Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Cold Fire

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Voyager, Season 2
"Cold Fire"
Airdate: November 13, 1995
25 of 168 produced
25 of 168 aired

Introduction

The crew finds a colony of Ocampa. This has implications for Kes, as this colony seems to live longer and have greater access to their psychic powers than she, and the temptation to stay is strong. It also has implications for the crew, as it may lead to finding the other Caretaker and a way home.

Tuvok did not react well to his screening of Into Darkness...




Writing

Kevin: The choice of the use of a "Previously on..." was an odd one for me. Given that the Caretaker's remains are worked into the teaser proper and it's not coming off a two-parter, the call back to Caretaker just gives away the episode way too early. I guess they were trying to keep casual viewers caught up, but a few more lines of dialogue could have achieved that far more organically.

Matthew: I agree, this exposition could have been handled in dialogue. Tom Paris or Harry Kim are always good for a "you mean that creature that did X at time Y?" lines. It also might have been good if it were played more for mystery that it was a sporocystian life form.

Kevin: I liked the Tuvok/Kes story. Teacher and student is a pretty interesting relationship and it expands both characters. It adds a depth to Tuvok's austerity and it's interesting to see Kes both dive into the studies but also chafe a bit against the structure. I also liked seeing Kes get pulled in a bit by Tanis' offer. There's a reasonable basis inside for the episode for her to be taken in, and it makes the story better. I also liked Neelix a lot this time around. Being overtly supportive, but obviously insecure is a good choice and reads both less creepy and more authentic than a straight jealousy.

Matthew: I think it would have been nice if we had gotten more butting heads between Tuvok and Tanis, maybe some argument over pedagogical methods and safety for the student. Either way, Tanis was written well and I believed his desire to take Kes into his fold, as well as her temptation.

Kevin: I never understood why the female Caretaker didn't know what really happened. She should ostensibly be able to scan either the computer or the crew to determine the truth. I also was always a little annoyed that she was depicted as female. It just always seemed odd for such extremely non-humanoid creatures to maintain humanoid gender binary. The episode also, because of the lack of clear motive, just kind of ends. She's there, she's a threat, then she goes with the captain's log indicating she might be back. There's just not a lot of story there.

Matthew: Yeah, I think the sporocystian plot was half-baked. For some reason, she has a bunch of Ocampan minions. Why? What do they do for her? She seems uninterested in Kes, so why is she interested in the other Ocampa? What does she gain in return for her apparent help in creating a space station and extending the Ocampan lifespan? As we can see, there are a ton of unanswered questions.

Acting

Kevin: No complaints here. Mulgrew is great as always, particularly in the final scene in Engineering. Her look of horror looks genuine and, more importantly, unrehearsed. This was another great episode for Kes. Given more to do than be the object of Neelix's jealousy, she can really shine. I like her scenes with Tuvok, Neelix, and Graham. The teacher-student relationship is interesting with Tuvok. Watching Neelix try to be overtly supportive while telegraphing his insecurities to the audience was good, too.

Matthew: Robert Picardo played it really well, showing his minor jealousy when Kes shows interest in the tutelage of a new mentor. Tim Russ really shows his Vulcan chops, too. So all told it was a great show for the main cast, as you say. Jennifer Lien played "just out of control" quite well, too. There were a lot of challenging scenes of actors reading each others minds and using psychic powers that could have gone quite wrong, but didn't.

Kevin: Gary Graham was really interesting as Tanis. The script left his motives a little opaque, but I think the actor sold the part, and it's easy to see why they cast him as Soval in Enterprise. He really nailed that level of detached superiority the part required.


Production Values

Kevin: Several of the effects are really well achieved. The two that really stand out are Tuvok "overheating" and the blood dripping from the suspended crew members on Janeway's shoulder. Both are really upsetting from a plot point and really well achieved from a technical one. Tuvok's scene in particular is straight up horrifying, and just on the right side of the line in being too graphic. The drip-drip-drip on Janeway's shoulder, coupled with the above cited excellent acting is also a perfectly executed horror moment, one that reminded me, intentionally I choose to believe, of the Regula scene in WOK.

Matthew: The green nosebleed really sealed the deal, plus the air bladder face pulsating, a classic effect from "The Cage" and Star Trek III. The costumes on the Ocampans were nice, looking very much like real clothing but with a minor alien cultural twist.

Kevin: The CGI of the heated coffee isn't quite perfect, but I still liked it for what it was and when it was made. My only real critique beyond that is that, especially given his criticism of Voyager's "sterility," the station is not only way more sterile, but less explored, given that we only see the backing wall of one room.

Matthew: Speaking of CGI, I'm not a big fan of the morphing effect into the purple worm creature. The CGI was unimpressive, but more than that, the creature design was uninspiring. The tentacles looked silly, and raised questions of what they were for. Flagellating subspace?

Conclusion

Kevin: The plot does have a few shortcomings in terms of set up and pay off, but the Kes character story and a few truly creepy moments keep enough life in the episode to keep my interest. Top it off with some top notch acting and Tuvok melting, and I am going with a 3.

Matthew: This definitely has its flaws, but being unentertaining is not one of them. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6. It's nice to see Kes get some development. It won't always be great stuff in the coming seasons, but it would be far worse to just ignore the character. You know, like Chakotay.

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