Thursday, August 01, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 7 (Catspaw)

Holiday specials aren’t that uncommon in television.  Doctor Who usually has a Christmas episode.  The Simpsons have their Halloween special.  I even seem to remember that The Dead Zone had something about Thanksgiving in one episode.  Star Trek even has its own vague Halloween-like entry with Catspaw.

The story goes that the Enterprise comes across an uninhabited planet.  When a landing party consisting of Sulu, Scotty and Disposable Crewman go missing, the ship is in a bit of a panic.  Disposable Crewman is beamed back to the ship, but collapses; Dr. McCoy pronounces him dead.  That doesn’t stop some strange voice from using the dead crewman to warn the ship to leave, or else a curse will be placed on the crew.

So, Captain Kirk beams down with McCoy and Spock.  They find a castle with two inhabitants:  Korob and Sylvia.  Sulu and Scotty are also there, both apparently zombies.   Sylvia first appears as a cat, but changes into a beautiful woman for Kirk to seduce.

Both Sylvia and Korob are part of some sort of advanced force to assess life in our galaxy.  They’ve set up the castle as something they found in the crew’s minds.  Why, of all things, the Halloween motif is anyone’s guess.  It appears that they missed the mark, in any event.  Korob to bribe Kirk only to be told that replicators have made gems worthless.  Sylvia tires to use sympathetic magic only to have Kirk and Spock figure out the source or their power.

Yes, this is a weak remake of The Squire of Gothos.  Instead of their parents or superiors coming to bail out the ship, Kirk is able to defeat the two aliens by himself.  Once their amplification device is broken, Kolob and Sylvia revert to some sort of puppet-like creatures, presumably their true forms, and would seem to die.

It’s hard for me to tell where the episode is going.  It would seem to be an exploration of fear, but not a very good one.  Neither Sylvia nor Korob would seem to pose a credible threat.  At least, they’re not a threat on the same level as Trelane.  They also don’t seem to do to much to try to sway the crewmembers.  The most they can do is turn someone into a zombie.  It’s not even clear what their endgame is.  Are they simply studying the inhabitants of our galaxy or is this a prelude to invasion?  If so, to what end?

I also find it odd that the episode would seem to be geared toward what humans find scary.  Even though Vulcans have repressed their emotions, they were once violent.  There must also be members of other races on the Enterprise.  How is it that everything is something a human might find scary?  And European, at that.  Uhura comes from Africa whereas Chekov is Russian.  Surely, each of their respective cultures must have different takes on what’s scary.  Whatever message there might have been is lost in the episode’s cheese factor.

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