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The Changeling (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"The Changeling"
TOS, Episode 2x08
Production number: 60337
First aired: 29 September 1967
Remastered version aired: 2 February 2008
38th of 80 produced in TOS
32nd of 80 released in TOS
56th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
32nd of 728 released in all
Nomad wipes Uhuras memory
Written By
John Meredyth Lucas

Directed By
Marc Daniels
3541.9 (2267)
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The Enterprise finds an ancient interstellar probe from Earth, missing for 265 years, which has somehow mutated into a powerful and intelligent machine bent on sterilizing entire populations that do not meet its standards of perfection.

Summary

Teaser

The USS Enterprise is en route to the Malurian star system, investigating a distress call. Uhura has received no response to hails on any frequency, even after Captain Kirk reminds her of a special science team transmitter. However, Spock's sensor data contains tragic news: although there should be over four billion Malurians there are no readings of life anywhere in the system. As Kirk and Spock speculate about what could have caused the eradication of life in such a short time, a large bolt of energy comes out of nowhere. Kirk orders red alert, and the object impacts upon the Enterprise's shields.

Act One

The entire crew is hurled around, and when things stabilize, Scotty reports that the shields will stand only three more such impacts, as they have been reduced by 20%. The Enterprise's shields continue to be battered by repeated attacks. Finally, after the shields are completely gone and a photon torpedo in response has been completely absorbed, Kirk orders Lieutenant Uhura to hail the very small object Spock has identified as the source of attack. The object stops its assault and tries to respond to the hail with an old-style binary code. The crew has some difficulty translating, but eventually succeeds. The object identifies itself as Nomad, and its mission as "non-hostile." As it is only a fraction over one meter in length Kirk has it beamed aboard, if only to prevent it from firing on the ship again. Later it is revealed that the object had stopped its assault when it heard Kirk's name, somehow believing that Kirk is its creator.

Act Two

Once on board, Nomad wastes no time investigating the ship, with only Kirk's orders preventing it from having free rein. Knowing how powerful it is, Kirk orders guards to watch it at all times, but Nomad proves able to evade them. Furthermore, it seem highly logically-minded and gets confused whenever it encounters something illogical; when it hears Uhura singing on the bridge, and goes to investigate, it is unsatisfied with her explanation of the song's function and wipes her memory, requiring her to be reeducated. Scotty, seeing this, attempts to save Uhura from the probe, but is killed by it, only to be revived by it shortly thereafter.

Act Three

This proves disconcerting to Kirk, who orders Nomad to be guarded and analyzed by Spock. After the analysis, a background check on Nomad in the ship's data banks, and a mind meld, Spock gets enough details about the probe to fill in the blanks; Originally, Nomad was built by Jackson Roykirk for a deep-space extraterrestrial contact mission, but was lost in a meteor shower. During that time, it came into contact with Tan Ru, an alien probe whose mission was to collect and sterilize soil samples, presumably for terraforming missions. The two melded into this new Nomad, combining their technology and missions into one extremely powerful probe bent on sterilizing any imperfect lifeforms it encounters, using its own perceptions of perfection (i.e. itself) as a measuring stick. As such, it destroyed all life in the Malurian star system but because its original programming was damaged and corrupted in the merger, it erroneously equates Kirk with its creator, not realizing that the two are different people and its creator is, in fact, long dead.

Unfortunately, the mind meld and an unintentional admittance from Kirk confirms to Nomad that its creator is an imperfect biological entity, and with that knowledge, it decides to commandeer the ship and execute its prime function. Nomad escapes from the brig cell Kirk had confined it in, kills two security guards in the process, and turns off all life support on the ship. With little time left, Kirk comes to recognize Nomad's refabricated mission and takes a gamble to confront it again.

Act Four

Through a questioning to Nomad on its prime directive, Kirk confirms his suspicions that it must execute it with no exceptions, and then reveals that he is not Nomad's creator. He explains that Nomad had mistaken himself for Roykirk, the two men's names being similar, and as such Nomad has committed an error; furthermore, it has compounded that error with two more, specifically failing to realize its mistake and failing to immediately execute its prime directive as a result. This causes Nomad to lock up in an irreversible logic loop, its stubborn belief that it is perfect conflicting with the realization that it is in error, and Spock and Kirk manage to get it to the transporter and beam it into space just as it executes its prime function on itself.

Log entries

  • "Captain's log, stardate 3541.9. The presence of Nomad aboard my ship has become nightmarish. Now, it apparently means to return to Earth. Once there, it would automatically destroy all life."

Memorable Quotes

"This is one of your units, creator?"
"Yes, he is."
"It functions irrationally."

- Nomad and Kirk, on the "unit" McCoy


"That unit is a woman."
"A mass of conflicting impulses."

- Spock and Nomad, on the "unit" Uhura


"This unit is different. It is well-ordered."

- Nomad, on the "unit" Spock


"A man is not just a biological unit that you can patch together."

- McCoy, after Nomad heals Scott


"The ball is bl-u-ee. Bl-u-ey. Bluey?"

- Uhura, as she relearns English


"The creation of perfection is no error."

- Nomad, refuting Kirk's claim that its creation was an error


"You are the Creator."
"You're wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead! You have mistaken me for him, you are in error! You did not discover your mistake, you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect. And you have not corrected by sterilization, you have made three errors!"

- Nomad, sent into a logic feedback loop by Kirk


"My congratulations, Captain. A dazzling display of logic."
"You didn't think I had it in me, did you, Spock?"
"No, sir."

- Spock and Kirk, on Nomad's induced self-destruction by Kirk


"It's not easy to lose a bright and promising son... my son – the doctor."

- Kirk, whose son became a doctor, about Nomad

Background Information

  • Although never credited, this episode–which depicted an Earth-launched space probe that acquires almost unimaginable powers in the course of the search for its "Creator"–became the inspiration behind the first Star Trek film. (It also inspired "The Questor Tapes", a 1974 series pilot written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon which also featured a robot with a damaged memory who searched for its creator.) For this reason, some fans have appended to Star Trek: The Motion Picture the punning subtitle "Where Nomad Has Gone Before." (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 188)
  • Also never credited, the idea behind this episode was inspired by the last episode of the original The Outer Limits. That episode, called "The Probe" (with Janos Prohaska, in a Horta-like rubber suit, and Mark Richman), featured an alien automated probe which headed for Earth after apparently encountering one of our deep space exploration devices. As in the Trek episode, the probe nearly kills everyone because of its imperative to sterilize. (citation needededit)
  • Director Marc Daniels portrays Jackson Roykirk in the photograph, wearing Scotty's dress uniform.
  • Eddie Paskey is seen in a gold shirt in this episode so he would match the standard stock footage screen shot with George Takei and an extra's left shoulder. In "The Corbomite Maneuver" he is seen wearing gold in the corridor during Kirk-to-crew announcements (the same shot was recycled in many episodes, including "The Menagerie, Part I" and "Assignment: Earth"). Paskey also appears in a red technician's jumpsuit in the main engineering scenes.
  • Lemli's first name, Roger, is given in this episode. His last name wouldn't be revealed until the following season, in "The Lights of Zetar".
  • William Blackburn appears in three different uniform colors in this episode: his usual gold (as Hadley), a blue uniform in a corridor scene, and in a red technician's jumpsuit in main engineering.
  • After Nomad explodes, William Shatner quickly raises his hand to the camera as the scene fades away. An outtake of this scene is incorporated into the blooper reel of the show's second season: At one point, Shatner turns to the camera and declares, "Listen, about that bacon–no, really!" and then appears to swallow something. His comment follows an earlier outtake that shows him sitting in the captain's chair on the bridge and confiding, "No, listen, that bacon is really bad . . . it just stays with you all day."
  • Also in the blooper reel: When Shatner tells Nomad that the Enterprise is prepared to beam it aboard, James Doohan says, "But Captain – you forgot all about the environment and all that stuff. Do you want to really do that?" A grinning Doohan steps out of camera frame, leaving a slightly perplexed Shatner behind, bemusedly shaking his head. Doohan did not deliberately ruin the take, however. It was already ruined since Shatner actually did forget to say the dialog concerning the environment.
  • Footage of Nomad exiting the turbolift is recycled to show him leaving sickbay.
  • When the two security guards shoot Nomad for not obeying them, the visual effects artists apparently used the door frame behind the guards as a guideline for the boundary of Nomad's shields. This has the unfortunate effect of making it seem as if the guards' phaser beams are striking the door frame.
  • Spock mentions that Nomad's first attack on the Enterprise was the equivalent of 90 photon torpedoes. Surprisingly, this attack only reduced the shields by 20%.
  • Surprisingly, too, Uhura is re-educated within a matter of days, presumably with all her memories intact as well.
  • This episode marks one of four times Kirk is able to "talk a computer to death". This technique is also used in "The Return of the Archons", "I, Mudd", and "The Ultimate Computer", and was similarly done to a robot in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
  • Even though this episode is stated to take place on stardate 3541.9, the episode list from the official website says it takes place on stardate 3451.9.
  • In conventions, Nichelle Nichols frequently tells a story of getting into a dispute with director Marc Daniels over the filming of this episode. As it had already been established that Uhura's first language was Swahili, Nichols believed that, after her mind was erased, Uhura would revert to her first language. However, as Nichols herself did not speak Swahili, Daniels wanted Uhura to just speak English. Nichols refused to, telling Daniels, "Nichelle Nichols doesn't speak Swahili, but Uhura does!" Gene Roddenberry was eventually brought in to settle the dispute, and he sided with Nichols. A linguist specializing in Swahili was then brought in to write the few lines of Swahili that are spoken in the episode.

Production timeline

Video and DVD releases

This release included "Space Seed" and was originally unrated, as it was released prior to the Video Recordings Act 1984. After 1985, it received a rating of PG.

Links and references

Starring

Also Starring

Featuring

With

And:

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double

Stand-ins

References

analysis sector; anatomy; Antares; antigrav; antimatter input valve; auxiliary control room; ball; Beyond Antares; binary; biological unit; brain; brig; central nervous system; changeling (folklore); college; condition red; Creator; damper; dog; Earth; energy release control; English language; Federation; first grade reader; force field; hyperencephalogram; interfactor; interplanetary code; kilogram; kilometer; life support system; logic; Luna; Malurians; Malurian system; manual override; Manway, Dr.; mathematics; matter-antimatter propulsion system; meter; meteor; Milky Way Galaxy; natural satellite; neurology; Nomad; parasitical beings; personnel file; physical; physiology; polymass; population; prototype; red alert; Roykirk, Jackson; ship's translator; Sol; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet code; Starfleet Command; structural integrity; Swahili language; Symbalene blood burn; Tan Ru; tape; translator computer; Vulcan mind probe

Library Computer References

acquisition sensor; coupler prediction scanner; data assimilation digital encoder; International Designator; Jupiter; Magnetohydodynamic vernier-pulse; Mars; Mercury; Neptune; Pluto; regenerative mode emulsifier; Saturn; selective amplifier screen; Sol system; sperographic analysis computer; tracking screen; transmission; Uranus; Venus

Timeline

2002 
Nomad built
2267 
Malurian system destroyed

External link


Previous episode produced:
"Wolf in the Fold"
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2
Next episode produced:
"The Apple"
Previous episode aired:
"Who Mourns for Adonais?"
Next episode aired:
"Mirror, Mirror"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"The Enemy Within"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"The Ultimate Computer"

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