|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.13 “Obsession” – (Original air date: Friday, December 15, 1967)

TrekObsession

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Obsession.”

  • On this date in history, the Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed, killing 46 people. Two people were swept away in the current of the Ohio River, and their bodies were never recovered.
  • This, however, did lead to the passing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, which required regular bridge inspections (at least every two years) and set national safety standards. So, there’s that, at least.
  • Two days before, on Wednesday, December 13, Jamie Foxx was born in Terrell, Texas. Back then, his name was Eric Marlon Bishop. Katie Holmes would be born 11 years later.
  • Tom Cruise was born five years before, as Thomas Cruise Mapother IV.
  • Daydream Believer,” by The Monkees, is still at the #1 spot in the US. There are other great songs in the Top-10. “Hello Goodbye,” by The Beatles, at #3. “I Second that Emotion,” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, at #4. “Incense and Peppermints,” by Strawberry Alarm Clock at #6. A good week.
  • Hello Goodbye” was #1 in the UK. I think they won this round.
  • The concept for this episode, by Gene Roddenberry, no less, was “Space Moby Dick.” That pretty much sums it up.
  • In this episode’s teaser, Captain James T. Kirk and First Officer Spock are conducting a survey of Argus X along with Ensign Rizzo, utility player Lt. Leslie, and an unnamed (and presumably unmourned) security guard.
  • Argus X is rich in tritanium, a mineral more than 20 times harder than diamond (21.4 times according to Spock).
  • Add that Trek mineral to the list, where tri-magnesite and trevium are already noted.
  • Kirk notices a sweet smell. I’ve heard that the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory. This certainly seems to be the case with Kirk, who orders his men to scan the area with their tricorders, specifically looking for traces of dikironium.
  • Dikironium is not a mineral. Apparently, it’s an element that doesn’t appear on our periodic chart yet.
  • The Enterprise is supposed to rendezvous with the USS Yorktown in eight hours. But, Kirk decides his investigation of the sweet odor on Argus X is more important at the moment.
  • Ensign Rizzo and the other two crewmembers encounter an odd cloud. When Kirk and Spock rush over to join them, they find Rizzo in critical condition and the other two officers dead.
  • Kirk gives an on-the-spot diagnosis. Every red corpuscle has been drained from the bodies of the men by the vampire cloud. It sounds like he’s had some experience with this.
  • I have to point out that one of the dead officers is Lt. Leslie, who continues to appear in episodes after “Obsession.” He must be an ancestor of the Winchester brothers. [*later edit — of course, I meant descendent, not ancestor.  It gets confusing when you’re talking about a fifty year old series set in the future.]
  • End of teaser.
  • In Act Two, we learn more backstory, as Kirk suggests that Dr. McCoy examine the “record tapes” of the USS Farragut from 11 years ago. They experienced casulties from identical causes back then.
  • Kirk is choosing to delay their scheduled rendezvous with the Yorktown to investigate his officers’ deaths further. They are supposed to get medical supplies from the Yorktown that are desperately needed on Theta VII.
  • This seems like uncharacteristic behavior for Kirk.
  • McCoy revives Ensign Rizzo with cordrazine so that Kirk can question him. This is the same stuff that McCoy overdosed on in “The City on the Edge of Forever” and lost his freakin’ mind for a while, until Edith Keeler was run down like a dog in the street.
  • Rizzo remembers a sickly sweet odor right before he was attacked.
  • Kirk leaves sickbay for the bridge, where Lieutenant Uhura reports an urgent message from Starfleet. Kirk chooses to ignore this “urgent” message for the moment.
  • Sensor scans failed to turn up any traces of dikironium. Spock hypothesizes that the cloud creature may be able to change its molecular structure.
  • Then we find out Ensign Rizzo has died. Bummer.
  • He is immediately replaced by Ensign Garrovick, who graduated from the Academy with Rizzo and was his friend. He has a personal stake in tracking down the creature who killed Rizzo.
  • Kirk also alludes to the fact that he knows who Garrovick’s father is. Not sure what that means yet.
  • Kirk beams back down to the planet along with Ensign Garrovick and four other security officers. They split into two parties. Garrovick’s party immediately runs into the cloud creature. Garrovick hesitates a moment before firing his phaser, and the cloud ends up killing one of the men in Garrovick’s party.
  • End of Act One.
  • As we get into Act Two, Kirk decides to lay on the crazy pretty thick. He’s convinced that this vampire cloud is the same one that wiped out the crew of the Farragut eleven years ago. He seems a bit obsessed about it. Wait…what’s the title of this episode again?
  • Kirk meets with Ensign Garrovick, along with Spock and McCoy, to hear his report about the vampire cloud. Garrovick even admits that he hesitated before firing.
  • Angrily, Kirk relieves Garrovick of all duties and confines him to quarters. McCoy believes this is a bit too harsh—which I must agree with—but Kirk doesn’t seem to care what his friends think.
  • Scotty tells Kirk that the Enterprise will be ready to leave orbit in a half hour. Kirk retorts that they will not be leaving orbit. When Scotty reminds his captain of their urgent mission to Theta VII, Kirk soundly chews him out and accuses all of his senior officers of conspiring against him.
  • Kirk backs off the conspiracy charge, just a little, but then snaps at Ensign Chekov because his haircut makes him look too much like Davy Jones, and Kirk can’t accept that “Daydream Believer” is #1 in the US.
  • Spock and McCoy talk about Kirk’s odd behavior behind his back, which is the recommended course to take when someone is suddenly acting paranoid. Spock tells McCoy that Kirk served as a lieutenant on the Farragut, under Captain Garrovick, when it was decimated by the vampire cloud eleven years ago.
  • Yes, Garrovick. He was Ensign Garrovick’s father, as it turns out.
  • It’s just a huge coincidence that Kirk is on the Enterprise when it is attacked by the same vampire cloud eleven years later. That the son of the captain of the Farragut happens to be on board at the same time, when we’ve never seen him before, is even beyond huge coincidence. That’s just super-fine writing.
  • End of Act Two.
  • In Act Three, McCoy meets with Kirk and they talk about a young officer experiencing the stress of his first real danger in action. Kirk naturally assumes McCoy is complaining about his snap decision to punish Ensign Garrovick. But, no, Bones is a wily ol’ country doctor. He was talking about a young Lt. James T. Kirk, assigned to phaser control on the USS Farragut. Kirk, like Garrovick, had hesitated before firing on the vampire cloud, and it had killed 200 crewmen, including the ensign’s father, Captain Garrovick.
  • Ah…the plot thickens.
  • It seems McCoy is preparing a medical log entry on Kirk’s emotional condition. He suggests Kirk’s own guilt is causing his current obsession with the vampire cloud. Spock appears as McCoy’s witness, since such a log entry requires a witness of command grade.
  • McCoy and Spock begin a formal questioning of Kirk’s actions, which he dismisses as unnecessary since he’s convinced the creature has intelligence. McCoy once again makes the point that Theta VII desperately needs the perishable medicines they are supposed to pick up from the Yorktown.
  • Why can’t the Yorktown deliver the supplies? I know, I’m not supposed to ask those sorts of questions.
  • Chekov interrupts this promising mutiny to announce that they’ve detected the vampire cloud and that it’s leaving orbit. Kirk calls for a red alert and the Enterprise chases the creature at Warp 8.
  • This drives Scotty crazy, naturally. They can’t maintain that speed for long. Kirk slows to Warp 6.
  • Then we get a scene of Nurse Chapel bringing Garrovick his dinner. She lies and says she has a prescription from McCoy that says one thing: “Eat.” Garrovick is still beating himself up for his rookie hesitation.
  • After Chapel leaves, Garrovick demonstrates his relative immaturity by hurling the cover to his dinner plate across the room. It strikes the ventilation controls. This becomes an important plot point in just a bit, I bet.
  • When Kirk declares the red alert, Garrovick violates orders and leaves his quarters to report to the bridge.
  • The alert is because the vampire cloud is attacking the ship. Phasers and photon torpedoes seem to be useless against it. It bypasses the shields and enters the ship through an impulse engine vent. From there, it gets into the ventilation system, killing one crewmember and injuring another.
  • This whole process leaves the crew with only two hours of remaining air supply.
  • End of Act Three.
  • As we dive into Act Four, we can be certain of a few things.
  • One, whoever wrote this crap wasn’t satisfied with the dramatic ticking clock represented by that disease-prone Theta VII colony, which desperately needs the medicine that the Yorktown can’t or won’t get to them in time. Nope. We had to go and give the crew of the Enterprise only two hours worth of air by jamming the ventilation system with a seemingly-intelligent vampire cloud.
  • And, two, Kirk’s guilt-fueled obsession has certainly made him less than fit for command at the moment, his questionable actions leading to at least one additional death and putting the entire ship in danger.
  • Finally, three, everyone knows Kirk is acting a bit irrationally. Even Nurse Chapel, who made some sarcastic remark about the captain to Ensign Garrovick, the son of one of the 200 crewmen Kirk feels he may have doomed eleven years ago. The chief medical officer and first officer certainly know as well, and seemed to be following protocols and doing something about it, but their hearts clearly weren’t in it.
  • Since this is the act where everything set up beforehand must finally pay off, Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and Scotty retire to the briefing room to discuss their current situation. Spock is now also convinced that the vampire cloud is intelligent, which makes the question of Kirk’s obsession an academic one.
  • See? His heart was never in relieving Kirk of command.
  • Our fearless leadership team determines that the best course of action is to flush the ventilation system with radioactive waste to drive out the creature.
  • That seems a little like killing a mosquito with an A-bomb. But, it is a very-Trek solution.
  • Spock, ever the logical one, also points out to Kirk that since the creature seems immune to phaser fire, his hesitation eleven years prior didn’t make a difference at all. Kirk says he’s not the crewmember who needs to hear that.
  • I think he means Garrovick, who just recently hesitated to fire his phaser.
  • You see how this is all coming together? Wait. There’s more.
  • Spock goes to deliver that needed message to Garrovick. Kirk was the one who overreacted, so he should be the one trying to make Garrovick feel better. For story reasons, it had to be Spock. Things’ll be more clear in a moment.
  • As Spock is in Garrovick’s quarters, that sickly-sweet smell signals that the vampire cloud is entering the room. Spock throws Garrovick out and attempts to reverse the vent.
  • As you may recall, the vent was previously jammed when Garrovick had his post-Chapel tantrum and struck it with his dinner cover.
  • Kirk saves the day by ordering the pressure reversed in Garrovick’s quarters.
  • It seems that Spock sacrificed his life to save everyone else. But, no, he didn’t. He emerges from the cabin unharmed. Since Vulcan blood is copper-based instead of iron-based, he was not affected by the creature.
  • McCoy quips that the vampire cloud didn’t like the way Spock tasted, which Spock admits is essentially a true statement.
  • The story’s not over, though. The cloud has left the ship and is zooming away at high warp speed. We have to go after it. And kill it.
  • This isn’t an obsession. It’s revenge!
  • It seems Kirk had a bit of psychic intuition and is suddenly certain that the vampire cloud is heading back to Tycho IV, where the Farrugut ran into it eleven years ago. For some reason, we are certain it’s about to have babies as well.
  • The plan is to blow up the creature with an antimatter bomb that needs two people to carry it. They are going to lure the creature with hemoplasm.
  • Spock volunteers to transport the device, which makes sense because of his immunity to the cloud’s powers, but Kirk overrules his first officer. Kirk and Garrovick are going to carry out this mission, and perhaps regain some of their self-respect in the process.
  • The vampire cloud consumes all of the hemoplasm before they can set the detonator. Kirk decides to use himself to lure the creature instead.
  • Garrovick mistakenly thinks Kirk plans to martyr himself to kill the creature, but that’s not the case. Kirk calls for the ship to energize the transporter and detonate the bomb at the same time.
  • Spock and Scotty have a hard time beaming the two back on board until Spock wisely switches from circuit A to circuit B. If I were in Starfleet, I’d ask for circuit B from now on.
  • After they are safely aboard, everything is all right in the galaxy again, except possibly on Theta VII, which desperately needed medical supplies several days ago.
  • Garrovick joins Kirk to hear old war stories about his late father. Meanwhile, in some other location, Lt. Leslie is lowered into a Lazarus Pit.

Obsession” is middle-of-the-road Star Trek, at best. The idea is okay, although it seems like several people, and perhaps the entire population of Theta VII, died needlessly over what was indeed an obsession of Kirk’s.

I enjoyed finding out a bit more of Kirk’s backstory. His survivor’s guilt over the Farragut incident goes a long way towards explaining why Kirk is the type of leader he is. The meat of this episode’s plot seemed to rely more than usual on coincidence, and the comparison of Kirk to Garrovick over their hesitant phaser fingers is a bit heavy-handed. Also a bit lopsided, since Garrovick feels guilt over one—maybe two—crewmen, while Kirk feels responsible for the deaths of over 200, including Garrovick’s father.

Plus, in all honesty, I wasn’t wild about Moby Dick in its original form, much less translated into science-fiction.

Obsession” gets 3-out-of-5 stars from me. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay.

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3 thoughts on “|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.13 “Obsession” – (Original air date: Friday, December 15, 1967)

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