Star Trek TAS: Season 1, Episode Six “The Survivor”

Stardate: 5143.3 (2269)
Original Air Date: October 13, 1973
Writer: James Schmerer
Director: Hal Sutherland       

“What manner of beastie is that?”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

While patrolling the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Enterprise has changed course to assist a one-man vessel which has fallen victim to a meteor storm. The vehicle is registered to Carter Winston (Ted Knight), a well-known wealthy Federation businessman and philanthropist (in fact, the foremost space trader of the 23rd century) who has been missing for five years. The crew are star-struck when they beam Carter Winston aboard, but they still decide to follow protocol and run a standard identity verification where they encounter several unexplained abnormalities. By happenstance, Carter Winston’s fiancé, Anne Nored, is aboard the Enterprise. Sadly, when they are reunited, Winston claims he has been changed by mysterious aliens and he breaks off his romantic connection to Anne.  

Later, Winston speaks with Kirk privately, but he suddenly transforms into a squid-like tentacled alien who disables Kirk and assumes his visage. The faux Kirk then enters the bridge and redirects the ship on a direct course for Rator III through the Romulan Neutral Zone (despite Spock’s protestations). However, the real Kirk awakens. He and Spock then track the clues through the ship until they discover that Carter Winston a Vendorian –an alien species whose planet is quarantined because they practice deceit as a way of life with the ability to rearrange their molecular structure to anyone or anything of relatively similar mass.

Suddenly, two Romulan warships surround the Enterprise. Kirk accuses the Romulans of luring the Enterprise to trespass into the Neutral Zone with their spy, the Vendorian, who attempts to escape. But since he begins adopting the memories and feelings of Carter Winston, the Vendorian becomes a deflector shield (repairing the damaged shield which was attacked by the Romulans). In effect, he defects to the Federation at the last minute. He is arrested and will face trial, but he will watched over by Anne as they have managed to rekindle their love (despite the fact that he is not the real Carter Winston).   

My Thoughts on “The Survivor”

With many echoes of “The Man Trap” and perhaps even “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” another shapeshifting alien (Vendorian) has commandeered the Enterprise and plans to cause chaos. To top it off, Carter Winston’s long-lost lover happens to be aboard the ship. It is a great premise, albeit well-trod in the series. There are various new introductions in this episode, like the existence of identity tapes and Dr. McCoy’s daughter who is briefly mentioned. The ending is a bit ridiculous as it hinges on the Vendorian having a sudden change of mind.  


James Schmerer (1938-2019) was involved in a large number of shows. This was his only contribution to Star Trek. He and Gene Roddenberry apparently disagreed over some of the changes to the script, as Schmerer wanted to avoid repeating things that had previously been portrayed in Star Trek: The Original Series.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • The Enterprise has twice previously trespassed into the Romulan Neutral Zone in TOS episodes “Balance of Terror” and “The Enterprise Incident.”
  • In this episode, Dr. McCoy mentions that his daughter who was going to school on Cerberus about 10 years ago when a crop failure occurred, but Carter Winston used his fortune to finance the losses. His daughter, Joanna, was written out of the Season 3 TOS episode “The Way to Eden.” She was also set to have a role in the fourth season before TOS was canceled.
  • James Doohan voices the Romulan Commander in addition to his usual characters in this episode.
  • Nichelle Nichols voices the role of Anne Nored in this episode.
  • At the end of this episode, Ted Knight’s voice as the Vendorian sounds suspiciously similar to William Shatner as Kirk.
  • Director Hal Sutherland (1929-2014) directed all episodes of the first season of TAS. He gained early career recognition working on large Disney animation movies before switching to Filmation where he worked on TAS, as well as Flash Gordon, Batman, and Superman animated shows. Notably, pink is a recurring color in TAS. This is because Sutherland was colorblind and thought he was actually selecting the color grey.

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

1 thought on “Star Trek TAS: Season 1, Episode Six “The Survivor”

  1. It makes us wonder how far the creativity for shape-shifting aliens can go in a lengthily enduring sci-fi franchise like Star Trek or Dr. Who. Odo in Deep Space 9 would be a pinnacle for Trek. But looking back on all the old shape-shifter episodes like this one can still be nostalgically interesting. Thank you for your review and trivia.

    Liked by 2 people

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