The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
WARNING: I think I broke all previous length records with this one. An .AVI file of the entire episode might load faster than this review. Unless you REALLY like the inimitable way I recreate the episodes I review, you might save an hour or so by skipping to the Analysis now. I'm serious. I don't want you mad at me so early in the season.
A planet-bound Voyager crew battles volcanoes, creatures straight outta "Xena: Warrior Princess," and a band of badly-dressed Neanderthals. Meanwhile, the Kazon-controlled Voyager must contend with Suder, Paris, and Holodoc.
Break out the munchies, kids, this puppy's got a body count.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Obligatory recap of "Basics, Part 1": a frantic message from Seska shows what she claims is Chakotay's child. They go after it, knowing it's probably a trap. A Kazon "kamikaze claymore" explodes, trashing the sociopathic Lon Suder's quarters and disabling several ship's systems. Under heavy fire, Paris suggests he take a shuttle to bring back the cavalry, and during his flight he takes heavy fire, his fate unknown. Voyager is boarded, First Mazh Culluh of the Kazon Nistrum and Seska enter the bridge in triumph, and soon the entire crew is being dumped unceremoniously on a volcanic planet with no technology, and Voyager flies away under new ownership.
* * *
we rejoin the former crew of Voyager as they take stock of their resources, broken into work teams. Janeway begins by finding a good looking rock formation, defensible and insect-free, that would be perfect if it weren't situated close to an active volcano. But how often do those things go off, anyway? The rent's dirt cheap, so she closes escrow and orders her crew to set up camp.
Meanwhile, Ensign Hogan--a semi-handsome and occasionally likable Maquis crewman who got a lot of screen time last season-discovers something interesting at a cave entrance. He calls Neelix over, showing him what looks like signs of cave-dwelling local inhabitants. Neelix notes the bones-humanoid-also at the entrance and suggests that they may be an unwelcome mat. Nevertheless, bones make good tools, so he instructs Hogan to gather them.
Hogan's expression speaks volumes. "Oh crud. I shouldn't have asked for opening-credits billing." He knows as only a man whose moments are numbered can that he's just become-a little theme music, maestro-Crewman Johnson, Expendable Extra. We can hear his silent prayer for guest work in the Morn suit on "Deep Space Nine."
"Uh...all of them?" he asks. "Waste nothing-that's one of the first rules of survival," Neelix says over his shoulder as he returns to the foraging detail. As Hogan picks up bones at the cave's entrance, we switch to the patented XenaCam&TM of something rushing rapidly and ominously to rendezvous with its newest meal.
Break to Neelix as Hogan's screams begin. Alas, poor Hogan, we barely knew ye.
* * *
A dark and dirty Tom Paris is running yet another diagnostic on his damaged shuttle when a proximity sensor announces a Kazon ship mere seconds before phaser fire confirms it. "Dammit, I don't have TIME for this," he mutters for the first of three times, ensuring its entry in the Trek Catch Phrase lexicon. (Get your T-shirts now.) When repeated disrupter barrages prompt Paris to repeat himself, he pulls a trick out of the "Top Gun" playbook-slams on the breaks to let the enemy ship pass, fires up the thrusters and phasers it into non-threatening debris. "I TOLD you I didn't have time for this!" he grumbles.
Moral: When Tom Paris runs out of cute things to say, kiss your asteroids goodbye.
Ensign Hogan's time on the show is ended, but his uniform remains. Neelix blames himself; Kes tells him not to, and Janeway agrees. "Hogan was a good officer," Janeway eulogizes. "And a good man. I want this to be the last death for a very LONG TIME. I WILL NOT LET THIS PLANET DESTROY MY CREW," she vows, as if expecting a hearty "yes, captain!" from the very bowels of the earth. A tremor is the only reply. Janeway declares the tunnels and cave entrances off limits, tells Tuvok to establish some safety protocols, and her patented Skunk Eye O' Death&TM lets everyone know that the next person to die will regret it. She may raise them from the dead just to kill them herself.
Chakotay says that, morbid as it may sound, Hogan's uniform can be used as a water collector. There are no nearby supplies of water, so it's their only option. ("Waste nothing, that's one of the first rules of survival.") Janeway agrees. As to the food situation: Nothing they've found so far is edible. Janeway tells them to look under rocks, then begins doing so herself. She uncovers one that reveals its treasure: a couple dozen writhing grub-worms. She picks up a handful and announces in a brook-no-argument voice, "Tell the crew this is an order from the captain. Eat these or be eaten. It could be the difference between life and death." She tosses the wriggling repast on the ground (doesn't eat any herself, I noticed) and storms out of the cave.
Seska enters sickbay with her child and activates the (already active) EMH program. Holodoc peeks out from his hiding place, takes a breath, and appears smiling with "please state the nature of the medical emergency." (She left before he was able to activate and deactivate himself. A-ha-a tactical advantage!) They exchange banalities; Seska tests his ability to lie and otherwise dissemble. The exchanges are amusing, but there is a strong undercurrent of menace between them. Seska, the doting mom, is also a pitiless Cardassian killer and the brains behind the recent takeover of Voyager. Holodoc parries her probing questions, smiling benignly and giving away nothing.
As Seska turns to leave, she offhandedly refers to Chakotay's son, whose child she believes it to be. Holodoc unsettles her by correcting the assumption-the child is part Kazon, part Cardassian, but no part human. He shows her the scan-no human DNA to be found. The news troubles her greatly; she had really wanted the child to be Chakotay's. She still feels something for him. "Mazh Culluh will be so pleased," she mutters, then angrily calls for the termination of the EMH program as she stalks out of sickbay.
As soon as the doors close, Holodoc reappears. "Medical log, Stardate 50032.7," he begins with professional detachment. "Chakotay isn't the father of Seska's child. I wish there was some way to inform him." His voice changes. "What am I supposed to do? Lead a revolt with the gang from Sandrine's? Conjure up holograms of Nathan Hale and Ch‚ Guevara? I'm a doctor, not a counterinsurgent!" he rants, easily replacing "I don't have time for this!" as the most memorable line of the episode. (Sorry, no refunds on those T-shirts.)
Holodoc calls for a crew compliment from the ship's computer. 89 Kazon, the computer reports...and one Betazoid. (Umm...what about the Cardassian and the half-Cardassian/half Kazon?) Holodoc is surprised by that news. "Betazoid?" "Crewman Lon Suder," the computer reports.
Yippie-kay-ay! DIE HARD on a starship. For those playing the home game, Lon Suder is the former Maquis who murdered a crewmate and almost destroyed Tuvok's brain in "Meld," and who in "Basics 1" showed a firm desire to do something for the ship, but whose mental state was betrayed when Janeway didn't give him an immediate Yes. He's a loose cannon, a guy who can kill like nobody's business, who once the voices in his head start calling the shots becomes a threshing machine of carnage that is very difficult to turn off. The only thing is, he doesn't ever want to kill again, and he's spent the last several months with Tuvok trying to quell his inner demons.
Holodoc hails Suder, who is crawling through the air ducts and Jeffries Tubes of the ship. He whispers his answers, frantic and not entirely sane, if those impossibly large, coal-black eyes are any indication. "Can you make it to sickbay?" Holodoc asks. "I think so," he says. His usually slicked-back hair is all akimbo, his face and clothing bloody and smudged from the recent explosion of his quarters. He seems relieved that he's not alone.
The connection terminated, Holodoc immediately orders the computer to erase all records of Suder's existence, including his combadge. (Perhaps Seska used a similar trick to "erase" her and her child from the official tally. It is a tactical advantage, as we have just learned.)
Night falls on the planet; the killing heat of daylight surrenders to the killing chill of darkness. Janeway enters the cave, tells people to huddle together for warmth-"this is no time to be shy," she says. Kim and Torres return with fresh eggs and cucumbers (I can't help but point out the sexual subtext here-Kim holds the eggs, Torres holds the cucumbers, Janeway told them not to be shy...I know, I apologize. I'm evil. Please forgive) and say that there's plenty more where that came from, about two hours away. A jubilant Janeway tells them to take the foodstuffs to Neelix, and to tell him to put the beetle stew on the back burner-for now.
Janeway then checks on Ensign Samantha Wildman's baby, which has not been holding up well under the strain of recent events. Wildman thinks it's just temporary, and Janeway offers some encouraging words.
Next: Commander Chakotay, who is trying to start a fire with two sticks and a bow. "Trapped on a barren planet, and you're stuck with the only Indian in the universe who can't start a fire by rubbing two sticks together!" he says angrily. "I was never good at this as a child, and I'm still no good at it." Janeway says nobody else has succeeded either-"must be the wood," she offers with a grim smile. Chakotay, thinking aloud, says "we need kindling of some sort." Then he catches sight of Janeway's abundant tresses of lovely auburn hair, and.... "What?" Janeway demands suspiciously. "Something my father once told me about starting a fire."
Call Cristophe, it's clippin' time!
What manner of hardship has this crew been reduced to when all the lovely long-haired lasses of Voyager must sacrifice their flowing locks to the greater good of Starfleet? Someone must pay, and pay dearly, as I look on in horror...using sharp rocks, Janeway and a faceless brunette make the ultimate fashion sacrifice. But danged if it doesn't work...rubbing two sticks together near hair apparently makes fire.
As the crew exults in reconquering the elements, an unfamiliar face peers from the periphery.
Some of the crew huddle near the fire. Neelix, showing off his survival skills, tells them that more stones will increase the effective warming range of the blaze. He runs outside to get some. After a few moments, Kes follows, calling after him to be careful. She doesn't see him...but she soon will, as she is grabbed from behind.
* * *
Paris contacts Commander Paxom of the Talaxian convoy mentioned in "Basics, Part 1." Paxom tells Paris that the Kazon Nistrum have captured Voyager, and are flooding subspace with the news. There is no word on the fate of the crew. Paris tells them to rendezvous with him so he can fix the shuttle and move on to the rescue operation. Paxom balks. "We have two ships and a shuttle; we can't go up against Voyager!" Paris argues that nobody knows the ship or its weaknesses better than he, and he already has a plan. When they fix his shuttle, he'll let them in on it. Paxom reluctantly agrees; Paris is confident, and his presence is commanding. He hangs up believing Paris knows what he's doing. "Okay, Tommy boy," Paris mutters, "you've got an hour to come up with a plan."
[Adopting voice of TALK SOUP's own John Henson] Oh, fun!
Suder finally makes it to sickbay through a crawl-space. He looks like hell. "They're still repairing the ship," he reports. Holodoc tells him they somehow need to get the ship out of warp, then get some weapons, then. "Are you listening?" Doc demands. "Yes," Suder answers, distracted. Doc's features darken. "Oh...I see. Perhaps you consider this an opportunity...to obtain your freedom from confinement. How foolish of me to think you would want to help." Doc grits his teeth in silent fury.
"You're wrong. I want to help." Suder's tone leaves no doubt he means it.
"Then...what?" Genuine confusion.
"I'm going to have to kill some of them...." Suder shudders. "I've worked so...so hard over the last few months to control the violent feelings. I'm almost at peace with myself. I mean, I see the day coming when I could be."
Holodoc begins to understand. "Mr. Suder, if Tuvok were here he'd say that there are times when violence is required to defend yourself, your ship, your crew."
"Yes, there is a logical use for violence...for everyone else. With me, once it begins...." he can almost taste that moment, and it simultaneously invigorates and repulses him.
Holodoc tells him they're both in it together; he promises to help in any way he can. "One hologram and one sociopath may not be much of a match for the Kazon, but...we'll have to do."
Still night. Chakotay finds signs of a struggle, and alien tracks. "I'm a better tracker than firestarter," he says. They need to start searching for Kes and Neelix before day breaks, they agree. Tuvok has been making weapons, and shows the bow he's completed. "That's thoughtful, Tuvok," he says, taking the bow, "but my tribe didn't use bows and arrows, and I've never shot one."
Tuvok retrieves the bow. "This is mine. I taught archery science for several years at the Vulcan Academy for Defensive Arts." (Say what? "Umm...Tuvok-sensei, Daniel-san is trashing the dojo....")
As morning breaks we see Neelix and Kes huddled together, encircled by rag-clad, dusty Neanderthals carrying pointy things and arguing with each other in an unknown tongue. (We're running on basics, folks-no universal translators.) They seem to be arguing over who gets to initiate Kes into the fraternity first, if you know what I mean. Here, the Starfleet/Talaxian/Ocampa people are the aliens, the big black obelisks for these monkey dudes to throw bones at to the thundering orchestra of brass instruments.
A woman screams as Chakotay appears over the rocks, walking like a well-dressed god toward them. (In native talk, I think her gutteral cries translate to, "He's a babe! Schwing!") We're stuck with body language for this first exchange of cultural pleasantries. Chakotay asks which one is the leader. "The one with the claw," Neelix and Kes agree-an older man who kinda looks like David Warner. (`Cuz let's face it. No matter what planet in whatever quadrant you end up on, someone always does.)
The leader tries to pacify Chakotay by offering him a doe-eyed and frightened girl. "Fair trade, ya think?" David Warner asks, pointing. "You take Mahana here, and we'll keep the skinny blonde." Chakotay politely declines. Neelix jumps up, naturally angry that anyone would think of horning in on his territory. This riles the locals. Chakotay instructs Kes to get up slowly and walk away. She does...and they are followed. Soon they're all running. The natives are calling after them in the vulgar tongue of the street- one center-camera local does a full-view two-handed crotch-grab. (I bet good money he's from Planet Brooklyn.)
Moral: Never sexually harass one of the stars. The crotch-grabbing ugly dude gets an arrow in the shoulder from Robin Tuvok. (Too bad this wasn't on Cable-the arrow might have reached a more appropriate target.) A hail of spears and stones and arrows covers their escape, but the natives are in hot pursuit to the beat of tomtoms and other stereotypical Cowboys and Injuns background music.
When the aliens (that's our folks-the others were here first) reach the Cave What Ate Hogan, Chakotay tells them to go thataway. In direct defiance of (1) the captain's orders, and (2) common sense. There be dragons in there. But there's no place better, so in they go. In go Kes, Neelix, Chakotay, Tuvok, and some guy in a blue shirt.
Place your bets...who's gonna die next?
Seska and Culluh enter the engine room, angry that they're no longer at warp. Their first line of questioning suggests the incompetence of the "engineering team," but they swear they've done everything they were told. Seska begins to suspect that there may be someone aboard; she asks the computer for an intruder check, but that program has suffered a General Protection Fault. She orders a tricorder sweep of the ship....
...as Suder and Holodoc look on from a sickbay monitor. Suder asks for a portable thoron generator - "old Maquis trick," he explains. "It neutralizes tricorder sensors." As Suder heads for the now-familiar crawl- space, Holodoc tells him "we'll need weapons if we're going to retake the ship." Suder's look acknowledges the need with apprehensive resignation. He's avoided killing so far, but his time is running out.
The condition of Ensign Wildman's baby is getting worse. Janeway offers to bring it some water. As she exits the cave, the tremors on the planet increase.
The natives try to smoke the aliens out of the cave. Chakotay tells the crew to be on the lookout for another exit. The ceiling is crumbling, and wouldn't take much to come down, Tuvok notes. (Foreshadowing...) They soon stumble on the lair of the thing that ate Hogan. It's a big muthah, a CGI guest beastie from the set of "Xena: Warrior Princess." A big snake with a circle of spider-like legs near its head, it is currently at rest.
Outside the cave, Janeway and Kim and Torres and two other crewmen approach as the angry natives' bonfire continues to blaze. "Who are our fastest runners?" the captain demands. Torres speaks up. "I was on the academy decathlon team before I dropped out. The track and field coach was furious." She and Janeway share a grim smile. Two others also raise their hands. "Okay. You three. 42 on three. Taunt and run, sweep left. Ready...break."
As the trapped team tries to shuffle single-file past the sleeping special effect, a black-haired blue-shirted crewman whose name I don't know slips, struggles, and is rapidly consumed. Tuvok and Chakotay let loose with some low-tech armaments to cover their escape, but the snake is on its home turf and slithers and strong-arms its way through the cave, irked by the interruption of its beauty sleep.
The natives are interrupted in their fire-stoking by a flurry of rocks and epithets. I heard something about hamsters and elderberries, but I could be mistaken. The natives take umbrage, and soon the chase is on. When all's clear, Janeway and Kim and someone else rush down, put out the fire, clear the entrance, and call to their comrades. Chakotay commands them to go back the way they came, and when they reach the crumbling ceiling Tuvok asks for a spear. Taking the cue, Chakotay and Tuvok and the newly-arrived Kim thrust their spears into the ceiling and leverage their way to an avalanche. The snake is none too happy, and there is no time for seconds. Everyone but the blue-shirt escapes unhurt.
* * *
Two Kazon search through a tight crawl-space, but thoron particle leaks prevent any meaningful readings. They split up, and one of them has the misfortune to miss the skulking figure of Lon Suder, whose face is a mask of anticipation and dread. The eyes portend doom.
In sickbay, a call comes through on the Emergency Medical channel, to Holodoc's surprise. It's Tom Paris, who tells him that he's piggybacking this message on a faked Kazon communication. He has a plan to retake the ship, but it will require some help. He needs the computer to be reprogrammed to cause a backup phaser coupling overload. He'll take out the primary phaser couplings himself, but he needs the backups sabotaged from within. "Do nothing until then," he requests/orders. "See you soon. I hope."
Holodoc hears Suder's return, and his face breaks out in a big-ole grin. "Good news! Help is on the way. Mr. Paris apparently was able to." He follows Suder's eyes to the corpse in the tunnel. "Oh."
Suder's speech is terribly slurred. He moves like a drunken cobra. He reports briefly and almost incoherently about what he found and what he did. "Oh...we have weapons now," he concludes before collapsing into a fetal position near a bio-bed. Holodoc's concern rises. He suggests something to calm Suder. "No!" he shouts. "No drugs. I just need to breathe...see--see the light that is my breath!" he rambles, grasping desperately for the mantra he has practiced with Tuvok the last several months, the key that could lock away the demons and bring him peace. A tragic hero, for the first time in his life Suder has found killing difficult and unrewarding. It is cold comfort, and Holodoc can only place a tender hand on Suder's trembling shoulder.
On the bridge, an exultant Culluh reads the incoming communication. The dispatched Kazon scoutship found and destroyed a federation shuttlecraft.
Seska perks up. "Were there two people on board?"
Culluh looks confused. "They didn't say."
Seska's features darken, a stark contrast to the motherly way she holds her child. "Two crewmen were unaccounted for when we captured the crew," she grumps. "Any evidence of an intruder on board?
Poor Culluh. Even with his hyper-patriarchal culture, it's painfully clear who wears the pants in this relationship. No more "yes Mazh" from Seska; she orders him around like...like a woman. "Not so far. There's a thoron leak." Seska's eyes blaze, shooting death sparks with each syllable. "That's an old Maquis trick!" The baby fusses, and in an instant she's back to being the coddling mama bear, leaving Culluh to wallow in his gelded inferiority.
Back on the planet's surface, Janeway consults with Tuvok and Chakotay. Tuvok recommends a massive arms buildup and arms training regimen for the crew. "I don't like the sound of that," Janeway says. "We may have to coexist with them for a long time. "
"Nevertheless-" Tuvok responds, but Chakotay cuts in. "The captain's right." Tuvok gives Chakotay the raised eyebrow of logical contempt. "You may find nobility in the savage, Commander...but he is only interested in killing you." The ground shakes. "I don't believe that," Chakotay says.
The ground shakes some more. Kes says Ensign Wildman's baby is getting sicker and Kes has no more options. Harry points to the friendly neighborhood volcano, where a domestic disturbance is erupting. "Our priorities have just been decided for us," Janeway announces. "Move out!"
Seska enters Sickbay with an armed party, and is surprised to see Holodoc. "I turned you off." "You must be mistaken."
Thus begins a tricky and amusing battle of words, and it's clear Holodoc has the upper hand. Seska soon realizes that the EMH program is far more than she remembered or expected. "I won't play games with a trick of light," she murmurs.
"Sticks and stones won't break my bones, so you can imagine how I feel about being called names."
Seska makes accusations, and Holodoc admits everything she accuses him of in a way that she knows he's patronizing her. He laughs directly in her face.
"You're more talented in the art of deception than you led me to believe," Seska finally admits in outraged admiration. "I was inspired by the presence of the master," he says smugly.
Seska plays hardball. She locks out all voice commands to Starfleet personnel. The ship lurches, and the bridge announces that Talaxian ships are firing on Voyager. As Seska leaves, she surprises Holodoc by firing on the control panel, and he winks out of existence. "Goodbye, Doctor," Seska says with finality.
* * *
As the ship is rocked by Talaxian fire, Suder emerges from the crawl-space into a now-empty sickbay. He tries calling for the doctor, but is told Starfleet personnel are denied access. Suder looks lost. Then he hears Holodoc's voice. The Doc has prepared a message for playback when Suder tries to contact him, on the assumption that he wouldn't be able to respond in person. "I'm proud of you, Mr. Suder, and I know Tuvok would be too. I've made a note for the captain and Tuvok making note of your heroism and service to the ship. You know what needs to be done. Our fate rests in your hands, and I have every confidence in you. Good luck."
Suder stares in shocked silence as the message winks out. He stares at the nasty-looking Kazon disrupter in his hands, and his eyes burn. Looking like Reg Barclay's evil twin, you can practically read the subtitles: "I am Shiva, destroyer of worlds." He straightens to full height, takes a breath, sees the darkness that is his breath, and steps once more into the breach.
The Kazon pursue the Talaxians into a nebula cloud, according to their plan....
...and also according to Tom Paris' better plan.
On the planet, the Starfleet crew escapes from the raging current of lava, and they see the natives doing the same. A blood-curdling scream comes from below, and another of the natives screams when she sees it comes from one of their own. A young girl-the one offered to Chakotay by the claw guy-is trapped on the rocks below, surrounded on all sides by molten death. Chakotay wastes no time; he immediately scales the rocks to the brimstone river below, reaches the girl, slings her over his shoulder, and scales back up to safety. He returns her to the screaming woman, and two races share a look of understanding, and of reconciliation. The claw-bearing native leader points the way to go, and both parties follow.
Just as victory seems within Kazon reach, Paris streaks through the nebula and starts pinging the underside of the ship with his weapons, concentrating on Voyager's primary phaser couplings, catching the Kazon and Seska completely unaware. Shields begin to buckle.
In engineering, Kazon struggle to bring systems back online. Suder appears, the killing rage in full control. In four seconds he fires ten shots, with nine confirmed kills and one maybe. It is inspiring, and heart-breaking. When Suder returns to himself, he senses the loss of his very soul as he looks around engineering and knows that he is the only living thing here. He collapses against the control panel, then remembers his duty to the ship and begins entering the commands to overload the backup phaser couplings. With only one command to go, the one unconfirmed kill stirs...and phasers Suder in the back. The life draining from his eyes, surprise written on his features, his last act is to press the button to the left of "34" before collapsing on his back, his eyes open at last to the heavens he could never before face.
The Kazon finally identify the Federation shuttlecraft. They lock phasers, but the primary couplings are toast. "Switch to backup!" Seska orders. "Destroy it!" This time, victory is assured. "Fire!"
Nothing happens...then something happens. "What's happened!" Seska demands. The officer at weapons looks up apologetically. "I don't know-there's an overload in the backup phaser couplings...."
A blinding light on the bridge. Switch to exterior view, where a trillion phaser discharges light up the saucer of the ship from within like a Hallmark ornament from Hell.
Paris exults. "Yes, Doc, yes!!" he shouts. He hails the Talaxians. "Get ready; I'm going to start beaming you over."
The bridge is a smoking ruin. Death pervades the place. Seska rises with difficulty to the cries of her child, Chakotay's-no, Culluh's-no, MY (Seska's) child. She struggles to move towards the bridge anteroom as Culluh cries after her, where the child seems frightened but otherwise unhurt. Closer, step by anguished step, Seska reaches for her child, but she collapses and dies before she can touch the infant one last time. Her injuries are too severe, and perhaps the damage to her pride is the killing blow.
Culluh follows shortly, also in pain but by no means dead. He looks on at his beloved Seska, unmoving, disquieted even in death, and he cries in anguish. For all his posturing, he truly loved her. Does he know the child is really his? I doubt she told him, but still he loves it as his own, as the only living memory of her. An underling reports that the ship is being boarded; all fight gone from him, he orders abandon ship. There is no argument. He picks up the child and takes one last look at all he's lost.
Paris and Paxom twinkle into solidity on the bridge. Paris, fully in command, outlines the priorities. On being told that the Kazon are escaping in one of their shuttles and several escape pods, he says to let them go. There are other priorities.
On the planet, Wildman's child continues to suffer. The native with the claw offers to help, and pulls out a homespun remedy that immediately has the desired effect. Now they owe each other gratitude. It is a good beginning, finally.
And the friendship ends before it has a chance to grow, as two peoples watch Voyager streak in from the heavens. We see reactions of shocked surprise, and one heck of a meaningful look between Chakotay and Janeway. "Dang. Twice in a row we get rescued before things can get interesting between us...."
Janeway and Kim enter the bridge, which looks much better without the charred Kazon strewn about. They haven't had time to clean up, but they look happy to be home. "Welcome back, captain," says Tom Paris with mock casualness. Janeway offers her congratulations. "I had a lot of help," he says. "The Talaxians, the Doc, Mr. Suder."
"Suder?" Kim asks. "I thought they killed him when they took over the ship."
"No, he survived that. He and the doctor sabotaged the ship. Suder disabled the phasers before they killed him."
Sickbay. Holodoc and Tuvok stand over the body of Lon Suder. "You would have been proud of him, Mr. Tuvok." Tuvok places his hand over Suder's forehead. "I offer you a Vulcan prayer of peace, Mr. Suder. May your death bring you the peace you never found in life."
On a different slab, Chakotay silently says his final goodbyes to a less-peaceful-in-death Seska before covering her face with the sheet. Whether or not he knows that the child was not his, and despite all the pain and death she has caused him and his crew, he still loved her once, and perhaps he always will in his own way.
* A ponytailed and still grubby Janeway asks Kim if the ship is capable of sustained flight. "Affirmative." "Take us away from our new home, and set a course for the old one, Mr. Paris. Warp 8." The Best Damn Pilot You Could Ever Ask For lays in a course for heading 41 mark 77. Destination: Alpha Quadrant.
Janeway sits. "Engage." And off goes Voyager through the first cloud that ever
treated them well.
Wow. I got a full-on warp-enabled Delta Quadrant Intrepid Class chubby from this one.
For those who struggled through the entire breakdown, you probably know how I feel about this one. There were a number of standouts here. In the Hall of Fame I'd place Holodoc, Suder, Seska, and Chakotay. Each made this episode something special. Strong supporting roles from Paris, Tuvok, Janeway, Hogan, that excellent snake, the head Neanderthal, the crotch-grabbing Neanderthal, and Culluh. Some excellent character moments, stellar bits of dialog, decent action sequences, and some hiney-kicking death scenes.
This is one for the top shelf of my video library. I stayed up way too late watching this one over and over, rewinding at times repeatedly to catch every dang word.
There were some head-scratchers. First: where the heck were the support ships? It took a fleet to capture Voyager; where is that fleet now? As the prize, they should be letting it fly at the head of their formation, not leave it open to all the other sects who would be more than happy to hand Culluh his head and claim the prize for themselves. To not keep at least one of their big ships around is a huge tactical blunder, and I'm surprised Seska would have allowed it. But perhaps we can chalk it up to the elation of recent victory and the feeling of invincibility. Pride cometh before the fall...and boy, did they.
In "Basics, Part I" there was at least an effort to show Seska giving some consideration to Culluh. There wasn't even a single moment of that here. This can perhaps be explained by her fury at finding out that all her plans didn't work out after all-the child is actually Culluh's, not Chakotay's. She REALLY wanted it to be Chakotay's. It was a chink in her armor, and she did seem preoccupied and more easily riled from this point on.
There is a school of thought among some viewers that "if it didn't happen on screen, it didn't happen, period." (I won't name names, but you know who you are....) I've heard some complaints about this episode that Chakotay wasn't told (onscreen) that the child wasn't his. But (1) it's in the medical log, and it's a safe bet the captain and first officer would have reviewed those to find out what went on in their absence, and (2) Holodoc was up and functioning again before episode end, and Seska was prepped in the morgue when Chakotay said his final goodbyes. I think he knew. She's been the cause of many mixed and intense emotions for Chakotay, and her schemes have cost many lives. But she was his lover once, and even if he wasn't the child's father I have every confidence he would have taken the child as his own, just as Culluh did (and he no doubt still believed the child was Chakotay's).
Holodoc was hilarious, but he was also inspiring. Much of the standard bravado was stripped away except when it was a tactical advantage to employ it. He showed moments of genuine, basic emotion with Suder-anger, frustration, concern, pride, compassion, joy. Aside from Kes and Denara Pel, nobody has brought this out in him to so great a degree. It was a great male bonding episode for him.
In all, I'd say this episode belonged to Suder. Brad Dourif was phenomenal. Before the events in Meld, it's a fair guess that there wouldn't have been anyone left alive on board by the time he was through. The man is a mechanized combine of death. The scene where he cuts down everyone in Engineering is chilling, with that road-accident fascination that I got when watching Hannibal Lector at work in Silence of the Lambs. In two prior episodes we heard about what he was capable of. Here we got to see it, and it was everything I expected it to be. I didn't expect sadism. I expected efficiency. Not a shot wasted. Every pull of the trigger took a life, though one took a bit longer to die, and that proved his undoing. It was a moment of exultation, and of damnation. He just wanted to do something for the ship, he told Janeway and Tuvok. He had hoped to grow food. Instead he reaped a harvest of death. (Can you tell I'm a frustrated writer?)
The good thing is that you could see the remorse. For the first time in his life, he felt remorse from killing. It's progress, but it's also a terrible loss, for he had begged Fate to allow him to achieve peace. He was almost there when Fate recalled him to arms. He was a hero, but a tragic figure. The way it worked out, he had to die, much as I would love to see him return again and again. He's compelling, and if anyone personifies the Maquis struggle for redemption and reintegration, it is he. Even with the blood of the enemy on his hands, he called for the trance of inner calm. It was a futile gesture, but that he even tried to make it gave me hope for his character's soul.
Okay, so maybe I'm overplaying it. Sue me; I liked him.
Tactically, the Kazon showed why they exist solely on begged/borrowed/stolen technology. Without Seska, they never would have gotten this far. With Seska, they still couldn't hold onto it. It's not the technology, it's the brains that built it. Paris showed his eagerly-awaited Hero side here, commanding a recon force in a nicely thought-out (for a 1-hour show) plan to retake the ship. The execution was particularly brutal (I wonder how many Kazon ultimately made it off Voyager? There were originally 87; we saw at least 12 Kazon and Cardassian dead, but the phaser discharge likely took more), but it was a heck of a light show. I think even more than Janeway, Paris considers Voyager HIS ship, and he took it back with extreme prejudice and a lot of help from his friends. That was the impressive part-he delegated.
On the planet, we saw only two deaths, both to the Action Pack snake. (Thank you, Sam Raimi.) I was sorry to see Hogan go; he was coming along nicely as Voyager's answer to Chief O'Brien (though Simon Billig is no Colm Meany, Hogan's character was getting more attention and he was a credible choice for a permanent visible costar.) His death was pretty shocking for that reason. I knew he was toast the second Neelix told him to stand at the cave entrance and pick up the bones of other people stupid enough to stand at the cave entrance. The funny thing is, so did he. He did all but ask for a red shirt and a bulls-eye for his backside. I had to approve of the RaimiCam&TM shot of the rapidly-approaching danger, which brought back memories of that Spam-in-a-cabin classic, "Evil Dead." As Joe Bob Briggs might say, "anyone can die at any time. That's the beauty of it."
I'll miss him, but I think he's the shot across the bow to the critics of Voyager-"We'll kill anyone we dang well please if we think it will serve the show, and you're in for some surprises this season." The other crewman to get eaten wasn't nearly as impressive. They figured someone should die here. It didn't have the power of the Hogan consumption.
The "monkey men" of the planet were not the "noble savages" Tuvok accuses Chakotay of believing, nor were they the killers Tuvok believed them to be. I saw a group of people who felt scared, intimidated, and cornered by the creatures-from-the-sky. They didn't harm Kes or Neelix, and it looked to me like an effort to cement a relationship between the old tribe and the newcomers by swapping nubile mates between chieftans. It's a time-honored tradition. If they'd kidnapped Torres, it might even have worked out. The process of acceptance between Janeway's people and the natives was pretty pedestrian (oh look, they can't communicate! Oh look, they've misunderstood each other and now the sticks and stones are flying! Oh look, a shared danger and a daring rescue brings them to an understanding!) but there were individuals- particularly the native leader / medicine man / whoever who communicated his intentions fairly well, I thought. Sometimes us evolved types aren't as smart as we think we are. I was half expecting one of the locals to use the words "Darmok" or "Tanagra." But no go. Ah well.
Chakotay probably went out of his way to explode all the myths of American Indian culture. Can't start a fire, can't shoot a bow and arrow, doesn't bring a peace pipe to first contact situations, but he scalps the captain? Yeesh. But it was still amusing to me, the easily amused. I was encouraged to see Janeway and Chakotay ganging up on the "iron curtain" mentality of Tuvok. Tuvok's "noble savage" mockery of Chakotay showed his Ugly Vulcan side. I have a feeling that on the home planet, Tuvok is NOT Politically Correct. I hope in the third season, Chakotay wins a few more battles for the ear of the captain. Tuvok has held the top spot in the inner circle for too long, to the detriment of the ship and crew, IMNSHO.
For Janeway/Chakotay fans, the shared look as the Voyager flew in for a landing should give you plenty to talk about.
Children played a role here. Seska with her child, and the love triangle between Seska, Culluh and Chakotay. It played like a J. Geils song, but I have always enjoyed that song. The dichotomy of Seska as doting mother and hardened operative is striking. Also striking was the way we saw Seska and her child, Wildman and her child, and the native mother and her (older) child. Another song, Sting's "I Bet the Russians Love Their Children Too" also popped into my head while watching this. Any people that loves their babies can't be all bad, right? It's a universal, and the beginning of understanding. We may loathe Seska's actions, but deep down her needs aren't all that different from ours. Her death is no less tragic, and it shows that the often-abusive Culluh still loved her very much. The child tragically linked three peoples of otherwise irreconcilable differences.
Other interesting moments: Torres' revelation that she was on the Starfleet Academy Decathlon team, and Tuvok's that he taught "archery science at the Vulcan Academy of Defensive Arts." My favorite line was Holodoc's "I'm a doctor, not a counterinsurgent" rant that managed to pull in the denizens of Sandrine's bar, Nathan Hale and Che Guevara in one sentence. Truly inspired. And his exchanges with Seska were both fun and fearsome, and gave a nice point/counterpoint to the balance of fortune between their interests.
To sum up: One beast. Fifteen dead bodies. Multiple starship chases, with fireball. Maquis-eating. Disrupter Fu. Phaser Malfunction Fu. Drive-in Academy nominations to Robert Picardo as the doctor for saying "I'm a doctor, not a counterinsurgent" and "I was inspired by the presence of the master."; Robert Beltran as the 24th-century Injun, for saying "Trapped on a barren planet, and you're stuck with the only Indian in the universe who can't start a fire by rubbing two sticks together!"; the folks at whatever special effects studio borrowed the Snake and the RaimiCam from Xena: Warrior Princess; and Brad Dourif as Suder, for doing it the Drive-in Way.
Five stars. Jimbo says Check it out.
On a scale of 0-10, I give this one a perfect 10. I loved this one. I haven't felt this good about an episode of Trek since Garak rejoined the Obsidian Order on its last fateful mission. If you like the show, you will love this episode. If you're on the fence, this one may give you a reason to take a second look. If you hate the show, go watch that very special episode of Blossom; nothing I can say will convince you.
Next week: Tuvok's nightmares lead to a trek back in time to when men were men, women were scantily clad, and starships could surf through the debris of exploding Klingon moons. Say hello to Captain Sulu.