Star Trek (The Original Series): The Man Trap (S01: E01)


Stardate 1513.1. The Enterprise is scheduled to conduct medical exams on archaeologist Robert Crater (Alfred Ryder, The Stone Killer) and his wife Nancy (Jeanne Bal, TV’s Company of Killers), who are stationed on planet M-113. Nancy is Dr. McCoy’s (DeForest Kelley) ex-girlfriend and he is eager to see her again, but McCoy notices that Nancy hasn’t aged a day in fifteen years. Meanwhile, a series of unexplained murders appear to be related to The Craters.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I don’t like mysteries. They give me a bellyache!”

Written by George Clayton Johnson (the original Ocean’s 11), The Man Trap was the sixth episode produced, but it was the first one shown on TV. The network wanted to launch the series with a “monster episode” and The Man Trap definitely fits the bill — this simple yet tense episode revolves around an elusive and dangerous creature.

If anything, The Man Trap does a good job establishing the complex relationship between the big three — Captain Kirk, Science Officer Spock and Dr. McCoy — which forms the crux of the series. The actors have excellent chemistry and their combined strengths tend to smooth out some of the rough edges.

However, there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me. For example, the ending is inconsistent with the show’s mantra — there is zero sympathy for the monster, a no-no in the Star Trek universe — and Spock is a little too emotional (he is also uncharacteristically uninterested in the alien)but one has to take into consideration that the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was still experimenting with the concept.

This is one of the few episodes that deals with the personal life of one of the crew members. Unlike the endless spin-offs, the original series didn’t delve much into the past of the main characters. It’s nice to see McCoy get some sort of love story. Oh, by the way, McCoy utters the immortal line, “He’s dead, Jim,” for the very first time. We get some bits of information too: Spock mentions that his home planet has no moons.

Above all, I liked the fact that the supporting characters get more screen time than usual. Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei) are allowed to shine. For example, Uhura engages in an interesting repartee with Spock, and Sulu is shown completely immersed in his hobby of botany. Yeoman Janice Rand, played by Grace Lee Whitney, also has a few nice moments.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Although far from perfect, The Man Trap is a very nice beginning indeed. It has its share of wrinkles, but overall, this episode is very entertaining. It’s a simple but well-crafted episode. The Man Trap won’t make your top ten list, but I’m almost sure most fans will enjoy it. Recommended. Color, 50 minutes, Not Rated.

Next Voyage: Charlie X

2 responses to “Star Trek (The Original Series): The Man Trap (S01: E01)

  1. I picked up the first two seasons on Blu-ray, and have been going through each episode in order, one week at a time (I’m due for Ep 4 next). I haven’t watched the series since 1988, and don’t remember much, so I’m watching the episodes with the updates effects, which I think are great. I’m assuming you’ve made it through the series already (this review was posted in 2014)…did you watch with these new effects, and if so, what did you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got distracted with other things, so I never had a chance to finish. I’m planning to try again soon so I can review all episodes. I do agree with you that the new FXs are pretty cool. I’m usually against this type of tinkering (e.g. Lucas), but the new stuff is indeed an improvement.

      Liked by 1 person

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