This is one of many episodes where neither Kirk nor Spock show the slightest interest in the woman of the hour, nor in any female.
Of particular interest to K/S hagiographers is Kirk and Spock's reactions to and thoughts about the relationship between the man and the creature. The moral of this story seems to be: love is love, no matter what shape it takes...which if you really think about it, is a rather radical idea. But it was normal for Star Trek to promote radical ideas, either overtly or covertly: they did it every week, and they certainly did it in this episode, as I shall explain.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (for reasons unexplained) are using the shuttlecraft to ferry Commissioner Nancy Hedford from Epsilon Caneris 3 to the Enterprise, which (for reasons unexplained) is hours away. The Commissioner, who had been on a diplomatic mission to "stop a war", is ill with a very rare disease and she needs treatment immediately which she can only get aboard the Enterprise.
To their combined astonishment and helpless dismay, the shuttlecraft is shanghaied and forced down onto a small planetoid by a sparkling cloud creature.
It's a very nice little planetoid, with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, and a surface temperature of a perfect 72 degrees.
Kirk sends McCoy off to run around at random by himself, and Commissioner Hedford is told to wait inside the shuttle, apparently so Kirk and Spock can enjoy a private moment together. Spock examines the shuttlecraft's guts while Kirk for no obvious reason practically leans on the guy the whole time. It turns out that the shuttlecraft is fine, it just plain ain't workin'.
Suddenly, a seemingly human man starts hollering hello and runs to them, all excited and happy to see them. He's especially happy to see the "beautiful woman".
[NOTE: Behold the only guy in the episode who does seem to appreciate Hedford's beauty, or who even notices that she is a woman.]
He tells them that his name is Cochrane, and that he has been marooned there alone for a long time. Cochrane tells them that there is some sort of dampening field on the planet which will prevent them from being able to get their shuttlecraft to work. He leads Kirk's party to a homey little two-room shack where he lives.
Once inside, Commissioner Hedford's mood disintegrates rapidly as her fever begins to climb.
Kirk probes for more info, and Cochrane ultimately reveals that he is none other than the famous space pioneer Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri, the guy who invented the warp engine (whom everybody thought was dead for over 150 years).
Cochrane explains that he had set out in a ship at the age of 87 to die in space. The cloud creature intercepted his disabled ship, brought him to the planet, and rejuvenated him. Cochrane has been kept alive and young since then by the gaseous alien, whom he calls "the companion."
Cochrane also tells Kirk that the companion brought them there to be company for him, because he was lonely.
Well, nobody likes that news, but Hedford really freaks out. She gets hysterical at the idea of being kept against her will like a lizard in a terrarium by a powerful and totally inhuman alien.
McCoy has her lie down and gives her a sedative.
Cochrane expresses curiosity about the great, wide, galaxy out there, and Kirk tantalizes him (and us) with a few details about what Cochrane's been missing. He tells Cochrane...
"We're on 1000 planets, and spreading out!"
[NOTE: by "we" I assume he means Earth people. By "spreading out"...hey, you know Kirk. THAT could mean ANYTHING.]
...and adds that the galaxy is teeming with intelligent life everywhere.
"We estimate that there are millions of planets with intelligent life!"
[NOTE: WOW! That's a lot!]
Kirk, obviously thinking of the gassy-being as an enemy, asks Spock to come up with a weapon to use against the creature. Spock, dismayed, questions Kirk closely about this, and only after Kirk assures him that he doesn't have to kill it, reluctantly agrees.
Kirk asks Cochrane if he can communicate with the companion. Cochrane says he communicates nonverbally with it. Kirk asks him to ask the magically powerful companion if it can cure Hedford.
Kirk and McCoy watch at a distance as the companion approaches and completely envelops Cochrane. Kirk, surprisingly, is favorably impressed. He tells McCoy that it looks like _more_ than simple communication: it looks like *love* to him.
[NOTE: To *him* it looks like love. To us it looks like a big amoebae is trying to eat the guy, but never mind.]
Cochrane says the companion can't (or won't?) cure Nancy Hedford.
[NOTE: that completely makes no sense. It's well established that the creature can reverse aging, cure old age, and prevent all degenerative processes that might lead to death, so WHAT GIVES!? We are left to wonder.]
Soon after this, while Spock is poking around in the guts of the shuttlecraft, the companion pops into view and hovers nearby. Spock sees it, reaches out, and attempts to touch it, perhaps to meld/communicate with it, and is given a stunning electric shock for his trouble. The companion simultaneously fries the Galileo's circuits.
[NOTE: If Spock was even momentarily in contact with the gaseous beastie, it may have read that Spock was planning to construct a weapon, which would explain its reaction.]
McCoy runs up, and finds Spock flattened but unharmed. Spock tells McCoy that the companion is an electrical creature, which gives him an idea.
Spock produces Kirk's weapon: a device which he claims will short-circuit the being. When the guys explain to Cochrane what they plan to do with it and ask for his help, Cochrane grumbles that he dislikes the idea. He reminds them that the creature restored his youth and kept him alive, and he tells them he's kind of fond of it, too. Kirk talks tough, telling Cochrane that they intend to do what they have to do to save *all* of their lives and regain their freedom.
[NOTE: At this point Kirk is still obviously very concerned about Hedford. She's the only one who is in immediate danger of death.]
Cochrane sadly agrees to tempt the companion into the trap.
When the creature arrives to commune with Cochrane, Spock activates his device, but it doesn't work as we had hoped. In fact, everything goes horribly wrong. First Cochrane is shocked, and he drops. Next, the cloud-critter turns red and attacks Kirk and Spock. Fortunately, Cochrane comes to his senses and he summons the companion again, which gets it off of our guys.
Kirk is very discouraged at this point. He stands at the door of Cochran's cabin and looks at the creature as it once again envelops its adored captive, and wonders aloud to Dr. McCoy how in the hell he's going to fight a thing like that?
McCoy reminds Kirk that he's also trained in diplomacy. He suggests that Kirk should maybe stop thinking like a soldier and start thinking like a diplomat. Kirk immediately realizes that McCoy is right, and he asks Spock to modify the universal translator so they can use it to communicate with Cochran's companion.
The universal translator interestingly assigns the companion a female voice.
[NOTE: this does not mean that it's a female creature. The thing has no genitals, therefore no sex, and obviously, no gender.]
That the companion has a female voice seems significant to Spock and Kirk, but what it signifies to them is not its sex, but its role in relation to Cochrane.
"It is not a zookeeper." Spock remarks about the creature.
Kirk's way ahead of Spock. "No!" Jim exclaims, smiling. "A lover!"
[Special NOTE: This is one of two times in TOS that Kirk demonstrates an uncanny ability to intuit the feelings of gaseous creatures. He does it again in Obsession.]
[NOTE: To us it looks like the creature is really Cochrane's adoptive mother, but never mind.]
[NOTE: as bizarre as the relationship is, neither one of those guys seems to disapprove. To the contrary, they seem to think it's kind of cute.]
Kirk eloquently, with poetically simple language, attempts to convince the companion to let them all go free. Kirk explains that Hedford will soon "cease to exist" if they aren't allowed to take her away.
The companion doesn't seem to care that Hedford is dying. It doesn't seem to understand that Hedford is special.
"The man needs others of his species." The companion explains to Kirk. "That is why YOU are here."
[NOTE: Hmm. The companion seems to think that another man is as good for company for its man as a woman would be. The concept of heterosexuality seems completely foreign to it.]
Kirk attempts to bullshit the companion into believing that humans can't thrive in captivity, but for obvious reasons the companion doesn't buy it. After all, "the man" has been thriving very nicely in captivity, and now that he has others of his species for company, it figures that all the problems have been licked.
[NOTE: Apparently Kirk thinks that diplomacy means lie-your-ass-off]
The companion remains firm. "You will continue and the man will continue. This is necessary" it flatly declares.
[NOTE: It understands that "the man" needs company, but it doesn't appreciate the fact that he might prefer female company. The idea of gender is alien to it. It seems completely beyond its ken. Cochrane in its view is the only "man" on the planet. Everybody else is just people. Therefore, "man" translates roughly as "individual-about-whom-one-gives-a-rat's-ass". That means that, in its estimation, Kirk and the others are not men, since it doesn't really care about them.
OTOH, maybe it senses that the sick one is a threat, which might be why it demonstrates zero motivation to keep her alive... although it fully intends to keep the rest of them alive, as it has stated.]
Spock, ever the scientist and questing spirit, jumps in during this conversation, saying:
"This is a marvelous opportunity...ask it about its nature, its history..."
[NOTE: Spock calls it an IT. Female voice or no female voice, its still an IT to him.]
[NOTE: Cue the inspiring Trek theme refrain in the background.]
Kirk impatiently brushes Spock off. In his mind he's dealing with a full-on emergency, and in his mind, this is no time for idle chatter.
[NOTE: The background music strikes a sad little sour note, as if commenting on Kirk's failure at that moment to do the right thing.]
[NOTE: This bit is really kind of odd. This is one of those times when Kirk's emotional, headstrong approach to problem-solving doesn't really seem too smart. He might be able to coax some useful information out of the thing if he would just take Spock's advice, but No0ooo! Kirk reacts as if Spock doesn't have a perfectly legitimate reason for wanting to do his job and be a scientist right then. The background music warns us that Kirk's possibly making a mistake. Spock is also visibly disappointed: another tip-off.]
[NOTE: This is now the second time today that Kirk ordered Spock to do something that he thinks is not too bright - but interestingly, he doesn't argue.]
Well, fed up with Kirk's obvious bullshit, the companion ends the conversation abruptly, and exits.
The guys sit around and sulk a bit. Cochrane suddenly asks why they gave the companion a feminine voice.
Kirk, not bullshitted out yet, bullshits some more. "The companion is female", he says.
Spock, fed up with Kirk's bullshit, gives Cochrane the correct explanation. "The companion loves you", he tells Cochrane.
Cochrane is horrified to learn that the companion is in love with him. As long as it was only taking care of him, he was fine, but to think that it actually was kind of making love to him - in its own gender-free, vaporous way - completely freaks him out. He reacts violently, with repugnance, as if he just found out his best friend is really a Gay guy who's been carrying a torch for him for years.
"Do you know what you're saying?" he blurts. "For all these years I let something as alien as that crawl around inside me...!?"
Kirk is mystified at the guy's reaction. "What are you complaining about?" he wonders aloud, apparently thinking as he says this that Cochrane is being silly and old-fashioned.
[NOTE: That IS a direct quote! I guess Jim doesn't mind alien things crawling around inside of him... which certainly is a lucky thing for Spock.]
"It's disgusting!" Cochrane raves.
"There's nothing disgusting about it", McCoy calmly retorts. "It's just an alternative lifestyle." NO SORRY, what he really says is: "It's just another life form. You get used to those things."
[NOTE: It's here, and it's clear: you should just get used to it.]
"You're as bad as it is!" Cochrane insanely responds, as if being accepting of alien lifeforms and the people who have relationships with them is as bad as being someone who is an alien lifeform in an alternative relationship with a creature that is not of its own species... or something.
Spock can't resist the urge to chime in on THAT subject, being the product of an alternative lifestyle choice, *and* an alien life form who likes crawling around inside of creatures not-of-his-own-species, himself. He tries logic on the guy.
"Your relationship with the companion, for 150 years, has been emotionally satisfying, eminently practical, and totally harmless. It may indeed have been quite beneficial." Spock gently and reasonably explains.
[NOTE: They are doing everything they can to assure the guy that they don't judge him to be some kind of pervert. All three of them are doing everything they can to soothe the man's outraged nerves. He's not reacting to anything they said or did, he's reacting to his own anachronistic feelings about the situation... like a total throwback... which is in fact what he is.]
"Is this what the future holds?" Cochrane demands to know. "Men who have NO NOTION OF DECENCY OR MORALITY!?"
Cut to Kirk, head bowed, who remains silent.
[NOTE: Count that one as a big, fat "No Comment" from Kirk! Guess he knows better than to mention his own life-form-style right then.]
Cochrane marches out, radiating disgust.
"Fascinating!" Spock remarks, summing up everybody's feelings about Cochrane's outburst. "A totally parochial attitude!"
Kirk smiles sadly, and nods a little.
From the next room, Commissioner Hedford calls for the doctor. She couldn't help overhearing the shouting. In a feverish daze, she tells McCoy that she also thinks Cochrane's attitude is strange.
"I heard him", she pants. "He was loved...and he resents it!"
She wistfully, deliriously sighs that she has never been loved. She knows she will now probably never have a chance. She envies Cochrane, and thinks it's insane that he "runs away from love".
Kirk then tries to convince the companion that she is not capable of giving Cochrane true *human* love, and that if she really loves Cochrane, she will let him go, so he can have human relationships.
[NOTE: STILL nobody specifically mentions that Cochrane probably needs a heterosexual relationship, but they do seem willing to admit he'd probably only be happy with someone of his own species, the big silly.]
Instead, the companion chooses to occupy the body of Nancy Hedford, who had been on the verge of death. Miraculously, Hedford's body is now 100% healthy!
[NOTE: See? The companion could cure the disease, she just opted not to ~until now~.]
She then generously restores the shuttlecraft to working order, and allows them to communicate with Enterprise, which is good, because otherwise Scotty would have to search a whole asteroid belt for them, one asteroid at a time.
The companion (in Hedford's body) says she is unable to leave the planet without dying. Amazingly, Cochrane decides that he now really loves the companion in this new human body, and he decides to remain on the planetoid to live out his life with her... I mean IT.
[NOTE: He doesn't mind a relationship with an alien, he just doesn't want to be the one who is crawled around inside of. Glad we cleared THAT up! It's not that he's xenophobic, it's that he insists on being "the TOP".]
As they prepare to depart, Kirk incredibly takes no issue with the companion's appropriation of a human being's body, and, even more incredibly, he agrees to not to mention the facts about this adventure with Cochrane and the companion to anyone. We are left to wonder how he plans to explain the mysterious disappearance of Commissioner Nancy Hedford!
[NOTE: Regarding Cochrane's question, "Is this what the future holds? Men who have NO NOTION OF DECENCY OR MORALITY!?" Well, hey! Maybe they just have completely different ideas about decency and morality!]
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