Lion of the Blogosphere

Star Trek TOS, S02E07 “Catspaw”

If I ever get around to reviewing another Star Trek TOS episode, I will skip “I Mudd” (because I previously watched it ) and write about “Metamorphosis,” which I am curious to watch because I don’t think that I remember it.

* * *

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Star Trek TOS episode! This is not a good episode. But neither is it a totally unwatchable bore like The Alternative Factor. Although the plot is stupid, the episode has its memorable moments.

The episode starts off with Kirk beaming up a crewman named Jackson, who falls down and dies as soon as he’s beamed up. But the way he fell! Wow! What a stunt! The only time since I’ve started re-watching TOS that I was genuinely impressed by the stuntwork. Then McCoy says, “The man is dead.”

So Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the planet to find Scotty and Sulu. But with all five of the main characters, who do they leave in charge of the Enterprise? Well, it would make sense for Uhura to be charge, because she’s the only other bridge officer we know of. Except for maybe that Riley guy who we remember from that episode in Season 1 where he got super-drunk and took over engineering.

But nope, instead, this guy named DeSalle, who we’ve never seen before, is left in charge. Actually, if you were really observant, he had cameo appearances in two previous episodes. But this episode was his big break, and he was so bad we never saw him again.

There was on particular DeSalle line that sticks in my mind. After ordering engineering to use the impulse engines to try to break through a mysterious force field surrounding the ship, he says “Maybe we can’t break it, but I’ll bet you credits to navy beans we can put a dent in it.” Firstly, it sounds so out of place on a spaceship. And what are these “credits”? I thought that in the future, money became obsolete? But the way he said it, woodenly but with some sort of hick accent.

Also on the bridge is Chekov wearing a ridiculous Beatles wig. This episode was shown out of sequence. It was actually the first episode filmed for Season 2, and at the very beginning of Season 2, some genius thought that it made sense for Chekov to wear a ridiculous wig. Luckily, someone noticed how stupid it looked after two or three episodes and they got rid of it.

Backing up a bit… so Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the planet. They soon encounter three ghostly women speaking in sing-song voices, telling them to go away. It reminded me of Scooby Doo. In a typical episode of Scooby Doo, there are ghosts or other monsters trying to scare people away. But they always turn out to be a non-supernatural hoax perpetrators by evildoers who want to keep prying eyes away from their criminal operation. Except in this TOS episode, it’s never made clear exactly what the evildoers are trying to accomplish. It’s hinted that they are advance scouts from some extragalactic civilization. And no one is actually scared by any of this. Not the viewer (the whole thing looks silly, not scary), and not Kirk who just brushes it aside. After facing down the that lizard monster in a fight to the death in Season 1, and duking it out with a god a few episodes back, Kirk isn’t going to be the least bit scared of some holographic ghost projections.

When Spock, who is usually an encyclopedia-like resource for Earth history, asks Kirk what he means by “trick or treat,” Kirk responds, “Yes, Mister Spock. You’d be a natural.” Kirk is being racist again! Back in the 1960s, casual racism was a natural way of communicating.

Later in the episode, Spock goes back into encyclopedia mode and gives his opinion on cats (because the alien woman, Sylvia, appears to be able to turn into a black cat):

KIRK: Why a cat?

SPOCK: Racial memories. The cat is the most ruthless, most terrifying of animals, as far back as the sabre-toothed tiger.

Most terrifying animal? I have no idea what Spock is talking about. A pit bull would be scary. Not a cat.

The episode has a good scene where Kirk does his alpha-male routine on Sylvia. It very sexy, even though Kirk doesn’t take off his shirt. Kirk hasn’t taken off his shirt at all during the first few episodes of Season 2. Is it because he got fat between seasons?

The episode ends when Kirk smashes the “transmuter” (a small glass crystal ball on the end of stick) and when it shatters, the magic or illusion nor whatever it was that Sylvia and Korob were doing, all disappears. And my thought was, why couldn’t Kirk have just done that twenty minutes ago?

* * *

destructure writes in a comment:

I’m surprised you didn’t mention how weird looking those little aliens were after the illusion was broken.

It was pleasant to see aliens that actually look very alien instead of looking like humans wearing makeup. But I believe that the version shown on Netflix has had the little puppets remastered to look less low-budget.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

32 Responses

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  1. Let us raise a glass in memory of the late, great Falco.

    Justice Duvall

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • Sorry to hear it and also sorry to learn that I had forgotten his existence in this century. What a sucky century.

      But as it gets warmer hopefully Lion will pull something masterful like he did last year with posting the Bananarama video filmed on the Brooklyn waterfront, “Cruel Summer.” Remind us of such lore again, sage.

      Nostalg

      April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

      • Wait, Falco died in 1998, according to wikipedia. Is there a German word for learning of someone’s death decades after it happened while all the while assuming that they were still alive? That’s what I’m experiencing.

        Nostalg

        April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • The English language version of “Der Kommissar” by After the Fire is also excellent…a very atmospheric song and music video.

      Oswald Spengler

      April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  2. Wow, this is an episode I never saw, somehow.

    CamelCaseRob

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  3. Cats are indeed dangerous: Kittens are purpose-built for stealing a decent person’s heart; then, after fifteen years, the cat the kitten has grown into, will break its owner’s heart by dying.

    robertpinkerton

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  4. I’m surprised you didn’t mention how weird looking those little aliens were after the illusion was broken.

    destructure

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • Yes. You can even see the puppet strings.

      Steverino@steverino.com

      April 19, 2019 at EDT am

  5. Some day, high quality women will drop their panties for Star Trek fans and will treat NFL fans as pathetic Incel nerds.
    And some day the sun will rise in the west.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  6. Not sure if I told this story, but I watched the original network run of TOS at the house of a jewish friend, because they had a color TV. That guy was not much of a student, but was very good-looking and was heavy into girls starting age 13. He’s became the chief oil exploration analyst (i.e. guessing where the next gusher’s going to be) for Chevron, is a millionaire, and lives in Rancho Santa Fe. Mostly what I remember about him is how he loved to tell fibs, and used to tell his littke sister, “everything you touch turns to shit.”

    Marty

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  7. I imagine the network execs told Roddenberry that he had to do a Halloween show, and this was the best he could come up with.

    Mike Street Station

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Catspaw_(episode)

      Actually, the episode written by none other than famed horror author Robert Bloch.

      You’re right though about this episode being a Halloween episode…”Catspaw” was first aired on October 27, 1967.

      Oswald Spengler

      April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

      • http://www.orionpressfanzines.com/articles/broomstick_ride_vs_catspaw.htm

        This is a comparison of Robert Bloch’s original 1957 short story “Broomstick Ride,” which was the basis of “Catspaw.” There are several similarities between the two stories, from the name of the planet being explored to the use of magic by strange beings who live in a foreboding castle.

        Oswald Spengler

        April 21, 2019 at EDT am

  8. Just as I predicted, Lion did not like this episode!

    https://lionoftheblogosphere.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/star-trek-tos-s02e06-the-doomsday-machine/#comment-217510

    The episode has a good scene where Kirk does his alpha-male routine on Sylvia.

    You’re such a perv. I do not remember that scene whatsoever. But I do remember the cool, creepy Halloween-type atmosphere in this episode. Come on, the big cat? That’s pretty cool! Not to mention [SPOILER] the awesome puppets at the end of the episode, come on, if those don’t fire your imagination and make you want to go out to search for alien life, I don’t know what will.

    S.J., Esquire

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  9. This was my favorite episode other than the one where McCoy gets skewered by the medieval knight.

    I watched all of them on a small black and white TV back in the late 70s early 80s when they were syndicated (explanation for millenial readers – television’s used to offer cheaper black and white versions with extremely low resolution for proles, kind of like the screens on really cheap Androids vs your Galaxy 10 or iWhatever) and at the end, when in addition to everything disappearing (did you miss this part Lion?) the aliens are revealed to be these little puppets made of pipe cleaners or something. They look terrible in digital color.

    But on the black and white crappy TV you couldn’t rewind and watch again, they looked like cthulean horrors and I didnt even know what those were, so they were even scarier, and sadder in a way, because you only see these things as they are dying. They can’t live in the atmosphere or pressure or whatever and they just crumple up and die. KSMc just stand there and discuss what a weird scene the whole thing was and do nothing to help them. Just another highly evolved intelligence/speedbump on the journey of the USS Enterprise.

    You are right that as far as I recall they have no agenda, but maybe their agenda was too alien to comprehend.

    I rewatched the episode within the last year and it is pretty bad. But it’s always interesting to see something that you loved when you were a kid.

    Paul Rise

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • But on the black and white crappy TV you couldn’t rewind and watch again, they looked like cthulean horrors

      That’s a really great comment, many of us would never have thought of this.

      S.J., Esquire

      April 19, 2019 at EDT pm

  10. Also…why have you stopped doing Discovery reviews?

    Mike Street Station

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

  11. I find it difficult to find any animal scary.

    Sure if I had been a survivor of the Indianapolis I would have been worried about the sharks, way out there in the Pacific.

    And if I lived in a rat-infused city I would worry about dying from the plague.

    But those are limited circumstances.

    And if you leave those limited circumstances out of the calculation, I guess maybe some stupid 60s TV show claiming to present the concept of cats as frightening might be amusing.

    Cats are not scary. Never have been, never will be. Well, house cats, and barn cats, anyway. I guess lions and mountain lions and bobcats can give one a start, if one is not prepared to see them turning around a corner and looking at you in that scared and threatening way that one sees so often in the eyes of lions and mountain lions and bobcats, when they come around the corner and there you are and there they are.

    Doesn’t happen much in real life, to tell the truth.

    Howitzer Daniel

    April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • I’ve never encountered a lion outside of a zoo. Small stray cats are common. Either they run away from you, or beg for food. Neither behavior is very scary.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

    • “Sure if I had been a survivor of the Indianapolis I would have been worried about the sharks, way out there in the Pacific.”

      “You know the thing about a shark is he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at you, he doesn’t seem to be living. Until he bites you, and those black eyes roll over white and then…then you hear that terrible high-pitched screaming, the ocean turns red, and despite of all the pounding and the hollering, they all come in and they rip you to pieces”

      Oswald Spengler

      April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

      • Lion, you should do a movie review of Jaws. In the review, you could compare and contrast the America of 1975 with the America of today.

        Oswald Spengler

        April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

      • Interesting. Though it might be more about how Hollywood elites saw America in 1975.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 18, 2019 at EDT pm

      • ditto what Oswald said.
        Most of the people who worked on the movie were not elite at the time.
        Dreyfus and Spielberg later became elite.
        Williams already was elite.
        Shaw was what he was. And I am not sure what that was.

        howitzer Daniel

        April 19, 2019 at EDT am

  12. Cats are scary in those dreams where you live in a post-apocalyptic world and you need the cats to hang out with you and help you fight off the goddamn rats and the cats are all like

    what is in it for us?
    and the scary thing is they might just ditch you and not help you when the rats try to take over.

    Don’t get me started on how scary other animals can be, rats and cats are enough for one comment.

    howitzer Daniel

    April 19, 2019 at EDT am

  13. What a cute kitten. Is that the kitten you had once and gave back? I wonder where that cat is now.

    Sheila Tone

    April 19, 2019 at EDT am

  14. toomanymice

    April 19, 2019 at EDT am

  15. They had a reason. The transmutor made them human, with new senses and feelings. They encountered the landing party and adapted to their form. They must have abandoned their natural environment, natural or artificial, killing them. Cheap effects killed an interesting concept. The really alien are not Star Trek really. It’s usually made up humans. The OS had great writers. Paramount took over from Desilu, due to the legendary divorce of Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball. They went cheap.

    • There was an episode of Next Generation that explained why there were so many humanoid species in the Milky Way Galaxy. The gist of the episode was that the progenitor species (possibly the ancient race referred to in the original series as The Preservers) that was the remote ancestors of Humans, Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, etc. seeded the early biospheres of countless worlds with life forms derived from their DNA.

      Oswald Spengler

      April 19, 2019 at EDT pm

  16. Saw a cat come up to me once with a bird in its mouth. Slowly munched on it, heard the bones crunching. It was before I was a birdwatcher, so I don’t know the species, the bird was yellow, that’s all I remember. The occasion was that I was babysitting for a neighbor. I think the cat, owned by the family, was showing off to a stranger. The cat was nice, I don’t blame it for the killing. What a barbaric waste, though, because the cat was well fed.

    Anecdote

    April 20, 2019 at EDT am

  17. I love the way your example of a cat is a sweet little kitten and not a lion or tiger licking his chops after a kill.

    gothamette

    April 20, 2019 at EDT pm


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