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Star Trek: Voyager – Cold Fire (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Cold Fire is an episode that exemplifies the feeling that second season’s treading water.

Cold Fire opens with a somewhat unconventional recap of Caretaker. Unlike most “previously on…” sections of Star Trek: Voyager (or the Star Trek franchise as a whole), this block is narrated by Majel Barrett in-character as the ship’s computer. It becomes clear that Cold Fire is interested in following up on the dangling threads left by Caretaker, with the crew of Voyager encountering the female mate alluded to in Janeway’s conversations with the eponymous Nacene character from Caretaker.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

This should be a big deal. After all, the Caretaker is the character responsible for plucking Voyager and the Val Jean out of the Alpha Quadrant and depositing them on the other side of the galaxy. Finding another being with a similar amount of power presents a very real and tangible opportunity for Janeway to get her crew home. If the Caretaker could pull them all the way across the Milky Way, then it stands to reason that Suspiria could send them all the way back. Cold Fire presents a potential end to Voyager’s journey.

Unfortunately, Cold Fire never really does anything with that storytelling angle. Even when Janeway comes face-to-face with Suspiria at the climax of the episode, she never asks the powerful entity to send her crew home. So Cold Fire feels like an episode that spends forty-five minutes walking in circles, accomplishing little of note.

"It's probably just the inertial dampeners acting up..."

“It’s probably just the inertial dampeners acting up…”

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Star Trek: Voyager – Caretaker (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

So, Star Trek: Voyager.

Where do we begin? Voyager is probably the most divisive and controversial of the Star Trek spin-offs, the one that carries a lot of the blame for the franchise’s decline and decay in the mid to late nineties. It is the series that connects the tail end of the success story that was Star Trek: The Next Generation to the start of the dying gasp that was Star Trek: Enterprise. This spin-off had the misfortune to launch at the height of a revived franchise’s popularity and to finish as public interest waned.

Feels like going home...

Feels like going home…

Star Trek: Voyager felt like an act of hubris. It was positioned by Paramount to be the studio’s highest-profile television show. It was a feature of the television landscape, finally allowing Paramount the chance to leverage its own television network – a plan delayed since the late seventies, but deemed feasible in the mid-nineties. UPN branded itself “the first network of the new century”, a rather arrogant declaration. Caretaker was the first thing broadcast on UPN in early 1995, débuting to an audience of more than 21 million. However, Voyager would never reach those figures again.

Despite that success, things fell apart quickly. None of the shows that aired on UPN’s second night received a second season. The only shows to limp on to renewal from the network’s rocky first year were Voyager, The Sentinel and Moesha. Of these meagre freshmen hits. Voyager lasted the longest, with one more season to its name than Moesha. Over the summer of 1995, it was identified by The Los Angeles Times as the network’s “star survivor”, and the show upon which all of the network’s hopes rested. By 2000, five years later, the network had run up a debt of $800,000.

"I hope you don't mind, our tailors measured you while you were unconscious. It's all part of a standard probe."

“I hope you don’t mind, our tailors measured you while you were unconscious. It’s all part of a standard probe.”

That’s a lot of pressure for any television series to bear. Following (and, in the eyes of many, replacing) an illustrious predecessor, supporting the weight of a new television network, pushing into the future while remaining anchored to the past, it’s no wonder that Star Trek: Voyager wound up the confused mess that it became. Indeed, one can recognise many of the problems that would haunt the show through to its final season tied up in this pilot episode.

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