Captain's Blog pt. 58: Metamorphosis

On the great list of things to watch while tripping your face off, you rarely see this episode mentioned. (Or "Wolf in the Fold.") Which is a shame. If I was the director of a drug freakout clinic, I'd keep this one queued up at all times.

Maybe "Wolf in the Fold" might make a bad trip worse, come to think of it. But for the stronger-ego cases under my hypothetical care, I'd make it a double feature. Followed by the movie The Edge. (Which is all another way of saying: think twice before checking in to Bryan's Bad Trip Clinic and Ego Re-Adjustment Center. For Madmen Only!)

Before we go any further, no, Gene Coon did not sit down to write a LSD masterpiece. That's just what I'd call a happy accident. But consider where he was coming from: After the war(s) Gene took a writing and acting class in New York City where one of his classmates was the actress/model Jacqueline Mitchell. The two fell in love, but the timing wasn't right and both married other people. Years later, both unhappy in their marriages, they ran into one another and discovered they'd never really stopped loving the other person. Almost immediately, they divorced their spouses and married one another.

A year later, Jacqueline died of cancer, and a few years after that, a heartbroken Gene followed suit. But let's put that to one side now (although it does inform my appreciation of this episode, as it imbues the ending with unintended tragedy) and focus on the rekindled-lost-love-of-yesteryear vibe, which is the field of roses through which Gene was walking when writing this episode.

Script/ Theme: (6.5 / 8.5 of 10/10 pts) This one gets little love out there in the world. I can understand. The music adds a layer of schmaltzy that could conceivably grate on some, and it's all definitely quite dated. Most of the re-watches/ analyses I've read of it concentrate almost exclusively on this "dated" element, (particularly the "idea of male and female are universal constants" stuff) and it makes sense to do so. It's the episode's most prominent feature and begs to be addressed. But that's not my focus here.

The script is good. Stilted in spots and like I say, dated. Judged solely against the scripts that premiered against it on November 10, 1967 - Hondo's "Hondo and the Comancheros," where Hondo and Angie are attacked and Angie almost killed by the jealous girlfriend of the evil Rodrigo, or Gomer Pyle's "The Better Man," where Lou-Ann's family and ex-fiancé try and convince her to dump Gomer - there's no comparison.

A better blog might be to contrast and compare all 3 of these scripts. What might an alien seeking to understand gender dynamics and definitions of masculine/feminine learn from examining this one night of mass entertainment? Look for CB pt. 58.5 sometime in 2029, if someone doesn't beat me to it.

The theme is essentially the title (2 of 3 pts.) I wish there'd been a tape recorder running to catch the Genes in candid moments discussing this episode. I get the impression it was 60% business and 40% space sex cosmic consciousness remarks.

Cochrane (founder of warp technology, he's got a rocket in his pocket) and the Companion (a being of "strong electrical impulses") communicate by the latter enveloping the former This is all well and good for a few years, but he grows lonely. Trying to make him feel more at home, she brings him other earthlings.

Close enough.

Spock modifies the universal translator so Cochrane and the Companion can better communicate. Cochrane's all WTF I've been banging an energy field this whole time? He's cajoled by Kirk, McCoy and Spock for his sexual closed-mindedness. Commissioner Hedford, regretting she has never known love, dies (of course) in Cochrane's bed whereupon the Companion  reanimates and possesses her body.

Cochrane reconsiders.
Annnd warp out.

Guest: 3 of 3 pts. Quite a different take on Zefram Cochrane here than we see later in Star Trek: First Contact, eh? Glenn Corbett does a fine job. I have no trouble at all buying him as an older (well, age-reversed, of course) version of the character James Cromwell played.

Commissioner Hedford is played by Alison Brie:

Okay, it's not Alison Brie, but the resemblance is remarkable.

And the Companion is voiced by Elizabeth Rogers, who also played sometimes-communication-officer Lt. Palmer.

Visual Design: 2 of 3 pts. Not much to the set of this one - it's generic Trek planetscape - but this episode contains one of my all-time favorite moments in TOS:

The Companion at Cochrane through her scarf, trying to recapture how she once saw him. It doesn't quite make sense - I mean, it makes sense for us the viewer, but... did the energy field have eyes? Would doing this really approximate how she once "sensed" him? - but it's undeniably cool. And it even plays to the theme. (Really, that's this episode's strength: every detail is symbolically reflective of every other.)

Interior Logistics: 2 of 3 pts. Cochrane's reference to the Judas Goat just doesn't seem like the kind of reference men from the future would make. I get that it's meant to convey a sense of the generation gap between the Enterprise crew and Cochrane. I'd hate to see it cut from the episode, actually; it adds the right dash of incongruity. Forget I brought it up.

I suppose they can just tell the Federation that Commissioner Hedford died? Kirk says he's sure the powers-that-be can find "some woman somewhere who can stop this war." Which is a bit of an eye-roller in 2013 (probably even in 1967) but it does make you think: what to tell the Commissioner's family? I guess she legitimately passed away, so there's no real issue. Just hope no one passes through Gamma Canaris and decides to stop by their asteroid and start asking questions.

Kirk and the Gang: 20 of 10 pts. No one's reinventing the wheel here, but good performances all around.

Probably one of those scripts the secondary cast could perform in their sleep.
I'm forever amused and inspired by the frequency stuff like this. I mean, every week! Just insane.

Memorability: For the world at large? Probably 0 pts. For Trekkies and Trekkers? 1.5. For anyone in the throes of relationship mysteries, good or bad, or with a headful of Timothy Leary: definitely at least a 6. 2.5 of 5 pts.

A sequel (of sorts) was written for the Gold Key comic.
Total Points Awarded: 46.5


  1. Does anyone else get the feeling that this episode gives Alan Moore a boner?

    I think it's pretty great, personally. It was one of the episodes that had a big impact on me when I was a kid, not because of the love-story angle so much as the idea that a weird cloud could (theoretically) be a living being. That blew my mind.

    My only problem with it is that thanks to "First Contact," I can't really connect that Cochrane to this one. That gives me a slight problem with "First Contact," too. Not to a huge degree in either case.

    The score IS schmaltzy, but in a memorable way. Original Trek had great scores, a trait that carried over to the movies but not so much the later series.

    1. Agreed 1000% on that score. (Ahem!) I'd definitely have included a separate category for score/ sound design, but I love them all (with few exceptions) so I felt it'd been redundant. Some are better than others, to be sure, but of the 50-ish I'm covering here, they're all at least "A" with many "A+"s.

  2. For the record its more romantic as you write it but actually it was gene coons wife Joy who died a year later
    the ex wife he left to be with Jackie -- on her deathbed she refused to ever see him again -- he lived happily with Jackie mitchell for the remaining five years of his life -- Leandro Logan

    1. It's been a few years now since i wrote this one and wish I'd cited where I read that as I no longer remember. Thank you for setting the record straight!