47 "Obsession"

(airdate: December 15, 1967)

Writer: Art Wallace
Director: Ralph Senensky

Ensign Garrovick: Stephen Brooks

Rizzo: Jerry Ayres

Stardate: 3619.2

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is investigating a rich vein of tritanium on Argus X when Kirk encounters a familiar smell which reminds him of a time eleven years ago, when a large number of the crew of the U.S.S. Farragut, including the captain, were killed by some sort of cloud - leaving Kirk as one of the survivors. Kirk is convinced that this is the same cloud, and that the cloud is actually a creature. He becomes obsessed with destroying the creature, even while the Enterprise is needed to ferry perishable vaccines to Theta 7. Spock and McCoy become concerned about Kirk's actions, but he's vindicated when the creature leaves Argus X and shows signs of intelligence. It's heading back to Tycho IV (the site of the attack on the Farragut) to spawn, and so Kirk and Ensign Garrovick set a trap for the creature, blowing it up with an antimatter bomb.

Whoops!: McCoy's short-sleeved tunic has an operations division insignia (the spiral one) in the Enterprise arrowhead patch instead of the usual sciences division one (the spherical one).
     When Spock sees that the vent in Garrovick's quarters is jammed open, why does he attempt to block the creature by placing his hands over the vent? His hands aren't remotely big enough to cover the vent, and the creature is composed of gas and so has no trouble getting around his hands. For anyone else, this behavior would (sort of) make sense, but this is Spock we're talking about; how is that possibly a logical decision?
     Spock states that the evidence is that the creature has returned to Tycho IV to spawn. But what evidence is this, exactly? At no point prior to this moment has spawning ever been brought up - Kirk only states that it's going "home". Now it's possible that a discussion of this happens off-screen. But if that's the case, why doesn't McCoy know about it?
     Not necessarily problematic so much as unclear, but the details regarding the Farragut incident are confusing. Apparently the creature attacked the entire starship itself (this is the only way to make sense of both the statement that Kirk was manning the phaser station and that 200 crewmembers were killed), rather than a landing party on the surface of Tycho IV (despite the implications of subsequent lines of dialogue), yet it only killed half the crew, rather than all of them. In fact, Kirk was close enough to it not only to smell it, but to establish some form of contact with it before he was rendered unconscious by the creature. So how did Kirk survive? After all, Ensign Rizzo was in a similar circumstance and he didn't. And why did the creature cease its attack? Was it simply full? Then there's the matter of how Kirk is seemingly the only person to believe this was an intelligent (i.e., sentient) creature. So what exactly did the others think had happened? A freak gas came along and wiped out half the Farragut? If that were the case, why would it matter to anyone besides Kirk as to whether he fired the phasers or not? (Maybe it didn't; Kirk seems to be the only one concerned about this.)
     Now seems as good a time as any to discuss the curious case of Lieutenant Leslie. Actor Eddie Paskey is one of a handful of actors to show up as a background actor in a large number of episodes (in fact, the majority of them). However, Paskey is distinguished by the fact that he received a handful of lines across multiple episodes, and is referred to in multiple instances as "Mr. Leslie". (He even gets a credit, as "Lesley", in "The Alternative Factor".) He typically shows up in a red operations shirt, but sometimes he's seen in command gold or sciences blue as well, serving in a wide variety of positions (security, navigator, engineering, medical...). For a while he's an ensign, but by "The Squire of Gothos" he's usually (though not always) wearing a lieutenant's stripe. Yet here he's seen as an ensign and one of the first victims of the dikironium cloud creature. A shame, except for the fact that Eddie Paskey will go on to appear in no less than 13 additional episodes of Star Trek. (17 if you go by airdate.) Now we know that there are other crewmen with Eddie Paskey's face (Connors in "Mudd's Women" and Rand in "The Naked Time"). However, by "The Conscience of the King" Paskey was consistently known as Leslie, which means that by the time of "Obsession", Leslie was reasonably well-established as a minor recurring member of the crew - to the point where Kirk even calls him by name not long before he's killed (so it's not that it's a different character). So then how does he survive? Mind you, "Assignment: Earth" shows Paskey in both red (and in fact is referred to as "Leslie") and later in yellow, so there's a precedent for there being multiple crewmen who look like Lt. Leslie. So maybe he just comes from a large family, many of whom happen to be stationed on the same ship.

Classic Lines: Spock to McCoy: "I need your advice." McCoy: "Then I need a drink."
     Spock to Garrovick: "I know you would prefer to wallow in a pool of emotion..."
     "Don't misunderstand my next question; Mr. Spock, why aren't you dead?"

Cringe Lines: "Well, then thank pitchforks and pointed ears."

Technobabble: The dikironium cloud creature uses gravity as a force to propel itself across space at speeds faster than light.
      The antigravity unit used to transport the antimatter on Tycho IV is seemingly rated 57,000 Gkg.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Two red-shirted security guards [one of whom may or may not be Leslie] are attacked and killed by the dikironium cloud creature in the teaser, while Ensign Rizzo is attacked but survives for a bit, only to succumb to his injuries later. A subsequent attack by the creature on Argus X leaves another guard dead and one in critical condition. Later, when the creature has entered the Enterprise, we hear that another crewmember has been killed, while a second has a chance for survival.

Library Computer: Argus X is a brownish planet that has a rich vein of tritanium, a glittery copper-colored element that is 21.4 times as hard as diamond. The planet also contains a dikironium cloud creature, which kills four men by extracting all the red corpuscles from their bodies.
     Eleven years ago, on the planet Tycho IV, the cloud creature attacked the U.S.S. Farragut, killing 200 crewmembers, including Captain Garrovick, by draining the red corpuscles from their bodies. Lt. James T. Kirk, on his first deep space assignment, was one of the survivors, despite getting close enough to smell the cloud creature. He was manning the phaser station when the creature attacked and he hesitated, which led to his blaming himself for the deaths of the crew. The ship's executive officer didn't agree, noting that "Lieutenant Kirk is a fine young officer who performed with uncommon bravery". Captain Garrovick was in Kirk's eyes "one of the finest men I ever knew", and he had been Kirk's commanding officer since Kirk left the Academy, so Kirk took Garrovick's death particularly hard. Eight to ten hours of record tape exist regarding the Farragut incident.
     The dikironium cloud creature was gaseous and white, resembling dry ice. It varied in size, between 10 and 60 cubic meters, and its density varied; parts could be seen through, other parts were more dense. Its presence was heralded by a sickly sweet odor, akin to being smothered in honey. The creature fed on red corpuscles, which it was able to extract from its victims without leaving any sort of mark or cut - something McCoy initially declared medically impossible. As it fed, sparks could be seen inside it, and its victims began to choke. The creature existed in a borderline state between matter and energy, and could change its molecular structure to disguise itself, so that it no longer appeared to be part dikironium, an extremely rare element. The creature could also travel through space at high warp, using gravitational fields as propulsion. This meant that deflector shields were ineffective against it. Phasers and photon torpedoes were also ineffective, as the creature also had the ability to throw itself out of time-sync, so that it would essentially be somewhere else while being attacked. The creature, despite initial appearances, was both alive and intelligent; Captain Kirk was somehow aware of its intentions and knew that it called Tycho IV home, where it was returning to apparently spawn by splitting itself into thousands of parts. It disliked hemoglobin based on copper, as well as radioactivity.
     Tycho IV is a very red planet and the home of the cloud creature. It is over 1000 light years away from Argus X. A matter/antimatter bomb set off on the planet's surface by the Enterprise [presumably] both killed the cloud creature and ripped away half of Tycho IV's atmosphere.
     Prior to a definitive reading from the cloud creature [and apparently despite the reports of (at least) Kirk eleven years earlier, as he knows to look for dikironium], dikironium was believed to exist only in laboratory experiments.
     The U.S.S. Yorktown is a fellow Federation ship that was due to rendezvous with the Enterprise to transfer perishable vaccines to the Enterprise, for transport to Theta 7, where they were badly needed. [The Yorktown was the initial name for the Enterprise in Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek proposal, and it was a name that Roddenberry apparently had a fondness for, as he suggested that the Enterprise-A (first seen at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) was simply the Yorktown (mentioned but not seen in Star Trek IV) rechristened. Consequently, this suggestion has been accepted as semi-canonical, and thus the Yorktown is generally believed to also be a Constitution-class vessel; however, there's no actual onscreen evidence for this.]
     The Enterprise can travel at warp 8, but not for an extended period of time. It's suggested that this is the maximum achievable speed. The ship also has radioactive disposal vents for its impulse engines.
     Ensign Garrovick was assigned to the Enterprise as a new security officer. His father was Captain Garrovick of the Farragut. He and Ensign Rizzo were friends who had attended the Academy together. Garrovick's cabin aboard the Enterprise is 341.
     Preparing an unfavorable medical log entry on a starship doctor's estimation of the physical and emotional condition of a starship captain requires a witness of command grade. According to the manual's recommendation, the correct phrasing for the captain is, "Both of you or either of you consider me unfit or incapacitated?" The recommended reply begins, "Sir, we have noted in your recent behavior certain items, which, on the surface, seem unusual. We respectfully ask permission to inquire further."
     According to Ensign Garrovick, less than 1 ounce of antimatter is more powerful than 10,000 cobalt bombs. [A cobalt bomb is a hypothetical nuclear weapon designed to increase radioactive fallout. They're not necessarily any more powerful than a standard nuclear weapon, as the aim is "salting the earth", so to speak, rather than increased explosive force. So Garrovick's comparison may be misleading, unless cobalt bombs are the standard nuclear weapon in the 23rd century.] An explosion on a planet's surface would destroy half the atmosphere, and the shockwave would reach into space, affecting any ships orbiting above the blast. Beaming up while such an explosion is happening is highly dangerous, as the transporter may not operate correctly.
     Spock's hemoglobin is copper-based. He reads much faster than McCoy.
     McCoy has a record tape regarding Cygnian respiratory diseases.

Final Analysis: "Monsters come in many forms. You know the greatest monster of them all, Jim? Guilt." Star Trek has done Moby-Dick-style stories before (such as "The Doomsday Machine"), but none with quite the conviction shown here. Shatner provides a strong performance as the obsessed Kirk, while Spock and McCoy act as good counterpoints to Kirk's arguments. Throwing Ensign Garrovick into the mix, as someone who reminds Kirk of himself eleven years earlier, is also a good choice, as it provides a nice focal point for Kirk and his feelings. The only real downside is how quickly Kirk is proven right; a bit more of Spock and McCoy being unconvinced of Kirk's position might have made for a stronger ending. Overall, an underrated episode.

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