Picard had Tea, Sisko had Raktajino and Janeway has her coffe. There is nothing that will get between a person and their drink of choice, especially when it comes to coffee. Originally airing on February 13, 1995, this is The Cloud.

The Episode:

Captains Log Stardate 48546.2 The Cloud

USS Voyager must make a stop in a nebula to refill the dwindling power reserves but the nebula may not be what they expected.

The Story:

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While Paris and Kim debate the merits of inviting a Captain to their table for breakfast, Janeway manages to narrowly avoid Neelix’ coffee substitute. Knowing that they must do something to get their diminishing power reserves back up, so she can at least have a decent cup of coffee, The Captain agrees to change course and head into a nearby nebula that is rich in omicron particles.

After a brief discussion between Janeway and Chakotay about ships moral and finding her animal guide, Voyager arrives at it’s destination and heads into the Nebula. Almost immediately they encounter a strange energy barrier that stops the ship in it’s tracks. After deciding to ‘punch through’ the barrier, only for it to quietly close behind them. Meanwhile in the galley, Neelix makes it clear that he is not thrilled with the ‘natural born idiots’ who have the need to stick their nose into everything. Kes disagrees claiming that it’s wonderful that Janeway just wants to peek into every crack in the universe. Soon Neelix’ concerns takes form when a strange material begins attaching itself to the hull.

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Reversing course, they soon find they can not go back through the energy barrier and are effectively trapped in the nebula. Determined to escape, Janeway blasts a hole in the nebula and rides Voyager through the energy barrier despite it costing them even more energy than they had going in.

After escaping the nebula, Paris invites Harry Kim to the holodeck where he introduces him to his favorite Parisian bar. Almost immediately it is clear that Paris is more than welcome in his second home. As Paris and Kim essentially waste critical power reserves playing pool in holo-Paris, B’Elanna Torres, with the help of the EMH, makes a startling discovery about the material that attacked voyager in the nebula. It seems the nebula might have been…alive.

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As B’Elanna makes her discovery, Chakotay introduces Janeway to her spirit guide using his medicine pouch (that he claims never to have shown anyone before), after she is about to speak to her lizard guide, she is interrupted by B’Elanna who informs Janeway that they might have hurt a life-form in Janeway’s relentless pursuit for coffee. After discovering that they have possibly severely damaged a space-faring life-form, Janeway realizes that they must go back and try to repair the damage they have done.

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After dealing with Neelix’ complaints concerning the ship re-entering the space-beast, Janeway Captains the ship back in to begin repairs. Arriving at the breach, it is clear that they have done significant harm and as they approach the wound, the creature begins to retaliate. The ship faces significant damage with several crew injuries only to find itself even deeper into the creature than before. Fining currents that seem like a circulatory system, Janeway takes the ship into one of the currents in order to ‘surf’ back to the wound as to not further endanger the creature. As they enter the eddy, Neelix arrives with snacks for the bridge declaring himself the new Moral Officer. It seems his talk with Janeway had a profound effect on him. After the bridge is fed, they find themselves at the wound and begin to attempt repairs. Soon the EMH suggests using the ship as a suture. Taking the advice they launch a micro-probe as a diversion and begin healing the creature. With the wound healed, Voyager makes it out of the nebula only to find that this misadventure has cost them 20% more of their energy reserves forcing them further off course to find more.

In the end, Harry Kim invites Janeway to the holodeck to join them in the bar. She accepts and soon finds herself showing her crew how to play pool.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

The ultimate purpose of this episode is to build some character development for several of the key characters while also showing just how alone this crew is in the grand scheme of things. We quickly learn that the crew of Voyager are going to face dangers from things most ships in the Federation take for granted. More specifically in this episode, maintaining a power source.

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Before we dive into the character development, lets talk about the power issue shall we? In most of the past series, with a few exceptions, power was a given on board. Sure there were episodes where a ship lost power but by the end, everything was right and fixed, or they just stopped by a local O’Reilly’s Space Mechanic for a checkup. In the Delta Quadrant, it is becoming clearer and clearer that Voyager is alone and must take care of itself. With the concern of a power source firmly established we begin learning about what the crew is doing to stretch their current reserves in the form of replicator rationing. Even Neelix gets involved with his newly formed galley assisting the crew in their efforts to ration, even though his culinary expertise leaves something to be desired.

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As with any commander, Janeway looking for alternate fuel sources is not surprising and frankly something that needed to be addressed. This is, of course, spurred on by a personal matter, i.e. not having coffee, but that in and of itself gives Janeway a little more relatability than the previous Captains we have encountered. Here is a Captain who has a vice and not only recognizes it but fully embraces it. Sure Picard had his tea and Sisko had his Klingon Coffee but neither of them took their ship into a nebula simply to be able to get some hot java for breakfast! For any of you readers who are coffee drinkers, I for one don’t see this as a stretch. To be honest, I am shocked she didn’t have an entire bay stocked with the caffeinated bean. Then again, she does mention not needing a councilor for this mission so maybe this was her ‘3 hour tour’. Oh man, I just realized that Voyager is Star Trek’s answer to Gilligan’s Island….

It only makes sense, knowing Janeway’s addiction, and dedication to getting the crew home, that she takes advantage of a nearby seemingly innocent nebula. Even when she reaches an ‘energy barrier’ that determination (i.e. addiction) forces her to ‘push through’ when any sane Captain would have stopped and analysed the situation. I have to say I am with Neelix on this one, seriously, an energy barrier…what good has ever come from punching through an energy barrier? However, when it is clear that these actions may have inadvertently hurt something we see Janeway really step up and suddenly the mission isn’t about getting energy, it is about fixing their mistakes. In this moment we see that Janeway isn’t an irresponsible Captain who ignores the damage they may have done, in fact she has a moral guideline that forces her to address any and all errors no matter the cost. I mean this situation could have easily went like this:

Janeway: We just damaged a life-form, how much power will it cost us if we try to fix this.

Tuvok: another 10% of our power reserves, Captain.

Janeway: Hmmmm, that’s too much of a risk, I’m sure it will heal itself. Anyone want to join me in the Galley for a coffee?

Instead we get a Captain who thoroughly takes responsibility for the actions of her and her crew and that is pretty great in and of itself.

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As Janeway dealt with this ship-wide issue she is also beginning to realize that this may be a longer voyage than she anticipated and her resilience will matter even more now than ever before. She is struggling with how a Captain needs to maintain a certain distance but also acknowledging that this is a very special circumstance. In the end it appears that she is finding a middle ground by attending the holographic bar, something that she might should have questioned to be honest. More on that later as well.

The overall lesson in this episode is that this crew needs to be extremely careful with their inventory and reserves as this is going to be a long trip. Ironically, it was their very pursuit of more energy that ultimately cost them. Not only did they damages a space borne being but also dwindled their energy by another 20% in the process. Yeah, the lesson is certainly one of caution, one that will probably be forgotten sooner than later.

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Speaking of energy consumption…I found it very strange that the ship is undergoing a rationing of the replicators but they seem to have no issue running recreational holodeck programs. I would think that the first thing to go on a ship that needed to ration energy would be anything that was non-essential. So, the EMH would stay around but a hologram of a Paris Pub would certainly not be on the essentials list. Even moreso, when Janeway steps in we see most of the senior staff enjoying the place. So does this imply that the Senior Staff get to have R&R while the junior ranks are pretty much confined to their quarters or, even worse, Cafe Neelix? Seems a little off dont-cha-think?

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Some really great, and some really odd, character developments were also seen among other members of the crew in addition to Janeway. We get some more wonderful growth from Paris and Kim as the former attempts to get the latter out of his shell. From the get go it is clear that the straight laced Ensign Harry Kim is not going to get far playing it safe and this almost serves as a foreshadowing of his lack of promotion in Voyagers Seven Year journey. Seriously, this is somewhat spoilery but the dude never makes it past Ensign…yeah…even with him being a senior staff member. Poor buddy. We even get a moment between Paris and B’Elanna and it is clear that B’Elanna is not fond of our former jailbird. I hope they remember that first real encounter in the future…spoilers!

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We also get a rather interesting glimpse into Chakotay’s life as a Native American and in a way this episode seems to go out of its way to inject some rather stereotypical Native elements into it. In the mid 90’s there was a fervor for all things Native and it showed on television and film abundantly in that decade, from X-Files to Walker Texas Ranger, almost every series had to have some Native American Connection. Even Star Trek TNG got into the act with the introduction of the Maquis and the Native American people who were, once again, being forced to relocate from their homes. The inclusion of Chakotay wasn’t and isn’t a bad thing, in fact I thought it was pretty cool, but to jump into the spirit guides and such this early seemed a little forced and frankly out of place for this particular episode. I do want to note though that Janeway has a lizard as a spirit animal…I wonder if that was the basis for a later episode involving her and Paris…just sayin.

Overall, still early in the series and we get a pretty decent entry that provides multiple layers of character and crew development while also managing to show some serious inconsistencies and odd choices in the plot. It’s not a bad episode for the mixed bag that it is, in fact for an entry this early in any first season it is actually pretty good, but it seems the writers aren’t quite sure where they are heading yet even though the course is pretty set, get this crew home!

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

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  • We learn that Voyager has 38 photon torpedoes that are irreplaceable. 1 fired in this episode so 37 remaining. I might try to keep count from here on out.
  • We discover that Janeway is a pool shark. Maybe that’s why she didnt mind Paris wasting power…
  • So, strange Harry Kim fact of the day, he apparently remembers being in the womb.
  • We get our first mention of Dr Zimmerman and a suggestion that the EMH make a family of his own, something that will certainly be visited again later.
  • We also start hearing the EMH complaining about being left on. Again…I thought we were attempting to regulate power reserves…hmmmm
  • There is also a massive implication that Tom Paris doesnt just use the Paris Pub as a place to play pool. Apparently he includes the same girl in every program and is quite close to said girl. Is this his secret Porn program..’cause you know they exist right? You do know what the holosuites in Quark’s Bar are really for right?
  • cloud 3We learn that B’Elanna tried to kill her animal guide. Interesting indeed.
  • There is a wonderful confrontation between Janeway and Neelix with the former demanding Janeway let them off before going into the nebula. She tells him under no uncertain terms that he is there for the duration but is welcome to leave afterwards. This prompts Neelix to dub himself Morale Officer and thus begins Annoyance Level Two Neelix. Okay, he’s not that bad…yet.

Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Eye Of The Needle

If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game 4/13/2020

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Janeway takes her life into her own hands while in Cafe Neelix.

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”

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