Nutshell: Some good moments in an almost-reasonble episode, but the ending is purely silly.
The Voyager comes across another space station array—a smaller version of what brought them to the Delta Quadrant ten months earlier in the pilot episode, "Caretaker." On this station they find a small community of Ocampa residents—the descendants of Ocampa adventurers who, centuries ago, went against tradition by leaving their homeworld for space travel.
The leader of the Ocampa community, a man named Tanis (Gary Graham) takes to Kes and offers his guidance in developing her mental abilities. Before long, Kes is able to telekinetically move teacups across the table, cause water to boil, and even, in one rather bizarre scene, accidentally begin to boil Tuvok's blood. (If there's one thing this scene proves, it's that Jennifer Lien was definitely not hired for her screaming ability.)
Through Tanis, Kes is able to fully utilize a full range of her mental abilities, and experiences her dark side emerging when she takes pleasure in killing a room full of plants. Tanis invites her to live on the space station with the other Ocampa so that she might realize her full potential, which gives Kes a big decision to make.
Speaking of the array, Tanis has more to offer than just education for Kes. He also knows about the Caretaker. In fact, the Caretaker's mate (whom Janeway hoped would be able to send the Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant one day), protects Tanis' array. The "Caretakers" are actually from a race called the Nacine; Tanis' Caretaker is a Nacine named Suspiria. Janeway hopes Tanis can arrange for her to meet Suspiria.
Unfortunately for Janeway and the crew, the Voyager has obtained a bad reputation. Many, Suspiria included, think Voyager killed the Caretaker when they destroyed his array. Kes' connection with Tanis ties into the plot rather tidily—as she begins to sense the bond between Tanis and Suspiria, she becomes aware of Suspiria's intense anger—and the fact that Suspiria wants to destroy the ship.
This leads to the inevitable final act where Janeway's first meeting with Suspiria is crosscut with the coinciding scene where Kes learns of Suspiria's motive. This revelation works fairly well assuming you don't know what Suspiria is up to. Unfortunately, the idea that Suspiria wants to destroy Voyager is not a surprise simply because the previous week's preview gives it away.
Once the episode reveals what Suspiria is doing, the episode gives us a horror-style ending, in which Janeway walks into engineering to find Torres and Tuvok hanging unconscious in mid-air by Suspiria's superior powers. Dennis McCarthy has some fun with the violins this week, creating a creepy tone. But the creepiness turns to hokiness when Suspiria's powers are subdued, causing Tuvok and Torres to fall 15 feet without serious bodily injury.
Really, if you think about any event in this ending for more than about ten seconds, you're bound to scratch your head. The manner in which Janeway traps Suspiria is clumsily handled and hardly believable. The connection between Tanis and Suspiria makes an obvious plot device, but has no real justification or explanation. And why is it Tanis so desperately wants Kes to come live on the array? Why is he so taken by her abilities? What does she offer his people? And why does Suspiria prove so stubborn and refuse to negotiate? And what exactly happens to the array and its inhabitants after Suspiria and Tanis retreat into subspace? Too many plot points are left unresolved; others feel forced and unclear in this unimpressive finale.
This is too bad. The story is certainly agreeable for its first four acts as Kes uncovers her hidden powers. But everything else rides on the conclusion, which, unfortunately, prompts just one question: What is the point of this episode? The only discernible answer is that the writers want to introduce the Nacine as Voyager's potential chance to get home, because other than that, there's no impact on any of the characters. Kes' powers disappear as soon as Tanis leaves, illustrating another example of Reset Button Plotting—how to change characters just so they can change back 30 minutes later.
Introducing the Nacine could have been done any time, and the writers should have done it at a time when they had a knockout story to deliver. Instead, they squander a promising card on an average story. I was looking forward to seeing another from the Caretaker's race, but not really in an underwhelming story like this.
Voyager is still having a generally disappointing season thus far, and there's only one consistent reason—the writing. "Cold Fire" is a prime example. Here's a premise that could have (and should have) been a reasonable turning point in the season. Instead, it's another mediocre installment which proves even more disappointing because of what it could have been.
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