Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Changeling

The Original Series, Season 2
"The Changeling"
Airdate: September 29, 1967
38 of 80 produced
32 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise is investigating the apparent disappearance of all life in the Malurian system. What they find is startling - a space probe, seemingly from the dawn of Earth's space age, has reappeared with fantastic powers. Can Captain Kirk avert a catastrophe, or will Nomad sterilize them as well?
NOMAD teaches Uhura the Rigellian fan dance...


Matthew: From the outset, it is clear that this is a very strong sci-fi concept - clearly one of the strongest in the series, given that it could be cannibalized for The Motion Picture and V'Ger. But not just a plot regarding an errant probe, we also get the alien probe Tan Ru, mistaken identity between Captain Kirk and Earth scientist Jackson Roykirk, the notion that a person's mind can be wiped, resurrection of a crew member after death, among a plethora of other concepts. They're not all well developed, but there's a lot going on and it's easy to appreciate.

Matthew: Some of the dialogue is questionable. If the Enterprise absorbed the energy of "90 photon torpedoes," twice, during its attacks by Nomad, why is Kirk shocked when Nomad withstands one torpedo from the Enterprise? I also wish there had been a line about Uhura's memories being submerged, not erased. Otherwise, it is hard to believe she relearned everything essential to being a Starfleet officer, as well as her own personal memories. It may be implied by her knowledge of Swahili, but it's not enough for my own credulity.

Kevin: This has to be one of the most ambitious episodes plotwise, and it's great to see the writers build on what they started in the first season.  I agree that the Uhura's mind wipe was a little mishandled, but it was well acted, and I'm always happy when they give Nichelle Nichols something to do.  I'm more content than you to take the apparently innate knowledge of Swahili as an indication that the wipe was not permanent, but some dialogue.

Matthew: The mind meld seems strange, but a similar meld was done in TMP. I think it just happened too quickly here to feel "real." It was sort of mentioned off hand, and it wasn't treated as a big deal that Spock would or even could meld with a machine.

Kevin: I am always annoyed when the Vulcans get a new talent hastily tacked on.  The same goes for the Trill.  I'm not saying they can't expand or reveal new things, but it seems to smack of lazy writing.  And I did catch something here that is noteworthy for one of our ongoing discussions of Star Trek conventions.  When Nomad asks if "Creator" is the appropriate way to address Kirk, Spock who has looked up Nomad in the computer, tells Nomad it is.  You know what that was?  A lie!  Not an "error" or an "omission."  It was a lie. By a Vulcan. Yeah. It blew my mind too.

Matthew: Philosophy shout outs - - Kirk states a classic Cartesian problem in his arguments with Nomad - how can an imperfect being create a perfect one? Descartes makes the same argument against god being a human invention. Also, perhaps less credulous, Kirk-logic destroys another machine intelligence!

Kevin: I am going to create a robot and I am going to program a subroutine that gives it the ability to go "Meh" and shrug its shoulders at logical inconsistencies.  That robot will swiftly take over the Universe.


Matthew: Shatner's delivery seems a little more staccato than his "Season One" style. Still, even if it could be caricatured, his performance is good, as are the rest of the principals. No one really falters here. The Nimoy mind-meld, as mentioned, wasn't great for me. But he and Shatner display very good comic timing in later scenes as he congratulates Kirk on his logic. Nimoy also does a good job selling the peril of a misstep in dealing with Nomad.

Matthew: I don't know how I feel about "Nichelle Nichols in kindergarten." The story idea strains credulity, so I can't say whether it's her or it's the writing. I just know there was something I didn't like. Also, Sulu gets shafted in this episode (and not in a good way). He just sort of sits there on the bridge. It's too bad he didn't get a few more lines.

Kevin: I'm gonna go with the writing.  I think Nichelle Nichols did a good a job as she could with the material she had.  I would like to give a nod to the voice actor for Nomad, Vic Perrin.  He appears in the next episode "Mirror, Mirror" as Tharn, the leader of the Halkan Council, as well as the voices of Balok in "The Corbormite Maneuver" and Metron in "Arena."  He manages to achieve mechanical and menacing quite well.  It easily could have been grating or repetitive, but there's an iciness that makes his casual dismissal of the death of millions quite chilling.

Production Values

Matthew: Nomad is a very important part of this show, and I liked the design quite a bit. Yes, we can see a string holding Nomad from above in some shots. But it's few and far between, and it's the Sixties. I can easily forgive it. I liked the colored lights on Nomad, and the overall layout had a nice feel of "Earth plus Alien" aesthetics.

Kevin: I agree, Nomad looked great. It feels like something out of 50s science fiction, and in a good way.

Matthew: We get a nice "auxiliary control room" set, which seems to be yet another redress of the Cage bridge/conference room. We will see this again in "The Doomsday Machine." By the way, the food slots are now gone from transporter room - apparently Spock smashed them up pretty badly in "This Side of Paradise." Or, perhaps more likely, the room has been expanded in set to include the new viewing station behind the console.


Matthew: Very strong sci-fi chops, but some issues of execution really hamper this one for me. I just can't bring myself to go above a 3. It's slightly above average in concept, but the other aspects don't really rise beyond the bell curve. I want to give this a 4 for its place in Trek history, and its status as TMP precursor. But the Uhura mindwipe, the Spock meld, and the hokey climax take it down a peg.

Kevin: I agree with pretty much everything you've said. The episode is ambitious, but its reach exceeds its grasp. I give it a 3 as well, for a total of 6.

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