Thursday, June 11, 2009

Star Trek--"Obsession"

You rarely, if ever, find “Obsession” among the favorites list of your average Trek fan. I think that is unfair. Perhaps the contrivances are too mucvh to stand. I will admit it boggles the mind for Kirk and a new ensign to have juxtaposed positions from the ensign’s deceased father when encountering the same deadly creature after eleven years or that the same creature has randomly appeared where kirk just happened to be. Under most circumstances, I would hold that and the similarities with “The Doomsday Machine” in contempt myself. But I cannot. “Obsession” is one of the best episodes of TOS in spite of its obvious flaws.

“Obsession” is yet another Moby Dick allegory. Trek had had much success with that over the years. Kirk encounters a vampire cloud he believes was the same that attacked and killed half the crew on the Farragut, his first deep space assignment. I am fighting the urge to say it serves them right for naming their ship after a Union general who starved men, women, and children into surrendering New Orleans, but it is hard. Kirk bears guilt from the incident because he believes his failure to fire at the cloud resulted in the deaths. Kirk goes full Capt. Ahab on us, even to the poin the risks the lives of a colony in desperate need of medical supplies.

There are quite a few problems with ’Obsession” other than the contrivances and similarities to past plots. Ensign Garrowick’s father was killed by this cloud, yet he seems more upset over his comrade being killed. Granted, it was Garrowick’s failure to act that got his friend killed, but you would think a chance to avenge his father would drive him more. Garrowick lacks a lot of backback until the climax when he not only volunteers to help set off an antimatter bomb, but tries to forcibly knock out kirk with a karate chop. He grw a pair in just afew hours. Amazing. Garrowick is not disciplined for insuborrdination for his action. But then again, Kirk’s obsession lead to the deaths of crewmen, possibly the deaths o sick and injured in need of the medical supplies, and nearly forced a mutiny and he got away with all of it.

What makes this episodeso good is William Shatner’s portrayal of Kirk losing his perspective. Contrary to stereotyping, he does not ham it up at all. You can see he is eaten up by guilt without being beaten over the head with it. I was impressed with his look of absolute betrayal when Spock and McCoy threatened to remove him from command because of his irrational behavior. The best example was from the climax where Garrowick believes kirk is so far gone, he is about to sacrifice himself in order to destroy the cloud. Kirk stops and changes demeanor immediately to reassure Garrowick he is not going to play the hero. Hedoes not even lose his cool to any serious degree when garrowick tries to knock him out.

It is certainly retroactive continuity, but the incident o the Farragut explains kirk’s strong attachment to hisships and all he does to protect them. It does not explain why he is often so callousat the deaths of his red shirts, but there are some things psychology just cannot explain. Regardless, "Obsession”, while not perfect, is much better than it is given credit for being.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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