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The Changeling

Review

Series : The Original Series Rating : 4
Disc No : 2.1 Episode : 38
First Aired : 29 Sep 1967 Stardate : 3541.9
Director : Marc Daniels Year : 2267
Writers : John Meredyth Lucas Season : 2
Guest Cast :
Arnold Lessing as Lieutenant Carlisle
Arnold Lessing as Voice of Security guard #1
Barbara Gates as Astrochemist
Eddie Paskey as Lieutenant Leslie
Majel Barrett as Christine Chapel
Makee Blaisdel as Mr. Singh
Marc Daniels as Jackson Roykirk
Meade Martin as Crewman
Vic Perrin as Voice of Nomad
Moral :
Probes : You have to be very very careful when you give instructions to a computer
YATI : Spock declares that Nomad's energy bolts are the equivalent of 90 of their own photon torpedoes. The ship takes three hits from these. Does it really take 270 photon torpedoes to break down the shields of a Starship? Strangely enough, when one of the ship's photons hits Nomad a minute later and causes no damage, Kirk is amazed that anything can survive such a blast. If his own ship can accept hundreds of times this punishment why is it such a big deal that Nomad can take one hit?

So when Nomad zaps Uhura, it apparently wipes out her memory. We later see Christine teaching her how to read English, and we're told she is rapidly relearning all the stuff people know. Um... for one, won't this make Uhura a completely different person? We are, in at least large part, the sum of our experiences. Uhura just lost her entire childhood, every family she ever had, every romantic relationship she ever had, every friendship she ever had... and she's just going to "relearn" all this and come out exactly the way she did before? Really?

And even if she could do that, just how long would it take? I'm sure she's a bright lady, but Starfleet academy alone was a multi year program for her in the first place. Now we're told she is already up to college level and will be back on the job in a week?! Why the hell do you spend years at Starfleet Academy if you can learn it all in under a week?!

And anyway, when Uhura gets frustrated she says something in Swahili, and Chapel asks her to speak English. So they actually taught her Swahili first? And it only took the course of a fraction of the episode to become completely proficient in it? And if Chapel doesn't speak it, then who the hell taught it to Uhura? NONE OF THIS MAKES A LICK OF SENSE!

Great Moment : Kirk arguing Nomad into destroying itself.
Body Count : 4 Billion in the Malurian system, 4 redshirts killed by Nomad, Nomad itself and Scotty, who is later revived.
Factoid : The same basic story is used in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

Kirk makes a joke about "My son... the Doctor!" in this episode. As we will learn in Star Trek II, Kirk will indeed have a son who will become a Doctor - although with a Doctorate in physics rather than medicine.

Jackson Roykirk's photograph is actually a photo of episode director Marc Daniels.

The Malurian civilisation, which Nomad destroys, was a reptilian species which the much later Enterprise series depicted the NX-01 encountering in the 2150s. The Malurians in that episode were a rather aggressive reptilian race which exploited a more primitive society. One could see this episode as being an example of karma coming back in a serious way!

Quote : "This unit is different. It is well ordered." - Nomad to Kirk regarding Spock.

Plotline

The Enterprise is investigating a distress call from the Malurian system. They can get no response from the system, and Spock's sensor sweeps show no life readings at all in the area - troubling, as their records show that there should be a population of four billion there. As the ship proceeds a massive energy bolt suddenly appears, smashing into the shields and rocking the ship, More bolts follow, battering the shields down. They target the small object which is apparently the origin point of the weapons and launch a photon torpedo, but to their amazement it has no effect.

Kirk hails the object, and it responds with a binary code. They manage to communicate with the object, and since t is only about a metre long they offer to beam it aboard. They find themselves confronted with a small floating machine of some sort, which goes by the name of Nomad. It proclaims Kirk to be its creator, and since this is what stayed its attack on the ship, he decides to press the advantage by going along.

Nomad seems set on investigating the ship, resulting in various surprises and misunderstandings. Nomad appears confused by Uhura's singing, prompting it to scan her mind and conclude that she is erratic and illogical. It wipes her memory as a result. When Scotty attempts to intervene, Nomad kills him with an energy blast. However, it appears unconcerned with what it has done and when challenged by Kirk it simply brings Scotty back to life again.

Investigation by Spock provides a clue to Nomad's origin - there was a Nomad probe launched by Humanity in the distant past. The device was designed by one Jackson Roykirk, a name similar enough to James Kirk to explain it taking Kirk for its creator. A mind meld by Spock shows that Nomad collided with an alien space probe at some point. The two machines managed to combine themselves, repairing their damage. Unfortunately Nomad's mission of finding alien life was also merged with the alien probe's mission of sterilising soil samples, and now Nomad considers itself on a mission to find and sterilise any imperfect life.

Unfortunately, Nomad eventually comes to realise that Kirk is not in fact its creator. It becomes determined to destroy the Enterprise crew, something they appear powerless to prevent. Kirk does some fast talking, pointing out that Nomad itself has made mistakes - mistaking him for its creator, for instance. By its own standards the machine is imperfect, and since its prime mission is to destroy all imperfect life, Nomad is forced to end its own existence. They beam the machine out into space just in time before it explodes.

Analysis

A good episode that takes a simple idea and spins it out into an involving story. The primary failing here is the issues with Uhura referenced in the YATI section - wiping her memory and then simply having her relearn everything is just too silly even for Trek levels of implausibility. And by this time Kirk's "talk the computer to death" routine was a little tired. But there is fun to be had with Nomad doing its super-machine routine, and the whole thing works quite well.

Of course the legacy of this episode lies in the fact that the plot was largely recycled directly into Star Trek : The Motion Picture. All the elements are there - the Earth probe which was launched into deep space and encountered an alien machine, became supremely powerful, and is now returning. The whole 'I want to meet my creator' thing is there, and you can even take the Uhura mindwipe and equate it with Ilia's replacement by the V'Ger probe.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 3,080 Last updated : 21 Jul 2013