Director: Joseph Pevney
Writer: Robert Bloch
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Antoinette Bower, Theo Marcuse, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Mike Barrier, John Winston, Rhodie Cogan, Gail Bonney, Maryesther Denver, and Jimmy Jones
Composer: Gerald Fried
Air Date: 10/27/1967
Production #: 60330
After hearing the ominous message of a dead crewman, Captain Kirk goes with Spock and McCoy to the planet Pyris VII, where the three officers encounter a host of macabre spectacles. Baffled by their surroundings, the landing party later discovers that an alien wizard named Korob (Theo Marcus) and his colleague Sylvia (Antoinette Bower) have constructed a ghoulish reality based on Terran folklore.
A flawed but underrated episode, “Catspaw” serves its purpose as a Halloween treat for Star Trek fans. Though goofy special effects are present, those who enjoy classic fright films will admire the spooky aspects of Robert Bloch’s narrative.
Crewman Jackson (Jimmy Jones) sets a foreboding tone when delivering his posthumous warning to the Enterprise captain. In the following scenes, a trio of disembodied witches, a black cat, and a medieval dungeon decorated with skeletons and iron maidens work to further accentuate the haunting atmosphere established earlier. By preying upon the primal fears of each (human) landing party member, these gothic elements pose a most unique challenge for Kirk and his crew.
“Catspaw” contains all the ingredients for a fascinating science fiction piece: aliens who feed on negative emotions, intergalactic travelers with the power to craft elaborate and terrifying illusions, and references to “Old Ones” who ordered the mission of said aliens. Unfortunately, none of these concepts are fully explored, leaving the motives of Sylvia and Korob forever shrouded in a layer of mystery. Therefore, while this episode includes many of the vintage horror themes that one would expect from a traditional creature feature starring Vincent Price or Boris Karloff, almost no attempt was made to balance visual scares with psychological terror.
In a similar fashion to “The Cage,” “Catspaw” places the protagonists in a situation where they must rely on pure intellect to overcome sensory deception. Granted, this premise was explored more intelligently in the series pilot, though Bloch should at least be commended for adding substance to an otherwise lighthearted Halloween special.
Despite many awful special effects, “Catspaw” is an entertaining, if not terribly profound, Star Trek episode. Science fiction enthusiasts may find the subject matter intriguing, while fans of classic horror movies will appreciate Bloch’s narrative for obvious reasons.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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