This episode provides the only canonical desciption of the workings of the universal translator.
Though it would happen several times afterwards, this is the first episode in which Captain Kirk is not aboard the Enterprise at any point.
When in Human form, the Companion looks at Cochrane through Hedford's scarf, which is the same colour pattern as the Companion energy cloud, as if wanting to see him once more as she used to. The moment is unscripted, and was thought of on set whilst shooting when it was noticed that the scarf in question coincidentally matched the Companion special effect.
However, the shuttle encounters a strange glowing cloud of energy and becomes disabled. It crashes on the nearby Gamma Canaris N, a planet which can support life but is uninhabited. They try to contact the ship but find that their communicators are being blocked by some unknown effect.
To their surprise, a Human male approaches and greets them. He identifies himself as Cochrane, saying that he too was marooned on the planet, so long ago that he doesn't even know how long it has been, and has been alone there ever since. He explains that some form of energy dampening field exists on the planet, making it impossible to repair the shuttle - there is nothing wrong with it, it merely cannot operate within the field. He shows the four to his nearby home, a small but comfortable dwelling.
Kirk is suspicious of Cochrane and questions him. Eventually the man admits to being Zefram Cochrane, a historical figure known for being the inventor of warp drive. He explains that when he was 87 he decided to fly into space to die alone. His ship was disabled, but Cochrane was saved by the energy field - it is not a simple mindless phenomena but a life form, which he calls "The Companion". The Companion has used its powers to rejuvenate Cochrane to his current youthful appearance. Despite having the Companion for company, Cochrane says that he has been increasingly lonely on the planet and suspects that the energy being brought Kirk and the others here to provide him with Human company.
Hedford's condition begins to worsen, and McCoy states that she will likely die soon unless she is treated. Spock continues his attempts to get the shuttle working, but when the Companion appears he attempts to communicate with it and is given an electrical shock. The Companion attacks the shuttle, destroying the electrical systems and rendering any further repair efforts useless. Despite this setback, Spick suggests that the attack shows that the Companion is electrical in nature, and this may provide a way to attack it. He creates a device which will short-circuit the Companion and Cochrane calls it to him so that they can make their assault.
Unfortunately the attack fails and the Companion is undamaged. Kirk decides to try and modify the universal translator in an attempt to communicate with the creature. The attempt succeeds, and the Companion explains that it is female in nature and is keeping Cochrane on the planet because she is in love with him. Cochrane is repelled by the idea and storms off. Hedford, who overheard the exchange, states sadly that whilst she has had a successful career she has never been loved, or loved anybody else.
Kirk tries to convince the Companion that she and Cochrane are too different to be in love with one another, but the Companion has a plan; she merges her mind with Hedford, curing the Commissioner of her disease whilst taking Human form. The merge is irreversible - if the Companion leaves, Hedford will die. She repairs the shuttle to allow the Enterprise officers to leave, and Cochrane decides that he can love her in this new form and will remain behind. It appears that in her new form the Companion cannot keep him young, and so the two will have the chance to grow old together and die.
The officers leave, and head back to the Enterprise. They agree between themselves that they will not reveal Cochrane's real fate, but rather let history continue to remember him as before.
An elderly man is travelling through space. A woman sees him passing, and decides that she wants him. So she abducts him. She strands him in a place where she is literally the only contact he has. And then she keeps him prisoner there, essentially indefinitely. She keeps him dependent on her for almost everything - food, water, basic survival. Ultimately she reveals her true intention to seduce the man, and he rejects her. She's told that he cannot love her, and it is pointed out to her that her treatment of him has been inhumane. So, since there happens to be a sick woman nearby, she euthanises her, climbs into her skin, and again demands that the man love her.
I'm sorry, but this is not romantic! This is a fricken horror story! The Companion has been horribly abusive to one man, has committed murder on one woman... and the outcome of this? The man says he is in love with her after all and stays with her! I can only take that as stockholm syndrome - that Cochrane has been so subjugated for so long that he really isn't in any position to make rational or even valid emotional decisions. The moral of the story seems to be "love conquers all... so if somebody doesn't return your love then do anything you have to, right up to murder, to make them love you, dammit!"
Okay, I'm being a little over the top there. But you see the basic problem? The Companion behaves abominably all the way through, right up to the moment that it "merges" with Hedford. And that merge is just plonked in there... yes, we see Hedford express regret over not ever having had love in her life, and yes, we know that Hedford will soon die without treatment. One might suppose that Hedford would agree to the merger on that basis, knowing that her consciousness will remain in some form, and that she will get the love she craves in some form. But that is supposition; from all we see the merger might wipe Hedford's mind completely. And even then, we might suppose that Hedford would agree to that, sacrificing her last hours of life and donating her body so that the Companion might have a chance at love. And either of those might be seen as a romantic gesture, Nancy being willing to do anything for a chance to experience the love she never has, or being willing to sacrifice anything so that somebody else could experience the love she never has.
But all that is just supposition, because the episode never explores any of it. The Companion simply goes "oh, he can't love me because I'm not Human? Okay then..." and jumps straight into the nearest available body. No asking, no discussion, nothing. It treats Hedford like a toy that is there to be used and abused in service of what it wants, just as it has always done with Cochrane, and nobody seems to care very much at all. It's a truly awful bit of story resolution, and it greatly harms an episode that was already struggling. we get nothing to show us that this is something Hedford chose to allow. And there's no moment of realisation, no sense that it ever learns that what it did is wrong. And worse, nobody else involved seems to think it either. Can you really imagine Captain Kirk standing up for that without so much as a word of disapproval? It's a mortal blow to the episode.
|© Graham & Ian Kennedy||Page views : 33,931||Last updated : 24 Nov 2014|