TOS: S2E07: “Catspaw”

In which I needed this episode to be over so badly that I didn’t even write a synopsis, originally. 

I actually think I’ve seen like two minutes of this episode. If I didn’t have a backlog to build up before PAX East I’d be procrastinating this one for days. Kirk is trying to beam up a single member of the landing party, and there’s

That's a very grey, ominous, and grey-looking planet down there.

That’s a very grey, ominous, and grey-looking planet down there.

something weird going on, in that the landing party was probably more than just one person. Crewman Jackson beams up, then promptly falls over dead and some sourceless voice starts talking from Jackson’s dead mouth and tells Kirk to leave.

Okay. Sure. Thanks, The Late 60’s. Thanks for that.

Also, Scotty and Sulu are still down there, so Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all beam down to the planet that just voodoo’d their crewman, leaving some squarejaw we’ve never seen or heard of before in charge of the ship. Do you think Kirk just falsifies his logs to starfleet about who he beams down with, or what?

Those are some grey, ominous, and grey witch-ghosts there.

Those are some grey, ominous, and grey witch-ghosts there.

So there are witch ghosts screaming Kirk’s name, and not in the good way. They’re moaning some doggerel that I actually can’t quite make out, but it sounds like a low-rent MacBeth knock-off. Spock is equally as unimpressed, which as you know I always take to mean I’m doing something right. He detected life-forms. They go over to investigate and McCoy finds a gothic castle. You know, like you do, occasionally.

Unlike “The Apple,” which was transparent enough to be a painful slog through classical Abrahamic myth cycle, this episode is, so far, just a jumble sale held by someone who’s moving out of Salem, Massachusetts after one to many tourists passes out in improbable positions on the lawn.

Black cat, check. Guttering torches, check. Cobwebs, check. Doors that slam behind you, check. Pit traps, check. Medieval wall chains and a torture rack and a gibbet.

I’m going to guess that this is another one of those god-like beings, probably one that feeds on fear in some wildly impractical way. I don’t even know anymore. I just want to get to complex cosmopolitical intrigue.

Scotty and Sulu show up under some kind of mind control and try to herd Kirk and company somewhere. Kirk does the whole “I’m an action hero thing” and the surroundings immediately shift as the illusion drops, or is replaced by another illusion, or something. Bring back the Romulans! Show us the Klingons!

In the words of Penn & Teller: "And then there's this asshole."

In the words of Penn & Teller: “And then there’s this asshole.”

So this guy shows up and gives a whole archvillain monologue about humanity’s proclivity for resisting coercion. This guy plays the role of having the phrase ‘mumbo jumbo’ to him by his cat. I might be overanalyzing this. I mean, if I were a being with powers beyond those of the beings I toy with, I would totally fuck with them by trying to make them think that the source of my power was something other than it is. Then again, I’ve read the Overlord List, although I never actually read the copyright notice on it and now that I do I see that it came out of a Star Trek mailing list. And so we come full circle.

Okay, so it’s some sort of morality test – loyalty, fear, greed. Kirk is not a fan of being tested, and there’s this bullshit with voodoo on the ship, and it’s just clumsy. The cat (who has turned into a woman) and the wizard are demanding Kirk answer questions that they haven’t asked yet, but something about science, versus magic.

Apparently, Robert Bloch wrote this episode based on one of his short stories that was emphatically *not* science fiction, and it doesn’t translate well, or hold up over time. It would be interesting to check that out, but outside the context of a universe where even superscience is still science.

To give you some idea of how alien these creatures are, this is Sylvia's idea of a seductive outfit.

To give you some idea of how alien these creatures are, this is Sylvia’s idea of a seductive outfit.

And Kirk is seducing the cat/woman/Elder God. I can’t even. This is it, guys. This is the episode that killed me. I made it through “The Apple” and “The Alternative Factor” and this is the one where my brain just crawled out through my ears.

Good thing the wizard betrayed her, freed the enterprise from its acrylic block / force field. I was worried that human science and rationality were going to solve this.

On the plus side, there’s a really adorable moment where Sylvia in cat-form grows to enormous size and chases them through the corridors. This is demonstrated by the set designers building a very small corridor and filming a kitty running through them at slightly slower speed.

God-like Beings That Are Really Petulant Children With Too Much Power Count: 5

Also, for some reason, smurfs.

But ALIEN smurfs. That makes it science fiction, right?

But ALIEN smurfs. That makes it science fiction, right?

 

One thought on “TOS: S2E07: “Catspaw”

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