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May 15, 2024 6 mins

In this episode of STBYM’s The Monstrefact, Robert discusses the Ceti eels of the Star Trek universe, a form of fictional brain parasite… 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:09):
Hi, my name is Robert Lamb and this is the
Monster Fact, a short form series from Stuff to Blow
Your Mind focusing on mythical creatures, ideas, and monsters in time.
In a rare case of synchronicity with the news Cycle,
which is all about brain worms of late, I decided

to devote this Trek themed episode to the dreaded Seti
eels of Seti Alpha ve. You will, of course remember
them from the nineteen eighty two film Star Trek two,
The Wrath of Khan, in which thawd twentieth century eugenics
war tyrant Khan Noonan Singh, played by the superb Ricardo Montaban,

uses larval Seti eels to torture and control two Enterprise
crew members in his quest for vengeance. We also learned
that set eels, native to the harsh world Singh was
exiled to by Starfleet, killed many of Khan's people, including
his wife. The setiworm is a burrowing desert creature, but

its larva, we're told by Singh, crawl in through the
ear canals of host creatures to wrap themselves around the
cerebral cortex, rendering the host organism highly susceptible to suggestion.
Madness and death follow as the eel grows, unless the
eel is removed or leaves of its own accord. The

latter occurs with First Officer Chekhov, though the reason is uncertain.
Was it responding to danger, had it lost control of
its host? Was it in fact leaving the host in
order to continue its life cycle. We don't know any
of these answers, in part because Captain Kirk instantly vaporizes
the escaping eel, turning once more to the non canonical

Star Trek. The Worlds of the Federation, written and illustrated
by Laura Johnson, written as Shane Johnson in nineteen eighty nine,
the author largely shares what we already know from the movie.
Adult Seti eels, one of the few native species to
survive on the planet, grow to lengths of fourteen inches
and carry their young in tissue or armor folds on

their backs until such time as they leave the parent
for a host organism. In Life Signs the Biology of
Star Trek, Susan and Robert Jenkins briefly discuss the Seti
eel in context with other neural parasites and symbians of
the Trek universe, and there are several classifying. The possession
we see with the Seti eel is a kind of

quote co conscious mind control, with the hosts made helpless
by the superseding power of the parasite. Presumably, the whole
reason for subduing the host organism is to keep it
from interfering with the larva's occupation of set organism, and
we might assume that the Seti eel also eats the
tissue that it presumably burrows through to reach the cerebral cortex.

Mind control aspect of this fictional parasitic scenario is of
course vary, in keeping with numerous examples from the natural
terrestrial world, including various parasitoid wasps, flatworms, hair worms, protozoans, fungi,
and more. In broad strokes, we see parasites that alter
host behavior to help complete their own life cycle. This

may mean mere survival or positioning of the host in
such a way that a desirable new host will consume
the current host. Now with the Seti eel, we certainly
see the former survival, but not so much The latter
eel controlled humans don't seem to do anything other than
obey fellow humans. Though one could make a case that

this alone might lead to say, uninfected human being either
being expelled, which would at least be a choice, and
you can imagine scenarios in which this would put the
current host organism in a position to, say, be near water,
or near another organism that it needs to enter, perhaps
some sort of a predator. Or you could also make

the argument that well, okay, a human that is so
easily controlled by fellow humans is going to remain in
close proximity with humans, and perhaps it just needs to
enter a new host organism once it's done munching and
constricting inside that individual skull. Either way, we also have
to acknowledge that humanoids, and remember in the Trek universe,

most or all humanoid species are very distantly related to
each other, humanoids might not be the desired vector for
the parasite, and in the world of actual terrestrial parasite studies,
we do see dangerous results from parasites winding up either
in the wrong host or the wrong part of the

right host. Now, I've long found this one of the
more horrifying aspects of sci fi space horror and particularly
sci fi space related body a human interactions with hostile
biology that simply didn't evolve to deal with human beings.
The xenomorphic threats of the Alien film franchise are great

examples of this. Of course, on one hand, the creatures
we see in the films are highly adaptive and make
use of host DNA in the acquisition of their adult forms.
They have evolved and or been engineered to make quick
study and use of new bodies. But the other horrifying
way to think about it is that here is a
creature that is truly an alien within the host body.

It doesn't know what it's doing in there, and much
like the scene in twenty twelve's Prometheus with the robotic
surgery pod, this combination of high skill and lower context
for the target body runs the risk of heading into
very grizzly territory. Still, we don't have to invoke alien
to make the seti eel terrifying. The implantation scene in

Wrath of Khan remains one of the latest moments of
space horror in a franchise we don't generally associate with it.
Tune in for additional episodes of the Monster fact the
artifact or anomalius stupendium. Each week I'm going to try
and press on with at least one more trek selection,
so please send in your recommendations. As always, you can

email us at contact at stuff to Blow your Mind
dot com.

Speaker 1 (06:33):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
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Robert Lamb

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Joe McCormick

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