“Lord Bobby’s Obsession” was written by Shimon Wincelberg as one of the first thirteen episodes of the new Star Trek television series, Phase II, before it was canceled and converted into The Motion Picture. Wincelberg had previously written “Dagger of the Mind” and “The Galileo Seven” for The Original Series.
In the episode — which went through a major rewrite — the Enterprise discovers a Lord Bobby who claims to be from the nineteenth century.
The Enterprise is en route to deliver medical supplies to a dying colony on Hathor 17 when it detects a derelict vessel called the Niobe. Radio signals are detected, but Kirk orders the ship to continue. They do not have time for a rescue mission.
However, the Enterprise is caught in a sort of tractor beam and being pulled toward the vessel. Uhura attempts to communicate, but all she gets back is a nineteenth-century folksong.
From the computer, the crew learn that the Niobe is an old prototype equipped with a doomsday device to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. It was attacked and disabled by the Klingons.
Kirk orders Decker to investigate, who assembles an away team. Jennifer York, to whom he has recently been engaged, joins the mission.
On board the Niobe, they experience what Wincelberg describes as “a number of nasty little shocks or tricks.” It rapidly becomes apparent that they are falling under an hypnotic spell, which is leading them toward the bridge.
Once there, they are introduced to a man who calls himself Lord Bobby of Yorkshire, who claims responsibility for all they have been through. He longs from companionship and deems Jennifer a kindred spirit.
When Decker explains the Enterprise is on a rescue mission, Lord Bobby uses his hypnotic power to convince them he is suffering from a tropical fever and desperately needs the attention of a physician. Decker asks about the doomsday device, but Lord Bobby insists it was jettisoned from the Niobe a long time ago.
Before Decker can transport Lord Bobby to the Enterprise, the hypnotic spell for some reason weakens and he recognizes the creature for the “clammy humanoid slug” it really is. Jennifer, by contrast, seems enamored.
While Kirk questions Lord Bobby in sickbay, and falls under his spell, the Enterprise breaks free of the Niobe’s tractor beam and proceeds on its previous course. But the Niobe follows the bigger ship.
Xon develops several theories for the Niobe’s pursuit and makes his way to sickbay to inform the captain. There he sees Lord Bobby for what he really is — it is never explained why the Vulcan would be immune from the spell — and gets the captain out. Kirk asks Xon to take charge.
When Lord Bobby finds out he cannot control the Vulcan science officer, the Niobe reengages its tractor beam and slows the Enterprise to a halt.
At this point it is revealed Ilia is immune from Lord Bobby’s spell as well.
Kirk comes up with a plan: Jennifer must somehow persuade Lord Bobby to let them go. Decker is unhappy but follows orders.
When Jennifer and Lord Bobby talk, the latter claims he was raised on a human colony settled by the British, whose “superiority” and “style” he admired. He stowed away on the Niobe in hopes of finding a way to reach Earth. (The truth, revealed later, is that Lord Bobby learned about nineteenth-century England from the Niobe’s library computer.)
Jennifer tries to impress on him the importance of their mission. The Enterprise is informed that the situation on Hathor 17 is getting worse. Kirk threatens to destroy the Niobe if it won’t release the Enterprise. Lord Bobby laughs him off and claims the Enterprise would be destroyed as well. Kirk sends Decker to the Niobe to find a way to disable the tractor beam, but that only results in Decker and his team being trapped on the other ship.
Lord Bobby demands that the Enterprise travel back in time and deliver him and Jennifer to nineteenth-century England. Kirk refuses. “It is against standing orders to tamper with Earth’s past history,” he claims. Lord Bobby uses his powers to convince everyone, except Ilia and Xon, that their blood is freezing. He gives them a 15-minute deadline to make a decision.
While Scotty and Xon work on a way to escape from the Niobe, Kirk orders Jennifer to continue to try to make Lord Bobby see reason. She takes him to the recreation deck, where she shows him holographic images of twenty-third-century England. Watching the couple via viewscreen, Decker expresses concern that Jennifer is getting too close to the alien. (Interestingly, a similar scene, but with Decker and V’Ger’s probe of Ilia, was later written into The Motion Picture.)
When Decker and Kirk confront Jennifer, she claims to be in love. Kirk challenges Lord Bobby to reveal his true form, which he does. Jennifer is disgusted by his appearance, but nevertheless agrees to join him if he will spare the Enterprise. Lord Bobby is suspicious. Jennifer offers to marry him to prove that she is serious.
The recreation deck is transformed into a replica of an English village. A wedding ceremony takes place, but just in time Scotty and Xon find a way to break free of the Niobe tractor beam without destroying the Enterprise. Kirk interrupts the wedding. Lord Bobby agrees to return to his ship, but to everyone’s surprise Jennifer insists on going with him. Touched by this gesture of kindness, and seeing the sadness in Decker’s eyes, Lord Bobby, in his own estimation of nobility, nudges Jennifer off the transport platform and “returns to his sterile, untroubled world of pure Illusion.”
Gene Roddenberry had a number of questions. Where would “Lord Bobby” have gotten this obsession with nineteenth-century England? Surely this couldn’t have been the only Earth history in the Niobe’s computer? And how could a vessel older than the Enterprise hold it in a tractor beam?
“These questions,” he wrote, “will have to be answered in the full outline before we can even consider putting it into script.”
In the rewrite, the Enterprise is ordered to investigate a Romulan incursion into the Neutral Zone. It finds instead Lord Bobby’s ship. An away team beams over and immediately determines that this is an alien spacecraft — which is why they are surprised to find what appears to be a human on board.
Lord Bobby introduces himself as Lord Robert Standish, the third Earl of Lancashire, who was kidnapped from Earth by aliens in the early twentieth century. He is overjoyed when he realizes that an entire crew of humans is nearby and asks them to take him on board. As in the original version, he falls in love with Jennifer, who is charmed by his efforts.
The crew is skeptical. For one thing, it would put Bobby’s age at close to 400. Xon investigates, but before the truth can be established the Enterprise is attacked and disabled by five Romulan warships. The Romulan commander maintains that the Enterprise is in violation of treaty. The ship will be pulled to Romulus and the crew taken prisoner. Without engine power, the Enterprise can’t resist. Kirk suspects they might have fallen into a “carefully engineered trap.”
Xon finds out there really was a Robert Standish on Earth who disappeared in the year 1902, but McCoy’s scans reveal that the creature who calls himself Lord Bobby is about 30 years old and definitively not human.
From records on Lord Bobby’s ship, which the Romulans have been towing alongside the Enterprise, the crew learn that Bobby is an alien scientist who has been working on “a most complex and dangerous piece of weaponry when the strain of it had resulted in his race’s equivalent of a nervous breakdown.” His people had a peculiar method for dealing with insanity: the affected person would be “dropped” into a society where his or her behavior might be considered natural. Bobby had been going through such a process when he was withdrawn before he could be cured. His people hoped he could somehow save them from destruction. To no avail. According to Federation records, Bobby’s home planet was destroyed.
Bobby is horrified when he is made to remember the truth. In order to redeem himself, he discusses with Xon the possibility of turning his ship into a bomb so powerful that it could destroy all five Romulan warships.
Jennifer, who is still smitten with Bobby, learns of his plan and beams over. But when she finds “Bobby”, she for the first time sees him in his true form. She is repulsed at first, but then decides she still loves him.
Back on the Enterprise, Decker argues there is no way Bobby’s ship could have drifted into the Neutral Zone. It must have been deliberately placed there.
Once the Enterprise’s engines are repaired, and Lord Bobby’s bomb is rigged, Kirk confronts the Romulan commander. The Romulan admits the truth, but tells Kirk they will never live to tell it. When the Romulans move in for the kill, Bobby detonates his ship and the Enterprise warps away.