Recap: Star Trek S2E3 "The Changeling"

Series:Star Trek: The Original Series
Episode: Season 2, Episode 3
Title:"The Changeling"
Previous: Who Morns for Adonais
Next: Mirror, Mirror
Recapper: Synjo Deonecros

The episode starts off as most episodes start off: with the Enterprise on its way to a planet for Kirk to screw around with. Only this time...there's no planet. The entire system they were assigned to go to has been wiped out of all organic life forms, leading the crew to wonder just what the hell is going on. The answer comes in the form of a tiny pod firing massive amounts of photon fire at the ship, resulting an a weak retaliation and the most ludicrous exchanges known to mankind:

Spock: We just got attacked with a blast equivalent to 90 photon torpedoes. Ship's shields down by 20%.
Kirk: Fire photon torpedoes.
[torpedoes are launched, they do nothing]
Spock: No effect, the probe that fired the blast absorbed the torpedo.
Kirk: [incredulous] How can that be? Nothing can withstand a photon torpedo blast.


Anyway, Kirk orders a hail to the probe, which inexplicably stops its attacks. After some exchanges of Translator Microbes, the probe, called "Nomad", ceases hostilities, referring to Kirk as "The Creator" in the process. It's brought aboard (against the concerns of Scotty), and is let loose on the ship. This can't possibly go wrong, can it? I mean, it's not possibly like it's capable of or willing to Kill All Humans and...oh, wait, it's shown to have the power to annihilate an entire planet's worth of organics, and tells the crew that its mission is to "sterilize all imperfect biological organisms". Right then, moving on...

The big three converge over what exactly Nomad is and what it's doing; it seems like the probe wasn't, in fact, able or willing to cause The End of the World as We Know It, in the first place, and its creator - Jackson Roykirk - programmed it for simple deep space exploration. By its own admission, Nomad clearly had an incident with what it calls "The Other", which altered it structurally and program-wise, causing it to become Bender's non-alcoholic and more abusive ancestor and mistaking Kirk for its builder. Unfortunately, by the time they realize this, Nomad had already been lured to the bridge by the siren's song of Uhura, which confuses it and causes it to wipe her memory when it can't discern the logic of "music". And it kills Scotty, too, when he tries to interfere, but the machine fixes him right up, afterward, so it's no big deal. Of course, with Uhura's brain now wiped, we get a hilarious re-education subplot involving her trying to read "The dog has a ball". Unfortunately, the remastered episode has severely truncated the scene where Uhura is re-learning how to read. (Nichelle Nichols is no doubt pissed that one of few times she got to say something besides "Hailing frequencies open" got cut.)

With time running out, and information on what happened to Nomad still scanty, Spock somehow manages to Mind Meld the dang thing(?!), which causes two things to happen: Spock to talk like the robot McCoy keeps insisting he really is, and Nomad finding out Kirk is a biological being and is, therefore, imperfect and a target for its eradication protocol. In an implausible bit of Techno Babble, it turns out "The Other" is a probe called "Tan-Ru", sent by an alien society to collect and sterilize soil samples as a prelude to colonization, and they combined during a self-repair attempt into the current Nomad. How that gave it the ability to nuke a world is left to the imagination, and there is no time to speculate, as Nomad has shut down the life support systems of the ship, threatening everyone on board. After confronting the killer probe and confirming that its death orders have no loophole, Kirk does what he does best: confuse a computer to death, by dropping the Logic Bomb that Nomad isn't perfect as it mistook him for its long-dead creator. This melts down two computers - Nomad itself, and Spock's brain, as Kirk was never one for flawless logic, but they're luckily able to get the probe off the ship before it blows itself up.)

The Fan Nickname for this episode is "The One with... Nomad". The story for this episode was the basis for that of Star Trek The Motion Picture, resulting in one of that film's (many) derogatory nicknames being Where Nomad Has Gone Before.

Tropes for this episode include:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: And sometimes you get snake eyes.
  • Back from the Dead: Scotty.
  • Blatant Lies: Spock tells Nomad Kirk was just testing his memory banks. Odd, since Spock almost never lies.
  • Continuity Nod: The song Uhura sings is "Beyond Antares", which she'd sung in full back in "The Conscience Of The King".
  • Cooldown Hug: Kirk gives Spock one after a Mind Meld goes bad. Why, hello, Ho Yay! Haven't seen you since Kirk asked Spock out to go clubbing in "A Wolf In The Fold".
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Nomad refers to everyone, human or Vulcan, as a "unit".
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: How Nomad is powered.
  • Just Testing You: After Kirk asks Nomad why Nomad refers to him as 'The Creator', Spock quickly interrupts, telling Nomad that 'The Creator was just testing your memory banks'.
  • Little "No": Spock's response to when Kirk says "Didn't know I had it in me, did you, Spock?", in true Deadpan Snarker mode.
  • Logic Bomb: Kirk reveals that Nomad's creator, Jackson Roykirk, is dead and that Nomad mistook Kirk for him. Then he says that Nomad made another error by not discovering the first error.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • Spock says "Sterilize" over and over again after a mind meld gone wrong with the probe NOMAD
    • NOMAD after Kirk gives it a Logic Bomb, causing the probe to repeatedly shout "Error!".
  • Mistaken Identity: Nomad thinks Kirk is his creator.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Scotty, but he gets better.
  • P.O.V. Cam: We get a couple of them from Nomad. Once when he follows a leery Bones to sickbay and once when he walks off with some disgruntled guards.
  • Red Shirt: One of the highest body counts in the series, as Nomad vaporizes at least six security guards when he breaks confinement.
  • Robo Speak: This is how Nomad talks
  • Snap Back: Uhura is back to normal by the next episode, despite last being seen being taught to read again and only being able to speak Swahili.
  • Speaks In Binary: Nomad while in space. It later changes to a mathematical message requesting language equivalence.
  • Title Drop: When Kirk discusses with Spock the old notion of a changeling- A creature left in place of a baby by the Fair Folk.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Nomad's destructive abilities were enhanced after the impact with an alien probe.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Scott was tempting fate, wearing that red shirt in every episode. He got better, but 6 other Redshirts weren't so lucky.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: Nomad counts as one
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Inverted. Nomad wants to kill anything that's too human. Spock is spared because he is so much more orderly than the other humans. Spock seems almost flattered to be described as such.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Aw, he's just a little lost robot doing what he was programmed to do!