Season 2, Episode 9 (Production 32), Story 38
Written by Gene L. Coon; Directed by Ralph Senensky
PLOT: Kirk, Spock, McCoy and a Random Beauty get kidnapped by an alien to hang out with the dude that invented the warp drive.
SUBPLOT: Exactly how creepy can this episode get?
KIRKISM: “The idea of male and female are universal constants.”
HEADER QUOTE SPOKEN BY: Zefram Cochrane
METAMORPHOSIS is an episode that largely succeeds because it offers us something new; Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Commissioner Nancy Hedford are on a shuttle that gets pulled onto a small planetoid, where Zefram Cochrane, inventor of the warp drive, is living a healthy life, despite being 150 years old. I like how METAMORPHOSIS gives us a truly sci-fi premise – the long-lived man, the alien “companion” being that’s keeping him alive, the love the companion feels for Cochrane that causes her to kidnap the Enterprise folk in order to give Cochrane someone to talk to besides her energy ball self.
It’s the set-up that propels METAMORPHOSIS forward. So many of STAR TREK’s plots are just redundant powerful aliens vs. the Enterprise that it gets old. It’s like the show’s producers have decided that’s the show and then it’s just a matter of plugging in some new villain and letting the formula play itself out.
In META, we’ve got the tried-and-true set-up of someone being dragged to an alien world and a powerful alien confronting them, but there are some new ingredients in the mix. The first is the presence of Zefram Cochrane, a guy whose life has been extended thanks to the alien, whom he refers to as “the companion.” The companion is in love with Cochrance, though Zefram doesn’t see it, even though he’s spent 150 years on this rock.
If STAR TREK was actually a well-written show, of course, they would do something with this scientifically brilliant but socially inept set-up, but because it isn’t a well-written show, Cochrane is effectively whatever the episode needs him to be. For 150 years he hasn’t noticed the companion is in love with him, but now he notices it when McCoy points it out, despises the creepiness of alien love in one act, and then embraces it in the next when the companion takes over the dying body of Commissioner Hedford.
It’s a creepy enough romantic/sexual resolution that Russell T Davies must list META as one of his favorite TREK episodes.
Cochrane clearly has the hots for Hedford because not only is she the first woman he’s seen in a century and a half, she’s a pretty attractive one at that. Hedford is dying from some rare disease because the show doesn’t actually want a messy resolution; to make the companion take the body of a healthy, living woman would be far too complicated, so they give Hedford a life-ending illness.
Kirk has an interesting episode as he struggles to combat the companion, first trying violence and then trying diplomacy, but it’s McCoy who has the best moments. He’s the driving force to get Kirk to act throughout the adventure as Hedford is his patient. She’s angry at Starfleet Medical for not properly treating her and McCoy takes her affront personally. As her condition worsens, McCoy is constantly in Kirk’s ear, pushing him to do whatever he can to get them off this rock and to a real medical facility. When Kirk’s attack proves unsuccessful, McCoy reminds him he was also trained as a diplomat. And it’s McCoy who figures out that the companion sees Cochrane as a lover, telling him, “You’re not a pet. You’re not a specimen kept in a cage. You’re a lover.”
Unfortunately, METAMORPHOSIS never really comes together. Characters act too randomly or artificially in order to create some tension. Cochrane isn’t convincing as a guy who’s been stranded here all this time, and the takeover or melding of the companion with Hedford is too creepy and too under-discussed in the episode for it to work. If immortality consists, as he says, “largely of boredom,” he nonetheless comes off as rather well-adjusted. Still, it’s not a terrible episode and if it gets some points for being a bit different than the usual fare (even if the quality really isn’t), so be it.