“Lord Bobby’s Obsession” is described as “Space Seed” meets “The Squire of Gothos”. This is the most accurate description in the history of things describing other things because that’s literally what it is.
It doesn’t even pretend to be something different. It is, beat-for-beat, the exact same story as “Space Seed” with the exact same scenes and the exact same plot twists except the supervillain is an alien fascinated with the British Empire, is acting alone this time and the submissive female humanities expert smitten with him stays on the Enterprise instead of departing with him at the end of the episode. This is my least favourite kind of story to write about, because it gives me essentially no material to work with. Even Margaret Armen gave me enough to complain about that I could find 1800 words to squeeze out of “Savage Syndrome”. You could practically take my “Space Seed” post, change the names around and write your own Vaka Rangi review of “Lord Bobby’s Obsession”.
That said, like “Tomorrow and the Stars” before it, this doesn’t mean “Lord Bobby’s Obsession” doesn’t manage to improve on its source material such that this is the superior version of the story. It definitely does, and this alone makes it noteworthy and deserving of at least a little attention. Once again, the Star Trek Phase II version manages to distill out the essence of the story by removing all of its more problematic ethical hangups. In this case, most of the welcome changes come from the title character himself: Robert Standish, Third Earl of Lancashire. Modeling him after Trelane instead of Khan is actually something of a genius move, and the result is we get someone whose latent charm and charisma belies the fact he’s really a petulant, childish, self-centred wannabe with a seriously inflated sense of self worth and importance. And because Lord Bobby isn’t a godlike being, he’s just a regular guy with access to some advanced technology, this neatly avoids the problems we read into Trelane’s character back in “The Squire of Gothos”. And in doing so, “Lord Bobby’s Obsession” manages to deftly invert that episode’s structure, demonstrating that, despite everything, Star Trek really has come a long way.
What I mean by this is that the basic issue I found with “Gothos” was that Trelane is set up as a kind of dark parodic mirror of William Shatner’s interpretation of Jim Kirk, namely, a drag action hero fixated on honour, duty, valour, the chain of command and warmaking. The intended point being, as I saw it, that in spite of Shatner’s noble attempt to skewer the inherent silliness of all that by taking Kirk in a different direction then how he was originally written, by the mere fact of playing Kirk and playing the hero of this show, he was in some sense at least partially complicit in the original Star Trek‘s unsavoury predilections. The problem came about in the climactic reveal, where it turned out Trelane was literally a child, the spoiled offspring of a couple of standard-issue hyper-advanced energy beings, thus removing any claim Trelane had to offering any sort of serious critique.…