This episode is satisfying on some levels, frustrating on others. The leisurely pace of earlier episodes has returned, and scenes continue much longer than we've gotten used to. The guest stars are used well -- almost too well. Ultimately, this becomes their story and our guys are just bystanders. Indeed, our heroes are reduced to facilitators and problem-solvers for someone else. Their own problem (being trapped) is far less interesting than those of Cochrane and the Companion (loneliness, isolation, immortality, boredom).
The extensive use of the Companion's effect, along with the lush and beautiful (but a bit over-wrought at times) musical score probably account for the delay in the airing of the episode (filmed 2nd, aired 9th). The music underscores almost every scene, and the Companion appears many more times than it probably would have if the writer were not also the producer. This cannot have been cheap.
The script contains a mixture of automatic writing (shuttlecraft and early trouble-shooting scenes) and more genuine aspects. There are even two social issues touched upon with great subtlety. First, Cochran recoils when he thinks he's been intimate somehow with another species (a reaction which Spock labels "parochial"). With interracial marriage a hot topic when this episode aired, the parallel seems intentional, and the comment rather pointed.
But shortly after the Companion, now inhabiting Elinor Donahue's lovely body, mentions "the maker of all things," she describes her decision to become human with positively Christian allusion. It seems too carefully presented to be incidental, though there's no way of knowing who on the creative team might have slipped it in.
Later Star Trek creative teams would have overplayed this, along with the Companion's decision to take human form. Indeed, that climactic moment comes as the cliffhanger which ends Act 3. What, in later versions of Star Trek, would have been the very last scene and followed by a happilly-ever-after moment, becomes a new turning point for the plot -- though it still serves as the climactic moment. Structurally, this is risky but pays off handsomely as it makes possible the lovely scene where the Companion gazes with human eyes through a scarf which resembles her former way of seeing the man. With less subtle direction and acting, this would seem contrived. As it is, it makes a nice capper for a pleasing (if not entirely satisfying) episode.
Rating: Middle-upper (3)