Traumafession:: Reader Cara H. on Star Trek’s “The Lights of Zetar”

I was born in 1965, and actually did not see Star Trek for the first time until I was ten years old and it was in reruns. One would never think of Star Trek as a scary show, and this episode has been panned by most critics. But it scared the crap out of me. The garbled speech made by the victims of the Zetars is probably a source of amusement for most, but to me it was the stuff of nightmares. My brother knew this and would try to imitate it to get a rise out of me. As well, like Dr. McCoy, I found the scene where they teleported into darkness on Memory Alpha unnerving.

I’ve always found the idea of having one’s mind taken over frightening. I was raised Catholic, so the concept of demon possession was very real to me. However, although I can’t watch The Exorcist alone in darkness, I could still watch it alone with the lights on. I can’t watch “The Lights of Zetar” alone at all, and I’m now almost fifty years old!

I think what makes “The Lights of Zetar” so intensely terrifying, even as opposed to the concept of demon possession, is that they destroy the ability of the victim’s brain to function at all. Once the demon vacates the host, the brain is still intact. Not so with the Lights of Zetar. They blow out every circuit. Their attack is comparable with a deadly stroke or seizure, something that none of us wants to think about. You can’t hide behind a strong door or shield and you can’t run away in your ship. If they want you, they’ll get you.

It’s a funny thing: I saw Alien with my father (rest in peace) when I was fourteen years old, and even though sometimes if I enter a dark room I swear I can see those things in the shadows, nothing has scared me quite as much as one unpopular episode of a 1960’s TV show which generally was anything but scary.

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9 years ago

I remember watching that episode with my brother at our grandmother’s house when I was about 6 or 7, and it freaked me out too. You’re definitely not alone!

The Real Cie
9 years ago

Glad to know I’m not alone! I always felt like such a dork about this particular Trauma. I’m nowhere near as embarrassed about the times I ran home from babysitting because even though I knew that blue vampire played by Reggie Nalder wasn’t REALLY following me, I couldn’t help but IMAGINE that he was following me!

Dee Emm Elms
9 years ago

You’re definitely not alone.

This episode terrified me, but not because of religion. I have pretty much been an atheist for my entire life, even when very young.

No – what bothered me was that, as a child, I had severe bronchial illnesses. I never thought of the aliens as demonic, but my brain formed a rational explanation for what it was seeing – specifically, that since “possession” isn’t possible, that the aliens’ taking control of the brainwaves or whatever of the people wouldn’t make them turn colors or make weird noises.

The croupy sound effects of the victims of the space aliens’ attack made me reason that they were suffering some kind of throat clog/closure or a sudden bout of croup-like phlegm.

That was horrible enough for me! I couldn’t handle the episode – it always made me queasy with the funky facial expressions of the victims and their croupy vocalizations. Ugh!

7 years ago

This Star Trek EP, TOS, along with a couple of others, scared me as a kid.