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Star Trek – The Changeling (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Changeling, an episode so good that they made it twice.

Sarcasm aside, The Changeling is mostly interesting for reasons outside the episode itself. It is the first contribution from John Meredyth Lucas, who would become the show’s producer towards the end of the season. Lucas took over from Gene L. Coon and is notable for being the first production staff member on Star Trek to direct an episode from his own script, with Elaan of Troyius in the show’s troubled third season. The Changeling arguably had an even bigger influence on the franchise, serving as a template for the first feature film.

Probing problems...

Probing problems…

Okay, “template” may be a slight exaggeration. However, you can definitely feel the influence of The Changeling on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. However, that may simply be because the script to The Changeling hits quite heavily on some of Gene Roddenberry’s pet themes. It has a villainous robot outwitted by emotional humans, Kirk besting a god-like entity, and larger philosophical questions about religion and theology.

Even outside of the themes that resonate specifically with Roddenberry, The Changeling hits on a variety of other classic Star Trek tropes – from a threat leaving nothing but dead star systems in its wake through to an abundance of dead red shirts. There’s an argument to be made that The Changeling is one of the most archetypal Star Trek episode. If you were to bake a Star Trek episode from a stock list of ingredients, it would look a lot like this. For better or worse.

Melding metal...

Melding metal…

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is heavily influenced by Gene Roddenberry. It’s a piece of work that serves as an example of Roddenberry’s vision of the franchise – what he felt Star Trek should look like in the late seventies and beyond. Much like the first and second seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s a sense that this is the perfect distillation of Roddenberry’s later-day version of Star Trek, distinct from the versions that existed before and afterwards.

Although Roddenberry doesn’t have a writing or story credit on The Motion Picture, his influence is keenly felt; right down to hiring a bona fides science-fiction writer (Alan Dean Foster) to provide the story. (After hearing pitches from other authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Theodor Sturgeon.) This was in keeping with his work on the early seasons of the show, where he tried to convince published science-fiction authors to contribute to Star Trek.

While Roddenberry doesn’t have a writing credit on the film, he did write the novelisation of the screenplay, which serves as a direct insight into how Roddenberry approached the franchise and how he saw Star Trek in 1979.


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Star Trek: Phase II (1978) – In Thy Image (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

It’s interesting to imagine what might have happened if Star Trek: Phase II had actually made it to television.

The aborted attempt to produce a sequel live-action television show in the late seventies was ultimately scuppered by the success of films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Prompted by the success of these big-screen science-fiction epics, Paramount pushed for the franchise to move to the big screen. Star Trek: Phase II was abandoned and the pilot – In Thy Image – was reimagined as the script for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Many, including Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, have argued that this was for the best. They wonder whether Phase II could have competed in the saturated science-fiction market of the late seventies. After all, one of the factors that lead to the decline of the franchise in the late nineties was the abundance of similar material out there. Given that the plan was to use Phase II to launch a television network, the obvious point of comparison as Star Trek: Voyager, which is not a favourable comparison.

Still, despite all this, it’s hard not read In Thy Image and wonder at what might have been.


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