Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 21

The Cloud Minders

Aired Unknown Feb 28, 1969 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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out of 10
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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...

    (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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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!
  • Kirk and Spock must get ore from a planet with a stratified social structure. One class lives in the clouds, the other lives on the planet and mines. The political situation prevents the Enterprise from getting the ore, so interference ensues.

    I'm really surprised at the relatively low rating of this episode since I found it to be one of the better ones toward the end of the third season. In my opinion, episodes like this one are the kinds of parables that Star Trek often does very well by masking contemporary problems and projecting them onto another culture so that people can see things more objectively.

    The most intriguing issue was the society in which the difference between the rich and the poor has widened to a frightening level, and in which the inequality has become chronic. I especially like it when the high commissioner guy makes speeches about how the Trogolytes were free to achieve and live in Cloud City, but they were just too brutal, stupid and unmotivated to do so. In other words, "They get what they deserve." They could do it if they want, but they just don't care.

    I hear these kinds of arguments being made about other groups of people all the time, something like: "Those people living in the ghetto brought it on themselves, they chose do not improve their skills, they're just lazy and stupid. I'm not preventing them from achieving, and they want to live this way. They get what they deserve."

    I often hear these kinds of arguments from people who were born with all the privileges of an upper-middle class upbringing, who were taught from the time they were a kid how to achieve in the world by their parents. The kids who got everything paid for to go to the best colleges and were groomed to join the "old boys network" from the time they were 2 years old. Surprise! They succeeded and are living a comfortable life. Strangely, they want to take all the credit for making all the right choices in their own lives and dismissively pass off anyone else's problems as "those other people brought it on themselves."

    Meanwhile, I question if these champions of "they got what they deserve" would be doing nearly as well if they were born in lower circumstances. Some people certainly transcend their circumstances, but the high commissioner character hits this kind of arrogant, smug self-satisfaction right on the head.

    The "gas in the mines" issue is a little less satisfying, but creates an even more drastic circumstance hindering the development of people in that stratum of society. Certainly the environment that many people have to put up with is an obstacle to their success.

    Star Trek is always good at explaining the need and will of humans to be free and achieve (in about every other episode there is some speech about it) but it also gives compassion and understanding and tries to point out obstacles and social inequalities. I thought that this was a pretty decent episode about entrenched social inequality.

    This kind of social inequality still seems especially applicable today since the gap between rich and poor is wider than it was even when this episode was made.