Recap: Star Trek S 3 E 21 The Cloud Minders
One of the lesser known Star Trek
episodes, yet a rather good one, especially considering it's from season three
A plague on planet Merak II is killing off all the vegetation. Never fear! The Federation is here! The Enterprise
comes to the planet Ardana to pick up the zenite
needed to end the plague and save the planet.
Spock and Kirk tell Plasus, the High Adviser of Ardana's ruling council, that they'd rather dispense with the frills of a welcoming committee and simply take the promised zenite and go, seeing as how it's an emergency. Plasus reluctantly agrees to meet Kirk on the planet surface outside the mines where the promised zenite is waiting. Kirk and Spock beam down to find no zenite, but a gang of Devo
fans who seem a bit pissed off....
It seems they don't like being slaves in the zenite mines while the ruling class gets to lounge around in their pretty city in the clouds. Go figure!
Tropes for this episode include:
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Slaving in the zenite minds has made the Troglytes stupid and violent. (Due mostly to exposure to raw zenite dust) Torturing an already testy Vanna makes her turn on the man who was trying to help her.
- Blatant Lies: "I came to make repairs." The captured Troglyte is really bad at lying. Of course, working with raw zenite has made him less intelligent. Also, Plasus' claims that his people are completely nonviolent.
- Captain's Log: Kirk is taking a nap, so we get to hear Spock's lovely narrator voice.
- Cool Shades: Well, they were if you were New Wave back in The Eighties and this was filmed in The Sixties. They have the practical used of protecting the eyes of the Troglytes, who are unaccustomed to bright light.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The floating city of Stratos
- Description Cut: Plasus tells Kirk and Spock "We have completely eliminated violence". Cut to Vanna's psychedelic torture.
- Disney Villain Death: Well, the captured Troglyte might not count as a villain when you think about it, but once torture is mentioned, he chooses the fastest possible way down: out the window.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: The graceful and scholarly humanoids living in a literal flying city, while brutish and mentally limited miners dug tunnels with simple hand tools underground. It's later revealed that the two are actually the same species, but the miners are exposed to a mineral that affects the brain.
- Executive Meddling: David Gerrold was very disappointed in the final episode. In his original draft, Kirk forced the Troglytes and the Stratosians into negotiation with a phaser and left just as negotiations started, hopeful they would resolve the industrial dispute peacefully and permanently, while Bones sadly reflected on all the childrennote that will die in the mines in the meantime. Gerrold sarcastically described the "gas masks for everyone!" resolution as "if we can just get them troglytes to all wear gas masks, then they'll be happy little darkies and they'll pick all the cotton we need..."
- However, there is a epilogue scene where Vanna makes it clear that now they know about the gas and have the filter masks, the Troglytes' political movement for social justice is going to continue.
- Fantastic Caste System: The Stratos cloud city dwellers believed the "troglyte" (troglodyte) miners had race-based inferior intellects and used them as slaves, but the miners were actually suffering from zenite gas poisoning.
- Floating Continent: The floating city of Stratos.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Kirk vs. Plasus. It's a wonder the cavern didn't collapse from their overacting.
- Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The Troglytes refuse to mine any more zenite until they get their rights as sentient beings recognized.
- Jail Break: Kirk beams into Vanna's cell when it's clear Plasus won't cooperate.
- Kill the Poor: On the planet Ardana, the poor are enslaved and forced to live out their entire lives in underground mines. The poor are accused of being violent and stupid...but this is a side effect of the gases in the mines, which they are exposed to since they are poor, violent, and stupid...
- Kirk Summation: Spock helps him out with this one. While Kirk demands that the Troglytes be shown the equality, kindness and justice due all sapient species, Spock points out Vanna's qualities of loyalty and leadership.
- Knife Nut: Vanna arms herself with a knife with a strange looking handle, possibly meant to be a tool rather than a weapon. "Our weapons are our freedom!"
- Knives Akimbo: How Advisor "Violence Is For Lesser People" Plasus attacks Kirk.
- Locked in a Freezer: Kirk invokes the trope by using his phaser to cause an avalanche, sealing him and Vanna underground, then ordering Plasus beamed in with them.
- Majored in Western Hypocrisy (or rather Stratosian Hypocrisy): Vanna, having been educated on Stratos and now leading her people in a rebellion against the cloud city dwellers.
- Meaningful Name: Stratos sounds a lot like "stratus", a type of cloud characterized by horizontal layering with a uniform base. From Spock's narration, we are to infer that the alien name "Droxine" means something like "sweetness" or perhaps "innocence". To a modern English speaker, it sounds like a brand of acne medication.
- No OSHA Compliance: You'd think a balcony overlooking a mile-high drop would have SOME sort of security against people jumping out. Like window panes. Let's hope it does not storm too often up there.
- Also, it needs the crew of the Enterprise to introduce gas masks (not to mention the concept that the air you are inhaling deep down in a mine might not always be perfectly healthy) to a planet that bases its whole export economy on mining.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Just a few minutes exposure to zenite gives Kirk a bad case of PMS. It doesn't exactly give Plasus or Vanna sunny dispositions either.
- Purple Is Powerful: The leader of the slave revolt (We later learn her name is Vanna) wears a purple jumpsuit.
- Royal Brat: The people of Stratos. Droxine comes off as Spoiled Sweet until confronted with Vanna. Unlike her father, Droxine learns her lesson and decides to help the Troglytes.
- Samus is a Girl: It's a bit surprising to hear the leader of the slave revolt speak with a woman's voice. Her hair comes loose in the ensuing fight.
- Shout-Out: To Gulliver's Travels, particularly Laputa, the floating city of intellectuals ruling over the lower classes below.
- Slave Liberation: Vanna's goal. She was a house slave, making her much less stupid than the Troglyte miners.
- Theiss Titillation Theory: Droxine wears a turquoise Wonder Bra with a ballgown skirt and peacock-like train that even causes curious stirrings in The Spock. Vanna wears a similar outfit in midnight blue when she first attempts to take Kirk as hostage. Her prison uniform is an off white mini dress. The (male) sentinels wear shiny mini dresses with go-go boots and Nice Hats
- Torture Always Works: Palaus thinks so.
- Uncanny Village: Stratos is a perfect town full of intelligent, creative people with comfortable lives and (seemingly) no desire for violence. Unfortunately, they live on the backs of the "Troglytes", the people they've enslaved to mine zenite.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: A planet that has actual floating cities for the ruling class, while the working class miners uses hand tools and are exposed to brain-killing toxic compounds without even dust masks (this appeared to be Roddenberry's most blatant commentary on the class struggle). At one point, Kirk is forced to use his bare hands. When he turns the tables, Vanna and Plasus use their bare hands.
- Would Hit a Girl: Kirk doesn't even pause when a curtain of chestnut curls spills out during the fight. When she comes after him with a knife, he wrestles her to the bed and tries to woo her. When that doesn't work, he tries asking politely why she's trying to kill him. She tells him that she only wanted to take him hostage, and would've cooperated further if she hadn't been dragged off to be tortured.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Due to their zenite-induced low intelligence, the Troglytes' acts of terrorism are rather clumsy though. (One half-assed act of vandalism and three easily foiled attempts at taking hostages.)