Director: Marc Daniels
Writer: John Meredyth Lucas
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Majel Barrett, Blaisdel Makee, Barbara Gates, Meade Martin, Arnold Lessing, and Vic Perrin
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 9/29/1967
Production #: 60337
After noting the mysterious disappearance of all lifeforms in the Malurian star system, the Enterprise crew encounters an enhanced Earth probe programmed to “sterilize” any imperfect beings in its path. Before it can eradicate every human onboard the Enterprise, however, the Nomad mechanism (Vic Perrin) quickly mistakes Captain Kirk for its long-dead creator, Jackson Roykirk.
A condensed version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “The Changeling” offers an insightful commentary on the boundaries between human intuition and artificial intelligence. Despite several goofy moments, this episode will appeal to Star Trek fans who appreciate Kirk’s brilliant solutions to no-win scenarios.
Whereas the first installment in the Star Trek film series suffers from languid pacing and pretentious cinematography, “The Changeling” explores the mystery aspects of an ancient but highly evolved space probe in a swift, compelling fashion. Though significantly less grand in scale than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this entry maintains a gripping atmosphere from beginning to end given that Nomad’s lethal instincts are kept barely restrained by a mere convenience. The tension later reaches its climax when Kirk engineers an awe-inspiring challenge to Nomad’s flawed programming, leaving viewers with a memorable twist ending to yet another remarkable Star Trek episode.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
While Scotty’s resurrection seems a tad unrealistic even by science fiction standards, Uhura’s ability to recover from a total mind swipe borders on the absurd.
Like many Star Trek episodes, “The Changeling” presents a captivating study on the concept of perfection, and how mankind can only truly improve when given the opportunity to learn from past mistakes. This fact is highlighted quite marvelously in the climactic scene, when Nomad literally self-destructs in order to avoid accepting the inherent defects in its nature. Silly though Nomad’s reaction to Kirk’s logic may be, this ending should perhaps be taken as a metaphor on the importance of self-examination and the need to admit one’s shortcomings, lest individual growth remain stunted for failure to correct faulty personality attributes.
In spite of a poorly resolved subplot involving Uhura’s amnesia, “The Changeling” effectively blends the science fiction and mystery genres. Those who wish to view a more succinct presentation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture may enjoy this episode for its shared premise with the aforementioned film, while others will admire Kirk’s ingenious method of exposing the illogic in Nomad’s mission to cleanse the universe of imperfection.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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