Star Trek: Voyager

"The Cloud"

3 stars

Air date: 2/13/1995
Teleplay by Tom Szollosi and Michael Piller
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"B'Elanna is the only one I know who tried to kill her animal guide." — Chakotay

The crew ventures into a nebula to search for power supplies which may ease the burden on the limited energy supply. In the process, they encounter what seems to be a cosmic storm that traps them, and they are forced to blast their way out with weapons. Later, the crew discovers that the storm was not simply a natural phenomenon, but a lifeform that is probably now severely injured due to the Voyager's presence.

Well, the plot isn't much—it is in fact another derivative Misunderstood Lifeform Plot that TNG turned into a Trek cliche long ago. It's surprising that this fresh new series has yet to tell a fresh new story. If it wasn't for the character moments, "The Cloud" would be in trouble. But characterization is everything here. In fact, this story would probably have worked just as well if the plot wasn't there at all.

Do you care about the plot? To call it minimal would be an understatement. Voyager travels into the cloud, gets trapped, and has to use excessive force to escape. It isn't until hours later that Janeway realizes what has happened and decides she has to return to the cloud to save a lifeform. Unfortunately, when going back into the cloud, the Voyager is threatened again, as it spirals to its doom in a hurricane-like environment, portrayed by some rather cheesy-looking special effects. Naturally, the ship isn't going to be destroyed (in another iteration of the jeopardy premise), or else the series would be over. Voyager is able to escape without serious damage—and they are successful in healing the innocent lifeform.

So forget the plot anyway. The reason "The Cloud" ends up being the best episode of Voyager so far is because of the wonderful cast interaction. Aside from the moments dealing with this cloud, this show has an easygoing, relaxed pace, which is definitely in the show's favor.

The episode opens with a captain's log voice-over, in which Janeway considers her options as the role of leader in the midst of the unique situation of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Should she simply remain an official figure who distances herself from the day-to-day personal lives of her crew, or should she take the time to become a friend both on and off duty? It's a tough call and a relevant issue to touch on.

At the very least, it seems things have become a little more casual between Janeway and Chakotay. The spiritual first officer helps the captain take a visionary trip in search of her "animal guide," which may be able to offer insights into the personality. It doesn't sound like much, but this portion of the show is surprisingly absorbing, showing Chakotay's spiritual beliefs in a relaxed way that doesn't feel forced or underdeveloped.

We are introduced to Paris' slice-of-home holodeck program—a French pool hall where he invites people to hang out. My favorite Voyager interpersonal relationship, the always-amiable Paris/Kim friendship, gets further use here. One question this holodeck angle brings up, however, is why in the world the crew would be wasting power on the holodecks when they don't even have the power to replicate food. A bit of a logic hole, I would say, but nothing that detracts from the scenes or the show as a whole.

Kes shows continued improvement as a character with a refreshing, exuberant sense of adventure, who is glad to be aboard the Voyager and its crew of travelers. This is a new spin that is a relief to see, changing my view of what I originally feared the character was going to be—that of Voyager's token "Counselor Troi" character.

There's also the Doctor, who brings out the laughs with his sharp-edged sarcasm that has the greatest timing. He's blunt, and doesn't care that he's blunt. In response, Janeway is relatively quick to mute the speakers.

Neelix has some humorous lines of discontent as well, calling the Voyager explorers a group of idiots with a death wish. Nevertheless, he decides to lift the spirits of the crew during the moments of jeopardy by bringing food to the bridge and labeling himself the "morale officer." I'll have to admit, this is the first time I've seen anyone come to the bridge in the middle of a red alert carrying a food tray. It's a tad amusing in it's unconventionality.

"The Cloud" may best be described as a collection of seemingly random scenes that explore the characters. I say that's just fine. The optimistic final scene, where Janeway decides to join her crew in the holodeck for some billiards, sums up "Cloud's" intentions. The plot is merely a frame. The heart is the characterization, which couldn't be much better.

Previous episode: Phage
Next episode: Eye of the Needle

◄ Season Index

39 comments on this review

Jasper
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Just to note, I do realize that I am putting a comment at an article that was written fourteen years ago. However, I have seen a certain misconception so often, that I really wanted to respond to it.

The review states:
One question this holodeck angle brings up, however, is why in the world the crew would be wasting power on the holodecks when they don't even have the power to replicate food.

Well... the producers simply wanted the holodeck, so right in parallax, they adressed this issue by stating that the holodeck power was incompatible with the other systems.
Jammer
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
^ Which is simply a lame explanation. If the point of being stranded is the crew will have to "rough it," then there shouldn't be holodecks to rely on as a story device in the first place.

But the story instead wants to have it both ways.
Seraphim
Tue, Aug 25, 2009, 5:33am (UTC -5)
Mmm, I really can't see any starship lugging around a reactor or whatever built just to power the holodecks (which must take a hefty amount of power to run) and if the ship's power is converted into incompatible 'holodeck energy' then it came from a central source anyway and holodecks would be the first to be taken offline in the event of such a crisis as being stranded far from home. Gaping holes in logic aside, the character moments and development make this episode very watchable.
Jay
Sat, Sep 5, 2009, 12:02am (UTC -5)
Sorry...I'm with Jammer. With all the constant "reroute power to so and so" that excuse is beyond lame. Power is power.
Eduardo
Tue, Jan 5, 2010, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Rerouting power was always an easy way to solve a story issue. Both Ron Moore and Brannon Braga admitted they actually wrote "tech the tech" in dialogue between Picard and LaForge, during the ST Generations DVD commentary.

This explanation only works the first time around. Abusing it becomes tiresome, as is dropping the term EPS conduits in every episode.
Carbetarian
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
I'm also with Jammer on this one. It's ridiculous that they can't replicate food, but they can run the holodecks.

I hate to admit this, but I kind of agreed with Neelix and his "these people are idiots" speech. For me, the weakest part of Voyager was always that they continued exploring in the Delta Quadrant as though they were back home. I get that they're explorers and I get that the need to find supplies. But, seriously, when you're 75 years away from the nearest star base with no way to be sure you can repair damage to your ship, it is kind of stupid to just go flying into random nebulas like that. Don't they still have shuttle crafts? Wouldn't it be a better idea to risk one of those to check out the nebula instead of just taking the ship in and hoping for the best?

Anyway, this was an ok episode. I didn't like it as much as Jammer did though. For me, this one was two stars. Maybe two and a half, at best. The stuff between Chakotay and Janeway was great. Kim and Tuvok had a funny scene together. The doctor was hilarious, as per usual. But, I thought Tom's holodecks program was stupid and the cloud creature was totally lame and forgettable.
Jay
Sat, Sep 3, 2011, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Carbetarian is right...if VOyager just headed straight for home and didn't look back, there's no way they woyuld have suffered the various Kazon attacks in Season 2...VOyager is faster and they never would have caught up with them. They lope and meander so much that Ensign Ballard was able to catch up with them in a shuttle in just 6 months...
Nathan
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
This must be the prequel to "Threshold", where we see Janeway become her animal guide.
Ravo
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 1:41am (UTC -5)
The best part about this episode is Neelix's rant. It was like he read my mind. This is one of the biggest problems I have with VOY as a whole. The constant pointless risk taking and extremely convenient plot lines that seem to encourage even dumber stunts. When you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with limited resources you don't waste them on stupid excursions like... well, like this episode.

It's ironic that the writers included Neelix's rant in the episode. It's like they were acknowledging "Yeah this is a pretty stupid idea but hell we can write some fairies and unicorns into the story and everything will turn out dandy".
Dork Knight
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 3:22am (UTC -5)
I may be late to the party, but this is my first go around with Voyager and so far I'm woefully underwhelmed. Does it remain this frustratingly stupid, or are these the typical first-season hiccups Trek seems to go through?

If there ends up being season after season of zany holodeck nonsense, but Janeway still can't replicate a cup of coffee, I'm going to be pretty livid, and I doubt I'll make it through the series.
Paul
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 11:16am (UTC -5)
Voyager grows up a little. The second season was a bad attempt at a continuing storyline and season four's addition of Seven of Nine spices things up.

But you should prepare to be frustrated. Voyager certainly had its moments, but its lack of continuity on things like dead crewmen, shuttles and torpedoes becomes incredibly annoying.

Voyager is unique among the second-generation Star Trek series in how little it developed and improved. A first-season episode of TNG, DS9 and even Enterprise seem much different than a fourth-season episode.

Other than Seven's presence, character hairstyles and the sometimes the Paris/Torres relationship, there's little or no character growth (certainly no believable or entertaining character growth) for seven years! It's kind of amazing.

Finally, Voyager had the most interesting premise and did next to nothing with it. By season 3, it's essentially TNG in the Delta Quadrant. Jammer is pretty hard on the series -- and he's absolutely right to be that way.
DavidK
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -5)
@Paul "Finally, Voyager had the most interesting premise and did next to nothing with it. By season 3, it's essentially TNG in the Delta Quadrant."

That's a good point actually. In retrospect if Voyager had been essentially TNG v2.0, set in the Alpha Quadrant, I think people would have been kinder to it. "More of the same" accusations would have been levelled against it but I think it would have been a smother ride for everyone.

I'm genuinely puzzled about the whole Delta Quadrant thing. If you don't want continuity, that's fine, but why saddle yourself with a premise that demands it? And if they regretted the setup, which I suspect they did, why not send them home at the first opportunity? It almost feels like the writers were either saddled with a plot they didn't want or, if it was their idea, were forbidden from drastically altering the premise during the run of the show.

I actually don't mind Voyager that much, it definitely has its moments, but I think even big fans would agree it's curious the writers would pick such an ongoing scenario and then ignore it. I mean as much flak as DS9 gets for the Maquis, I believe they were developed for Voyager's premise, but it's barely ever an issue.
Dork Knight
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 4:39am (UTC -5)
@DavidK & Paul -

I feared as much. The idea of a ship on a long journey having to hold its own with no starbases, conserve its weapons and manufacture/refine its own fuel is a cool one, and I'm sure there's a good way to do it (ahem BSG ahem), but aside from some throw-away lines in the first season, the writers seemed to forget that it was any kind of issue. "Only 35 Photons left" my ass.

Plus, the crew... I feel bad, because I'm sure most of it has to do with the writers giving them absolutely nothing, but aside from Chakotay and Tuvok (both of whom get no stories, it seems), I really don't give a shite about any of these people. I'm 3 seasons in and I honestly don't care if any of them die (even though it's become painfully obvious that the writers don't have the balls for that kind of move).

It's a far cry from the feeling of familiarity and affection for pretty much every primary, secondary, and background character who putters around DS9. Hell, I feel like I have a better grasp on the clear-headed Captain Boday than I do anyone on Voyager, and he never actually showed up on screen.

Such a good premise that (so far, though it seems unlikely to change) went completely to waste.

I suppose on the plus side, it at least took the brunt of Berman and Braga's awfulness while DS9 was left alone to be awesome...
Paul
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
@DK: I agree with a lot of what you said. But even BSG was bad on certain points of continuity.

Notably, I never understood where the characters on BSG got all the booze they drank! It's kind of amazing -- they're eating algae for like two years but they have more whiskey than they'll ever need? WTF?

Also, the civilians -- Roslin, Lee in the later seasons and Zarek, among others -- sure have a lot of nice dress clothes. After a point, shouldn't the non-military folks be wearing rags? This was actually addressed early in the series (Roslin says something about having three changes of clothes in the first season) but dismissed.

And, of course, the Galactica seems to have a large supply of vipers and raptors.

BSG, of course, was much better about this kind of thing than Voyager. But even BSG played fast and loose sometimes.
Baltar
Thu, May 16, 2013, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
I suppose Galactica might have been tougher about the clothing supply, but if you have almost anything biological, you can make booze. Scotch is made from peat, after all.

I think one of the major differences here is that Galactica had many, many episodes about scarcity-finding water, finding food, training pilots, a dangerous mining operation in order to set up a Viper factory. Not every episode was about scarcity, not remotely, but it was an overarching part of the plot, a real factor for every character on-screen and the society overall.

On Voyager, they had a couple of throwaway lines of dialogue and then headed back down the immaculately clean corridors with brushed-steel trim to have their holodeck adventures for the afternoon.

Okay, I should probably stop touting Galactica on a Trek website and go back to lurking now...
Jack
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Jay is right...if Voyager had maintained a course home...not even a nonstop one, but just that general course, then they would have kept ahead of the Kazon's clutches and they'd have been unable to constantly harass them the way they did in the first two seasons.
Caine
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
A lot of very good points made by you guys!

One thing keeps popping into my mind, though:
Sure, if the crew had headed straight for the Alpha Quadrant, and stayed (more or less) on course, they could've kept their nose (more or less)clean of trouble. BUT ... if they didn't snoop around, they wouldn't have a snowballs chance on a hot summer day of finding technology or natural phenomena that could help them get home much, much faster - or, at least, find resources to help them survive and keep flying. I mean ... why fly for 70-75 years when each fuctioning wormhole has (roughly) a 25 % chance of getting you back to your home quadrant? Or when each technologically advances civilization has a small chance of having some wild travelling tech?

I do agree, though, that the crew (especially the captain, of course) took some pretty crazy chances once in a while ... one sometimes gets the impression that Janeway had a deathwish ... but, all in all, I think that - where I the captain - I'd be eager to stick my nose into every other nebula as well. You never know what you find ... plus ... "human curiosity is an basic trait of ..." and all that.
Caine
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed this episode due to the nice amount of character moments. It seems this episode tries to catch up on some of the issues that really should have been part of the first 2-3 episodes. While the lack of character exposition/moments/handling in the first episodes was very frustrating, this episode kind of make up for that - a bit.

I really enjoyed Janeways inner monologue about keeping a distance to the crew or getting closer to them. An excellent way for us to get "closer" to the character! The way Mulgrew plays it - a bit awkward and hesitant when talking to her crew in personal situations at the beginning - is very endearing. The same word - eadearing, that is - would also describe Ensign Kim's reaction in the mess hall. The fact that his attitude is so warm and human actually - for the first time - made Kim seem like a character I'd like to root for ... so far he'd just seemed boring or slightly annoying to me.

I wasn't aboard with Jayneway's and Chakotay's "buddy buddy" relationship, though. Why are they acting like old friends who have a deep mutual understanding and respect? Yargh! It's WAY too early in the series for that! Give me some "Maquis vs. Starfleet" maladjustment, awkwardness and conflict, PLEASE! Oh well, that ship had sailed already in the pilot ... too bad! A HUGE missed opportunity for great suspense and energy on this show ...

So far, the Chakotay-character seems extremely underused and .. well .. superfluous, really. I hope that changes - the character has a lot of potential - and I even like the actor!
Trent
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
I'm struck by how much better Voyager's CGI work seems to be when compared to DS9 and TNG in the same period. Did they have larger budgets? I think in the very next episode we then get elaborate CGI asteroid rings.
Vylora
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Here's the lightweight character piece to get to know the crew a bit better with another sci-fi anomaly thrown in for good measure. And as far as that goes, it's pretty decent.

A lot of discussion about holodecks and arguably unnecessary exploratory detours from the trip home. The former I can understand to an extent. I can see how a holodeck could be a powerful tool if needed. I'm not entirely convinced that R&R for whomever whenever is a good idea when energy usage is a concern, though. The latter, on the other hand, never was an issue for me. Stopping to explore a potential new energy source (in the case of this episode) or to find an opportunity for a way home is not a waste of time.

Standard, but not bad. An amicably done Star Trek episode that's worth watching for nicely written dialogue here and there. Only negative here is that the lightweight nature of itself is atypical to a fault despite the somewhat neat sci-fi element.

2.5 stars.
Grumpy
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
DavidK: "...if they regretted the setup, which I suspect they did, why not send them home at the first opportunity?"

Cruising around the Alpha Quadrant (presumably starting with Season 6, after DS9 ended) would've been an admission of defeat for the series. However, with the benefit of 15 years of hindsight, here's what they should've done: fling Voyager to another galaxy altogether. Barring a miracle, the crew would have no hope of getting home. Luckily, they arrive on the doorstep of a friendly federation of planets, which welcomes them as one of their own. New adventures, new setting, but without the Lost In Space setup the writers found so tedious.

Except here, in "The Cloud." This was a good example, along with "Eye of the Needle" and "Prime Factors." And then they quit caring.
Jack
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
Voyager was full of missed opportunities to be sure, but I think its somewhat unfair to compar eit to TNG and DS9 because those shows were syndicated, rather than being on (and essentially carrying) a network. The latter required Voyager to be slave to all sorts of gimmicks and ridiculous advertising and otherwise left it at the constant whim of executive suits. If Voyager were syndicated it could have come far closer to living up to its premise.
Tim
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
Yes. It might've been smarter to just cruise along at Warp 9 non stop. But would that have been an interesting show to watch? "This week, Voyager cruises at Warp 9. And next week the exciting two part cliffhanger where Voyager cruises at Warp 9.1"

Would you want to be on that ship? Nothing but high speed travel? Yeah, you might get to Earth in 70 years instead of 75, but how freaking boring!

And yes BSG was fine drama. But where was the sense of adventure and fun? Down to 50,000 humans, Cylons always trying to kill us unless they want to occupy our new planet. Yay, we found the Battlestar Pegasus! Oh wait, the captain is a psycho bitch. Down to 45000 humans. Nothing to eat but algae. The first officer is a Cylon? We found Earth! But it's a desolate poisoned planet! Down to 40000 humans! I think we found a new Earth, but we're gonna throw out all our technology and split up into small groups so we can be as helpless as possible. But, by golly, we aren't gonna do any unbelievable story like have the Holodecks running when we can't make coffee
Yanks
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
I pretty cool episode. I'll agree with Jammer. I like the way each of the characters play off each other.

I guess this was "the kiss" episode :-) (yuk)

The "animal guide" thing is unique... not sure what I think of all that.

Nice getting Doc involved.

"That's your problem, not mine. Doctor out."

:-) By this time in the series I've already decided that Doc is one of my favorite characters. Picardo is outstanding.

I'll go 3 stars.
John
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 3:59am (UTC -5)
So Tuvok calls Kim through his communicator and Kim's communicator registers the words "Tuvok to" before Tuvok even says the word "Kim." How does Kim's comm badge know that Tuvok called him before Tuvok even uses his name? That has always bugged me with these comm badges - they seem to know who's calling whom before the name is even used. Then again, I'm still wondering how the universal translator can fool pre-warp species into thinking that the humans are using their language when their lips should be moving in a very different way. Weird.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
As previously noted, an almost random collection of scenes with a bolted on "entity of the week" plot line that actually provides an extremely sympathetic set of character moments that really do elevate the episode. An almost playful Janeway definitely offers a different insight.

It's also interesting that in past episodes Paris - and in this one Neelix - almost provide the voice of the audience in saying "I don't understand why...?".

"There's coffee in that nebula" indeed. 2.5 stars.
JC
Sat, Mar 12, 2016, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Nothing would have made me happier than Janeway responding to the nebula scan report with, "Well Tom, your *mom* is a local dust nodule."

But alas, it was not meant to be.
Skywalker
Fri, May 20, 2016, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
I am getting a real kick out of watching VOY episodes interspersed with the contemporary DS9 episodes. Since I know where VOY ends up I don't have any expectations, and I'm taking a fresh look at these episodes after only viewing them once already 20 years ago.

The purpose of VOY, as I now understand it, was never to be fresh or different. Had it been, would it have been a better show? Absolutely. Would it have been better had it paid better attention to continuity details like the number of shuttles/torpedoes/crew members? Definitely; those kinds of elements engage the loyal viewer.

But the purpose of VOY was simply to be more Stark Trek -- indeed, to be mediocre, to be more of the same. That's its downfall, no doubt. But that's all the creators intended: space exploration, new worlds, new civilizations, new adventures, created by the technological future; interpersonal relationships and philosophical dilemmas; aliens with weird customs and challenges to 20th/21st century beliefs; all part of the TNG universe we have come to know and love.

On reviewing VOY after all this time, it's not that bad.

@Tim: "And yes BSG was fine drama. But where was the sense of adventure and fun? Down to 50,000 humans, Cylons always trying to kill us unless they want to occupy our new planet. Yay, we found the Battlestar Pegasus! Oh wait, the captain is a psycho bitch. Down to 45000 humans. Nothing to eat but algae. The first officer is a Cylon? We found Earth! But it's a desolate poisoned planet! Down to 40000 humans! I think we found a new Earth, but we're gonna throw out all our technology and split up into small groups so we can be as helpless as possible. But, by golly, we aren't gonna do any unbelievable story like have the Holodecks running when we can't make coffee "

Haha! Good point!

@John: "So Tuvok calls Kim through his communicator and Kim's communicator registers the words "Tuvok to" before Tuvok even says the word "Kim." How does Kim's comm badge know that Tuvok called him before Tuvok even uses his name? That has always bugged me with these comm badges - they seem to know who's calling whom before the name is even used. Then again, I'm still wondering how the universal translator can fool pre-warp species into thinking that the humans are using their language when their lips should be moving in a very different way. Weird. "

Yeah, that always bothered me too. I can imagine the crew member tapping the badge, saying "Picard to Dr. Crusher," then the computer records that audio and transmits it a second later to the badge of the recipient in the audio message. But instantaneously synched with Tuvok's lips? Eh...

As a linguist, I'm often bothered by the selective usefulness of the universal translator. It's apparent that it's not always on, otherwise we would never hear Klingon.

Marc Okrand, who developed the Klingon language for ST3 (and taught Christopher Lloyd to be to date the best speaker of Klingon!), has a great sense of humor, and in writing The Klingon Dictionary he says how educated Klingons learned English decades ago as a way of distinguishing themselves from the lower classes. This is the in-universe explanation for why, in ST3 and elsewhere, we see Klingons talking amongst *themselves* in English, only to switch to Klingon when shouting orders or the like. So Kes and Neelix are always perfectly translated, but sometimes B'Elanna can be heard to speak actual Klingon?

I guess the universal translator read the script too!
Pete328
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Interesting review from Jammer and very interesting comments. As a first time viewer, I'm still in two minds about this show and wondering if I'll commit to all 170+ episodes.

At this point, I'm willing to suspend disbelief on the whole "We're 75 years from home but we'll take our time and explore everything."

In reality, the sensible thing to do would be to engage maximum warp, set up sensors or mapping instruments to record automatically, and put damn near the entire crew in some kind of cryogenic sleep to save on food and people's sanity. But then you wouldn't have a show.

As one commenter pointed out, it might have been better to put them in a different galaxy and eliminate the whole possibility of returning home. That would have made it all about exploration and getting enough power and supplies to keep on flying -- almost like Firefly.

Firefly, however, is "dirty space," with interpersonal conflict, stuff breaking down, and scarcity. Star Trek has always been utopian. Everyone on the ship gets along, food pops out of every wall, and the ship is always spotlessly clean. It makes sense that Voyager didn't take the "we're down to half power, I'm about to shoot that guy dead, and there's no food left" idea too far, or it would have been unrecognizable as Star Trek.

All this said, I found this episode more annoying than the first few. I really don't like Neelix. He claims to know his way around the quadrant but never has any useful info -- he's a con man, basically. His relationship with Kes is not believable. She is actually very likeable and I don't see what she is doing with a creepy old man/alien charlatan like Neelix. I also don't like Neelix's open fires cooking (wouldn't smoke and flames put a burden on the life support systems), with his apologies everything being overly spiced.

Like others note, the life form we didn't recognize as a life form until we hurt it plot seems like a cop out. I get that the episode advances the characters, but I wish they had done that without a cheesy holodeck creation replete with cliched characters with phoney French accents. I think no one on Star Trek ha actually ever met anyone from France much less actually traveled there. The pool hall would have been better had it been placed on some alien world.
mephyve
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 7:46am (UTC -5)
Another hospital show. Watch another critter nobody cares about get better/ or die. I'll never know. I didn't make it to the end
Trek fan
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Definitely a two-star episode for me and I actually found it to be the weakest installment of Season 1 so far. Zero originality in both the tech A-plot and the character B-plot. It reminded me of some early TNG where a few meager crumbs of key character-defining moments -- like Data learning comedy in the holodeck with Guinan -- emerged in the midst of utterly boring and uneven plots. It's also the first episode where the frustrating tendency of VOY to squander the ship's resources on dubious missions rather than focus on getting home becomes fully evident -- after all, they really don't know if the space entity wants or even needs their help to heal. Also, most of the character stuff here takes place on the holodeck, which is dumb if they're conserving energy and also highly unoriginal since TNG perfected that model. Honestly, can Star Trek characters find any way to bond and develop that isn't related to the holodeck or working together to solve a technobabble crisis? After a great pilot, I'm afraid the next few VOY episodes display how deeply the Trek writers were just rehashing old material on this show rather than doing something new. On TOS, and even sometimes on DS9, the writers unearthed character interaction that often felt like real human beings growing together. And that magic often revolved around a dialogue of ideas and personalities, not generic tech threats and hologram fantasies. As I watch VOY a bit out of order on Netflix, I just don't see that kind of natural chemistry on this show yet, but I see a lot of TNG's worst tendencies honed to bland perfection. It seems to me that VOY was content to play things really safe: No episodes I've seen are either excellent or terrible; they're all just good or average. Much of this show seems more interested in protecting a proven product than in daring storytelling. I hope Star Trek Discovery is better.
JohnC
Thu, Jan 19, 2017, 10:33am (UTC -5)
I too gave a virtual fist-bump to Neelix after his rant about Voyager constantly looking for trouble in every random nebula or whatever. I understand that they are still carrying out their exploratory mission, and I understand that they are looking for a way home, but it would be nice if there was at least some kind of risk-assessment protocol before they go wandering off opening every closed door in the Delta quadrant.

Very much agree with most of the last comment from Trek Fan. First, 3 "temporal anomaly" episodes. They finally turn away from that hackneyed plot contrivance -- right into "holodeck hijinks". -sigh-. I realize these concepts provide many opportunities for writers, but they already seem to be employed as a bit of a crutch. This was a very thin episode, saved only by some interesting interaction between the characters as they get to know each other. Janeway's obsession with coffee - I can relate. :)
Ildaf
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Some amusing quote :
"There's coffe in that nebula (Or not)" -- Janeway
"In other words, you've never seen anything like it. Oh, I promise not to tell junior officer" -- Kim to Tuvok
"These people are natural-born idiots if you ask me"
"Let's see if we find some space anomaly today that might rip the ship apart" -- Neelix
"I don't think the captain is an idiot" -- Kes (I don't know you do sarcasm, Kes)
"We have complement of 38 photon torpedoes at our disposal Captain"
"And no way to replace them after they gone" -- Chakotay and Janeway
"Let's see, You ran your ships to it, fire phaser at it, and blew a hole in it with photon torpedo" -- Doctor to Janeway

A cliche with 'Phenomenon of the Week' that turn out to be life-form. It has some good character insight tough, but I don't see any real development. I like the last scene when the Captain try bonding up with the crew by joining the holodeck. Although why holodeck used while the ship depleted on energy resource remain a mystery to be resolve (or never to be resolved and best forgetten). The fact that writers need a holodeck scene this early on series is also worrying, seems they already dry on idea just on the 5th episodes.

Some annoying scene :
They back to the 'nebula' try to heal the wound without plan? Just making up along the way? Nice luck Captain!
Everyone tumbling/fall, B'ellana even fall from 2nd foor of engineering is over the top and tedious.
Neelix go 180 to self-appointed 'moral officer' after asking to leave on his shuttle?

Watchable, but nowhere near memorable
2 (**) star
William B
Sat, Aug 26, 2017, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
There's a typical Trekkian formula of having an A/B-plot structure, where one plot is character-based and the other is SF/tech-based. The Cloud feels like it has a SF/tech B-plot, a character-based C-plot, and no A-plot. The problem with the tech plot isn't just that it's derivative but that it feels perfunctory and half-hearted -- it might have been improved by *genuinely* having the whole thing proceed from the perspective of confused crew members totally out of the loop, because Neelix's and the Doctor's reactions were some of the better moments here. The character moments are mixed -- some, like Tuvok & Kim's comm banter and the Doctor's scenes, are cute and effective, but others, like the awful French cafe holodeck scenes showing off Paris' lack of imagination as writer, just drag on forever -- but they mostly feel like a hodgepodge. There *is* an overarching theme, focused on Janeway's own difficulty deciding what distance to have to her crew, and it's generally setting the crew up to be a family, with Neelix and Kes' unexpected entrance to the bridge and the crew's coming together for the pool game at the end being a way of emphasizing the casual atmosphere on the Voyager. Arguably it's too early to settle into those rhythms just yet, but it mostly works as we get the idea that people are starting to think of this ship as home. It's not quite enough material to sustain a whole hour. 2 stars.
Rahul
Thu, Jan 11, 2018, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Pretty lame episode here -- the main plot is minimal and it's beefed up with random crew interactions. Certainly more character development here but just random stuff happening does not a good episode make and the hurting and healing of the nebula creature with weak special effects left me expecting better overall for an episode.

A fair bit of slow-paced time spent with Paris' holodeck was boring. Paris is already perhaps the most developed character.

Chakotay and his native Indian heritage come out and Janeway takes an interest in it. But it gets interrupted and goes nowhere. The theme of low morale given Voyager's crew coming to grips with its predicament is best seen in Neelix who gets genuinely angry. But that was hardly convincing as he's too easy going to take seriously.

Doc's sarcasm looks like it will be an ongoing high point of the series. He too is coming to grips with the situation -- he's not just an emergency medical assistant. He's developing (albeit grudgingly) -- he might as well be human with some "geographical restrictions".

2 stars for "The Cloud" -- really felt like a filler episode to make up the numbers for the season. The sci-fi premise of the nebula entity is potentially interesting but it plays out predictably -- of course Voyager is not going to suffer permanent damage, let alone get destroyed. Janeway is again seen to be compassionate in wanting to help it heal at risk to the ship/crew. The random crew interactions were just kind of there -- not particularly enlightening or even entertaining.
SlackerInc
Mon, Mar 5, 2018, 4:59am (UTC -5)
I thought the dialogue and character beats were really quite impressive, some of the best I’ve seen on Star Trek.

@Paul, Nov. 2014, if you ever come back to read this thread: kudos for a great post, very funny and makes a good point too.
Silly
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
Holodeck and power fanwank:

Since the replicator makes actual matter, it probably takes drastically more power than the Holodeck. Like e=mc^2 more power. The holodeck is still just a super fancy projector.


I found the Kim/Paris holo scene waaay too long.


Neelix's rants were pretty funny, and in tv trope parlance, it seemed the writers were lampshading the absurdity of the plot (and many plots to come). http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LampshadeHanging
Kieran
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Anyone else slightly disturbed by Harry remembering being in his mother's womb?
Elliott
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 11:42am (UTC -5)
A quick note before proceeding: I thought I was losing my mind watching the last few episodes of Voyager and missed a commercial break somewhere; turns out the first 6 regular episodes were broken down into 4 acts, not 5. I have gone back and adjusted the scores for the previous three episodes (this change didn't affect any star ratings, but will be reflected in my season recap). For the next three, I'll be ready for the four-act structure. Speaking of season recap, I have also decided that I am going to review the first four episodes of season 2 in production order with season 2. They were filmed with the season and, for my purposes—looking for themes and trends, I think it makes sense to group them this way. I have stated over on DS9 pages that in the age of Netflix, it doesn't make much sense to hold original production errors against these old series.

Teaser : ***.5, 6%

Janeway gives a personal log. She's at a bit of a loss as to how to captain this crew. We have seen her succeed effortlessly with scientific dilemmas—which makes sense. We have seen her struggle with the ethical issues of command—which also makes sense. But she is also the de facto community leader of this isolated ship. It's great to see her continue to question the prescribed mix of protocol, personality and morality which make up a command structure. Her log plays over her touring the ship. She makes awkward attempts at casual conversation. Rather than letting these scenes deteriorate into DBI, the episode showcases how the crew simply isn't prepared to deal with her in this way.

In one hilarious bit, Paris explains to Kim why captains don't get “chummy with the lower ranks.” Their conversation isn't the hilarious part—in the background, Janeway is trying to get herself a cup of coffee and becoming increasingly frustrated with her un-success. Finally, she ventures into Neelix' strange kitchen in her search. Neelix interupts her and gives her the bad news—they're all out of coffee, but he's got “something better.” She decides she'll just use a ration and get herself a cup, but Neelix tells her this would be “inappropriate.” And the look Mulgrew gives him in response is riotous. She says, “I beg your pardon,” in a way which implies, “if you don't shut that furry trap of yours and let me get my caffeine buzz, I will strangle you with your own whiskers.” Neelix does have a point, that the crew need to adapt to natural food alternatives given their power shortages. Generally, I'm reminded of “The Nagus”'s wonderful comic timing and sense of fun. No surprise, David Livingston directed that episode and this one.

Chakotay rescues the captain from Neelix' gelatinous coffee substitute—she's called to the bridge to observe a nebula. Tuvok informs her that it's rich in omicron particles—the same energy source that powered the holographic village in “Shadowplay.” The promise of new power reserves prompts one of Janeway's iconic lines: “There's coffee in that nebula.”

Act 1 : **.5 21%

Janeway quizzes Chakotay, quietly, about the spirits of the crew—not great, in his view. Chakotay's suggestion for lifting her own spirits resides in talking to an animal spirit guide. Now, on the one hand, the writers have wisely chosen an American Indian tradition that is not tribe-specific. Nearly all First Nations in North America believe(d) in animal spirit guides—probably an Ur-aspect to the original immigrants from Eurasia. On the other, they are definitely doubling down on the bullshit from “Journey's End” that permits this one human sub-sect to practise religion because the white Hollywood writers feel guilty about their ancestors raping and decimating native peoples. On the third hand (?), having just banged my head against the wall over “Destiny”'s moronic treatment of religious subjects, I am feeling less hostile towards a religious system that is *actually* religious, in the sense that we are dealing with an introspective personal confrontation with mythological symbols. Chakotay even name-drops Jung in his explanation to Janeway. Essentially, Chakotay is admitting that his people's religious practice is more about psychology than it is about prophecies or other bullshit, so I'm going to withhold summary judgement for now. Their conversation flirts with..flirtation when Janeway calling her XO a “bear type.” See you at Folsom, Chakotay. Oh, and Chakotay is quick to correct Janeway in letting her know that his guide is most definitely female. Mhm. Finally, they make a date for her to explore her own spirituality. Nothing like a little church to get the sexy juices flowing, right?

They arrive at the titular cloud and Janeway directs the Voyager towards a rich deposit of omicron particles. There's a mildly funny bit between Kim and Tuvok where Kim says aloud that he has never witnessed a nebula quite like this one, Tuvok quietly chastises him, and then finds himself equally stumped. There's some general technobabblery and eventually they encounter a barrier—more technobabble and they enter a strange area full of giant pop rocks.

In the mess hall, Neelix is angry about this latest development. Having lived for god knows how long aboard a glorified hobo's shopping cart, Neelix has developed a conservative attitude about exploration telling Kes that the crew should be “grateful” for what it already has and not tempt fate like this. Kes knows the quickest way to stifle his bitching is to kiss him, revelling in the romance of exploration. Their moment is interrupted by the pop rocks sticking themselves to the hull and draining their power. Janeway resolves to cut their losses and leave. The barrier has sealed up, however, so more technobabble...Chakotay suggesting using a photon torpedo to break through, but Janeway warns that they don't (yet) have the means to replace them. After more un-success, Janeway consents to launch a photon and they escape. After their ordeal, Janeway laments she isn't getting her coffee after all.

Act 2 : **, 21%

Paris continues to dispel rumour of his illicit romance with Ensign Kim by...gently waking him up in his quarters.

PARIS: You'd be surprised the things you learn in prison.

Mhm. Yessir.

Unlike in the teaser, their conversation definitely plummets into DBI (if this keeps up, I'll have to change the name)--something about Harry remembering his mother's womb...anyway, Paris introduces Kim to his new holodeck programme, Chez Sandrine.

Okay, let's talk about the elephant in the nebula. Does it make any sense for the holodeck to be used for recreation when the Voyager is facing an energy crisis? Well, even if we accept the explanation from “Parallax” about the incompatibility of the energy matrices—which is total bullshit, by the way—it still doesn't make sense from a strictly practical perspective. They will [erm, spoiler?] eventually manage to convert the power systems, just like they'll learn to build torpedoes and shuttles. Why not keep the energy in reserve? If this ship had a Counselor Troi character, I can imagine her suggesting to Janeway that the crew's psychological welfare might be worth the energy expenditure required to give them a break from their duties. Janeway has spent much of this episode concerned over that very issue. However, this really needed to be a conversation we saw on the screen. For me, this writing choice can be justified *IF* the holodeck is proven to be worthwhile. It was a mixed bag on TNG—with good/great episodes like “Elementary, Dear Data,” “Hollow Pursuits,” and “Schisms,” as well as pretty bad ones like “The Cost of Living,” and “A Fistful of Datas.” So, we shall see.

Chez Sandrines—a recreation of a real place near Marseilles where Paris, who I think we are to gather has French ancestry, spent his off hours at the Academy—is sort of charming in an overly touristy kind of way. Far less so is Ricky Lake, an off-the-self 90s sex-symbol character. The programme slowly gets more and more intolerable as the women faun over Paris, Harry is a stereotypical hypochondriac nerd who won't drink holographic wine because it gives him heartburn, they bet on pool amid 1950s clichéd dialogue—intentionally anachronistic. The only good that comes from this—as has become the pattern for this series—is the reveal about Paris' character. Kim notes that his friend's bravado and overly self-conscious cool is a front for the fact that he's homesick like the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, Torres is analysing some of the pop-rock goo from the hull, and her discovery leads her to sickbay. She activates the EMH who greets her brusquely “Please state the nature of the medical emergency!” I have to credit Livingston again, who plays up the blocking and timing here to its most hilarious effect.

TORRES: Under the circumstances, don't you think you really ought to change your programme?
EMH: Now there's an interesting concept. A hologram that programs himself. What would I do with that ability? Create a family? Raise an army?
TORRES: I know a little about holographic programming. I could probably reprogram you.
EMH: That makes me feel particularly confident.

Hysterical. The Doctor mentions his programmer, Lewis Zimmerman, who is responsible for lack of bedside manner. There's more exchange of technobabble, but amusingly littered with more quippy one-liners from the EMH.

Meanwhile, Chakotay is ready to help Janeway contact her animal spirit. He reveals his medicine bundle to her. Again, this particular custom was ubiquitous among many First Nation peoples, from the Navajo to the Aztecs, so the writers are still “safe” in their portrayal. What irritates me a bit is the fact that the Indians have apparently swapped out their psychoactive drugs for a magical device which gets you high on life, or something. I'd be a lot more impressed if Chakotay just offered Janeway a joint as they sat together in her ready room.

Anyway, she has a vision of a beach—somewhere she's been before—finally she meets her guide, a newt. Remember this when we get to “Threshold.” Before Janeway can ask “the big question,” Torres chimes the door and it's revealed that at some point, she tried to kill her animal guide. That...seems about right. She reveals that her and the EMH's analysis has proven the nebula to be a space-lifeform. Oh, isn't that always the way.

Act 3 : **.5, 21%

As in the teaser, Livingston provides us with background situation which is so funny that the foreground technobabble tedium becomes a non-issue. In this case, Janeway and co. realise they've injured this lifeform, while the EMH paces and waves his hand, irritated at the lack of respect he's shown by the crew, who simply mute him when he becomes annoying to them. Well, Janeway decides they're going to repair the damage they caused, which is good. Torres is forced to spew some tedious crap about “nucleogenics” and Kim and Tuvok assigned the task of warding off this creature's immune system.

Meanwhile, Neelix' lunch service is interrupted by yellow alert, and Chakotay informs him that of their plans. Janeway storms the ready room to confront the captain. He demands to be let off the ship with Kes for the duration of the rescue.

JANEWAY: I'm not pulling them off their duties to prepare your ship for launch. And I'm not going drop you off on the side of the road every time we hit a bump. When we finished, if you want to leave that's your business, but for the moment, find yourself a seat with a good view, because just like Jonah and the whale, you're going in.
NEELIX: Is that final?
JANEWAY: Dismissed....That's a Starfleet expression for “get out.”

I wouldn't be surprised if Neelix has Kes growing nothing but coffee beans after that.

So, the Voyager re-enters the nebula. Drama happens, techno-nonsense, some cheesy looks on the bridge...wallpaper music...and some “organic space lightning” or whatever. And oh shit the ship is spinning!

Act 4 : *, 21%

Torres is forced to dump their fuel to stabilise the ship. Chakotay yells at Kim for some reason. More cheesy plotting (“No Engines!?”). Interrupting this nothingness are Neelix and Kes, deliv ering some hors d'oeuvres. Neelix has promoted himself to “Morale Officer,” managing to brag about how humble he is since he decided to make snacks instead of gloating to the captain about being right about how dangerous this all is. Somebody. Just. Kill me.

There's more “drama” with giant sutures and what-not. The only saving grace here is the EMH: “That's your problem, not mine.” More boring shit...shaky cam, technical gibberish, “drama...” Whatever. They succeed and escape. Horray.

In the epilogue, Janeway laments that her goal of raising spirits has failed, having depleted their energy reserves on a pointless mission. Kim, takes it upon himself to invite Janeway to the holodeck for a game of pool. Turns out Janeway is a secret pool shark...ugh, I'm done. The end.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

We *again* have a perfunctory and stupid plot as the backdrop for some character work. Unlike in “Parallax,” the character stuff is mostly very shallow, unfortunately. What rescues the episode is the comic timing, acting and direction, which, when the technobabble crap is not in the way, succeeds at being thoroughly entertaining. In a lot of ways, this first season of Voyager is proving to be the opposite of DS9's first season. There, we had unlikeable characters and hit-or-miss performances engaging in novel plots—half of the time. Here, we have had derivative and idiotic plots executed by amiable characters. All in all, it's good to sit through this one once, for the sake of the characterisations of Janeway, the Doctor, Paris and Chakotay, but I don't think it stands up to repeat viewings at all.

Final Score : **

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