Star Trek: Voyager – 1×06 – “The Cloud”

Star Trek: Voyager
“The Cloud”
Originally Broadcast February 13th, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 48546.2

‘Personal Log, Stardate 48546.2. Our journey home is several weeks old now, and I have begun to notice in my crew and in myself…
a subtle change as the reality of our situation settles in. Here in the Delta Quadrant, we are virtually the entire family of man. We are more than a crew. And I must find a way to be more than a captain to these people. But it’s not clear to me exactly how to
begin. At the Academy, we are taught that a captain is expected to maintain a certain distance. Until now, I’ve always been comfortable with that distance. Maybe this is just the way it works. Maybe the distance is necessary. Maybe more than ever now, they need me to be larger than life. I only wish I felt larger than life. Computer, delete last sentence.’

Captain Janeway is walking along the corridor to Engineering early in the morning, musing on the situation so far. Her appearance in Engineering takes Lt. Torres by surprise – she wasn’t expecting an inspection by the Captain. But this isn’t an inspection, it’s a stroll around her ship, and she carries on to the Mess Hall.
Tom Paris and Harry Kim are having a meal together when Captain Janeway walks over to their table and, arms folded, asks after the food. Harry replies that it is interesting, and Tom hope that their systems will adapt to his gourmet touch soon. There is an awkward pause and then she moves on. After she leaves them, Kim suggests that they should have asked her to join them, but Paris tells him that if she wants to sit with them, she’ll do the asking.

Meanwhile, at the counter, Captain Janeway discovers that the coffee pot is empty. She goes into the kitchen area to look for some more and also investigates the various bubbling pots. Neelix comes in with a bowl of vegetables and complements her on her appearance. Slightly embarassed that someone might overhear him, Janeway asks if there is any coffee left on board. No, he tells her, but he has concocted something better from a seed he found on an expedition. She turns it down and tells him that she will use one of her replicator rations instead, but he points out that she would not be setting a good example for the crew if she did that. The Captain gives in, but as he starts to pour it out, Chakotay calls her from the bridge. Seizing the opportunity, she leaves quickly.

On the bridge, Chakotay tells her they have picked up a nebula on long range sensors and Tuvok adds that it contains unusually high levels of omicron particles. They could be collected to provide an additional antimatter reserve. Settling down in her chair, Janeway orders them to set course. ‘There’s coffee in that nebula.’

On the way to the nebula, the Captain asks Chakotay how the crew are feeling. He tells her that they are going through a natural period of mourning. Morale has no where to go but up. She wishes their mission had justified having a counsellor on board and he tells her that his people talk to animal guides. It is a centuries old tradition described by Carl Jung as an active imagination technique. Janeway guesses that his animal guide is a bear, but apart from admitting it is a female, he refuses to be drawn on what it is. As they approach the nebula, she accepts his offer to help her find her own animal guide.

They head into the purple-looking nebula towards the richest source of particles. As they go in, interstellar dust density increases around them. Surmising that the impulse engines are attracting it, they go to thrusters only, but just over seven thousand kilometres from the omicron deposit they come to a sudden halt. A natural energy barrier seems to be in their way. They cannot transport the particles through the barrier so they give a short burst with the impulse engines to punch their way through. They make it, but the hole Voyager made in the barrier quickly closes behind them.

In the Mess Hall, Kes is putting flowers into small vases as table decorations while Neelix rails at the madness of taking them into the nebula. If he had known that they would be visiting every potentially dangerous space anomoly en route he might not have wanted her to come along. But Kes is facinated by the view through the window, and admits that she would be just like Captain Janeway if she were in charge. Then she kisses him and things start to come through the shields and hit the ship.

Captain Janeway calls red alert. Tuvok cannot identify the objects but they seem to be natural. Torres reports that the objects are sticking to the hull, and that they are losing their energy reserves. Changing the shield polarity makes no difference, they still come through so Janeway orders Paris to reverse course out through the barrier again. This time, however, they cannot get through. Torres recommends overusing the thrusters rather than using impulse power but they make no impression. Chakotay points out that they have 38 photon torpedoes on board, but the Captain does not want to deplete a non-renewable resource yet, and orders phasers instead. A two second burst also has no effect, so a torpedo is readied and fired. Following closely on the tail of the missile, they make it out of the nebula. Standing off at two thousand kilometers, Janeway cancels red alert and orders samples to be scraped off the hull for Lt. Torres to analyse. She wants to know what defeated every defence system on board. Voyager has lost eleven percent of it’s energy reserves now, and the Captain decides that she is just going to have to give up coffee.

Harry is in his quarters, sleeping peacefully with an eye-mask on, when he is woken by Tom Paris who wants to show him something. In the corridor, Harry explains that his academy room-mate, James MacAllister never slept. A mask was the only way Kim could get any sleep, and besides, it reminds him of being in the womb. They arrive at the holodeck, and Tom activates programme Paris Three.

The programme turns out to be a reconstruction of a Marseilles bar where he spent most of his second semester at the Academy. The pair are greated by holodeck characters, including the bar’s owner, Sandrine, and a beautiful woman called Ricky who he includes in all his programmes. There is also a gigolo and a pool hustler, and various human and alien customers. Although it is late at night, Tom persuades Harry to join him in a bottle of holographic St Emillion ’39, guaranteed not to give heartburn, and then they play pool, with Sandrine hanging onto Harry, and Ricky hanging onto Tom.

By the light of the warp core, Torres is testing the sample from the hull, then heads off to Sickbay. She summons the EMH and wonders why he always says ‘Please state the nature of the medical emergency.’ Maybe he should change his programme? He is scathing about the concept of a hologram that programmes itself and goes into his office to work. B’Elanna tells him that she could probably reprogramme him and that he has a lousy attitude. The EMH tells her to write to a man called Zimmerman at the Jupiter Station Holoprogramming Centre and then asks if she had a reason for calling. She hands him the container with the matter sample in it and asks for a second opinion on it. While he is analysing it he comments that they aren’t really going home at all, are they. All they are going to do is investigate every cubic millimetre of the quadrant. Then he points to a part of the readout – nucleogenic peptide bonds – something very interesting.

Chakotay enters the Captains ready room holding something in his hands, and tells her that the hull has been degaussed. She orders an 0700 departure on the strength of it then asks about the bundle he is carrying. It is his medicine bundle, and he thought it important that she saw it if she wants to find her animal guide. He goes over to a low table and sits on the floor, unwrapping a blackbirds wing, a stone from the river and an Akoonah – an electronic substitute for psychoactive herbs of his ancestors. Janeway joins him at the table and he talks her through the procedure. Placing her hand on the Akoonah, she closes her eyes and concentrates on the stone. ‘A-koo-chee-moya. We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of our people. But perhaps there is one powerful being who will embrace this woman and give her the answers she seeks. Allow your eyes to close. Breath to fuel the light in yourbelly. And let it expand until the light is everywhere. Prepare yourself to leave this room and this ship and return to a place where you were the most content and peaceful you have ever been. You can see all around you and hear the sounds of this place.’ Kathryn is on a shore, the waves are breaking and the seabirds calling.’ You must not discuss with me what you see, or you will offend your animal guide. As you continue to look around, you will become aware of other life that shares this place with you. It will be the first animal you see. That is the one you will speak to. Do you see an animal?’ On a sand covered log is a little lizard-type creature. ‘Speak to it.You know what you want to ask.’ But the door chime interrupts and Torres come in. The Captain explains what they were doing and Chakotay comments that Torres actually tried to kill her animal guide. Then the Chief Engineer tells them what the EMH and she have discovered about the residue. It is organic – part of a larger lifeform.

At a bridge science station, Janeway, Tuvok, Torres and Chakotay are studying sensor readings, with the EMH giving his input via the main view screen. The Captain wants to know if they hurt the creature. Well, they drove the ship through it, fired phasers at it and then a photon torpedo. In the EMH’s opinion the answer is yes. She mutes the audio and then concentrates on the area of omicron particles they were after. Tuvok notes that the concentration is lower now, and that particles have moved outside the barrier. The conclusion is reached that they have injured a life form. Now they need to find a way to repair the damage. Paris draws their attention to a gesturing EMH on the screen, and audio is resumed. It tells them that the creature can probably regenerate itself, and that Lt. Torres knows how to help it, as she noted that it has a nucleogenic structure. Thinking out loud, B’Elanna concludes that a nucleonic beam should help it heal. Janeway makes her decision. At 1300 they will re-enter the life form. Kim is to find new safeguards for the ship and Tuvok to modify the shields in the meantime.

In the mess hall, Neelix is serving a meal when Chakotay calls Yellow Alert. He contacts the first officer to protest the disruption his routine and is told that they are going back into the nebula. He is not pleased at the news and goes to the Captains Ready Room to make his opinion known. When she tells him that they really are going back in to aid the space creature, he tells her that Kes and he will wait on his own ship in safety for their return. Captain Janeway refuses to spare personnel to get his ship ready for launch. If he wants to leave when this is all over, that’s up to him. Then she turns back to her padd and computer consoles. ‘Dismissed. That’s a Starfleet expression for “get out”.’ He leaves, confused by the references to Jonah and a Whale.

They return to the nebula-creature and go to red alert. Tuvok has modified the shields and Kim has found out that releasing positive ions through the nacelle should prevent matter sticking to them this time. Just as they prepare to fire the nucleonic beam flashes of energy hit the ship, shaking it badly. The inertial dampers go offline and people are thrown about. After cutting the thrusters and resetting the dampers, they find they are even further inside the creature than they went the first time. Now they have no propulsion, it has quietened down. Chakotay believes they don’t need engines to get out again. He thinks that the energy currents that they ignored when they thought it was a nebula are actually the creature’s circulation system, and all they have to do is let one carry them to the wound.

As they gently move into a current and begin drifting along, Neelix and Kes arrive on the bridge with refreshments, Neelix proclaiming himself the ship’s morale officer. Going round with a plate of snacks to the officers, he suggests singing a few songs, but the Captain doesn’t like that idea at all. Fortunately, the current has just brought them to the wound. Tom gently drifts them out of the current and Torres begins to fire her beam. Progress is slow, however. Then the EMH, who no one had thought to turn off since the earlier meeting, gives his suggestion – use Voyager itself as a suture, an energy conduit across the wound. A diversion would be needed to stop the creature’s defences attacking them while they get into position, so a class four microprobe is launched into it while they fire thrusters and go to the wound. The creatures defences zapp the probe as Voyager gets into position. Shaking somewhat, two beams are sent out and the wound shrinks rapidly. When the edges are only ten kilometres away they leave the wound quickly and the creature finishes healing itself.

‘Captain’s Log, supplemental. We set out to augment our energy reserves and wound up depleting them by over 20%. As a result, we’ve set a new course for a planet 14 light years away that Neelix says might have compatible energy sources to offer us. It is out of our way, but circumstances offer few alternatives. So much for raising spirits.’

Janeway travels in the turbolift with Harry, telling him she’s planning to meet with her animal guide, and recommends that Harry asks Chakotay about it. Instead, he invites her to go with him to the holodeck. As soon as she enters Sandrine’s the gigolo begins to chat her up until Tom intervenes, and apologises, but she laughs it off. The pool hustler, Gaunt Gary, tells Torres his approach to women – treat a lady like a tramp and a tramp like a lady. Never fails. Well almost never, as B’Elanna calls over to Tom that the character is a pig, and so is his programmer.

At the pool table, Kathryn Janeway is showing an interest in the game being played. Is it pool or billiards? and asks Chakotay for his ‘stick’. Then she breaks, potting a solid and then following up with the eight ball in the side pocket without even looking.

Analysis

From the personal log at the start, where she calls her multi-species crew ‘the family of man’, through the only reason to go to that nebula – to get enough energy to feed her caffeine habit – to the final scene of Janeway the pool hustler, this episode is all about the Captain’s motivations and attitudes. We see her wrestling with the StarFleet notion of a Captain being aloof and distant from their crew, and modifying that in favour of some sort of social life to keep herself sane on the seventy five year journey home. Of course, what ever activity she takes part in, she must be the best! The StarFleet attitude of investigation and putting oneself at risk to help an injured stranger is a major part of the plot. This is in complete contrast to the Original Series story ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ where a similar life form was encountered albeit under somewhat different circumstances.

Other characters get more depth too. Tom the holo-programmer shares his creation with the crew – the first Holodeck scene so far is a community resource designed to either aid or create homesickness, depending on your feelings. We learn a litle about Chakotay’s belief system, and begin to understand how he can be so calm, cool and unruffled by their situation. He has his own personal counsellor on call whenever he wants to talk about anything. Neelix turns out to have a somewhat different attitude to mysterious spacial anomolies than everyone else. He doesn’t want to know anything about them if it might be risky, which is a reasonable survival strategy for a space-scavenger living off his wits. Maybe losing his lungs on an away mission has made him somewhat wary of new situations too?

In the end, the morale of the crew might be up a small notch with the addition of Sandrine’s to their leisure activities, but Voyager is still in dire energy straits. This is a ship with on-going problems, and quite right too.

Ignoring the science (as usual) this was a fair and interesting episode with fun scenes for most of the main cast.

Grade: 7/10

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