Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Cloud Minders"

3 stars

Air date: 2/28/1969
Teleplay by Margaret Armen
Story by David Gerrold and Oliver Crawford
Directed by Jud Taylor

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When Kirk must obtain zenite to cure a deadly plague, the Enterprise stops at the planet Ardana, which is divided into two societal units—the Stratoses, artists and scholars who live in the city high in the clouds, and the Troglytes, who do all the hard labor in the mines below. Unfortunately, the political turmoil is making it difficult for Kirk and Spock to obtain the zenite. And Kirk draws the line when Plasus (Jeff Corey), the arrogant leader of Stratos, ops to employ torture on a Troglyte dissident named Vanna (Charlene Polite) as an attempt to get the zenite from her.

"Cloud Minders" is a good realization of a classic TOS idea, in which Kirk's steadfast humanism leads him to intervene in a culture's governmental operations, whether they want his help or not. There's something satisfying about seeing the wrongs of a society set right ... even if we really don't have much business in interfering (though that issue itself is confusing because the episode doesn't seem sure whether Ardana is a Federation planet bound by its values). By making everyone else in the plot hard-headed adversaries, this episode does a good job of manipulating us into feeling that Kirk has every right to impose his beliefs on others.

The resolution is idealistic to the point of shallowness (centuries of exploitation fixed within a few mere hours), but the story executes well enough that I don't care. After so many dismal third-season offerings, it's nice to see a conflict that has some fire and attitude injected into the confrontations.

Previous episode: The Way to Eden
Next episode: The Savage Curtain

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74 comments on this post

Tue, Jan 15, 2008, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
I don´t agree with giving 3 stars to "the cloud minders" because its totally out of character for Spock to be flirtatious with a lady for no reason (vs flirtatious in a very intellectual, Vulcan way and for a mercenary purpose). I am very annoyed when Spock tells the lady about Pon Farr when previously he was so ashamed of talking about such a personal issue with his best friend Kirk even risking his life for his privacy.
Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 10:31am (UTC -5)
I have mixed feelings about the Spock/Droxine aspect. Spock's "flirting" is so low-key and subtle, it is wonderful to watch. It's like with the Romulan commander--he doesn't make overtures, he receives them, he just answers questions, but he does so in that slow, deep, thoughtful voice and some serious eye contact.

And I know that Droxine seems childish and naive, but I can see why she appeals to Spock. She's intellectual and artistic, and those are two primary values for Spock--even if the Stratus-dwellers were prejudiced, they did produce good art and science. Besides that, for a man who has seen every kind of violence, horror, abuse, and flaw of nature, someone who is soft, welcoming, and likes him, in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, could be very appealing.

And I expect he's learned from Jim that there are joys to be found in the opposite sex. How many women did Kirk hook up with in the series, sometimes almost right in front of Spock? You have to think that every now and then he wonders, "Maybe I should get me some of that." In a more Spock-like way, of course.

I was also a little put-off by the "ponn-farr" conversation, but I realized that he never speaks about his own experience. He only speaks theoretically. It made me think that she was the one who asked the question and he was answering it. She's probably read about it. Bringing up such a sensitive subject is one way very young people flirt.

Besides, it isn't very clear in the whole early ST world whether Vulcans ONLY have sex during the ponn-farr, or if that's just the drive toward the specific mate that happens in that way. Weren't we all just a little curious?
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 12:47am (UTC -5)
It's kind of refreshing to see artists and scientists exploiting people instead of the usual capitalist/corporation/for-profit exploiters. Sometimes the idealism can be a bit blinding but then a healthy dose of reality happens by.
Jeffrey Bedard
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 7:09am (UTC -5)
I'd go along with the 3 star rating because there is a lot of differing opinions and actions presented in this episode which does give it a bit more of a foundation than most Season 3 offerings.

1) Ardana is clearly stated to be a member of the Federation. In regards to Plasus's actions I take it as him being a rather corrupt (if that's the appropriate term) official. I don't think the Federation has been made aware of the social problems on the planet 'cause Plasus was intentionally keeping it a secret. The entire belief system that the Troglytes are incapable of learning is bunk from the outset. Clearly they are educated in some things. The mining and processing of zenite requires educated and trained workers to be done properly. Clearly the city dwellers chose to leave the Troglytes behind on the surface. It's too bad that we couldn't see and hear more city dwellers and how they feel about things. We only meet Plasus and Droxine and a few guards.

2) Regarding Droxine herself I can see how some people would be turned off by her characterization, but it makes sense to me under the story terms provided. She has lived in the clouds all her life and as daughter of the city ruler she would have all the benefits such a status would give her. Being protected from the truth of her society she would have a childlike naivete about how things work on Ardana. She would believe anything her father tells her. Yet she finds a kindred spirit of sorts in Spock and through his and Kirk's actions she is starting to question the status quo at the end of the episode, which is more than can be said for Plasus.

3) The pon farr discussion is a bit odd. Spock was very clear in "Amok Time" that it is a subject not shared with outsiders. It was all he could do to finally open up to Kirk in that episode. For him to share this information with Droxine (whom he'd only just met) doesn't seem quite in character. But this is one of those times where I just think of it as Spock's human half peeking out. I do appreciate how Droxine is attracted to Spock and not Kirk. Just as with McCoy and Natira in "For the World..." just because Kirk is in the room doesn't mean that he's the one all the women will be interested in. I would never expect a Spock/Droxine relationship to go the distance, but I can understand the initial attraction between them.

4) "We Vulcans pride ourselves on our logic." Obviously, Vulcans shouldn't be expressing pride in anything, but this line is so true to me it is definitely THE quote of the episode. :)

5) And while some people may think Droxine's characterization is not flattering to women, Vanna's certainly is. She is leading (or at least one leader) in the resistance. She can hold her own in a fight, she holds up under torture and she is able to talk one of her fellow Disruptors off from killing Kirk.

6) Probably the most interesting aspect of this particular episode is the concept of Ardana being a planet with a corrupt government gaining entrance into the Federation through deceit. Not only is the Federation (although "Starfleet Command" is mentioned more often) not aware of the social disparity, but here we have Spock saying the populace had done away with all forms of violence when that clearly isn't the case. There are phasers (of a kind) and torture devices with the rays. There is even mention of executions and Plasus's order to kill Kirk if he returns. Sometimes TOS is held up as a naive "love is all you need" type of universe, but episodes such as these show this isn't the case. Is this political subversion on the same scale as DS9? Not really, but I find it fascinating (no pun intended) that this episode seems to be making the case of Ardana tricking the Federation into becoming a member.
Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
This episode has some corny moments. That everything, basically, comes down to Kirk getting in a fight is the definition of TOS cliche. I also found Spock's mental voiceover strange.

That said, this episode has some laudable moments. Vanna is as strong a female leader as any character in TOS (except the Romulan commander). The Stratos set design is actually pretty good, considering third-season budgets. And Kirk's actions are very Kirk, in a good way. I also like the bridge scene with Spock, McCoy and Kirk. It's a good example of Spock and McCoy arguing without the over-the-top McCoy stuff.

As for Spock at Droxine ...

Other than the direct talk of pon farr, I think Spock being more forward to women makes sense at this point in the series. He's grown as a character since "Amok Time" at the beginning of the second season, notably in "The Enterprise Incident" but I'm guessing also in the instances like "Journey to Babel", "Is There Truth in No Beauty", "The Paradise Syndrome", "The Tholian Web", and even "The Way to Eden". Not all of those episodes are about romance, but I wouldn't be surprised if Spock's thought processes had changed by the time of this episode.

It's also worth noting that the series ended shortly after this episode and "All Our Yesterdays". In the Trek timeline, the 5-year mission ended around this time, and Spock returned to Vulcan to study in the pursuit of total logic.

Maybe he was inspired to do that by what happened in this episode and in "All Our Yeterdays". Now, the creators in 1969 couldn't have conceived of that, but it makes character sense, if you spin it the right way.
William B
Sat, Apr 6, 2013, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this episode for the first time last night -- it was the sole episode of TOS I had never seen, so it's nice that I can now officially say I've seen the whole series. (There is one episode of Voyager I've never seen, so I will probably watch that shortly as well. There are about three seasons of Enterprise I haven't seen, though, so, um, yeah, I will probably never do that whole show.)

I think Jammer's review gets it right. Within S3's total breakdown of Star Trek values and storytelling, "The Cloud Minders" shines pretty brightly, though it's not really a great episode in and of itself.

Perhaps inspired by _Metropolis_, the scenario of the workers below and the artists/scientists far above is an effective allegory for class divisions. The central "new" idea for this episode is the idea of the Zenite gas having the effect of making the "Troglytes" stupid and emotional and aggressive. While it's definitely true that people who work in mines and do heavy physical labour and the like do suffer physically from their environment, I think the idea is more about highlighting how working class, low-income parts of society produce a "toxic environment" in a figurative sense which retards (ick) personal growth. On that basis, I think the episode is largely right -- people who have to work and toil at hard manual labour every day of their lives don't have the time to educate themselves the way those with leisure time do. I think the idea that the gas literally makes people stupid and emotional, to the point where McCoy says that they are all literally below average intelligence (not just below average in terms of sophistication or refinement, but raw intelligence) is possibly a problem though -- I don't think that, in the real world, low-class/low-income/blue-collar people are objectively more stupid than the white collar types, regardless of whether they are likely to do worse on their SATs or not.

Anyway, the conclusion is especially fun in that we get to see Kirk start acting (more) like a hotheaded maniac and eventually get to see the Councilman doing the same thing. I also think that the idea of the "Troglytes" getting filters from Starfleet engineers is actually fairly believable. The greater social change implied by having Plasus' daughter going to work in the mines is hard to swallow, of course, though it might work better if it were merely that *she alone*, due to her influence by Spock, decided to work in the mines.

The episode has its share of goofiness, but I liked it overall. On the issue of Spock's flirting with Droxine, I think I like the interpretation given by Paul that Spock's attitudes have changed over the intervening episodes. I do think that there needs to be a greater emphasis on why exactly this woman caught Spock's eye to the extent she did -- maybe having Spock hear her play music or discuss some scientific principle with her and be suitably impressed with that might do the trick, even.

I do like the idea that the more intellectual Spock gravitates to Proxine, whereas the brawnier and more emotional (though not stupid, of course!) Kirk gravitates to Vanna; that Kirk and Spock form such a great team suggests a possibility of reconciliation between Proxine and Vanna and the walks of life they represent.

3 stars from me too.
Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 12:45am (UTC -5)
I think you are right about Spock growing as a character. Look at how protective and personal Spock considers the Vulcan Mind Melt in 'Dagger of the Mind', and yet in later episodes he will use it without such protest. Similar perhaps to Pon Farr in this episode.

I like this story. Not the best but above average for this Series and a 2.5/3 star episode for me.
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
I really liked the concept of a city in the clouds. They did a good job with that visually. Spock's initial attraction to Droxine was artfully done in his initial voice over while Kirk was asleep, then the flirtation, and then you could see the cognitive dissonance for him when she defended her society and its class distinctions during the 4-way conversation with Kirk and Vanna in the rest chamber. Spock was struggling between his attraction to her and his dislike of her views. Very subtle - nicely done. 3 stars from me too.
Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
I disagree with the rating for this episode. I'm watching it now, and it's pretty atrocious. In fact, I feel more negative about it than I do Way to Eden. The outfits they put the women in are disgusting, Spock's monologue is out of place (its details should have been shown through action rather than said), and the theme is very obvious from the beginning.

Also, Spock's flirting was a no. One might argue that he's learned a lot over time, but surely he also learned that Kirk's behavior around women was a disadvantage. Seriously, Kirk gets pretty dumb around women. I highly doubt that Spock would find that kind of behavior something to emulate. And even if he did, it's not really plausible he'd be so forthright about pon farr, and it's a really creepy scene. As is the one with Vanna and Kirk in bed. Kirk was being a huge perv.

One star.
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Watched it last night on Netflix and would give it 4 stars on sheer entertainment. The girls' outfits were almost shockingly sexy - no wonder Spock likes droxine. The flirting scenes were surprising and fun. I had only vague memories of this episode. Classic Kirk acting and fighting. Anti-establishment plot. Was stunned at first when McCoy details how the trogs actually are stupider, but then his apparent racism is explained with the gas theory, which was not as clever a plot device as could have been written for this situation, but works handily for a true sci-fi story. One more point on the Spock-droxine interaction - she asks him if he finds her "disturbing" (as in, too hot) after he explains the "porn" ritual, and he seems to indicate vulcans can mate between the 7-year cycles if they want, and that he finds something about her "disturbing." But the music gets louder there - what does he say he finds disturbing? It seemed to me that if Kirk had not unexpectedly called for help right then, Spock might have made his move.
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
@Ray: I always figured that Spock's time with the Romulan commander in "The Enterprise Incident" made him a little more open-minded. Either that, or his brain wasn't reconnected right. :)
Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 3:40am (UTC -5)
Notice it was a woman that stole his brain in the first place.
William B
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
Oh hey I already wrote about this!

The main addendum I'd make to what I wrote before is that Spock's flirting with Droxine really doesn't make sense. Out of context I could sort of buy it, but when we go back into this string of episodes, it's important to note that "All Our Yesterdays" is coming up, and that episode is badly hurt by having Spock flirt openly and be so quick to be put under the spell of a beautiful woman/"work of art" here. The biggest failure is Spock talking about pon farr, which really is hard to believe.

A problem with Kirk's plan to seal himself, Vanna and the councilman in the mine is that the mental effects from exposure to Zenite gas require...them suffocating? I mean, seriously, it's hardly a conclusive argument that the Zenite gas is hurting them when they only start to go crazy and violent and stupid when they are basically about to run out of oxygen.

The episode's allegory seemed less effective to me this time, though it has some moments, and the Spock/Droxine thing also doesn't really work. The ending feels dramatically incomplete, but maybe the vague sense that things might chance now is about all that can be expected. I think it's probably 2.5 stars -- good for season three, for what it's worth.
Jason R.
Wed, Dec 2, 2015, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
I have mixed feelings about this episode. I think that the use of the zenite gas as a plot device to explain the observable mental inferiority of the troglodytes was too easy - it offered the story a facile way to apparently erase centuries of inequality and injustice. Sorry, I'm just not buying this. Even if the gas was related to the mental inferiority of the troglodytes, it's not all that plausible that a lifetime of effects could just be reversed by removing the exposure to the gas. This is on par with Uhura relearning a lifetime of language in a couple hours after having her entire life memory "erased" in the Nomad episode.

But more to the point, I think the conclusion sidesteps the real question: is it right to enslave someone even if he happens to be inferior? Suppose the troglodytes really were mentally limited compared to the Stratoses? Does that justify their treatment? The episode isn't all that clear on that, largely because the whole question is never really addressed because of the zenon gas plot cheat.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 27, 2016, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
@ Jason R.,

I believed the zenite gas plot element is a deliberate statement about class warfare, where conditions among the poor, working classes are such that not only are they relatively disadvantaged but their environment contains controls that will tend to perpetuate their status. The cycle of poverty is well-known, where hard work makes leisure difficulty, leads to a lack of time and energy to go back to school, and where living paycheck to paycheck prevents saving up, which in turns makes it difficult to afford to invest in education.

This episode employs a sci-fi McGuffin to act as a stand-in for perpetuated poverty/slavery that is reinforced by the system. The fact of the zenite making the Troglytes stupid and aggressive is a placeholder for poverty making people resentful and unable to afford higher education. It's an apt comparison as far as I'm concerned, especially where in our culture big business is still utterly reliant on cheap labor to make its big profits, as the giant outsourcing of labor can attest to. Little has changed in this regard since the 60's and of all episodes this one retains its relevance amazingly.

In answer to the question of enslaving those who are actually 'inferior', I suspect Gene's take on this was that they only appeared to be inferior because they had been treated poorly and not given the same opportunities. Insofar as one race might *actually* be inferior to another in some mechanical sense we already know what Star Trek thinks about this: Vulcans are stronger, smarter and more advanced than humans, and yet they cooperate in harmony in the Federation. That's Gene's vision and his statement on inequality in natural gifts.

It's not a perfect episode, but I always liked it, including Spock and Droxine.
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 11:53am (UTC -5)
"Droxine" sounds like a brand of cough medicine. The women's outfits are insanely sexist even for a Roddenberry gig. The long shot of the cloud city from the ground has all the depth of a sticker. The ruler of the place is a sleaze bag. Other than that some nice rolling in the hay between Kirk and the Troglyte brunette. You guys are cinematically challenged: Spock isn't flirting with she who is named like a cough medicine (the very idea!) He's totally laughing and smirking at her. BTW she looks obscenely anorexic, ugly as.
Glen Leslie
Tue, Aug 30, 2016, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
Let's not forget about the ridiculously sexist gag in this episode.

SPOCK: "Remarkable. The finest example of sustained antigravity elevation I've ever seen. "

Followed immediately by our first view of Droxine, in that incredible gravity-defying dress.
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
I disagree, this episode was less than a three star outing.

Season three seems to rely on a lot of "dying of the plague" time limit backstories, only to ignore the urgency implicit in such a framing story to focus on our mains flirting and breaking stuff. There's no sense of tension and urgency like there would have been in previous episode because of this backdrop, now our heroes just lull around as though they're on a day trip.

Spock flirting with the naive councilman's daughter wasn't really sold well, we were never given a reason for his attraction to her other than it being purely physical. We're given no plausible reason why he would start moving in on her, no traits she possesses - talent, wisdom, intelligence - that would interest him, it's clearly just an interest based on appearance, the sort of interest that he's supposed to be immune or at least very resistant to. His voice-over didn't serve to advance the plot or inform us of motives - he was just telling us he found her hot, which we already knew. I have to laugh at the fact that Kirk is taking a nap while on a critical, time sensitive mission - he must really trust those officials to do their job properly. Also, there seemed to only be one bed and Kirk was taking up the whole thing. No wonder Spock was sitting awake monologuing. (I have to wonder what the Ardanans were expecting them to do - share it?)

Spock ditching the sleeping Kirk to make advances on the girl seemed out of character, especially when there were hostiles nearby. And him casually telling this girl he just met about the Vulcan mating cycle - something he would have almost rather died than admitted to in "Amok Time", and then only to Kirk, who was sworn to secrecy and entirely sympathetic - was completely unbelievable. One can only draw the conclusion that he did indeed suffer lasting brain damage from the events of "Spock's Brain", and that is why so many season three episodes have him acting so contrary to his previous nature and attitudes.

Kirk's going against the orders of a local planet's government and even kidnapping an official seemed off. He always looked for loopholes and compromises, but here his immediate solution is to break the rules. He's always played hard and fast with them and disregarded them when necessary, but there was no cleverness on his part. He had access to the mines and instead of ordering down some reds and quickly mining the stuff he needed himself, he chose to kidnap an official and lock himself in a room with dwindling oxygen to prove a point. Not one of Kirk's better moments.

I didn't find myself sympathetic to the miners. Kirk tried to help them and they wanted to kill him, and then made him dig in the dirt barehanded for seemingly no reason. He was already sympathetic to their cause, why waste time like this?

Honestly, I would have found the idea of Spock having a romance with the Horta from "Devil in the Dark" more believable than the one he had in this episode. She's a naive air-head, taken with him because she's never seen his kind before, and he seems happy to exploit her curiosity, Kirk-style. I never liked it when Kirk got predatory around younger women and now Spock's doing it too. Yuck. Maybe too many mindmelds with sleeping Kirk's subconscious mind have corrupted him.
JJ not Abrams 8-)
Fri, Jan 13, 2017, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Add at least a star to all episodes if, lIke me, you grew up watching Star Trek on various much smaller TVs -- some were even black and white! LOL

amazing how much detail there is to be seen on today's big screens ... in other episodes you can see a lot of details on the starships, in this episode you can see that Droxine has a six pack of abs!
Trek fan
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Love this episode -- great characterizations of the leads and guests, classic Trek themes, clever sci-fi ideas, and a thoughtful and sensitive treatment of moral conflict. The class division issue here is forward-thinking for its time and remains strikingly relevant today; the strong women guest characters make a strong impact. The cloud city divided from the mines, the bad effects of zenite gas, the spot-on Spock and McCoy moments, the compelling moral dilemma, and the classic Kirk solution all add up to a pretty good show.

Yes, "Cloud Minders" has aged rather well for TOS, and I'm surprised how nicely it holds up. Of course it's a rather quiet and talk-driven episode for TOS, making it a bit of a slow burn (don't watch it if you're sleepy) in places, but the cerebral touch of this issue-driven plot is a welcome change of pace from some other Season 3 outings. This one is 3 1/2 or maybe even 4 stars for me.
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
If Ardana is a Federation world, aren't all its inhabitants equally Federation citizens, and entitled to the rights enumerated in the Federation Charter and Constitution? I'd think Kirk would have had considerable leverage over Plasus just by mentioning this.
Mon, Apr 17, 2017, 11:54pm (UTC -5)
I like the haves vs have nots theme as it still resonates globally. Droxina is about the most vapid airhead space babe yet. Spock who was so impressed by "wife" T'Pring's logic in Amok Time has fallen into the abyss of Kirkian women-are-there-for-one-thing-only think. His human side is showing in that Spock's is now thinking with his other male brain. Give that woman a cheeseburger and some clothes please.
Wed, Jun 7, 2017, 8:11am (UTC -5)

I don't know why I love this so much! I keep rewinding - best moment of the entire episode! 😅
Sat, Jun 17, 2017, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, this is a good episode. Nice morality lesson. Great babes. Cool man-o-man action. But, I'm really done with it. It's time to move on. I mean, I can take only so abstract theorizing that has nothing to do with real conflict and morality.
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Agree with above that this was a very solid ep. A lot of season 3's problems don't always seem to about lack of production budget as that simply the episodes make no sense.

Spock's voice over was an odd thing to include but really worked for me.
Klovis Mann
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
.......a better treatment of societal prejudice than "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" was nice to see Jeff Corey as the villain.......the image of a beautiful woman being tortured in an evening gown was pretty surreal.......presumably the white mini-dress was issued as standard prison garb............between the make-up, the hair, the jewelry and the dress the actress that played Droxine must have felt like she was in a straight jacket ! .......however, she did have excellent posture.......
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 1:22am (UTC -5)
I love this episode and think that it is underappreciated. Despite being made 50 years ago, it is both entertaining and effective as social commentary.
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 2:13pm (UTC -5)
Definitely one of the better Season 3 episodes for TOS -- one that focuses on the ideals of equality and justice. Trek makes it black and white with a 2-class society (cloud-dwellers and cave-dwellers).

What I find odd is that if the cloud-dwellers have evolved to appreciate intellectual pass-times, how could they not have the compassion to see what is happening to the Troglytes (for centuries apparently) and given that they're in the Federation? We get an idea of the struggles of a people against an oppressive government. There were ongoing signs of disruption and it comes to a head when the Enterprise is in town.

Some interesting characters here -- Plasus, the administrator, wants to maintain the status quo and is the chief antagonist to Kirk. The actor plays the role well, threatening to kill Kirk to preserve his peaceful existence. Droxine is curious about Spock and a romance starts up although it doesn't work as well as it did in "The Enterprise Incident". I thought Spock's "interest" toward Droxene was a bit out of character, although the reverse is understandable. I particularly liked Vanna, the strong female lead of the Disruptors.

Kirk is forced into some unconventional moves -- beaming Plasus down to the mines when all hell breaks loose. Had Vanna not contacted the ship, I'm not sure how it would play out as everybody started to lose their rationality. Ultimately, no idea how things are supposed to play out after the Enterprise leaves -- Plasus wants no Federation interference, but Vanna and Droxene seem to be the voices of reason.

3 stars for "The Cloud Minders" -- an allegory to any number of oppressed people seeking equality situations in today's world. A good episode representative of what TOS was all about, ends with a hope for a better situation.
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 5:35am (UTC -5)
A brave message, and a standout episode for season 3, but I still feel "The Cloud Minders" wastes its premise. What starts off as an episode with a very topical and radical theme, degenerates into fist-fights, a corny ending (Let's all just get along!) and a gamble on Kirk's part ("Let's expose everyone to gas!") which too simplifies complex real-world issues.

That said, the remastered version of this episode is stunning. Lots of new, neat, FX shots.
Tue, Apr 3, 2018, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
I re-watched this and, no longer distracted by the goofy costumes, found it much more powerful. Treating the zenite as a metaphor for class consciousness (rather than an attack on the IQ of the working class) also makes the episode more palatable. Some staggering dialogue too:


SPOCK: This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership. Here on Stratos, everything is incomparably beautiful and pleasant. The High Advisor's charming daughter Droxine, particularly so. I wonder, can she retain such purity and sweetness of mind and be aware of the life of the people on the surface of the planet? There, the harsh life in the mines is instilling the people with a bitter hatred. The young girl, Vanna, who led the attack against us when we beamed down was filled with the violence of desperation. If the lovely Droxine knew of the young miner's misery, I wonder how the knowledge would affect her.

VANNA: Lies will not keep the Troglytes in the caverns, and neither will your starship!

DROXINE: You talk like a Disrupter, Vanna.

VANNA: I speak for my people. They have as much right to the clouds as the Stratos dwellers.

DROXINE: But Stratos is for advisors and studiers. What would Troglytes do here?

VANNA: Live in the sunlight and warmth, as everyone should.

DROXINE: The caverns are warm and your eyes are not accustomed to light, just as your minds are not accustomed to logic.

KIRK: Unaccustomed to light and warmth? That's necessary to all humanoids. Surely, you don't deny it to the Troglytes.

DROXINE: The Troglytes are workers, Captain. Oh surely, you must be aware of that. They mine zenite for shipment, till the soil. Those things cannot be done here.

SPOCK: In other words, they perform all the physical toil necessary to maintain Stratos-

DROXINE: That is their function in our society!

SPOCK: But they are not allowed to share its advantages.

DROXINE: How can they share what they do not understand?

KIRK: They can be taught to understand, especially in a society that prides itself in enlightenment.

DROXINE: The complete separation of toil and leisure has given Ardana this perfectly balanced social system, Captain. Why should we change it?

SPOCK: The surface of the planet is almost unendurable. To restrict a segment of the population to such hardship is unthinkable in an evolved culture.

DROXINE: The surface is marred by violence, like the Troglytes. But here in Stratos, we have completely eliminated violence.

SPOCK: Violence in reality is quite different from theory, is it not, madam?

DROXINE: But what else can they understand, Mister Spock?

SPOCK: All the little things you and I understand and expect from life, such as equality, kindness, justice.

PLASUS: Troglytes are not like Stratos dwellers, Mister Spock. They're a conglomerate of inferior species. The abstract concepts of an intellectual society are beyond their comprehension.

KIRK: The abstract concepts of loyalty and leadership seem clear to Vanna.

PLASUS: A few Troglytes are brought here as retainers. Vanna was one of them, as are the sentinels. They've received more training than the others.

MCCOY: That may not be easy, Jim. Medical analysis indicates the Troglytes are mentally inferior.

KIRK: That's impossible, Bones!The Troglytes have accepted personal sacrifice, a common cause. Mentally inferior beings aren't capable of that.

MCCOY: Look, I've checked my findings thoroughly. Their intellect ratings are almost twenty percent below average.

SPOCK: But they're all the same species. Those who live on Stratos and those who live below all originated on the planet. Their physical and mental evolution must be similar. That is basic biological law.

MCCOY: That's true, Spock, but obviously the ancestors of those who live on Stratos removed themselves from the environment of the mines. Therefore they avoided the effects of certain natural growths.

KIRK: Natural growths? What kind?

MCCOY: Well. I had this zenite sample sent up from the surface. Now unsealed, it would have had detrimental effects on everybody here.

SPOCK: Incredible. Zenite is shipped all over the galaxy. No side effects have ever been reported.

MCCOY: There are none after it's refined. But in its raw state, it emits a odourless, invisible gas that retards the intellectual functioning of the mind and heightens the emotional.

KIRK: The planet is full of that gas.

MCCOY: That's right. And the Troglytes are constantly exposed to it.

PLASUS: Do you really expect me to believe that that mask can achieve intellectual equality for the Troglytes?

MCCOY: There's every indication that the effect of the gas is temporary, even after repeated exposure.

PLASUS: And do your computers explain how my ancestors, who also dwelt in caverns, evolved sufficiently to erect Stratos while the Troglytes did not?

SPOCK: Unequal evolution did not begin until after your ancestors removed themselves from constant exposure to the gas, Mister Advisor.

PLASUS: Preposterous.

VANNA: It's hard to believe something which is neither seen nor felt can do so much harm.

KIRK: That's true. But an idea can't be seen or felt. That's what's kept the Troglytes in the mines all these centuries, a mistaken idea.

VANNA: Centuries ago, Stratos was built by leaders that gave their word that all inhabitants would live there. The Troglytes are still waiting.

VANNA: But soon the atmosphere will go. We'll die.

KIRK: Die from something that can't be seen? You astound me, Vanna.

DROXINE: Father, are we so sure of our methods that we never question what we do?

PLASUS: How about your education? Was that by force?

VANNA: It served your purpose at the time.

VANNA: Our demands have just begun. Here is the zenite, Captain, just as I promised.

KIRK: Thank you, Vanna.

DROXINE: Stratos is so pleasant and so beautiful. I think I'm afraid to leave it.

SPOCK: There is great beauty in the knowledge that lies below, and only one way to really experience it.

DROXINE: I shall go to the mines. I no longer wish to be limited to the clouds. Is your planet like this one?

SPOCK: No, Vulcan is quite different.

DROXINE: Someday I should like to visit it.

KIRK: Perhaps some form of mediation can be helpful in your difficulties. The Federation Bureau of Industrialisation may be of aid to you.


MARX: Not the consciousness of men determines their being, but their social being determines their consciousness. [...] But the more these conscious illusions of the ruling class are shown to be false, the more dogmatically they are asserted and the more deceitful, moralizing and spiritual becomes the language of established society.
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 4:16pm (UTC -5)
All other things considered, I found one thing in this story that still has me laughing till my sides ache! I saw this episode when it first aired, and I noticed that there was a character named Droxine---and I said to my folks "That sounds more like a medicine!" Being a pharmacist's kid, I was curious, and I looked it up---and there it was, in one of the pharmaceutical publications mty father would bring home. "Droxine" was indeed the brand name of a medicine---a bronchodilator, an antiasthmatic that was used at the time in the treatment of asthma, emphysema and other such respiratory ailments. And since then I've always wondered if perhaps the scriptwriter had such a breathing problem...
Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
Great episode but I never understood the purpose of a city in the clouds, the amount of energy need must be staggering and any failure and down goes the entire city.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 10:36pm (UTC -5)
I accidentally watched this before Requiem or Eden, so I'll have to go back to those.

The special effects for the cloud city were good, though it made little sense. Why build a city in the clouds? Was it the only city in the entire planet? One city and everyone else lives in caves in the surface?

I liked Vanna, though I'd have liked her even better if she'd beat Kirk senseless at some point. Droxine and Spock just did not work.

Obvious theme about the effect of a toxic environment, and the vicious circle its citizens can find themselves trapped in.

The usual silliness all over the place, but still slightly above average.
Sarjenka's Brother
Sat, Aug 31, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
A for effort. Appreciate the equality message more than ever in 2019 having watched our overlords obscenely grow in wealth and power in the past few decades.

C for execution. That still leaves us with a B-episode. Good enough for me.

Observation on Stratos transporter: It's the prettiest one in any Trek, and also the most dangerously placed with only a small railing between you and the planet.
Tue, Sep 3, 2019, 6:03am (UTC -5)
Regarding the purpose behind building a city on a cloud, aside from the obvious class divide and privilege metaphor, maybe in-universe reasoning is precisely because it would be artsy. They are supposed to be high on culture and art so perhaps "Hey, you know what would look cool" was all the reasoning needed. Plus, as little interactions with their supposed lessers as possible.
JJ Not Abrams 8-)
Thu, Dec 24, 2020, 9:42am (UTC -5)
Thanks to Trent for the quotes in his post, making this so much easier.

Re-watch this episode and you will realize it is an allegory for Covid in the time of 2020 Politics:

PLASUS: Do you really expect me to believe that that mask can ...

VANNA: It's hard to believe something which is neither seen nor felt can do so much harm.

PLASUS: Preposterous.

VANNA: But soon ... We'll die.

KIRK: Die from something that can't be seen? You astound me, Vanna.

Sigh. It's all about the masks.
Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
The Cloud Minders

Star Trek season 3 episode 21

"I have never before met a Vulcan, sir."

"Nor I a work of art, madam.”

- Droxine & Spock, sitting in a tree

3 stars (out of 4)

As the crew of the Enterprise prepares to sail off for a decade long hiatus, it is nice to see them leaving us with some wonderful memories. So far season 3 has given us many memorable moments, from Spock playing a sexy Bond in “The Enterprise Incident” to Spock serenading Nurse Chapel with a beautiful ballad in “Plato” to Spock feeling jealously at seeing a man who has all the finer things in life in “Requiem.” It is time for Spock to taste the bite of cupid’s arrow.

When Spock’s parents visit the Enterprise in my personal favorite episode, “Journey to Babel,” Spock and his mother get into a very heated argument. At one point, Spock has that wonderful line,

SPOCK: Mother, how can you have lived on Vulcan so long, married a Vulcan, raised a son on Vulcan, without understanding what it means to be a Vulcan?

The same might be asked of Spock. How can he - half human himself - have served on a human ship so long without understanding what it means to be human? Bones essentially challenged Spock on that very point at the end of last week’s episode,

MCCOY: You'll never know the things that love can drive a man to. The ecstasies, the miseries, the broken rules, the desperate chances, the glorious failures, the glorious victories.

The miseries. The ecstasies.

The broken rules. Right away Spock starts breaking his rules. He ruminates that the planet does not have “wise leadership”. And yet he is drawn to it’s art and intellectual pursuits. He sneaks out as his captain is sleeping to see the woman he’s been told is herself a “work of art.” And he tells her about his very limited experience with sex, probably the most uncomfortable conversation any man or woman could find themselves in. I remember when Odo was so proud that his girlfriend didn’t realize it was his first time,

ARISSA: But you've never been with a woman before?

ODO: Could you tell?


ODO: Good. I don't ever want to leave this room. Can we stay here forever?

If only poor Data had received even half that tenderness from Tasha after they hooked up, maybe his exploration of his humanity would have been a lot deeper and more satisfying. But then, TNG was never very good with interpersonal relationships - nothing like like TOS and DS9. They say culture flows from the top. And Picard was a cold fish.

Droxine asks Spock if there is anything she can do to knock him out of his seven year funk. And Spock gives that very magical answer: maybe.

DROXINE: And is there nothing that can disturb that cycle, Mister Spock?

SPOCK: Extreme feminine beauty is always disturbing, madam.

Not only is this whole setup very satisfying, as pointed out by @Lorene, the episode is visually striking. @Ray makes a good point. Seldom has Star Trek been so sexy. The show in its later iterations, sadly, substitutes titillation for sexy. But the women here are sexy. Take Vanna. First, she can very well hold her own in a fight with Kirk and Spock at the top of the episode. But then, she - Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman like - puts on a beautiful dress and is well armed to go after Kirk. And Kirk can’t believe how great it feels,

KIRK: I'm not afraid. In fact, I find this rather enjoyable.

Vanna is a good leader. She’s the one who in the end, keeps her head and saves the day when Kirk & High Advisor Plasus have turned into Troglytes. And she’s beautiful. And she’s strong. Not a lot of people like her.

Speaking of the High Advisor, seeing Jeff Corey play High Advisor Plasus was a real treat. Just as we learned that we had lost the irreplaceable and incomparable Mira Furlan, Delenn from Babylon 5, to see Corey up on the screen brought a tear to my eye. Because of course, one of Corey's last performance on TV in his very long 62 year career, was on Babylon 5. On B5, he played Justin, just a few years before he died,

Not all is perfect here. I love @Outsider65’s hilarious critique, "I have to laugh at the fact that Kirk is taking a nap while on a critical, time sensitive mission.” LOL!! So true! And true also that plague is overused as a ticking time clock. Perhaps pandemics were the excuse in fashion back in the 60’s, sort of like terrorism is the excuse we’ve been using ever since 9/11, to justify all kinds of horrid behavior. Fortunately, once again we live in a world where infectious disease can be used by TV shows in that way ;)

DROXINE: I don't like filters, or even masks.

@Trent, feel free to add that to your wonderful collection of quotes. Including Kirk’s hilarious line, delivered with perfect deadpan timing,

KIRK: Die from something that can't be seen? You astound me, Vanna.

"The Cloud Minders” sticks to the simple and timeless message that is at the core of Star Trek. It does it with good humor and loving tenderness. It is an episode that was always a favorite of mine in childhood, and I’m so happy to see it is just as enjoyable - more enjoyable even - watching it now as an adult.
Peter G.
Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
Great review, Mal. This episode is really one of the high points of Trek. It combines intellectual discussion, a tantalizing look at what plenty can achieve in good hands, a class struggle with more than mere greed behind it, an examination of environemnt and how that shapes behavior, and even a bit of actually relevant action where the fighting is directly tied to the circumstances of the miners and the gas.

The sorts of direct statements in an episode like this could be seen as terse by today's standards. Having a dude walk up to a lady and call her a work of art, and have their mutual admiration a fait accomplis with no other smalltalk, flirting, or lead-up, is actually refreshing to me. What they think of each other is both physically and logically clear, so why not be clear? And likewise, the facts regarding the gas and the aggressive behavior leave nothing to guesswork: it *definitely* has an effect. The episode doesn't tell us how much of an effect, but it is stated as a simple fact that having to breathe in this environment leads to aggression. And yet it doesn't denounce the aristocratic cloud dwellers as being deliberately manipulative either; it's not like the upper class fatcat who keeps the people in their place so that he can line his pockets. Here there are only people to respect, no one to look down on, and this is something I don't think you'll see in modern American media. In TV (and apparently politics) today someone is either the bad guy, or sullied in some way, or it's grimdark and everyone is shades of grey, probably all of them sort of low on virtue generally. It's hard to find someone in Game of Thrones, for example, that I'd like to actually hang out with. TOS has a funny way of making even the guest actors inviting. We were just talking about Requiem for Methuselah, and you know for all the episode's quirks, Flint still seems like a cool guy to know. Here it's the same: even after the reveal that the Troglytes have been abused, we don't suddenly see Droxine as being some abusive witch. There is no veil to lift here; she really was what she appeared to be, there was just something new to learn about nature and how it affects people. That's a nice message.
Sat, Jan 23, 2021, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Loved your review Mal for one of my favourite episodes. There really is so much here that TOS does wonderfully.

Spock's monologue is brilliant and as a Spock episode I like how you've turned the tables in asking how he can not understand what it means to be human. I never thought of that aspect, but if there is some continuity to how McCoy chides him in that prior episode (which I believe is "Requiem for Methuselah") then there is some growth for the character here -- or at least added depth. What's been interesting in S3 is how Spock evolves -- really opening up about the mating aspects here is so different from "Amok Time". Maybe it all had to do with McCoy rewiring his brain in "Spock's Brain"! But then he also hit his head in "That Which Survives" and started acting like a jerk...

It's also great that we get scenes where Plasus and Droxine discuss the situation without any of the main cast present, we really get to understand their motivations. I also liked Vanna a great deal -- man, was she hot in that cave scene...

And I don't know if you notice the very final shot in this episode is a glance at Droxine and a hint of the love she might have fulfilled with Spock that is likely gone forever. It always says a lot for me.

I think this episode is quintessential Trek and going back to the discussion on "The Enterprise Incident", while this episode doesn't rate as quite as highly for me as that one did (it's not far off 8/10 vs. 9/10), I think it is more "series defining" than "The Enterprise Incident", which I hadn't considered before.
Mon, Feb 8, 2021, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Beautiful opening shot of Enterprise.

Uhura is like the unthanked office den mother doing all the work. She deserves a raise. However, at some point she’s going to have to remind the boys to at least take a mini phaser when they go out to play.

Spock age 39. Droxana age 23. Half plus 7 rule violation almost awarded to Spock. Thank goodness for the Vulcan 7 year biology imperative thing. Of course Kirk doesn’t even let a Troglyte trowel of death slow his biological imperatives. Whatever. What goes on the road, stays on the road.

Are you telling me Starfleet has had N95 masks this whole freakin time? How many pandemics has this crew been through? Do they not teach the Great Covid Pandemic of 2020? Wow. I guess the anti-maskers won.

Meanwhile, high in Stratus, Cosmic gamma radiation exceeding recommended yearly Msv limits...Ignorance is bliss.

This show Was almost as predictive as the Simpsons!

Kirk smiles and says “Well, I guess my little experiment was quite a success!”
Bones glares. (...Yeah f%&$ing great Jim, you just got this sweet gig cancelled and I’m going to spend the next year on DS4 preparing for your court martial).
Fri, May 21, 2021, 1:03am (UTC -5)
Two main thoughts about The Cloud Minders.

1. It’s obviously a reworking of HG Wells’ “The Time Machine”, where Stratos = Eloi (with added endemic violence) and Trogl(od)ytes = Morlocks (their intellectual inferiority due to a gas rather than centuries underground).

2. It’s something of a dialled-in episode but with attractive elements: the city in the clouds, the dialogue between Spock and Droxine, the philosophical underpinnings. However, there is no great tension or much intelligent thematic development. The episode is characterised by this exchange:

KIRK (pinning Vanna to the floor): I’m not afraid. In fact, [leering] I find it rather enjoyable.
VANNA: I do not!
KIRK: I’ll make a deal with you. Answer some questions and I’ll let you up.
VANNA: What questions?
KIRK: Your word...
VANNA: I’ll answer.

Kirk-by-numbers. TOS-by-numbers. Spock had by far the best of it, recounting to Droxine about Pon Farr, and given some intelligent lines generally (though why didn’t he use the Vulcan nerve pinch in the fight scenes?).

An enjoyable though not mind-stretching episode. 2.5 stars.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Vanna was hot in her own right, but Droxine, wow!!! She was smoking hot!!! This was the best episode in quite a while in season 3. How Kirk could beam down into a hostile environment without an armed security detail once again was laughable. A very enjoyable episode, I give it an A.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 11:10am (UTC -5)
I have to admit I've always been puzzled by the negative reaction to Spock's interest in Droxine, because they seem to think Spock should be a one-dimensional character who can not *as himself* adjust over time to what we've seen before. Yes, in "Amok Time" he's not anxious to talk about the pon farr ritual, but we need to take into account that *after* the events of that episode, he's likely to have changed a good deal. In fact there was even a memo from Gene Coon that said Spock was now *as himself* free to be more open regarding his interests in women in the wake of the episode.

I think also, we should ask if the way he approaches Droxine is not on the whole, all that different from the kind of "courting" that had taken place between Sarek and Amanda. To me, what's refreshing about Droxine's attraction to Spock is that while she allows herself to go into school-girl crush mode away from his presence, when she's with him, she acts in a way more appropriate to how Spock might appreciate it. She doesn't get all mushy the way Chapel does, she doesn't even smile, and she keeps the conversation on a purely intellectual level. To me, it shows a totally plausible way for how Spock as himself (in contrast to his romances with Leila and Zarabeth which are influenced by outside events) might find the ideal woman for him. And honestly, after his experience with T'Pring, I think he'd be much more inclined (like his father before) to appreciate a non-Vulcan woman who tries to approach him on the Vulcan level as Droxine does.

Droxine's willingness to question her "carefully taught" beliefs at episode's end shows that she's willing to take the steps forward to make herself more worthy of Spock in the future. That too is a nice touch I think. And Diana Ewing I think doesn't get enough credit for her performance because if you ever saw any of her non-Trek roles, she tended to play the rebellious hippie which itself shows that it's not far-fetched to see the character of Droxine changing (she's certainly no Julia Duffy Stephanie Vanderkellen type!).
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 9:36am (UTC -5)
Star Trek tackles class struggle in 1969. But the leftists have only hijacked Star Trek in the last few weeks. Of course.
Jason R.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 9:44am (UTC -5)
"Star Trek tackles class struggle in 1969. But the leftists have only hijacked Star Trek in the last few weeks. Of course."

What was "left" in 1969 would make the "far right" of today look like pinko commies.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
This episode was straight up Das Kapital, and so much further left than your typical 1960s American liberal. You'd have to go back to the 1920s to find common Americans supportive of these talking points. By the 1950s and 60s such radicalism had been corralled to the arts and amongst the intelligentsia.

The far right in the 1960s were straight up KKK types, segregationists, white nationalists and anti miscegenationists, with a splattering of anti semites, all of whom dovetailed with mainstream conservative politicians. They're opposition wouldn't have been "leftists" - American worker movements had been crushed by this point - but Kennedy type liberals, who'd have probably hated this episode.

The lines haven't changed much between 1969 and now. An alt-righter then believes the same as now, the rhetoric is just dressed up a bit. And as in the 1960s, mainstream conservatism has again reinvigorated itself via the alt-right.

A 1960s liberal is also pretty much a 2020 liberal, minus climate change, gay and trans stuff. And a modern leftist is even more similar to a 1960s leftist; those leftist intellectuals don't budge from their class/economic arguments, and, at least when you examine the leftist science fiction writers of the 60s and early 70s (Delany, Sherri Tepper etc), were generally ahead of the curve on climate and gay/trans issues.

So I don't think the political spectrum's changed much since the 1960s. And Trek's place in the spectrum probably hasn't changed much either. "The Cloud Minders" was one of the rare times the show went full Marx. Ignore some world-building touches by Coon and Roddenberry, and mostly the franchise embodies the position of a middle-of-the-road Democrat (who loves all people and races, and occasionally bombs civilians).
Wed, Oct 20, 2021, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
I was always impressed with how TOS foreshadowed so much of our future, technological innovation as well as cultural developments. I never would have guessed that rewatching the finale episodes of season three 53 years after my first viewing would again prove this point: Vaccine hesitancy last week (Eden) and KN95 masks this week (Cloud Minders). I am really touched by how relevant and lifetime connecting this series remains for me, at age 66. The more things change, the more they don’t. And all will be well.
Sun, Oct 24, 2021, 9:05am (UTC -5)
"always impressed with how TOS foreshadowed so much of our future"

Well put. I can't agree more. I just watched The Cloud Minders last night and saw so much overlap with the present day. Disdain for masks was at the top of the list of the episode's various prognostications. It also handled well the problem of mounting social bifurcation of haves versus have-nots.

I find it particularly special because it includes Spock's inner thought sequence (soliliquy) with its beautiful dissolves and visual call-backs of Droxine and Vanna. This device is not used as far as I know, in any other episode of TOS.

"...Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership." Spock's words still resonate and should be required on the syllabus for all those entering public service.
Sat, Nov 27, 2021, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
Above average episode, with themes that still resonate to this day.

Mainly, I just wanted to comment on some of the views expressed here about the apparent sexism in this episode. While there certainly is some of that pre-women's lib stuff going on, the fact that some of the same people complaining about sexism then turn around and suggest Droxine is anorexic and needs fattening up, is just too much irony for me.

Some women are naturally skinny, some choose to work at this. It is not for you or anyone else to tell them what they ought to look like. This whole "real women have curves" thing is no less discriminatory and objectifying as the attitudes it professes to oppose. Women come in any number of shapes and sizes, and they are all "real". Substituting one idealised notion of bodily perfection for another is not the enlightened attitude you think it is.
Lawrence Bullock
Mon, Feb 7, 2022, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
I'll add another star to the rating, but only because Jeff Corey was my acting coach both in Los Angeles and Mendocino. Always a kick to see him applying all the things he taught us to his own acting.
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 1:33am (UTC -5)
"How Kirk could beam down into a hostile environment without an armed security detail once again was laughable."

He didn't know it was hostile. He had talked to the government of Stratos and they invited him to beam into the city but Kirk made the decision to beam directly to the mine entrance thinking it would be a faster way to get the Zenite from them. I don't think at that point they even knew about the Troglytes.
matt h
Sun, Nov 27, 2022, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
THis episode make me want to summon Karl Marx -- whose views I usually despise in general. The idea that the class division here is the product of mining gas rather than actual oppression and exploitation is stupid like the widespread belief that unleaded gas explains the presence of crime in the 1960-1980s. It is clear that the cloud people are oppressing and taking advantage of the Troglodytes or whatver theyre called. And that is the basis for their rage and dysfunctions.

I recall reading I think it was David Gerrold complaining that the gas was a distraction and copout. And he was a co-writer if it was him.
Peter G.
Sun, Nov 27, 2022, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
@ matt h,

I'll offer a defense of the gas plot point. What happens in systems where one class has a perpetual advantage over another isn't jus that wealth begets wealth, but that the conditions of the underclass actually change them. For instance growing up in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood doesn't just mean you have less money, but it also means you are used to different conditions, may have a social network involving bad influences, and other factors such as drug use in the family or neighborhood, gangs, and distrust of the police. All of these factors contribute to the class divide even putting aside money, and from the perspective of a well-to-do person it might appear at first glance that a member of the underclass is 'worse' as a person.

The gas element in this episode conveys, I think, that this perception isn't just a result of a bigoted bias by the rich folk who are otherwise the same in every way as the underclasses. It is an actual fact that there are material differences between them. For an extreme example, look at the comportment and manner of speech of the British Royal family as compared to, say, a Scottish football hooligan. This is not just upper-class snobbery, but there are fundamental differences between every part of how these people act. Pygmalion and later My Fair Lady play around with the question of what it would take to change the one into the other, but the amusement in that question is only possible once we realize how obvious is it that they started off worlds apart.

What the episode is saying seems to me to be a precursor to a quite modern conception of raising up those who are below, which is that you can address the environment factors themselves without even worrying about who is at fault. In the episode, remove the gas, and they will change automatically even if the Stratoses have the same perceptions. In fact, being charitable for the moment, their perceptions may even in large part have been shaped by the Troglyte behavior, meaning that they weren't exactly being unfair in their assessment, or not intentionally anyhow. So we can hope at least that if they observe the Troglytes changing into a less barbaric comportment, they might well change their opinion and treatment of their own accord rather than it having to be imposed on them (e.g. by a revolution by the underclass). From this standpoint I think the gas angle is fine, insofar as it's a one-dimensional environmental factor which stands in for what would otherwise by a multi-dimensional analysis.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 2:43am (UTC -5)
The episode attempts to connect factors that are both Environmental and Societal. Stratos dwellers force the majority of the Troglytes to labor in the mines and justify this bondage by claiming that the Troglytes are inherently inferior.

The so-called 'inherent inferiority' is actually a retardation of the Troglyte population which occurs because of that population's continual exposure to the gas, which is released because of their forced occupation, and that is mining. BTW They do not mine the gas, they mine zenite /xenite.

If a Troglyte is raised on Stratos, the harmful effects of the gas are nullified. Impulse control and executive functions are improved for those individuals (exemplified by Vanna).

Kevin Drum's Mother Jones article on the atmospheric lead / crime connection was written nearly 10 years ago (2013). It draws together some interesting data, but is oversimplified. Lead is no doubt poisonous to human brains, but its presence is not the sole predictor of crime or criminality. With crime rates now rising (again) we can see that other factors and forces in the contribute to its growth.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 8:23am (UTC -5)
That is actually not true. Overall crime has gone done, even violent crime. Property crime has gone down considerably. Murder has gone up, though. But all those numbers are somewhat problematic because the FBI switched to a new data system and that seems to have created lots of problems.
Here an article that untangles it a little.

About the lead question, there is a veritasium video that is quite interesting. It's called"The Man Who Accidentally Killed The Most People In History"
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 9:18am (UTC -5)
As usual, I appreciate receiving from you, additional sources which suggest different conclusions. There appear to be gaps in the data. The BBC story does do some beneficial untangling, but even it admits that 40% of police departments in the US have not reported figures for 2021 to the FBI, and major US cities have not been covered:

"There are questions about the reliability of the FBI's crime report as it excluded data from some of the biggest US cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco."

Thank you for suggesting the veritasium video. I will look at it. : )
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 10:35am (UTC -5)
Oh and there is a video on the veritasium channel about svalbard the northernmost city. It's sooo cool. ;)
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 11:14am (UTC -5)

At least for the US, there's no question violent crime is on the rise. The focus should be on death certificates (though not 100% perfect) for murder.

Comprehensive records from death certificates show that about 24,500 people were murdered in 2021. This is about 1,000 more murders than in 2020 and
6,000 more murders than in 2019.

When Biden became president, the FBI changed the way it reports violent crime. Their Crime Data Explorer tool is a disaster and greatly obfuscates the data.
Peter G.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Even if violent crime were on the rise, trying to link that fact to an attempt to disprove the connection between lead poisoning and developmental damage is ridiculous. Crime being on the rise can be a result of any number of factors, none of which need to be related to the reasons for historic reductions in crime levels. Some of the reasons may overlap, but there could be all new reasons as well. Mental health issues as a result of covid conditions seems to me a no-brainer as a possible factor, and I'm sure there are others. Anyhow it all seems moot to me since the episode is not about lead poisoning but rather about a fictional gas. Was the lead poisoning theory even common in 1968, such that we might imagine the writers had it in mind?
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
Violent crime rates are unchanged 2020-21 but murder has gone up. Still well below the 2018 spike and the lowest rate in US history, according to the NCVS. The FBI numbers are indeed somewhat unreliable for the most recent past but the numbers they did provide show a somewhat similar picture.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

"Even if violent crime were on the rise, trying to link that fact to an attempt to disprove the connection between lead poisoning and developmental damage is ridiculous."

Who was trying to do this?? I wasn't making any connection with violent crime (murder) being up and lead poisoning / development damage. I will say my comment had nothing to do with this episode but just to provide some facts and point out the FBI's changes to "Sigh2000".

I'd add that since the pandemic, there are logical reasons for why crime in the US would be up -- but that's the topic for another conversation somewhere else.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
@ Rahul,
Thanks for your reply.

Not sure what Peter G. is referring to. Was anyone trying to disprove a connection between lead poisoning and developmental damage? I certainly wasn't.

The episode certainly suggested that developmental problems would result from exposure to zenite gas, and this was one of its more interesting aspects.
Peter G.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
@ Rahul & Sigh2000,

I was originally replying to matt h's comment here:

"The idea that the class division here is the product of mining gas rather than actual oppression and exploitation is stupid like the widespread belief that unleaded gas explains the presence of crime in the 1960-1980s"

The argument I was replying to got piggybacked by other replies such as yours, and I was just making sure it was clear that any current stats about potentially rising crime or murder rates cannot have any impact on the realities of lead in the past. In other words, I was inserting a hard separation between your comments and matt's so that there can't be any confusion that the nuances being argued support the criticism of the episode being stupid in assigning a significant degree of blame to a physically harmful substance.
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G.

Got it. Thanks for clarifying. : )
Wed, Dec 28, 2022, 3:59pm (UTC -5)
The role of lead poisoning in crime spikes is backed by academic research -- not enough to say it was the sole factor, but at least some. We have no clear evidence of causation in the whole chain, but we have correlation as well as the knowledge that lead from leaded gasoline and paint chips causes slight lead poisoning and also that lead poisoning during development causes lower intelligence and higher aggression. Lo and behold, the generations who grew up with lead exposure have higher rates of violent street crime like assault and murder.

It would be reductive to say that lead poisoning is the determinant of behavior in society in general or that other factors are irrelevant (see Chicago in the 21st century or all the USA in the past few years).

But it isn't ridiculous.

Try reading more before forming hot takes or donning airs of intelligent contrarianism.

I am reminded of the ill-informed and bad faith rebuttals of Putnam's thesis on social capital and the role of TV.

I am also reminded of global warming deniers scoffing at the idea of mass animal farming affecting CO2 levels. "Cow farts cause a greenhouse effect? Wut? LOL!"
Peter G.
Mon, Jan 30, 2023, 10:36am (UTC -5)
A few observations that I had forgotten about this one:

Kirk and Spock do not originally intend to visit Stratos at all, and very briefly make their apologies while saying they need to rush off with the zenite. This is interesting as it establishes the urgency in using the flagship as a medical relief vessel. In TNG we see civilian missions far more often, but in TOS the use of the Enterprise seems relegated much more to very important interstellar matters. They don't just go around saying hi to local Federation members and checking in on their scientific research.

Another interesting thing I noticed is the episode's view on Plasus and his claims that the Stratoses have totally eliminated violence. There is one time this platitude is uttered and the scene cuts immediately to the torture of Vanna. That is pretty much a straight authorial comment that it is simply false that the stratoses have eliminated violence or the desire for it. What they have done is establish a cushy and pleasant environment, therefore removing the reasons why they might want to be violent. But the moment their little tower is challenge they get plenty angry and violent, if Plasus is meant to be representative of his people. The fact that Droxine is presented as a 'work of art' suggests she is something special, which I think her change of heart suggests is indeed something setting her apart. This would make Plasus a typical Stratos-dweller. Plasus even goes as far as to later say he'd kill every Troglyte if that's what it took to get the zenite, a telling statement.


Finally, I like very much that what's pitched as a Spock/Droxine romance turns out instead to him mentoring her, in a way that would be echoed in his relationship to Saavik/Valeris in the films. He wants her to be as noble as possible, and prefer that to trying to make her a mate.
Tue, Feb 14, 2023, 8:55am (UTC -5)
I always enjoy rewatching this episode. I find the story line to be an interesting one. The women and costumes make this one a must see. As for the Droxine characters body type, I find it refreshing compared to some of today's overweight, big booty,silicone injected,no talent behemoths that parade around in the media. A combination Zenite and Droxine prescription should be able to cure all the world's ailments.
Wed, Feb 15, 2023, 11:23am (UTC -5)
Women are supposed to have curves!
Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
One thing really botters me in this episode: why Kirk didn't just kept the mask while hiding from the guard, or at least requested to one being beamed down for himself while keeping vanna and plasus for his "demonstration" — I mean, they needed to go crazy to see for themselfs, not him!

And when Vanna is being tortured and Plasus threatens to get Kirk "removed by the sentinels", Kirk tells him the Federation will not like to know about his officers being molested. All right, but then, just a few seconds later, Plasus tells Kirk to get back to the ship or he will tell the Federation about Kirk's interference and Kirk obbeys, instead of just saying "yeah, tell the Federation I'm interfering on you TORTURING PEOPLE, they will love to know it".

I would let those kinds of things pass in a lot of episodes, but this one seems to take itself seriously, and in fact have great lines — therefore making these dumb points really stand out in contrast
Peter G.
Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
@ F,

Those two incidents you mention don't seem contradictory to me. In one cases Plasus was going to use force to remove Kirk, which would have resulted in Federation sanction. In the second case Plasus threatened to report Kirk to the Federation for interference, which is in fact legitimate. If Kirk has a grievance with a Federation world (or even one closely allied with them) then he has to report it to Starfleet for it to be resolved diplomatically. In this case the only reason Kirk has to resort to expeditive measures early on is because of the severe and time sensitive need for the zenite. Normally Kirk would only do this type of thing if his ship and crew were directly threatened.
Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 8:58pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G,

I guess that was the idea... but although The Federation is depicted sometimes as having some dumb bureocracy, I find it difficult to see someone reporting Kirk for "interfering" on TORTURING PEOPLE and that causing trouble for Kirk, or at least more trouble for Kirk than for the torturer. And, even if we think Starfleet would somehow punish Kirk and do nothing with Plasus: is Kirk willing to go along with torture just to avoid some Starfleet disciplinary action? Because that is what it ended up meaning hahaha.

And there is one more problem: so Plasus says "Get out of my planet or I will report you for interfering!". Now, after Kirk leaves, if Plasus was doing something well in his rights, why did he stoped his torture then?
Peter G.
Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
@ F,

It's not clear what the laws are in this case so it's hard to say. Did this planet sign a treaty banning them from using torture? If so it would be odd that they do so routinely and think there won't be any consequence. On the other hand this doesn't seem to be a Federation world:

KIRK: Who are you? What's the meaning of this attack?
VANNA: Interference breeds attack, Captain. Come on!
KIRK: We're here by permission of your government council on an emergency mission.

As a non-aligned world they would presumably be under no obligation to explain to Starfleet what they do with their own people as police actions. Granted, even in the present day there is some concern about whether inhumane conditions exist in the supply chain, for instance slave labor. It's also possible that the Ardanians lied about the Troglye working conditions and the Federation never sent inspectors for some reason. None of this is directly relevant to the episode's theme, but I do think it's important to remember that it's not Kirk's job to go around telling people how to run their society or put a stop to their internal procedures. In this case Kirk does interfere, but this is the reason he gives:

PLASUS [on monitor]: You are here to complete an emergency mission, not conduct tests, Captain.
KIRK: I am here to get that zenite. If these will help me get them, I'll use them.
PLASUS [on monitor]: And I forbid it. Your Federation orders do not entitle you to defy local governments. This communication has ended.

Kirk seems to place getting the zenite as his top priority here, which allows him to conclude that getting the cooperation of the Troglytes is necessary. I don't think he sides with them purely out of justice, or at least that may be a happy side effect of completing his mission. To answer your question about why Plasus stops torturing Vanna after saying he can do whatever he wants, I think it may be because of this:

PLASUS: Why are you so concerned with this Disrupter's well-being?
KIRK: Beyond plain humanitarianism, my orders are to get that zenite.
PLASUS: Then stop interfering, and I'll get it for you.
KIRK: You won't get it through torture.
PLASUS: We will get it for you, and in our own way.

It seems that perhaps Plasus did in fact realize the torture wasn't working; or perhaps they were letting her rest before trying again.
matthew h
Sat, May 13, 2023, 8:13am (UTC -5)
Someone has mentioned Metropolis as inspiration but the more probable and fitting one is Laputa, a flying island, in Gulliver's Travels. which was a metaphor for British rule in Ireland.,any%20direction%20using%20magnetic%20levitation.
Thu, Jun 1, 2023, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
I am so tired of Trek now, I have a hard time enjoying even supposedly good episodes.

The dialogue rhythm was poor. The young woman cloying. Spock spoke of Vulcan pride. The Maguffin deadline was preposterous. Nothing interesting happened except a suicide.

Oh, and this episode had me mispronouncing troglodyte for decades.


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