74 "The Cloud Minders"

(airdate: February 28, 1969)

Story: David Gerrold and Oliver Crawford      Teleplay: Margaret Armen
Director: Jud Taylor

Plasus: Jeff Corey

Droxine: Diana Ewing

Vanna: Charlene Polite

Stardate: 5818.4

Captain's Log: A botanical plague is ravaging the planet of Merak II, and the only cure is the substance zenite, found only on the planet Ardana, a planet of art and beauty. The Enterprise hastens to Ardana to collect a consignment of zenite, but when they arrive, they find that the zenite has been stolen by a group called Disrupters. Plasus, the high advisor of the cloud city of Stratos, explains that the Disrupters are a small minority of Troglytes - those who toil in the mines on the surface below. The Troglytes are denied the opportunity to live in Stratos, forced instead to remain on the surface and work, because it is believed that they lack the intellectual capacity to appreciate the cloud city. However, the Disrupters refuse to give up the zenite unless their demands of equality are met. Dr. McCoy discovers that raw zenite emits an odorless, colorless gas which retards mental growth; however, the effects disappear when those affected are removed from the gas. Kirk offers Plasus filter masks to counteract the gas, but he doesn't believe such a gas exists. Kirk then turns to Vanna, leader of the Disrupters. She seems to agree to his offer, but it's a ruse: Kirk is taken hostage instead. Escaping, he seals himself and Vanna inside the mines and beams Plasus down with them. Feeling the effect of the zenite gas, Plasus grudgingly accepts Kirk's word, and the Enterprise takes the consignment of zenite in exchange for filter masks for the Troglytes.

Whoops!: During the climactic fight in the cave, when Kirk knocks Plasus back against the cave wall, it shakes slightly under the impact.
     Why does Spock state that Droxine is an appropriate name for a pretty young girl? Does he feel she's useful for treating asthma, hypothyroidism, or goiters?
     But then Spock seems to be having an off day in general, including engaging in a little romance with Droxine and openly discussing pon farr with her - a subject he wouldn't even broach with his best friend Jim Kirk in "Amok Time". He also indulges in the emotion of pride and provides a long expository internal monologue, just to make sure the viewers understand what's going on.
     After the title sequence, an incredibly poor dubbing job has Kirk demand, "Who are you? What's the meaning of this attack?" while the audience gets a head-on look at Shatner's unmoving mouth. The net effect is that it looks like Kirk has chosen a strange time to practice his ventriloquism.

Classic Lines: "You sleep lightly, Captain." "Yes, duty is a good teacher."

Cringe Lines: "I would advise you to increase your knowledge."
     "Am I intruding, Captain?" Spock inquires after Kirk calls for him.
     "I have never before met a Vulcan, sir." "Nor I a work of art, madam." [One could possibly argue that Spock is responding drily to Plasus' claim that his daughter is "one of our planet's most incomparable works of art," and while that may be the intent of the script, that's not at all how it's played.]
     Spock's aforementioned, incredibly awkward info dump, which begins, "This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts," before dwelling on "the lovely Droxine" for a while. But at least Droxine gets a chance to return the favor, including referring to Spock as Kirk's "very attractive officer" and wondering if he would hear her on the Enterprise if she called his name.

Alien Love: Spock seems to be unusually attracted to Droxine, daughter of the high advisor of Stratos. Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for everyone at home), she seems to feel the same way - although nothing appears to come of it.

Library Computer: Merak II is an inhabited Federation planet which relies on plant life for oxygen. A botanical plague attacked the planet, threatening to quickly destroy all plant life and therefore the planet's inhabitants. Zenite is the only substance known to stop the plague.
     Zenite is a substance native to the planet Ardana. It is shipped all over the galaxy and is used "wherever there's danger of plant bacteria". Refined, it is a dull grey color with no side effects, but in its raw state it emits an odorless, colorless gas which retards mental growth by as much as twenty percent below normal, as well as heightening emotional reactions. Those affected by the gas return to normal when removed from its presence, and filter masks can be worn to prevent its effect.
     Ardana is a reddish-brown planet, with a red-orange sky and a virtually uninhabitable surface. It is a member of the Federation and thus obligated to help other members of the Federation. Its capital city [and only metropolis] is Stratos, a city built in the clouds and kept elevated by sustained antigravity. Stratos's chief occupation is art. It is ruled by a council chamber, headed by a high advisor, Plasus. All forms of violence were claimed to have been eliminated. In addition to the advanced technology keeping Stratos aloft, they have matter transportation tech.
     In reality, Ardana is a heavily segregated society, with the rulers living on Stratos while the workers, called Troglytes (the word being an abbreviation of an ancient Earth term [troglodyte] for "cave dweller"), toil in the mines below. Exposure to zenite gas makes them intellectually inferior and emotionally charged. The Troglytes are said to be a conglomerate of "inferior" species, and they dress in grubby overalls (orange for men and blue for women), with silver shields to protect them against bright light and blue do-rags on their heads. They all appear to have long hair, and they carry mining implements called mortaes which can substitute for a weapon. Some of them are brought to Stratos to serve in menial positions such as servants and sentinels and are educated accordingly. A small proportion of Troglytes are known as Disrupters. They demand equality and justice for the Troglytes, and the opportunity to dwell in Stratos. Punishment on Stratos includes imprisonment and torture via a pain-inducing device [the rostrum] that emits colored rays while the subject is strapped to a pillar. Troglytes must carry transport cards when visiting Stratos and must have repair permits if they are there to perform maintenance. Troglytes greet each other by grasping the right shoulder of the other person.
     The Vulcan mating cycle [pon farr] occurs once every seven years. During that time, the mating drive "outweighs all other motivations." Vulcans can be affected by mating urges outside of the cycle, however.
     Vulcans have acute hearing.
     There is a Federation Bureau of Industrialization.

Final Analysis: "Centuries ago, Stratos was built by leaders that gave their word that all inhabitants would live there. The Troglytes are still waiting." A dull and muddled commentary on apartheid. There's a bit of gesture toward examining the problem, but most of the screen time is taken up with demanding this week's miracle cure instead. While the actors do their best with the material, the fact is that Armen's script has no idea how to make this all exciting and little conception as to how these characters would actually interact - leaving the philosophical/political debates terribly simplistic. You can see why David Gerrold disowned the finished product.

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