Sunday, January 20, 2013

Star Trek: The Man Trap

The Man Trap was the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast on TV, but the sixth one made. For any that haven't noticed, I am taking them on here on in production order.

The episode begins as Kirk, McCoy and crewman Darnell beam down to planet M-113 to check in on Professor Crater and his wife Nancy who are there excavating archaeological ruins.

Nancy, McCoy's old girlfriend, is not who she seems to be. Who she seems to be varies depending on who is looking at her.

McCoy sees Nancy as he remembered her 12 years ago.
Kirk (left) and Darnell (right) see different versions of Nancy. 
Interesting that it is the young Crewman Darnell, rather than Kirk, who envisions Nancy as a sex object. The character of Kirk has not yet developed his reputation.

Darnell follows Nancy as she heads out to get Professor Crater. He becomes the first of three crewmen to be killed by her on the planet. Note that none of them are wearing red shirts.
Before their were Red Shirts there was Darnell, Green and Sturgeon
All apparently died by having the salt removed from their bodies and both Professor Crater and Nancy asked for more salt tablets. Coincidence?  "Nancy" assumes the guise of Crewman Green and is beamed up to the ship where more mayhem ensues.
"Why don't you tell me I'm an attractive young lady, or ask me if I've ever been in love? Tell me how your planet Vulcan looks on a lazy evening when the moon is full."
While Spock does not give Uhura anything to hope for here, I do believe that the scene above is the genesis for the Spock/Uhura relationship in J.J. Abrams' 2009 movie Star Trek.
Yeoman Rand apparently cannot walk the corridors without attracting a crowd.
McCoy can't sleep. Maybe he should turn off the light that is shining in his face?
Putting Star Trek aside for a moment, there is a lot of research that supports the idea that light at night isn't especially good for you and that sleeping in the dark is much better for your health. If you are interested in learning more about that, check out this report from the American Medical Association.

McCoy not only prescribes sleeping pills, he keeps a stash of them in his quarters (see the open bottle in the pic below). As we will see again and again in the series, he does like medicating his patients.
Meanwhile on the planet surface, Kirk and Spock figure out that there is a shape-shifting creature aboard the Enterprise. They confront Crater.
You call this archaeology?
Crater reveals that Nancy has been dead for sometime now and that the creature is the last of its kind. He compares it to the passenger pigeon and the buffalo (Wait, the buffalo is extinct?) In later episodes, most notably Devil in the Dark, Spock argues for the preservation of such "monsters" - even when they themselves are killing members of the Enterprise crew. As he says about the Horta: "to kill it would be a crime against science." There is no such argument here, nor any attempt at reasoning out a solution, even though Crater says it is intelligent.

Back on the Enterprise the creature kills again, attacks Spock and nearly gets Uhura before the big confrontation in McCoy's cabin as it goes for Kirk.

In a puzzling move it reveals its true form, perhaps because we can't be allowed to see the captain be beaten by a girl.
McCoy is forced to phaser the creature to save Kirk, even though he can't help but think of it as Nancy.

As the episode closes, Spock, on the bridge, asks Kirk if there is anything wrong. Kirk replies that he "was thinking about the buffalo." So there is some hint of remorse in Kirk for killing the last member of this species. But not much. Trek still has some growing up to do.

Alexander Courage wrote just over 35 minutes of moody, eerie music for this episode. It works well on screen, but mostly isn't something that I'll be listening to on its own. As I have mentioned before La-La Land Records has recently released the entirety of music recorded for the original Star Trek Series. You can hear one track from this episode, First Goner/Salty Cat/Dressing Down on La-La Land's page for the release. It is an amazing volume of music.
Want to watch The Man Trap online? has it here.

Next up, The Naked Time.

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