Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vamp or Not? Star Trek – obsession

dvd setHaving looked at the season 1 episode the Man Trap, it seemed only right to also look at this – which was a season 2 episode that aired in 1967 and was directed by Ralph Senensky. It again features something that might be classed as a space vampire, though the title obsession does not refer to the obsessive compulsive disorder that folklore vampires are said to suffer from but from Captain Kirk’s (William Shatner) obsession with a creature he first encountered some 11 years previously – the creature is almost his Moby Dick.

Kirk and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are on a planet, with some red shirted security officers – checking out a vein of tritanium – a substance that is obviously valued for its hardness. Kirk suddenly smells something, honey like, it reminds him of something 11 years before. We have seen a cloud moving towards them which retreated when Spock used his phaser.

feedingKirk sends the red shirts looking for the cloud, they have to scan for Dichronium – an element that Spock points out only exists in laboratories – and if they see a cloud shoot it with their phasers. They are attacked by the cloud, which becomes all sparkly whilst attacking and leaves the men dead (one of them survives for a while, long enough to be able to tell Kirk that the creature was trying to draw strength from them).

a victimThe skin of the victims is greyed as the creature has devoured all their red corpuscles and that is the majority of the lore that the show actually offers us. Later we discover that Kirk blames himself for the 200 dead 11 years before – he hesitated in shooting. His new security guy, Ensign Garrovick (Stephen Brooks) also hesitates, which has Kirk raging at him. Garrovick is the son of Kirk’s former Captain, who was killed by the creature, and yet that dynamic is barely explored.

We do discover that the creature can fly through space, it can phase itself in time to avoid phaser blasts and that it might spawn by fission.

Bones and SpockOn the surface this might seem a little too alien to be a vampire. It is higher in the food chain and subsists on plasma – but not Spock’s green blood, copper based is no good it has to be iron. The look of the creature however, the intelligent mist, is reminiscent of the vampiric ability to become mist. The thing that struck me, whilst watching, was that the effect of making the creature sparkle when it attacked almost brought the following, from Dracula, to mind:

“Then I began to notice that there were some quaint little specks floating in the rays of the moonlight. They were like the tiniest grains of dust, and they whirled round and gathered in clusters in a nebulous sort of way.”

the creatureHarker is actually watching the Count’s brides in this form, though he doesn’t know it at that exact point. Of course this is almost a leap of faith in relation to this episode and the effect was more the most convenient way of showing the cloud attacking. On the other hand there is something reminiscent in this of the Kolchak story “The Energy Eater” – an energy ‘bear God’ which devoured plasma in victims. I decided that was genre interesting, though not necessarily vamp. In this case I do not think that the script tried to encapsulate the vampire in a sci-fi way, rather it was totally concentrated on Kirk as Ahab, however I think it managed to skirt around the periphery and create something of genre interest, at the very least.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

No comments: