Star Trek 2.3: The Changeling

The ChangelingThe Changeling” is the one I always remember as the episode version of the film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The plot is essentially the same on the large scale, so much so that it seems odd that during the film Kirk and Spock never once mention their previous experiences from this episode.

The episode opens with the casual death of over 4 billion Malurians, when Kirk responds to a distress call from a Dr Manway (leader of a research team) and arrives only to find the entire Malurian system devoid of life. An unseen ship then starts shooting at the Enterprise, hitting it with incredibly powerful bursts of energy that threaten to overload the shields and destroy the ship. Kirk fires back futilely, then when all seems lost attempts to communicate. The mystery ship responds, and both parties establish they have no hostile intentions(!). Spock says the mystery ship is only a metre long, so they beam it directly on board the Enterprise to have a chat.

It soon becomes apparent that the “ship” is in fact a robotic space probe, which calls itself Nomad. Kirk gives it a bit of a tour of the ship, leaving it in engineering. It’s interesting how Kirk’s tendency to show off vital parts of his ship to mysterious aliens of unproven intentions was never picked up in Starfleet Academy psych profiles. Uhura calls Mr Singh in engineering for a report and Singh goes off to check something, leaving the line open. Uhura displays her singing talent again while she waits, which prompts Nomad to head up to the bridge. There Nomad asks the purpose of Uhura’s singing. She is stumped, and Nomad responds by hitting her with some sort of brain scan. Scotty tries to intervene, but Nomad zaps him. McCoy declares, “He’s dead, Jim.”

Kirk confronts Nomad over Uhura, who lies unconscious. Nomad refers to Uhura as a “biological unit”. Spock gallantly comes to Uhura’s defence, saying, “That unit is a woman.” Nomad’s response: “A mass of conflicting impulses.” Nomad then offers to repair Scotty. Kirk tells Nomad to follow McCoy to sick bay; we see this from an eerie and unusual hand-held camera angle just behind Nomad’s PoV. Nomad brings Scotty back to life as if nothing had happened, but says it can’t fix Uhura, whose mind has been wiped clean. Nurse Chapel begins retraining Uhura, beginning with basic reading skills.

Kirk questions Nomad more strongly. Nomad says it is programmed to sterilise all imperfect beings and declares that Kirk is the Creator, who created it. This confuses Kirk, who is about to deny it, until Spock, checking a library computer, interrupts and declares that Kirk is the Creator. Spock pulls Kirk away and explains that Nomad is an Earth probe built by a Dr Roykirk in the 21st century, and that it now thinks Kirk must be Roykirk. This could be the only thing preventing Nomad from sterilising the Enterprise of all life.

Spock wants to mind meld with Nomad to learn more, and Kirk orders Nomad to allow it. Spock learns that Nomad was damaged and melded with an alien probe, getting their programming mixed up in the process. Furthermore, Nomad is seeking its origin – i.e. Earth – and if it gets there will probably sterilise the planet! Kirk lets slip that he is an imperfect biological unit, and Nomad goes on a bit of a rampage, disintegrating a few redshirts on the way to engineering, where it disables life support. Scotty declares that without life support they can only last— and in an interesting twist on the usual formula is cut off before he can give an amount of time. Kirk corners Nomad and tells it that it has made a mistake in thinking he is its Creator, therefore Nomad itself is imperfect and must be sterilised. This locks Nomad into a logic bomb and it blows itself up – conveniently just after Scotty beams it into space.

In the denouement, we learn that Uhura is up to college level education and will be ready to resume her role as communications officer within a week – i.e. conveniently before the next episode.

Tropes: A Million Is A Statistic, We Come In Peace, Shoot To Kill, Bring My Red Jacket, He’s Dead, Jim, Contractual Immortality, Easy Amnesia, Thank The Maker, Crazy Enough To Work, Cooldown Hug, Disintegrator Ray, Red Shirt, Electronic Speech Impediment, Logic Bomb.
Body count: Over 4 billion Malurians (off-screen, killed prior to episode beginning), Federation science team led by Dr Manway (off-screen, killed prior to episode beginning), four Enterprise redshirt security guards.

One Response to “Star Trek 2.3: The Changeling”

  1. JimiFloyd says:

    After Kirk saves the day, Spock tells him: “Dazzling display of logic”. When Uhura gets frustrated with her “lessons”, she reverts to jabbering in Swahili, even though her “mind has been wiped clean”. I guess Nurse Chapel snuck in some Swahili lessons while she was at it.

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