First of all, his name is pronounced Vole-duh-more, not Vole-duh-mort. The movies, UK edition audio books, and you personally have it wrong. J.K. Rowling and the US edition audio books have it right. Anyway, totally cool and vaguely French name aside, the guy is on the lower end of the Evil Mastermind Intellectual Scale, and that’s saying something.
(“My dark lord has no nose.” “How does he smell?” “Insolent fool! AVADA KEDAVRA!”)
His initial EVIL PLOT in the books is okay, as these things go. Having been blasted into a gross worm by the power of love some years previous, (I know, I know…) he attaches himself to a weak-willed twerp who is also a senior teacher at Hogwarts, and tries to find a magical item in the care of lead idiot Albus Dumbledore that will restore him to life. (In the interest of people who care about my continuing puzzlement over my spellcheck, Albus is not a word, but Dumbledore is.) The reason this plan works is that it’s self-reliant. His servant finds his way past the various traps, and gets to the hiding place of the stone all on his own. When Harry shows up to Foil His Evil Plot, he adapts his plan to this new outcome. Then he takes two years off. When he returns in book four, he seems to have forgotten everything he ever knew about effective planning.
(“Did you hear the news about Edward?”)
His new evil plot is to have one of his loyal followers impersonate a new teacher starting a week or so before school starts, pretend to be this teacher all year round, enter Harry illegally into a school competition, wait for Harry to win said competish, and enchant the trophy so that it will transport him to a graveyard a few hundred miles away, so Voldemort can steal Harry’s blood and reconstitute his body. Seem needlessly complicated? Well I only gave you the basics. For one thing, the competition is top-secret, and only a few top officials know about it. Voldemort and his henchperson (which is a word) know about it through two separate channels and the henchperson is able to escape from his years-long imprisonment because the Quidditch world cup is being held in England for the first time in hundreds of years, and his FATHER, who busted him out of the insanely secure magical prison to humanely imprison him in the pantry, is the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and thus able to sneak him in DESPITE his being a well-known murderous psychopath and a flight risk. Within a matter of weeks after affecting this escape, he has found Voldemort’s Albanian hideout, uncovered the identity of the secret new teacher, overpowered him and taken over his life DESPITE the guy being notoriously paranoid and making his living hunting down and killing dark wizards, and infiltrated the school.
(“Ah, my ridiculously circuitous plan is one quarter complete!”)
After sneaking Harry’s name into the powerful and vengeful Goblet of Fire, getting past all the precautions placed over it and fooling it from its only apparent reason for being, he spends all year subtly tweaking events so that people will assist Harry in the tournament events, because obviously the little idiot can’t do it on his own. (By the way, Rowling clearly intended Snape to look like a jerk when he pointed out that Harry has no particular skill, but it’s true. He only has one really good spell, and he can do it because of a time-travel loophole.) Anyway, Harry does wind up winning the events thanks to the baddie’s machinations, and gets to the trophy, which, as previously mentioned, is a magical transport device.
But still, you say, even though you suspect that I have an answer to you waiting, this plan, while needlessly convoluted and requiring his henchfellow (Not a word, automatically corrected to Hench fellow, capitalized like that) to do everything perfectly, it just took advantage of the mind-boggling coincidences that presented themselves. But the success of the plan hinges on a massive number of factors that he can’t deal with. Sure, he offers Harry some slim assistance in the tasks, but frankly, Harry needs all the help he can get, being fourteen, and the plan sort of relies on the three 17/18 year old wizards being inferior. (To be fair, he got this last bit 1/3 correct. The wizard from the French school is borderline incompetent. We don’t get to see her performance in Task One, save that she came in dead last, and she blatantly fails Task Two, netting Harry extra points due to his doing her part of the bargain. In the big final task, she taps out early.) He also relies on the other teachers being too stupid to figure out that if the Goblet of Fire could be fooled to allow Harry’s entry, they could probably fool it to let him out, or they could allow him to compete but for no points, or just give him easy tasks that don’t risk his life, but APPARENTLY the rules are so extra-super-tight that there’s nothing they can do, even though they’ve already been broken once today. And on top of all that, his big masterstroke with the trophy? Those transport devices work on a timer! Not only did Harry have to win, he had to do it at the exact right moment! And they can be anything! So his inside man, who was at the school all year and had Harry alone in his office at several points, could have enchanted, say Harry’s backpack at any given time!! This is so unlikely it’s driving me to multiple exclamation marks!!!
Oh, that’s enough for now. I’ll pick this up another time, when we’ll examine his idiocy in the other books, and before his rise to power. There’s a lot to go through, here.