|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.3 “The Changeling” – (Original air date: Friday, September 29, 1967)

TrekTheChangeling

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Changeling.”

  • On this date in history: Although the movie was released in August, Bonnie and Clyde was still #1 at the box office on this Friday. This movie is often considered to be one of the first films of the “American New Wave” of filmmakers, and influenced many future movies with its frank treatment of sex and violence.
  • I remember going to a strip mall in Lancaster, South Carolina—this would have been sometime in the early to mid ’70s—to actually see Bonnie and Clyde’s car and all of its bullet holes. I think I saw the car years before I actually watched the movie.
  • I don’t think the movie influenced this episode. Could it have influenced other Trek episodes? Hmm . . . maybe.
  • The Letter,” by The Box Tops is still the #1 song in the US. Great song, aeroplanes and all.
  • Engelbert Humperdinck was still milking “The Last Waltz” for all it was worth in the UK. I don’t know what category of music this was, but it ain’t rock-‘n’-roll.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An ancient Earth probe returns after being missing for centuries with a faulty memory and incredible abilities, and it looks like the probe is going to “sterilize” all of Earth for being less than perfect.
  • If you said that sounds a whole lot like the plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we can be friends.
  • Of course, we’re not the only ones who have noticed this similarity. Some smart wiseacres have given Star Trek: The Motion Picture the subtitle “Where NOMAD has gone before.”
  • Because the probe’s name in this episode is NOMAD. Get it?
  • Apparently the idea wasn’t even original in “The Changeling,” though. The final episode of The Outer Limits aired back in 1965 and was titled “The Probe.” This episode had many elements similar to “The Changeling.”
  • It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • We have an excellent cold open here. The USS Enterprise is heading for the Malurian star system, where there should be 4 billion inhabitants, but they are now reading no life forms at all. 4 billion lives, snuffed out. That’ll make you take notice.
  • Kirk has a Superman spit curl in this scene.
  • While Kirk and Spock are speculating about what could have happened, the ship is struck by a powerful energy bolt. We get some pretty good tilted camera acting here. End of teaser.
  • As Act One begins, the ship’s shields are down 20%. Spock says they absorbed energy equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes. That sounds like a lot.
  • Spock also tells Kirk that the speed of the energy bolts was approximately warp 15.
  • There’s plenty of things in the real world that I don’t understand. Warp speed is just one of the fictional world things I don’t understand. Nor do I think anyone does, really. I just know that warp 15 is really, really fast. A speed the Enterprise itself cannot reach.
  • After being struck three times, Kirk orders a photon torpedo fired at the mysterious, small object that is attacking them.
  • They score a direct hit, but the target absorbs the full energy of the torpedo.
  • Kirk expresses incredulity at this. “What could have absorbed that much energy and survived?” Didn’t their ship just survive the equivalent of 90 photon torpedoes, according to Spock?
  • After being struck for the fourth time, the ship’s shields are completely down. Another strike will destroy them. Kirk decides that this is the proper time to try diplomacy. I love that Kirk is the anti-Picard.
  • Kirk hails the unidentified vessel, introducing himself as Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise. For reasons we’ll understand in a bit, this saves the ship from being destroyed for the moment.
  • Spock calculates the unidentified vessel at five hundred kilograms and a fraction over one meter in length.
  • For those of us who never fully converted to the Metric System, this is slightly over 1100 pounds (more than half a US ton) and a little over 3 feet.
  • So, smallish and heavy-ish.
  • The object begins to respond to the hail in some sort of binary code. When decoded, it asks Kirk to repeat his hail, which he does. Then the object transmits another signal, a mathematical formula of some kind, and quickly learns how to communicate when it interfaces with the ship’s translator.
  • The object introduces itself as Nomad and says that its mission is non-hostile, which seems unlikely, given the facts. It requires further communication.
  • Kirk says it’s impossible to come aboard Nomad’s ship because of the size differential, to which Nomad responds: “Non sequitur. Your facts are uncoordinated.” Which seems like a non sequitur in itself.
  • Kirk offers, instead, to beam Nomad on board the Enterprise instead, an offer that’s accepted.
  • Scotty, who should probably be in Engineering rather than on the bridge, thinks the captain has gone mad.
  • Kirk suggests that Nomad can’t take any more shots at the ship if its on board. Which makes sense, I guess.
  • After Nomad beams aboard, our Starfleet officers deduce that the object isn’t a ship at all but a highly sophisticated computer. It looks like a satellite, with an antenna and flashing lights.
  • Kirk recalls that there was an Earth space probe called Nomad launched in the early 2000s.
  • Spock, who knows more about Earth history than he should, says that probe was reported destroyed and that there were no more in the series.
  • After Nomad views their star charts, and realizes that Kirk is from Earth, it decides that Captain Kirk is its creator. The Creator, who programmed its functions. That’s the only reason why they weren’t destroyed. Happy coincidence.
  • Nomad states its function as probing for biological infestations and destroying that which is not perfect. The population of the four planets of the Malurian system were “biological infestations.”
  • Mr. Singh, who I believe is our first Indian crewmember, is asked to see to Nomad’s needs while Kirk, McCoy and Spock leave to discuss things in private.
  • Act Two begins somewhere around here, with Nomad leaving Singh to track down Uhura, because she is singing. I hope Nomad’s plans are to stop her. Apologies to Nichelle Nichols, but the only thing I think I dislike more than her singing interludes on the series is that stupid green wraparound V-neck tunic Kirk sometimes wears.
  • I’m just not a fan of musicals or ice-dancing costumes.
  • It turns out the creator of Nomad was Jackson Roykirk, who was “perhaps the most brilliant though erratic scientist of his time.” Jackson Roykirk. Captain James Kirk. Similar enough to confuse a thinking machine damaged in a meteor shower into thinking they were the same person.
  • The song Uhura is singing is “Beyond Antares,” which must be one of her favorites because we also heard part of it in “The Conscience of the King.” It never even got close to the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Nomad approaches Uhura on the bridge and wants to know why she is singing. Unsatisfied with her answer, Nomad wipes her memories and then kills Commander Scott, the bravest man in Starfleet, when he attempts to save her.
  • He’s dead, Jim,” McCoy says. End of Act Two.
  • Time for a break. Quaker Life cereal has adult nutrition that tastes goods for kids. The Benson & Hedges 100’s long awards go to the longest car, the longest table . . . ah, you get the point. Back to our show.
  • And then Nomad brings Scotty back to life. Real life. Not Life cereal.
  • So, Act Three kicks off with Nomad “repairing” Scotty upon the request of Creator Kirk. Kirk asks Nomad to help Uhura, who’s gone all tabula rasa now, but Nomad says that’s not possible.
  • McCoy and Nurse Chapel begin Uhura’s re-education using the computer. Since she seems like her old self in the next episode we see her, I guess we can assume they were successful.
  • Of course, this leads to the question of whether Uhura has any actual memories of her childhood or her time at the Academy, or if her memory of her own life begins on the day McCoy and Chapel began teaching her.
  • Does she have to learn “Beyond Antares” all over again?
  • Kirk has two security officers escort Nomad to the brig, and then orders Spock to analyze it. He intends to render it harmless.
  • Spock completes a Vulcan mind probe on the probe. He determines that Nomad was damaged in deep space, where most of its memory banks were destroyed. It wandered aimlessly until encountering an alien space probe, possibly called Tan Ru, which was programmed to secure and sterilize soil samples, probably as a prelude to colonization.
  • Tan Ru Nomad became one, with Tan Ru’s programming perverted so that Nomad is “sterilizing” biological infestations that are people.
  • An anagram for Tan Ru Nomad is “Roman Donut.”
  • Non sequitur. Your facts are uncoordinated.
  • Yes, Nomad. I know.
  • Kirk somehow ties this whole thing into the Earth legend of the changeling—which gives us the title for the episode. According to Kirk, a changeling was a fairy child that was left in place of a human baby. The changeling assumes the identity of the human child.
  • So . . . Kirk is saying that the alien probe assumed the identity of Nomad, and now interprets its programming to mean to kill all the life forms in whole star systems.
  • That’s as clear as mud.
  • As soon as Kirk and Spock leave the area, Nomad decides to leave as well, killing its two guards in the process. Nomad has decided to go to Engineering to tinker with the ship’s engines. It detects inefficiencies in the antimatter input valve and effects repairs.
  • As Nomad continues to tinker, the ship reaches speeds of warp 11. Engine efficiency is increased 57%.
  • Kirk tells Nomad that the ship’s structure can’t stand the stress of that much power and orders it to turn off its repair operation.
  • When Kirk complains because Nomad killed the two guards, Nomad retorts that Kirk’s biological units are inefficient. Kirk admits that he, Creator Kirk, is a biological unit.
  • This apparent inconsistency confuses Nomad and it allows two additional guards to escort it away from Engineering while Nomad re-evaluates.
  • Spock thinks Kirk made a mistake in admitting that he was a biological unit. In addition, Nomad mentioned returning to its launch point, which would be Earth. So, the upshot of it all is that Nomad will return to Earth, find it infested with imperfect biological units, which it will then “sterilize.”
  • Just like Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Why didn’t any of them remember this happening before?
  • As we begin Act Four, following a brief Captain’s Log update, Nomad kills two more security guards. Someone should have seen that coming.
  • Nomad uses Jefferies Tubes instead of the turbolift to move between decks.
  • McCoy summons Kirk to sickbay. Emergency.
  • Nurse Chapel has been knocked unconscious, but not killed. Well, Nomad couldn’t kill Majel Barrett, could it? Creator Roddenberry would have been upset.
  • It seems Nomad went to sickbay to specifically examine Captain James T. Kirk’s personnel files and medical history. Kirk suggests that means Nomad will have found its creator is as imperfect as other biological units.
  • Immediately after this, the life support systems go out over the entire ship.
  • Kirk tells Spock to get Scotty, some antigravs, and then meet him in Engineering.
  • Kirk makes it to Engineering alone, where everyone else is unconscious.
  • Kirk then uses one of his superpowers, the ability to talk computers to death, just like he did in “The Return of the Archons.” The paradox that kills Nomad goes thusly: Nomad is perfect. Nomad was created by biological units. Biological units are imperfect. Therefore, Nomad must be imperfect. If its prime directive is to destroy imperfection, then it must destroy itself. QED.
  • You have to remember that, early in Season One, James Kirk was being portrayed as a highly intellectual man. William Shatner never quite pulled off that characterization. Jack Lord or Lloyd Bridges may have done a better job of that.
  • Spock and Scotty arrive. Using antigrav units, they take Nomad to the transporter room and beam it out into space, where it can explode harmlessly.
  • I still think this was a better ending than sacrificing Decker to V’Ger.
  • Oh. Spoilers.
  • Our customary bridge outro includes some loose string tying and the usual light banter. Uhura is now reading at the college level, McCoy says, and should be able to return to duty within the week. Returning to work is the important thing, it seems, not her memories of the first thirty years or so of her life.
  • Spock laments the loss of Nomad, because of course Spock would feel for a highly logical machine. Kirk jokes that he’s the one who should be upset, given that Nomad considered him to be its “mother.” Nomad brought Scotty back to life. What a doctor it would have made. “My son, the doctor,” says Kirk, with fake pride.
  • If he had continued to talk, I may have hit my own self-destruct command.

This is better-than-average Trek to me, even with its shortcomings. We shouldn’t be surprised that the first Trek movie cannibalized the original series. Even the second one did the same as a sequel to “Space Seed.” 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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