Star Trek 466: The Cloud

466. The Cloud

FORMULA: The Immunity Syndrome + Galaxy's Child + In the Cards

WHY WE LIKE IT: The morale officer.

WHY WE DON'T: The cloud.

REVIEW: We've seen giant amoebas in space before, so the featured animal is nothing new, though I must say using Voyager as a suture to heal the creature's wound is reasoning worthy of TOS. And I don't mean that in a good way. Suffice it to say, the whole living nebula plot is dead on arrival. Once again, we have a somewhat silly, babbly premise to hang the character development onto.

And that's where all the interest lies. Through Janeway's log (the odd direction makes it seem like she mentally dictating it), we're privy to her thoughts on how to become the best possible captain to this crew. She would say she's in the Picard mold, a figurehead that must keep her distance, but given the potential length of the voyage, she must reassess that role. Voyager is more than a crew, it's a community. By the end of The Cloud, Janeway will have made the leap Picard only makes in All Good Things, as she lets her hair down and cavorts with the crew in Tom Paris' holodeck program - the earlier introduction of which takes far too long for my tastes, and I'm not sure it has the potential to be Quark's or Vic's. Still, everyone's uneasy around her, but if she hustles them enough at pool, that could change.

It's a good episode overall for Janeway, eminently likeable for her sassy sense of humor. Her scenes with Neelix are very funny, for example, from the too-thick coffee that sends her into the cloud ("there's coffee in that nebula") to her response to his outrage at the ship consistently heading into danger for no good reason. Both he and the Doctor make good points (points you might not want make to your audience) that Voyager strays far too often from its primary mission. But at this point, the Doctor's not considered a crew member per se, so who cares what he thinks? Foreshadowing: Creating him a family is laughingly thrown out there, and his creation Dr. Zimmerman is first mentioned.

I'm not sure when Chakotay had the time to bring his medicine bundle aboard ship, but his introducing the concept of animal guides to Janeway is at once strange and interesting. It's all mysto-babble, of course, but making him a kind of spiritual leader would have been an unusual and interesting angle on the character. No one's sure what to think of Janeway's newt of course, though B'Elanna trying to kill her animal guide is worth a smile. The only character bit that doesn't intersect with the Captain's story is the sniping match between Tuvok and Harry, which makes the latter seem childish and petty. Not a big fan of that scene, I must say.

LESSON: If the only thing a guy gets to do is reaction shots, don't try to take that away from him.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The getting-to-know-you sections are good fun, but they're saddled with a brain dead "plot".


billjac said...

The Cloud itself is an obvious homage to (rip-off of?) the classic hard SF novel "The Black Cloud" by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. There are some serious calculations and research behind that ridiculous technobabble.

Siskoid said...

But the Black Cloud is intelligent, isn't it?

Not that we can tell from the episode if this one was.

billjac said...

Yeah it was. I have almost no recollection of this episode beyond my impression at the time of it being an obvious homage to The Black Cloud so I can't speak to similarities or points of divergence.

I suppose it could have been an independent invention of the concept.

Siskoid said...

It was surely floating in the zeitgeist, even if it wasn't directly inspired. I think there's as much of The Immunity Syndrome in this one as there is The Black Cloud, for example.


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