Saturday, May 4, 2013

Star Trek: Arena

It is time for another episode of Star Trek. Today we bring you one of my favorites:
 Yes, by today's standards Arena is pretty cheesy, but it contains many elements of what makes Star Trek so wonderful.

The Enterprise arrives at Cestus III to visit Commodore Travers only to find that it is a trap. The colony has been destroyed.
The landing party falls under attack from an unseen enemy while in orbit the Enterprise, with Sulu in command, also comes under fire. Eventually the alien ship beams up its forces on the ground and breaks orbit. The landing party returns to the Enterprise and begins pursuit.

In typical TOS Trek fashion the space battle and the chase through space takes place without showing even showing the alien vessel.

Kirk pushes his ship right to the edge. As Scotty says, "We'll either catch them or blow up."

Sensing that Kirk is looking for vengeance on the aliens, Spock questions if it is really necessary.
Spock: You mean to destroy the alien ship, Captain?
Kirk: Of course.
Spock: I thought perhaps the hot pursuit alone might be sufficient. Destruction might be unnecessary.
Kirk: Colony Cestus III has been obliterated, Mister Spock.
Spock: The destruction of the alien vessel will not help that colony, Jim.
Kirk: If the aliens go unpunished, they'll be back, attacking other Federation installations.
Spock: I merely suggested that a regard for sentient life...
Kirk: There's no time for that. It's a matter of policy. Out here, we're the only policemen around. And a crime has been committed. Do I make myself clear?
Spock: Very clear, Captain.
This is a much more mature Spock than we saw in The Man Trap.

As the chase progresses the alien vessel suddenly drops out of warp and comes to a complete stop. As Kirk moves in for the kill the same thing happens to the Enterprise. They are powerless and being held in place from a nearby solar system when the viewscreen delivers a message from the Metrons.

"You are one of two crafts which have come into our space on a mission of violence. This is not permissible. Yet we have analysed you and have learned that your violent tendencies are inherent. So be it. We will control them. We will resolve your conflict in the way most suited to your limited mentalities."

When Kirk tries to interject they continue:  "We have prepared a planet with a suitable atmosphere. You will be taken there, as will the Captain of the Gorn ship which you have been pursuing. There you will settle your will not be permitted to communicate with your ship. You will each be totally alone...The place we have prepared for you contains sufficient elements for either of you to construct weapons lethal enough to destroy the other, which seems to be your intention. The winner of the contest will be permitted to go his way unharmed. The loser, along with his ship, shall be destroyed in the interests of peace. The contest will be one of ingenuity against ingenuity, brute strength against brute strength. The results will be final."

Kirk vanishes from the bridge only to appear on the surface of a planet to face 
the Gorn

The Gorn is the reptilian captain of the alien ship. It very much represents the old school way of looking at reptiles--scarey, yes, but slow and clumsy. He's sort of how dinosaurs were envisioned to be pre-Jurassic Park, before we had an inkling that they might have been warm blooded.
The Gorn has a swing and a miss x 2
A lot was done to build up the end to the big fight. Kirk points out that the planet is a mineralogist's dream. I guess that's why there's aluminum foil on the rocks behind him.
The Gorn may be slow, but he's just a bit stronger.
The Gorn is also intelligent and sets a trap for Kirk that he falls for and becomes entangled in. But it was one of those "traps before the commercial break" traps, so Kirk easily escapes being killed after the commercial break.
This was one of several episodes that was filmed on location at the iconic Vasquez Rocks. There's lots of cool looking rock formations there giving the landscape an alien feel.
Yet they still managed to put the Gorn on a dirt road. 

As things progress, they aren't going so well for Kirk and the Metrons (doesn't that sound like the name of some mass transit system?) decide to let the crew of the Enterprise watch Kirk's demise.

I just love Uhura's reaction to seeing the Gorn. She doesn't often get much to do, but I must say that Nichelle Nichols was great at the reaction shot. Sometime here I'll post a retrospective of Uhura reaction shots.
As the crew watches, Kirk is working on a plan. Spock, being the astute observer that he is, notices the white powder behind him: "Unless I'm mistaken, it's potassium nitrate." I'm not sure how he was able to identify a white powder this way but, well, he's Spock so that must be enough.
Don't you just love this view of the Gorn? I do.

As the Gorn slowly chases Kirk he was busy collecting this and that to make gunpowder and building a canon to fire at the Gorn.
This moment in TV history became popular enough that the feasibility of Kirk's canon was tested in an episode of Mythbusters. Watch it here. In it Mythbuster Grant Imahara plays Spock. In addition to his Mythbusters gig Grant is now playing Sulu in the fan produced Star Trek Continues. They are picking up right where the first series left off. Their first full episode comes out late this month. They have done an amazing job recreating the sets of the original show and could be making some cool stuff. It is worth checking out.
Any way, Kirk's shot at the Gorn is successful but, he shows mercy by not killing the Gorn.
 A Metron appears and delivers the kind of thing that Gene Roddenberry loved to put into Star Trek: "By sparing your helpless enemy who surely would have destroyed you, you demonstrated the advanced trait of mercy, something we hardly expected. We feel there may be hope for your kind. Therefore, you will not be destroyed. It would not be civilized."

Kirk asks about the Gorn and says that they should try to talk and reach an agreement. The Metron continues, "There is hope for you. Perhaps in several thousand years, your people and mine shall meet to reach an agreement. You are still half savage, but there is hope. We will contact you when we are ready."
That message resonates with Kirk and at the end he tells Spock that "We're a most promising species, Mister Spock, as predators go. Did you know that?" Spock says that he has had is doubts. Kirk counters, "I don't. Not anymore."

Kirk's fight with the Gorn has come back in this this hilarious commercial for a new Star Trek video game. In it William Shatner battles the Gorn again:

Wasn't that awesome?

There was no new music written for this episode. It's all tracked from other episodes, but it works very well.

Want to watch Arena? Yes, you do and you can. It is online here.

What Trek is up next? The Alternative Factor.

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