Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S02E26 – Basics, Part I

In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the second season of Voyager, I WASN’T READY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Voyager. 

Trigger Warning: For numerous mentions/discussions of rape, sexual assault, colonialism, suicide/suicide bombing and consent.

Well, season two certainly didn’t end on the same note as season one, right??? HA HA HA I AM STILL IN SHOCK. There’s a power in the inevitability of the story of “Basics” because of how much dread is built into this script. This episode openly broadcasts that Seska’s call for help is most likely a trap, so Voyager concerns itself more with what the crew is going to do to anticipate that trap.

They’re gonna try really hard, and then they’re going to fail spectacularly.

I’ll get to that in a bit, but let’s talk about some of the set-up to the disaster that results in one of the most distressing cliffhangers in Star Trek canon.


There are a lot of parts in “Basics” that the Michael Piller has to work with, so I’m pleased that I never felt like one of them felt rushed or inconsistent. The cold open re-introduced us to Ensign Suder, serving his time while confined to his quarters. The show doesn’t magically heal him or redeem him in this episode, though his progress with Tuvok is obvious. He’s changed quite a bit since we last saw him this season, and the meld with Tuvok most definitely played a part in that.

Yet Suder’s story isn’t necessarily about that progress so much as it’s about his need to thank Tuvok and the ship in general for his presence. It’s an interesting idea, too! Suder just wants to be necessary. He wants to have a role – even if it is small and understated – that’ll allow him to contribute to operations on Voyager. But what kind of role could he play within the confines of his quarters? Has he improved enough to be trusted with chemicals and supplies? Piller doesn’t answer that here, and indeed, Suder is written as straddling the line in terms of his progress. He’s better, but I don’t know if that was enough for Janeway.

Chakotay’s Choice

I can appreciate what Piller tries to do with this episode, even if the execution of it is clumsy at times. Chakotay is faced with one hell of a decision here: does he go after his son with Seska even though he didn’t consent to her creation? Is that relationship worth the risk? It’s not an easy predicament, and Piller’s script certainly respects that fact. Chakotay’s vision helps him to realize that he should punish a child for what someone else did, but it’s done in an uncomfortable way. Part of that is because the dialogue draws a comparison between Chakotay’s situation and the systemic rape of indigenous Americans by the white colonialists. And my use of a key word makes all the difference: it was a systemic thing, and Chakotay’s violation is not. So I didn’t think they were precisely the same; there’s a generalized familiarity, but I think it’s dangerous to draw parallels between these things.

At least I understood why Piller invoked this. But there was one option left out of this conversation: it is okay to not want a child if it came out of a violation. This idea that Chakotay would be “punishing” a child for his assault isn’t always as black-and-white as the show makes it out to be. Granted, his son was already born, so I’m not necessarily criticizing what we see on the screen. I’m mostly just bringing this up for consideration. But if a person who was raped does not want their child upon getting pregnant from the act, then they’re not punishing the child. They should have the right to do as they see fit for themselves in this context, you know? Do I think the script should have addressed this? I don’t really see a way for that to be relevant because this was never on the table. Again, the child was already born, you know? But I think it’s an appropriate thing for us to consider outside the scope of a conversation of canon. And I do appreciate that out of such a horrendous act, Chakotay found purpose and wanted to help his son.

The Kazon

Piller does a fine job with tension here, and once Tierna showed up, this episode became relentlessly uncomfortable. How so? Well, Piller took the whole Ticking Time Bomb trope (where a character or location or plot builds suspense because the audience knows there’s something being left unsaid about them) AND MADE IT LITERAL. TIERNA WAITED UNTIL THE PERFECT MOMENT TO BLOW HIMSELF UP. The violent desperation we see here is indicative of the lengths the Kazon were willing to go to obtain Voyager, WHICH I SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED. That was always Seska’s intent! She wanted that ship. So she found a way to unite the Kazon sects – at least temporarily, that is – in order to systematically disable Voyager. And the keystone it all rested on was Tierna blowing themselves up.

Good fucking god.


Look, I knew this was at least a two-parter. I KNEW IT FROM THE BEGINNING. That didn’t make this any less disturbing. After experiencing hundreds of episodes in the Star Trek universe, the show exploits our history by giving us a sequence that relies on us knowing it’s just wrong. It’s bad enough that the crew got tricked; it’s infinitely worse to watch them rounded up, marched off the ship, and abandoned on a desolate planet full of DINOSAURS and a caveman-like species. And then the show has to go and rub salt in the wound by having the entire cast watch the ship fly away from them. IT FEELS SO WRONG.

I’m gonna save my theories about the season three premiere for the prediction post, but… y’all. Y’ALL. This show WENT THE DISTANCE and I am MESSED UP.

The video for “Basics, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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