A solid but somewhat unremarkable second season thriller, “Obsession” is best remembered by TOS continuity junkies for its contribution to Kirk’s back story, something referenced in James Cawley’s New Voyages and tantalizingly teased in early rumors about JJ Abrams’ Trek movie, although it now looks like we won’t be seeing anything on Kirk’s days on the U.S.S. Farragut in the film.
“Obsession” references a favorite Trek touchstone, Melville’s Moby Dick (look for it in “The Doomsday Machine,” The Wrath of Khan and finally wearing out its welcome in Star Trek First Contact), and in order to do so Art Wallace’s script has to toy with Kirk’s character a bit, making him rather more reckless and intolerant (both of other species and of the human limitations of his crew) than we’re used to seeing. If this were “Errand of Mercy” there’d be a reversal that had Kirk questioning himself and his behavior before the end of the story. But one of the episode’s odd limitations is that here, as in any episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea where there was a monster on the loose, it turns out that Kirk is absolutely right to cast aside every human consideration in favor of hunting the creature down and destroying it, and the humanistic Dr. McCoy is all wet for suggesting otherwise. It’s an approach that works with a soulless machine in “Doomsday Machine” (the episode from which “Obsession” also borrows much of its score), but it seems strangely bloodthirsty when applied to a living creature in Trek.
Like “The Apple,” “Obsession” runs through redshirts like disposable rags—this is the episode that famously dispenses with Eddie Paskey’s Mr. Lesley, who is resurrected a few episodes later without a bit of the fanfare accorded Spock in Star Trek III (Paskey will tell you that he foolishly tried to remind the producers that they’d killed him off in a previous episode but they just wouldn’t listen). In fact the episode’s guest star could be the most celebrated redshirt of all—Stephen Brooks’ Lt. Garrovick is one of the very few “below decks” crewmen in the original series to rate a pivotal character turn, and Brooks isn’t bad in the role. In fact between Kirk seeing himself in the lad (just as he saw himself in the twitchy Mr. Bailey in “Corbomite Maneuver”) and Spock practically risking his life to give the moping security guard a pep talk in his quarters, Garrovick gets more love than any Enterprise red shirt before or since. And he proves himself more than amply Kirk-like in the episode’s strangely interesting conclusion as he and the Captain take turns trying to knock each other out so they can be the one to risk their neck to deliver that floating antimatter bomb into the creature’s maw. And you have to love any Trek episode that ends with this exchange: Spock: “There was no deity involved, Doctor—it was my cross-circuiting to ‘B’ that saved them.” McCoy: Well, then thank pitchforks and pointed ears!”
“Obsession” was never a visual effects highpoint in the series, and while the CBS-D Remastered effort here is a strong one, in some ways it makes you appreciate the artistry the original stone knives and bearskins effects were able to achieve. Two new planets are on display, both nice and orange as if the CBS-D crew had finally had their fill of all the bitching about Earth-like planets. The shots of the cloud creature itself are technically impressive, and there’s a real attempt to make the cloud appear massive and sprawling with a lot of inner activity. There’s a built-in limitation to what could be done here because the practical effects of the cloud, likely done with dry ice on the show’s sets, could not be messed with so the color and texture of the cloud was set in stone. The original visual effects crew created a simple but rather effective look for the creature in space, simply fading between two different shapes—one horizontal, the other more vertical. That gave the cloud creature a slithery, vaguely “creature-like” shape while in space, and also suggested a kind of visual streamlining that made it look like it was somehow moving fast.
The new effects seem to trade those qualities for a sense of vastness and complexity. The overall shape is simple and flat, with tendrils that flow out when the creature prepares to double back and invade the Enterprise, or hollow out to get out of the way of phaser fire. Virtually all of the Enterprise shots look nice and solid—whether it’s firing phasers or wheeling in space, these are some of the better renders done of the CG vessel. And there are some nice bonus shots playing around with the orbital angles—a shot of the saucer sliding beneath the camera while the Enterprise orbits directly above a planet instead of off to one side is particularly nice. The final shot is a killer too as the Enterprise (in a shot that may have been developed originally for “All Our Yesterdays” and its supernova) slides past us to reveal the planet Tycho IV with a massive, blackened crater where Kirk’s antimatter bomb went off on the surface.
by Matt Wright
by Matt Wright