Star Trek: Season 2, Episode Nine “Metamorphosis”

Stardate: 3219.8 (2267)
Original Air Date: November 10, 1967
Writer: Gene L. Coon
Director: Ralph Senensky

“Immortality consists largely of boredom.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Enterprise Galileo shuttlecraft is transporting Assistant Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford (Elinor Donahue) so she can receive treatment for a rare and potentially lethal disease, Sukaro’s Disease. She was initially called upon by the Federation to prevent a war on Epsilon Canaris III. However, en route to a medical facility, the shuttlecraft encounters a strange energy field which Spock dubs “a cloud of ionized hydrogen, but with strong erratic electrical impulses.” They divert and land on a nearby asteroid, an iron-nickel planetoid.

Tragically, the Galileo shuts down due to some unknown force and across the craggy desert of this barren wasteland a voice can be heard saying, “haallooo!” This man is soon revealed to be Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett), a marooned scientist who crash-landed on this asteroid after leaving his home on Alpha Centauri, and curiously enough, he is actually the inventor of the Warp Drive. He disappeared some 150 years prior. He was an old man when he fled Alpha Centauri and decided he wanted to die in space but he encountered this strange beam of light he refers to as “The Companion” which has reversed his aging process. The Enterprise crewmen continue to see “The Companion” on this asteroid. Apparently, “The Companion” has brought the Galileo to this remote place in order to unite Commissioner Hedford with Zefram because he has grown lonely.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Hedford’s disease continues to grow worse. And “The Companion” begins attacking with the crewmen with electric shocks and by means of strangulation. Its only respite is being called forth by Zefram when he clears his mind in order to communicate with the being. Thankfully, the Enterprise has been searching for the Galileo under the helm of Scott, Uhura, and Sulu. However, their work is cut out for them –there are quite literally thousands of habitable planetoids in this quadrant!

Spock and Kirk devise a method of communication with “The Companion” which reveals a feminine voice, and they learn that she is a lover of Zefram. Kirk pleads with her to let the crew leave or else they will die, and he reasons that Zefram can never truly love her. “The Companion” then disappears in order to unite itself with Commissioner Hedford. She is now cured of her disease and approaches Zefram just in time for the crewmen to be rescued by the Enterprise. However, because Hedford/The Companion must remain on this planetoid to preserve her life force, and Zefram elects to remain behind with her. Kirk promises not tell anyone about what has happened to the legendary Zefram Cochrane. Bones asks Kirk about the war on Epsilon Canaris III, for which the Commissioner was initially summoned by Starfleet, however Kirk merely smirks and suggests Starfleet can find another woman to prevent the war.

What a momentous event it must have been for Kirk et al to encounter the original scientist who invented Warp Drive (The Next Generation crew also encounters Zefram Cochrane in the past in Star Trek: First Contact though in that situation Cochrane is played by James Cromwell). What might our experience be like if we had the opportunity to meet the scientists and inventors of our age: perhaps people like Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison, or Robert J. Oppenheimer?

I thought the idea of “The Companion” was intriguing –a bundle of unbridled energy with curiously for romantic inclinations. This is an alien being unlike most others we have encountered thus far in the series. And unlike others, “The Companion” has undergone a unique “metamorphosis” as the episode title suggests. It has decided to transform into a human in order to choose love against effective immortality. However, do we have any moral qualms about what happens to Commissioner Hedford? Are we sure this is truly her to choice to remain on the planetoid? Or is it the “Companion” half who dictates this choice? Even though Kirk pledges not to discuss his encounter with Zefram Cochrane, what of Commissioner Hedford? How will her absence ever be explained? And, most importantly, I echo Dr. Mccoy’s concerns about the war on Epsilon Canaris III, Kirk’s response that the Federation can simply find another woman to prevent that war (perhaps the opposite of Helen of Troy) is deeply unsatisfying.

A strange twist for me is when Zefram Cochrane decides to remain behind on this planetoid, despite the fact that a whole galaxy is likely waiting to bestow honors upon him for his scientific achievements (without which Starfleet would be neutered). Instead, he decides to live a quiet, anonymous life on this remote locale with a hybrid human-alien being as his paramour. I suppose one man’s paradise is another man’s hell. In all forms of life, people need a companion.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention the score in this episode. I was truly struck by this one by George Duning, it inspires a certain sense of place and wonder in this far away planetoid. I sometimes find myself nostalgic for these 1960s television musical accompaniments.

This episode was written by producer/writer Gene L. Coon (1924-1973), a key member of the creative team in the first and second seasons.

Director Ralph Senensky (1923- Present) is apparently still alive as I write this review making him nearly 100 years old. He directed many episodes of classic television including an episode of The Twilight Zone and six episodes of Star Trek.

Note: I’d like to acknowledge the passing of Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022) on the day that I write this review. She was a pioneer in many respects and will be greatly missed by many across the world.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This is the first appearance in Star Trek of Zefram Cochrane, inventor/discoverer of Warp Drive and an important figure to the series. He later re-appeared in Star Trek: First Contact and in alter iterations, as well.
  • Diligent viewers have noted that Zefram Cochrane would have been born around 2030, though he appears considerably older in First Contact –a minor quibble among fans.
  • “The Companion” being was designed by future Star Wars Oscar-winner Richard Edlund.
  • The voice of “The Companion” was completed by Elizabeth Rogers, though uncredited for some reason. She later returned to the series twice as communications officer Lt. Palmer.
  • Commissioner Hedford wore a colorful scarf on the set which ironically matched the colors of “The Companion.” Apparently, it was an unplanned coincidence.

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Star Trek: Season 2, Episode Eight “I, Mudd”

Stardate: 4513.3 (2268)
Original Air Date: November 3, 1967
Writer: Stephen Kandel, David Gerrold (uncredited)
Director: Marc Daniels

“What is a man but that lofty spirit, that sense of enterprise, that devotion to something that cannot be sensed, cannot be realized but only dreamed! The highest reality.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In this goofy Harry Mudd sequel episode, a crewman named Norman (Richard Tatro) begins acting strangely and he rather quickly locks the ship’s controls and hijacks the entire vessel. He stiffly addresses the bridge (referring to himself as “we”) by stating that the Enterprise will arrive at a new intended destination in four solar days. Norman then reveals himself to be an android and then promptly shuts himself down while the ship speeds toward its unknown destination.

Several days later, the Enterprise arrives at an uncharted planet, classified a “Class-K” planet (meaning a planet which can be adapted for life with the help of machinery). Norman awakens and commands Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, and Chekov to beam down to the planet’s surface, or else he will destroy the ship’s engines in order to strand it in orbit forever. Without other options, the crew beam down to the unnamed planet where they surprisingly find the notorious conman, Harry Mudd (reprised by Roger C. Carmel). He now rules this planet like a dictator –“Mudd The First.” How did Mudd escape his fate from his last encounter with the Enterprise in “Mudd’s Women?” Apparently, he escaped imprisonment and wandered through the galaxy. He was caught selling a Vulcan fuel synthesizer to the Denebians and then sentenced to death on Deneb V; though fortunately for Mudd, he was able to steal a ship and get away.

Now, on this planet, Harry Mudd is surrounded by beautiful android women who hope to study a new group of humans, hence why the Enterprise has been hailed (Mudd also has a full-size android of his nagging wife). The Androids are the product of an ancient cohort of “Makers” from the Andromeda galaxy but their sun went nova and they were forced to flee. Spock surmises these androids have a central intelligence hub while the androids completely take control of the entire Enterprise. Their light-flashing necklaces reveal their inner artificial intelligence.

The crew stages another ruse to get back aboard the Enterprise, and Kirk and Spock use twisted logic to effectively melt the circuits of the Norman android –they suggest that everything Mudd says is a lie (i.e. the liar’s paradox: “everything I say is a lie; I am also a liar”). These and other antics spell the demise of android rule, and in the end the androids are reprogrammed for their original purpose: to make this unnamed planet productive. Additionally, Mudd is sentenced to remain on this planet with all the androids (including 500 android copies of his shrew of a wife). The episode ends on a whimsical note: will this be the end of Harry Mudd?

Once again, Starfleet security aboard the Enterprise appears to be a complete joke as a single nondescript (android) crewman –who has apparently been aboard the Enterprise for a mere three days– locks the whole crew out of its own controls as he easily takes control of the whole ship! If ever there was a reason to tighten Starfleet’s recruitment protocols as well as the Enterprise’s security defenses, this is it.

At any rate, this episode presents a silly twist on the plot of the Season 1 episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Whereas instead of a weighty figure like Dr. Korby, Harry Mudd seems to somewhat accidentally rule the planet at the behest of androids, though he is not some grand maniacal visionary. Why does he want to escape this situation? What does the roguish criminal Harry Mudd truly desire? As Kirk notes, there are certain problems posed for people with limitless horizons. There are, no doubt, some intriguing parallels to draw between this episode and classic science fiction literature, perhaps Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? or I, Robot (indeed the title of this episode is likely a nod to I, Robot) however I find myself drawn to Star Trek episodes of greater gravitas and enduring quality –though I admit a screwy comedy involving Harry Mudd is a nice bit of levity!

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This is the second time the Enterprise crew has had a run-in with the whimsical con man Harry Mudd. Roger C. Carmel previously appeared in the role in the Season 1’s “Mudd’s Women.” He was one of only two non-recurring actors to reprise their characters in TOS.
  • Although Stephen Kandel (original creator of Harry Mudd) is credited as the lead writer for this episode, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry, David Gerrold completed uncredited re-writes to this script. Mr. Gerrold was given the job after the crew was pleased with his work on “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Almost nothing from his script made it into the final episode and Gene L. Coon offered to take up the matter with the Writer’s Guild for arbitration but Mr. Gerrold declined.
  • This episode employed the use of identical twins (Alyce Andrece and Rhae Andrece) as well as a collection of cinematic tricks to give the illusion of thousands of androids on this planet.
  • Apparently, there is an amusing story about how Casting Director Joseph D’Agosta spotted a pair of twin prostitutes and tried to hire them for this episode, however while being introduced to them, they brought a cat which clawed up Gene L. Coon and the twins were never hired.
  • Around this time, NBC considered launching a spin-off show about Harry Mudd but Gene Roddenberry was far too busy with Star Trek to begin a new show.
  • This episode marks perhaps the fourth or fifth time thus far in the series that Kirk manages to reason with a computer or android, and essentially talk it to death.
  • There are a few moments wherein Chekov becomes quite “comfortable” with the female androids, and he also makes an amusing remark that this unnamed planet is even better than Leningrad!

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Star Trek: Season 2, Episode Seven “Catspaw”

Stardate: 3018.2 (2267)
Original Air Date:
Writer: Robert Bloch
Director: Joseph Pevney

“Everything’s vanished!”

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A landing party (consisting of Sulu, Scott, and crew member Jackson) is overdue for a routine check-in on Pyris VII. When contact is finally made with the Enterprise, Jackson’s lifeless corpse is beamed back aboard the Enterprise while an echoing voice begins emanating from his mouth. The voice claims the Enterprise is cursed and must depart immediately or else face certain death.

In spite of the warning, Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to Pyris VII, a foggy planet seemingly devoid of water. Much like the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they encounter a ghastly trio of witches along with a haunted castle complete with a black cat. Kirk, Spock, and Bones are quickly trapped in a dungeon and imprisoned. Sulu and Scott have apparently become entrapped in some form of mind control by two strange alien being: Korob (Theo Marcuse) and Sylvia (Antoinette Bower). The two beings use odd methods of “magic” to control this unfolding situation (though they reveal that do not trust each other and actually have competing plans for the captured humans). Eventually an escape is launched. In the end, Kirk manages to shatter Sylvia’s wand, or her “transmuter,” thus ending this whole charade. The entire castle disappears. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, and Scotty all awaken as if from a dream, and Korob and Sylvia assume their natural forms (they appear as two tiny bird-like creatures who promptly disintegrate and die).

There is something charming about the sillier episodes of Star Trek like “Catspaw.” Here, we find an interesting blend of science fiction and campy 1960s horror tropes coupled with other familiar themes. At the very least, I found the twist ending to be compelling –I am always intrigued by unique or wildly imaginative forms of alien species found in the Trek universe. Notably, a species which can devise an elaborate illusion for humanity can also pose dangerous problems for the Enterprise. As far as their illusory powers go, Korob and Sylvia bear certain similarities to the Talosians in “The Cage” or even Trelane in “The Squire of Gothos.”

Writer Robert Bloch (1917-1994) was a legendary science-fiction and horror writer. He was a Hugo Award winner, and is perhaps best remembered as the author of Psycho (1959) which later became the classic Hitchcock movie. In addition to this episode of Star Trek, he also penned the script for the far superior Season 1 episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Both episodes curiously reference a group of ancient “Old Ones.”

Director Joseph Pevney (1911-2008) is tied with Marc Daniels for most TOS episodes directed.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This spooky episode was deliberately delayed in order to be released around Halloween (hence, why “trick-or-treat” is referenced in this episode.
  • This was the first episodes filmed for Season 2.
  • This was technically the first episodes filmed with Walter Koenig and his infamous shaggy wig.
  • Writer Robert Bloch based this episode on his short story “Broomstick Ride” (1957).
  • “Catspaw”, is a term that describes a person used by another as a dupe.
  • Actor Theo Marcuse tragically died in a car accident one month after this episode aired. As of the time I write this, Antoinette Bower is still alive.
  • The small miniature copy of the Enterprise seen in this episode was donated to the Smithsonian by Gene Roddenberry.
  • The Ornithoid life forms at the end of this episode (Koroh and Sylvia’s true forms) were mere marionettes composed of blue fluff, pipe cleaners, crab pincers, and other materials. In the original series the strings holding them up could be clearly seen, however this has been corrected in the remastered version.
  • Chronologically, the events of this episode take place on Stardate 3018.2 or immediately after the events of “The Menagerie, Part II”, which took place on Stardate 3013.1-3013.2, and before the episode “Shore Leave” which take place from Stardate 3025.3-3025.8.

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Star Trek: Season 2, Episode Six “The Doomsday Machine”

Stardate: 4202.1 (2267)
Original Air Date: October 20, 1967
Writer: Norman Spinrad
Director: Marc Daniels

“Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Enterprise receives an automated distress call from the partially destroyed ship, the USS Constellation. Something has destroyed system L-370 (seven planets) and system L-374, where only two planets remain. Spock notes that the U.S.S. Constellation is suspended in space with limited power but it is capable of sustaining life. In order to investigate this derelict ship, Kirk, Bones, Scotty, join a damage control team abeam aboard the Constellation.

Lying alone near the ship’s controls, they find a badly shaken Commodore Matt Decker (William Windom). Commodore Decker details a harrowing situation: the Constellation had attempted to contact Starfleet when it arrived in L-374 but the fourth planet seemed to be breaking apart and the interference prevented any communication to Starfleet. Most of his crew was on the third planet as it was destroyed along with everything else in the system by a giant machine, miles long, using beams of antiproton to destroy entire planets. In a word, it is a doomsday machine: a mindless robot which travels through the cosmos destroying planets and ships alike.

While Kirk and Scotty attempt repairs aboard the Constellation, the doomsday machine appears and suddenly attacks the Enterprise disabling its transporter. Kirk and Scotty are stranded as Commodore Decker assumes command of the Enterprise, very much against the wishes of Spock and Bones, and he proceeds to lead the Enterprise on a maniacal quest a la Captain Ahab in order to attack and destroy the doomsday machine. This leads to a wild chase which nearly destroys the Enterprise but eventually Spock relieves Commodore Decker under Kirk’s direct orders from afar. Embittered and questionably sane, Commodore Decker hijacks a shuttlecraft and leads it on a kamikaze suicide mission into the mouth of the doomsday machine but it tragically fails. The exterior of the machine is made of solid neutronium, and thus Kirk attempts a similar mission –Scotty rigs the full force and power of the ailing Constellation to detonate the power of a Hydrogen Bomb (equivalent to a fusion explosion 97 megatons) which destroys the doomsday machine. Kirk is beamed back aboard the Enterprise at the final moment. He and Spock are left to wonder if any other “Planet Killers” like this exist out in deep space.

“The Doomsday Machine” is classic Trek at its best –a derelict ships adrift in space, dark secrets, an all-powerful monster destroying solar systems, danger in deep space– these are all the hallmarks of a great episode. It bears striking similarity to episodes like “Space Seed” and echoes of others like “Balance of Terror.” Literary allusions also abound in this episode, from Moby Dick to The Bhagavad Gita. I cannot level enough praise upon this installment!

Writer Norman Spinrad (1940-Present) was a prolific science-fiction author. Unfortunately, this was the only produced episode of Star Trek he contributed though he worked on several other Sttar Trek related projects that were never completed.

Director Marc Daniels (1912-1989) was a World War II veteran and notable television director for a number of different shows. During his career he was nominated for several Emmys, two Directors Guild of America awards, and four Hugo Awards. He is tied with Joseph Pevney for most TOS episodes directed.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1968 as “Best Dramatic Presentation” (it lost to “City on the Edge of Forever”).
  • “The Doomsday Machine” features a completely original score by Sol Kaplan. It is a brilliant score with early echoes of the iconic score for Jaws.
  • This episode often ranks among the best of Star Trek by fans, though curiously D.C. Fontana once remarked it was her least favorite.
  • Episode writer Norman Spinrad based the script for this episode on his novelette “The Planet Eater” which had been rejected by a number of publishers. He later expressed disappointment in the casting selection for Commodore Decker and the “Planet Killer.”
  • William Windom also took inspiration for his performance from Humphrey Bogart’s role as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (1954). In the film, Queeg fidgets with a pair of ball bearings while in the episode, Windom’s character fidgets two small square-shaped data/cassette disks.
  • Some sources claim that the episode was influenced by Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series.
  • Interestingly enough, in Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Willard Decker is identified as Matt Decker’s son.

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