That is an element of the plot, yes. Sorry if I spoiled it for you!
Heh, that’s okay. I’m actually more likely to read it now. The back of the book made it sound like an attempt to write a greek epic, which sounded boring to me.
It’s really very good. The ideas in it are…big. There’s nothing to my mind mundane about any of the plot(s) or characters.
There’s a scene in Ilium, about a robot getting an optimistic feeling, that is one of my favorite pieces of sci-fi writing. I guess it’s subjective.
In any case, Ilium and Olympos are the “last good Simmons” to me personally. I have not cared for his later work. His early work however is often mind-blowingly fantastic.
According to the bibliography on his website, he’s only done two books after Olympos: The Terror and Drood. So he either stopped writing, or stopped updating his website. Likely the latter. Maybe he doesn’t like his later books either.
My personal feelings about Simmons is that he’s got a reverse-square quality thing going on with his work. His first books in a series are generally fantastic, but they degrade quickly as the series continues.
So - for example - Hyperion was absolutely magnificent, the second book was disappointing, and by the fourth book that universe had disappeared into a sinkhole of awful so terrible that not even prose can escape.
I liked Illium, but found Olympos to be tedious.
On the other hand, The Terror and Drood are both good books.
And there are others not listed on the web site. E.g. The Abominable and The Fifth Heart.
That’s just, like your opinion, man.
And The Terror was great. I have a feeling I started Drood, but either stalled out or forgot about it.
I’m a big fan of Drood. But I may be the only one!
“My congratulations, Captain. A dazzling display of logic.”
“You didn’t think I had it in me, did you?”
“… No, sir.”
Hey folks, a new week calls for a new episode and this time it’s “Changeling.” This is another one I didn’t recognize immediately, I had forgotten that this opens with the Enterprise entering a star system and being immediately attacked by an unknown and overwhelming force. But at the point they beam the Nomad over, I immediately recognized that little space probe. And it’s funny Dalek-like voice.
This is a straightforward little episode, with direct and immediate stakes. And I liked it quite a lot, the crew immediate deduce that they have a little murderous robot on their hands and as soon as it figures out they aren’t exactly who they say they are, will probably incur its wrath. I guess Roddenberry must have really liked the episode too, since he more or less remade it as Star Trek The Motion Picture. The details differ, but in both cases you’ve got a probe sent out into space where it encounters, and merges with, an alien entity, becoming something greater and more inquisitive in the process.
I either remembered or could immediately see where the central logical flaw was that would be Nomad’s undoing, and I don’t mind that this was telegraphed. It allowed the highly powerful and intelligent entity to carry its own doom within itself, just waiting to be pointed out. Sure, kind of silly chance that Kirk’s name happened to be so similar to the initial creator’s, but I can deal with that.
Of course we also get to see Uhura’s singing soothing the savage beast, or at least until she gets her brain wiped for her efforts due to being a “mass of contradictions”, or as Spock says “she’s a woman, whaddayagonnado”. Her reeducation is a little disturbing to me, watching Nurse Chapel read first-grade books with her. I guess her basic personality wasn’t wiped in the process? I’m a little confused about what even happened there.
But like I said, even if the details are a bit sketchy, I always enjoy when the Enterprise finds something strange and new and then blows it up, I mean figures out a way deal with it.
I enjoyed it a lot too. I loved the stakes early on where they’re being fired upon. The incoming fire is coming at Warp 15. (I’ll have you explain the Warp scale to me one of these days). So they can’t outrun it. They can just put more power to the shield and survive 4 hits, and get destroyed on the 5th. And so they survive 4 hits, but then Kirk happens to mention his name, which coincidentally happens to be what stops the probe.
The stakes are quite high since the probe has already murdered 4 billion people in this system. I mean, wow. I know they will probably never mention it again, but this is a massive catastrophe.
I like that this is the 3rd or 4th episode now that implies that the Enterprise has on board whole teams of people that are just scientists waiting to work on something. We never got this in other Trek shows. Of course, in this Trek show they never show these teams, but I do like the idea that there’s teams down in the bowls of the enterprise who are working on problems like this, like the crew at NASA who was trying to get Apollo 13 back in one piece.
They also have teams of people working on getting the phaser banks ready, in case they need to make a withdrawal. Or teams prepping Photon torpedoes. And of course the girls who serve drinks to the bridge, and maybe they serve drinks to everyone in the science teams who are trying to interpret the signals coming from Nomad.
I do love it when they show Uhura singing. That’s again something you don’t see in other Treks. On Voyager, there’s no crew member who just breaks out in song and everyone just sits on the bridge and enjoys the song as it washes over them. Sulu and Scotty looked quite content with Uhura singing on the bridge.
One of the things that original flavor Trek does really well, I think, is portray that space is dangerous. These people are out on the edge of known space, exploring, and they’re out there without a safety net. If I were Captain Kirk, I’d probably be a constant raw nerve, wondering where the next threat to my ship was coming from.
I contrast this with TNG, for example, where space feels much tamer, much calmer. Not that there were no dangers or unknowns out there, but usually it felt like they had time to pause and think things through. With the older Trek it seemed like any hesitation was courting disaster. As @rock8man mentions, we know that Nomad has wiped out an entire system, killed billions, and quite a few red shirts just while he was onboard. Any false step could get them all killed. But at the same time, it’s their responsibility to study and learn. I could sympathize with Spock’s mentioning that destroying Nomad was a waste, they probably could have learned a lot from it. But of course they would just as likely have been casually wiped out too.
One thing they could learn from Nomad is how to bring people back to life. He killed Scotty and brought him back after they taught him human physiology.
I’m glad they didn’t. One of the sci-fi things I enjoy about TOS over TNG onward is that technology doesn’t function as magic, and resolve plots or situations (replicators as magical) on a regular basis. If used, it’s always beyond our understanding, and somewhat ominous, dovetailing with @divedivedive’s excellent discussion above regarding mankind being out on the edge and it feeling like it’s the edge.
Retraining Uhura was a serious speed bump for me, even as a 10 year old. I understood the huge amount of knowledge and cross connections that would be necessary. I figured it would take at least a decade of real time to get her up to speed. And what if she decided that she didn’t want to go into communications this time? It never felt right.
Agree, it breaks the suspension of disbelief.
Also, too: This is the plot for ST: The Motion Picture, right? I guess they recycled.
Another interesting aspect of this episode is that it was established that Spock can mind-meld with a computer / artificial intelligence. And he didn’t seem to think that maybe he couldn’t do it, he just seemed unsure if he would be able to get the right information from it, perhaps. It also established for me that the only thing he retained from the mind meld was the stuff he was saying out loud, and maybe a few other stray thoughts from Nomad. He didn’t actually absorb any of that vast knowledge that Nomad had. So when he mind-melds, he doesn’t just know everything that the person/computer knows. Only selective things.
Also, I don’t know who wrote or directed this episode since that info is at the front of the episode now, but whoever directed it did well with what I’m going to call “Nomad Cam”. That really added tension to a lot of the scenes.
Also, I’m beginning to see why red shirts gained a reputation for being cannon-fodder on this show. There were certainly quite a few of them that died in this episode. No thought was sparred them at the end though, only jokes on bridge like usual.
On Uhura: The subtitles said she was speaking in Swahili when they were trying to teach her English again. I think that indicated that she still retained a lot of her knowledge, just not certain knowledge, like the English language. She seemed to be talking pretty fast and confidently in Swahili even after the wipe.
Also, I believe this is the first time I’ve heard McCoy say the line he’s most famous for.
“He’s dead Jim”.
I almost led off my recap post with that quote, but I liked the one at the end between Kirk and Spock too much.
“The Changeling” is a good episode, but not one of my favorites for several reasons:
- The Uhuru re-education stuff, that was mentioned before
- Nomad is just too ridiculously powerful-- 90 photon torpedoes in a single blast, immune to photon torpedo direct hit, resurrects the dead; yet it manipulates the world with a transistor radio antenna. Scale it back a bit.
- Saving the day by confronting a computer with its own logical contradictions is a well Star Trek returns to too often. It happens with the Archons, one of the Mudd ones, the Ultimate Computer, That Which Remains…
Of course this is going to be a personal taste kind of thing but it doesn’t bother me too much, for a few reasons. First, they do establish that Nomad had joined with an alien probe after colliding with an asteroid, and Trek has established that there are plenty alien civilizations that are far more advanced than our own. This also serves as a constant reminder that for all their advances, humanity and the Federation are still very much small fish in a very big ocean.
Also, I feel that by making Nomad so very overpowered they establish that the Enterprise will never overcome it by conventional means, and will survive by their wits alone. And I generally prefer those kind of resolutions, personally.