The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Metamorphosis

When a mysterious energy cloud forces the shuttlecraft Galileo to make a forced landing on an planetoid, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford are surprised to learn that they are not alone. Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, crashlanded here 150 years ago, and has since been rejuvenated and kept alive by The Companion, the very same energy cloud that brought them here. But with Hedford terminally ill, Kirk’s prime concern is escaping as quickly as possible.

So, here we have a Star Trek take on a love story that, for its time, isn’t that bad, but which in many ways hasn’t aged well. It’s gender roles and heteronormativity to the max here, and whilst we might not expect much else from a 1960s TV show, it’s still worth returning to it with our 21st century eyes.

Here we have The Companion, an immortal energy being who saved the life of the 87-year-old Zefram Cochrane, rejuvenated him to his thirties, and kept him alive for 150 years. The Companion is in love with Cochrane, as Kirk and the others discover when they modify the Universal Translator to talk to her. Yes, her, because apparently “male and female are universal constants”. Of course, even on this planet alone we’re coming to learn that male and female are just two labels that not everyone identifies with, and indeed in future Star Trek series we’ll meet aliens who do not subscribe to this gender model.

On Cochrane’s part, he is shocked to learn that this totally unhuman creature loves him – although his attitude is described as “parochial” by Spock and generally not understood by the 23rd century people, so at least they have open minds about crossing species boundaries. Once The Companion fuses with Hedford and gains a human body, though, he’s all ready to go, so perhaps he just wanted a partner he could have good old-fashioned human sex with. As for Hedford, well, as a career woman she of course always secretly wanted love, and the alternative is death, anyway, so I guess she’s okay with it.

Zefram Cochrane

This is our first introduction to the inventor of warp drive, who will of course take a prime role in Star Trek: First Contact. Here he is described as being from Alpha Centauri, but as we know he’s actually from Earth, so presumably he relocated once warp drive made that possible – probably to his island full of naked women. At age 87, he decided he wanted to die in the space, but instead he was rescued and rejuvenated by the Companion.

The Universal Translator

I don’t recall this being acknowledged openly before, but it is of course the reason why everyone in the galaxy appears to be speaking English. According to this episode, it works by assuming there are a number of universal concepts in each alien race. By comparing brain waves as aliens talk about different things, it can deduce what they are talking about and fill in the appropriate grammar. Yeah, let’s just go with it for now, we can dissect it at a later date.

Notes and Observations

  • Don’t take a trip on the Galileo, it seems prone to getting stranded!
  • Kirk promised not to tell anyone about Cochrane being on the planet, but then how is he going to explain sending supplies down, such as the fig tree Cochrane wants to grow?

Summary – Metamorphosis: If you’re going to fall for an alien, make sure it has a fuckable body.

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