Star Trek: The Original Series


3.5 stars

Air date: 12/15/1967
Written by Art Wallace
Directed by Ralph Senensky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Kirk becomes convinced that a gaseous cloud that is killing his landing-party crewmen is an intelligent creature—and the same intelligent creature that killed 200 crew members aboard the USS Farragut, on which Kirk served 11 years earlier.

"Obsession" is perfectly titled, showing Kirk at the mercy of his past when he makes the questionable decision of keeping the Enterprise in planetary orbit to search for this creature even while a vital rendezvous with the USS Yorktown has been requested. There's obviously a lot of guilt residing in Kirk's memory of the encounter 11 years ago—which is nicely demonstrated when he levies harsh discipline upon Ensign Garrovick (Stephen Brooks) for hesitating to fire phasers upon seeing the creature. Meanwhile, McCoy and Spock confront the captain for his unexplained decisions in a powerfully executed scene that exemplifies just how well the "big three" work together when the dialog is sharp and performances on target.

The plot is tight, the use of all the characters is effective, and the punchy finale and exciting Sol Kaplan score sends the show out just right. But it's the study of Kirk's feelings of that terrible encounter long ago that sets "Obsession" well above average.

Previous episode: The Deadly Years
Next episode: Wolf in the Fold

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43 comments on this post

Sun, Apr 1, 2012, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
I consider this to be one of TOS's unsung gems, right up there with "City on the Edge of Forever", "Doomsday Machine" and "Enterprise Incident".

Really, stripping the episode down to a straightforward action premise only made it better. I love TOS-style morality plays, but I also love well-executed action shows too.

What is there to be said? Everything is pitch-perfect. Shatner does an excellent job of portraying an obsessed Kirk, which goes to show how much mileage you can get out of acting if you put genuine passion into it (1st season TNG could have learned from this, although I see they are slowly getting better). The development of Ensign Garrovick (one of the few redshirts to not die within the first 10 minutes--GASP--blasphemy!) was very well done, for a disposable secondary character. Of course, the guy playing him was excellent too at portraying a young, inexperienced person.

And the music. Even though you can hear where it was reused from previous eps, it's still very effective, energetic and powerful. 1st season TNG could learn from this too (I'm currently going through it right now).

And of course, this ep is also awesome because it holds the record for number of redshirts killed in one ep- 2 guards and Rizzo, then one wounded and one dead, then another wounded and another dead when the creature entered the Enterprise. 2 wounded, 5 dead at the end.

And, it gave us the classic McCoy line "What a stupid way to travel! Spilling a man's molecules all over the damned universe!". Heh.

All in all, 4 stars.
Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 8:31am (UTC -5)
One of the better season 2 episodes.
Sat, Dec 21, 2013, 9:38am (UTC -5)
I'm wondering if the antagonist entity in this episode served as inspiration for LOST's smoke monster, especially considering the famous redshirt reference in one of the episodes
Thu, May 22, 2014, 3:47am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode. Great use of the cast. I know he was off filming the green beret, but this episode would had been perfect if it was sulu instead of garavick
William B
Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
I quite like this one, too. It's interesting to compare/contrast this one with "The Doomsday Machine," which has a pretty similar basic plot -- Kirk/Decker obsessed over sentient gaseous cloud/sentient planet eater which is a stand-in for all evil (or the devil!), as a result of the deaths of an entire crew in the distant/immediate past, obsessed to the point where they threaten the security of the Enterprise and Spock has to step in (or consider stepping in); ultimately, the obsession proves to be at least partly right -- in that this creature is dangerous enough that it needs to be stopped. The similarities are probably because both are presumably variations on Moby-Dick (...a work that Trek returns to often). The biggest differences are:

1) Decker's guilt is based on his feelings of responsibility as *captain*, whereas Kirk's are based on a somewhat exaggerated sense of importance as brash young lieutenant on his first mission;

2) Decker is in the first blush of guilt and madness as a result of the loss of his crew, whereas Kirk has "mostly" moved on from this incident in the intervening years, except insofar as the "knowledge" of his "failure" has gotten in deeper into his view of himself;

3) ultimately, Decker sacrifices himself/is sacrificed by the narrative in order to get to the true solution -- whereas Kirk and Garrovick find a way to escape death (even though there were lots of other redshirts who died beforehand!)

I think that as entertainment and in terms of mythical stature, "The Doomsday Machine" stands above "Obsession," even though we don't know Decker as well as we know Kirk. Certainly the impact on me is greater. And I think that a big part of it *is* that the episode walks a delicate line with whether or not Decker's obsession is a good thing and, indeed, whether his *guilt* is justified. If we view his obsession as purely destructive and pointless, then his death is something like a (narrative) punishment for his obsession. If his feelings of intense guilt over the deaths of his crew are justified, then he sacrifices his life as something of a deliberate attempt to restore the karmic balance -- he "deserves" to die with his crew, even if he does so afterward. But he also gives Kirk, who stands outside Decker's obsession, the clue to how to destroy the planet-eater, and the sacrifice of the Constellation (and the last remnant of Decker's command) is what finally destroys the planet-eater. Decker is the genuine hero of the piece, and the tragic hero, rolled into one, and the episode ends up, IMO anyway, going beyond a simple yes/no on whether Decker's attitude toward the planet-eater and feelings that *he* should have gone down with his crew were justified.

In this episode, by contrast, it's pretty much stated outright that Kirk and Garrovick are wrong to beat themselves up, full stop. Blaming themselves is pointless and even selfish/self-pitying (as Chapel and Spock both point out). I think that the episode's argument is that Kirk/Garrovick are clouded by emotion stemming from their own guilt, and they leave themselves open to the gas attack in ways related to their problems -- obsession in Kirk's case leads him not to fix the impulse engine thing that Checkov points out, which allows the cloud to get into the ship, and Garrovick's anger which leads him to toss an object across the room and switch the air filter to bypass allows the creature to get at him directly. This contrasts with Decker's self-recrimination having some positive outcomes, even if it's hard to say for sure whether Decker was right or not. I think it's partly because of this overall argument of *this* episode, that Kirk and Garrovick are too hard on themselves, that the episode has a happier and ultimately less costly ending than "The Doomsday Machine" does: Kirk and Garrovick, and the crew in general, make it out in one piece, and Kirk and Garrovick are both cleared of their guilt. Sucks to be one of the redshirts from earlier in the episode (or the crew of the Farragut), but for the most part Kirk just needed to ease up on himself.

And the thing is, I agree with this episode's perspective much more: I think in general it's wrong to beat oneself up over a momentary hesitation or mistake, to the extent that Kirk and Garrovick do, and that self-forgiveness is important. That said, that Decker (and the Constellation) have to be destroyed for the planet-eater to be taken down is a lot more narratively satisfying to me, even though it doesn't align as closely with my worldview.

The episode does have a bit of an ambivalent attitude about Kirk's obsession -- certainly his emotionalism, his snapping at his crew, his harsh treatment of Garrovick, his ignoring the need to transport the medicine, are all negative traits in and of themselves, and I think we're meant to be pretty strongly sympathetic to Spock and McCoy that Kirk is acting crazy. But Kirk is basically right that this creature needs to be destroyed, that it is more dangerous than it seems, and he's right that it has space travel which makes it a bigger threat. Even Kirk/Garrovick's mistakes which allow the creature onto the ship and into Garrovick's quarters lead to the solution indirectly. I think the idea is that Kirk needs to sort out which parts of his intuition about the creature are true and which are false, and there is some validity to his quest and some irrationality.

In that vein, I do like that the episode portrays Kirk as somewhat, but not all *that*, unhinged. He comes across badly to his crew, because his obsession is destructive, but also because he is embarrassed about his guilt and the emotional basis for some of his decisions, and so waits until actually confronted by Spock and McCoy to give his rational reasons for pursuing the creature. I like also that Kirk recognizes when he actually crosses a line (as in when he apologizes to Scotty after accusing his senior staff of conspiring against him). I do think that Kirk's obsession is still a tiny bit overplayed -- this is a man who took his own brother's death pretty much in stride back in "Operation -- Annihilate!", for instance -- but overall the episode makes some effort to temper Kirk's behaviour.

Anyway, this is a very good show -- the comparison to "The Doomsday Machine" popped out at me because the episodes are so similar, and I think the comparison suggests to me why I find "Obsession" just a tad lacking. However, falling short of one of the series' absolute best episodes is hardly a slam. I think 3.5 stars is my rating for this episode too.
Fri, Mar 27, 2015, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Totally agree, this is easily a top 10 episode from the original series. I've read reviews on other sites that didn't like this episode because of the "cheesy" special effects, but those are people in my opinion who just don't get Star Trek. Watch the episode in remastered version, and it's even better because the better special effects serve what is already a great story. Loved this one!
Trek fan
Thu, Oct 13, 2016, 1:28am (UTC -5)
Four star episode for me and I'm not sure why Jammer didn't give it the same, as his review contains no criticism or negative comments about it. This episode is the perfect blend of moralizing Star Trek with action-based Star Trek, covering themes of guilt and obsession within a tightly wound plot that never drags or gets boring. Many episodes of TNG, mired in talky moralizing, could learn from the tense pace of this one. And many generic action-adventure episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, stuffed with forgettable shoot-em-up filler material, could learn from the well-scripted conversations about moral responsibility that give the action meaning here. "Obsession" is Star Trek done right, at the top of its game.
Tue, Jan 17, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
Bones and Spock confronting Kirk over his obsession was probably my favorite scene in this episode. The easy way out would be for the writers to make an appeal of friendship, to have Bones and Spock acquiesce to Kirk despite thinking he's in the wrong. It would be for Kirk to make a plea that this is something he has to do, something to ease his soul, and for the other two to think about what's best for Kirk instead of what's best for the ship. Instead, the scene and the dialogue has everyone behaving professionally and competently. Bones goes to Kirk first as a friend, but when he doesn't get quick reassurances of his doubts, he instead moves to a formal questioning. His line of questioning is perfectly reasonable given the behavior that Kirk had been showing. And yet... Kirk responds just as professionally. He lays out a case for why he is pursuing the creature. And even though that case has a lot of assumptions built in, Spock agrees that his logic is sound if those assumptions are correct. And since it is difficult to question the captain's gut instinct, Bones and Spock are forced to go along with Kirk's argument. But Bones isn't 100% convinced, and is willing to keep Kirk's demeanor an open question. If Kirk continues to seek out the monster when and if the assumptions are proven incorrect, he makes it clear he will act accordingly. And, naturally, when the assumptions prove more true than false, Spock is more than ready to follow Kirk's approach.

Also, one thing that works for this episode was that it wasn't a simple revenge tale. Kirk's motive was redemption, not revenge. He feels he screwed up all those years ago, and this was his way to atone for that mistake. And perhaps the episode is saying that the drive for redemption is even more powerful than anger, and can be just as destructive. But while Kirk's need for redemption is nearly complete, he still has the presence of mind that he could be too emotional, he could be making a mistake. And yet, again, there's enough probable deniability that Kirk is doing the right thing that he continues... but we never really know just how clear-headed he is or if he really is obsessed. It's that nice bit of uncertainty that helps move the episode along.

Well, that being said, I think the episode does suffer somewhat coming after Doomsday Machine, which I agree with William B was a better episode with very similar themes. The overall feel of this episode was ok, but there were a few minor points that bugged me. People kept name-dropping the word obsession way too much. The subplot with the ex-captain's kid didn't really go anywhere and didn't add too much to the story. The cliche that the Enterprise had to rendezvous with someone to give away critical medical supplies is a bit annoying as well. And, once again, Spock's Vulcanness ends up saving the day, or at least saving him (and what's with Spock trying to keep a cloud from coming through the vent by covering it with his hands?). Minor issues, yes, but well, it's enough to keep it from being a true classic. Still a good one though.
Fri, May 19, 2017, 3:18pm (UTC -5)
Great episode that combines the portrayal of guilt/obsession and some good, credible action. It's a compelling tale that shows the power of the Big 3 when McCoy/Spock confront Kirk over his obsession. Well written, well executed.
We do get to see Kirk's obsessive side like in "Operation -- Annihilate!" -- it's well-done. And a junior redshirt Garrovick getting to play an important role was good to see for a change - the episode also gives us the chance to understand well his frustration and desire to get things right.
I just question right at the start of the episode - if Kirk's so sure of what he's dealing with and he sends 3 redshirts to go check out the monster, doesn't he realize they will likely get killed? I guess he hopes they get a chance to fire a phaser at it.
And flushing radioactive waste through the ventilation system? Isn't that hazardous to the crew? Does the cloud creature need to be able to travel at high warp?
I did like hearing the Doomsday Machine score at the end - that is classic tune. Really emphasizes the impending danger.
Some very minor nitpicks for a terrific episode - shows how good TOS can be with the Big 3 at their best and compelling contributions from 2ndary actors.
3.5/4 stars for me.
Lennie K.
Wed, Oct 18, 2017, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode because it really shows off William Shatner's acting ability. Watch his face closely in certain scenes. When Scotty tells Kirk that they can't maintain speed as they pursue the creature, Kirk just glances at him annoyed and goes right back chasing the creature. Also, when Kirk tells Garrovick it would have made no difference whether he delayed firing or not, look at Kirks face, as he says "it would have made no difference, not then, or 11 years ago." Shatner was amazing in his evocation of complex emotions, and he does not get the credit he deserves for his fine acting.
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 8:08am (UTC -5)
Just a very bad day at the office if you ask me.
Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 5:12pm (UTC -5)
A much better episode than the previous one.
Tue, Feb 6, 2018, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
Obsession is definitely among my top 5. The use of time honored precepts of command bolster a first rate representation of human frailty vs duty.
Joe Menta
Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 8:33am (UTC -5)
Great episode. For some reason, though, Netflix is showing the original version, without the new special effects (all the other episodes they’re showing feature the new effects). Not that the original effects are bad.
Sat, Oct 20, 2018, 4:41pm (UTC -5)
Kirk yet again gives the giant space salute (which resembles a 20th century middle finger) to colonists who are dying and desperately need medical supplies. Seriously, why do Starfleet keep giving him these missions? At least this time he has an actual motive, other than "Screw the plague victims, this is a NEBULA damn it, we must scan it for three days". And Kirk's motive - his traumatised obsession - is well played. However when Janeway acted the exact same way when pursuing Equinox or trying to defeat 8472, people made Youtube videos talking about what a clueless arsehole she is. It's obvious that episodes such as Obsession inspired the Voyager writers, with Chakotay and Tuvok taking the roles of McCoy and Spock. And yet nobody bemoans the TOS characters. Maybe because in Obsession, Kirk realises he was wrong, whereas Janeway never learns.

It was good to see Spock going to McCoy of all people for advice. Then again, who else could it have been? No wonder Spock is such an iconic character: TOS would still be a good show without him, but with him, there are many episodes that will still be worth watching a hundred years after they were made. And that scene led into another excellent scene between McCoy and Kirk. It's strange that in this show which callously murders or disregards human life, there is so much humanity. That again led to the confrontation where Kirk's officers try to beat logic into the head of a man driven by emotion.

TOS was more character driven than later Trek in which the characters are simply there to advance the plot. It also featured some truly alien monsters, probably more in all of TOS than in TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT combined.

Knowing that redshirts will be murdered left right and centre creates genuine threat, leading to sustained tension. There is a hostile and unfriendly feel to some of these strange new worlds. I am unhappy with the callous disregard for their lives but here we have a redshirt with a personality. He plays his part in making this episode excellent.

No sign of time travel either, hooray! Unless you count Kirk's memories as time travel.

I have my share of criticism for TOS. But I keep coming back to one question: how come the other Trek shows weren't more like TOS?
Alex Boyd
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
A good episode that somehow did not make it on to either the Best of Kirk collection that's out there or the Captain's Log collection.
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Very good episode, one of two a star trek version of moby dick.The other was the doomsday machine.
Fri, May 10, 2019, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Well, I've been watching but gotten way behind in commenting.

Just not really inspired by these eps.

Not a huge Kirk fan, and this ep is very Kirk focused. Lots of good stuff, lots of silly stuff - average overall, maybe slightly above.
Sarjenka's Brother
Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 8:01pm (UTC -5)
Wow -- much better than I had remembered. One of the few of TOS that I had not seen since the 1970s.

The Big Three really standout in this episode, but the supporting players and guest stars turn in strong performances as well.

The episode has a quality to it you don't see again until DS9. It's pretty dark -- in a good way.
Thu, Jun 25, 2020, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
:great Episode, no 'Bones" about it!
Love Kelly's performance in this. Filled with righteous rage to stop nefarious Kirk obsessions
Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 4:35am (UTC -5)
Just watched this episode and, really, go back and rewatch it and tell me that you don't hear John Williams' score for Jaws in the music when the gas cloud appears, particularly towards the end. Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum...

Anyway, great episode.
Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 8:52am (UTC -5)

That music is from Sol Kaplan's original score for "The Doomsday Machine" -- frequently re-used in Season 2 episodes and yes "Jaws" definitely borrowed from it, however I don't think too many realize Williams' score wasn't truly original. Kaplan didn't get all the credit he deserved.
Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 8:54pm (UTC -5)

I'm watching "The Doomsday Machine" now and I'm hearing it again. Not sure if Williams copied the music or just ended up with something similar in the quest to build tension, but I agree completely, it's great score.
Fri, Dec 18, 2020, 10:05pm (UTC -5)

Star Trek season 2 episode 13

"Intuition, however illogical, Mister Spock, is recognized as a command prerogative.”

- Kirk

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen eventually: I actually agree with @Jammer’s rating for an episode ;-) Though after two decades and hundreds of reviews, the chances of absolutely no agreement were fast approaching zero.

This is peak TOS.

Not peak Star Trek. Not even a memorable episode. But here is The Original Series with every single crew member finally and completely a fully realized character. After 42 episodes, or roughly 2 seasons of a TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT era trek, we at last have a cast of characters we can be proud of.

This is the crew, Scotty, McCoy, Spock and, yes, Kirk, that will take us forward for another season and a half, and a half dozen movies thereafter. And from whom we still draw inspiration today.

In this episode, Kirk finally has a crew that is completely capable of overruling him within their specific area of expertise, while completely respecting the man and his uncanny ability to command. Let’s take our crew one-by-one.

Scotty. No histrionics. No shouting “she canna take-a anymore, cap-ain” nonsense. Just a cool, calm matter of fact statement on the bridge,

SCOTT: Captain, we can't do it. If we keep this speed, we'll blow up any minute now.

On the modern versions of Star Trek, we’ve grown accustomed to the Captain (think Janeway) responding with something like “Just a little bit longer. Hold it until I say so. She’ll hold, trust me.” And then getting through whatever scenario there is, before finally cutting off the engines. I almost couldn’t believe it when Kirk - clearly pained to do it - reduces speed with these simple words,

KIRK: Go to warp six.

Kirk is a better Captain because he has Scotty, a man whose judgment he can trust.

McCoy, thanks to his “simple country doctor” shtick, and his long association with Kirk, is able to discuss truths with his Captain another man might justifiably hesitate to, lest it hurt his career. Not even Beverly had that relationship with Picard. For that, Picard need Guinan. They tried to give Sisko Dax, but it didn’t really work on screen. Terry Farrell just didn’t have it in her. Janeway didn’t listen to anyone (with all due respect to @NoPoet). At least Archer had Trip, and frankly, even T’Pol. Don’t even get me started on Discovery. Let’s stay focused here.

It is from McCoy’s conversation with Kirk that we get the title of the episode,

KIRK: I can't help how I feel. There's an intelligence about it, Bones. A malevolence. It's evil. It must be destroyed.

MCCOY: To be so obsessed.

KIRK: Obsessed?

MCCOY: That you could destroy yourself, your career, a young boy who reminds you of yourself eleven years ago.

KIRK: Don't push our friendship past the point where I have to take official.

MCCOY: I'm not, Jim. This is professional, Captain.

It is not that McCoy is right, or Jim is right. It is that it is right - and good, and healthy, and necessary - for them to be having this conversation. This conversation is what makes Jim a great leader. He doesn’t have to change his mind (he doesn’t). He just has to keep good men around him who he can trust share the same interest he does - the good of the ship.

Which brings us to Spock.

Spock has the biggest breakthrough in this episode in maybe his entire relationship with Kirk. Big words, I know. Let me try and back that up.

Just last week in "The Deadly Years,” Spock hesitated. He flinched. He did not want to relieve his Captain of his command. Had Spock done so when Commodore Stocker first approached him in the corridor, the crew and Kirk would have been spared a lot of the ordeal of the episode, and we would have been spared the tedious courtroom drama.

Well, I’m happy to report, Spock has learned his lesson. Who says TOS had no continuity?

KIRK: Do I take it, Doctor, Commander, that both of you or either of you consider me unfit or incapacitated?

SPOCK: Correctly phrased, Captain. As recommended in the manual. Our reply, also as recommended, is, sir, we have noted in your recent behaviour certain items, which, on the surface, seem unusual. We respectfully ask permission to inquire further

KIRK: Blast it! Forget the manual! Ask your questions.

I’m happy to report that Spock, one of the most intelligent officers in the Fleet - but an officer with little command experience ("The Galileo Seven” was his first command), has learned his lesson. Granted Spock learned it the hard way in last week's “The Deadly Years.” And it almost cost them the ship. But he learned it. And henceforth, and for the rest of the many decades we will see Kirk and Spock together, Spock never hesitates to bring his concerns about the Captain to the Captain.

That’s what we call growth.

With Scotty, McCoy, and Spock at his side, is there anything Kirk cannot do?

Before I close out this love letter to an unimportant episode in the grand Trek saga, a quick word about the handsome young Ensign Garrovick.

Before this episode, my favorite moment on The Original Series had been way back in "The Corbomite Maneuver” when Bailey, who had initially freaked out when faced with eminent destruction, returns to die at his post, and Kirk allows it,

BAILEY: Request permission to return to post, sir.

KIRK: Permission granted.

In a lot of ways, Kirk is a very forgiving leader.

We see a little of that forgiveness with Picard, the way he treated Ensign Sato in light of her actions as a cadet in “The First Duty”. But then, Picard was getting ready to send Sato to her death (in Chain of Command). We see a little of that with Sisko and Nog. And god knows Janeway gave Seven every opportunity to fuck up and be forgiven. But Seven wasn’t Star Fleet (and neither was Nog, at first). I think Kirk is unique in his leadership, in accepting the humanity of the men and women under his command - their failings, their mistakes - and forgiving them.

In “Obsession” we see that in forgiving his men like Ensign Garrovick, Kirk is also able, finally, to forgive himself.
Mon, Feb 15, 2021, 9:12am (UTC -5)
This ep is just kinda annoying, he should have just stuck a warning buoy on it, gone the 8 hours or less to the rendevouz point, saved the hundreds of thousands of people very much dying and then gone back to deal with his obsession. I feel like Kirk also very much underprepared his crewmen, if the cloud was that dangerous wouldn't you have a dozen beam down, tight circle facing outwards, fully briefed on what it can do and how fast, really drilled in to fire straight away... Why send 3 guys down to bumble cluelessly around and then get annoyed when they fuck up? Or better yet, study it from afar so you'd know the phasers did f all without losing crewmen to test the theory.
Mon, Apr 12, 2021, 2:03am (UTC -5)
KIRK: I have far.

KIRK: Too many.

KIRK: Redshirts. I MUST.

KIRK: Find SOME... way, to

KIRK: Reduce... their....

KIRK: Numbers.

Don’t share the general approval of this episode. Apart from Shatner’s melodramatic histrionics, the whole business of sacrificing colonists (and why - given the circumstances - couldn’t the Yorktown have met with the Enterprise at a convenient midpoint to transfer the vaccines?), and the general acceptance that it was fine to destroy an intelligent lifeform, I just can’t see the good points.

That’s not to say there aren’t redeeming features. Spock and Bones are excellent, though I did laugh out loud at Spock believing he could stop a gas coming through a grating by pressing his hands against it! Garrovick is also good, as is Nurse Chappell.

In all I can’t give this much more than 2 stars.
Sun, May 30, 2021, 1:17am (UTC -5)
Some say Kirk should've stuck to the mission to rendezvous with the Yorktown, a fair point. But Spock later said evidence showed the creature was about to spawn and reproduce by the thousands, so that potential threat has to be taken into account.

A great story, script, great direction--I noticed the tight editing--and I enjoyed Kirk's acting and facial expressions, especially how intensely he watched as he gave the order to fire phasers and photon torpedoes at the creature. Lennie K. referred to that.

Spock's encounter with the cloud in Garrovick's quarters reminded me of Spock fixing the main reactor in Wrath of Khan, and then Kirk says, "Mister Spock, why aren't you dead?" similar to that film.
Fri, Dec 31, 2021, 5:52am (UTC -5)
This episode shows James T. Kirk at his best - and worse. Kirk ignoring a crucial mission to resolve a regrettable event that killed his Captain was warranted. The captaincy is after all the most coveted in Starfleet.
Why McCoy didn't know this nugget from Kirk's psychological file, or Kirk sending a medical team in a shuttle with the vaccine as insurance was puzzling. The mass murder of Red Shirts was unemotional without ANY remorse from Command. The unexplained telepathy of Kirk with the creature might have been explained as a telepathic link to justify it stopping in Space and attacking upon feeling Kirk's relentless obsession. I also felt not showing the Enterprise from the Cloud Creature's perspective in Space was a missed opportunity of suspense.
Minor criticisms aside, Shatner's portrayal of Kirk was compelling. The scenes wiith Spock and McCoy was the second best in the series (after Gallilao Seven). My habit before playing 'Obsession' is to first watch the interaction of Spock and McCoy in Kirk's quarters. Surprisingly the secondary obsession of Garrovick to prove himself to Kirk's worked within the plot . An underrated solid 3.5 gem, but I had to smile at the thought of Jammer writing his review on the back of an envelope.
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 12:59am (UTC -5)
I agree, Bones and Spock confronting Kirk is quite a striking scene.

For sure, part of it is how continually the writing avoids numerous expected tropes that it's like walking through a trope minefield. When Bones let Spock in after chatting for a few minutes with Kirk, I literally rolled my eyes thinking he'd tricked him.

But, no, it was simply Bones and Spock being prepared because they anticipated Kirk's response, and they forced him to meet with them.

It's all very convincing that these guys really are professionals that are also friends yet have to deal with a very touchy professional problem.

I'm not sure TNG ever did an officer disagreement this well.

It's nice going back and watching TOS. A great many I haven't seen in over 30 years, so I'd forgotten a lot of gems like this.
Mon, May 9, 2022, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
I’m with Skeptical and Silly - great scene of Bones and Spock confronting Kirk.

One thing I can’t find online or in the episode dialogue — an antimatter explosion is just a really big explosion, right? They made it clear that the cloud could dodge photon blasts by essentially phasing out for a few seconds, so how was this different? Simply a larger, longer duration blast?
Tue, May 24, 2022, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
Ok, everybody got relieved by the (pretty unsurprisingly) fact that a phaser wouldn't kill a cloud but uhn... you know, that doesn't change the fact that Garrovick had only one job and hesitated when the time came.
Mon, Sep 26, 2022, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
This is an excellent episode. As the title suggests, it’s focused on psychology, interaction and character development. The confrontation between Kirk, Spock and McCoy in Kirk’s quarters is a brilliant scene: well written, superbly acted by all three, and with some great camera work which underlines the sense of intimacy and friendship at the beginning and beautifully shifts to a more distant angle when Spock and McCoy start questioning Kirk.

I also appreciate the importance given to Garrovick: the presentation of his background and his actions really add to the story because they help to understand Kirk’s motives. Their relationship has a personal element: on the one hand, Kirk sees himself in the same role that Garrovick’s father had once assumed towards him, a relationship characterized by the difference in age and rank; on the other hand, Kirk sees Garrovick as a mirror image of his younger self in a similar situation. He judges his own actions as a young officer on the Farragut and Garrovick’s actions on the planet by his standards as a commander and condemns both as insufficient. By punishing Garrovick for his hesitation to fire on the creature, Kirk vents on him his frustration and the guilt he is still feeling for his failure on board the Farragut. In his defense, I do think he is aware how unfair this is, long before McCoy rubs it in.

One more thing that struck me when I read Hardy’s comment above: the episode does indeed heavily imply that the cloud creature possesses some kind of telepathic ability to which Kirk seems to be receptive. He says: “I could feel the intelligence of the thing. I could sense it thinking, planning”, and as he can’t explain it, he seems to be a bit uneasy about it. In contrast, Rizzo and Garrovick deny having been in subconscious contact with the creature (they don’t even understand the question). When he tells McCoy, the doctor dismisses this as hallucinations of a half-conscious mind, which probably doesn’t encourage Kirk to express himself further on the subject, for fear of ridicule. It is interesting that Spock, who declaredly does have mental powers, is far less dismissive; he matter-of-factly asks if Kirk believes he’s in communication with the creature and accepts the answer (“I don't know what it is (…) It may not be communication as we understand it, but I did know it was alive and intelligent, and I think I know something else now.”) as a fact. As the episode moves on, Kirk seems to gain some confidence in the impressions he receives from the creature, up to the point where he bases his decision to attack it on what he eloquently calls “intuition”… just to be confirmed not long afterwards by Spock’s conclusion that the creature will reproduce.

Is this supposed to mean that Kirk himself has some latent telepathic abilities? I don’t really think that this was the writers’ intention… it seems more like a necessity, to explain how they know about the creature’s intentions, but nevertheless, that’s an interesting thought. It would indeed explain a lot about Kirk’s extraordinary sensitivity to people, his insight, his ability to understand others, to outthink them by anticipating their reactions, to impose himself on and influence them.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Tue, Dec 27, 2022, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
The one interesting part of “Obsession” is when Kirk is telling McCoy (and later Spock as well) that the cloud-creature is malevolent, intelligent and evil. It’s unclear whether Kirk knows this for sure or else is simply anthropomorphizing and applying human-centered “motives” to a force of nature. Is it really a goddamn sentient gas cloud, or is it just a simple predator acting on instinct or even just a really mean hurricane? It's a striking moment and interesting to think about. In fact when they encounter the cloud soon afterward in space, it still isn’t clear. Kirk sees cunning in its propulsion system, while Spock just sees efficiency. Of course, the episode flushes all this “academia” down the toilet a few scenes later when the damn thing turns around to attack them (Shatner’s told-you-so expressions are priceless, especially when he grins after McCoy admits he was wrong). Normally I applaud such black-and-white, good-and-evil simplicity, but here it doesn’t make for a particularly rich story.

This kill-the-monster tale isn’t so much about revenge as it is about redemption, but while that’s a somewhat different spin on the trope, it still doesn’t make Kirk’s “obsession” any more or less reasonable. It’s clear that we’re meant to wonder if Kirk’s command decisions may be discolored by his tunnel vision. It’s so clear that Kirk even explains this in dialogue for us, flat out: “Have I made a rational decision? Am I letting the horrors of the past distort my judgment of the present?” Jesus H. God, why don’t you explain the color of your uniform and the length of your hair for us, too, because apparently the writers have decided we're too stupid to comprehend what’s right in front of us. This is where “Obsession” gets clumsy. Try looking for subtlety and nuance in Star Trek. With the far superior Beowulf and Moby Dick before it, is “Obsession” adding anything thoughtful to the genre, really?

Still, William Shatner was wonderful. No one can milk the tension like he can. Check out the moment that Scotty emphatically warns Kirk that keeping up their speed could tear the ship apart. For a couple of beats, we’re fixed on Kirk who is almost wrestling with competing thoughts inside his mind and struggling to arrive at an immediate decision (which he finally does, to give him credit), and Shatner uses just his eyes and breathing to convey Kirk’s sense of weighty desperation.

“Obsession” took its best shot, but it seems like there was a better story buried somewhere in here.

Speak Freely:
Spock -- “Fortunately I read somewhat faster.”


Kirk: “Scotty, try flushing the radioactive waste into the ventilation system.” (Say what now?)

My Grade: C
Wed, Jan 25, 2023, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
This episode scores for great character development among the big three. I have difficulty, however, with the presentation, especially the opening. Virtually from the outset, Kirk comes across as irrational. His symptoms of obsession begin so early that it seems like we have a different Kirk from that in the style guide. A casual viewer might think such behavior is routine for the character. Presumably, this was done to underscore just how important the matter at hand is to Kirk. However, since we, as viewer, are given so little justification for Kirk's behavior, instead it comes across as simply irrational, and after awhile, for me it becomes annoying.

I would prefer if the teaser had included a short, and intentionally vague, flashback of Kirk's experience with dikironium on the USS Farragut. As viewer, we would realize the flashback must be related somehow, and while we were puzzling over that, we'd feel more foreboding, and thus be better able to relate to Kirk's resulting behavior. As it is, the weak presentation makes this less than enjoyable viewing for me. 1.5 of 4 stars
Mr. Jimmy
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
My only real problem with this episode is Garrovick karate-chopping his C.O. That would get you sent to a penal colony. Otherwise, great episode. Wish there was more about Lt Kirk, Capt Garrovick and USS Farragut.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 11:42am (UTC -5)
Obsession is a great example of how to write characters and why TOS has such an enduring quality. Here, we’re presented with Kirk at possibly his most flawed, a strong case can be made that Kirk is simply wrong in his decisions in this episode, he’s out on a limb and it’s all clearly personal for him which is not a very strong place for a starship captain with clear duties at hand to be in, but this works because the episode lays it out that way. McCoy and Spock provide a vocal counterpoint to Kirk’s thinking, even implying the threat of challenging his command. So instead of the episode trying to pitch us the idea that Kirk is actually right, or present the whole conflict in lopsided terms, we as the audience get to weigh the arguments and make up our own minds. This stands in contrast to later trek series where the captain will make a decision and it will basically be framed as the right call by having a completely inadequate reaction from the rest of the crew. Voyager in particular did this a lot. So the potentially difficult choices and personal flaws that could form the basis for fleshing out a real human character and character relationships are bypassed in order to try to force the audience to see things a certain way.

Obsession gives us a complex set of emotional motivators, Kirk’s guilt, anger, sense of duty, etc.. and trusts us as the audience to come to a fair conclusion. Through this we see that Kirk isn’t perfect, but more importantly we see that his closest officers also see that he’s not perfect, and while the episode wraps up largely in Kirk’s favor, the fact that the interpersonal/inter-professional conflicts were given serous weight make the whole show feel more substantial. It’s TOS character play at its finest.

Other thoughts:
- Season 2 is particularly rough on these redshirts. Between the changeling, the apple, and obsession it’s been a real slaughter.
- I was sure garovick was going to die. Pleasantly surprised the episode didn’t go to that obvious place.
- The events onboard the Farragut sound interesting, I want to know more about all that.

3.5/4 evil vampire clouds
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
"This stands in contrast to later trek series where the captain will make a decision and it will basically be framed as the right call by having a completely inadequate reaction from the rest of the crew. Voyager in particular did this a lot."

I think this is an excellent observation. A classic VOY example of this is in Tuvix, the much-debated episode where a snap decision from Janeway to kill someone is met with little resistance other than Doc personally refusing to do it. One of VOY's best episodes, Scorpion, is good precisely because there *is* opposition to a controversial decision.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 10:12am (UTC -5)
Those were two examples I was actually thinking of, among others. I’d say even the opposition in Scorpion is inadequate, I mean in Obsession the stakes are relatively low in comparison yet McCoy and Spock are clearly taking the situation very seriously. In Scorpion Chakotay gives some pushback, but I don’t recall any real point-counterpoint arguments(it’s been a minute since I’ve seen it to be fair). Given the magnitude of what was being proposed I’d have expected a much more impassioned debate. I prefer TOS’s/TNG’s penchant for measured discussion.
Peter G.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 11:10am (UTC -5)

Scorpion is about as much pushback as anyone on VOY ever gives. I mean, the episode's title is a reference to Chakotay's pushback. But yes, it's still less than, say, I would have given! I choose to interpret this literally and infer that Voyager is a seriously autocratic ship where everyone is afraid to speak up. Which is remarkable considering that the character bibles included a maverick bad boy criminal and an out of control half Klingon, along with a small crew of literal rebels.
Sat, Jul 8, 2023, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
@peter g

Agreed. Voyager really had a pretty great setup for major character work, but the show always seemed to shy away from its potential. Although to be fair to Chakotay, he did physically interrupt Janeway while she was torturing a guy in Equinox, that was a pretty bold undercutting of her authority. Of course it didn’t have any real consequences in their relationship or anything.
Top Hat
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
I agree that Shatner's performance is quite strong in this episode, but there is a moment on the bridge when he says just "Spock" and sounds for all the world like a Shatner impersonator.
Sun, Jul 9, 2023, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
Why did they wander away from the bait?
That was colossally stupid.
Fri, Sep 22, 2023, 7:33am (UTC -5)
So, blowing theater smoke through a vent hole, is the plot device portraying an aggressively malevolent bloodthirsty pregnant sentient monster? That must have been pretty easy on the sci fi department budget. Of course the monster spit out Spock, iron has a much more flexible covalence than copper based hemoglobin.

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