In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode The Cloud Minders which aired on February 28, 1969 and Star Date 5818.4

Story Synopsis

When a botanical plague threatens to destroy all vegetation on the planet Merak II, the Enterprise makes a visit to Ardana, the only known source of the xenite mineral needed to halt the plague. Despite High Advisor Plasus’s request that they beam to the cloud city Stratos, Kirk and Spock beam directly down to the xenite mine entrance, where they are lassoed by the xenite miners. Kirk and Spock fend the miners off, and those who are not quick enough at running away are killed by security guards who beam down with high advisor Plasus from Stratos.

Kirk and Spock are entertained as guests on Stratos until the xenite can be found. During their stay, they discover that Ardana is a divided planet, with the Trogglytes toiling in the cold and dirt of the mines and the city-dwellers enjoying the benefits. Although Kirk and Spock do not witness the event, a Trogglyte who is captured after defacing artwork in Stratos refuses to reveal the names of the rebel disrupters, preferring instead to fall to his death by jumping out of a window.

Plasus’ daughter Droxine is fascinated with Spock (she likes his “exquisitely shaped ears”), but the city servant and secret Trogglyte leader Vanna has an interest of a different kind for Kirk: she attempts to take him hostage at mining-implement-point. Kirk recognizes her from the planet’s surface and tries to question her. She does not fully cooperate, but does tell Kirk that the Trogglytes believe the Enterprise has been sent to intimidate them. He calls Spock and Droxine, who in turn summons a sentinel to escort Vanna away. Vanna’s screams as she is being tortured with rays in an attempt to learn the names of other disrupters draw Kirk and Spock. Kirk is outraged by the torture, and his forceful protests prompt Plasus to order their immediate departure from the city.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Kirk learns from McCoy that unprocessed xenite emits an odorless, invisible gas which temporarily diminishes mental ability and heightens emotions. Spock then realizes that the leaders of the disrupters have all been isolated from xenite emissions by their service aboard Stratos. Kirk proposes that the Trogglytes be supplied with xenite masks, but Plasus is not interested. Kirk then violates Plasus’s ban from Stratos by secretly beaming down to Vanna’s cell on Stratos, armed with a mask, and offering his assistance in achieving equality for her people if she will produce the xenite. Vanna seems to agree but takes Kirk hostage (despite Midro and Anka’s desire to kill him) after she and Kirk overpower the guard and escape to the mines on the planet’s surface. Vanna then forces Kirk to experience life as a Trogglyte and dig with his hands.

Kirk regains his phaser from Vanna after she has sent Midro and Anka on errands. He uses it to seal the cavern and orders the Enterprise to beam Plasus down as well for a small demonstration on the effects of an invisible gas. The demonstration proves quite effective when Kirk becomes enraged and commands Plasus and Vanna to dig xenite. When Vanna and Plasus grow faint due to the diminishing oxygen in the sealed chamber, Kirk strikes him and the two begin hand-to-hand combat with mining implements. The three are saved from suffocation only when Vanna gets Kirk’s communicator during the combat and tells the Enterprise to beam them up.

Once the effect of the gas has worn off, Kirk agrees to provide Vanna with masks and help the Trogglytes obtain equality in exchange for the xenite, despite the protests of Plasus. Kirk and Plasus drop charges against each other, and Kirk and Spock return to the Enterprise with xenite in hand.

Fun Fact

From the Memory Alpha entry on this episode, come two interesting items involving Mr. Spock. First, it was very unusual that Spock would discuss the Vulcan mating ritual so casually with a stranger Droxine. In the episode  Amok Time, he tells Kirk that such ceremonies are not fit for discussion with outworlders. Similarly, his observation that “we [Vulcans] do pride ourselves on our logic” is uncharacteristic, given that pride is a Human conceit. This episode contains a unique sequence with Spock giving an internal monologue which contained clips recapping the events up to that point.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. What is institutional justice?
  2. What is institutional fairness?
  3. How do you know your discipline is consistent?


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for The Cloud Minders Cloud Minders

Memory Alpha – The Cloud Minders