30 "Catspaw"

(airdate: October 27, 1967)

Writer: Robert Bloch
Director: Joseph Pevney

Sylvia: Antoinette Bower
DeSalle: Michael Barrier

Korob: Theo Marcuse
Jackson: Jimmy [Jay] Jones

Stardate: 3018.2

Captain's Log: While orbiting the lifeless planet Pyris VII, the Enterprise's landing party fails to report back to the ship, so Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to investigate. There they find a landscape undetected by sensors, including a lot of fog and what appears to be a medieval castle. Kirk and the others learn that this has all been constructed by two beings named Korob and Sylvia, beings from another galaxy who've pulled images from the minds of the humans in an effort to test them and learn more about them. These two can create matter out of seeming nothingness, and they've also taken mental control of the first landing party. Korob and Sylvia are here in this galaxy to observe and report back to their superiors, but Sylvia has become addicted to being in a humanoid body and is unwilling to give up her power. Sylvia tries to ensnare the others, but Kirk destroys a device called a transmuter, which is the source of Sylvia's powers. Without the transmuter, everything reverts to the way it was - including Korob and Sylvia, who quickly perish in an environment that their natural forms can't survive in.

Whoops!: Like "The Return of the Archons", for some reason Kirk repeatedly calls McCoy "Doc" here instead of the more usual "Bones". Chekov's wig is really quite poor. And you can see the strings on the Ornithoid puppets.
     We've held off bringing this up until now, but as this is probably the worst example the time seems right: why do the command crew beam down into potentially hazardous circumstances? Aren't there others aboard better suited to such tasks, who aren't as essential to the running of the ship? And up to this point it's been sort of excusable, as typically they aren't beaming into knowingly dangerous situations and at least there were still people around who could take over should the unthinkable happen (although even with that, it still seems like a bad idea to keep sending the captain of the ship into danger). But here it's particularly noticeable, as we get a situation where Scott and Sulu are missing on the planet below, while the third member of the landing party has turned up dead...so of course the captain, the first officer, and chief medical officer all go down to look for them. So that's nearly the entire command staff down on the planet in a dangerous situation, which leaves, what, Uhura and DeSalle as the only remaining command crew members aboard? There's reckless, and then there's just asking for trouble.

Classic Lines: Kirk, after the ghostly witches warn the landing party to turn back: "Spock. Comment?" Spock: "Very bad poetry, Captain." Kirk: "A more useful comment, Mr. Spock."

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Lt. Jackson (in command gold though, not operations red) is killed by Sylvia, who simply "thinks" him to death.

Alien Love: Kirk attempts to seduce Sylvia, which she readily agrees to as she's intoxicated by new sensations and feelings and wants Kirk to help her experience them. She becomes angry when she realizes Kirk is only responding to her seduction to try and gain the upper hand, though.

Library Computer: Pyris VII was a hazy pale teal planet [grey in the remastered version], whose solar system had been mapped prior to the Enterprise arrival. Pyris VII was rocky and completely lifeless but with a breathable atmosphere, with no bodies of water and no cloud formations in the area where the landing party beamed down. However, the initial landing party encountered trouble, which led to Sulu and Scott going missing, while Lieutenant Jackson died of unexplained causes shortly after beaming back to the ship.
     At the beam-down location was a number of strange things, including fog that couldn't have formed naturally, three ghostly witches who warned the second landing party to return to the Enterprise, and a structure that resembled a medieval castle from Earth. The interior of the structure was shielded from the Enterprise's sensors. This interior included a dungeon with manacles, a rack, a skeleton, and an "iron maiden" [it's actually a gibbet cage, but never mind], as well as a lavish throne room covered with tapestries, rugs, and other plush ornamentation, with a large banquet table at one end. Everything there (including the castle itself) appeared to be pulled from the human mind.
     Responsible for all of this were two beings named Korob and Sylvia. Korob appeared as a pink-skinned bald human male, with a small brown goatee, dressed in yellow and greenish-gold robes presumably meant to resemble those of a magician's; Sylvia appeared as a pink-skinned, raven-haired human female, wearing a black, lacy, multi-layered catsuit-and-kaftan combination. These were not Korob's and Sylvia's natural forms, however; they had instead selected these forms to help the two better understand humanoid life [we think; the motivation's a bit unclear, and they were probably also chosen so that they could more easily communicate with the crew of the Enterprise]. They could change their shapes at will: while we don't see Korob change, Sylvia changes to a light brunette hairstyle wearing a racy dress, a deeply unflattering platinum blonde hairstyle wearing an absolutely hideous pale blue pajama set, and a black cat of varying size wearing a crystal pendant. Their natural form was that of tiny bipedal creatures, with furry bright blue torsos, spindly green limbs, a yellow fat forked tail, and a small yellow-orange head with long tendrils out the front and two flower-like stalks coming out of either side of the head. In their natural state they couldn't survive long on Pyris VII, and they quickly died. [Korob and Sylvia's race isn't named in this episode, but a background graphic seen in Keiko's classroom beginning in DS9: "A Man Alone" calls them Ornithoids.]
     The Ornithoids were creatures from another galaxy, sent to Pyris VII by the "Old Ones" [presumably not the same Old Ones mentioned in Bloch's earlier "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"] to learn more about this galaxy and its inhabitants. To this end they took on humanoid form, experiencing sensations and testing the crew of the Enterprise, seeing if the crew demonstrated qualities such as loyalty, bravery, and a resistance to bribery. Ornithoids in their native form didn't experience sensations, dreams, or ambitions (at least not the way a humanoid does), and the experience drove Sylvia mad, as she demanded more and more feelings and power, over Korob's objections.
     Korob and Sylvia traveled via a device called a transmuter: a device that let the Ornithoids to amplify their thoughts, allowing them to create things out of nothing, to control minds, even to kill people, as happened to Lt. Jackson - Sylvia likened it to sympathetic magic, although Korob said it had something to do with altering the molecular structure of things. Anything Korob or Sylvia imagined, the transmuter could make reality. There were in fact two transmuters: Sylvia had a simple version, which resembled a crystal pendant that she wore around her neck, while Korob had a more advanced version, which was a crystal bulb on the end of a long thin wand. When Korob's transmuter was smashed by Kirk, everything reverted back to normal - Sylvia's transmuter wasn't enough to maintain the illusion on its own. This transmuter was used to surround the Enterprise with a forcefield, one that the sensors simply couldn't analyze; however, the Enterprise was able to begin to disrupt the field using an electrical field of their own, although Korob removed the forcefield before the Enterprise broke free.
     Kirk tells Korob that they can manufacture "a ton" of gemstones aboard the Enterprise.
     Spock is unfamiliar with the idea of trick-or-treat.
     Lt. DeSalle ("The Squire of Gothos", "This Side of Paradise") is the assistant chief engineer of the Enterprise. [This is DeSalle's final appearance on the show.]

Final Analysis: "If we weren't missing two officers and a third one dead I'd say someone was playing an elaborate trick-or-treat on us." Star Trek's only Halloween episode wisely dispenses with the standard "scary" bits fairly early on to instead provide a weirder, more engaging story about shape-changing aliens from another galaxy. It's a bit of a shame that their motivations are somewhat muddled though, since it lessens the stakes and thus the impact rather. Still, this is never less than entertaining, even if it's not ultimately a standout.

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Page originally created: November 27, 2018
Page last updated: November 27, 2018

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