The Changeling (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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"The Changeling"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 3
Directed by Marc Daniels
Written by John Meredyth Lucas
Featured music Fred Steiner
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 037
Original air date September 29, 1967 (1967-09-29)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Changeling" is a season two episode of the original science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast on September 29, 1967 and repeated May 17, 1968. It is episode #32, production #37 and was written by John Meredyth Lucas, and directed by Marc Daniels (who was pictured on-screen as "Dr. Jackson Roykirk"[1]).

The crew of the USS Enterprise deals with an indestructible planet-destroying space probe. The plot contains similarities to the later 1979 Star Trek film.[2] This episode is one of only a handful in the original series that take place entirely aboard the Enterprise. The others include "Charlie X", "Journey to Babel", "Elaan of Troyius", and "Is There in Truth No Beauty?".

Plot[edit]

Summary[edit]

The USS Enterprise encounters a probe named Nomad. Although originally launched from Earth for peaceful exploration, after colliding with an alien probe it has reprogrammed itself to find and sterilize imperfection. The starship is unable to destroy the probe. Nomad, however, mistakes Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk for its creator, Jackson Roykirk, and allows itself to be brought aboard. After Nomad kills and injures several crew members, Kirk is able to convince the probe it is imperfect, as it mistook Kirk for Roykirk. Consistent with its altered programming the probe commences "sterilizing" (destroying) itself. The Enterprise crew safely transports Nomad into space before the latter explodes.

Detailed[edit]

Around stardate 3541.9, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, investigates a distress call from the Malurian star system. Upon arrival, Science Officer Spock reports that all life in the system has been destroyed and Malur, a world with a recorded population of 4 billion, is now devoid of life, including the Federation science team that was on the planet.

Suddenly, the Enterprise's shields activate when a meter-long cylindrical object attacks the ship with an energy bolt equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes. Kirk orders return fire, but the ship's weapon energy is simply absorbed by the object. Kirk then transmits a hail and the object stops firing. Curiously, the object responds and requests in-person communication with the Captain, allowing itself to be beamed aboard the ship.

Once on board, the object identifies itself as a space probe named Nomad, and oddly refers to Captain Kirk as "the Creator". Checking historical records, Mr. Spock finds that the Nomad space probe was launched from Earth during the early 21st Century; its mission was to explore the galaxy, just like the Enterprise.

Nomad has mistaken Captain Kirk for Dr. Jackson Roykirk, the scientist who created it. Nomad corrects Mr. Spock by saying that its mission is to "find and sterilize imperfection". Since Nomad's definition of imperfect includes all living things, it travels from world to world, killing everything and everyone. Though repulsed by the machine's words, Kirk decides to play along with Nomad's mistake, and tells Nomad not to "sterilize" anything further, which for now, it obeys.

The crew discovers Nomad's powers when Kirk leaves Nomad to be watched by Lt. Singh. However, Nomad leaves to investigate singing it overhears on the intercom and discovers the source: Lt. Uhura. Nomad asks her about this strange form of communication. When she responds that she's singing music, Nomad asks her to "think about music" while it probes her mind, but instead erases her memory. When Chief Engineer Scott tries to intervene, Nomad simply kills him. Spock rebukes Nomad for harming Uhura; Nomad retorts that she is "a mass of conflicting impulses". Kirk is disgusted over what has just happened, but Nomad offers to "repair the Scott unit", claiming that it was only acting in self-defense. In a display of its powers, Nomad returns Scott to life. Kirk then orders Nomad to repair Uhura, which it claims it cannot do since it has erased her "knowledge banks". Spock suggests that if there's no damage to her brain, she can be re-educated. There are sufficient tapes in the computer library to do this, and Nurse Chapel is assigned to work with Uhura.

Nomad is then escorted to a holding area where Spock attempts to study it further, Nomad noting that Spock is the only "well-organized" living being on the Enterprise. Spock is not able to learn full details from his scans, and resorts to a Vulcan mind meld with the machine. Spock discovers that Nomad collided with an alien probe called Tan Ru, designed to obtain and sterilize soil samples from other planets. The collision severely damaged both probes, and during the accident the programming of both machines somehow combined. Nomad confused Tan Ru's mission directives, interpreting them to mean "sterilize imperfections". Furthermore, the merging of the two probes somehow imbued Nomad with Tan Ru's vast, almost god-like, powers—powers strong enough to destroy the life of entire solar systems. Spock is disturbed by the experience of the "machine-to-Vulcan" mind meld, so much so that Kirk is forced to pull him away when he starts to exhibit the coldness of Nomad's logic.

Kirk now realizes Nomad is a conscience-less and apparently unstoppable device that is capable of wiping out entire solar systems in the blink of an eye. All Kirk can do is wait and once again confines Nomad to the holding area. Nomad has other plans, and it passes right through the security field, killing two guards who attempt to stop it. Nomad then makes its way to the engine room where it improves the efficiency of the ship's engines 57% by increasing the matter-antimatter reaction rate. Kirk orders Nomad to reverse the changes, as the Enterprise cannot handle the stress.

Kirk confronts Nomad, telling it that its sterilization of biological units is illogical, since the creator is a biological unit. Kirk tries to get the probe to return to the holding cell, but it kills the two security guards sent to escort it. Nomad then heads to sickbay and examines Kirk's medical files. Nurse Chapel is attacked when she tries to stop it. Nomad then decides to shut down all life support systems throughout the ship to destroy the imperfect units that "infest" the Enterprise.

Kirk again confronts Nomad and questions its logic of destroying imperfect beings. Kirk tells Nomad that Nomad itself has made a mistake, something only an imperfect being can do. He tells Nomad that it has committed an error by mistaking Captain Kirk for its creator, Jackson Roykirk, and Nomad's failure to discover its first error is a second error and further evidence of its own imperfection. Finally, Kirk points out that Nomad's delayed immediate-execution in light of these errors is a third error. Realizing the implications of Kirk's reasoning, Nomad is caught in a logic loop, and begins to execute its primary function on itself. The machine begins self-destruction, shaking about in place instead of steadily hovering, its simulated voice rising in pitch. The ultra-logical Mr. Spock, who has been watching this confrontation, compliments Kirk, saying: "Your logic is impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger." At the last moment, Kirk has Nomad rushed to the transporter room and beamed into space. Seconds after transport, an explosion is detected near the Enterprise and Nomad is no more.

References[edit]

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