17 January 2017

Planet of the Really Bad Subtext (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.9, "Metamorphosis")

She's just watched "The Alternative Factor"

Stockholm Syndrome hadn't been identified at the time this episode had made... which is a pity, because this would have been a much better episode if it had been. Because frankly, its moral compass is broken.

[This review contains major spoilers]

Kirk, Spock and McCoy (quite why you put your top two officers and your medical guy on this mission, I don't know) are flying the shuttle Galileo - they've got a replacement after the previous one was lost - back to the Enterprise. Aside from those three, they are carrying a diplomat by the name of Assistant Commissioner Hedford, who has attracted a very rare illness and needs urgent medical treatment back on the starship. 

However, they are then taken off course by a mysterious space cloud that looks like Donald Trump's hair and end on an Earth-like asteroid. With a rather unusual inhabitant...

This is a rather 'compact' episode; with action limited to the planet, the shuttle and a couple of scenes on the bridge; Chekov is not present in this one.

None of the regulars really stand out in this story sadly. They do get the chance to do some electric shock dancing, but there is very little of the great character moments here.

Nancy Hedford (her first name is only given in the credits) is a headscarf wearing woman who starts off doing grumpy and ends up engaging in sweaty overacting. Played by Elinor Donahue - who is still alive and turns 80 in April - I couldn't help but be reminded of Alison Brie; who you might cast to play this sort of role - the latter dressed similarly in Mad Men.

The inhabitant on the planet turns out to be none other than Zefram Cochrane; the man who invented the warp drive! He went missing 150 years previously and was presumed dead. He in fact has lived on the planet, been rejuvenated by an alien companion who provides for all his needs to appear 35... and hasn't aged since. This is something he isn't entirely happy about. Played by Glen Corbett, he looks like a rather stereotypical sort of character for this period, a rather cynical space traveller; he also has a rather 'standard' haircut.

Cochrane's companion is a big glowing ball of animation on optical matte and looks very much of the period; many of the shots appear to be the same as in original transmission. Therefore, from the perspective of 50 years on, it doesn't pass muster. This said, its creator, Richard Edlund would later become a founding member of Industrial Light and Magic.

The massive issue that hits this episode in the middle is the revelation that the Companion is in fact female, deeply in love with Cochrane and that their relationship has basically been sexual. Cochrane feels violated by this... and the rest of the crew aren't, seeing his reaction as primitive.

Then the Companion, instead of curing Hedford, merges with her (did she ask?) and makes herself human... but can't leave the asteroid. So Cochrane decides to stay with her, because he's fallen in love with her...

To which my response is:

She imprisoned him and basically got her jollies via mind meld under false pretences for150 years! He's only in love with her because he's well and truly got Stockholm Syndrome! What a stupid, stupid, insulting twist!

Before that, however, the episode starts badly dragging. It's very talky and is arguably at least 10 minutes too long.
When being long and boring is one of the smaller faults in a work, then you have a problem.


What started off as an interesting affair involving unusual alien life began to increasingly drag... then turned very sour for me with the reveal about the creature and its purposes.

I have to judge this episode by modern standards and the morality I subscribe to, so I have to knock this down several notches.

This is the worst episode I've watched to date.

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