Thursday, November 17, 2016


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *cosmological, sociological*

That unit is defective. Its thinking is chaotic. Absorbing it unsettled me.-- Nomad, on the experience of probing the female mind.

This quote would seem to prove that even robots inevitably share their creators' beliefs as to the superior logic of the male gender.

Technically the "changeling" of the title isn't at all like the figure from folklore, since the "child" sent forth by an Earth-scientist-- Nomad, an exploratory robot-probe-- actually comes back to his "people," crossbred with an alien device that makes Nomad extremely perilous to Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. One might compare Nomad more to humans who travel in fairy lands and then come back radically altered, whether inhumanly young or possessed of inhuman powers.

Like "What Are Little Girls Made of?," this Trek-episode seems devoted to the proposition that artificial life has no more claim on accurate perceptions than emotional living beings. Whereas the show's first season is rife with stories involving contagion by aliens or mutated humans, Nomad presents a new menace: the doomsday machine. Nomad's innocuous original mission is accidentally programmed into a mission of destruction, as the relentless machine judges all organic life-forms and finds them "imperfect" by its lofty non-living standards. Only its deference to its supposed "father," Captain Kirk, keeps the ultra-powerful machine from wrecking the ship, as it has earlier destroyed billions of (disposable) lives in a star-system.

"Changeling" is a strong thriller-episode, refreshing in the economy of its single premise: how can one use logic to defeat logic?

"Mirror Mirror," fourth episode of the second season, remains a perennial fan-favorite. It's certainly a lot of fun to watch four duty-bound members of the Enterprise-- Kirk, McCoy, Scott and Uhura-- encounter a Bizarro-world version of their universe: one in which the Johnsonian "Great Society" of the Federation has evolved into a merciless, Mongol-like Empire, devoted to ruthless conquest. Of course, it might put a damper on some of the fun to recall that some cultures contemporaneous with the show's original run DID think of America as being a merciless empire. I don't think Gene Roddenberry would have agreed with those voices back in the day, for he seemed to feel that American-style democracy provided the best of all possible worlds. Still, "Mirror Mirror's" script, by two-time TREK writer Jerome Bixby, may have been designed with Roddenberry's political beliefs in mind. While it might have been impossible to state on the show that democracy wasn't all it was cracked up to be, an alternate-world story could show that even the best of political systems could be corrupted-- and more, that the corruptions would eventually prove transitory.

Aside from the assorted thrills of the "good guys" to get out of the Bizarro-verse, the script also seems designed to play to another favored Roddenberry trope: that of the powerful man who attracts a woman to serve him-- though not necessarily a wife. The character of Marlena, the "captain's woman" to Bad Kirk, is a woman who, despite being a professional at her starship-job, chooses to advance by sleeping with powerful men. Like Bad Spock, Bad Marlena is for the most part won over the essential decency of Good Kirk, though his lovemaking abilities may have something to do with Marlena's conversion as well.

I noted that in the first season, Kirk isn't nearly the "Don Juan" he would later become, though Roddenberry clearly favored the image of powerful male seducers. "Mirror Mirror" seems the first episode that truly casts Kirk in the role of such a perpetual seducer of women.

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