|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.9 “Metamorphosis” – (Original air date: Friday, November 10, 1967)

TrekMetamorphosis

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 “Metamorphosis.”

  • On this date in history, the #1 song on the US charts is still “To Sir, With Love” by Lulu. In the UK, the #1 song is “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” by The Foundations. Cool song.
  • The US lunar probe Surveyor 6 made a soft landing on the moon the previous evening. It would transmit nearly 30,000 television images back to Earth.
  • The actress Jennifer Jones, 48, who never appeared on Trek as far as I know, attempts suicide by barbituate overdose. She fails and lives on to the age of 90 years old.
  • The Vietnam War rages on.
  • Metamorphosis” kind of surprised me during this rewatch. I know I’ve seen this episode before, but I had forgotten that it featured Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive technology.
  • In the teaser, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are escorting Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford to the USS Enterprise. Commissioner Hedford was supposed to be trying to prevent a war somewhere, but she took ill with Sakuro’s Disease, which is rare and deadly. They must get her to a medical facility to save her life.
  • The role of Nancy Hedford was played by Elinor Donahue, who once played Betty Anderson on Father Knows Best. More relevant to the Star Trek world, she was also Miss Ellie briefly on The Andy Griffith Show. The Mayberry set was used a couple of times on Star Trek: the episodes “Miri” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
  • Commissioner Hedford does not come across as a very pleasant person, which is probably a credit to the actress, who played the part as written.
  • Some weird phenomenon moves at warp speed towards our heroes and knocks the shuttlecraft Galileo out of commission. Yes, the Galileo, as in Galileo 7. In fact, all of the space shots of the shuttle in this episode were taken from that earlier episode as a cost-saving measure. The shuttle is pulled towards the Gamma Canaris region.
  • End of teaser.
  • The shuttle touches down on a planetoid suitable for human life as Act One begins. Spock says that nothing is damaged on the shuttle, yet nothing works. They are even unable to transmit their location.
  • McCoy says that the mysterious cloud phenomenon they encountered in space seems to be with them on the surface as well.
  • The planet is inhabited, they soon find out, as a man shouts out a friendly “Hello!” and then asks them if they are real. He is human, and he recognizes Spock as a Vulcan. He introduces himself as simply Cochrane. He says a dampening field on the planet kills any power source.
  • While Spock is showing Cochrane the shuttle, which the newcomer was highly interested in, Kirk and McCoy discuss their host. Topics for discussion? Cochrane’s evasiveness, for one. And the fact that he seems familiar to both of them, for another.
  • Cochrane invites them to his home, which he constructed from the wreckage of his own ship. The Commissioner is getting even more grumpy. Now she’s running a fever, which is a sign her illness is progressing.
  • The landing party sees the glowing energy cloud thing outside of Cochrane’s home. Cochrane tries to brush it off as an illusion or mirage, but Kirk demands information about it, digging deep down into his Alpha Male bag.
  • Cochrane refers to the energy cloud as the Companion.
  • Since their host is in truth-telling mode, he tells the landing party that his name is Zefram Cochrane. Now Kirk and McCoy know why he seems familiar. Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri was the inventor of the space warp drive.
  • I pause to address the “of Alpha Centauri” part of that statement. The first time I remember seeing Zefram Cochrane was in Star Trek: First Contact, when he was played by actor James Cromwell, who would reprise the role in an episode of Enterprise. That Zefram Cochrane was definitely on Earth, not Alpha Centauri. Although Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Earth, it’s still 4.37 light years away. A very long trip without warp drive.
  • I’m sure there’s some retconned explanation for this. Cochrane probably moved to Alpha Centauri after inventing the warp drive, or somesuch. I’ll accept that.
  • Anyway, back to Cochrane. He’s been missing for 150 years. Cochrane was an old man when he took off in a spacecraft for parts unknown; he wanted to die in space. He was found by the Companion, which reversed his aging process and has supported him ever since on the planetoid.
  • Cochrane also takes the blame for the Galileo being stranded here. He had told the Companion that he was lonely. He had hoped to be able to leave the planet. Instead it brought others here.
  • Commissioner Hedford begins crying out, and McCoy sedates her and puts her in Cochrane’s bed. Her fever is over 100. She has only a matter of hours to live now. End of Act One.
  • As Act Two kicks off, Spock is working alone in an attempt to repair the shuttle, even though he already said nothing was wrong with it earlier.
  • The Companion approaches Spock and shocks the living daylights out of the Vulcan. It also fries the circuitry on the shuttle. Now there’s something wrong with the shuttle.
  • Cochrane communes with the Companion to find out if it can help Commissioner Grumpy-Pants. The Companion doesn’t shock Zefram. In fact, when they are “communicating,” it appears to be an intimate act.
  • Kirk and McCoy liken it to speaking to a beloved pet, or some kind of symbiosis, possibly even love. The subtext is the two are having sex.
  • McCoy discovers Spock on the ground, where the Companion left him. Spock has an epiphany: The Companion is largely made of electricity. This means the creature can be shorted out.
  • Spock constructs a doodad that will disrupt the Companion, possibly even kill.
  • Cochrane doesn’t want to stay on the planetoid any longer, but he dosn’t want the Companion hurt, either. Kirk and McCoy convince him that they must use the device in order to save the Commissioner’s life.
  • Cochrane reluctantly agrees to be the Judas goat and summons the Companion.
  • Spock uses his hastily constructed thingamabob and only manages to make the Companion angry. First, it hurts Cochrane, then turns its attentions to the landing party.
  • As we end this act to begin Act Three, the Companion is choking the life out of Spock and Kirk, while McCoy yells at it.
  • Conchrane comes to and convinces the Companion to stop hurting our favorite members of the bridge crew.
  • McCoy tells Kirk he’s thinking too much like a soldier instead of a diplomat. Violence didn’t work, so Kirk tells Spock to adjust the universal translator in the shuttle so that they can communicate with the Companion.
  • I know this is all pseudoscience anyway, but this bothers me on a couple of levels. How could Spock possibly adjust the universal translator to speak to a being that doesn’t use language?
  • Also, they have Zefram Cochrane, who seems to have no problem communicating with the energy cloud being. Why not just use him as the go-between, a human translator?
  • We cut to the Enterprise. Scotty is in command, as he should be. And they are actively searching for the overdue shuttlecraft. The sensors detect a strong antimatter particle concentration, and Scotty makes the command decision to follow that weak trail of bread crumbs.
  • Back on the planetoid, the modifications to the universal translator are complete. They discover that the companion is female.
  • Wait. What?
  • You see, the Companion is in love with Cochrane. Therefore, it is female. I’m not sure why this was a necessary revelation. It was 1967. That may explain some of it. Rather than having an amorphous energy cloud being without gender at all, they had to make it female so that the feelings the Companion has for Cochrane wouldn’t be confused with the love that dare not speak its name.
  • Anyway, the Companion doesn’t want to let Cochrane go, and that means the rest of them can’t leave either.
  • Cochrane is now disgusted by the Companion. In 150 years, it never occurred to him that the energy cloud was in love with him. The man who created the warp drive is pretty stupid when it comes to emotions.
  • Kirk, Spock and McCoy can’t understand Cochrane’s new attitude. You see, their century is a much more enlightened one.
  • Commissioner Hedford, in a brief moment of lucidity, has overheard the conversation. She regrets that no one has ever loved her the way the Companion loves Cochrane.
  • Kirk talks to the Companion again. He gives his “humans thrive on obstacles” speech that we’ve heard before, on one paradise planet or another. Kirk tries to convince the Companion that Cochrane will cease to exist spiritually if she doesn’t let him leave.
  • The universal translator may be a little off. What the Companion concludes from this is that there can’t be love because she’s not human. The energy cloud takes over Nancy Hedford’s body as we make the transition into Act Four.
  • So, the Companion has given up all her powers and, more importantly, immortality, to become human. She wants to experience life with Zefram Cochrane as a human woman. She claims to now be both Hedford and the Companion, but that rings false to me. Even if Hedford is still in there, it’s obvious that the Companion is the one at the controls.
  • Now that the Companion looks like Miss Ellie Walker from Mayberry, Conchrane decides that he can love her. There’s a catch: she can’t leave the planetoid or she’ll die. Cochrane decides to stay with her. After all, she saved his life.
  • Kirk is able to contact the Enterprise. The ship should be there in an hour.
  • By the way, as the Companion was taking possession of Commissioner Hedford’s body, it also repaired the Galileo. Multi-tasking.
  • As the landing party leaves, they promise not to say anything about Cochrane. So, the inventor of warp drive is left on the planetoid with a Federation Commissioner possessed by an energy being, where the two lovebirds will grow old together and die.
  • Or, maybe not. Since the Companion gave up her powers (she said), isn’t it likely they will starve to death in a matter of weeks? I didn’t see any food crops near Cochrane’s shelter.
  • And, how are they going to explain why they didn’t come back with Commissioner Hedford, dead or alive, without telling anyone about Cochrane? Is it standard procedure to jettison bodies in empty photon torpedoes?
  • McCoy is concerned that the war Hedford was supposed to stop won’t be stopped now. Kirk says he’s sure they’ll find another woman to stop it.

Okay, there are certain things about this episode that don’t sit well with me. There’s quite a bit of overt sexism in the episode, capped off by Kirk’s “another woman” quip. Kirk also says that males and females are “universal constants,” which isn’t even 100% accurate on Earth. While the landing party’s reaction to a human/alien energy cloud relationship seemed quite progressive, the assumption that the cloud had to be female in order to love a male was so heavy-handed that it could be construed as homophobic.

On the other hand, the universal translator makes its first appearance, explaining how everyone seems to be speaking English in the series. It’s such remarkable technology that it can even translate electrical cloud sparks into English. Plus, we get to see Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive technology. Both Cochrane and the UT will continue to be part of the Trek universe up to today. So, that’s exciting.

Metamorphosis” is a mixed bag, which is why I’m giving it a middle-of-the-road 3-out-of-5 stars.

I still believe that Cochrane and Companion/Hedford didn’t survive very long after Kirk and the gang left.

One thought on “|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.9 “Metamorphosis” – (Original air date: Friday, November 10, 1967)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.