In which I contemplate the sensors, Spock preaches the vegetarianism he practices, and James Kirk Doesn’t Care About Cloud People!
I’ll say this for the animated shorts – there’s no teaser, we just go right to the theme song, which means I get to do all the WordPress administration stuff right off the bat. It’s super convenient. Such praise, I know, but how am I possibly going to top the last installment of ‘yet more time travel’?
Maybe by talking about how Kirk is lying to us right off the bat. “A huge cosmic cloud has been seen wandering around. Nothing like it has been seen before.” While this episode takes place prior to The Motion Picture, they’ve definitely seen spaceborne entities, huge moon-sized objects, and sentient clouds before, so the contention ‘nothing like it has been seen before’ shows us that Kirk is probably too specific in his reference classes for them to be all that useful. I mean, I could be wrong, but I’m not.
They are attempting to reach Mantillies, the most remove planet in the entire Federation. I will give them this, the cloud is at least bigger than the Doomsday Machine, at twice the diameters of all the Gas Giants in the Sol system combined. And Spock is having a weird time reading it, since it is reading as both matter and energy. And then it eats the outermost uninhabited planet in the system. How ’bout that Doomsday Machine, huh?
Given that these episodes are not actually canon, I’m not sure how useful it is to draw from, but we’ve heard statements like ‘it reads as matter and energy’ before. It makes me wonder what the sensors on the Enterprise are based on. We have gravity gradiometers today, so the idea that the Enterprise is equipped with a sophisticated one that can compensate for the mass of the ship and the people inside it is not all that far fetched. And obviously they’d be equipped with sensors for all known spectra of electromagnetic radiation. Perhaps a Constitution-class ship wouldn’t, but I would certainly expect at least one science vessel to have a full-on Neutrino detector. What instruments could Spock be looking at that tell him the cloud is ‘both matter and energy’ and, more to the point, what would that actually mean?
Spock presumes the cloud can sense planets to eat, and it certainly seems capable of pulling the Enterprise into it’s… mouth, I guess, with ‘tendrils made of koinoenergy, almost an ambiplasma with an unusually powerful attraction force.’ BINGO! Now you’re just making shit up, Spock.
So now we’re just in an episode of The Fantastic Voyage, as we see the Enterprise display defensive capabilities like we’ve never seen before, like being able to send out a wave of antimatter from the Bridge to break down cloud saliva-rocks. Look, it makes sense in context but not really. There’s a classic briefing room scene in which nothing surprising is happening, and they scan the cloud from the inside to try to find its asshole to fly out. Of course, that won’t stop it from eating the inhabited planet in a few hours.
These shorts are really just impressionistic paintings of a full episode, with not enough space between relevant bits of information for it to be impressive that they can come up with a solution. The engine room is running out of antimatter, but the cloud just happens to have digestive villi that are made of antimatter. There’s not even an interstitial scene between these two bits.
Also, this version of Kirk is a lot more casually violent than live-action Kirk. Presumably he’s stressed, but that’s never hurt his decision-making capacity before. On figuring out that the thing has a brain, his first instinct is to blow up the brain. He’s trying to save 82 million people, but he doesn’t say ‘hey, let’s prepare to kill it just in case while we work on another solution.’ He says “We’ll use the photon torpedoes to destroy the brain.” and he doesn’t start seeking alternatives until he learns that the only way to destroy the brain would be to self-destruct the Enterprise. I’m glad these aren’t canon, because that’s nothing like Kirk.
Unless… this is an instance of Kirk’s deep and abiding speciesism against cloud creatures. See “Obsession.”
Fortunately, Spock is able to use Vulcan telepathy in concert with the Enterprise sensors to talk to the cloud and teach it that things live on planets sometimes, and to always check its food for insects if it wants to be a geotarian.