may or may not be part of the "Medical Holographic Recall" reactivation feature.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 2.11, 4 November 1996
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek - Greatest Battles: 16 November 1998
- In feature-length form, as part of the UK VHS release Star Trek: Voyager - Movies: Volume 1 (with "Future's End"), 14 August 2000
- As part of the VOY Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Biggs-Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Special guest star
- Anthony De Longis as Culluh
- John Gegenhuber as Tierna
- Martha Hackett as Seska
- Henry Darrow as Kolopak
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Heather Ferguson as a command division officer
- Holiday Freeman as an operations division officer
- Sue Henley as Ensign Brooks
- Kerry Hoyt as Crewman Fitzpatrick
- Donald R. Jankiewicz as a Hanon IV native
- Pat Jankiewicz as a Hanon IV native
- Susan Lewis as an operations division officer
- Dennis Madalone as a science division officer
- Louis Ortiz as Ensign Culhane
- Spiro Razatos as an operations division officer
- Shepard Ross as Ensign Murphy
- Jennifer Somers as a science division officer
- Patricia Tallman as operations division officer
- John Tampoya as Kashimuro Nozawa
Alpha Quadrant; autonomic response analysis; Betazoid; bronchial tissue; Cardassian echelon; class 2 shuttle; class M; command code; concussion; containment field generator; defense net; deflector grid; Delta Quadrant; dispersal pattern; disruptor; driver coil; duck; echo displacement; Federation; floriculture; Gema IV (Gema system); Hanon IV; holodeck; holoemitter; Kazon-Halik; Kazon-Nistrim; Kazon carrier vessel; Kazon raider; Kazon shuttle; kilometer; leola root soup; magic; nitrogen tetroxide; nitrogen; Paxim; parabolic mirror; plasma conduit; poison; polycythemia; Prema II (Prema system); pulmozine; red alert; secondary command processor; self-destruct; spinal cord; Talaxian; Talaxian fighter; Tenarus Cluster; warp trail; water
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"Basics, Part II"