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Recap / Star Trek S3 E21 "The Cloud Minders"

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Original air date: February 28, 1969

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! Furthermore, Stratos is unknowingly responsible for stunting the Troglytes' minds as well as their livelihoods, and they have no idea of this, so Kirk takes it upon himself to prove the real issue at hand, even if it means making himself one of the guinea pigs.


The Cloud Tropers:

  • 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.
    "This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership. Here on Stratos, everything is incomparably beautiful and pleasant. The High Advisor's charming daughter Droxine, particularly so. The name Droxine seems appropriate for her. I wonder, can she retain such purity and sweetness of mind and be aware of the life of the people on the surface of the planet? There, the harsh life in the mines is instilling the people with a bitter hatred. The young girl who led the attack against us when we beamed down was filled with the violence of desperation. If the lovely Droxine knew of the young miner's misery, I wonder how the knowledge would affect her."
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  • Cool Shades: Well, they were if you were New Wave back in The '80s and this was filmed in The '60s. They have the practical use of protecting the eyes of the Troglytes, who are unaccustomed to bright light.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The floating city of Stratos.
  • Cutting the Knot: Kirk decides the most practical (and quickest) solution to the dilemma is forcing both Vanna and Plasus to become exposed to the zenite gas, believing that once they have proof of its existence and effects, the city dwellers will become more amenable to granting the miners their rights and the miners will turn over the zenite. The latter does occur; the former seems like it will take more time, though both Vanna and Droxine's words and actions suggest it will be coming sooner rather than later.
  • Description Cut: Droxine 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Ardana has a clear (and rather large, in every sense) divide between the aristocracy and the laborers. The TNG-era would later establish that caste-based discrimination makes a planet ineligible for Federation membership.
  • 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.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Kirk and Spock are keeping track of how much time the Enterprise has left to deliver the zenite.
  • 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.
  • Ignored Expert: Plassus refuses to believe McCoy's explanation of the gas masks' effectiveness. Vanna similarly refuses to believe Kirk, thinking that he's playing her for a fool.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Vanna arms herself with a knife with a strange looking handle, identified earlier in the episode as a mining tool rather than a weapon. "Our weapons are our freedom!"
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Spock seduces Droxine (by telling her about Pon Farr) while Kirk tries to charm Vanna when they wrestle for the weapon on the bed.
  • 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 takes this one, and Kirk gets the assist. While Spock demands that the Troglytes be shown the equality, kindness and justice due all sapient species, Kirk points out Vanna's qualities of loyalty and leadership.
  • Guns Akimbo: A variant; Advisor "Violence Is For Lesser People" Plasus attacks Kirk with a pair of knives.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After Plasus furiously threatens to tell Starfleet that Kirk kidnapped him, a head of state, and Kirk in turn threatens to tell them Plasus assaulted him, Vanna counters that it would be better for all if both charges are dropped and never reported—as if they "never even happened." Kirk and Plasus agree, if in amusement and sullen silence, respectively.
  • 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 Echo: When Kirk shows Vanna a mask and tries to explain how it could help her people she doesn't believe him, asking how something you can't see or touch could harm someone. Later, when Kirk seals them both underground, Vanna tells him they'll die without air. He asks her how can they die from lack of something that can't see or touch.
  • 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. It was probably derived from Hydrox, a creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie.note 
    • "Troglyte" is a corruption of "Troglodyte", a primitive humanoid of abysmal intellect. Though the full word is never used in the story, Spock makes a transparent reference to it.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Just a few minutes' exposure to zenite makes Kirk short-tempered and prone to issuing physical threats. It doesn't exactly give Plasus or Vanna sunny dispositions either.
  • Out of Character: No explanation is given for Spock’s attraction to Droxine, and he is very casual about discussing Pon Farr with her. It also does nothing to advance the plot, so why was he written that way?
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Stratos dwellers, according to their reputation. In reality...not so much.
  • Proud Scholar Race: The Stratos dwellers pride themselves on their intellectual and artistic pursuits. The dark side of this is their use of slave labor.
  • 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. 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:
  • Slave Liberation: Vanna's goal. She was a house slave, making her much less stupid than the Troglyte miners.
  • Too Good for Exploiters: Plasus and the rest of the elite people of Stratos fall victim to this. Kirk and the senior crew of the Enterprise have come up with a way, a filter mask, to protect the Troglytes, who mine zenite, from the gas that comes from the same rocks in the mines on the planet's surface. Plasus soundly rejects the idea because he doesn't believe them nor know about it, and even if he did, it would mean admitting that the Troglytes are being exploited based on an easily-correctable flaw.
  • Torture Always Works: Plasus thinks so. Kirk disagrees.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: When Plasus complains to Kirk about how long they've been in the sealed-up cave, he specifies that he's using Earth hours.
  • 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.
  • Weapons of Their Trade: The mining culture (called Troglytes in the episode) use their mining tools in a rebellion against the ruling class that oppresses them.
  • 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, but was actually conceived by David Gerrold). 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. (One half-assed act of vandalism and three easily foiled attempts at taking hostages.)