Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, April 21, 2014

Season 2, Episode 37 "The Changeling"

"The Changeling"
Production Number: 37
Air Order: 32
Stardate: 3614.9
Original Air Date: September 29, 1967

So wandering the webs for a while now has been a brief article that gives one a glimpse into the Star Trek TOS character Bible. As in, the booklet given to people who might be interested in writing episodes. As much as I like the idea of  a group of writers hanging out around a table offering things like, "what if Kirk gets trapped on a some planet and bangs a chick and saves the day at the last minute?", that's not the full story. Sometimes they asked established sci-fi writers to take a crack at it. Sometimes they used unsolicited materials or bought short stories. Either way, the treatment would then go to their head writers, who would edit or change things, or just ensure that it was keeping with the full flavor of Star Trek. The character Bible gives brief information about the characters, situations, sets available, and who to contact in order to talk about science stuff.
Earlier this week, I was randomly telling Roomie and Dubs how I'd like to have a copy, just for funsies. Unbeknownst to me, Roomie then discovered online that she could get PDFs of each page, to be sent to FedEx to be printed and bound. She returned triumphant that night, telling me that having the booklet in her possession had earned her a nerdy conversation with not one, but two, gas station pump jockeys. Handing it to me, she stated, "I'm doing this for blog cred." Okey-doke, Roomie. You get a Command Gold Star.

And I now have the TOS nerd-cronomicon. Mwahahahaha!


*******


We start out with a mystery - the E can't seem to raise any of the 4 million people in the sector where they are currently located, including the Starfleet science team on one of the planets. Oh, no! Maybe it's a zombie windsock!
Sulu reports that they are being fired upon, and the viewscreen shows a wobbly white fireball making its way toward the ship. They take a hit, and the bridge crew does one of their exaggerated tandem tumbles. This time, though, the fixtures seem even more tilted, the falls a bit less rehearsed. I wonder if they've mounted the bridge set on a platform that can shift as needed... that'd be cool.


When they've righted themselves, Spock reports that the bolt of energy that hit them was the equivalent of 90 photon torpedoes, and that it traveled at warp 15. Kirk asks Sulu for evasive maneuvers, but the helmsman can't comply, as Scotty has diverted power from the warp drive to the shields.


They fire a photon torpedo at whatever-it-is that is firing on them, but the thing just absorbs it. Kirk is astonished. Really, dude? You gave it one where it gave you 90, and you're shocked that there was no damage? My 6-year-old nephew could do that math, and he didn't spend years in Starfleet Academy.
They take another hit of 90, and Scotty reports that they're toast if they take one more, so Kirk decides to try talking. You can't run it, outmaneuver it, or outgun it, and now you're going to try talking. Good choice.
While Uhura works on opening a channel, Spock reports that the thing is heavy, but is only like three feet tall.
"What the hell kind of intelligence could you have being that small?" asks Scotty.
"Size is no indication of intelligence," Spock reminds him.
Yeah, no shit. Ever hang out with toddlers? They're ridiculously smart. Good thing they aren't able to learn quantum physics. We'd be so screwed.
After a few bumps in the road regarding translation, Kirk is able to tell the thing that he's Capatin James Kirk of the Enterprise, that they're peaceful, and mean it no harm. It replies back that it is Nomad, and is also peaceful. Nomad asks Kirk if he will step outside to chat.
"Um, no?" says Kirk. "But you can come aboard my ship." 
"Cool," says Nomad, and Kirk grabs Spock, Scotty and Bones to come with him to the transporter room. They beam Nomad onto the E. I think it's a Kirby vacuum cleaner. That hovers.
 Dramatic music!
Nomad asks Kirk where he's from, and Kirk replies that they're with the Federation.
"No, dipshit," says Nomad. "WHERE are you FROM?"
"Come out and talk to us," says Kirk.
"It's not full of tiny people," says Bones. "It's a machine."
Kirk, why are you so stupid this week? Have you been chugging the Saurian brandy in sick bay?
"Lemme see your star charts," says the thing. It keeps ending every few sentences with "I am Landru Nomad." Maybe it's for Kirk's benefit. Maybe, because Kirk is being so unbelievably thick this week, it thinks it might need to keep reminding the captain of who he is talking to.
Spock says that there was a probe sent from Earth in the early 2000's named Nomad, but it was thought to have been destroyed.

Kirk takes the hovering Nomad to a room to look at star charts, dragging Spock and Bones with him. 
Ha! Pluto is listed on that star chart. I'm just gonna go ahead and declare that, in the future, Pluto has been reinstated. Suck it, IAU. Star Trek says it's a planet, so it is.
Nomad asks Kirk if he is from Earth. When Kirk replies that he is, Nomad refers to him as the Creator, the guy who programmed him. Bones asks what Nomad's function is. Nomad tells Kirk that his job is to sterilize things, to destroy imperfections.
"The fuck?" demands Bones. "You killed all of those people?"
Nomad calls Bones irrational. When Kirk replies, "yeah, kinda", Bones gives him a nasty look.
"How come you keep calling me Creator?" asks Kirk.
"Dude, let him," says Spock.
They leave Nomad with a confused Red, and move into the corridor to talk.


"Been looking up stuff in the computer," says Spock. "I think the Nomad was damaged in a meteor collision and repaired itself. It has mentioned an accident, and the Other. Also, I think Nomad thinks that you're the guy who made him, Jackson Roykirk. It's destroyed memory banks probably picked up your name, thinking you were Roykirk, and that's why it stopped firing on us. Nomad was designed to be a thinking machine, and to seek out new life-forms. But now it seems to be seeking out perfect life-forms, and destroying everything that doesn't meet its higher-than-high standards."
"Awesome," says Kirk. "It'll kill us all."


Mr Singh, the Red that was left with Nomad, gets a comm call from Uhura. While he's fetching her information, she sings "Beyond Antares" to herself. Nomad goes off in search of her when Singh turns his back. Can't say I blame Nomad. If you had the chance to hear Nichelle Nichols sing "Beyond Antares" in person, wouldn't you?
Scotty quietly calls Kirk to tell him that that weird vacuum cleaner is on the bridge. The OT3 heads off in that direction.
Nomad confronts Uhura, demanding to know what she's doing. Uhura attempts to explaining singing and music, but Nomad gets impatient, and scans her head instead.


"The fuck?" yells Scotty. And in an action of chivalry and grave stupidity, he grabs Nomad. Nomad then blasts him backward.


A dazed Uhura is hauled off to sick bay while Bones looks over Scotty. Apparently, he's dead, Jim.
"Nomad, what the hell?" asks Kirk. "I needed him!"
Nomad keeps referring to the crew members as "units". It thinks Kirk built his crew, like Dr Korby. Silly Nomad. If Kirk had built his crew, none of them would look like Scotty. They'd all look like Andrea. They'd probably be (un)dressed like her, too. (Although the female crew uniforms certainly look as though Kirk picked them out.)
"I can fix the unit Scott," says Nomad. "It's super out-of-date, though."
They upload all of the tapes on human physiology, and Scotty in particular, to Nomad's memory banks, and it follows Bones back to sick bay.
There's a cool shot here of the camera following Nomad as it follows Bones. I like this. It mixes things up nicely. Always welcome when they take a chance on a new camera angle.


Down in sick bay, Christine scans Scotty while Nomad hovers nearby. She tells Bones that there isn't any change, and he snottily replies that he can see that for himself. Christine treats him to the briefest eat shit look before all of Scotty's vitals shoot up. Scotty wakens and asks how the hell he got to sick bay.


Kirk tells Nomad to repair Uhura, but Nomad replies that she is undamaged. It just "wiped her memory banks".
Spock suggests that Uhura just needs to be re-educated. Kirk asks Bones and Chapel to do it, then tells Nomad to go with the nice Reds to the "waiting area" in the brig. Goodbye, Reds.
Later, Spock is trying to scan Nomad for information, but it refuses to allow him to do so. Kirk orders Nomad to drop it's shields and let Spock look at it. So far, Nomad has told Kirk that all of his biological units are chaotic, irrational and unpredictable. It calls Spock "well-ordered". Spock decides to take the compliment, which is to say that his eyebrows go up. Nomad agrees to the probing.
Meanwhile, Christine is teaching Uhura to read. I like that when Uhura gets frustrated, she lapses into Swahili. But I hate the wig that they put on Majel Barrett. It looks like a ratty tribble, and it's not even the same color as her hair.


Spock isn't getting anywhere with his scans. There's too much buried and inaccessible. He suggests a mind meld. Kirk tells Nomad that Spock is going to communicate by touch. When Spock talks during mind melds, he typically tosses out words or phrases that have to do with the other person. This time he mentions the name Tan Ru, and he struggles to disconnect from Nomad, even when he steps away. Kirk has to bark at Nomad to let go. Stepping out into the corridor to talk again, a shaky Spock tells Kirk that Nomad was damaged in a meteor collision, and encountered another probe (Tan Ru), whose directive was to sample and sterilize soil samples from planets, probably with the idea of colonization in mind. (Yes, Tan Ru is Wall-E. Heh.) Tan Ru and Nomad helped repair one another, merging programs, so that Nomad's new directive was to seek out life, and sterilize "biological infestations".
Kirk compares it to the mythological creature known as a changeling, wherein a fairy replaces a baby with a fairy child, and the new creature grows up as a human. "The only thing that's been keeping us from being "sterilized" is the fact that it thinks that I'm it's mother." They take off down the corridor for no reason other than to progress the story.


Nomad breaks through the force field in the brig and starts to float off down the corridor. When the Reds fire on it to get it to stop, of course it vaporizes them. Two down.
It floats down to engineering, ignoring Scotty yelling at it.
"Your ship is inefficient," Nomad tells Scotty. "I'll fix it." It interfaces with the control system and begins pushing the E to warp 11. The engineers are not able to stop it.


Kirk, who has been alerted to the situation by an engineering Red, strides into the room and demands that Nomad stop. When the robot replies that it is making the ship more efficient, Kirk replies that the E can't take the stress of warp 11 and will break apart. Funny that this stupid machine couldn't figure that out.
Spock comes in and reports that the other Reds from the brig are missing, and presumed dead. Nomad tells Kirk that his biological units are inferior. In his dumbest move of the episode, Kirk shouts back that he is a biological unit, and that he is the creator. Nomad pauses. Kirk makes a great "oh, shit" face as he realizes what he's done. Spock gives Kirk a look that says he'd like to slap the captain upside the head.


"Um, I need to think about some stuff before I return to the launch point," says Nomad.
Kirk orders him to go with another pair of Reds, who are now rethinking their choice to get dressed and report for duty this morning. The camera follows Nomad again as it heads through the engineering doors, toward the waiting Reds, who are backing uncertainly into the corridor.


"That was kind of the dumbest thing ever," says Spock. "It now views you as inferior. Also, it probably figured out how to get back to Earth based on those star charts, which means it'll kill everyone on the planet. Good job, moron."
"Yeah," Kirk admits, "that was a pretty dumbshit move." Knowing is half the battle, Kirk.
Kirk's Log 3614.9: "In my infinite wisdom, I set a killing machine loose on my ship and let it know that Earth is full of innocent people ripe for the picking. It would have been better not to come to work high today."

Nomad gets off the lift with the Reds. It starts to wander off on it's own, and the Reds call it back. When it doesn't respond, they shoot at it. It then vaporizes them. Reds are dropping like flies this episode.


Nomad takes a Jeffries tube down to sick bay. Kirk and Spock are paged there, and when they open the doors, Nomad strolls out, ignoring Kirk's orders to stop. Bones tells Kirk and Spock that it got into the medical and personnel files, and shocked Christine when she tried to stop it.
"It probably looked at your files and figured out that you're full of shit," Spock tells Kirk.
Scotty calls Kirk to report that life support systems are going out all over the ship, and manual override is blocked. Kirk tells Scotty to meet him in engineering with anti-gravs, then high-tails it down there himself.
Nomad is there. It tells Kirk that, by switching off life support, it can get rid of the biological infestation without harming the ship, which is not perfect, but can be made so. It is also refusing to answer to Kirk anymore.
This is, of course, where Kirk gives Landru Nomad an existential crisis, because that is how one handles a sentient machine hell-bent on killing you. Someone should have told Sarah Connor. That would have been helpful.
He says that, as an imperfect being, he created Nomad, but how can something imperfect create something perfect? (Let's hope Nomad is completely unaware of Renaissance art, shall we?) Kirk also reiterates that Nomad must destroy things that are not perfect. Kirk yells that he is not Roykirk the Creator. Roykirk is dead. This means that Nomad made a mistake in identifying him as such, and another in not recognizing it. Two errors makes Nomad imperfect. The fact that he then did not sterilize himself means that he made a third mistake. Nomad loses it's mind, screaming in helium-laced tones that it is in error, and must sterilize, and analyze.


Scotty and Spock rush forward to slap anti-gravs on Nomad, and haul him up to the transporter room. You know, when moving between decks during an emergency, I always wonder about un-filmed scenes in the lifts. 
Spock and Scotty hauled the anti-grav'd Nomad into the lift with them, struggling to keep it centered and balanced. Kirk bounced in after them, barking at the computer to close the doors post-haste.
"Transporter room! Now!"
The computer, sensing the urgency in his voice, propelled the lift in that direction, bars of light sliding past the frosted window panels. The men grabbed the handrails to keep from falling over.
"Error, error!" chirped Nomad. It did not struggle in the anti-gravs, but Scotty could smell a distinct burning scent wafting from the inner workings of the metal beast. He tried to focus on something else other than the impending explosion of Nomad and the possible destruction of the ship and everyone on it. He zeroed in on the music playing faintly through the lift's speakers.
"Which song is this?" he asked, more out of the necessity of having something to do than out of interest.
Spock paused, directing his hearing at the speakers. "I believe that is a slow, instrumental recording of "Carry On My Wayward Son" by the Earth band Kansas. The original is not quite this apathetic, however."
Scotty nodded. The song that he recall included guitar solos that spoke of youthful rebellion rather than a skip through a meadow. There was another pause, long and painful, as the lift made it's way forward, and the air continued to fill with the sound of dying machine and the smell of frying circuit boards.
"Captain," he said suddenly, "have you had your hair cut recently?" 
Kirk touched the back of his head. "Yes, um, last week. A little shorter than usual, but I thought maybe if I cut it shorter this time, it would be a little longer before I had to schedule another."
"Efficient," said Spock.
The others nodded, and time stretched out before them. The bars flashed past the window panels, but they seemed to be no closer. Scotty had decided that he hated this song.
"Soooo..." Kirk fished for something to say as Spock and Scotty shifted Nomad between them. "Spock, have you spoken with T'Pring lately?"
Spock's illogical human half wanted to ask Kirk why the fuck he would ask about the woman who had been screwing around on him and had forced him to kill his best friend so she could get him to divorce her, but his Vulcan half recognized Kirk's effort to pass the time. "I have not," he replied. "I assume she is well."
In another moment, the lift slowed to a stop and the doors opened, the computer announcing the deck. All three tumbled out as though they had been trapped inside with a gaseous Vogon poet.
"Slow-ass fucking lift," they each thought silently.

They haul ass into the transporter room and dump Nomad on a pad. Kirk eggs it on a bit more to commit suicide, and they beam it out into space, where it explodes.
I in no way received deja vu from this scene in comparison with last week's episode, where they beamed Piglet the Ripper out into space in order to keep him from killing everyone on board the ship as well.



On the bridge, Spock congratulates Kirk on his logic of using the same damn plan that he used against Landru. Kirk jokingly suggests that Spock didn't think he had it in him. Spock truthfully replies no, and it takes Kirk a second to realize what Spock just said. Bones enters the bridge to say that Uhura's education just hit college-level, and she should be back to work in a week.
Spock remarks that it's a shame that they had to lose Nomad, which was a cool instrument.
"Meh," says Kirk. "It was going to exterminate us all. Besides, why are you crying? That thing thought I was it's mother, which makes it my son. I should be sadder than you. It showed promise as a doctor when it fixed Scotty. My son, the doctor."
And Spock makes a face that clearly says that he wishes he had gone with Nomad, rather than continue to be trapped on this tin can with these weird-ass humans.






Death Toll
Red deaths this episode: 4
Red deaths this season: 1
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 2
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 8
Total crew deaths thus far: 24

There were two Reds down in engineering in that last scene, but I'm counting them as knocked out, because when Nomad killed the previous 4 Reds, he completely disintegrated them. Also, Kirk is seen taking one man's pulse, and then other Reds rush in and try to revive them.

*******

Took a trip to a restaurant this week where they served Numi tea, which I haven't found anywhere else. It must be other places, though, as you can order it online. I tried the Orange Spice, but the leaf base was white rather than black. The difference is pretty small, but with the white, which is less bitter, the spice and orange citrus flavors were a little more pronounced. It was nice. Bonus: it was pretty late, and I didn't want to be awake all night, which I would have been with a black base. Also, it's organic. Niiiice.





"I help you iron?"

3 comments:

  1. This episode always drove me crazy for one reason. Nomad wiped out Uhura's memory but Chapel, who is a nurse but not an educator, is able to bring her back to the same level she was before the episode is over. Nope, sorry, wouldn't happen. Uhura would be out of commission for quite a while, probably at least the rest of the five year mission.

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  2. Yeah, I was thinking that, too. It took her a week to get back to post-college level and re-learn everything she got from Starfleet Academy? Um, no.

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  3. Kirk kept identifying himself as Nomad's "mother". Not its creator, not its father, it's mother. I like that the show shows that he has a kind of lame sense of humor! Kind of hit and miss, that sometimes people laugh at his joke and other times they all look like they're in pain from hearing them. He's pretty goofy sometimes.

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