Far From the Bones of Our People
"The Cloud" Plot Summary:
Janeway walks through the ship checking on her crew, reflecting in her log on how distanced she feels from them and how lonely they seem. On the bridge, she laments that they have no ship's counselor, to which Chakotay responds that his people have animal guides - their own counselors - and asks Janeway whether she'd like him to help her find hers. She is enthusiastic, but they are interrupted by the discovery of a nebula rich in particles which could power the replicators.
Janeway orders the crew through an energy field surrounding the anomaly, but once inside, the ship is bombarded by alien material. The ship must use one of its few torpedos to escape. Once safely outside, Chakotay comes to Janeway's ready room and introduces her to her animal guide - a lizard - but they are interrupted by Torres, who has made a surprising discovery: the anomaly is a life form, and the ship injured it.
The ship is attacked by the creature's natural defense systems, but with the Doctor's help, the crew begins to regenerate it. Once the life form has been healed, the ship moves on and Janeway contemplates the further loss of supplies. Ensign Kim invites her to the holodeck, where Tom Paris has recreated a French bistro, and Janeway trounces her pilot at pool as the command crew looks on.
Oh my. I know, I keep saying this, but I really could fall in love with this captain.
I just thought I better get that off my chest before I started to review this episode, because if this had been a TNG episode, I would have thought it stank. Mediocre plot, stagnant action, lots of introspection on the part of the captain...who needs it? On this show, however, it worked beautifully, largely because of Kate Mulgrew. If someone had asked me to describe my ideal commanding officer, I couldn't have done it better than she's playing her.
There were so many things I liked...the growing intimacy between captain and first officer, which reminded me of Kirk and Spock, but with a surprisingly strong sexual edge that's undeniably gripping. I would never have thought I'd want to see Trek's first woman captain involved in a romance with a member of her crew. But the chemistry between these two is amazing, particularly when they're flirting deliberately - I almost fell out of my chair at the end of the episode when she demanded, "Commander Chakotay, your stick" - but also in subtle moments like the look she gave him when he lifted her hand to place it on the device to induce a meditative trance. Considering that they're decades from home and need to depend upon each other for support, I think this show could very well develop a relationship between this captain and first officer that goes a step further than Kirk and Spock's, or Sisko and Kira's...and man, would it be fun to watch.
Chakotay's an interesting character; I'm a little surprised that he's been as introspective as he has so far, considering what he was like in "Caretaker" and what we know of his background as a rebel. I suspect it's because the writers think too much challenge to their woman captain might weaken her, but I also find myself really liking this character. Most Trek characters are action-oriented, even the logical ones like Spock (and presumably Tuvok, though we've barely seen him at all); I like the idea of a religious character, a people person, and it's interesting the way the traditional gender roles seem to have been switched: Janeway's the boss, Chakotay's the nurturer. Yet neither of them seems any the weaker for it. Lovely stuff.
There was some nice bonding between Kim and Paris, and Paris and Torres, as well (speaking of romance, what a couple the latter two would make!) But this was Janeway's episode. It started and ended with a voiceover by her, and in between there was some real growth and connection. As long as she'll wear lipstick on duty if she feels like it and insist on coffee when she needs it, as long as she can connect with her crew as people in a way that Picard never did in seven seasons of TNG, I'm not going to have any complaints about how she can't be a woman as well as a captain or vice versa, as I feared.