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Star Trek: The Changeling

McCoy: "What do we do now? Go up and knock?"

Another entry in the sixties computer paranoia column, this time with a tiny, confused talking atomic bomb. At least Kirk had a lot of previous relevant experience in talking a computer to death.

I don't dislike this episode, although I've always found Nomad's origin and characteristics somewhat contradictory and confusing. Nomad was supposedly the result of a collision between an Earth probe tasked with searching out new life, and an alien robot tasked with sterilizing soil samples. How did it acquire the power to wipe out four billion lives? And how did it get around? How could Nomad have warp capability? It was the size of a Chatty Cathy doll.

Its other powers were wildly super, too. Nomad killed Scotty and brought him back to life. It brainwiped Uhura without damaging her, although she recovered rather quickly. It couldn't have been a total wipe, or where did the Swahili come from? It would have been interesting if Uhura hadn't recovered so quickly and her memory loss became an issue in later episodes. Yes, I know they didn't do character arcs so much in the sixties, but it would have been cool.

The most confusing thing was Spock mind-melding with Nomad (although it was definitely the best part of the episode). Was Nomad a being? Wouldn't he have had to have a mind for a mind-meld to work? If he was a blend of two computers, how could he have been?

At least Nomad's voice was cool, and was a bit of a precursor of the Hal computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (which was probably in production when this episode aired). I remember we used to imitate him a lot. "Error! Error!" "Sterilize! Sterilize! ...." Wait a minute. That sounds an awful lot like "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

That's it! Nomad was a Dalek!

So with all of the plot holes in this episode, why did they make it the basis for the first Star Trek movie?

Ben says...

The first five minutes of this episode were probably where I realized they really needed seat belts on the bridge. This was a thing in science fiction of the late 60’s. You tip the camera back and forth and everyone throws themselves from one side of the room to the other. My siblings and I would throw ourselves back and forth across our rec room whenever we saw this or similar scenes (it was even better when watching the unremembered Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). This continued until my youngest brother got knocked through a window into the back yard.

"Non sequitur, your facts are uncoordinated."

Oh, sorry Nomad. Actually, this episode had a really interesting underlying idea relating to the creation of the modern computing revolution and to the concept of the tabula rasa. The idea that we and computers have similar hardware into which could be placed pretty much any software was not at the time the elementary point that it is today. This point is woven throughout the episode: Nomad's original accident, Uhura re-education, and even the final joke about how Nomad would have made such a doctor, are all about this now ubiquitous but at the time revolutionary idea.

"Non sequitur, your facts are uncoordinated."

Oh come on, Nomad, that was pretty good. Okay, how about the whole talking the computer to death thing? A) We have already seen this quite a bit, and B) it never works in real life, I am trying it on my PC right now with no... *BBXZZTT*

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3541.9. All of the action took place in space. The Melurian race on four planets was destroyed.

— The Earth space probe that was the initial part of Nomad came from the 2000s.

— Nomad managed to take out four red shirts. Not a record, but close.

— Apparently, warp ten is impossible. But they did it, anyway. Warp eleven, too.

— In this week's hair report, Kirk's looked like he was having a permanent bad hair day. Maybe his good hairpiece was at the cleaners.


Scott: "That mechanical beastie is up here."
Scott was brash and impulsive again. Perhaps a leftover from his irrational behavior in the Chariots of the Gods episode.

McCoy: (re: Scott) "He's dead, Jim."

Spock: "That unit is a woman."
Nomad: "A mass of conflicting impulses."
Strike one!

Spock: "It almost qualifies as a life form."
McCoy: "That's a laugh."

Nomad: "Mister Spock is also one of your biological units, Creator?"
Kirk: "Yes."
Nomad: "This unit is different. It is well-ordered."
(Spock smirks)

Uhura: "The ball is blu...ey?"

Kirk: "It's space happy. It thinks I'm its mother."

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

Kirk: "What a doctor it would have made. My son, the doctor. Gets you right there."

Two out of four Daleks,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. In his book on the making of "The Trouble with Tribbles", David Gerrold mentions viewing the rushes of the teaser of this episode, where everyone is throwing themselves across the bridge, and how one of the actresses was cursing each time she threw herself to the deck. Turned out she had broken her arm.

    As for the faster-than-Warp-10 thing (they also went faster than Warp 10 in "By Any Other Name" and "That Which Survives", among others, it's because they were using the "old scale" - they didn't decide on Warp 10 as the top of the scale until TNG.

  2. What I find funniest about this episode is Spock saying that the blast from Nomad was equal to 90 photon torpedos, and the shields have dropped 25%. So the Enterprise shields can absorb 360 photon torpedos before they fail? It sure doesn't seem like it in other episodes.

  3. The best part for me is Kirk's face when Spock admits he didn't think the Captain had the logical ability in him to outwit The Nomad.

  4. I mentioned the original motion picture before, as I saw it in the theater as a kid with my parents. It was not a very good movie, and Wrath of Khan is so much better, but you can indeed see the root of V-ger/Voyager here.

    I rather like this one overall, but wish they had handled a few things a bit differently, made it a bit less god-like but still a threat. The voice work was good and even the effects for Nomad/Tan Ru were decent for the day. And I concur on the voice for sure.

    I'd probably rate this one a tad higher than 2/4 probably 2.5/4 which isn't that different really. Not one of the greats, but not one of those 'ugh' ones either.


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