Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Changeling

Note: this post is one of a series of STAR TREK episode reviews originally written for the alt.tv.startrek.tos newsgroup. For more information, please read this post.

Episode 32 of 80
September 29, 1967
Writer: John Meredyth Lucas
Director: Marc Daniels

A good episode with a sympathetic “villain,” plenty of action, and strong work by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The Enterprise beams aboard a space probe originally launched from Earth 200 years earlier. Because the probe, which calls itself Nomad, identifies its mission as one to destroy imperfection, it has left a long trail of annihilated planets in its wake. Because Nomad mistakenly believes Captain James Kirk is its creator, Jackson Roykirk, the Captain is able to temporarily postpone Nomad’s mission. But just temporarily…

Of course, the plot was recycled for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (without credit for writer John Meredyth Lucas), but it’s an interesting one that warns of the dangers of technology and what happens when said technology grows faster than humanity’s ability to control it.

Once again Captain Kirk gets a computer to blow itself up by talking it to death. Not only does this make for tremendous drama, but writers were probably drawn to this method of resolving their plots because of Shatner's unique acting style. Even though Kirk screws up big time by letting it slip to Nomad that he is a biological unit, he's able to save the day once again using the impeccable logic that he must have picked up from his Science Officer over the years.

Nomad itself is one of STAR TREK’s most believable machines. Unlike many of the show's supercomputers, this one actually looks like it's made of metal, and its cylindrical shape, lights, and antennae make it pleasing to the eye as well. The effects team can also boast of some excellent wire work. Often on television, when an object appears to be floating, there is a bit of "wigwagging" going on, but, in the case of Nomad, the scenes in which wires were used seem to be very steady indeed.

For the second straight episode, Scotty (James Doohan) gets zapped by the antagonist. When is he going to learn to keep his fat yap shut? Doohan's stunt double does an excellent job leaping backwards over the bridge railing and crashing into a heap against the wall.

Our man Lt. Leslie (Eddie Paskey) returns, but he's wearing a gold shirt this time, so he would match earlier stock footage shot on the bridge. Is this the first time he's been caught on duty without a red shirt?

John Meredyth Lucas was one of the show's better writers, and actually served as one of STAR TREK’s producers for a brief period. He was also a director, and worked on a number of good shows including THE INVADERS, THE FUGITIVE, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, NIGHT GALLERY, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, and TREK’s Desilu neighbors MANNIX and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. His teleplay for “The Changeling” is suspenseful, intelligent, and filled with the type of social commentary and literary allusions that made TREK famous.

Nice tag. I know many fans don't appreciate the humorous endings to episodes, but I think, in many cases, when our Enterprise crew has emerged victorious, it's nice to send the show off with a light moment. And it makes the more sober exceptions, such as “City on the Edge of Forever” or “Requiem for Methuselah,” more powerful.