Star Trek: TOS – S02E13, Obsession

star-trek-obsessionAnd here we are in the middle of the second season: episode number 13 out of a total of 26, entitled Obsession. At this point, it’s abundantly clear why the redshirt’s meme has become so popular and ridiculous. Naturally, I’m talking about the crew members of the USS Enterprise dressed in red who die like flies in the various episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. Well, this episode is no exception from this point of view, with several redshirts that get horribly killed by a murderous cloud. So, what’s the plot of the episode?

Captain Kirk is on planet Argus X with a landing party when two of its members are killed by an unidentified presence that drains all the red blood cells present in their bodies (it’s practically a vampire cloud!). At this point, Kirk starts a crusade for which he even goes against Starfleet orders (what a surprise!) by delaying a mission to bring medicines to the planet Theta VII. The reason for the crusade? Kirk had already met the semi-incorporeal creature when he was on board the USS Farragut eleven years before. This time, he wants to end its existence to appease his conscience and to save who knows how many lives.

Although at first glance this may seem like a reissue of the story of Captain Ahab looking for Moby Dick (we saw something similar a few episodes ago, in The Doomsday Machine), things here are slightly different. In fact, the theme of the episode is not only revenge, but also how to live with guilt, how to overcome a trauma for which one feels responsible. This afflicts Captain Kirk, once again beautifully interpreted by William Shatner, and it also comes up thanks to Ensign Garrovick (Stephen Brooks), son of the Farragut captain who was killed eleven years before. Needless to say, at the end the captain will be able to quench his thirst for revenge and pacify his guilt, but, despite the predictable finale, the episode works well on several levels. Not only is the theme of guilt well developed (see Kirk’s brilliant dialogue with Spock and McCoy who are asking him to explain his behavior), but the action is fun and it’s accompanied by some nice piece of music.

And yet… yet I can’t help thinking about how Captain Picard would have tried to solve this problem. Was death-by-bomb the only possible solution? Couldn’t one reason with such a strange being? The mission of the USS Enterprise is to find new life forms, but it seems that if they are not humanoids then they get blown up! No, I’m unfair, the sentient rock in The Devil in the Dark was treated well by Kirk and company… but this time he doesn’t even try to find a peaceful solution to the problem! I admit that, ethically, the plot left me a little cold, but the episode itself works well: well made, well acted and well paced. In short, it’s certainly in the list of episodes not to be missed! Ciao!

Previous episode: The Deadly Years

Next episode: Wolf in the Fold

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