Star Trek: The Original Series

"Metamorphosis"

***

Air date: 11/10/1967
Written by Gene L. Coon
Directed by Ralph Senensky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A shuttle carrying Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Federation representative Nancy Hedford (Elinor Donahue) is pulled toward a small celestial body by a mysterious entity. Upon landing on the planetoid, the shuttle passengers discover Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett), the inventor of warp drive, who had been presumed dead two centuries earlier. He had somehow been revitalized and kept in an eternal state of youth by the entity, known as the Companion (voice supplied by the frequently utilized Majel Barrett).

The episode is another analysis of life, discovery, and understanding in the tradition the classic-themed "The Devil in the Dark." The Companion and Cochrane have an interesting, affectionate relationship that might best be described as mutual co-dependence. Strangely, the episode's most interesting (and in some ways puzzling) notion is Cochrane's reaction when he learns the Companion is actually female. In fact, this reaction prompts us to rethink how love is defined, and even how gender might be defined. Since this lifeform is so utterly different from a human, how does the gender issue even apply? Is Cochrane or any human's love dependent upon the need for another human form?

In "Metamorphosis," Cochrane can't come to terms with the Companion's love for him until it merges into one with the body of the dying Nancy Hedford. "Metamorphosis" doesn't know all the answers, but it certainly poses some intelligent and probing questions.

Previous episode: I, Mudd
Next episode: Journey to Babel

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13 comments on this review

Nic
Tue, Jun 8, 2010, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Actually, Elizabeth Rogers did the voice of the Companion. For some reason, she was not credited:

www.imdb.com/name/nm0736861/

memory-alpha.org/wiki/Metamorphosis_%28episode%29
SpiceRak2
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
I believe that Cochrane's reaction to learning the gender of the Companion was intended to demonstrate disgust regarding love between species. When he thought the relationship was one of friendship or at the minimum, caretaker, he was able to process it. Considering that the alien had something to gain, be it emotional, if not sexual, gratification caused him to feel victimized and certainly embarrassment. He never really acknowledged the terms of his capture.
Take it easy
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 2:41am (UTC -5)
Ms. Hedford was taken over by the companion without her permission and decided to stay behind. And nobody blinked that her life has changed. I don't think she would have been willing to this (what reason there could be to stay behind? and she was so anxious to get to the war region to prevent it).

Kirk promised he won't tell about Cochrane. How will he explain Hedford's absence? Lie?

Sad that TOS episodes bring out so many interesting ideas but falls miserably half way through.
Jack
Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Zefram Cochrane being "the inventor of warp drive" really has no meaning beyond Earth. We know that Vulcans had warp way before us...whoever invented it on their world did it long before Zefram did, and Spock almost certainly knows who did so. Every indication is that the Klingons had warp before us as well, and Romulans must've as well, in order to leave Vulcan when they supposedly did.
dgalvan
Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
It bothered me that no one batted an eye about essentially sacrificing Ms. Hedford in this way. The companion said she was "still there" in a sense, but it seems like it was just the companion in Hedford's body. You could argue that Hedford was about to die anyway, but she wouldn't have been if the companion hadn't trapped them in the first place. To make it all the worse/insulting, Kirk has a one-liner where he said "I'm sure the Federation can find another diplomat to prevent that war." Like ambassadors are a dime a dozen.

Other than that the episode was thought-provoking on its own.

As part of Trek canon, it shows the fate of Zefram Cochrane, who we saw as a somewhat old dude in First Contact, and then was referenced in Enterprise as being off on some ship somewhere, lost. Apparently he got captured by the companion, reverted to youthfulness, and then eventually died with "her". Kirk/McCoy/Spock probably the last people to see him alive.
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
This is one of those episodes of TOS that works more as a dream than as a "realistic" episode. The sacrifice of Ms. Hedford is obviously wrong in any moral, principled, ethical evaluation, if we take it "literally." And for the most part, Trek is...well, I don't know about "realistic," but it's at least closer to it than this episode. But here, I think we're meant to take from Ms. Hedford's comment that she has had a full life but sacrificed her love that her merging with the Companion is a "positive" fate for her -- as if the Companion is a disembodied spirit of eternal, endless love without flesh, and Ms. Hedford is a human with flesh and plans and a career but has been missing love all along. Because she's female and TOS doesn't have a great track record with women, this is pretty uncomfortable -- first that it's happening at all, second at the implication that career women really want nothing more than to shack up with a good-looking dude and are only pretending to care about preventing war or whatever. In a literal sense, there's no way Hedford "dying" and then the Companion animating her body without her consent is a reasonable course of action the Enterprise crew should support.

But then, in a literal sense, there's no way Kirk shouldn't make at least some mild steps to ensure that Cochrane's "love" for the Companion who literally kept him captive against his will for over a century wasn't simply an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome. Here, too, I think it's best to meet the episode halfway: we're meant to see, I think, that the Companion genuinely has no ability to perceive that it hurt Cochrane, and also to believe that her act of entrapment was in some sense an act of love; and that, once she has bonded with Hedford and "become" human, she is able to understand the error of her ways and Cochrane is able to make an educated decision about whether to stay or not.

This episode really fascinates me because there is so much that seems more, for lack of a better term, "progressive" than our society, and other parts that seem far less; the implication that real love, romantic love, could exist seemingly without a sexual component, between intelligent life forms even if one is not only non-human, but completely non-humanoid, is kind of revolutionary -- not that it's never been thought before, but it's presented here as almost an obvious matter of course by Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with Cochrane being something more like what a modern-day human would think if an energy cloud fell in love with them. That what we think of as romantic love, which is so tied with the sex drive, and which is so..."just between humans," is maybe not tied to species at all, is kind of extreme. And yes, Trek has interspecies relationships all the time -- but still between humanoids, between people who are "essentially" human. And yet, it combines this with the notion that any sentient/intelligent species in the universe, even if it's an energy cloud made of electricity, would be divided into male and female, and (by implication) that any female energy cloud would fall for a man -- that interspecies relationships can exist, but they are still obviously and totally heterosexual.

In terms of Trek history, I think this episode shares some genealogy with TNG's "Tin Man" and DS9's "Chimera"; "Tin Man" has Tam and Tin Man matched up and away from the rest of civilization, even if it's not explicitly presented as a romance; "Chimera" takes the time to investigate how truly different Kira and Odo are from each other and what gender means within this context. I wonder why the specific choice was made to have Cochrane be the "inventor of the warp drive" rather than just any other guy; I think the clue is that Cochrane has to be famous enough, and successful enough, that he will be admired and loved when he gets off the planet, so that his decision to stay with Companion/Hedford is much more meaningful. ST:FC's (re)interpretation of Cochrane as a guy who wanted to make the warp drive purely in order to gain fame and shallow pleasures makes this all the more poignant.

Favourite moment: Companion/Hedford lifting the fabric up to look at Cochrane at the end of the episode, as if she's trying to recreate the visual of what it looked like (what it must have looked like, from afar) when the Companion's colour-field was bonding with Cochrane, and while she realizes that that intimacy is now gone -- that she must stay on the planet and can't go with him. Moments like this are why I think of episodes like this as more dream-logic than, uh, logic-logic, and think they have to be evaluated differently.

High 3 stars -- it misses out on higher because the implications are uncomfortable, and not as clearly discussed as they could be, but there is something touching and mysterious in this episode. It's fun to compare/contrast this with the episode immediately preceding, because both, after all, are about a solitary individual (Cochrane, Mudd) being held captive by a predominantly female force (either the large group of "female model" androids, or the Companion) and bringing the Enterprise crew by force so that the man doesn't die of loneliness. One, obviously, is pure comedy, the other dramatic.
Eli
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
I agree with others here. Episode has fascinating ideas, but is ultimately marred by incomplete, problematic conclusion.
Michael
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
Hello.I'm 29 and just watched this episode.
By watching this episode you can notice a a cultural difference between the 70s and present day.This is a 70s stereotype that woman to be accomplished must love a men.
RandomThoughts
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
@Michael

Not just the 70's, because this show was on from 66-69. Much has changed since then. :)

Regards... RT
Vince
Sat, Aug 6, 2016, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
Remember that birth control had just been legalized in 1961. The first feminism was to allow women to be real sexual objects. Before they were only house wives. It was not until the mid seventies that feminism began to discard the sexual objrct as a sign of feminine freedom. We see this everywhere in the '60's. Robert Heinlin had a man's brain in a woman's body.

So metamorphasis is consistabt with the culture of its age, but still manages to provoke very interesting questions.
Rahul
Thu, Mar 2, 2017, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed this episode - very creative and thought-provoking. In fact, I'd say it's a top-10 Trek TOS episode for me -- a science fiction love story at its best.
Many themes touched upon and coming after it began to seem Trek TOS had run out of ideas with certain storylines being revisited in different guises.
I don't have an issue with the Companion taking over Hedford as she's about to die -- who knows what went down between them. Maybe Hedford was a willing participant as she's never loved before and the Companion wanted to be human in order to love Cochrane.
The episode does have a certain quality that is hard to define -- the planetoid with its purple skies and the sort of romantic soundtrack from George Duning -- I hesitate to use the word "enchanting" but maybe that's what it is. Certainly agree with William B. on "touching and mysterious" -- certainly get that feeling from the soundtrack. And I can't think of another Trek TOS episode that achieves that quality like this one (maybe "Return to Tomorrow"?)
It's up to the viewer to make out what Trek is trying to say about love and who it should be between. Cochrane's reaction is justified in that he believes it should be between a man and a woman. The character that is the Companion is the star of the episode in making the sacrifice just to experience human love even if it might have been for a short while had Cochrane decided to leave.
The part where he decides to stay is touching and well enacted.
I think this is a highly under-rated episode and I give it 4/4 stars. It's one of the rare episodes I could not remember seeing as a kid in the late 70s/early 80s. So when I saw it for the first time a few months back, I was very impressed and I watched it again a few days later. Just saw it for the third time in a few months now prior to writing this comment.
BrooklynJ
Fri, Mar 3, 2017, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
This episode was interesting but ultimately disturbing for me. The Companion's actions can be interpreted as being evil in the way that a cat can play with a baby mouse. She clearly knew that the woman was dying yet still diverted the shuttle. I find it hard to believe that she could stop aging in Cochrane while not being able to do anything for Hedford (letting her go in the shuttle for one thing).
She would have likely killed Kirk and Spock if Cochran had not intervened. Then she takes Hedford's body while claiming that it was a joint decision. She tricks Cochran into staying with her and even convincing Kirk not to report back anything. When she is looking through the dress at Cochrane it showed how childish she was - which convinced me that she wasn't evil and makes me give her some possibility that she wasn't lying about giving up immortality. But really I think she was willing to do anything to keep Cochrane with her including to lie and kill so I don't trust anything she has said. The Companion is a childish Siren but a Siren nonetheless.
As an aside, Kirk's attitude about Hedford was decidedly callous. She was trying to stop a war! His statement that surely Star Fleet can find another woman to do the job was jarring, especially while winking to Cochrane that he wouldn't tell anyone where he was. Not Kirk's finest hour but little help from Bones or McCoy either.
R.J.
Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
hmmm. After reading a lot of comments on Jammer's Reviews about Trek, I'm shocked that many fans misinterpret or completely miss things.

@BrooklynJ You assume The Companion knew Ms. Hedford was dying when the shuttle was intercepted. I didn't think that at all since Kirk asked Cochrane to explain her illness to the entity sometime after they had crashed. When he asked if The Companion could cure her, I don't see why the entity would be lying as there would be no motivation to do so. The Companion didn't understand love between humans and therefore couldn't be jealous of Ms. Hedford. She brought Kirk and company to the planet because Cochrane was lonely and missing his own kind. She sensed his thoughts and wanted to please him (as an act of love).

The Companion's attack of Kirk and Spock was self defense since they were attempting to disrupt the entity's energy pattern. Justified.

I get a sense that the joining of Ms. Hedford was a mutual agreement and that her soul was still inside hence the line "We are one."

She did not trick Cochrane into staying and was willing to let him go with the others saying that just knowing what human love was for a few moments made her impeding isolation on the asteroid all the worthwhile. The whole "if you love something let it go" line of thinking so definitely not a siren. It's Cochrane who agreed to stay realizing that he did love her.

Childish for looking through the dress? Well the joined life form of Ms. Hedford/Companion was newly created but I think William B.'s comment was on target regarding that scene.

Kirk's attitude about a new aide? She would have died anyway because of her illness so finding a replacement was inevitable. Maybe he was happy that in the end she didn't die despite the odds.

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