Star Trek 2.7: Catspaw

CatspawCatspaw” is without a doubt the worst episode so far in my systematic traversal of every episode of the original Star Trek. Alas, I know there is worse to come, and this one doesn’t really approach the depths of some of the later episodes. It’s not so bad that you remember it because of how bad it is. It’s just completely blah and unmemorable. It’s so unmemorable that it wasn’t until over 15 minutes into this episode that I recognised any of what was going on, despite having seen it before.

This is yet another “Kirk and crew encounter nigh-omnipotent alien being, who toys with them until either Kirk defeats them through his cleverness or by deus ex machina” episode. And it’s easily the least inspiring of any of them. It features bizarre manifestations of “magic” and “spooky” stuff, including a trio of Macbeth-esque witches, some voodoo curses, a castle with a dungeon, and possibly two of the worst special effects seen so far in the series.

Crewman Jackson beams up from the planet Pyris VII, without fellow landing party members Scotty and Sulu, and promptly drops dead on the transporter pad. Despite being dead, a spooky voice emanates from his unmoving mouth, declaring the Enterprise to be cursed. Kirk beams down with Spock and McCoy to investigate and find Scotty and Sulu. They find a spooky fog which is weird since there is no water anywhere nearby. They encounter three spooky ghostly witches, who try to scare them. They find a spooky Gothic castle and enter.

It soon becomes clear that half this episode is padding, as they wander aimlessly around the castle for a bit before anything happens. McCoy and Kirk mention “Trick or Treat”, which perplexes Spock. Okay, fine, this establishes that Spock is an alien and knows nothing about human culture. But then later in the episode Spock turns out to be an expert on human culture, explaining to McCoy and Kirk what a witch’s familiar is. A spooky black cat jumps out, scaring them. They follow the cat and fall into a hole in the floor.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy awake in a dungeon, shackled to the wall. There is an intact human skeleton shackled next to them, in defiance of the fact that a human skeleton will fall apart if suspended like that. And there’s even a lame joke with Kirk addressing both McCoy and the skeleton as “Bones”. Scotty and Sulu show up, hypnotised. Kirk points out how they aren’t blinking, and Spock remarks, “Neither did Jackson just before he collapsed.” A perfectly fine observation, except that Spock wasn’t in the transporter room and never saw Jackson before he collapsed.

Scotty and Sulu take the captives upstairs, where they meet Korob and Sylvia, the semi-omnipotent aliens du jour. The only real twist here is that Korob an Sylvia don’t get along, with Sylvia wanting to extract some information from the humans at any cost, and Korob, who wants to try to get along, being shouted down. The information Sylvia wants is never actually explained, or in fact mentioned again. Oh, and Sylvia is the black cat from earlier, as strongly hinted at by the fact that the cat leaves the room and Sylvia enters a moment later, dressed in black and wearing the same pendant.

Syliva pulls some voodoo magic on the Enterprise, heating a toy model of it in a candle, causing the ship in orbit to heat up. Kirk agrees to cooperate so she will stop it, then he proceeds to seduce her, but it goes awry and she judges humanity (ho hum, yawn, seen it before) and everyone ends up in the dungeon again. Korob releases them, but Sylvia turns into a giant cat and terrorises everyone with awful special effects shots of a housecat running through miniature castle corridors. Korob gives Kirk his wand and, in a confrontation with Sylvia, Kirk smashes it, destroying all the magic. The castle vanishes and Korob and Sylvia are revealed to be tiny puppets made of pipecleaner and feathers, complete with visible strings. They die, and that’s it.

It’s all so cliché-ridden, and maybe 20 minutes of story stretched to fill 50 minutes. It was actually boring. It has two huge gaping continuity problems, and a major seeming plot point that is never explained. It has two laughable special effects. There is nothing clever in the plot. No wonder I didn’t remember any of this episode from the previous times I’ve seen it.

Tropes: He’s Dead Jim, Ominous Fog, Haunted Castle, Padding, Cat Scare, You Fail Biology Forever, Gallows Humour, Plot Hole, Sufficiently Advanced Alien, What Happened To The Mouse?, Shapeshifting, Hollywood Voodoo, Casanova, Humanity On Trial, Mega Neko, Magic From Technology, This Was His True Form, Special Effect Failure.
Body count: Crewman Jackson keeled over dead on the transporter pad, by “magic”, the aliens Korob and Syliva.

One Response to “Star Trek 2.7: Catspaw”

  1. JimiFloyd says:

    This rather blase episode was first aired 27 October 1967 – so I guess this was their homage to Halloween? Scary stuff!

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