Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 21

The Cloud Minders

Aired Unknown Feb 28, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
143 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

To acquire the resources to cure a space plague, Kirk must resolve a mining dispute between the cultural elites of the cloud city of Stratos and the miners on the surface.

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  • Kirk and Spock visit Cloud City

    This planet-based rebellion story plays to TOS's strengths, featuring Kirk and Spock and setting itself above and below ground for a thoughtful but exciting adventure.

    The showpiece of the story is the castle in the sky, with the set designers building its interior right on the planet stage, allowing the panoramic red sky in the background to sell the idea that the setting really is miles in the air. In stark contrast, the cave set, always monochromic and claustrophobic, serves as an effective antonym and is believable in its own right.

    With the two locations intricately weaving themselves into a plot reminiscent of the Metropolis, a 1927 silent science fiction film, Kirk and Spock find themselves in the middle of the planet's conflict, with the story allowing them to interact with both sides. Diana Ewing guest stars as Droxine, a high class, innocent princess, while Charlene Polite plays Vanna, the lower class, disrupting counterpart. The real treat, however, is Droxine's father, Plasus, played with the perfect combination of frustration and stubbornness by Jeff Corey, one of Nimoy's mentors. As the episode moves along and illustrates his hard-headed conflict with Vanna and the "Troglytes", it's rather obvious where everything's going, but the actors keep each scene interesting with their chemistry, letting the story flow organically from the characters. (Having Spock openly discuss his sexual habits with Droxine is out of character and a writer's mistake, but she does seem like his type, and it's great to finally see a drop dead gorgeous woman favor him over Kirk for a change).

    Is "Cloud Minders" a top ten episode? Of course not. (The last two acts, in particular, are quite slow and meandering). But with the series having only a few episodes left at this point in its run, the episode, with its picturesque settings and airtight story, represents one last bit of TOS magic before the Star Trek franchise moves in a different direction.

    Remastered Version:

    This is a rare third season treat from CBS Digital.

    The castle in the sky, originally a small model hung on a string, is replaced with a more intricate CG version allowing for closeups. (In fact, one of the establishing shots shows a small CG Droxine in a balcony before cutting to the live shot of the same). Meanwhile, a picture of a dry river basin in Saudi Arabia taken by Ed White during the first . walk in space (used in the original episode to give a perspective from the clouds) gets touched up. To achieve the highest quality for this, CBS Digital used a high def copy of the original photograph instead of the episode's original footage. One of the shots with this image includes a man falling, originally an obvious two dimensional cut-out matted into the shot. Here, the fall has been redone to look more realistic. The team also tinkers around with the background footage for an early soliloquy by Spock, using different shots and incorporating new CG images of the city.

    The Enterprise and the planet themselves both look spectacular, with a new reddish globe looking much more lifelike and tying in better to the stage sets than the swirly red planet in the original (borrowed from "Where No Man Has Gone Before"). Unfortunately, a particularly slow fade to the ship near the end throws the off the remastered effort. (Slow fades from the characters to the ship create unusable footage for the remastered edition, since it's impossible to get the old Enterprise footage out of the shots). In the new version, Scotty actually "steps on" the new footage, saying "aye" after the editor has already moved on to the next scene. (This is an example of CBS Digital being too loyal to the original audio. Scotty's "aye" isn't really needed, and if CBS was to just drop this utterance, the new footage could be added with no issue. But they want to be able to put both the new and old versions on Blu-ray with the same audio track).

    Overall, however, the team does a job the artists of Stratos would be proud of.

  • When Kirk and Spock visit planet Ardana to try and acquire a vital mineral needed to stop a plague, they become embroiled in the dispute between the cloud dwellers of Stratos and the miners on the planet below. A watchable if rather camp episode...moreless

    (Note: As with all of my Original Series reviews, I am reviewing the original version as opposed to the remasters, which I not seen yet).

    After the terrible "The Way to Eden" in the episode previously, anything was a step up, and "The Cloud Minders" is at least watchable. It's a strange sort of episode to try and sum up – far from one of the series' best moments, but it does at least hold the interest for the most part.

    The episode gets off to a dodgy start, as, after the opening credits, Kirk speaks a line of dialogue but his mouth does not move!

    The cloud city of Stratos is an interesting concept. But I do feel that the effects – which achieved wonders despite the limited technology and budget of the time in other episodes, were very shaky, and one of the Original Series' poorer examples. The cloud effect is passable, but the city itself looks very flat and unconvincing.

    Jeff Corey puts in a reasonable performance as High Advisor Plasus, in one of the better guest spots this late in the series. I couldn't decide about Diana Ewing as Droxine, who much of the time comes off as little more than a well-spoken bimbo. Saying that, she does have a very notable costume (or what there is of it!) which compliments her figure.

    The story does have the feel of much of the later third season that the series is definitely on its last legs, but that said, it does come off as one of the slightly better episodes from the late period. But far from the classy, thoughtful stories from earlier in the series, this one has a more 'camp', kitsch sort of feel.

    All-in-all, for a late Original Series, it does at least hold the interest more than most of those around it.moreless
  • While there are some faults, one of the better episodes from the final season overall.

    Kirk is caught in an age-old class war when the Enterprise visits a planet to obtain a needed mineral.

    Certainly not the worst of the Season 3 "issues" episodes, there are some good and bad things going on here. The basic premise is good, class struggles between those that work and those who enjoy only leisure. The false-looking "cloud city" actually re-inforces this message, a castle on a puffy cloud is no more real than what the segment of the population that lives there represents. It's nicely symbolic. The balcony on Stratos for beaming down to the surface is a nice set, poised high in the air. Also, the matte painting looking down on the planet from Stratos is well-executed.

    What doesn't work is the idea that an unseen gas is the true cause of the social disparity on the world, it's a cheap cop-out - though I do think the line that the airless cave is also an example of an invisible gas is a good piece of science fiction writing. Probably most annoying is Spock's apparent fascination with the wooden and empty-headed Droxine, it plays badly and almost seems like it is recycling cut lines from "The Enterprise Incident" ("beauty...can be...disturbing").

    In contrast to the original story written by Gerrold, I like the ending here, the script is still ambiguous and sets up and nice sense of future competition between the the protagonists. Not too bad.moreless
  • Average for 3rd season, given the misuse of Spock.

    Spock, a man who prides his closeted sexual nature so highly, seems to love telling Droxine that he doesn't "go for it" until every 7th year of his life.

    That aside, there are some astonishingly good performances in a script with real potential.

    The ending is a bit too PC, where everything always works out for the best, because the storyline just doesn't want to present a solution. It's a shame as there are many little nice touches (e.g. Plasus reassuring himself that the Trogolytes only know violence as a solution) in this one.

    Overall, it's average for season 3: Interesting plot concepts let down by some gaffes in logic (Kirk and Vanna using Vanna's card to beam back to the surface even though Kirk would be recognized and killed in an instant as he's banned from the planet!) and let down by Spock being very Un-Spock-like...moreless
  • Spock selfishly chooses to deliver life saving drugs to some obscure populated planet over an easy one night stand with a hot blond

    I loved Shatner’s performance in the cave with Plasus and Vanna. I think this was a good storyline. And I enjoyed the beam down method from Stratos to Ardana. I think I’m a sucker for the poor giving it to the rich. Maybe that is why it held my interest as it did. I’m glad they snuck this episode in before it was cancelled. Margaret Armen can really write when she wants to. All the side stories were interesting as well. How about that fall from the balcony in the clouds to the planet surface? You’d think they’d have a higher fence there, but it would have defeated the purpose of our boy who forgot his transport card from the swan dive!moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Jeff Corey

Jeff Corey


Guest Star

Diana Ewing

Diana Ewing


Guest Star

Charlene Polite

Charlene Polite


Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Roger Holloway

Roger Holloway

Mr. Lemli (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Plasus fights Kirk to a draw, even though he is much older, a bureaucrat, and a member of an elite society that does no physical labor.

    • A botanical plague shouldn't "annihilate all life" unless plant bacteria can suddenly mutate and attack other cells, i.e., animal and humanoid. Just because the plants die, doesn't mean all life forms would perish immediately, as inferred in this episode. Oxygen would still exist for some time, giving the planet's inhabitants opportunity to relocate somewhere else.

    • McCoy says he "checked his findings" and determined the Troglytes' intellect ratings are 20% below average. How the heck did he do that? He has no access to the Troglytes and they've never shown the Enterprise sensors can scan people for their "intellect ratings." At best all he could have done was read the Stratos citizens' records... and those a) wouldn't have been "his findings" and b) coming from the folks who were prejudiced would have almost certainly been biased and no reputable medical officer would have accepted them.

    • The kidnapping of Plasus makes no sense. How is Spock able to locate the Stratos leader on the city? Previous attempts have been impossible unless the target was biologically distinct from everyone else ("The Enterprise Incident").

    • When Kirk slugs Plasus and knocks him into a supposedly stone wall, it bends back noticeably behind the actor.

    • In "Amok Time" Spock described Vulcan mating rituals as "a thing no out-worlder may know" - here he goes on about them with Droxine at some length.

    • During his stealth mission, instead of having the Enterprise beam him and Vanna down, Kirk goes looking for a Stratos transporter to get to the surface.

    • When Kirk breaks out Vanna, he hides behind the door, lets the guard go past, and then waits to stun him until after the guard turns around and sees him. Why does Kirk wait, particularly since the guard can then ID him?

    • Both Spock and Droxine seem to believe that Stratos is an intellectual society that has eliminated all forms of violence - however they have security guards and Plasus indulges in torture and no one seems to notice this contradiction.

    • Right after the opening credits Kirk is heard saying, "who are you what is the meaning of this attack" and his lips do not move.

  • QUOTES (8)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Uniquely in the series, Spock has an interior thought monologue as he contemplates the situation in the guest quarters. Clips from scenes just a few minutes earlier in the episode are used.

    • David Gerrold's original story pitch called for an ending that would not have resolved the conflict between the Troglytes and the Stratos dwellers by the end of the episode. His original script called for McCoy to declare near the end, "Yes, but how many children will die in the meantime?". This was rejected by the producer and Margaret Armen was brought in to rewrite the script to make it more positive by introducing the use of gas masks much to Gerrold's chagrin, although he retained story credit.