Star Trek: The Original Series (1967) -The Doomsday Machine and Catspaw

Captain’s log: stardate unknow

The Doomsday Machine sent me on many adventures when I was a child. Written by Norman Spinrad, this episode had an original airdate of 20 October, 1967.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the stalwart crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise encounter terror in space. They arrive in a destroyed planetary system, and discover their sister ship, the Constellation, under the command of Matt Decker (William Windom), wrecked, almost beyond repair.

With a landing party composed of Scotty (James Doohan) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) they find the shattered Decker. A broken man, obsessed with the loss of his crew, and the thing that destroyed it, a massive, ancient planet-destroying machine.

And it’s got the Enterprise in its sights.

When Kirk and Scotty are stuck aboard the Constellation, Decker uses the opportunity to flex his rank and seize control of the Enterprise to go after the Doomsday Machine again, putting Spock and the crew, not to mention the ship, in harm’s way.

This episode was a bit of a bottle show, being shot on pre-existing sets to control the budget, but it was always a fun one for me. We get the Enterprise doing lots of fighting and flying, Kirk making decisions, and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy offering their advice and support.

I remember this one as child, and yes, I’m sure I missed out on a few lessons because of day dream adventures as I punched coordinates into my school desk, and firing phasers at enemies that only my imagination could see.

I was delighted in later years, after The Motion Picture came out that Will Decker (Stephen Collins) is Matt’s son.

When Kirk is back aboard the Enterprise, barely making it back, Decker slips back to command of the Constellation, to use it and himself to help stop the Machine once and for all.

Even as a kid, I was less than impressed with the design of the machine, but wouldn’t let that dissuade me from my enjoyment of the story. Nor would I let it steal away the fun I would have playing not just only at my classroom desk, but also the desk in my bedroom.

My room would serve as my own personal starship, and when I would step outside to play, I would have beamed down to a new planet, a Star Trek fanfare playing in my head as I stepped forward to explore.

Boy, these are fun to explore again.

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Captain’s log: stardate 3018.2

Catspaw is a Halloween episode, pure and simple. Written by Robert Bloch, perhaps best known for his novel Psycho, this episode first met the public on 27 October, 1967.

A pair of aliens, Sylvia (Antoinette Bower) and Korob (Theodore Marcuse), are trying to make contact with the inhabitants of our galaxy, and the Enterprise comes across them first. Unfortunately, they misunderstand us, and approach us through nightmare images, ghosts, witches, spooky castles, dungeons, skeletons, and apparently a lot of fog. They entrap the ship, and its crew, attempting to scare and control them.

Korob and Sylvia are villainous at first, playing their roles to the hilt, even threatening to destroy the Enterprise, until Kirk, Spock and McCoy find a way of stopping them. The trio beam down to the surface of Pyrus VII to investigate the disappearance of Scotty and Sulu (George Takei – who doesn’t have a single line of dialogue in this episode) only to find themselves in a nightmare world, and their friends controlled by the aliens – almost zombie-like.

Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) remain aboard the Enterprise with DeSalle (Michael Barrier) in the command chair, worrying over the fact that their fellows have all vanished, and they are unsure what to do. Chekov has more problems, he’s stuck in a Beatles wig, and probably the worst special effect in the episode.

Happily, the banter between the triumvirate is solid, fun, and lets the three play to their strengths.

Sylvia becomes enchanted with the idea of living in the human form she has chosen. She begins to desire the world of luxury and sensation, and of course, begins to feel an attraction to Kirk. The captain is happy to exploit that attraction if it frees his crew and ship.

I remember this being one of the first episodes I saw when I was a child. I don’t think it was anytime around Halloween, but I remember one Saturday morning watching this one from the safety of the couch, a pillow close at hand to clutch when I got too worried about the witches, or the possibility of something scary happening.

The reveal of the aliens at the end of the episode in their true form demonstrate how fear really works, it may seem big and terrifying, but it may in fact just be a little thing.

For the most part, for me, this is just a fun episode, and just a good romp. Kirk gets to be cool, Spock is his rational self, and Bones is always great. Something odd though… Kirk calls McCoy Doc a lot in this episode, instead of his usual nickname.

Next week, the Human Adventure continues…

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