Second Union

Second Union


“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.”

“Cold Fire” exists as a sequel of sorts to Voyager’s pilot episode, “Caretaker.” If you’ll remember at the end of that episode, the Caretaker of the Delta Quadrant Array and the Ocampa (Banjo Man, as he is informally known) dies or reverts to the form of a strange, glowing rock. Janeway confiscates the rock and takes it back to the ship. Some ten months later, the rock starts singing (or screeching) and the Doctor brings Janeway down to sickbay to look at it. Sometimes it screeches and sometimes it doesn’t, and every time it does screech, it shows signs of life.

So something is obviously causing the rock to sing. B’Elanna, with her usual ingenuity, rigs up a homing beacon to track when the rock responds to its environment. They set a course and a find a space station similar to the array from the pilot episode. On board this station are Ocampa, with the word now indicating both the plural and singular nouns. I might be mistaken, but I clearly remember the singular being Ocampan early on, but I could be wrong. It reminds me of the use of the word, Vulcanian, to describe the people of Vulcan from Star Trek’s earliest episodes until it was changed. The Ocampa on board this station are led by Tanis (Gary Graham), who at first warns Voyager away, but when he sees Kes, he agrees to a meeting.

It seems Voyager has something of a bad reputation in the Quadrant. They declared war on the Kazon. They steal resources from other planets. I think Janeway needs a good P.R. man – I thought that was supposed to be Neelix’s job. Tanis has a strange, almost perverse interest in Kes. He senses her burgeoning telepathic and psycho-kinetic skills and he resolves to foster her tutelage outside of Tuvok’s somber, temperate mentoring. Tanis is no good – he’s a bad egg. He wants to nurture Kes and make her set things on fire. He starts off with subtle propositions. Make the cup of liquid hot. Kes makes it bubble.

Tanis strikes me as a predator, much in the way Tolaris manipulates and eventually rapes T’Pol in the Enterprise episode, “Fusion.” Graham is a good actor because he can be what you want him to be. He can be Detective Sikes on Alien Nation, the much-appreciated but undervalued television series adaptation of the popular cult movie. He can then turn around and become the Vulcan ambassador, Soval on Enterprise. He was even in the running for Sisko and Janeway (before the decision was made to make the character female). I’ve always liked him. He never disappoints.

It’s obvious Brannon Braga (working from a story by Anthony Williams) is a movie nut. Some of the references in “Cold Fire” come straight from the movie culture’s zeitgeist; the name of the Caretaker’s mate is Suspiria, the title of a classic Dario Argento giallo fest (one of my favorites). Tanis is the name of the Egyptian city purported to house the Ark of the Covenant, and the episode itself has a giallo sensibility, what with hanging bodies and dripping blood. Suspiria is personified by a frightened little girl with the voice of an older women, which has echoes of modern Japanese and Korean horror.

This is a very ambitious episode of Star Trek, not only Voyager. Kes, with Tanis’ guidance, nearly immolates Tuvok with her psycho-kinetic abilities, but Tuvok, always the teacher, tells her they must work harder to control her powers. When Kes becomes aware of Suspiria’s presence and her (and Tanis’) belief that Janeway killed the first Caretaker, she comes to the conclusion that revenge is on her mind. Luckily, Tuvok and B’Elanna have developed a weapon to use against her just in case she had a change of heart. There is a little less in the final act than I was hoping for, but “Cold Fire” more than makes up for it with a challenging narrative.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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