Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 3 (The Changeling)

I’ve never made it any secret that I hate an unstoppable force versus mere mortals.  You have movies like The Terminator, where there’s one strong force with limited range and power.  It’s another thing altogether to have a god-like creature.  In fact, the episode to air before this one literally had a Greek God as an antagonist.  Now, we have an Earth probe that was presumed destroyed only to have it turn up with some amazing modifications.

When the Enterprise first encounters it, Nomad had just finished wiping out over four billion people.   Yes.  This tiny little probe destroyed the entire population of a solar system.  Why?  Because they were imperfect biological creatures.  Nomad is about to do the same to the Enterprise until it hears the name James T. Kirk.  Nomad takes this to be the name of its creator, Dr. Jackson Roykirk, and spares the ship.

This puts Kirk in a difficult position.  He’s in no position to deny Nomad anything.  The probe thinks nothing of killing anyone wearing a red shirt.  At least four security guards get vaporized.  Nomad even kills Scotty and wipes Uhura’s memory.  (Nomad is able to resurrect Scotty, but can do nothing for Uhura.)  On the other hand, Kirk can’t show Nomad the way to Earth.  That’s billions more imperfect beings that would be slaughtered.  Kirk is able to save the day at the last minute by outthinking the probe.

There are several things that bothered me about the episode, starting with the fact that this is the second week in a row that the Enterprise squared off and defeated a powerful being.  Kirk and crew are spared only by the similarity of two names.  For that matter, why did Nomad spare the crew?  It had no problem killing security guards, even given orders by Kirk not to do so.  It could just as easily destroyed everyone except Kirk and maybe Spock.

My second issue is Uhura’s memory loss.  Her memory is wiped, presumably completely.  She’s left with only a knowledge of Swahili, and yet they bring her back up to speed in a week?  It’s not entirely clear, but it’s implied that she loses all her memories, including those of friends, family and her fellow crewmembers.  This is never brought up again.  She just goes about being Uhura, as if it never happened.  Uhura is so easy to disposable that she’s effectively replaced by…Uhura?

And the episode could have done so much more with the concept.  This is proven by the fact that they reused the basic plot in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  They took a concept that had no business using up a full hour and made it into a feature-length film that actually worked a little better.  (Granted, the movie still wasn’t great, but it was better than this episode.)

I think, if anything, this episode demonstrates how much more the series could have done.  We didn’t learn much about the crew outside of the ship.  Most details, like Sulu’s fencing or Kirk‘s brother, generally come up when it’s necessary for the plot of the episode.  Uhura’s memory loss is something that should have been a terrible trauma and it’s used as a way to show Nomad’s power.  Uhura deserves better than that.

1 comment :

Alex Diaz-Granados said...

Thus the Trekker joke: "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" = "Where Nomad Has Gone Before."