Star Trek: Voyager: Cold Fire   Rewatch 
March 30, 2017 3:22 AM - Season 2, Episode 10 - Subscribe

When Tuvok teaches Kes to hone her telepathic abilities, she learns to hear Neelix's thoughts—but surprisingly, that's not the most disturbing thing she'll experience in this episode.

Through the fire and the flames, Memory Alpha carries on:

- This episode begins with a very brief recap of how Voyager became stranded in the Delta Quadrant, in order to re-establish with viewers that the Caretaker had a mate – namely, Suspiria.

- In addition to providing the narration for the opening recap, Majel Barrett provided the voice for Suspiria.

- Suspiria was initially conceived of as essentially a form of "get out clause," designed to change the format of Star Trek: Voyager if such a need arose. This was because the studio executives at Paramount were wary of audience reaction to the lost-in-space concept that was central to the series. During Voyager's first season, executive producer Rick Berman explained, "The studio was very concerned when they first heard the pitch [....] We convinced them that it didn't have to be bleak [....] And frankly we made a concession to finally finish the sales job... we put the one-armed man out there–which is the other entity that we met in the pilot. It's out there somewhere. We will try to find that entity more than once during the next several years because we know that the entity has the ability to send us back home." This episode's usage of Suspiria without having her send the Voyager crew back to their destination of the Alpha Quadrant therefore implies a confidence in the series that was either absent or not as strong when the series began.

- Gary Graham (Tanis) found that featuring in this episode was not an entirely comfortable experience. "Though I enjoyed most of the cast members on Voyager, the tone on the set was tense," he noted. "They're very tightly wound over there," Graham elaborated. "That's not to say it wasn't a rewarding experience, but it was about as fun as taking a midterm when you really, really have to make a good grade [....] I wanted to change two words at Star Trek and it took thirty minutes to get script approval on that back from the Ivory Tower." Graham had previously been considered for the roles of Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Captain Janeway in Voyager before the decision was taken that those characters were to be African-American and female respectively. He would later play the recurring character Ambassador Soval in all four seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise.

- The making of this installment reunited director Cliff Bole with Gary Graham – the two having worked on the short-lived series M.A.N.T.I.S. – but Bole felt Graham seemed too overly challenged by his role here, despite also thinking that the performer was "a great actor." Bole noted, "Gary's performance was fine, but we both could have done better."

- Cliff Bole was ultimately very pleased with this episode, despite also thinking that it suffered a problem of pacing. "I thought the episode was better than average," he remarked, "although it did need a little more action, a little more movement."

- Despite Captain Janeway stating her desire to find Suspiria again, she is never seen after this episode and is only mentioned once, very vaguely, in "The Voyager Conspiracy" – at which point Janeway declares that she is "not eager" to have another encounter with a Caretaker, in light of the unpleasant previous encounters. Further Nacene appear in the novel trilogy Star Trek: Voyager - String Theory, which reveals more about their culture and ties to Ocampa history.

"Your ship is known as a ship of death."

- An Ocampa man, describing USS Voyager to Janeway

"Vulcans make the worst patients."

- The Doctor, after Tuvok refuses the order to go on light duty

"Focus on the goal, not the task."

- Tanis to Kes (repeated line)

"You are probably feeling the emotion known as remorse. Possibly guilt. I advise you to look on this incident as a learning experience."
"It's not that easy. I almost killed you."
"That is correct. But you did not. Try to remember that."

- Tuvok and Kes

"To be honest, I never want to see that part of myself again."
"To which part are you referring?"
"To the part of me which got pleasure from destroying the plants in the airponics bay. To the part of me that was tempted to go with Tanis. I never realized I had such dark impulses."
"Without the darkness, how would we recognize the light? Do not fear your negative thoughts. They are part of you. They are a part of every living being, even Vulcans."
"The Vulcan heart was forged out of barbarism and violence. We learned to control it, but it is still part of us. To pretend it does not exist is to create an opportunity for it to escape."

- Kes and Tuvok

Poster's Log: Ah yes, the one where Kes needs Gaviscon. Despite the supremely dorky preamble, and despite Gary Graham's performance going a bit too far with the evilness, I always enjoy "Cold Fire"; it's a decent story, with striking effects, an excitement quotient that doesn't diminish much with re-watches, good dynamics between Tuvok and Kes, and most importantly, it restores our faith in the show's ability to put out good material after "Tattoo." It also contains the first genuinely scary thing in the series: Kes's scream. Wow. I wish I could make noises like that when I run D&D monsters.

I suppose I agree with Bole that it dragged a little, in spots, but I for one was still engaged throughout. Maybe that should be credited to Jennifer Lien's performance—and in part, doubtlessly, to Tim Russ. Like, I would happily watch whole episodes of Mister Tuvok Teaches Psionics, whereas perhaps Bole would not.

Poster's Log, Supplemental: In the new Star Trek: Voyager spin-off Mister Tuvok Teaches Psionics, join the uptight yet loveable Tuvok (Tim Russ) as he takes up teaching mental discipline at Starfleet Academy. But what he didn't bargain for was the most ragtag team of colorful cadets in the galaxy! Meet his class! There's:
- the clumsy Betazoid dweeb;
- the absent-minded Lethean bookworm;
- the delinquent Medusan outcast;
- the Deltan mimbo;
- the beautiful empathic metamorph whom the Deltan can't leave alone;
- the wisecracking Exocomp whose wi-fi is considered telepathy, per the determination of the Starfleet Academy Infinite Abilities Accomodation Office;
- and everyone's favorite, the cool and snarky Traveller who's actually a Q—and doing a whimsically poor job of hiding it!

TUVOK: "Mister Traveller, you are once again bending reality in order to observe your neighbor's test responses. You are ordered to return the space-time continuum to its natural configuration."

TRAVELLER: "Heyyyyy, Teach…kiss my omnipotent butt!" [LAUGHTER.]

Can Tuvok handle this gang of misfits without going crazy? Find out, weeknights at 6! And who knows—his old friends, the crew of Voyager, might just stop by to wish him luck!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I also liked this one! Panning over to see Tuvok with green blood coming out of his face was shocking, and the visualizations of how her psionic energy worked got the job done. The blood dripping onto Janeway's shirt was also a very nice touch. Creepy girl did the job, even if she didn't quite rise to my Supernatural creepy girl baseline for creepiness.

The idea that Voyager is known as the ship of death is sort of interesting, though I don't know if we're ever going to come back to that idea - is it something that people actually believe? Will Janeway do anything different because she has that knowledge? Originally I thought that Suspira was leading the Ocampa to be space pirates and literally just wanted the ship.

I also wish that someone had brought up all of the Ocampa that could probably use the other Ocampans help.

This episode did seem like Kes vs. creepy paternalism, but I don't think that necessarily was a problem - at this point, it's just an unintentional theme of the show. Also, Neelix wasn't the source of the creepy paternalism for once! I would have given them some leeway for Neelix to be a little jealous here, but he was actually supportive and they were actually affectionate to one another!
posted by dinty_moore at 7:09 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your evocation of Tuvok's Psi-Hogwarts is a good excuse to post my own initial reaction/geek reference to this rewatch:
Hear me, X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew! I am Fire and Life incarnate! Now and forever - I am PHOENIX!
But, of course, Phoenix isn't really the relevant ur-example here; even though the original X-Men predated Star Trek, and would sometimes touch on mutants who abused their power or seemed overwhelmed by it, Trek has "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the second pilot in which a friend of Kirk's and the ship's resident psychiatrist (an ur-counselor?) become Like Unto Gods and (mostly at Gary Mitchell's instigation) start abusing their power and end up dying. (It's evocative that the Nacene, who are stated to be of extragalactic origin, are capable of stimulating the Ocampa's psionic powers just as collision with the Galactic Barrier stimulated Mitchell and Dehner's.) Harlan Ellison once said that Gene Roddenberry only ever had one story idea, which is that the Enterprise goes out into space and meets God, and God is insane, a child, or both. (Say what you (and I) will about "Tattoo", at least the Sky Spirits don't fall into that category, although they have no scruples about tampering with native cultures.) TOS is in face replete with examples of superpowerful superhumans abusing their power, especially if you include rampant AIs. The ultra-powerful are not necessarily always bad, and may even be somewhat benevolent (the Organians, Trelane's parents, the Thasians); the ones who end up being a problem are almost inevitably those who are immature or overwhelmed by newfound powers (Trelane, Charles Evans, Mitchell and Dehner; the Platonians of "Plato's Stepchildren" are kind of outliers here).

This episode plots more of a middle course, with Kes being excited about her new powers, but also horrified about their potential effects. (Agreed about her scream, also about Tuvok's damage; that effect is so horrifying that it's jarring to see him all healed up in the next scene.) It's arguable that Kes pulls back from going full Jean Grey because Suspiria (great name) and Tanis (which sounds like the name of a Northern Californian New Ager who owns their own candle and crystal shop, but whatever) are, well, not quite right; Gary Graham plays Tanis as someone who gradually moves from life coach to cult recruiter ("Come be with Suspiria in Exosia... foreverrrrr"), and of course creepy Stephen Kingesque little girl is creepy. But I really got the impression that, even though Kes was excited to be able to do some cool new shit, she just wasn't into the whole power trip that much because that's not how she rolls. They're still leaving that door not exactly open, but at least unlocked, and of course we'll see how that eventually turns out for her (not good, although that's mostly on the showrunners for not developing her character and/or insisting on getting rid of someone so that they could add Seven); it would have been better if they'd kept her around as sort of a secret weapon of last resort, the nice, empathetic space pixie who was secretly a Person of Mass Destruction.

Everyone else is pretty good, too. Neelix tamps it down for once; Tuvok at first seems too insistent on Kes embracing the Vulcan way, but ends up making the case for it, not least of which is his chill after nearly being incinerated; the Doctor being dismissive of Kes' psychic training kind of makes sense from his perspective (as someone who is incapable of either being affected by or developing psychic powers himself), and responds appropriately to Tuvok's insistence that he can just walk it off.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not entirely convinced that Welcome Back Tuvok is a viable series concept. But this wasn't a bad episode.
posted by Naberius at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Calling it Welcome Back Tuvok is halfway to selling it, IMO.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

Maybe you need Neelix to join Starfleet and end up in his class.

Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Vulcan! Mr. Vulcan!
posted by Naberius at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, also:

The idea that Voyager is known as the ship of death is sort of interesting, though I don't know if we're ever going to come back to that idea - is it something that people actually believe?

This is sorta-kinda the idea behind "Living Witness", a fourth-season episode which takes place entirely in the thirty-first century and has a future civilization historically-recreating Voyager as a roving mercenary ship; it's the closest that this show would come to having a Mirror Universe episode.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

it's the closest that this show would come to having a Mirror Universe episode.

With second-closest being a tie between "Equinox" and "Live Fast and Prosper."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

This episode features my favorite line of Voyager dialog when Tanis extols Kes to "Bring the fire!" He says it in such a wondrous, awe-inspiring way that I'm sure it would make a great phrase to use in non-psionic situations.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Particle of the Week: This episode had a lot of technobabble, but I think my favorite was the 'hexiprismatic field.' Like, what, B'Ellana? Even in the context of Star Trek, it sounds made up.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Star Trek Online follows the general Trek pattern regarding psionic abilities: a lot of talk about how powerful they are, but in the day-to-day stuff, they don't make much of an appearance. It's possible to have crew with these powers, but it always turns out low key, more like Tuvok than Kes.

I feel that's in keeping with the franchise.

Ongoing Equipment Tally: No changes this week.
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: I'm counting this, even though it's debatable. The odds of Suspiria being *directly* on their path in this fashion is a definite Alpha Quadrant tease, even if it's indirect. 5 so far.


I often talk about how a story needs to either be meaningful or fun to justify itself. Cold Fire has a lot of nonsense, but it's also a lot of fun, reducing my desire to nitpick it.

* Kes/Neelix are not horrible.
I still hate the pairing. They could never win me back after Elogium, honestly. However, this is the first time Neelix comes across as a decent boyfriend in the entire series' run. He's supportive, he doesn't get on her case about Tanis or Tuvok. They share some actual on-screen mutual affection. If their relationship had always looked this way - just sort of a temperament/physiology mismatch - I wouldn't have hated it. I might've even liked Neelix.

* Kes is great.

Jennifer Lien is a lot of fun when they give her a chance. I liked that she got a showcase here.

* Tuvok is awesome.

Tuvok's total calm after nearly dying? Tim Russ is always so great at that stuff.

* Tanis is great.

As villains of the week go, he's just a lot of fun. 'Help them, hurt them, whatever man.' I like a bad guy who enjoys his work.

* The effects are creepy.

The old lady voice with the little girl thing was all right. The bit where the blood drips on Janeway and she looks up to see floating crew, dead or unconscious? I enjoy that one every time.

Tuvok with the blood coming off his face is, as mentioned already, pretty great. Tanis is good for that too. The scenes with the psychokinesis have decent effects, the garden is a striking image.

* Janeway does things the Starfleet way.

Janeway keeps on diplomacy even when it puts them in danger, displaying the values that I love about Star Trek.

This is Voyager firing on all cylinders, much more what I wanted out of the show when it first came on. I suppose I have to note that it's silly for telepaths to have such dumb ideas about what the crew are like when they could just *check*, but it's okay because, again, it keeps things moving and fun enough that I don't really feel like complaining.
posted by mordax at 2:02 PM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have to suspect that at this point Tuvok might well relish a chance to go back to the academy and teach after all his experiences as head of security on Voyager. Yet again, Tuvok is forced to set aside his protocols for the instinctual whim of one of his commanding officers. The poor guy just can't catch a break, every alien they encounter is as irrational as the crew he's trapped with. I mean it really is hard to come up with a good logical reason for Janeway's decision to drop the force field given the creature was moments ago holding Torres and Tuvok 20 feet above the deck at the point of death or serious injury and was trying to tear Voyager apart at the molecular level, which might still be fine assuming you could hold a rational conversation with an ancient being taking the form of a little girl with a teddy bear, something I wouldn't exactly think suggests a promising basis for that conversation, especially given her mate's penchant for masquerading as an old farmer who could barely hold a conversation as well. Caretaker types aren't big on the talking it seems. One also might be a little circumspect about speaking of their encounter with the Caretaker in terms of respect while they're using his desiccated corpse as a kind of dashboard compass at the moment, but, still, it does work out and Tuvok's reasonable caution comes up short again. Even with the threat of boiling blood, going back to teaching has to have some attraction when logic clearly has little place in the Delta Quadrant.

Really though it is a nice solid episode with little to actually criticize or wish done much better. As was mentioned, the effects are really, well, effective given the medium and the cast is mostly in top form, with even Neelix and Kes not seeming entirely incompatible for a change. The opening with Kes and Tuvok, where Kes "heard" Neelix's thoughts was a really nice piece of work by Lien. Her exclamation of pleasure when she says "It's Neelix!" was just right and her laugh was charming. Russ too is quite good in the opening with some decent Vulcanese concepts being bandied about.

This is really a good episode for Lien/Kes overall, where that exploration of her light and dark side is such a promising arc for the character and is something Lien does a great job with, where she is able to find a place to bring out more destructive urges from Kes' compassionate side without losing sight of Kes' sense of caring by emphasizing the passionate as it might be felt by her for others or for her own experience without regard. It's a nifty piece of acting in such limited scope as her character has received, but shows she had a good grasp of Kes and how her emotions work. I do wish they could have explored that even more than they will, but this is a fine set up for the Kes arc that remains, so it isn't wasted even if it is a more truncated exploration than it could have been.

Speaking of truncated, one thing I would say, not as criticism exactly, but as a wish, would be that this had been a two part story given how much was going on, the significance of meeting the Supiria, the Tanis/Kes interactions, and the possibility of home or destruction looming for Voyager. There was more they could have done with all of that without risk of overextension and could have built a little more tension perhaps around Kes leaving and the actions of Suspiria an Tanis. Still though, that isn't so much a problem as a suggestion this episode was good enough to stand being extended some more.

There was one moment in the episode that I found really amusing, where they first start using the corpse of the Caretaker as a guide to Suspiria, Janeway is standing near Paris' station close to the camera, and we can see Chakotay behind her in his customary seat. At Torres' first mention creating a corpass, Janeway says "You're using the remains as a compass", cut to Torres sort of smirking a bit saying "Exactly", then back to Janeway saying "Good work. Keep us appraised." As she says this Chakotay sort of clutches his hands together and looks down towards his lap as if the thought of creating a corpass might be understandanly disturbing to the guy who didn't even want to take tricorder readings of the cocoon aliens earlier on. But right after saying "Janeway out." She turns and looks back to Chakotay who makes this big ridiculous grin as if he's just so damned pleased he's related to aliens and can hear hawks talk that everything else is hunky dory now, or maybe that Beltran himself had been trying to refrain from laughing at the talk of sporocystian energy and hexiprismatic field and finally had to give in to it when Mulgrew looked over. Whatever it was, it was really silly and amused me far more than it probably should have.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:21 PM on April 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, and one other thing that was a nice little touch, was in seeing the seeming "real form" of Suspiria right before she vanishes and it looked something like a parasite, which is suggestive and could have been something potentially looked into later on, but even absent that was a nice detail to think about in regards to situation of the Ocampans and their "Caretakers".
posted by gusottertrout at 10:32 PM on April 1, 2017

> Whatever it was, it was really silly and amused me far more than it probably should have.

I noticed his grin, too. It was either good acting, or the actor just having a good time. I liked it!
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:17 AM on January 20

> I also wish that someone had brought up all of the Ocampa that could probably use the other Ocampans help.

Yeah, am I right in thinking that the other Ocampa are all under the surface on that first planet, still, more or less locked in with no caretaker?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:17 AM on January 20

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