Discussing Star Trek’s Man Trap Monster-Flick

Part VITrek Through Trek

The Episode We Are Watching: The Man Trap  (Episode 1 of Season 1 of the Original Series: Sept. 8, 1966)

My Rating out of 5 Tribbles: 3 Tribbles who really need salt.

My After Episode Thoughts: “Wow. That really sucked. You see what I did there. Oh. I’m alone.”

Pros: The Enterprise Community, Deforest Kelly and the creature.

Cons: The ending. Kirk’s and especially Spock’s indifference to the whole affair.

sttos-mantrap-nancycraterNBC used The Man Trap as the premiere to the Original Series of Star Trek because the plot of the episode both gave a decent introduction to the characters and  represented, in their minds, “traditional Science Fiction.” Apparently, they believed “traditional Science Fiction” is a group of humans trying to escape from a hostile alien  because, at the core, that is all this episode is. The episode is nothing but a traditional monster flick. Albeit one, with some wonderful character development.

I have gushed, in a prior article, about my man-love for Leonard McCoy. The Man Trap is Bones centered which mean won me over in the cold open. I wonder why NBC decided that a McCoy episode should reintroduce Star Trek to the world?

Bones represents a 20th century familiarity that the other characters of the crew lack. His passion for life in all its forms is what makes Leonard integral to the make up of the first crew.

In this episode we get a glimpse of a past romantic entanglement that the good Doctor had been involved with. Nancy Crater, former fling of Leonard McCoy, married Alfred Crater, a mild mannered space Alienologist, who shortly after tying the knot, asked her to accompany him to a planet in the middle of nowhere.  The planet has no designation beyond M-113. Kirk and McCoy are tasked to the planet on a routine inspection just to check up on the well being of the settlers. Apparently, the Federation does this to all settlers in the Universe and thinks it prudent to send a captain of the Flagship to complete this routine job.

When the Away Team arrive on M-113, they find Nancy, but something is clearly up. Nancy appears as a different person depending upon who is looking at her. I must say when I saw this conceit, I loved it; it really piqued my interest. However, as the show progressed, I began to notice the conceit was slipping when she was with McCoy. In this first meeting she is in youthful visage, while Kirk sees an aged woman, however as the show progresses the aged version is the only woman McCoy sees. McCoy never makes a comment on this.  This seems like an odd oversight. Could this be because McCoy only sees the inner woman?

What is the nature of that inner woman? Is she an unknown monster?

Whatever it is, it needs salt to live. The monster uses its hidden suckers to pull all the sodium chloride it can out of the bewildered crew members. This is an

The Creature!!!

The Creature!!!

ingenious idea: an alien chameleon that takes on the facade of a person that the victim most desires and utilizes this lie to lure the victim to a salt feast. The best example of this lure in use occurs when Uhura encounters a tall man who speaks her language (Swahili, for the uninitiated) to woo her into salty submission. This doesn’t work but it is a great moment none the less and it also happens to be the first moment of development for a woman who, thus far, has been glued to the radio.

It is wonderfully compelling to watch the creature fight for its life by using the guise of Bones to plead his case for survival. I found myself chastising the Captain for his callouss murder of a sentient creature that is the last of its kind.

I wonder the morality of this killing in the scale of Star Trek lore.

We are still extraordinarily early in the establishment of Trekdom, heck, the word Federation still has yet to be uttered, but the idea that humans would unmercifully kill a creature that is just fighting for its life seems to violate some unwritten Star Trek law.

Yes, the creature has sucked to death a large amount of the crew, but it did this only to live.

Perhaps, a comment is being made on its insatiable hunger and how it is this very hunger that destroyed its planet.

Still, I do feel bad for the creature.

As I said before, NBC thought this was a simple episode because of its monster chasing plot.

It is.

There really isn’t much to delve into literary wise.

Aside, from the difference in the background crew.

As the series progressed the action that took place in the many enigmatic Enterprise corridors, heavily featured in this episode, dissipated into empty busy work. I love the sense of community that permeates the Enterprise here. There is so much action and joshing around of crew members. I wonder why this dissipated. Perhaps, it is because of the poisonous controlling atmosphere that NBC began to impose on the show in later seasons.

The Man Trap is simple monster flick. Nothing hugely outstanding, but nothing repugnant either. I did get a tad bored in the middle which makes me wonder why such a vanilla episode was chosen as the second pilot of the show.

<— Part V

—> Part VII


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on December 2, 2013, in Star Trek, The Original Series and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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