The Cloud Minders
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|"The Cloud Minders"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Jud Taylor|
|Story by||David Gerrold
|Teleplay by||Margaret Armen|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||February 28, 1969|
"The Cloud Minders" is a third season episode of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek, broadcast on February 28, 1969. It is episode #76, production #74, written by Margaret Armen, based on a story by David Gerrold and Oliver Crawford, and directed by Jud Taylor.
On stardate 5818.4, the Federation starship Enterprise arrives at the planet Ardana on a mission to retrieve a mineral called zenite, which is needed to halt a vegetation plague on the planet Merak II. Captain Kirk wishes to speed along the negotiations for the mineral and beams down directly to the zenite mines with First Officer Spock, despite Ardana's leader High Advisor Plasus's request to beam down to the floating city of Stratos.
Once Kirk and Spock arrive at the mine, they are surrounded by angry miners and a savage brawl ensues. During the struggle, Kirk notices a strange yet beautiful woman among the rioters. Plasus quickly arrives with a security force, who easily drives the rioting miners off. He invites Kirk and Spock to return with him to the city immediately, while his people search for the zenite.
Once on the floating city, Kirk and Spock are entertained as guests until the zenite can be procured from the mines. They learn that the people of Ardana are divided between the labor-class Troglytes, who work in the dangerous mines, while the elite city-dwellers reap all the profits and live in luxury.
A group of Troglytes, termed Disruptors by the Stratos dwellers, are rebelling against the elites. Unknown to Kirk, the Sentinels, Stratos City's police, have captured a Troglyte who sneaked into the city and defaced priceless artwork. Rather than divulge the name of the leader of the rebellious workers, the Disruptor jumps to his death from a city balcony.
Plasus's daughter, Droxine, takes a liking to Spock, fascinated by his "exquisite ears;" and her interest is initially returned. Another woman, Vanna, seems to be interested in Captain Kirk. Vanna, however, is actually the rebel leader of the Troglytes and while Kirk is sleeping, attempts to take him hostage until the city elite meet her demands. Kirk, however, overpowers her, recognizes her as the woman he saw at the mine and begins to question her, but she does not cooperate. She accuses the Stratos city-dwellers of using the Enterprise as an intimidation tactic towards the Troglytes.
Spock, Droxine, and a Sentinel arrive, and Vanna is subdued. She is then taken for interrogation, being secured to the Rostrum and subjected to "the rays," pain produced by nerve induction. Plasus has her tortured to reveal the names and locations of her fellow rebels. Kirk is outraged by Plasus's actions and demands the interrogation be stopped. Plasus instead orders Kirk and Spock to leave Stratos immediately and forbids them to return.
The two return to the Enterprise where Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy reports that unprocessed zenite emits an odorless, invisible gas which diminishes mental capacity and heightens emotions. Spock believes that the workers serving aboard the floating city have been isolated from the effects of the zenite gas, which fade when an individual is removed from exposure. Instead of being mindless workers toiling away in the mines, the Troglytes of the servant class in the city have become aware of their unfair treatment by the higher class.
The Enterprise has special masks which will filter against the zenite gas and offers them to Plasus for his workers. Plasus, however, shows no interest and regards Kirk's proposal as unwarranted interference in his government's affairs. Kirk violates his ban from the city and secretly beams down to Vanna's holding cell. He explains his offer to help her and the other workers achieve equality with the city-dwellers and offers her the masks. Vanna appears interested and Kirk stuns a Sentinel delivering her meal. Vanna steals the Sentinel's transport pass, and she and Kirk return to the zenite mines. Once there, however, she grabs Kirk's phaser and takes him hostage with the help of two other Disruptors, Midro and Anka. The two men would rather see Kirk dead, but Vanna has other plans.
Vanna forces Kirk to experience the hardship of the miners and puts him to work digging for zenite. Vanna's friends depart, leaving her alone with Kirk. The Captain takes advantage of the situation and regains his phaser. He blasts the ceiling of the mine and seals the only way out of the chamber where he has been digging. He then contacts the Enterprise and orders Plasus to be found and beamed to his location.
An indignant Plasus is beamed in; Kirk forces him and Vanna to dig for zenite. The effects of the zenite gas become apparent as Kirk becomes angry and increasingly irritable. As the supply of oxygen declines, Plasus demands to be set free, but Kirk strikes him and the two begin to brawl with mortae, mining implements. Vanna, realizing that Kirk was right about the gas after all, manages to find Kirk's communicator and signals the Enterprise to beam them all up before the two men kill each other.
Once the effects of the gas wear off and the three settle down, Kirk offers the masks to Vanna once again. She accepts Kirk's offer in exchange for a supply of the zenite. Plasus strongly protests, but realizes he really has no other option. Kirk tells Plasus that the city elites and the Troglyte miners must be treated as equals; while Vanna vows that her people, who will no longer be impaired by the gas, will demand equality even more vigorously now. With the supply of zenite in hand, he and Spock return to the Enterprise with just barely enough time in hand to reach Merak II and stop the plague there.
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a 'C+' rating, noting that it "had enough story that it didn't drag too terribly near the end" but that "philosophy-wise, it chickened out in a way that's highly unusual for the show".
"There was one I really wanted to do set on Stratos, the Cloud City [from "The Cloud Minders"]. I really wanted to do a two-parter on that location, to see Stratos in its earlier stages."
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