ST: Voyager Recap – S1, E5: The Cloud

“The Cloud”! In this episode, Janeway uploads her Bikini Kill collection to a third-party data center, then can’t get a connection strong enough to stream it. Out of frustration, she starts a band with Kes and Torres and writes a song that destroys the patriarchy, except that no one in the Federation can hear it, and in the end it turns out that the Patriarchy was Old Man Willoughby from the amusement park all along.

BUT FIRST.

Janeway gets contemplative in her personal log about how in the Delta Quadrant, the crew has to serve as each other’s family, and maybe she has to be more than a captain, but she’s not sure how to begin. This is illustrated by a nanosecond shot of a crew member looking out into space, and Janeway hesitating before getting all awkward-faced and walking away. WHAT. Why are they walking back the character who was so massively emotionally intelligent with Torres in Parallax? No sir, I don’t like it. You’ve already shown us that Janeway is confident and competent in these situations. Maybe if this was Chakotay or someone else not as used to being in command of a large crew, I’d buy it, but you are already on shaky ground (*Googles*), Tom Szollosi and Michael Piller (Teleplay) and Brannon Braga (Story). We are thirty seconds in, and I’m thinking that this premise is shit.

“At the Academy, we’re taught that a captain is supposed to maintain a certain distance,” she says. “Until now, I’ve always been comfortable with that distance.” OH MY GOD I HATE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH ALREADY.

As if on cue, she strolls through Engineering and Torres goes directly to Red Alert. “Oh hey captain um we’re almost back online with the warp drive and stuff please don’t fire me” or words and tone to that effect. Janeway is too busy continuing her narration to care. “Maybe this is just the way it works. Maybe the distance is necessary. Maybe more than ever now they need me to be larger than life.

“I only wish I felt larger than life,” she says, then tells the computer to delete that sentence.

Here’s why this bothers me. It bothers me because, aside from the tedium of a leader who worries about how to lead, aside from the fact that my own ideas of leadership are completely at odds with the “larger than life” idea, there is this: there was NEVER EVER NOT ONCE an episode of TOS or TNG or DS9 where Kirk or Picard or Sisko got all worried about whether they were good leaders. Whether intentional or not, this is coming across as a commentary on women in leadership: “Oh they have doubts! Maybe leadership is at odds with the feminine nature! Look, there’s a sale at Macy’s!” Goddammit, people, you put a woman in charge of a starship, now let her be in charge and spare us the hand-wringing. Fucking fucks.

In the dining room Janeway has an awkward conversation with Harry and Paris about Neelix’s gustatory attempts, and then Harry and Paris talk about how awkward that was, and the way Paris talks about it is weirdly gendered–captains are inscrutable! If she wanted to join us she’d have said so! Then Janeway goes looking for food in the kitchen and Neelix compliments her lipstick and tells her how beautiful she looks in this light and I’M JUST GOING TO RING A BELL EVERY TIME SOMETHING EGREGIOUSLY SEXIST HAPPENS TO THE CAPTAIN IN THIS EPISODE HOW DOES THAT SOUND?!?

Chakotay calls Janeway to the bridge, which means we finally have plot, thank fucking god. Chakotay says “We found a nebula.” My reaction: “For this you call me? YOU CALL THIS PLOT?” Janeway magnifies it and Tuvok scans it and finds unusually high levels of omicron particles, which could potentially be used as antimatter fuel reserves. Janeway calls the senior bridge officers for duty and sets a course for the nebula.

Credits. Why are the credits almost always the most-space-related part of all these Trek shows? “Here’s 45 seconds of what you really want! Now here is forty-three minutes of people walking around in fake rock tunnels and bracing for impact!” Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

Janeway tells Chakotay she thinks that exploring the nebula will help with morale. Chakotay says yeah, morale is bad, and Janeway asks him to elaborate. (She also says that they have no ship’s counselor because the nature of their mission didn’t require one, which–riiiight. I’d have liked it better if they’d just killed off the counselors in the pilot rather than implying that counseling is some special privilege and not a routine necessity.)

Chakotay starts talking about his native beliefs, which would be great, except that no one has so far bothered to specify what tribe Chakotay is from, so it comes across like generalized spiritual babble rather than anything grounded and real. Not to get preachy, but this is textbook cultural-appropriation-done-badly, and it comes across as if someone thought “We haven’t put Indians in space yet!”, wrote a list of characteristics for Native Americans based on all the movies they’d seen, and changed NATIVE AMERICAN TYPE to CHAKOTAY at the last minute. Fucking do your research, jerks. Anyways Chakotay says they use animal guides, and Janeway is like all white people everywhere and wants one.

Tuvok interrupts to say they’re nearly at the nebula. They scan it and don’t find anything unusual, so Janeway has them set a course for a sizable concentration of omicron particles. (I Googled “Omicron (comics)” just to check, and yep, there’s a DC character with that name, because of course there is.) As they travel through the nebula, they start to attract some space dust, and then suddenly they stop completely. Janeway really wants those particles, though, so she tells them to power through. They come into some kind of open area in the middle of the nebula that no one can identify, and the breach closes behind them.

Cut to Neelix for some reason, yelling at Kes about Janeway getting them into trouble. Kes says the Federation people are natural-born explorers, and Neelix says they are natural-born idiots. Kes clearly admires the captain, though, and shuts Neelix up with some kissing.

RED ALERT. Blue lava-lamp globs are splooshing into Voyager. They go right through the shields, stick to the hull, and start drawing power from the ship, which for some reason Janeway is perplexed by. Federations ships are always losing power, that’s what they do! Janeway orders Paris to ram back out of the barrier, but it doesn’t work. Torres ramps up thruster power, but it does nothing. Phasers do nothing. They fire a photon torpedo, and it gets them through the barrier; they make it out of the nebula in one piece, and Janeway wants the lava lumps analyzed. Turns out they’re just wax, can you believe it? Trippy.

After the commercial Paris, who is insufferable, breaks into Harry’s quarters while he’s sleeping so he can drag him out of bed to go see a holodeck program. Oh Paris, you rebel you. In the conversation on the way it somehow comes out that Harry remembers being in his mother’s womb, which is by far the most interesting thing about either Harry or Paris, but never mind, we have to go to another damn holodeck. Come on, Voyager writers; you’re never going to equal Vic Fontaine, so why even try?

Paris’s holo-program is a bistro/pool parlor called Sandrine’s, because he has a thing about the French. All the women are all over him, and I think I can sum up my feelings about this entire scene with a brief performance art piece which I like to call Seizing the Nearest Receptacle and Barfing Until Dawn. Just, ish. The only good thing is that Harry’s boring-ness actually becomes the joke–Paris orders wine, and Harry’s like “I try not to drink this late at night, it gives me an acid heartburn.” Bless you, Harry Kim. Bless you.

Once that scene finally ends, we see B’ellana doing actual science, like, with-a-centrifuge science. She’s analyzing the hull goo, but she must need a second opinion, because she goes to sick bay and activates the Doctor. He’s crabby and he refutes her theory, but we don’t get to see what he thinks yet.

Cut to Janeway’s quarters. Chakotay comes in with his medicine bundle, which he’s never shown anyone before. Really? and Oh god. The scene that follows is just as bad as the bistro scene, except worse. Basically Janeway gets a vision quest with no trials or privations or anything that could be mistaken for actual investment or spirituality and it’s just such a lazy, short-cut exploitation of native beliefs that when Torres interrupts it it’s almost like the writers were embarrassed. Oh, they definitely were, because there’s an immediate joke about how Torres tried to kill her animal guide. I have gone from being mad at this episode to being tired and sad, y’all. Oh, and Janeway’s animal guide is apparently a gecko, which I hope is never mentioned again ever.

Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on starship insurance!

Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on starship insurance!

Torres says the hull-stuff is organic, and the nebula is alive. Dramatic music cue! Commercial!

Janeway asks the Doctor if they’ve done serious damage to the life-form. The Doctor snarks about all the things they’ve done to it, and Janeway cuts his audio, which is hilarious. Janeway takes a look at the concentration of omicron particles that they were trying to get to, and Tuvok says it’s a lot lower than it was originally, and they’re leaking out. Basically the thing is bleeding. Janeway wants to help it. The Doctor, who’s been on the viewscreen in the background cooking up some delicious ham, signals for attention. When his audio is restored, he mentions that the lifeform should have the capacity to regenerate with a little nucleonic radiation to get it started. They’ll have to head back in.

Chakotay calls a Yellow Alert, and Neelix sputters about it, and god so many tedious or facepalm-worthy subplots in this episode! He goes to complain to Janeway, and Janeway isn’t having it. Funny how she’s at her most likeable when she’s telling people to suck it up.

Into the nebula! The thing happens, and they do the thing! Things seem to be going well, and then the nebula sets its defense/immune systems on them with a vengeance. Inertial damping goes down, and Torres is forced to vent fuel to shut off the engines. Janeway reasons that the creature is wary of them now, and particularly their engines, so they decide to drift along with the omicron particles towards the wound.

Neelix comes onto the bridge and distributes refreshments, having appointed himself morale officer. Blah blah blah Neelix is annoying.

They reach the wound, and Torres fires the nucleonic radiation, but it’s not helping much. The Doctor suggests an energy suture; using the ship as a conduit across the wound should help it to heal. The problem being how to get into the wound (they keep calling it “the breach” but it’s a wound, dammit) without the creature attacking again. Paris says it’s like asking a wounded dog not to bite while you fix its teeth. And there’s a moment here of great acting from Mulgrew, as she asks Paris if he likes dogs, bonds with him over it for a second, and then remembers having to fix a cut on her own dog’s leg, and needing to distract him from it. There’s something that happens with Mulgrew’s face when Janeway has a great idea and she knows she’s got a great idea, something like what Lucy Lawless used to do whenever it was time for Xena to cut loose and kick ass, but different, because Janeway is not Xena, she’s just the fucking boss. This is what I like seeing, not Janeway-being-awkward-because-all-the-boys-who-write-for-this-show-are-uncomfortable-with-women-in-power.

Anyways Janeway distracts the life-form with a micro-probe, then sends Voyager into the breach, where Torres fires the beams. They hold position until the wound is nearly closed, then race out of the nebula without being attacked again.

So the mission to augment their power reserves ends up depleting them by 20%. They set course for a planet where Neelix says–“Neelix says,” my couch-bound ass–they might find some compatible energy sources. Janeway is all relaxed and makes conversation with Harry on the turbolift, and he invites her to Paris’s creepy bistro, where the entire command crew is chilling. Ish, again. Janeway laughs at the whole setup, and when one of the pool players hits on Torres, she gets the best lines of the episode.

“Paris, did you program this guy?” When Paris confirms it: “He’s a pig, and so are you.”

AND THEN Janeway pretends not to know pool from billiards and asks Chakotay for his stick, and then she breaks and she’s a total shark, and that almost makes up for the teaser. Almost.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, this was a really bad episode, but the character assassination that I was worried about in the beginning doesn’t seem to have taken hold, and Janeway is still awesome. Best forget it and move on, as we Buffy fans like to say about “Bad Eggs.”

NEXT UP: Kes takes on a fourth job, or a fifth, while Paris just slimes around the ship some more.