The Man Trap

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"The Man Trap"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by Marc Daniels
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 6
Original air date September 8, 1966 (1966-09-08)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Charlie X"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Man Trap" is a first season episode of the science fiction television series Star Trek. In this episode, an illusory, shapeshifting, salt-hungry creature terrorizes the crew of the Enterprise. It originally aired on September 8, 1966, and was the first episode to be shown on NBC. It was written by George Clayton Johnson, and directed by Marc Daniels.

Although it was the first aired, it was not the first produced (the pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and several regular episodes had been produced before it). The current official timeline considers "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to be set first.

Plot

Stardate 1513.1: The Federation starship Enterprise arrives at planet M-113 for routine medical exams of archaeologist Professor Robert Crater and his wife Nancy. First Officer Mr. Spock is left temporarily in command. Captain Kirk, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Crewman Darnell beam down and Kirk teases McCoy about his affection for Nancy Crater ten years ago. Nancy arrives and each of the three men seem to see her differently: McCoy as she was ten years ago, Kirk as she should look age-wise, and Darnell as a totally different, attractive younger woman. Kirk sends the dazed Darnell outside and when Nancy goes out to fetch her husband, she beckons Darnell to follow her.

Professor Crater arrives and doesn't appear happy to see them, telling them that he and his wife don't need a medical examination, and that all they really need are more salt tablets to help them cope with the planet's hot, dry climate. Then, he adds that he's glad to see McCoy as an old friend of his more social wife. Kirk orders Crater to submit to the medical exam but before McCoy can complete the procedure they hear a scream from outside. They go out to find Darnell, dead, with red ring-like mottling on his face. There's a plant root in his mouth and Nancy comes up, saying she saw Darnell taste the plant and she couldn't stop him. Kirk is skeptical that an experienced crewman would taste an unknown plant. Kirk has Darnell's body beamed up to the ship.

Spock analyzes the plant, the Borgia root, and confirms records showing it's poisonous, but skin mottling is not a usual symptom. McCoy conducts the initial exam, but can't find any cause of death — poisoning or otherwise. Kirk and McCoy compare notes on Nancy, and McCoy admits he might have been seeing her the way he imagined her from ten years ago.

Kirk decides to remain to investigate Darnell's death. McCoy and Spock determine that Darnell had every bit of salt drained from his body, which caused his death. Kirk beams back down to the planet with McCoy and two crewmen, Green and Sturgeon. They spread out to search, but Crater slips away and calls out to Nancy, saying he has salt. Kirk and McCoy find Sturgeon's body, unaware that Nancy is nearby over Green's corpse. Both the bodies have the same red rings on their faces. She pauses and then changes her shape, turning into a duplicate of Green. He meets with Kirk and McCoy and they beam back up to the ship to conduct a search from orbit.

"Green" roams the halls and runs into Yeoman Janice Rand, who is taking a food tray to Lt. Sulu in the botanical lab. "Green" is attracted to the salt and follows her in, but the plants react badly to him. He leaves and runs into Lt. Uhura, taking the hypnotizing form of a crewman from her memories in preparation for an attack. Uhura is summoned to the bridge over the intercom. That and Rand and Sulu's arrival break the trance.

In his quarters, McCoy is trying to get some sleep. Kirk reminds him of the sleep medication McCoy gave him once. Spock confirms that the scans show only one person, Crater, on the planet, and he and Kirk beam down to capture the professor. "Nancy" assumes her female form and goes to McCoy's quarters, and seems reassured by the fact he has strong memories of her that she can rely on. Nearby, Sulu and Rand find a dead crewman with the same red mottling.

McCoy is already asleep when the General Quarters-3 alert sounds, and "Nancy" takes on his form and goes to the bridge. On M-113, Kirk and Spock find Green's body and realize an imposter is on board. They find Crater, who tries to frighten them off with phaser fire. They flank and then stun him, and the dazed Crater says that his real wife died a year ago, killed by the creature, which still appears to him as Nancy out of true affection. Kirk informs the ship of the creature's intrusion: "It's definite Mr. Sulu, the intruder can assume any shape — crewman, you, myself, anyone, do you understand?" Sulu acknowledges, and Kirk adds "Go to General Quarters-4." As they're about to transport to the Enterprise, a frustrated Kirk tells the Professor, "Your creature is killing my people!"

With Crater, Kirk calls a meeting. McCoy and Spock join them, but the officers are unaware that McCoy isn't McCoy. "McCoy" suggests they try to deal with the creature peacefully and Crater clearly recognizes it for what it is. Kirk prefers to eliminate the predator and insists that Crater help identify it. Refusing, Kirk orders McCoy to administer truth serum. They go to sickbay and a suspicious Spock insists on going with them. The alert goes off and Kirk arrives in sickbay to find an injured Spock. Crater is dead, killed by the increasingly desperate creature but Spock's copper-based Vulcan blood made him incompatible with the creature's needs.

Back in her "Nancy" form, the creature goes to McCoy's quarters and asks him for help. Kirk arrives with a phaser and a handful of salt and tries to entice the creature into attacking. McCoy refuses to believe Nancy is false and gets in the way, giving the creature the opportunity to attack Kirk. It hypnotizes him and prepares to feed off of him while McCoy holds the phaser, indecisive. Spock arrives and tries to use his superior strength against the creature, but it is stronger than he and easily knocks him to the floor. As Spock asks, "Is that Nancy, Doctor?", McCoy finally realizes the creature isn't "his" Nancy. The creature reverts to its true alien appearance and starts to feed on Kirk. McCoy opens fire with his phaser and breaks the creature's grip on Kirk. Despite changing back into the shape of "Nancy" to plead with McCoy for its life the doctor continues firing, finally killing it, saving Kirk.

Production

For a while during production, the episode was known as "The Unreal McCoy" — a name which refers to the M-113 creature taking the form of Dr. McCoy. This title survived in the James Blish adaptation of the episode for Bantam Books. Johnson himself called his original story outline "Damsel With a Dulcimer".citation needed

In the book Inside Star Trek The Real Story, producer Robert Justman recalled feeling that showing the "The Naked Time" as the first episode of the series would have made it easier for viewers to understand the characters. He suspected that NBC chose "The Man Trap" as it was "scarier and more exploitable than the others". However Justman later agreed with NBC's decision.1

Reception

Daily Variety columnist Jack Hellman gave the episode an unfavorable review, stating, "Not conducive to its popularity is the lack of meaningful cast leads. They move around with directorial precision with only violence to provide the excitement."2

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club was more favorable and gave the episode an "A-" rating, describing the episode as "done very well" with a plot that is dark and ambiguous.3

References

  1. ^ Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. p. 163. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  2. ^ Solow, Justman, 1997. p. 265
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack (January 16, 2009). ""The Man Trap"/"Charlie X"/"The Naked Time"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 

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