The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: The Survivor

The Enterprise comes to the rescue of Carter Winston, a famous Federation philanthropist who has long been missing, presumed dead. Although Carter appears to be perfectly fine, something doesn’t quite add up – and it soon becomes clear he is not quite who he claims to be.

Those of you with some TOS knowledge will recall that there was an episode in which Christine Chapel encountered her long-missing ex-fiancé, seemingly alive and well but actually now transferred into the body of an android. If you don’t remember that episode, fear not, because I’ve got your back – you can read my review of it here.

Of course, the reason I’m bringing this up is because this episode runs along a very similar premise. Carter Winston is the fiancé of Enterprise security officer Anne Nored, but as with Chapel’s ex, he’s no longer what he seems. In this case, the real Carter is dead – the entity the Enterprise has actually rescued is a shapeshifting tentacle monster.

Said tentacle monster is actually an agent of the Romulans, and he spends the first half of the episode impersonating Enterprise officers and trying to lead the ship into a trap. Eventually, Kirk and Spock cotton on to what is going on, and try to track down the fake Carter. Naturally, this leads to security officer Nored confronting him, but her love for the real Carter means she’s unable to fire a phaser at the fake.

Matters get a bit hairy as the Romulans catch the Enterprise in the Neutral Zone, but luckily love saves the day just as easily as it almost lost it. The tentacle monster becomes overwhelmed with the thoughts and feelings of the original Carter, and decides to defect to the Federation at a key moment, possibly also taking up with Nored in the process. Yes, this really is an episode in which a woman falls in love with a tentacle monster, and it wasn’t even written or produced anywhere near Japan.

A tentacle monster grabs Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

The story itself is serviceable enough, if unoriginal, but as is often the case, it’s the female character of the week who comes off poorly. In TOS, women in love were always written to the worst gender stereotypes, and this episode is no exception. Nored has spent the last five years pining over Carter, and even when the impostor tells her that their relationship is over, she’s unwilling to accept it. Although it’s understandable that it’s difficult to move on when you don’t know if your loved one is alive or dead, Nored’s reaction does play into the “unwavering love conquers all” trope. Even if he hadn’t been an impostor, Carter was well within his rights to not want to continue the relationship, and even if that was painful to hear, it’s up to Nored to respect that. In fact, I thought the advice that impostor-McCoy gave Nored was actually pretty good – if the other person isn’t interested any more, you can’t force them to stay with you.

Of course, this being TV in the 1970s, Carter’s original feelings win out, and Nored gets her happy ending – being with a tentacled entity who can assume any shape or form. He could even presumably take on Nored’s form, allowing her to pleasure her own form, if she so desired.

Other notes

  • Why is Kirk the only one to notice that there’s a third bio-bed in sickbay? McCoy surely knows the layout of his own workplace better than anyone else, while Spock has an amazingly precise attention to detail.
  • Kirk mentions that Carter Winston is an amazing philanthropist whose donations saved a planet from starvation. I know money exists in the TOS era, but I still can’t imagine the benevolent Federation allowing a planet to starve for want of a bit of cash.

Caitian Lieutenant M'Ress

  • This episode introduces Lieutenant M’Ress, a Caitian bridge officer. So we have tentacles and a catgirl – but it’s not anime.
  • McCoy mentions his daughter in this episode. Although she was meant to appear in the TOS episode The Way to Eden, this was cut out of the final script. She does, however, appear in a number of spin-off novels.

Summary – The Survivor: Get your tentacle on.

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