The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Catspaw

When Scotty and Sulu go missing on a landing mission, and a third crewmember dies on his return to the Enterprise, Kirk decides that he must investigate in person. What he, Spock and McCoy discover is a Halloween-style castle, complete with three witches, black cat, a dungeon and a wizard. Kirk has dealt with all kinds of technology, but how will he handle black magic?

I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this episode. As far as I recalled, it was a silly ‘Halloween episode’ which ended with the aliens turning out to be made of fur and pipe cleaners. In fact, by setting my expectations so low, I managed to find watching the episode bearable. Obviously, I don’t want magic to appear in the Star Trek universe, but for this we turn to Arthur C Clarke and “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

The aliens Korob and Sylvia are even mildly interesting, in their own overblown, powerful alien arseholes way. Denied of feeling in their original forms, it is only by taking humanoid form that they can experience sensation and emotion. Korob is clearly the scientist of the pair, eager to learn from the Enterprise crew and share knowledge with them. Sylvia, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by her new state, and longs to experience all that she can – including toying with the lives of others. It is unfortunate that she is portrayed as a hysterical, controlling woman, although she does at least get to manifest herself as a giant cat. Then again, becoming a giant cat is unwise, since it means she cannot fit through a simple door.

Notes and observations

  • Obviously, if I were in charge of the Enterprise, then after the loss of a landing party, I wouldn’t send the captain, first officer and chief medical officer down to the same planet into obvious danger. I guess I’d probably have a squad of marines to deal with situations like this.
  • Even though Sulu is an accomplished martial artist, Kirk is easily able to defeat him in combat.
  • When Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Sulu are all on an away mission, command of the ship falls to Assistant Chief Engineer LaSalle. Why not put Uhura in charge?
  • Most of the advanced aliens of recent episodes have originated from other galaxies. Intergalactic distances are massive, although, to be fair, when I was writing my own sci-fi series Galaxycats, I did feel like the Andromeda Galaxy, at a mere 2.5 million light years from Earth, was far too close a place to set my story.
  • Spock foregoes logic to start talking about the collective human subconscious, and how Halloween type things dwell within it for us all. Let me just say that cats are very much in my conscious brain, and very much adored.

Summary – Catspaw: This episode is neither a trick, nor much of a treat.

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