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Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 03

Star Trek TOS - 2x03 - The Changeling

Originally Aired: 1967-9-29

The Enterprise encounters a probe named Nomad. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 2

Fan Rating Average - 3.96

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# Votes: 106 7 8 33 17 25 26 21 28 34 10

Filler Quotient: 3, bad filler, totally skippable.
- Pretty lame episode with no significant long term continuity.

- In some scenes you can see the wire attached to Nomad to make it appear to float.

- Several speed records are broken in this episode. Nomad's weapons travel at warp 15 and the Enterprise travels at warp 10.
- I operate a satirical Twitter account based on this episode. If you're interested, then follow Nomad on Twitter.

Remarkable Scenes
- Nomad thinking Kirk is its creator because he's from Earth and his last name is the same as the creator's.
- Nomad killing Scotty and wiping Uhura's memory.
- McCoy: "He's dead, Jim." Count 3.
- Spock: "That 'unit' is a woman." Nomad: "A mass of conflicting impulses."
- Nomad "repairing" Scott.
- Nomad enhancing the warp engines.
- Kirk talking Nomad to death.

My Review
This irritating episode is painful to watch and all too familiar. Once again Kirk talks a computer death, a feat made possible by the fact that, as I wrote in my review of Return of the Archons, "computers in the Star Trek universe have a tendency to be emotionally unstable and explode when they are sufficiently upset, contrary to how computers work in the real world." But that's not all, for there are any number of terrible aesthetic choices to pick on in this rather half-baked story. For starters, I find it hard to believe that the Enterprise could withstand even one blast, let alone four, equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes striking the ship at warp 15, or ~3375 times the speed of light. Then there's Spock's silly mind meld with Nomad. How was that supposed to even work exactly? What's next, Spock mind melding with the ship's computer to make course corrections? All of this to the backdrop of listening to Nomad irrelevantly restate its name over and over again and utter prominent examples of eloquent phrasing such as, "Non sequitur. Your facts are uncoordinated."

For a prop as awkward and unthreatening as Nomad was, it was nevertheless just filled to the brim with overwrought capabilities. In addition to the excessive weaponry, it managed to kill Scotty and then bring him back to life, fly through forcefields, vaporize a number of security personnel, and wipe Uhura's memory. The plot point about Uhura losing all of her knowledge and needing to be "reeducated" is perhaps the most annoying part of the story. In a single day she goes from an elementary school level of knowledge back to college level. For us to swallow this fact, we have to assume that Nomad didn't really wipe her memory at all. Instead, it must have caused her to experience some kind of amnesia. The knowledge must have still been there, but rendered difficult for Uhura to access. Or at least I hope this is the case because if it isn't then the whole thing becomes very difficult to explain very quickly. Not to mention the fact that the crew seems to have little regard for the possibility that Uhura may have forgotten everything about her personal life.

But poor aesthetics are nothing new on Star Trek. Perhaps the most unforgivable aspect of the story is the recklessness with which Kirk and Spock treat Nomad in the first place. At the beginning of the story, Nomad starts firing extremely powerful weapons at the ship. Kirk barely manages to convince it to stop and Nomad offers to visit the ship. From this moment forward, Nomad was vulnerable. At any moment Kirk could have used the transporter to destroy Nomad, as I'm pretty sure a device capable of dematerializing something and then rematerializing it elsewhere is capable of permanently dematerializing something and never rematerializing it. But we can rationalize that oversight quite simply by saying that Nomad's defense screens would not have permitted this, in spite of the fact that Kirk and Spock never tried. The issue of recklessness crosses into unforgivable territory shortly before the mind meld scene. Kirk explicitly convinced Nomad to lower its screens to allow Spock to mind meld with it. Why not phaser the damn thing out of existence as soon as it did so? Who cares where it came from and why it got this way? Kirk's and Spock's reckless scientific curiosity cost the lives of several crewmen and nearly the entire ship.

All things considered despite the value and originality of a story about a space probe encountering something dangerously unexpected and its mission being corrupted beyond repair, the story's promising potential is drowned out by an onslaught of bad storytelling which is becoming all too common on Star Trek by this point.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2010-04-05 at 4:28pm:
    I like this episode because it has a traditional robot instead of an android. I also like the cold responses the robot gave: "Non-sequitur," "insufficient response," etc.

    The biggest letdown while watching this episode is the whole "Uhura's brain got erased" subplot. How absurd is it to think that Nurse Chapel is going to reteach Uhura EVERYTHING, and she's going to do it just in time for the next episode. How is Uhura going to perform her duties on the bridge if she can't even pronounce the word "blue"? What a joke!
  • From Jadzia Guinan Smith on 2010-09-09 at 10:59pm:
    Pimpdaddy is right (now there's a statement I never would have imagined myself making)!

    It's totally absurd to think Uhura will just be "re-educated" to be a fullly functional starfleet officer. But even if we can make peace with the idea that she'll somehow learn all the job-related functions (she's an astronaut, so she probably started out a with a pretty good brain, right? Stay with me, my fellow retconners)... but how is she supposed to resume her LIFE without any personal memories? What about her family, friends, memories of growing up, etc.? Somebody should look for instances in subsequent episodes where she refers to things she should not be able to recall.

    You know, if this were TNG, you can be sure that Dr. Crusher and/or Data would have found a way to "restore" her original brain contents by the end of the episode :-)
  • From Alex on 2012-05-23 at 8:08pm:
    I thought this was a 7. In the 2nd tier of shows in the second season. Nomad and how its purpose changed is excellent. That main plot was great. Erasing the brain was cool, but the reeducation was unbelieveable even for star date 4,000.
  • From warpfactor 10.1 on 2012-09-19 at 6:14pm:
    It seems clear on even the most cursory of inspections that Nomad started life as a patio heater. There are several of these 'units' in the garden of the pub near where I live and I tried to destroy them in the way that Kirk destroyed Nomad but they outwitted me by ignoring me completely. They did however have an off switch on the side.
    Pity about the sub-plot with Uhura which was pointless and had so many holes in it.
  • From Jasper on 2013-11-03 at 5:17am:
    This episode does, however, invalidate a recent popular memegif: Scotty was *not* the only redshirt never to be killed. He just got resurrected when he did.

    I would imagine, watching it at the time, if you'd noticed the redshirt tendency, his death might have had some impact for the original audience that it doesn't for the watchers today.
  • From Chris Long on 2017-11-18 at 5:24pm:
    The biggest problem with Uhura's memory wipe aside from everyone else's complaints was that she was fluent in Swahili. I'm kind of surprised that no one else mentioned this little bit of idiocy.
  • From ChristopherA on 2021-01-17 at 12:38am:
    I totally agree with you and everyone else here that Uhura losing her memory is completely ridiculous in terms of continuity. The issue is blatant enough to detract from the quality of the episode, it is just weird that there are no further consequences for this. Still, it is just a continuity error, not a flaw with the internal logic of the episode.

    I agree it is really confusing stating that nomad’s attacks have the power of 90 photon torpedoes and then showing the Enterprise surviving hits from them. While the statement is pretty silly and does strain your suspension of disbelief, it isn't impossible to make up an explanation for this. It could be they have 90 times the energy of a photon torpedo without being 90 times as effective as a weapon, in that photon torpedoes are likely specifically designed to expend their energy in the most effective way to penetrate shields and damage a starship, while Nomad may have never fought a starship and may simply be shooting huge bolts that waste most of their energy on empty space. For instance, a speeding car can have 90 times the energy of a bullet without being 90 times as lethal.

    You didn't mention the point that is even more weird, which is that the Enterprise survives an attack as powerful as 90 photon torpedoes, then complains when Nomad absorbs the energy from ONE photon torpedo by saying it is impossible to withstand a photon torpedo blast. Huh? I can make up an explanation for this by saying that the Federation knows how to build ships which can “survive” photon torpedoes with only shield damage, but has no idea how to build something that can “absorb” the power of a photon torpedo with no visible effect at all.

    If Spock can mind meld with a silicon based lifeform with some sort of weird silicon based brain, it isn't totally impossible that he could mind meld with something that used to be a computer but has now evolved into something new and different. Still, I would agree that in terms of continuity it is rather odd that you can establish telepathic contact with Nomad but not with Data. But since they never explain how telepathic powers are supposed to work, it just ends up being that they work on whatever the writer wants them to work on, but they consistently don't work on any sort of sentient computer built with technology available to the Federation.

    I don't agree at all that Nomad is vulnerable when it is inside the Enterprise, the opposite is true, it is our heroes who are more vulnerable. When Nomad is outside this ship the Enterprise can bring to bear enough firepower to sterilize the surface of an entire planet, and it still isn't enough to do anything. Inside the ship all they have are puny hand phasers and a transporter system which we know is easily defended against and has never been shown to simply dismantle starship-level threats. Whereas Nomad is still just as powerful inside the ship as outside and can easily destroy the Enterprise from within at any time. Even if it drops the force field that prevents Spock from establishing a mind meld, this is still a device that can absorb the entire energy of a photon torpedo into nothingness, a hand phaser is not a threat. And even if it is possible that, despite all of Nomad’s ludicrous powers, Kirk could find some weapon that it doesn’t have mysterious defenses against, you can't really fault that he made a command decision not to risk the instant destruction of his ship by continuing to antagonize it with attacks, and took on a different approach which ultimately worked.

    While this isn't particularly my favorite episode and has some flaws, I don't think it is a particularly bad episode either, I liked the drama and how they slowly figured out what it was and how to deal with it. It is played out in a hammy and over-the-top way, but that is part of the charm of the original series.

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