In which Scotty’s brain stops functioning, nobody makes backups in the 23rd century, and Spock and McCoy agree on something.
The Enterprise is en route to Memory Alpha, which is a planetoid that is the Federation’s central computer and library, and Scotty is making eyes at the technician while Kirk waxes poetic basically about how Scotty is too old to be in love gracefully. Dick move, Kirk. These are your official logs to starfleet. What the actual fuck. Kirk be all like “Scotty likes to put his dick in the Enterprise, it’s awkward that he’s hitting on chicks now” but in that florid semi-poetry that Kirk occasionally lapses into. Get a livejournal, Jim.
However, suddenly they see a blob full of flashing lights approaching at medium warp that then engulfs the ship and has varying physiological effects, including, but not limited to, zooming the camera in on Lt. Mira Romaine’s eyeball. That cannot possibly bode well for anyone. Last time we saw anything remotely resembling this, the Enterprise seriously considered glassing a planet just to kill Gary Mitchel. Only instead of being turned into a demigod, now she’s making washing machine noises instead of speech when she’s opening her mouth. Which it turns out McCoy can cure with a hypo.
Bad news: The cloud is heading directly for Memory Alpha and Memory Alpha has no shields. This was somehow deliberate. Because the last thing you want to do when you have a single central repository of all information is make it capable of defending itself. Just because it’s free to use doesn’t mean you don’t give it a shield so it can, I dunno, defend itself from mysterious space-storms. that can make young lieutennants irises turn into apes in starfleet uniforms. No I will not show you a picture because that would mean you didn’t have to watch the episode to figure out what the fuck I’m talking about.
So when they beam down, the lights are out and the generator is offline, and Spock states that the loss to the galaxy may be irreplaceable. Without putting too fine a point on it, this is why you build a damn shield. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever want to use it to keep someone out, asteroids exist. You live in the Star Trek universe, it’s pretty guaranteed that some weird anomaly will visit at some point and ruin your day. (This is also why you make backups, but I will admit that a computer complex the size of 12 Superdomes would be hard to just spin up into the cloud.)
Oh hey, it looks like Mira was seeing what was happening on Memory Alpha, as the residents of the complex are also affected, making garbage disposal noises, and glowing in a most peculiar and disturbing fashion before dying from systemic brain hemorrhage. Mira’s encounter with the storm and subsequent survival are permitting her to predict its path, and that it’s coming back and chasing the Enterprise.
So it’s either sentient, or alive and driven by instinct towards technological artifacts, or natural and attracted by some byproduct of Federation technology. Spock is able to get enough readings to determine that it is actually ten living things, for a given value of life. Kirk tries to talk to them, which produces some kind of reaction. I will give Kirk this, he’s doing everything possible to avoid damaging this new life-form, but eventually he has to use phasers, and Lt. Romaine feels it.
So naturally the next plan is to compare Mira Romaine’s biography with the creatures. I’m not sure what similarities could possibly be turned up apart from a brainwave match between the two of them, which is exactly what happens. So either they’re tuned to her or turning her into them, et cetera. What concerns me is Scotty’s one off comment that he didn’t report Mira was seeing things because “you don’t report space sickness.”
That may be a decent policy in general, but as an officer authorized to command the ship in times of emergency, Scotty should know better than to have stuck to that policy after witnessing her successfully predict the cloud’s actions.
So, it turns out these lights are the collective willpower of a hundred doomed survivors of a dead planet that have been looking for a thousand years to impregnate someone with their mind-babies. So, in an effort to kill the last survivors of a dead species but save the host, they throw Mira in a hyperbaric chamber, the same one that Khan used to almost execute Kirk, and screw with the environment until the cloud gives up in disgust and Mira is cleared to go install equipment on a computer complex full of corpses.