Overview – Low on energy reserves and morale, Janeway orders the ship into what appears to be a nebula rich with energy. She and the crew soon discover that the cloud is more than it appears, and Janeway works towards repairing the damage that they have done.
Score: 7/10 – A nice little bottle episode that takes the familiar space creature concept and uses it as a backdrop to explore the people that make up the crew. This being an episode early in the season, it is important because it helps flesh out these characters that we are just starting to learn about. While there is not too much in the way of action, the revelation of the cloud as being a life form is interesting. Most of all, I like how this really starts to explore Katherine Janeway’s character. While the pacing is a bit off at times, there are some great moments between characters that give us some great dialogue.
Relevance - 3 points. I scored a point for Chez Sandrine, a holodeck program created by Tom Paris and will be the usual social gathering place for the next few years. It was an attempt to give the crew something to bond over, similar to the poker games in TNG, only using pool as the game of choice. A second point is scored for the Doctor’s desire to expand his programming, maybe even creating a family. He does this in Season 3. A third point is scored for the first mentioning of Lewis Zimmerman, creator of the EMH. We will see him a few times, both in Deep Space Nine and Voyager, played by Robert Picardo. If that wasn’t enough, this also marks the beginning of Neelix as Chief Morale Officer, a self-imposed rank that he will carry out throughout his tenure on the ship.
Continuity - 2 points. I had to deduct a point here for story continuity. Chakotay tells Janeway that she is the first person he has shown his medicine bundle to, and yet Torres reveals that she has also gone on the animal guide experience, suggesting that she was familiar with the medicine bundle. Character continuity is solid as everyone acts in a way that we have come to expect. Janeway shows a bit more vulnerability, but it is natural as their journey continues that she does so. Universe continuity is also intact here.
Character Development – 3 points. There are few episodes that really give such great, in depth character development as this one. Janeway is the focus, but practically everybody gets some important attention. Chakotay’s spiritual side is highlighted with the vision quest that he helps guide Janeway on. Tom’s love for nostalgia and holo-programming that will resurface multiple times is brought in. Neelix shows hints of his cautious and protective nature as he is infuriated when the Captain orders the ship to enter the cloud, and it is further more aggravated when he learns that the cloud is a life form and that they are entering it again. When he realizes that he is not going to get his way, he makes the best of himself by self-appointing him as ship’s Morale Officer. Kes, meanwhile, reveals more of her adventure-loving self that is balanced with sense of trust and loyalty towards the crew. The Doctor talks about his desires to expand his programming, and also shares some of his frustration towards Janeway’s desire to explore as they return home. We learn more about Harry, always wanting to please the Captain, but he does start to stand up for himself more. When Tuvok scolds Harry for expressing awe on the bridge, and later Tuvok expresses the same sentiment (albeit in a more Vulcan-like fashion), Harry privately gives his superior a bit of sarcastic chastisement of his own. Torres shows that she was once, too, sent on a spirit guide journey with Chakotay, although it ended badly when she tried to kill her spirit animal. As mentioned above, Tuvok takes to the senior officer role with
Social Commentary – 0 points. As enjoyable as this episode is, I find it hard to identify anything that provides us a lesson or an insight into our own societal issues. Sorry, no points here.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. Janeway discovers that her animal guide is a small lizard. That was actually a surprise as one tends to think that great magnificent animals such as eagles or bears would be the animal of choice for a starship captain. A simple lizard is actually a cool little twist.
Rank – Captain (16 points). If you are wanting to only catch important episodes, I would suggest watching this one as part of your Season 1 experience. It gives you a great look at all of the main characters and helps you understand them all a bit better. It is a fun though not too serious episode that has plenty of entertaining moments.