Thursday, October 03, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 9 (Metamorphosis)

Star Trek has a lot of history.  There were occasions where the writers saw fit to introduce a character that was from a long time prior to the main action.  In some cases, like Space Seed and The Neutral Zone, suspended animation was used.  Other characters span centuries because they live for centuries.  Guinan was encountered in 19th-century San Francisco, despite still being alive in the 24th century.  That’s how long her species lives.

Metamorphosis was a bit odd, in that the crew of the Enterprise find themselves in the presence of Zefram Cochrane.  Cochrane is important in that he invented warp drive, at least as far as Earth is concerned.  To find him on an otherwise-lifeless planet is a bit strange.  Stranger yet is the fact that he’s 150 years old, yet looks like he’s in his 30s.  (The actor playing him would have been 34 at the time.)

Another oddity is an energy cloud that inhabits the planet with Cochrane.  He has a shelter built from his ship and enough food to last.  However, leaving’s not an option.  The energy field prevents any form of propulsion from working.   This is a problem as Kirk, Spock and McCoy are transporting a sick ambassador back to the Enterprise for further treatment.

It turns out that the energy field is keeping Cochrane alive.  (The energy field would seem to be Cochrane’s companion, and is thus called The Companion.)  Further examination reveals that The Companion is actually in love with Cochrane, which he initially finds revolting.  When The Companion merges with the rather attractive ambassador, it’s not quite that bad.  The episode ends with Cochrane and the ambassador being left on the planet to live out their days, each presumably aging normally from that point on.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy are allowed to leave.

There were a few things that stuck with me on repeated viewings of this episode.  I’ve occasionally wondered why the Enterprise didn’t come to the ambassador, considering that she was on an important mission.  For that matter, why didn’t The Enterprise deliver her outright.  I’m assuming that they were on some other important mission.  Having the ambassador on a vulnerable shuttlecraft allows for the story to progress.

The big thing for me is how Cochrane lasted that long on a planet with no real companionship, other than an energy field that he can’t directly communicate with.  I probably would have gone crazy long ago.  It’s amazing that he seemed rational at all.

It’s also odd that no one recognized Cochrane.  Granted, no one would expect to find Cochrane on a remote planet, as he was lost in space and would be presumed dead by now.  Also, the average person doesn’t know what every historical figure looks like.  Someone like George Washington, sure.  The big hint, though, would have been that Cochrane not only recognized that Spock was Vulcan, but seemed to think that it was relatively significant.

It’s also kind of strange to me that they didn’t really deal directly with the relationship, other than to have Cochrane weirded out.  Maybe it was a way of showing how far we had come over the course of a century.  A human from that time wouldn’t consider making it with something so strange, yet he’s in the presence of a character who is the result of a human/Vulcan union.  Still, to have The Companion assume human form is avoiding the issue, at best.

It’s also not clear to me if there are other energy fields similar to The Companion.  It’s always odd to me that there’s exactly one of a species.  I get it if the species is nearly extinct.  However, are we to assume that there’s only one energy field out there?  Is The Companion an anomaly?

The episode doesn’t really seem that satisfying.  The conclusion basically leaves Cochrane not far from where he started.  He knows what The Companion is, although it had to change form to become palatable to him.  I don’t think we ever find out what happened to them.  I don’t recall any episode dealing with the aftermath of this episode.  It might have been interesting to see what became of them.

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