A disembodied message shepherded by the death of a nameless crewmember forebodes a CURSE on the Enterprise.
Kirk beams down -- with Spock and McCoy flanking him in the iconic configuration -- to the planet-of-the-week for the purpose of investigating the disappearance of Scotty and Sulu. They quickly come upon the first of several traditional "Halloween" tropes in the form of three warning witches (ala Macbeth.) The episode to this point seems to take on an almost aimless structure with vague mysteries for the sole purpose of portraying a mood rather than any sort of conceptual complexity.
After being imprisoned in the picturesque dungeon, they come across possessed versions ofScotty and Sulu. Thankfully Kirk wastes no time in acknowleding the illusory nature of his surroundings. He is taken to Korob, the leader of this place, who questions Kirk's insitance on questioning that which is presented to him, rather than simply accepting it.
"You are the different one, Mister Spock. You do not think like the others. There are no colours to your patterns of logic. There's only black and white."
I applaud the writer for peppering a conceptually mediocre episode with insightful bits of dialogue that go beyond any such aspirations of the plot. They help to make palatable that which could have been relegated to a true guilty-pleasure of an episode.
It is revealed that Korob (inexperienced with humans) is testing our intrepid trifecta in some way. The nature of these tests is pushed to the wayside when we are introduced to Korob'ssultry assistant, Sylvia. There is a vain (but understandable) attempt to shroud the pulp nature of this episode's goings-on with references to the equivlent "Magic" in earth's mythology. This is attempt is trasnparent, however, as the actions of the plot never transcend those same instances of "Magic" in our familiar mythology. Calling it their "science" does little to better it.
"You seem to do with your mind what we do with tools."
Spock deduces that Korob has tapped into the subconcious of the crew accidentally in an attempt to create an environment they would accept. A fallout between Slyvia and Korob reveals that they are in fact superior beings new to the realm of sensations. Unfortunatley, her reaction to this new existence is more perverese than her collegue's.
Slyvia wishes to join with Kirk and fill in the gaps of her knowledge on the sensation of Power by combining their minds. She tempts him with her own knowledge of things beyond his wildest dreams. Kirk, in the only measurable act of heroism contained here, uses her for information on the device (a magic wand) that allows them to maintain their corporeal form and hold them captive.
Had this not been the third or forth time the concept of superior-beings-meddling-with-the-silly-humans had been presented, its light brushes with the subject might hold more value. However, the superior and more in-depth handling in previous episodes renders the viewer searching for other points of interest to identify with in the character or plot content.
The only faint idea that could be associated exclusively with this episode is through Sylvia's need for humanity's own dreams and ambition. Her "superior" intellect still knows nothing of true existence, as she lacks the experience of being alive. Also, the revelation of the creature's true forms, rather than the vibrant light orbs of episodes past, are helpless bugs. They die without the control of their illusion when reality is forced upon them by Kirk.
Interpretively, this can be seen as broaching themes of experiential (a posteriori) knowledge vs. inherent (a priori) knowledge. By these terms, Trek comes down firmly on the side of a posteriori knowledge, which of itself doesn't mesh with the more reconciliatory idealogies presented in previous Trek outings. (Not to mention Spock's strictly logical rationalist presence.) Considering the surrounding events of the episode, this interpretation is a strech at best, culled from bits of stray dialogue more likely present to lend credibitlity rather than imply a thematic statement.
Even though this episode's air date was pushed back to coincide with Halloween, it was the first produced of the second season. I find myself wondering if it is mere coincidence that, by production order, the season begins and ends with episodes featuring a black cat with a bejewledcollar and silent intellect. Forgive the aside, but it was such a peculiar observation, I couldn't help but include it. Perhaps also an effort to add weight or connectivity to an episode that is, by most measures, completely disposable.
To that end, this episode also birthed one of my favorite buttons that I wear on my jacket to this day: the image of Spock chained up in the dungeon with the words "Hang In There!" above him is worth only slightly less than the episode itself.