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Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 3

The Changeling

Aired Unknown Sep 29, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
164 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise encounters an ancient Earth probe bent on the sterilization of all life.

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  • A living probe boards and threatens the Enterprise

    The plot for this one, featuring one of Star Trek's most unique guest stars, would infamously be recycled for the first Star Trek movie. (The film arguably does it better, but the episode gets quite a bit of mileage out of the premise, leaving little on the table for the film to elaborate on). In contradistinction to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, however, this episode is a bottle show.

    The guest star of honor is Nomad the robot, played by a prop (three, actually) and voiced by Vic Perrin, the latter doing such a fine job that his work in the episode is probably more memorable than his appearance in the next episode, "Mirror, Mirror" (as the leader of the Halkan council). But "The Changeling" is a Kirk episode all the way, and William Shatner works hard to prevent the bucket of nuts and bolts from upstaging him, though he gets help from a tight script with a witty ending. (Uhura also gets some nice moments, singing a song and establishing her native language; it's just too bad the episode doesn't feature a new musical piece, instead, lifting one from "Conscience of the King").

    There is an undeniable appeal to the idea of a machine gaining consciousness and seeking its creator, which is probably why the plot device is used again; but perhaps the highlight of the episode is seeing director Marc Daniels in a photo playing the distinguished looking Jackson Roykirk!

    Remastered: With no planets and few visuals needing touchups, there's little for CBS Digital to do here, though they upgrade the visuals of Nomad's attacks from space and the explosion at the end. (Personally, I prefer the original explosion, a practical effect that looks more realistic than its digital replacement). The new CGI beauty passes of the Enterprise are pretty much copies of the original footage.

  • This is more like it …

    Now we’re cooking. The STAR TREK team redeem themselves brilliantly after ther clunker that was “Who Mourns for Adonais?” with this cracking episode. “The Changeling” contains everything you love about STAR TREK. Most brilliant of all is the way Kirk would cause the dodgy, alien-altered Nomad probe to destroy itself by pointing out that it had made a mistake … no, two mistakes … wait, three mistakes! I just love it!

    Of course, it’s STAR TREK legend that Roddenberry reworked the basic idea of this episode to create the story/script for STT(Slow)MP, but honestly – this is the better telling of the tale, with its lightning pace and tight dialogue.moreless
  • The Enterprise encounters an ancient, indestructible space probe called Nomad, intent on sterilising all life, and that mistakes Captain Kirk as its creator. Not a classic episode, but some interesting ingredients...moreless

    This review contains moderate spoilers.

    I certainly wouldn't rank this as one of my all-time favourite 'Star Trek' episodes, but for what is essentially a ship-based 'bottle show', it actually has some interesting elements; and I actually found myself thinking about it a lot after it had finished, which is surely a good sign.

    This is one of a handful of Original 'Trek' episodes set entirely aboard the Enterprise. But unlike later 'Trek' spin-off series, where there were very often (cost cutting) ship-bound stories, and often where nothing much really happened, those in the Original Series often turn out to be very good, as previous examples "Charlie X" and the classic "Balance of Terror" prove.

    Nomad is an interesting design, and rightly not resembling the human form at all. In a way its design reminded me of the Daleks from 'Doctor Who'; if it had resembled a human form, I think it would have taken away much of its mystery.

    No doubt if this episode was produced 30+ years later, Nomad would be CGI, but here, in the era of more conventional special effects, it is moved around manually, often with its top or bottom conveniently out of camera shot (no doubt for something to hold on to it and move it around!).

    As has already been much commented, Nomad is very similar to V'Ger in 'Star Trek: The (Slow) Motion Picture' (1979). Out of the two, this is by far the better story (at least it's not as incredibly dragged out as TMP, arguably the weakest of the big-screen outings).

    One good sequence is as Spock mind-melds with Nomad, only to get 'stuck' in Nomad's thoughts. What could have easily have fallen into an unintentionally amusing moment is actually performed quite well. (I wasn't sure about Spock actually being able to mind-meld with a machine; something that doesn't think for itself and is programmed a certain way, but this was only a very small niggle).

    I wasn't convinced by Uhura's 're-education' after her mind was wiped by Nomad. Are we really expected to believe that she would totally relearn and regain everything she knew before? What about her memories and such? This was the weakest point of the story for me. Personally I like to explain it away as her 're-education' triggering her past memories and such over time. (In fact, it would have been cool if they turned her re-learning into a story arc, but sadly such things didn't exist in the Original Series, where stories were very much 'stand alone' tales).

    In the end, Captain Kirk once again 'out thinks' the computer, causing it to self-destruct. It had already been done in the first season in "The Return of the Archons", and with an android in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", and he pulls the trick again here. It is still a good scene though.

    All-in-all, this is a bit of a strange one to sum up. It's not a series classic, and not one of my favourite episodes, but it does have a number of good things going for it.moreless
  • One of the top three "computer run amock" episodes that's interesting and exciting to watch.

    The Enterprise encounters Nomad, a fusion of an Earth and alien probe that has a blended program to destroy all life forms that are imperfect.

    If I was an executive producer in the late 60s, this is one of three "menacing computer" stories worth keeping, along with "Taste of Armageddon" and "The Ultimate Computer". The story here is not complex but frightening, and is hightened by the fact that this warped but all-powerful little probe moves among the crew and judges fitness on sight, almost arbitrarily. There are nice little references in the script, Nomad paying Spock the compliment of being "well-ordered" and Spock doubting Kirk "had it in him" to defeat Nomad during the conclusion. Nomad's increasing suspicion about his "creator" is suspenseful and Kirk's logic in causing Nomad to see its conflicted programming is even, well, almost logical in this episode.

    Some of the flaws are irritating - Nomad could be just as scary without having all manners of mysterious beams and abilities that defy physical science. The ludicrous idea that Uhura could ever return to normal after having her life memory wiped seems to have escaped the writer's notice.

    Overall, a good entry with a nice mix of action and something to think about at the same time.moreless
  • It is shockingly revealed that Uhura doesn't know how to pronounce the word "blue"

    Remind you of "Return of the Archons"? Not only does Kirk out think a computer again, but he gets it to destroy itself. And both computer's voices got all high and nervous right before they "committed suicide". The episode did hold it's own, I suppose. I certainly have no problem watching it vs. watching "Return of the Archons". Interestingly enough we get to see the guy who portrayed Nomad's voice in the next episode aired, "Mirror, mirror". He was the head of the Halkan Council.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Marc Daniels

Marc Daniels

Jackson Roykirk (uncredited)

Guest Star

Barbara Gates

Barbara Gates


Guest Star

Blaisdell Makee

Blaisdell Makee

Lt. Singh

Guest Star

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • After Kirk is summoned to Sickbay and on ordering Spock to use the manual controls to open to malfunctioning door, Nomad is shown coming through the same doors (which were labelled "Leonard H. McCoy") but the background of that shot indicated Nomad was in a turbolift, not Sickbay.

    • Immediately after the credits as the episode title is displayed, the exterior view of the Enterprise was black and white.

    • During the teaser when the Enterprise is hit and everyone on the bridge falls about, the entire forward navigation/helm console can be seen to lift up as the navigator and Spock fall against it.

    • After the first of Nomad's energy bolts strikes the ship, Spock comments that the shields absorbed energy equivalent to 90 of the ship's photon torpedoes. Clearly, the Enterprise survives. But a few minutes later, the Enterprise hits Nomad with a single photon torpedo -- which it absorbs. This prompts Kirk to wonder with amazement how anything "could absorb that much energy ... and survive". But his own ship did far better.

    • How can Spock mind-meld with Nomad? It is not a sentient being; it's a robot. Unlike Data, Nomad was created for a specific purpose, a purpose that didn't require the ability to think or learn. It retained this state when it crashed into and absorbed the alien probe, albeit its programming changed to reflect its new nature. Thus, it shouldn't be intelligent or self-aware enough to warrant a mind-meld.

    • You can see the string that holds Nomad in the air.

    • It's not clear exactly what Nomad does to Uhura. Still, they're able to re-educate her in a week in this episode. When Spock has to be reeducated in the fourth Trek movie after his death and rebirth, it takes 3 months.

    • In a mind meld, as we see in previous and future episodes, both participants share thoughts and memories. That doesn't happen when Spock mind melds with Nomad - otherwise Nomad would know Kirk is lying.

    • Nomad was created from the amalgamation of two probes - one that was sent to search for alien life, and one that was designed to collect and sterilize soil sample. What gave it the power to destroy planets and fire bolts with the power of 90 photon torpedoes?

    • When Nomad initially attacks the Enterprise, Uhura appears/disappears in subsequent shots of the bridge.

  • QUOTES (5)

  • NOTES (1)