It occurred to me as I watched “Catspaw” that Sulu may be the crewman most likely to be brainwashed. It just keeps happening to that guy. Well, it happens here again. Alien forces brainwash Sulu again. At least this time, he gets company in the form of Scotty. Has anything brainwashed Scott before? I don’t know. Even episodes where something takes control of the entire crew, Scotty is generally not in the episode. Well, Scotty’s un-brainwashed streak comes to a close as the villain of this episodes takes him over too.
But this time around, we have the crew dealing with the biggest threat to the 23rd century–witchcraft.
Yes, witchcraft! The Enterprise is looking around a new planet, but the away team lost contact with the ship. Of the three, one random guy beams up only to die immediately. And then an alien force speaks out of the deadman’s mouth, warning everyone that the ship is now cursed unless they need to leave immediately.
Naturally, that won’t deter Kirk. He wants Scotty and Sulu back, so the only thing to do is beam down with Spock and McCoy. The planet’s surface is rather eerie. Spectral witch heads tell them to go away and everything. And then there’s this castle. Spock suspects there’s something there about the collective unconscious, but he refers to it as racial rather than Jungian. Point is, some force looked into the minds of the humans, got lost in the conscious mind, ended up in the subconscious mind, and pulling out the stuff that supposedly scares all humans on a deep-seeded level.
Seems kinda European to me.
Never mind. Not long after getting into the castle, Kirk and the others find a black cat. Spock explains that cats are the perfect killing machines, scary beyond belief. That all goes back to the sabretooth tiger.
OK, so, after the trio fall down a hole and end up trapped in a dungeon, they eventually meet one of the two residents of the castle. His name is Korob, and he seems to possess magical powers. Now, all things being equal, Korob is the nice one. No, the other resident is a woman, sort of, named Syliva. She was that black cat before.
OK, look, I know my cat wasn’t the cat in this episode. She’s a gray/silver colored cat. Sylvia the alien witch is a black cat. That’s a different color. Sure, Sylvia the witch of the episode attempts to seduce Kirk by showing how she can change her appearance, even her hair color, and…
Well, now that I suspect my cat is a Trek villain, what do Sylvia and Korob want? That’s hard to say. They need information because they don’t have science where they come from or something. So, yeah, I guess putting the whammy on Scotty makes sense. And if a member of the Command Trio has to go under, you know they’re going to put a spell on McCoy eventually (they do). But not Spock the science officer? Oddly enough, no. There’s no explanation given. They just decide to skip Spock. Sylvia, additionally, decides she thinks Kirk is hot.
So, yes, she tries to seduce Kirk, as women do and as I already mentioned above. Kirk does some nuzzling, but he doesn’t go all the way. She figures this out, and he actually asks her a good question during this scene: what does she even want?
Power. She wants power. That would be about the only thing I suppose Kirk could teach her. McCoy, Scotty, Spock, and Sulu depending on the episode all know more about science than KIrk has ever demonstrated. But hey, a starship captain probably understands a few things about power and responsibility. Presumably, Korob also wants this knowledge, but human form corrupted Sylvia. See, she likes hurting people now.
Korob does try to help Kirk and Spock by giving them a magic wand. Then Sylvia attacks as a giant black cat and my fluffy gray cat Silvia demanded catnip. When that doesn’t work, and a brainwashed Sulu tries karate (is that racist?), Sylvia again tries to sweet talk Kirk. He’s had enough, so he smashes the wand.
It turned out that the wand had the device that allowed Sylvia and Korob to access their vast mental powers and, uh, do stuff. The end result is the castle vanishes, the brainwashed are fine, Crewman Jackson is still dead, and Korob and Sylvia revert to their true form.
They look like some kind of alien dodos. Tiny, goofy-lookin’, and Kirk almost made out with one of them. Spock, ironically, suggests taking them for study before they both just…die. Considering the pair had done something similar to the crew, and I never even mentioned how Sylvia tried to cook the Enterprise from orbit, it sure seems weird Spock would suggest taking them for study..
Magic in a sci-fi setting is hardly new, but here it’s aliens wanting the human experience. Despite appearances, they never quite get there. Instead, one falls victim to humanity’s worst impulses, and while the script never says so directly, it does seem suspicious that it would be the female one to go that route. Yeah, I’ve read more than a few older sci-fi types stories that just assume the female would go the route of corruption in a situation like this. But no, we don’t quite get that here. It’s more coincidental. Or at least, it gives the episode an excuse to have the villain try to seduce Kirk.
So many women want to do that for some reason, even the alien dodo witch creatures.