Star Trek: The Animated Series

"The Survivor"

3 stars

Air date: 10/13/1973
Written by James Schmerer
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise happens upon a disabled vessel and rescues Carter Winston (Ted Knight), a human entrepreneur who has been missing (and presumed dead) for five years. It seems like an impossible miracle, and it might be, because some things are amiss: Winston's medical scans are slightly off, and he immediately informs the woman who was his fiancee (who is a member of the Enterprise crew) that he can no longer marry her.

Winston is, in fact, an imposter from an alien species called the Vendorians, who have the ability to shapeshift into anybody or anything with a similar mass. We learn this when he renders Kirk unconscious in his quarters and then takes his place on the bridge and orders the ship into the Romulan neutral zone. Sulu and Spock question the unorthodox order that's in violation of the treaty, but ultimately follow it.

Later, Winston impersonates McCoy, in an attempt to bury the suspicious medical scans. The plot thickens when the Enterprise encounters the Romulans inside the neutral zone, who intend to exercise their right in the treaty to impound Kirk's ship. The Vendorian is actually a spy who has been recruited by the Romulans to provide intelligence.

"The Survivor" is one of the better-executed examples of a straightforwardly plotted story in TAS so far. While no episode of TAS would probably be complete without an ending that features something crazy or unlikely — in this case, Winston shapeshifing into a deflector shield to protect the ship during the battle with the Romulans — I liked the idea that the Vendorian arrives at empathy for the crew as a result taking on Winston's form for an extended period.

M'Ress, a cat-woman alien voiced by Majel Barrett, makes her first appearance as the communications officer subbing for Uhura — although I'm uncertain why she is in this particular role. (Nichelle Nichols does the voice of most every other woman on the ship, including Winston's fiancee here, so it's not like she was unavailable to provide the voice.) Overall, not too shabby.

Previous episode: More Tribbles, More Troubles
Next episode: The Infinite Vulcan

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6 comments on this post

Sun, May 28, 2023, 6:24pm (UTC -5)
I'm pretty sure Ted Knight did the voice of Winston
Elizabeth Palladino
Sun, May 28, 2023, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer on this one: Not too shabby. The story was suspenseful but heartfelt, and made sense. I liked the positive vibes of the resolution. If I were recommending episodes to watch from this series, this is one that I'd suggest viewing.
Mon, May 29, 2023, 8:35am (UTC -5)
An action-packed episode -- again pretty remarkable how much story is told in 24 minutes. There are some classic Trek themes at work here such as the human emotion (love) overcoming instructions for a nefarious mission.

The relationship between Nored and Winston could have been played up more if there was more time, but here one just has to take it as given. The treachery of the Romulans is on full display -- using a shapeshifting alien, who wants to feel useful but yet has tremendous powers. Perhaps TNG's "Future Imperfect" might have riffed off this episode.

But the Vendorian also has a conscience that develops in his interaction with the humans and gaining more and more of Winston's characteristics. Nored is willing to be attracted to a non-humanoid alien who impersonates Winston. The obvious comparison here is to "The Man Trap" as the salt vampire needed to be loved and here the Vendorian, despite its awesome powers, begins to feel the same way.

Spock and McCoy exchange a joke about the problems that would arise if there were 2 Spocks/McCoys.

Black Oatmeal
Mon, May 29, 2023, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, Chris is right about Ted Knight being the voice of Carter Winston.

This is the second best episode of the series, imo.
Thu, Jun 1, 2023, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
"I'm pretty sure Ted Knight did the voice of Winston"

My mistake. I've fixed this in the review.
Trek fan
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Totally agree with Jammer that this is a solid 3-star episode with a nice, suspenseful plot. Love the inclusion of empathy as a key, the Romulans, etc. I also like Trekkian depictions of shapeshifters and this is probably only the second real foray after the salt creature in The Man Trap, which appeared able to shift form in the subjective perceptions of others. (There were other shapeshifting antics in TOS, but not normally involving a dedicated alien race of shifters.) This one is a nicely realized take, although it’s little more than clever plotting.

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