Star Trek Animated Series Re-Watch: “The Survivor”

The Survivor
Written by James Schmerer
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Season 1, Episode 6
Production episode: 22005
Original air date: October 10, 1973
Star date: 5143.3

Mission summary

Enterprise rescues a one-man vessel damaged in a meteor “swarm” on the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone. They are shocked to discover the ship is registered to Carter Winston, a famous philanthropist who has been missing for five years. When they beam him aboard, they confirm his identity.

WINSTON: It seems you gentlemen know me.
KIRK: There are few in the Federation who wouldn’t recognize your face, sir.

…or Winston’s fabulous yellow jacket.

Dr. McCoy is especially delighted to meet the legendary trader who saved his daughter’s life and everyone else on Cerberus (why would you name a planet that?!), by using his wealth to deliver food to the planet when their crops failed. But one person on the ship will be even happier to see Winston: his fianceé, Lt. Anne Nored. What are the odds of that? The coincidence is unlikely enough that Winston is astonished, but Kirk and Spock won’t reunite the lovebirds until they have verified his identity tapes and McCoy checks him out in Sickbay.

Winston’s computer records check out, but McCoy is disturbed by some unusual readings that he can’t explain–so he doesn’t bother. He reasons that his scanner isn’t calibrated properly, probably from the last time he gave Spock a physical. With Winston at least registering as mostly human, he calls it good enough and lets Lt. Nored in to see her beau.

Nored and Winston have an emotional reunion and she’s clearly ready to pick up where they left off. He assures her he would have married her if his ship hadn’t crashed on Vendor, nearly killing him. So inconvenient. He also makes some creepy references to surgery that “changed” him in some inexplicable way that means they can’t be together.

WINSTON: It’s over between us, Anne. I’m sorry, I can’t explain why but, I can’t marry you. Ever.

Harsh. She weeps.

Winston pays Kirk a social call in his quarters and the captain makes the mistake of turning his back on his guest, making it easy for Winston to transform into a tentacled alien–who knows the Vulcan neck pinch! The alien uses a tendril to knock Kirk out, tenderly places him on his bed, then takes his manly shape and heads up to Bridge for some nefarious purpose.

McCoy and Nurse Chapel continue to study Winston’s anomalous medical readings. There’s something “off” about him, like maybe he’s not what he seems to be… Nah, it’s probably just a mistake. Those happen all the time.

Meanwhile, Winston, cosplaying as Captain Kirk, orders Enterprise on a course to Ratar III, which takes them directly into the Romulan Neutral Zone. That’s kind of serious and dangerous, but “Kirk” explains that it’s all perfectly safe–on Winston’s recommendation. Mischief managed, Winston departs again.

Kirk wakes up in his quarters and realizes he’s missing time. He goes to the Bridge and demands to know why they’re in the Neutral Zone. Spock replays part of the episode on a viewscreen, showing Kirk giving the order, and the captain decides he should be examined to make sure he’s no danger to the crew.

But Winston gets to Dr. McCoy before they can. He knocks out the doctor and mimics his body, just in time to run into Nored. She asks him for romantic advice, which Winston delivers gently but firmly: forget about Winston.

When Kirk and Spock arrives, “McCoy” tells them he’s too busy to give Kirk a physical. He also admits to the Vulcan that even though Winston passed his examination, it’s possible he made a mistake. They’re instantly suspicious: Not only is it not like McCoy to pass up an opportunity to get Kirk into his medical bed, but he would never admit to Spock that he’s capable of error!

They return to Sickbay, but the room is empty and the doctor couldn’t have snuck by them. They find the real McCoy lying on the floor, and Kirk starts interrogating a shifty-looking table.

KIRK: There used to be only two examining tables in this room. Now there are three.
SPOCK: I just realized that.
KIRK: This is a vial of Orientine acid, Winston. It will burn through almost anything but this crystal. If you’ve never seen it work, I’ll demonstrate on you.

The table hurriedly turns into the alien. Spock recognizes him as a Vendorian, an elusive and untrustworthy species that can “rearrange their molecular structure into anything with the same general size and mass.” Then the alien turns the tables on them: Winston tosses them aside with his tentacles and wriggles off.

Spock alerts the ship that there’s a shapeshifter on board. Soon Nored corners Winston, back in his human form, with a phaser.

WINSTON: Anne, what are you doing?
NORED: My job. It isn’t hard to guess who the intruder is. You’re the only stranger aboard, Carter.

Score one for Starfleet redskirts! Only…she freezes and allows him to get away. That’s more like the bumbling Enterprise security team we know and love. Kirk lectures Nored, reminding her that the alien isn’t her fiance, even if he looks like it. But they have an even bigger problem than the tricksy intruder: the Romulans are coming!

The Romulan commander seems perfectly reasonable: all he wants is Enterprise. Kirk pulls the old, “I’d like a few minutes to inform my crew” trick to stall for time. He sees through the Romulan ruse at warp speed: they hired the Vendorian to lure a Federation starship into the Neutral Zone so they could claim it was violating the treaty. Kirk calls the bluff, and they prepare to battle.

Deflector shields would really come in handy right about now, but Winston–in the guise of a random engineer–sabotages them and knocks out Scotty. While the shields are down, the Vendorian tries to escape in a shuttle, but they override shuttlebay controls and lock him in. Scotty revives and gets to work repairing deflectors, but claims it will take him two hours.

Momentarily thwarted, Winston is discovered by Nored again. And this time she intends to stop him–right after they have a warm heart-to-whatever it is Vendorians have.

WINSTON: Winston crashed on our planet, and he was tended by a Vendorian. Me. He lived for almost a year before his body ceased to function.
ANNE: You are so much like him, his voice, his mannerisms.
WINSTON: That is the way of our people. The longer we stay in another’s form, the more we take on its memory, emotion, attitudes. Not totally, but a great deal as time passes.
ANNE: He did say he loved me.
WINSTON: As I do. In a sense, I feel some of the emotions he felt. His love for you was very strong. Because I was there, it did not end when he died.
ANNE: Carter.
WINSTON: Anne, this is what I am.

He reveals his true form to her in all its hentai glory. Kirk arrives, but the Romulans fire on the ship, allowing Winston to slip away. Again.

Enterprise would be easy pickings for the Romulans, if not for Kirk’s brilliant strategy of firing photons and phasers simultaneously at the enemy. So that’s how space combat works! One timely deflector comes up, which is enough to protect them from the next onslaught. They manage to disable one Romulan battlecruiser and send the other packing with no damage.

Kirk commends Scotty on delivering another miracle, but the engineer had nothing to do with it–it really is going to take two hours to fix the shields. Hmmm.

In a leap of logic, Spock posits that Winston turned himself into the shield to save them. Great trick at parties. Winston shows up on the Bridge in his true form, nearly gives Scotty a heart attack, and tells them he had a change of whatever it is that Vendorians have. He was only helping the Romulans because in this difficult economy, it was the best work he could find.

It seems, Captain, that I am more Carter Winston than I knew. He loved life. He loved Anne. I couldn’t allow the Romulans to harm any of you because of him.

Winston will be tried for his crimes but Kirk promises to request leniency on his behalf. He places him under Nored’s competent, unprejudiced guard. McCoy arrives as the happy couple departs.

MCCOY: I’m glad to see him under guard, Jim. If he’d turned into a second Spock, it would’ve been too much to take.
SPOCK: Perhaps. But then two Dr. McCoys just might bring the level of medical efficiency on this ship up to acceptable levels.



I was so certain they wouldn’t attempt to do a real love story on the animated series, but I stand corrected.

After my initial viewing, I thought this episode was absolutely terrific, aside from some overwrought romantic dialogue, but as I wrote up the recap I became a little more critical, resulting in me deducting some points. But overall I was really pleased with “The Survivor,” chiefly because it handled the characters so well. Interactions with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were classic with some of the best lines in the series, and the emotional subplot between Anne Nored and the alien masquerading as her long-lost lover Carter Winston was touching, if cheesy. Her hesitation to fire at the alien she knows isn’t Winston recalls a similar moment at the end of “The Man Trap,” and the alien romance itself has shades of Galaxy Quest. Or vice versa.

To fully appreciate this episode, we do have to forgive a few things, especially McCoy’s sudden ineptness and willingness to disregard a suspicious medical scan. Then there’s both the fact that an alien can somehow transform itself into a deflector shield, get outside the ship, and sustain no injury when a Romulan ship fires on it–and that Spock can figure all this out. But you know, this is balanced for me by the fact that Starfleet has a protocol to confirm the identity and health of people they pick up in space. Who knows where they’ve been, right? Except for a few glaring moments, Kirk and his crew behave intelligently and responsibly to an alien threat and difficult combat situation. I practically cheered when Anne Nored pulled a phaser on Winston and told him she was doing her job.

The most startling moment of the entire episode for me was when the Vendorian revealed its true form in Kirk’s quarters. Aliens just don’t get quite that freaky on the live-action series, and this is another example of the ability of the animated format to render interesting and alien-looking species. We were also introduced to M’Ress in this episode, the feline communications stand-in for Lt. Uhura. Unlike Arex, there’s no reason to substitute another character, since Nichelle Nichols was around to do voicework–as Anne Nored in this episode. Maybe this was a way to give her a break, but it’s just as likely the show creators were looking for ways to show more alien crewmembers.

I loved the Romulan dialogue and most of the rest of the script, Winston’s sob story that he was only searching for purpose, and Nored’s desire to look past the alien’s nature to the man that had become part of him–seemingly recognizing him as a unique individual and not just a replacement for her dead fiancé. The biggest disappointment for me was that the Romulan commander wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: This is a solid, slightly better than average monster of the week. I am completely enamored of the idea that a race of shapeshifting squid make for ideal spy mercenaries*, but I’m disappointed that the potential for political intrigue got sidestepped by a frankly discomforting love story.

I guess it’s supposed to be cute, but mostly I found the whole romance creepy. Who was the space squid (who doesn’t get a name, unfortunately) before he met Carter Winston? It’s one thing if he had been informed by his friendship with Winston and became a more caring, less deceitful being, but he seems to have just absorbed the man instead. There’s no evidence that space squiddy had his own personality or identity somewhere down there.  Anywhere. Nored’s blind love for Winston prompts a kind of Some Like it Hot “Eh! Close enough!” ending that just feels tacked on and insincere. I mean first of all, why hadn’t she moved on with her life? And secondly, if she really was that devoted to Winston, wouldn’t a “close enough” not be enough?

I also just don’t get the logistics of all this. The space squid says that he takes on the characteristics of people the longer he holds their shape–so are we meant to assume he’s been playing Winston for the past five years? Or is the hour or so he spends on the ship enough to completely ingrain him with Winston’s personality? Why would you take on someone’s personality characteristics by physically assuming his or her form? It’d be one thing if we were talking some kind of possession, in which he literally inhabits the body and mind of someone else. But this seems to be some straightforward shapeshifting, which shouldn’t endow you with any special insight into a person’s character.

Nits aside, it was a lot of fun to watch. The table line from below actually made me laugh out loud, and I wish the real Carter Winston (and his fabulously 70s get-up) had been able to stick around for the series. The Romulan angle was clever and surprised even me, and again, shapeshifting spy-mercenary space squids? Hell yes.

* DS9 really ran with this idea. Minus the space squids.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 4

Best Line: MCCOY: “Did you say I’m a man of curious habits? Jim’s talking to a table.”

Trivia: This episode mentions McCoy’s daughter for the first and last time. D.C. Fontana added her to the series bible between seasons 1 and 2 of the original series after a conversation with DeForest Kelley, and she was meant to be a space hippie in an episode named for her, “Joanna,” which became “The Way to Eden.” She would have been introduced in a season 4 episode titled “The Stars of Sargasso.”

This episode introduces M’Ress, a Caitian who serves as a relief communications officer. This is also the first animated appearance of the Romulans.

Other notes: Alan Dean Foster’s prose adaptation of this episode in Star Trek Log 2 sets this episode during a Christmas celebration on the ship and establishes it as preceding “The Lorelei Signal.”

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 5 – “More Tribbles, More Troubles.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 7 – “The Infinite Vulcan.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

About Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson

EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is forthcoming from Pyr. TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.