The Changeling is a strange episode. On the one hand, it anticipates what many years later would be the plot of the first film in the Star Trek saga, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), directed by Robert Wise. On the other hand, it recycles a couple of ideas already used in the first season: in The Return of the Archons, Kirk induced the Landru computer to self-destruct by highlighting a contradiction in its logic, which he also does here with Nomad; and in The Devil in the Dark, Spock made a mind meld with a sentient rock as he does here with the sentient probe. Let’s see the plot.
The Enterprise heads for the Malurian system where four billion people live but no one is responding to Uhura’s calls. When Spock discovers that, according to the sensors’ readings, there are no more life forms in the four planets of the system, the ship is attacked by a powerful energy ray, each stroke equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes! The attack stops only when Kirk manages to identify himself. It soon turns out that the responsible for both the massive destruction of the Malurian system and the attack against the USS Enterprise is a terrestrial probe launched a hundred years earlier, the Nomad. After an accident, it merged with an alien probe and developed a destructive consciousness as well as an immense power. How can Kirk avoid the probe using this destructive force against Earth, the planet where it now wants to go?
Unfortunately, this third episode is once again anything but good. The basic idea is interesting, even if copied from the last episode of the series The Outer Limits of six years before (but it wasn’t the first time that Roddenberry took inspiration from that series!). An object made for a certain purpose evolved and changed just like the Voyager probe of the first feature film. Unfortunately, however, the development of the plot is slow and repetitive. The probe moves wearily in the Enterprise decks (attached to a cable which is highly visible in the remastered edition of the Bluray) scene after scene without major surprises. Before getting to the final solution, which is identical to that of The Return of the Archons, Scott loses his temper once again (and then dies and resurrects!), Uhura gets her memory wiped out (but don’t worry, in a week she fully recovers!), Spock makes an unlikely mind meld, and four red shirts die (in two identical scenes).
Slow, repetitive, and predictable, The Changeling isn’t what I expected from the beginning of the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series. So far, only the first episode, Amok Time, lived up to my expectations. Furthermore, the fact that the whole story of this episode is based on the similarity of Kirk’s name with that of the probe’s creator seemed to me a bit weak plot-wise. Not to mention the crazy numbers mentioned in the episode! After arguing that the shields of the Enterprise could sustain the damage caused by 90X4=360 photon torpedoes, Spock is surprised by the fact that the probe survives the impact of a single torpedo and says that nothing can absorb so much power. WTF? Not to mention warp speed 14, a theoretical impossibility (as we know from the horrid Voyager episode Threshold). In short, a forgettable episode, ciao!
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