It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #31!
This week’s episode is “Metamorphosis” and it’s a brilliant fleshing out of the history of Trek as it sets up seeds of much later stories while giving us an interesting musing on life and love.
We open with Kirk, Spock and McCoy aboard the shuttlecraft Galileo, ferrying back Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford (Elinor Donahue) back to the Enterprise as, while trying to prevent a war on Epsilon Canaris III, she contracted the extremely rare, life-threatening Sakuro’s Disease. She blames Starfleet Medical’s incompetence for this, although McCoy informs her that the odds of anyone contracting the disease are literally billions to one. Regardless, Hedford is pretty bitter.
Suddenly, the sensors pick up something and the shuttle’s visors are lowered to reveal what Spock can only describe as something akin to a cloud of “ionized hydrogen:”
The mysterious cloud engulfs the shuttle and the group is transported to a small planetoid. Spock does some sensor readings and determines that the place is entirely satisfactory for human life and, leaving Hedford inside, they step out. The planet looks like your average purplish desert landscape; they don’t register any life readings. But suddenly a voice calls “Hello” to them and a figure runs up to them.
The man (Glenn Corbett) identifies himself as Cochrane; McCoy and Kirk note that he seems familiar but they can’t seem to place him. Cochrane looks upon Hedford, who’s come outside by then and is astonished by her beauty. He tells the others that a damping field is affecting their shuttle, preventing them from taking off. When they ask him if he knows anything about the creature that brought them there, he denies it and invites them to his home.
The house has on a table several old shuttle parts, which to Kirk are positively antiques. Meanwhile, McCoy begins to care for Hedford, who’s succumbing to the effects of her disease. After much pressing by Kirk, Cochrane eventually relents and tells them about the Companion, which is what he calls the cloud creature, which brought him here when he was old and dying alone out in space. He reveals his first name is “Zefram,” which astonishes McCoy and Kirk. For Zefram Cochrane is the inventor of warp drive, but he has been thought dead for 150 years. However, Spock notes that his body was never found.
Is this the real Zefram Cochrane? How is he still alive and young? What does the Companion have to do with that? And why did it bring Kirk and the others here…?
If the name Zefram Cochrane sounds familiar to you, it’s most likely because he was this guy in Star Trek: First Contact:
As portrayed by legendary character actor James Cromwell, Cochrane was the cantankerous, somewhat cowardly discover of warp field technology, which enabled humanity to be discovered and contacted by the Vulcans, which eventually led to the establishment of the Federation. In the events of the film, Cochrane had to be convinced to accomplish his great task by Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E in order to stop the Borg from changing history.
Regardless, he was established here first and it’s a fascinating and fantastic way to expand the history of Trek, providing not only an example of living history to Kirk and the crew, but someone who has troubles and longings of his own.
This episode was written by executive producer Gene L. Coon and once again, he demonstrates a real knack for fleshing out the world we find ourselves in with this show. But more than that, he provides a unique meditation on loneliness and solitude: the two eventual problems with immortality. It’s very interesting to see play out.
Ralph Seneskey, who previously directed the similarly poignant “This Side of Paradise,” is back here and again, he demonstrates a knack for letting emotions come across. Unlike last time, he only has a limited number of characters to work with, but he manages to give all of them equal footing, as well as stage some exciting sequences with the Companion, which looked great with the remastered footage.
As I said, this is a small cast, so if they didn’t play off of each other, it’d be for naught. As it is, our three leads bounce off of each other terrifically, with Spock getting his usual dry one-liners in to bust up the tension and Shatner demonstrating how crafty Kirk can get. Corbett is no James Cromwell, but he’s still quite good at showcasing Cochrane’s loneliness and confusion. However, I did not much care for Donahue; she comes off as really whiny and annoying until about 15 minutes are left in the episode. Bit of a disappointment.
But overall, this is an interesting episode that laid the groundwork for all sorts of things that Gene Coon couldn’t even imagine.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.