Star Trek: Voyager
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 cliché 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
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56 comments on this post
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 11:35am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jan 13, 2009, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
But the story instead wants to have it both ways.
Tue, Aug 25, 2009, 5:33am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 5, 2009, 12:02am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 5, 2010, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
This explanation only works the first time around. Abusing it becomes tiresome, as is dropping the term EPS conduits in every episode.
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Sep 3, 2011, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 1:41am (UTC -5)
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".
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 3:22am (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 11:16am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 4:39am (UTC -5)
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...
Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 16, 2013, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
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...
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
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!
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 7, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
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
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 3:59am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 7, 2015, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Mar 12, 2016, 1:04am (UTC -5)
But alas, it was not meant to be.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
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!
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 11:33am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 7:46am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 19, 2017, 10:33am (UTC -5)
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. :)
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
"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
Sat, Aug 26, 2017, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 11, 2018, 12:27am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 5, 2018, 4:59am (UTC -5)
@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.
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 9:14pm (UTC -5)
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
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 11:42am (UTC -5)
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.
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 : **
Tue, Jun 4, 2019, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 9:44am (UTC -5)
The crew are like a family which makes it fun to visit with them, and there's a great balance of cheesy bad-Trek and intellectual good Trek. I liked your description: it is the popcorn-munchingest Trek show there is.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
Sure, Voyager didn't really live to its premise and its potential. But that doesn't make it a bad series.
(same can be said about Enterprise, by the way)
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
@Jenkins L. Ironically, I wonder if the opposite isn't happening with Enterprise. I know it got lot of shit at the time because canon (personally, the suprisingly little continuity contractions there were, rarely bothered me, at least not for the contradiction itself), but these days I get impression it's often checked out by people who have mainly just seen Star Trek and not other contemporary sci-fi shows, so the way it seemed inept at the time next to say, Farscape, is lost.
Sat, Nov 16, 2019, 12:12am (UTC -5)
He cautions Kim not to say things that make "junior officers" nervous. Just what officer is more "junior" than Kim? Apparently, Starfleet's usage of that term is not the same as that of the twenty-first century Navy. Just who, in Starfleet parlance, would count as a junior officer, if Kim himself does not? He's an ensign, the lowest of the officer ranks. It can't be in reference to experience, because Kim is on his first mission. Yeah, his station is on the bridge, but that doesn't make him a senior officer, just a bridge officer. Anyway, the only people who would have heard him would be other bridge officers, so "junior" can't be used to mean "non-bridge."
Why do these things drive me nuts?
Sun, Nov 24, 2019, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 2, 2019, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
I'm watching with allowing myself the option to skip bits where I know what happens and have no interest in seeing it again (did the same with a partial second DS9 rewatch too) but so far I've only skipped bits of the Time episode. This episode I did not remember, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I know by the end of the series the Doctor was my favourite character, bur I couldn't remember if he grew on me or how soon I started enjoying his character - right from the off, it turns out :D
Really enjoyed the character work in this, and "That's Starfleet for 'get out'!" made me chuckle. I always thought Neelix was supposed to be annoying - like Bashir at the beginning of DS9 - but obviously he doesn't develop anywhere near as well as Bashir. Always thought he had a good heart though, even if he didn't show it in the best way. I'll be interested to see how I feel about him in time (though his deception in the Pilot was a big mistake - I can only think that Janeway let him stay because he got them onto the planet which was necessary for the rescue. A bit of a stretch though.)
The holoprogramme was cringeworthy, and I was very surprised to see it in action so early on. I'm not sure if this is worse than Bride of Chaotica - actually I think it is, because it takes itself seriously as a place to relax!?! Whereas BoC is obviously just for laughs. I don't recall whether Sandrine's gets any better but I suspect not.
Those were quite disjointed thoughts - in short, aside from the majority of the holodeck scenes this was a very enjoyable episode for me.
Sun, Jan 19, 2020, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
My question: What would have been wrong with an hour of character building, with maybe a short encounter with a Kazon ship or something?
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 9:54am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
It may well have been this episode.
Annoying historical setting and deliberately cliched characters within the Holodeck? Check.
Bonus implied use of holodeck characters for sexual activities? Bonus check!
Implausible technological issues? Check.
Blatant and deliberate misunderstanding of astrophysics? Check.
Cliched native-american pseudo-mysticism as an alternative to even a holographic counciller? Check.
And finally: Neelix? Check.
Overall, I make that 7 points deducted. And there's little or nothing to balance them out.
Were the writers really this hard up for ideas?
Why do we have a ship that's desperately low on resources, but still has enough power to fuel the Holodeck (as it's a "different" kind of power)?
Why are we subjected to the hologram of a French dive bar featuring characters which could only be more cliched if they were waving a French flag while wearing a beret and showing off the latest style in garlic-bulb necklaces?
Why does Voyager (and to be grudgingly fair, DS9 as well) insist on making nebulas dense clouds of gas? In the real world, a nebula might be a gigantic cloud of gas, but it's still lower density than the best vacuum that can be formed on Earth.
As such, they're literally invisible when viewed up close. And if they were any denser, Voyager would tear itself apart when trying to to pass through them at any appreciable fraction of the speed of light, regardless of how good it's particle shielding is. Because as portrayed in Voyager, a nebula features practically atmospheric pressure levels!
Then there's Chakotay's spirit animal mumbo jumbo. Frankly, the concept as shown in this episode owes more to new-age Californian mysticism, by way of Victorian spiritualism) than any actual Native American tradition.
And yeah. Neelix. The court jester, settling into his role as a secondary character who provides light relief. So much for a "breakout" character!
Equally, if Voyager has all this power spare for the holodeck, why not spin up a virtual councillor in much the same way as the good Doctor? People such as Freud and Leonardo Da Vinci are in Voyager's databanks, so why not have the system generate a 24th century therapist? If nothing else, it could have been a perfect way to pull in Deanna Troi as a recurring cameo, and given the series an opportunity to explore the dynamics of how two separate holographic characters could evolve over the course of the series.
Still, Voyager was rarely anything other than the king of missed opportunities...
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 7:08am (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 18, 2020, 5:42pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 30, 2021, 4:48am (UTC -5)
Jammer, you seem more forgiving with your ratings than DS9. Perhaps it's because when DS9 - the superior show - failed, it hurt more?!!
Sun, Aug 1, 2021, 9:13am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 31, 2021, 8:01pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2023, 2:38am (UTC -5)
I find comments like this about "Voyager" so fucking exhausting.
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