Thursday, June 30, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Cold Fire"

“Cold Fire” offers Kes a chance to play Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the force when the crew encounters a colony of Ocampa protected by another Caretaker. It is a poorly kept secret the discovery of a second Caretaker is in response to VOY’s lackluster ratings. It is meant to be an easy out for the ship to return to the Alpha Quadrant should the series not survive. But VOY limps along another five years, so Caretaker II never makes another appearance.

I have mixed emotions about “Cold Fire.” It is an entertaining episode overall. It explores Kes’ powers in greater detail. It introduces a good Villain in Tanis, a megalomaniacal Ocampa. The episode explores the negative impact Voyager has had on the Delta Quadrant in stark contrast to previous claims history cannot be rewritten because theie impact on the quadrant is now a necessary part of it development. But in spite of these good points, the episode does so many dumb things there is a counter balance to every high point.

When the episode begins, Tuvok is working with Kes to hone her mental abilities. He teaches her to reach out to the minds of the crew and read their thoughts, which she does. Geez, what a great invasion of privacy the security officer is encouraging Kes to do. Neither demonstrates any qualms about secretly invading people’s minds, either. Good to know how far took is willing to go in order to maintain safety.

Later in sickbay, the remains of the Caretaker, which they kept for some weird reason, begin to light up and shake. According to some Torres t is an indication another Caretaker is nearby. It leads them to a new array which serves as a home for a colony of Ocampa. These Ocampa are lead by Tanis, a fourteen year old Ocampa with extraordinary mental abilities and an extreme Ocampa supremacist attitude he relays to Kes every chance he gets. Naïve Kes takes shows no apprehension about it until she has to physically confront him in the climax.

Tanis is played wonderfully by Gary Graham, the actor who will go on to play Soval in ENT. Quite a few readers may be more interested in his regular contributions to the conservative website Big Hollywood.. Graham has played villainous characters before, but not quite like Tanis. He is over the top, but not hammy. He is exactly what you would expect from a villain who is tapping into a source of near unlimited power which makes him feel far above other ’minor” life forms.

Tanis is reluctant to cooperate with Voyager. Janeway’s reputation precedes her. Tanis tells her she is feared across the quadrant because of the Caretaker’s death, the continuing war with the Kazon, and their taking resources from planets without any permission or approval. The thing is, he is right. They have not only done all these things, but are secretly preparing a weapon to stun Caretaker II if it tries to overpower them like before. The issue is glossed over, however, because Tanis and Caretaker II are angry over the one thing the crew did not do--murdered Caretaker. He died of old age. So rather than explore the crew’s actions in fighting the Kazon or taking resources in the name of survival, the conflict in “Cold Fire” puts the crew squarely in the right because they are victims of a false accusation. It is a cop out.

The bonding of Kes and Tanis has its own issues. There is an amusing undertone of Kes as Luke Skywalker and Tanis as Obi Wan Kennobi in the beginning, but slowly morphing into Darth Vader as he helps her tap into the more sinister possibilities of using her powers. I am even willing to concede her naïve tolerance of Tanis’ contempt for humans is a result of her thrill of utilizing powers she has never before experienced. But there isa big flaw in the teaching progression. Why does Tanis teach her the telekinetic ability to move a tea cup and the ability to summon fire in the same lesson? Arguably, it is to tempt her with more, but she nearly cooks Tuvok’s head with it. Still, no one gets any negative vibes from Tanis. What does it take to get through to these people?

Caretaker II shows up in the form of Ben Savage’s little sister from Boy Meets World. We quickly degenerate from Star Wars to Carrie as she tortures the crew in revenge for allegedly murdering the other Caretaker. Janeway is able to use the weapon they have been developing to stop her, so even the fact they were secretly planning to violently subdue the Caretaker Ii if necessary turns out to be the right thing to do. Presumably, so id fighting the Kazon and stealing resources by default. See, Tanis? You could not be more wrong. Caretaker Ii and Tanis flee never to be seen again after being defeated by Janeway and Kes respectively. The Magic Reset Button is pressed, too, as Kes can no longer use telekinesis or summon fire.

In spite of its flaws, “Cold Fire” is one of the best episodes thus far. If for no other reason, it is because of the potential empowering of Kes and the prospect of Tanis as a more interesting recurring villain than Seska. Alas, the former is wasted and the latter never materializes. This is a serious problem with VOY. Every opportunity to make the show more interesting is dropped immediately in favor of technobabble and the absolute assurance federation philosophy is morally infallible. As a result, “Cold Fire” is about as good as it gets when the regular writing team attempts to further the series arc.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment