Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 7

Catspaw

6
Aired Unknown Oct 27, 1967 on NBC
7.2
out of 10
User Rating
160 votes
7

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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When a landing party disappears and one man is beamed up dead, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy investigate and meet a pair of aliens who seem capable of performing magic.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Kirk and his crew go trick or treating.

    6.0
    For the second and final time, Star Trek attempts a holiday tie-in with this Halloween special from 1968, unaware that people would see the episode in the ensuing decades at all times of the year, thanks to syndication. Written by the same guy who wrote "What Are Little Girls Made of?", this one is actually more like "The Squire of Gothos" but without the charm. Once again, we have Kirk and company discovering a mysterious castle on a desolate planet where they are toyed with by powerful beings that tap into Earth-history but don't quite get it right. This time, all the old Halloween cliches are pulled out, from skeletons to black cats. (The latter, of course, leads to the episode's cute title. A catspaw is a term derived from The Monkey and the Cat, a fable by Jean de La Fontaine, meaning a person or persons used unwittingly by another to accomplish the other's purpose").



    The plot off the episode is loosely based on Bloch's short story, "Broomstick Ride", published in Super Science Fiction magazine in 1957. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well as a Star Trek story. The episode's strong suit is its humor with funny bits such as Spock's summation of a witch's curse ("Very bad poetry") and the sight gag of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy hanging in chains next to a skeleton hung the same way. (As McCoy eyes the skeleton, Kirk says, "Bones?" and then quickly clarifies, "Doc?") Perhaps the funniest moment, however, is an accident. As Antoinette Bower, playing a female alien, attempts to leave her character's throne and approach Shatner, part of her wardrobe becomes caught on the chair and she becomes stuck. Nevertheless, she gamely finishes the scene as if nothing everything is normal! (Actually, there's another silly thing that happens at the top of the episode too. After Kirk requests McCoy's presence in the transporter room, he and Spock exit the bridge to meet the doctor there. Next thing you know, Kirk shows up in the transporter room alone. To fix this problem, the syndicated version cuts out Kirk and Spock's exit from the bridge, but this also cuts out Kirk's request for the doctor. Thus, when McCoy suddenly bursts into the transporter room to join Kirk, it looks like he really isn't just a doctor but a mind-reader too).



    Nitpicking Star Trek, of course, is an easy sport. But whereas "Squire of Gothos" has a quirky spirit that makes up for its flaws and ties the plot together, "Catspaw" has no thru-line, being uncertain what it really is. The fundamental problem is the dichotomy of Halloween and Star Trek. The former is about taking delight in the fright of things that go bump in the night, whereas the latter is about being curious and figuring out what's making the bump.



    Unfortunately, the problems turn the episode into a waste of Bower ("Sylvia'), one of TOS's most prestigious and talented female guest stars. It's also a sad swan song for Theodore Carroll ("Korob"), who died in a drunk driving accident a few weeks after the episode first aired.



    So where else does Star Trek reference a holiday? In "Charlie X" (which was originally supposed to air around the time of Thanksgiving in America), there's a plot point about turkeys that ties into the holiday. (I suppose it's also worth mentioning that TNG's "Pegasus", mentions an annual event called "Captain Picard Day").



    Remastered Edition: This gets the basic redo with new shots of the Enterprise in orbit - which are quite well done. Other touches include a new matte painting establishing the castle (with the original shot, only showing the entrance, composited into it), some minor improvements in special effects, and the digital removal of the strings used to control the aliens at the end. They choose not to, however, fix a glaring mistake: the witches that appear near the beginning are overlit, and their black turtleneck shirts are easily visible, ruining the intended "floating heads" effect.

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  • Spock refuses to let Kirk borrow his ears for a Halloween costume

    4.3
    Well, the fall that crewman Jackson made after he was transported up in the beginning of the episode was interesting. Other than that, it took so long to get going and the cat thing was overplayed. Couldn't they get someone a little more sexier than whoever the woman was who played Sylvia? How about that bombshell from "Whom God's Destroy"? That would have really spiced up this episode. Even though this came before "Requiem for Methuselah" I didn't care for the model of the Enterprise being used twice as if someone could control it in the palm of their hand.moreless
  • When a landing party disappear and a crewman is beamed up dead, placing a 'curse' on the ship, Kirk, Spock and McCoy investigate a 'haunted' castle inhabited by two beings capable of performing black magic. Starts off with promise, but soon loses its way.moreless

    6.5
    The first episode produced for the second season (as thus Walter Koenig's first time playing Chekov), "Catspaw" is the 'Halloween' episode of the series, originally being broadcast around Halloween 1967 in the U.S.

    It also ranks as one of the least favourite episodes amongst many fans. At first I quite liked it and was willing to give it a chance, but sadly, later on it just became unfocused and messy.



    The opening shows promise. The dead crewman being beamed up (that fall he takes off of the transporter and down the step is pretty cool), placing a 'curse' on the Enterprise, is good; and I love the three witches on the planets surface. They were probably the only truly semi-scary thing about the episode.

    Unfortunately, things soon descend into a rehashed "powerful alien(s) toying with humans" storyline, already seen in several other episodes, and the plot loses its way, being rather padded and going in circles.



    There are a number of 'Halloween' elements – a black cat; a dungeon, complete with skeleton; witches; powerful sorcerers... but they all seem rather thrown in, and don't add up to much.



    I also agree with others that – with all due respect to the actress who played her – Sylvia just wasn't attractive or as mesmerising enough to work. They needed someone really seductive and mysterious, but she ends up very unconvincing and rather lets the episode down.



    Likewise, we get the obligatory 'romantic' scene between Kirk and Sylvia. It didn't work for me, and the fact that Sylvia had so little spark in the first place made it even worse.



    I kind of liked how spell of the castle was broken at the end, and, although corny, liked the little alien things on the ground, that were Korob and Sylvia in their true forms. But it was too little too late for a story that had lost its way.



    The story starts of with promise, but the later sections just don't hang together at all. A plot involving black magic had potential (the model of the Enterprise being dangled over the candle flame, making the real Enterprise start to overheat, had a lot of scope), but sadly this one just doesn't do it. Definitely one of the second season's weaker outings.moreless
  • May as well have been an episode of "I Dream of Jeannie," only pompous and boring.

    3.1
    This episode is not one I'll ever bother to watch again since it's cheesy, slow-paced and unconvincing. It really takes a long time to go anywhere and doesn't bother to do anything particularly interesting along the way.



    The Halloween horror bit isn't in the least scary and it isn't fun, either. It tries pulling out some half-hearted attempt at Jungian psychology with some mumbo jumbo about the collective unconscious with the close shot of a house cat being the penultimate symbol of fear. I tried to use my imagination, but I couldn't see it as anything more than tragically comical.



    Sylvia is some 45-year old housewife, and by the way, Marge Simpson wants her hairstyle back.



    At least the cheap and cheesy contemporary shows like Gilligan's Island and I Dream of Jeannie played this kind of material for laughs and maybe got at least a couple of them and the actors didn't seem so pained.



    The plot has little forward momentum and lots of the time is pointlessly spent. For example, they show some unknown red shirt acting as captain and trying to get the Enterprise out of trouble. He makes efforts and figures out how to break through the "force field" but Korob frees the ship, anyway, so what was the point of all that machination with the plot? It certainly wasn't any useful character development and didn't bother changing any outcomes.



    It's also the tired "selfish superior alien wants to use humans for own gratification" plotline along with "superior aliens are not really as they appear."



    The superior aliens are lacking something and want to get the special magic those humans have, but by trapping and enslaving them. It is somewhat comforting (in a facile way) to know that superior aliens always want to get that allusive human mojo. We got it, baby! Yeah! Center of the universe, right here.



    About the only interesting elements were the dead body falling out of the transporter and the weak conflict between Korob and Sylvia. Sadly, Korob comes off as perhaps the best character in this episode, which isn't saying a lot.



    If you're over the age of 12 you can probably safely give this episode a miss. You didn't miss much and you just savee 50 minutes of your life you could be doing almost anything better.



    Life is precious, this episode isn't. (Except in taking its own shallow pretenses so seriously.)moreless
  • Trick or Treating

    6.8
    "Cat's Paw" is an average episode, but I still enjoy it. It is definitely a good episode for the Halloween season. It's not scary, but it is ment for Halloween, especially since Kirk mentions trick-or-treating to Spock. This episode even has witches! Another thing that I really liked was the use of the black cat, which it is named after. At the end, it grows bigger by mainly using shadows of a cat, but they also show a cat walking with loud meows making it seem bigger. So, yeah, it is cute. Like I said, it is a good Halloween episode but not a bad episode overall.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Antoinette Bower

Antoinette Bower

Sylvia

Guest Star

Theodore Marcuse

Theodore Marcuse

Korob

Guest Star

Michael Barrier (II)

Michael Barrier (II)

Lt. Vincent DeSalle

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (14)

    • Spock says "the cat is the most ruthless, the most terrifying, of animals." First of all, does he really think a cat is more ruthless and terrifying then, say, a shark? Second, why does Spock, with his encyclopedic memory, limit himself to Earth animals? Are we really supposed to believe the cat is the most ruthless and terrifying animal in the known galaxy of the future?

    • The Korob and Sylvia alien puppets at the end have obvious wires. The wires are digitally removed in the remastered 2006 version.

    • William Shatner mangles the pronunciation of "telekinesis," putting the emphasis on "tel-a-KEN-a-sis," rather then "tel-a-ka-NEE-sis."

    • When Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, they're far closer together than the transporter pads on the ship.

    • Despite the fact he had already heard Korob speaking through Jackson, and the three witches use his name, and the trail led past the witches to the castle where Korob lives, Kirk seems surprised that Korob knows his name when they meet face-to-face.

    • When Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy see that Scotty and Sulu have been "brainwashed", Kirk mentions that they are hardly blinking. Spock reminds them that neither did Jackson before he died. However, Spock was not present when Jackson returned to the Enterprise, and it's unlikely anyone would have bothered to tell him.

    • When Korob, Kirk, and Spock are chased back to the dungeon by the giant cat, Korob slams the door shut as though it were made of cardboard. Later, when the door falls, it's heavy enough to crush him.

    • Spock seems completely unaware of the Earth custom of Halloween. Yet, later in the episode, he explains wizards and their "familiars." Also, it seems unlikely that Spock wouldn't have known about Halloween considering his extensive study of humans and their customs.

    • The skeleton next to McCoy in the dungeon has a seam on its skull where it had been sawn open. This seam is typical for medical skeletons.

    • After Korob fails to get information, he tells Scott and Sulu to take them out. They escort Spock and Kirk over to the door past McCoy, but don't stop (apparently DeForrest missed his cue). Obligingly, McCoy gets behind the two mesmerized crewmen and starts walking.

    • Kirk comments that they can easily make gems and dismisses Korob's bribe. In "Arena" he finds some diamonds and described them as being a vast fortune.

    • It's not totally impossible, but DeSalle was a biologist with a gold shirt in his last appearance ("This Side of Paradise"). In this episode he wears a red shirt and is an assistant chief engineer.

    • When Sylvia the giant cat attacks, Korob tries to stop her. The door falls and he's sticking out the side - in the next shot he's sticking out the top of the fallen door.

    • After Korob summons the table, food, and decorations, in a closeup of his face the candles and centerpiece behind him are missing.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Kirk: (to Spock, after being threatened in verse by floating witches) Spock, comment?
      Spock: Very bad poetry, Captain.
      Kirk: A more useful comment, Mr. Spock?
      Spock: What we've just seen is not real.
      Kirk: That's useful.

    • Kirk: If we weren't missing two officers--and a third one dead--I'd say someone was playing an elaborate trick or treat.
      Spock: Trick or treat, Captain?
      Kirk: Yes, Mr. Spock. You'd be a natural. I'll explain it to you one day.

    • Spock: There are ancient Earth legends about wizards and their familiars.
      McCoy: Familiars?
      Spock: Demons in animal forms, sent by Satan to serve the wizard.
      Kirk: Superstition.
      Spock: I do not create the legend, Captain. I merely report it.
      Korob: You are the, uh ... different one, Mr. Spock. You do not think like the others. There are no colors to your patterns of logic. There's only black and white. You see all this around you, yet you do not believe.
      McCoy: He doesn't know about trick or treat.
      Korob: I do not understand that reference, therefore it also is of no importance.

    • Sylvia: You like to think of yourselves as complex creatures, but you're flawed. One gains admittance to your minds through many levels. You have too many to keep track of yourselves. There are unguarded entrances to any human mind.

    • DeSalle: But it's real. And if it's real it can be affected... we may not be able to break it, but, I'll bet you credits to Navy Beans we can put a dent in it.

    • Spock: The cat is the most ruthless, most terrifying of animals. As far back as the sabertooth tiger.

    • Korob: Where did your race get this ridiculous predilection for resistance. You examine any object; you question everything.

  • NOTES (6)

    • George Takei appears but has no dialogue.

    • This episode was originally broadcast to coincide with Halloween. The 2006 remastered version was also released the weekend before Halloween.

    • Sylvia and Korob's sounds when shown in their true forms are recycled from the crewwoman-turned-lizard in the episode "Charlie X."

    • James Doohan lost his right middle finger during WWII. Most of his scenes are shot to hide it. However, it is very noticeable in this episode. Scotty is hypnotized and holding a phaser pistol on Kirk & Spock in Korob & Sylvia's dining hall. When Scotty is in the shot, only two fingers are holding the butt of the phaser.

    • This episode is the first episode of Season 2 in production order. In that respect, it is the first Chekov episode.

    • Desilu No: 5149-30.

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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