Star Trek: The Original Series (1967) – Who Mourns for Adonais? and The Changeling

Captain’s log: stardate 3468.1

Who Mourns for Adonais? had an original airdate of 22 September, 1967 and was penned by Gilbert Ralston. This was one of the first episodes that I realised at a young age that was about more than what it seemed.

On the surface, the story follows the Enterprise as it encounters a powerful being that identifies himself as the Greek God, Apollo (Michael Forest). He seems unstoppable, and demands that Kirk (William Shatner) and the starship crew worship him. Kirk, McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), Chekov (a wigged Walter Koenig), a young ensign, Carolyn (Leslie Parrish) that both Scotty and Apollo have feelings for, must take on the powerful being, and stop him so that the Enterprise can continue its journey.

Then it hit me, at a young age, a god only has real power if you invest belief in it. And what if that being was needy for that attention, could only live and thrive if it had it?  These were questions that blew my mind when I was younger – some things only have power because of the belief (or fear) invested in them. Wow.

There is some great banter featuring Scotty, Kirk and McCoy at the show’s opening, and then, the Enterprise is grabbed by an energy field in the shape of a giant green hand. Then to venture into equally fun territory, this episode presented the idea that the gods of our beliefs were not omnipresent beings, but in fact alien visitors – I won’t lie, this concept has always fascinated me.

Kirk and his landing party aren’t going to give Apollo, who is rather sexist, what he wants. In fact the captain is sure that there is a way around the being, if they can find the source of his power and outwit him some how.

The captain will also have to figure out how to keep Scotty’s emotional attachment to Carolyn under control, as well as her own attraction to Apollo, when the god takes her with him.

I love Fred Steiner’s score for this episode, the lonely horn associated with Apollo in this episode is so sad, hinting at a once great power now brought low. It’s rather haunting.

In addition, I find it interesting that Kirk tells Apollo that we don’t need gods anymore, we’re quite happy with the one. Which one is that? And I think at that point in our future history, we may not need gods at all. We’ll be able to believe in one another.

In the end, Apollo is proven to be just a being, a lonely one with immense power, but certainly not a deity. What would happen if we could prove that of so many other religions?

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Captain’s log: stardate 3541.9

The Changeling.

This is a very familiar story, and one can feel its influences and story ideas in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s probably a cautionary tale to be presumed from this. Something akin to – sending our own devices out into the universe and having them used against us – at least until we prove we are the more clever ones by outsmarting them. This episode was originally written by John Meredyth Lucas and aired on 29 September, 1967.

A probe, NOMAD (voiced by Vic Perrin), launched from Earth, has had it’s directives corrupted. When it is brought aboard the Enterprise, it confuses Captain Kirk with its creator. Its programming has now been twisted following an accident and an encounter with what it refers to as ‘the Other’ so its new orders are to destroy any biological ‘infestation’ it comes across as they are not perfect.

The show opens with the Enterprise coming under a powerful attack, demonstrating how much of a threat the show is going to have. From there, when they learn that their hails are being answered Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Spock discover the probe’s broadcast and help decipher it, before bringing the unit aboard.

In fact, Uhura is given a little bit to do in this episode as her encounters with the probe causes her some problems when it sees no purpose in song and music.It wipes her mind, and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) works to re-educate her.

This ends up being one of those episodes that allows Kirk to outwit a computer because it confines itself to logical thinking only. Kirk forces it to resolve a paradox that brings it to a full stop.

And poor Scotty. He got blasted by Apollo in the previous episode, and then gets shot by NOMAD in this episode, eliciting the classic McCoyism “He’s dead, Jim!”

I rather enjoy this episode, not so much for the story, which I think The Motion Picture did better but for the character interactions, the banter, the friendships we see. All of that seems to make for a more solid universe.

The journeys with the Enterprise continue next week, and that’s because the Human Adventure is just beginning…

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