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Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 09

Star Trek TOS - 2x09 - Metamorphosis

Originally Aired: 1967-11-10

Synopsis:
The shuttlecraft Galileo makes a forced landing on a world with a single human inhabitant. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 5.09

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
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Filler Quotient: 1, partial filler, but has important continuity. I recommend against skipping this one.
- The Zefram Cochrane character is first introduced in this episode, although it is his chronologically final appearance.

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode establishes that Zefram Cochrane invented warp drive.
- This episode establishes that Zefram Cochrane is at least 237 years old.
- This is the first episode to feature a Federation universal translator device.

Remarkable Scenes
- Cochrane's sudden appearance before the landing party.
- McCoy, regarding Cochrane: "Talks a lot, but he doesn't say much."
- The revelation of who Cochrane really is.
- Cochrane: "Believe me captain, immortality consists largely of boredom."
- Kirk enticing Cochrane to rejoin the universe.
- Kirk conspiring to attack Cochrane's companion.
- Kirk negotiating with the companion.
- Cochrane agreeing to stay with his now in human form companion.

My Review
This was a charming story with a premise that should not have worked anywhere near as well as it actually did. If I were to describe the episode to someone as "Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and annoying Federation bureaucrat of the week crash land onto a random alien planet," I would likely receive yawns in response. However, adding in details like "whereupon they discover the long lost Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, still alive despite being aged over 200 years, sustained by a neurotic alien entity which has fallen in love with him," I suspect I might raise a few more eyebrows.

The appeal of this episode lies solely with Cochrane. It takes an unfortunate twelve minutes into the story before the narrative finally allows Cochrane to reveal his backstory (we can't let the plot move forward too quickly now, can we!), but when he finally does, the implications are fascinating. What kind of life has this man led? As he interacts with the landing party, the story grapples with concepts like immortality, eternal captivity, and inter-species love in remarkably compelling ways.

However, I would have enjoyed a deeper exploration of Cochrane's life on pre-Federation Earth. Why did he invent warp drive? How did he achieve the breakthrough? What were relations with the Vulcans like before the Federation existed? Given Cochrane's "parochial" and arguably racist and xenophobic attitude towards aliens, I can only imagine that Cochrane's era was a considerably different one. But the episode spends little time on the totality of Cochrane's long, storied past.

Both Nancy Hedford's character as well as the entity fell considerably more flat, as Nancy spent most of her time acting irrationally and the entity came off as a female version of Nomad. Even with the two of them combined at the end of the episode, there still wasn't enough personality between them to add up to being a compelling character. It's also worth noting that the companion unilaterally inhabiting Nancy's body could be seen as morally questionable, but since Nancy seemed to be all for it after the fact, it could be dismissed as voluntary. I suppose since her only other choice was death, the moral ambiguity is somewhat moot.

Speaking of death, I found it intriguing that Kirk repeatedly argued that the eternal captivity of Cochrane and the landing party would lead to their deaths. Kirk's statement was at best a metaphor and at worst a lie. Nevertheless, it was a perceptively persuasive tactic. Kirk basically recognized that the landing party was brought to this planet because Cochrane wished for companionship. Kirk expanded on Cochrane's dissatisfaction with the boredom of captivity to convince to the entity that her solution would be ineffective in the long term because that boredom would merely reassert itself in short order. Sure, some of his rhetoric may have been a bit less than accurate, but what good diplomat doesn't fudge the truth every now and then? ;)

A final wrinkle in the story is Kirk's refusal to reveal the discovery of Cochrane to the Federation, nor the true fate of Nancy. I can understand Cochrane's desire to avoid fame, but doesn't Nancy have at least a single person in the Federation who cares about her? Parents, siblings, family of any kind? Won't they want to know what happened to her? Won't they want to come visit her? Perhaps throw a wedding party? Kirk was responsible for Nancy's safety, as he himself so appropriately pointed out in the middle of the story. It was irresponsible for him to lie about her fate after the fact.

Overall though this was a terrific story. I'd love to see the Zefram Cochrane character again in subsequent episodes or at least learn more about his apparently pivotal role in the history of Earth and the Federation.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From rhea on 2008-04-27 at 2:25pm:
    I can think of one reason why the episode is disliked, at least by me for: the racist-sexist notion in Cochranes reaction to the gender/sex of the Companion. As long as he does not know it is female he believes it to be a good buddy. When it turns out to be female and maybe in love with him, he is so utterly disgusted, I want to slap him - hard. So what does it mean: companionship is ok, but interspecies/interracial love is disgusting?? Then the Companion decides to give up immortality and live on in Nancy Hedford's body, and all is well again? I for one am happy he stayed on the planet, for all the poison he was spewing against interspecies relationships.
    Some may say he felt raped, sexually violated, but I am not sure that I accept that.
  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2008-07-19 at 1:36am:
    Decent episode. I love the part where Kirk is talking to Cochrane about how far the Federation has come in terms of the numbers of planets humans inhabit and how much intelligent life is out there.
  • From Rick on 2010-05-10 at 10:06am:
    Also, Cochrane would be hailed as the "inventor" of the warp drive, for earthlings, but obviously, all the other species discoverd warp drive for themselves. They make it sound like cochrane invented warp drive for everyone in the galaxy, but of course, that's not the case.
  • From Old Fat Trekkie on 2011-12-08 at 4:16am:
    If for nothing else, this episode is great due to the conversation between the Companion and Kirk.

    On one hand you have Kirk hamming it up while uttering "Companion ..." on the other, "The man must continue ... It is necessary."

    Who thinks this stuff up?
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-06 at 9:20am:
    I give it a 7/10.

    Kethinov covers the same gripes and weaknesses that I have for the episode. Those aside, there was a lot to like about it.

    I feel that, rather than the drawn out reveal of who Cochrane was, that time would have been better spent showing us an exchange between the Companion and Nancy. A negotiation between them could have been extremely heart-felt, philosophical, and engaging. As it was, it did raise very serious questions about the ethics of the invasion of Nancy.

    More time could also have been given over to the exploration of Cochrane's bigotry. It's actually an interesting idea, and we could perhaps have gotten a glimpse of his true motivation. Maybe it wasn't innocent curiosity about the universe that guided him, but rather a desire to find and dominate other life forms. An idea like this could have set up some interesting exchanges between him and the Enterprise crew about the Federation's mission. This would have been a great opportunity to reveal the true heart of Star Trek, as Roddenberry conceived it.

    These missed opportunities aside, there was a lot of great food for thought in this one, with a few great little moments. One that immediately comes to mind is Spock's desire to learn as much about the Companion as possible, seeing it as an invaluable opportunity to learn. That's great stuff.
  • From Rick on 2017-02-06 at 10:17pm:
    You guys are completely missing the point on Cochrane's reaction. He felt sexually violated. Understandable reaction.

    Cochrane would still be famous throughout the Federation since he discovered warp drive for the planet that would spur the founding of the Federation. Without him... no Federation.

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