WARNING: The article below contains spoilers for VOY's "Cold Fire", moving more and more rapidly.
In brief: Better than much of "Voyager" has been lately, but not by much. The stories are still too easy.
Teleplay by: Brannon Braga Story by: Anthony Williams Directed by: Cliff Bole Brief summary: The Voyager finds a station similar to the Caretaker's array, with a colony of Ocampa on board -- a colony whose leader invites Kes to join them, and who hides a sinister secret.
"Voyager" is beginning to drown in its own technobabble, and in a parade of easy exits. In "Cold Fire", we had an episode that could potentially be *very* powerful -- after all, Kes bursts into full mental flower for a while, and the crew finally finds the Caretaker's mate, both of which are things we've been expecting and anticipating for some time. What we got was an episode whose edge had been rather substantially dulled, to the point that much of the drama was lost.
For instance, one of the main aspects of the story was the temptation for Kes to stay behind with the other Ocampa compared to staying with the crew. I don't mind that it was evident she never would -- that's par for the course, and could be well executed. However, in this case the choice was made far too easy, as Tanis was corrupt through and through. All Kes needed was time to realize that fact, and the issue was resolved. As a result, there was no reason to think Kes might *want* to stay behind -- and that muted any potential drama in her choice. Had Tanis and the other Ocampa been good, reasonable people, or at least decent with only a few flaws, then Kes would have had some real soul-searching to do. Instead, all we got was someone who appealed to her darker side and repelled every other part of her.
Similarly, Kes's training was going along interesting lines for a while, then became far too obviously "evil" to be kept around. Tanis's admonition to "focus on the goal" was an intriguing one, and one that is just insidious enough by itself to be interesting -- after all, it's "look at the end, not the means", in essence. On some level, the life- draining portion of it is a logical extension of Tanis's training, so it's not particularly bad -- but it also makes Kes's choice far too easy yet again. If Tanis had been shown to have any positive motivation, or had his training actually proven beneficial in some way, the show could have been far more powerful than it was. Instead, we had footage of Tuvok bleeding green after Kes virtually ignites him -- perhaps chilling in some respects, but not good for building any real character choices. (I'm not going to get into the effects of the "molecules speeding up", though; cute idea, but iffy in execution and in some details of the concept.)
My only other real problem with the show was, as is true far too often, technobabble. Here, there were piles upon piles upon piles of it, and it felt truly unnecessary. We didn't need several lines about how Torres could use the Caretaker remnant to track the "sporocystian energy" it was sensing from Suspiria; we didn't need intense discussion about exactly how Tuvok could design a defense against Suspiria. But, need it or not, we got it anyway -- and it took up time that could have been better spent.
All that said, "Cold Fire" had some positive elements to it. Tanis, despite the lack of a temptation he represents, still managed to have a fair amount of persuasive power over Kes by sheer charisma, most if not all of which has to be credited to Gary Graham. While I wouldn't quite put Graham up with Gary Lockwood, another actor playing a Trek character with delusions of godhood (Gary Mitchell, *way* back in the early days of the original series), he gave off just the right air of condescension to be really offputting, and yet managed to be somewhat compelling at the same time. That's no mean feat.
On the writing side, Voyager's reputation of "a ship of death" is also interesting, and something I hope gets taken a bit further. Given that Voyager *has* had a great deal of impact on the Delta Quadrant, much of it negative (or at least able to be perceived as such), it would be interesting to see more of Voyager's reputation preceding it. I'm not sure exactly what can be done with this -- but hey, I'm not the one writing the show. :-)
The Tuvok/Kes dynamic also worked pretty well. Cheesy moments like Kes zapping Tuvok aside, the pair functioned just fine together, and Tuvok's dispassionate dismissal of Kes's guilt worked extremely well. (I particularly liked his response to her amazement that he'd still want to work with her -- if she can do something that powerful, *someone* had better keep training her before she blows up the ship or something.) His initial training of Kes also seemed appropriate to her abilities, though I wonder why it's not considered an invasion of privacy by everyone else on the ship.
As for Suspiria's thirst for revenge ... well, it's sensible given her perceptions of what happened (the destruction of the Array and the "theft" of the Caretaker's corpse). The execution, however, left a *lot* to be desired. Telekinetically levitating everyone in Engineering and making threats? Someone like the Caretaker should have a little more flair than that, I think. The cross-cutting between it and the Kes/Tanis duel was good, however, and the latter situation worked just fine, sparking a quick question where I was of who was subservient to whom, Tanis or Suspiria.
Other short notes:
-- Kes's initial exchange with Tanis was quite good. His wonder at her presence was as valid as her own, and it's good to see that noted.
-- The initial effects when Kes saw life "as others see it" were also quite nice; the colors suddenly becoming more vibrant seemed almost Anne Rice-ish to me.
In essence, then, "Cold Fire" was a good episode struggling to get out of a mediocre one. That's a frequent refrain these days, I think, and that's a shame -- but at least there are still good episodes *trying* to get out sometimes. So, summing up:
Writing: abounded; pity it doesn't leave logic in its wake. Some of the character work was decent, even if it was too easy. Directing: Mostly positive, though the execution of Kes's "heating" sequences needed real work. Acting: Good from Graham and Lien (and usually Russ), neutral for most everyone else. OVERALL: A 6, I think; on the high end of the doldrums.
NEXT WEEK: Seska returns -- and she's not pleased.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org "What would an Ocampa be doing on an alien starship?" "It's a long story -- but I'd like to know what an Ocampa is doing on an alien space station." -- Tanis and Kes Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.