Eventually, It Will Be A Sputnik.
In the “Star Trek” episode entitled, “The Changeling,” the Enterprise finds an ancient interstellar probe from Earth, missing for 265 years, which has somehow mutated into a powerful and intelligent machine bent on sterilizing entire populations that do not meet its standards of perfection. This kind of thing happened to the Enterprise a whole lot…dealing with something that 20th Century Earth sent into space, and coming back with some sort of bone to pick. The EXACT same plot line was used for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” with V’Ger, the mutated Voyager space probe.
Although the Nomad probe was pretty small (you’ll note Cap ready to haul it out an airlock above) the “evolved version” had a number of advanced capabilities. It could travel at warp speed…instead of just coasting and using a gravity trajectory like a NASA probe. It fired energy bolts approximately equivalent to NINETY of the Enterprise’s photon torpedoes. Its own defensive screens could entirely absorb the energy of a photon torpedo the Enterprise fired at it, despite its small size. To be clear, photon torpedoes are established in the series to make nukes look like toys. Its communications equipment could absorb data from the Enterprise computers, and it could drain all knowledge from a living being. It successfully resurrected Scotty after contact with its defensive screens killed him. Finally, it was also able to fire red beams of energy, which disintegrated anything they hit….usually Red Shirts.
Clearly, if you have Cap freeloading on the Enterprise with your red shirts, you make the subsequent Nomad probes that you encounter HER problem. Definitely calls for Silver Age Alien American Powers, there.
Without being able to have Cap just deal with it, 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 Roddenberry clearly loved, “The Changeling” is a cornucopia 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. An abundance. There’s an argument to be made that “The Changeling” is one of the most archetypal “Star Trek” episodes. If you were to bake a “Star Trek” episode from a stock list of ingredients, it would probably look a lot like this.
Given the number of times that the Enterprise comes across a piece of space junk hurled into the void in the late 20th century…and the number of times that has been a mad computer, a doomsday machine, or an exiled genetic superman…you would think that someone would have made a list. A list of all the things that were hurled into deep space at that point. You could tape that list to Sulu’s console, so the next time a genocidal supercomputer with cosmic powers shows up, you might have a clue. It happens often enough.
Let’s go back to wanting someone like “Tales of Adequacy’s” own Cap to deal with a Nomad probe for just a second. Spock mentions that Nomad’s first attack on the Enterprise was the equivalent of ninety photon torpedoes. That’s how I got that number about how ripped his beam is, from the dialogue. Surprisingly, this attack only reduced the shields by 20%. So…the Enterprise shouldn’t ever be very worried about any Klingons or Romulans, since they usually fire one or two photon torpedoes at a time, and you can EASILY take NINETY on the shields. This seems even stranger a few moments later, when Nomad absorbs the energy of a SINGLE photon torpedo and Kirk wonders how anything could “absorb so much energy – and survive”. His own ship JUST absorbed ninety times that energy and survived…was he not listening to Spock at all?
That completely inconsistent dialogue aside…if you have an Alien American with Silver Age Powers on board, you make them deal with Nomad probes. it’s just sensible.
Obviously, Cap is pretty tired of dealing with Nomad probes. Even if she’s nigh invulnerable, a disintegration beam that has the power of ninety photon torpedoes has to be annoying. Rough on your clothes, at least. Then you’ve got to haul the thing, which has warp engines, fighting you the whole time, to an airlock…so you can just chuck it into something terrifyingly final, like a black hole, or a red supergiant star. It’s just a lot of clean up work.
Any discussion of the basic tropes of “Star Trek” needed some attention to this, the rough draft of the first feature film…which wasn’t all that good either. The same thing, but much longer and with a bigger budget. So…we got this panel, and this book report.
Tomorrow…Romulans! Well…at least one Romulan.