37 "The Changeling"

(airdate: September 29, 1967)

Writer: John Meredyth Lucas
Director: Marc Daniels

Lt. Singh: Blaisdel Makee

Nomad's Voice: Vic Perrin

Stardate: Shortly before 3541.9

Captain's Log: The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Malurian system, but when they arrive they find that the population of the entire system has been wiped out. The ship encounters a small but very powerful probe and bring it aboard. This probe is Nomad, an Earth probe from the early 2000s that was believed destroyed by a meteor; however, Nomad was only damaged, not destroyed, and it merged with an alien probe in order to survive. This merging, combined with the damage sustained, inadvertently altered its programming, however, and so it is now "sterilizing" any lifeform it considers imperfect, which is effectively everything; the Enterprise was only spared because it believes Kirk is in fact its creator, Jackson Roykirk. Nomad plans to return to Earth to sterilize its home, but Kirk informs it that it has made an error: Kirk is not its creator, and Nomad did not catch this error - therefore, Nomad itself is imperfect and must sterilize itself. The Enterprise beams Nomad off the ship, shortly before it self-destructs.

Whoops!: As in "Balance of Terror", the shot of the Enterprise firing a torpedo is blurred. The close-up of Nomad leaving sickbay is a reuse of a shot of Nomad in a turbolift. You can occasionally see the wire holding Nomad up. Some versions of the VHS release give a stardate of 3451.9 on the back, not 3541.9.
     If the alien probe Tan Ru was collecting soil samples as a potential prelude to colonization, why was it sterilizing them? Wouldn't these would-be colonists want to know what was in the soil of the planets they were considering colonizing?
     If Nomad drained Uhura of all her knowledge, why, when Nurse Chapel is reeducating her, does she seem fluent in Swahili? Did they go to the trouble of educating her in Swahili before switching to English? [They may have done, if they wanted to make sure that the reeducated Uhura was the same as the original. But it still looks odd, like knowledge of your native language is innate from birth, not requiring other speakers to be around to expose you to the language.]
     Getting super nitpicky here, but Nomad could only have been hit by a meteor if it were inside an atmosphere: otherwise it was struck by a meteoroid.

Classic Lines: Spock: "My congratulations, Captain. A dazzling display of logic." Kirk: "You didn't think I had it in me, did you, Spock?" Spock: "No, sir."

Technobabble: The diagram of the original Nomad probe includes a magnetohydodynamic Vernier-pulse and a sperographic analysis computer.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: This episode boasts the highest on-screen death count of the original series: Scotty is killed (but he's restored to life, so that may be something of a technicality), then two security guards are vaporized when Nomad leaves the brig. Then two more security guards are vaporized when they try to escort Nomad back to the brig. There are also two Engineering techs (in red jumpsuits) who we see lying motionless after Nomad has entered. (They might just be unconscious though, much how Chapel was after she tried to stop Nomad from accessing the medical records.) Nomad also drains all the knowledge out of Uhura's mind after it wants to learn about music (having heard her singing "Beyond Antares" to herself).

Library Computer: The Malurian system was home to a population of over four billion people, spread across four planets. There was also a Federation science team located in the system, with a Dr. Manway as one of the team's members. The entire Malurian race (along with the science team) appeared to have been wiped out by a space probe called Nomad. [For more on the Malurians, see the Enterprise episode "Civilization".]
     Nomad was a small probe. Originating from Earth, it was the creation of one Jackson Roykirk, a Caucasian male with dark hair, brown eyes, and a greying beard. [The image is in fact of director Marc Daniels.] Roykirk was a brilliant but erratic scientist (possibly the most brilliant of his time) who strove to design a machine capable of independent logic - in essence, a thinking machine. To this end, Roykirk designed the space probe Nomad, which launched in the early 2000s as the first interstellar probe to seek new lifeforms. At some point during its mission, Nomad collided with a meteor and was presumed destroyed.
     However, Nomad was only damaged, not destroyed. Its memory banks were destroyed though, so Nomad wandered space without a purpose until it encountered a powerful alien probe named Tan Ru. Tan Ru had been sent out to find and sterilize soil samples, possibly as a prelude to colonization. It somehow merged with Nomad, repairing it. Afterwards its mission was a combination of Nomad's and Tan Ru's: Nomad now sought out and sterilized imperfect lifeforms [which apparently translated to anything biological]. Nomad also gained incredible power thanks to the merger; it could hover, pass through the Enterprise brig's security field, and project energy bolts, with the power of ninety photon torpedoes, that could travel at speeds of warp 15. It could also drain a human mind in search of knowledge, and it could "repair" a recently deceased human. Nomad was protected by a screen which could absorb the impact of a photon torpedo with no adverse effect, and which prevented sensor readings from being taken. It initially attempted to communicate in a complex binary code, compressed and consisting of multiple channels, which it then simplified to a single binary code, which was an old-style interplanetary code. Once the Enterprise successfully communicated with Nomad, providing a language equivalence to a mathematical formula Nomad provided, Nomad switched to English.
     In its current form, Nomad was a silver, roughly cylindrical machine, slightly over one meter in length, and weighing approximately 500 kilograms. The center of the machine was a rectangular prism with beveled corners, with flashing lights inside, behind three grills: red in the upper left corner of each panel, yellow in the upper right, and green behind the main grill on the left. The red and yellow lights flashed in time with its speech patterns. Below this main rectangular section was a thick disk attached by an inverted conical frustum [a cone without the tip], while above it was the "head" of Nomad, consisting of a cylindrical-like portion, bulging at the upper third, with three small, telescoping, antenna-like protrusions from the upper third. This section was topped by a round "hat" with another, much smaller, bulging cylinder with lights (where projected energy emerged), with a thick rod emerging up from the center of the "hat", ending in a small, cross-like antenna.
     Nomad MK-15c was originally a much more rounded design. Designated Probe 2002-45b [thus possibly indicating its year of origin was 2002], it was a cylinder with two fins (tracking screens/coupler prediction scanners) emerging perpendicular from the body, with round semicircular screens (selective amplifier screens) parallel to the body emerging further down. The back of the probe was a round section, attached by a thinner strut to the main cylinder, that was the probe's primary power system. The probe was equipped with an acquisition sensor and a sperographic [sic] analysis computer in its "head", with computer data banks and transmission equipment behind that. Protected by the semicircular screens was the data assimilation/digital encoder section, with a magnetohydodynamic [sic] Vernier-pulse behind that. [A Vernier scale measures accuracy between two measurements using the human eye, so this is presumably something to do with accuracy.] The probe was also equipped with an emulsifier with a regenerative mode. [This all comes from the diagram displayed on the screen in the conference room.] Nomad MK-15c was the last in the series. [And probably the only, given that Nomad is also described as a prototype.]
     Nomad, operating with damaged memory banks, mistook Captain James Kirk for its creator, Jackson Roykirk. It knew that its origin was the third planet of the Sol system, Earth, and it intended to head there to sterilize the planet of any biological infestations. However, upon being confronted with this error, compounded by the fact that it had not recognized the error and had not therefore sterilized itself as an imperfect being, Nomad chose to correct the error by self-destructing (though fortunately not until after Scotty was able to beam it into deep space).
     According to Nomad, there are inefficiencies present in the Enterprise's antimatter input valve and energy release controls. "Repairing" these inefficiencies leads to a 57% increase in engine efficiency, accompanied by an increase in speed to warp 11 - however, this is too much stress for the structure of the Enterprise to endure for an extended length of time. Scotty claims that the Enterprise can't (normally) go warp 10. An energy burst equivalent to ninety photon torpedos is sufficient to reduce the Enterprise's shields by 20%. The Enterprise has shields that can automatically cut in. Engineering controls life support systems. There's a maintenance crew designated C5. Sickbay's location is 5R 672.
     Kirk had heard about the Nomad probe at lectures at the Academy. McCoy is also familiar with Nomad and Jackson Roykirk.
     The Symbalene blood burn is a swift-acting disease, although it couldn't wipe out four billion people in under a week. [For more on this disease, see the Enterprise episode "Cold Station 12".]
     Spock can mind meld with Nomad.
     Uhura can be reeducated from no knowledge to her normal self in roughly a week. During her retraining she showed an aptitude for mathematics.

Final Analysis: "I am Nomad. I am perfect. That which is imperfect must be sterilized." An engaging premise and a well-paced script lead to an episode which is compellingly tense, with little tedium or padding. Simple but very effective.

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Page last updated: May 21, 2019

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