Friday, May 31, 2024

Star Trek: The Cloud

Episode: "The Cloud"
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date: February 13, 1995

via Memory Alpha

Given Voyager's predicament, addressing limited supplies is going to be a major factor in long-term survival.  Last week, it was the search for dilithium that lead to trouble.  This week, our friends encounter a nebula which is rich in omicron particles, a resource essential to their power reserves.  Of course, this is Star Trek and the nebula is not what it seems.  It is a living organism and our heroes have inadvertently caused it injury.  They do their best to make things right.

The series's most famous line is featured in "The Cloud," delivered by Captain Janeway: "There's coffee in that nebula."  The line was repeated by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

"The Cloud" is a significant world-building episode, the world aboard ship, that is.  The broad theme is Janeway finding her proper role among the crew, a role certainly complicated by circumstances.  Tom Paris recreates a Marseille pool hall, Chez Sandrine, on the holodeck which becomes a favored social hangout spot for the crew.  The captain joins the gang at the end of the story, setting an important contrast with Jean-Luc Picard's reluctance to join the officers' poker game until the final scene of the final TNG episode.  Janeway is pretty good with a cue in her hands, too.  Kate Mulgrew did her own "stunts" at the pool table.

Janeway and Chakotay attain a new level of (platonic) intimacy as Chakotay guides the captain in a vision quest to find her spirit animal.  The writers were cautious in utilizing Chakotay's Native American heritage.  They wanted to be respectful, not playing too much on stereotypes.  They walked a thin line with the vision quest idea but I think it works here.

Neelix promotes himself to Ship Morale Officer, bringing hors d'oeuvres to the bridge during a tense moment.  Comic relief?  I suppose - still more than a tad annoying.  And frankly, The Doctor trying to get everyone's attention on the view screen (see image above) is much funnier.  In a more revealing scene, Neelix goes on a brief tirade to Kes about the crew's general recklessness:

"These people are natural born idiots if you ask me. They don't appreciate what they have here. This ship is the match of any vessel within a hundred light years and what do they do with it? Well, uh, let's see if we can't find some space anomaly today that might RIP IT APART!"

While Kes manages to calm him down, Neelix is not exactly wrong in expressing his concerns.  Perhaps the idea was for him to share what could just as easily be going through an audience member's mind from time to time.

A couple random thoughts for the road...

  • I've often found Kate Mulgrew's voice a bit grating but I've come to hear it in a new light (mixed metaphor - sorry).  Imagine Katharine Hepburn as Kathryn Janeway and it works just fine.
  • How did cast and crew manage having three Roberts in the principal cast?  The answer (thank you, Google): Robert Beltran (Chakotay) was referred to as "Robert," Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) was "Robbie" and Robert Picardo (The Doctor) has evidently always gone by "Bob."

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Robert Duncan McNeill was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, November 9, 1964.  He attended the Julliard School in New York.  In 1986, he scored the role of Charlie Brent on All My Children, the fourth of six actors to play the character over a 24-year period.  He also appeared with Stockard Channing on Broadway in Six Degrees of Separation.  He made guest appearances in The Twilight Zone, L.A. Law and Quantum Leap.  He'd previously appeared on Star Trek as Nick Locarno in "The First Duty" as previously discussed here.

Since Voyager, most of his high profile work has been in producing and directing, notably for Chuck, Resident Alien and Turner & Hooch.