Star Trek – The Man Trap

by Alan Rapp on May 2, 2014

in Television Reviews 

  • Title: Star Trek – The Man Trap
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Star Trek - The Man Trap

In the first episode of the series to air on television the USS Enterprise makes a routine stop at planet M-113 for Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) to give a yearly physical to scientist Robert Crater (Alfred Ryder) and his wife Nancy (Jeanne Bal), who happens to be former flame of McCoy. Odd instances begin almost instantly as all three members of the landing party see different version of the professor’s wife. Where Kirk (William Shatner) sees a middle-aged woman, Bones is surprised by a woman who hasn’t aged a day, and crewman Darnell (Michael Zaslow) sees an entirely different woman (Francine Pyne) altogether.

After Darnell turns up dead under mysterious circumstances it’s revealed to the audience that the woman masquerading as Nancy is actually something far more interesting and dangerous. Following the deaths of more crewman both on the planet and the Enterprise, it becomes obvious that whatever creature caused the deaths in search of salt it extracts from its victims (much like the strong memories it uses to assume the visage of anyone it chooses) is now aboard the ship. It takes more than logic for Kirk and Spock to convince Crater to divulge what he knows, but eventually the scientist admits his wife is long dead and tells the truth about the creature which McCoy is forced to kill to save Kirk’s life.

Although Star Trek produced two Pilot episodes, “The Man Trap” wasn’t one of them and doesn’t spend as much time introducing the core characters as you’d expect from a regular Pilot episode. The episode does offer clues to Spock‘s (Leonard Nimoy) personality early on through a discussion with Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), but no point is made about his Vulcan lineage. Pieces of the show’s first Pilot, “The Cage,” would eventually make it into a two-part episode “The Menagerie.” The show’s second Pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” would become the third episode of the series to air.

Several elements of the story would become staples not only of the series but those which would follow decades later. An old love, a routine stop at a planet which would become anything but, a bizarre humanoid creature, a situation which isn’t what it initially appears to be, and disagreements between the show’s three major characters based on their unique take on a situation would all become common themes over the show’s three seasons on the air. Although Uhura earns a couple of scenes of her own, first with Spock and later with the creature having assumed the shape of a man from her dreams, Sulu (George Takei) receives little more than a cameo and Scotty (James Doohan) wouldn’t be seen for a couple of more episodes until the second Pilot would air. Checkov (Walter Koenig) of course wouldn’t join the show until the Second Season.

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