Mark Watches ‘Star Trek’: S02E09 – Metamorphosis

In the ninth episode of the second season of Star Trek, the Galileo shuttle is pulled onto a planet, where the crew discovers a bizarre relationship. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of issues of consent.

Holy shit, this episode is so weird and uncomfortable, and I’m not really sure that’s what the writers intended me to feel. By the end of “Metamorphosis,” the music, the tone, and the looks on everyone’s faces made it clear that I was supposed to feel like this was the end of some epic romance, except WHAT THE FUCK, THIS IS NOT AT ALL ROMANTIC. It’s terrifying! It’s like a hidden horror film wrapped in a soap opera!

This episode is a perfect example of something I’ve written about a lot recently: unintended implications. I don’t think anyone writing “Metamorphosis” sat down to ruin my life, and I don’t think someone deliberately wrote this to be offensive. I bet that at the time, this probably was seen as something quite romantic. Hell, even I have to admit that the fact that this show said it was perfectly all right for a human to have a relationship with an alien is a damn cool thing. It’s great! It suggests that humanity is not nearly as restrictive about sex or love as they are now. (But no queer or gay people. SIGH, I’ll just keep entertaining all my bathtub headcanons. YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.)

But in executing this idea, the writers overlook one really uncomfortable thing.

So! The Galileo shuttle, carrying a Federation Commissioner stricken with a potentially fatal disease called Sakuro’s, is mysteriously pulled onto a planet by a sparkling jello hologram (I JEST), where they find a dude who is unsettling. Look, Cochrane is SO CREEPY, even though I know he never meant to come off that way. But that’s part of his characterization that’s vital to understanding his eventual decision. Despite that he’s been marooned on a strange planet, he’s remarkably calm about the whole thing. We discover that this strange being not only healed him, but prevents him from ever aging. I knew as soon as that was revealed that there was some horrible catch to this because you don’t just get immortality for nothing.

In Cochrane’s case, he’s been stuck on this planet for 150 years. Despite this, he never really seems all that interested to leave. WOULDN’T ANY OF US WANT TO LEAVE??? The conflict that Cochrane faces is his attachment to The Companion, his name for the shimmering blob of energy. He’s thankful for The Companion for saving him and keeping him young; he’s comfortable with the way she gives him company and speaks to him; and even when Kirk offers him a way out, he’s still reluctant to leave her behind. Initially, all we really know is that he feels like he owes The Companion something because of what she did for him.

However, as the group tries to escape or get help for Commissioner Hedford’s illness, they discover that The Companion isn’t always an agreeable or benevolent force. And then shit gets REALLY FUCKING WEIRD. First of all, Cochrane freaks out when everyone suggests that The Companion obviously and totally loves him. Again, I have no problem with this, and I find it fascinating. This being – whatever it is – has no concept of love at all. At best, The Companion understands devotion and care, and that’s the entire impetus for her brining the Galileo to the planet in the first place. She could tell that Cochrane was lonely, so she brought him more of his species to give him company. (Let all of your wonderful fics reflect that alternate ending. What if The Companion let Hedford die and never allowed anyone else to leave? Three humans and a Vulcan left behind on a planet, and MAY THE OT4 NEVER END.) She’s unable to understand why this is messed up and why it’ll never work. This part of the episode is done incredibly well, and I appreciated how committed the writers were to showing us that The Companion could not understand what a human spirit was. She couldn’t understand Cochrane’s loneliness or the desperation of the other humans because she’d never experienced such emotions. She is, of course, an emotional being. We never question that, and that’s always a part of her character throughout “Metamorphosis.”

So she possesses Commissioner Hedford’s body and somehow EVERYONE IS OKAY WITH THIS???

As far as I could tell, The Companion “joined” with Hedford just prior to her death, and in doing so, she gave up her powers. She can no longer heal herself or Cochrane, and she did this so that she could appear as a human for Cochrane. This is presented as a totally reasonable thing, and at no point do we ever get confirmation that Commissioner Hedford herself was fine with this. There’s that scene earlier where she laments her coming death, so maybe we’re meant to assume that she agreed to The Companion possessing her body? I just… I don’t buy this! It’s really fucking weird. Cochrane is suddenly not immortal and can see the wonders of the universe, but he decides to remain on a barren planet with the weird Companion/Hedford hybrid. Because that’s a thing that happened???

I’m not even going to address the fig tree thing. (Nope, I lied. HOW CAN YOU DO THAT. WHERE DO YOUR SUPPLIES COME FROM? HOW ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO SURVIVE MORE THAN A FEW MONTHS WITHOUT THE COMPANION HEALING YOU.) This ending makes no sense to me, though of course I’d feel a lot better if we knew for certain that Hedford consented to The Companion using her body. Regardless, the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not my favorite ending! An interesting premise, yes. I’ll agree to that. But wow, that was so weird.

The video for “Metamorphosis” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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