Star Trek: The Original Series



Air date: 10/27/1967
Written by Robert Bloch
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to a planet to investigate the death of a crewman scout who beamed up from the planet, well, dead. What they find is literally a Halloween setting, complete with a ghostly greeting that seems to be straight out of a haunted house parody. Kirk & Co. subsequently locate the missing men from the first landing party—Scotty and Sulu in a catatonic state, under the command of two aliens with a great power of illusion, who have created the whole Halloween setting as a way of learning about humans.

The aliens, Korob (Theo Marcuse) and Sylvia (Antoinette Bower), slowly become at odds with each other, as Sylvia finds herself attracted to the sensations and experiences of humans—manifested, of course, through her physical attraction to Kirk. Meanwhile, the most wooden lieutenant in Starfleet (Michael Barrier) has command of the Enterprise, preventing the ship scenes from being particularly interesting.

"Catspaw" is a primarily gag-driven episode, with a hit-and-miss track record. Kirk's encounters with Sylvia are moderately interesting. But the episode is fundamentally formulaic, and lives and dies on each piece of its fragmented puzzle. As a lightweight adventure, it's okay; just don't look for much substance.

Previous episode: The Doomsday Machine
Next episode: I, Mudd

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11 comments on this review

Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 1:06am (UTC -5)
I grew up watching TOS, but I haven't watched all the episodes all the way through before like I'm doing now. I'm finding the whole second season to be kind of hit and miss--or, rather, swinging back and forth between brilliant and "meh." Sometimes they are just trying too hard, but when it all comes together, like in The Doomsday Machine, it's amazing. Thanks for your reviews!
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 9:28pm (UTC -5)
I havent watched this episode in quite some time and there is a reason; I dont want to.

I rate 1 star only because im still high from watching doomsday mach week before.
William B
Sat, Jun 14, 2014, 11:09am (UTC -5)
I just watched this. I found the first half to be almost intolerably dull -- maybe not "And the Children Shall Lead" or anything, but still pretty awful and airy and lifeless. It picks up a bit in its second half, but even then it's mostly just a series of Trek cliches. Korob's coming around is a little interesting, and it's interesting watching Kirk play Sylvia. The reveal of Korob and Sylvia's true form is a bit of a hoot as well. Still, I think this episode overall is hardly better than TNG's "Devil's Due," which has some similar elements (seductive master of illusion playing on people's fears, ship in jeopardy from below) or "The Squire of Gothos" (...master of illusion misrepresenting human society due to inaccurate info), and I'd put it below both of those. 1.5 stars, I guess.
John TY
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 8:50am (UTC -5)
Incredibly thin. I wish I could say this is as bad as it gets.
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:05am (UTC -5)
This is another one I liked as a kid but roll my eyes at now. But it was a cool adventure when you're 10.
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 9:32am (UTC -5)
Ludicrous. How this could follow the brilliance of the Doomsday Machine is beyond me. Somesort of Halloween special? It wasnt very 'special'. I did enjoy the ending though, ive never laughed so much at the actual forms of the fat bald bloke and the cat. What was that all about???
lt. holman
Mon, Feb 2, 2015, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
I gotta say this episode always stood out to me not in so much as the show but the music always stuck in my head in this one so everytime I hear the music played in other episodes I'm just looking for Kirk and spock to come around the corner with a giant black cat chasing them (mrooogh!!!) Always makes me smile :)
Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:48am (UTC -5)
"Captain. A little more alacrity, if you please."
Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
A Star Trek Halloween episode. No more and no less. Scary when I was a kid but pretty dull now. No big questions asked or answered. Just black cats and castles. There was one joke though. Sulu and Scotty were catatonic. Yuk Yuk. About a 1.5.
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Oh yeah, I agree this is a weak episode. When TNG did a "horror" episode, namely Night Terrors, it worked the horror into the plot. With this one, what point was there in all the horror elements? Spock talks about how this all relates to the human psyche at the subconscious level, but A) that doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the story, and it's never explained why Karob did it, and B) explain to me why black cats and medieval castles are part of the sub-conscience when it has nothing to do with surviving the African savannah? If they were trying to create a theme in that sense, it failed miserably.

What was the point of all of the horror? What was the purpose of Karob and Sylvia being here and dealing with the Enterprise crew? They try to warn the crew away with the curses and stuff, but then say they passed a test by still showing up. Then they ask about their technology, even though they can do far more. Also, Sylvia can apparently read their minds, so why not just learn everything from Scotty earlier? Then Sylvia starts being catty (har har) to Karob, and then starts trying to seduce Kirk while torturing the rest of the crew. OK, fine, that part works as a plot point, Sylvia falling for her new form, causing conflict between the two godlike beings. But it still doesn't explain all the riddles and mystery at the beginning. It doesn't explain what the purpose of it all is.

That's the problem, I think. It's a collection of scenes brought together in an attempt to be a Halloween episode, but with no logic and reason through it. Couple that with cheap effects and some obvious filler scenes on the Enterprise, and this is just bad.

Oh, by the way, what's with the most wooden engineer in the Federation (as Jammer called him) being in command? Doohan and Takei had virtually nothing to do as the brainwashed victims of Sylvia, why not leave one of them in command of the Enterprise? Kinda strange.
Tue, Feb 28, 2017, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
A disappointing episode, especially coming after "The Doomsday Machine" - but the Hallowe'en theme is appropriate given when it first aired.
Still, it's lots of gimmicks without much meaning; it's another twist on "The Squire of Gothos" or "Who Mourns for Adonais?" where more powerful beings that lack wisdom threaten the Enterprise crew. It's a well-worn formula; interesting soundtrack though.
I wasn't a fan of the redshirt (LaSalle? DeSalle?) who was left in command of the ship - there was a missed opportunity. Would have been better if Scotty was left in charge rather than being a zombie the whole episode.
Even the final scene wasn't that compelling - Why does Korob lose all his power? He has the transmuter. Then, Sylvia is pointing a phaser at Kirk who has the transmuter. Can't she stun Kirk and get the transmuter?
I'd give this episode 2/4 stars and I think that might be a tad generous as it was quite slow paced and only really got interesting about 40 mins. in.

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