The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Changeling

The Enterprise plays host to Nomad – once, an Earth probe sent out to search for alien life, now, transformed into a powerful and sentient artificial intelligence. Along the way, Nomad’s mission has become so mangled that it believes its duty is to sterilise biological ‘infestations’ – it has already destroyed entire civilisations, and the only thing stopping it from doing the same to the Enterprise is the mistaken belief that Kirk is its creator. But if Nomad realises that Kirk is just another imperfect biological life form himself, what will become of the Enterprise?

This episode is basically a first run at the plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but in many ways, it turns out to be a superior product. It’s obviously a tighter story, and one that’s replete with all the things we love about classic Star Trek (see below for Star Trek bingo). There are a few things I really didn’t like, but overall I’d rate this as an enjoyable episode. If you wanted to show someone what Star Trek is like, for better or worse, this wouldn’t be a bad example to show them.

Star Trek Bingo

  • The Enterprise visits a star system, only to find that the civilisation there has been wiped out by a powerful alien force.
  • In combat, Scotty tells Kirk that the shields cannae take another hit.
  • Spock performs a mind meld in order to unravel the mystery of the alien life form.
  • A number of redshirts get killed without much ceremony or fanfare.
  • Kirk forces a powerful computer to self-destruct by presenting it with a logical conundrum. Kirk really hates computers, doesn’t he?
  • Kirk, Spock and McCoy share some banter at the end.

Oddities and Observations

  • The Enterprise star charts are mere pencil drawings.
  • When Uhura’s brain is wiped, McCoy and Chapel start re-educating her. Whilst she’s learning to read English, she sometimes lapses into Swahili – if her brain was completely wiped, how does she know Swahili? What about all her memories of growing up, going to Starfleet Academy, or living aboard the Enterprise? If they’re gone, they cannot be re-taught (people could share their perspectives of the events Uhura experienced, but it wouldn’t be the same). Despite what it claimed, perhaps Nomad merely wiped Uhura’s ‘working knowledge’, such as how to read, do maths, operate the communications console and such, but left her memories intact. Perhaps the reason she was able to be re-educated so swiftly was that, again, despite Nomad’s claims, the wipe was not permanent, but merely a kind of amnesia which could be cured simply by exposing Uhura to triggers such as basic learning tapes (a sort of, “ah yes, I did know that – I remember now” effect).
  • Even though matter-antimatter reactions are at the heart of the Enterprise’s engines, there’s no warp core per se, just some computer banks and blinking lights on the wall.
  • When Nomad increases the efficiency of the Enterprise engines, why don’t the engineers just turn the engines to a lower setting to slow the ship down? I suppose it’s fortunate that the extra energy is able to be directed into the warp field, instead of just building up and destroying the ship there and then. Maybe Nomad made it so the ship would only ever travel at maximum warp.
  • Here we see the Enterprise travelling at warp 10 and 11. Recall, this is before the 24th century recalibration of the warp scale that made warp 10 a theoretical maximum speed at which one would exist in all points of the universe simultaneously, and also evolve into a lizard creature. One might argue that such a recalibration of a Star Trek SI unit would be confusing, but given that we’ve changed the definition of, for example, a metre, from a standard metre stick held in Paris to being based on fundamental constants, perhaps it’s not so farfetched. It’s just that no one noticed that the definition of a metre changed, because its effects were negligible in our everyday, macroscopic lives. The warp factor recalibration is far more noticeable.

    On Stardate 11473, we are changing the warp scale. Do you know what this means for you? Go to our website or read this leaflet to find out.”

  • Scotty seems a lot dumber than I remembered – he spends much of his time being reactionary and getting hit by energy bolts from alien life forms. His miracle worker status has yet to be established.

Summary – The Changeling: Imperfection must be sterilised. Or should I say, “EXTERMINATE!”.

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