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 appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Changeling" is a season two episode of the American 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] The 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?".


The Enterprise investigates a distress call from the Malurian star system. Upon arrival, Spock reports that all life in the system has been destroyed. The ship's shields are activated when a meter-long cylindrical object attacks it with an energy bolt equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes. Kirk orders return fire, but the weapon's energy is simply absorbed by the object. Kirk hails the object, which requests in-person communication with the Captain, allowing itself to be beamed aboard the ship.

The object identifies itself as Nomad, and refers to Captain Kirk as "the Creator". Spock reports that a Nomad space probe was launched from Earth during the early 21st Century; its mission was to explore the galaxy and seek out new life. Nomad, it seems, has mistaken Kirk for Dr. Jackson Roykirk, the scientist who created it, and its mission is now to seek out and eliminate any "biological infestation" that it deems imperfect.

Left in the care of a crewmember, Nomad investigates Uhura's singing, which it overhears on the intercom. Arriving on the bridge, it asks Uhura to "think about music" while it probes her mind, which also erases her memory. When Chief Engineer Scott tries to intervene, Nomad kills him, pleading self-defense. Upon learning that Kirk cannot repair Scott, Nomad offers to restore Scott to life. Having done so, Nomad is taken to the brig.

To gain more information, Spock performs a Vulcan mind meld with the machine. He discovers that Nomad collided with an asteroid and was severely damaged. It then came into contact and merged with an alien probe called Tan Ru, designed to obtain and sterilize soil samples from other planets. Nomad partially integrated Tan Ru's mission directives, interpreting them to mean "sterilize imperfections". The merging of the two probes imbued Nomad with Tan Ru's vast powers, enough to destroy the life of entire solar systems. Kirk compares the story to the legend of the changeling.

Nomad declines to remain in its cell, killing two guards who attempt to stop it. It makes its way to Engineering, where it begins to make adjustments to the ship's engines, increasing their efficiency by 57%. Kirk orders Nomad to reverse the changes, as the Enterprise cannot handle the increased speed.

Exasperated by Nomad's prejudice toward "biological units", Kirk points out that its "creator" is a biological unit. Nomad responds that it must therefore "reevaluate" its creator. Kirk orders the probe back to the brig, but it kills the two security guards sent to escort it. Nomad then heads to sickbay and examines Kirk's medical files. Having verified Kirk's imperfections, Nomad shuts down the ship's life support systems.

Kirk again confronts Nomad and questions it about its mission. When Nomad declares that its directive to sterilize admits no exceptions, Kirk points out that Nomad itself is imperfect, having mistaken Captain Kirk for its creator. Nomad begins to analyze the implications of Kirk's claim, a process that causes noticeable stress to its systems. Kirk and Spock then rush Nomad to the transporter room and beam it into space. Seconds after transport, an explosion is detected near the Enterprise and Nomad is no more.


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