Cult-TV Theme Watch: Drug Trips

A drug trip is a reality altering experience associated with the use of a drug, usually a hallucinogen or a psychedelic. Drug trips can be transcendental, or they can be “bad,” containing frightening imagery and feelings of fear.

Drug trips have long played a role in cult-TV history.

Most notably so in the third season of the paranormal anthology One Step Beyond (1959-1961), in the documentary episode “The Sacred Mushroom.”  

There, host John Newland samples hallucinogenic mushrooms on network television to determine if they augment psychic powers, such as ESP or telepathy.

A drug trip is necessary for the survival of the crew of the starship Enterprise in the finale of the second season Star Trek (1966-1969) story, “Wolf in the Fold.” There, Redjac -- the spirit of Jack the Ripper – is loose on the starship, feeding off fear that he stokes. Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) injects every member of the crew with a drug that expunges fear, and results in a “groovy” altered state. Mr. Sulu (George Takei), in particular, seems to enjoy it.

In UFO's (1970) "The Long Sleep" a group of youngsters who take LSD end up on a very bad trip indeed, encountering the organ-stealing aliens.

A notable "drug trip" episode of Space: 1999 (1975-1977), Year One is Christopher Penfold’s “The Last Sunset.” 

After Earth’s errant moon is gifted with an Earth-like atmosphere by the alien people of Ariel, wild mushrooms begin to grow on the lunar surface.  Following an Eagle crash, controller Paul Morrow (Prentis Hancock) realizes the mushrooms may be the only nutrients for the team -- under command of Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) -- to eat.  Unfortunately, the mushrooms possess psychedelic quality and Paul goes on a bad drug trip, experiencing extreme paranoia.

In Farscape’s (1999 – 2003), “Taking the Stone” a group of disaffected alien teenagers take drugs before leaping off a cliff-top (and landing in a sonic net.)  These “stoned monkeys,” as Crichton (Ben Browder) calls them, have no fear about their actions, and for a time, Chiana (Gigi Edgley), in mourning over the death of her brother, embraces their existentialist world-view and behavior.

The gang on the Satellite of Love in Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1989-1999) finds trouble during the experiment “Future War” when the evil Dr. Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl) laces the bots’ food with LSD. We are treated to visions of Crow and Servo’s drug trip, which includes imagery of Mike Nelson (himself) as a clown.

In The X-Files (2016) revival episode, “Babylon,” Mulder samples psilocybin mushrooms in hopes of achieving an altered state that will permit him to communicate with the comatose consciousness of a terrorist bomber.

Mulder’s ensuing “trip” includes an appearance by the Lone Gunmen, line-dancing, and a religious vision involving the Cigarette Smoking Man.


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