Hey, everybody! You catch that new show that premiered tonight called Star Trek? In tonight’s episode, we meet the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise during what should be a routine medical stop. Routine, that is, until crewmen start showing up dead. Tonight’s episode:
(Before I continue, for those confused why I am talking about this as a new show that premiered tonight... click here! Thanks.)
Tonight’s episode begins with a spaceship (seen above in the title card) orbiting a planet, M-113, as a voice over begins, “Captain’s Log, stardate 1513.1.” The voice goes on to reveal that someone named Mr. Spock is temporarily in command as the ship’s surgeon and the captain do something called “beaming down” to the surface of the mostly uninhabited planet on a routine medical check of an archeologist and his wife. Routine, that is, except that the wife is apparently an ex of the surgeon, named Dr. McCoy.
We then see three people materializing in gold sparkles, presumably “beaming down.” Two of them are the aformentioned captain and Dr. McCoy. They enter a building looking for Professor Crater or his wife, and have some friendly banter about McCoy being nervous about meeting his ex.
Then she walks in, and looks exactly as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy remembers her from ten years ago. At least, that is how it appears at first. To Jim Kirk, the captain, she appears a more reasonable age. And to the third member of the crew, Darnell, she looks like a completely different woman altogether: a stunning blonde he said he left behind on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet.
Kirk tells Darnell to wait outside. A few moments later, Nancy says she will go look for her husband, and follows Darnell out. While inside, she is still the dark haired (tinged with grey from Kirk’s POV) woman, but once outside we see the blonde once more. She seductively entreats Darnell to follow her, and... roll credits!
The opening credits contain a brief bit of narration that seem to sum up what the show will be about:
From there we are treated to a stirring instrumental theme as the ship flies by at various angles. It is a gorgeous ship that somehow takes many retro elements such as a large saucer shape and cylindrical “rocket” shapes, and combines them in a new way that seems elegant and powerful.
After the credits there is an additional captain’s log entry that talks about how each member of the landing party was seeing a different woman. Since there is no way that the characters can know this yet, I’m going to hazard a guess that these logs are being recorded shortly after the fact.
Anyway, it is at this point that Professor Crater comes into the show. He walks into his dwelling, upset to find visitors. He insists on needing more supplies such as salt to help against the heat, but insists on otherwise being left alone. Kirk however is insistent that the medical checks are required.
Alas, things go south rather quickly, as Nancy is heard screaming. Everyone runs outside to find her with Darnell’s dead body. He has a piece of some plant in his mouth and strange red marks all over his face. Nancy says she saw him about to eat the poisonous plant, but couldn’t stop him before it was too late. The medical exams are postponed as Kirk and McCoy prepare to beam back up onto the ship... but not before Nancy also asks after salt.
On the Enterprise we meet Mr. Spock and a woman named Ms. Uhura, a communications officer. Spock is an alien from a planet named Vulcan. They are informed that the landing party is returning and reports one death. Spock acknowledges, and continues about his business. Uhura is incredulous, saying she doesn’t believe his lack of reaction. For all they know, it could be Captain Kirk, and he is the closest thing Spock has to a friend. Spock remains cold, saying any expression on his part will not change the situation. It seems these people from Vulcan, or at least Spock in particular, are not to be moved easily or frivolously.
Meanwhile, McCoy completes an examination, and the conclusion is that the plant could not be the cause of Darnell’s death, and would not have any connection to the marks on his face. In fact, other than the marks, there is absolutely no clue as to the cause of Darnell’s death.
Eventually, McCoy does find one anomaly: there is no salt in Darnell’s body. So improbable, McCoy almost hadn’t even checked for it. But with no salt, Darnell wouldn’t survive. Kirk and McCoy reflect that there was one thing that both of the Craters went out of their way to ask for: salt.
They beam down again, with a few more crew members, to question the Craters further. Professor Crater is again annoyed and claims this is needless harassment. Nancy isn’t there, so Kirk sends a crewman named Greene to find her while he sends the other crewman, Sturgeon, to get a sample of the plant Darnell allegedly ate just to be sure to rule it out.
Kirk insists that the Craters will need to stay on their ship until the investigation is complete. Alas, while Kirk is distracted talking to the ship to arrange quarters, Crater runs off. We then see him find the body of one of the crewmen and he calls for Nancy, who we see standing over the body of the other one. Uh oh! And Crater seems to know what is up, as he tries coaxing Nancy out with salt.
Carter runs off again as Kirk and McCoy come up and find Sturgeon. They start calling out for Greene, and he rejoins them. But wait, didn’t we just see him dead? Seems Nancy can change her form! Double uh oh! Kirk, McCoy, and “Greene” return to the ship.
“Greene” scopes the ship, looking for salt, creeping out a crew woman named Yeoman Janice Rand as she brings some lunch to Sulu in the Botany Section of the Life Sciences Department. Sulu and Janice argue about if a rather animated plant is a boy or a girl. The plant in question has a very negative reaction to “Greene,” scaring him off for the moment.
Retaking the “Nancy” form, the creature seeks comfort with McCoy. It seems it takes comfort in the feelings of affection for Nancy that it can feel in him. Of course, when McCoy is paged after Janice and Sulu find a body on the ship the knows it is still in danger, so it manages to put McCoy to sleep and takes his form.
Meanwhile, having only detected one life form on the planet, Kirk and Spock beam back down and manage to capture Crater. We discover that the real Nancy died a few years ago, killed by this very creature. This creature is the last of its kind, and struck up some sort of symbiotic relationship with Crater for mutual companionship and survival. That, plus the discovery of Greene’s body and the news of the body found on the ship, causes Kirk and Spock to figure out that the creature can change its appearance and is on the ship.
Crater and “McCoy” try to convince everyone that, if properly fed, the creature is harmless. Kirk still wants to capture the creature however, and forces Crater to admit that he has learned to recognize the creature in whatever form it takes. So, of course, Crater becomes a threat to the creature, and next chance it gets, Crater ends up dead, too. Frightened, the creature returns to McCoy, desperate for help.
McCoy has only just regained consciousness and is very confused as to why his captain is claiming Nancy is dangerous. The creature manages to attack Kirk, and while feeding reveals its true form. McCoy, heartbroken, defends his captain and the creature is killed. But not before briefly regaining Nancy’s form and begging, “Leonard, no. Leonard, please...”
Kirk and the others silently reflect on their experiences before the ship flies off towards her next destination.
All and all, an engaging first episode! Adventure, excitement, mystery and tragedy all rolled into one.
So, let’s sum up some of who we meet in this episode, and what we have learned about this universe thus far.
The ship is commanded by Jim Kirk, played by William Shatner. He seems an able leader respected by his crew.
The science officer and second in command is Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the emotionless man from the planet Vulcan. Vulcan has no moon, and its people seem to lack salt in their bodies (and thus are immune to the creature’s attacks).
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelly), ships surgeon, seems on very friendly terms with Kirk.
Ms. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) works in communications. She seems a bit frustrated in her job and seems a bit of a romantic.
Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) brings people lunch.
Mr. Sulu (George Takai) at first seemed to be working in the botany department, but was later seen driving the ship. I guess he is a multi-tasker?
Darnell, Greene, and Sturgeon are dead.
Crew members wear uniforms in one of three colors: yellow, blue or red. Is there significance to the color a character wears?
The Enterprise is quite a large ship. Multiple rooms are seen including a bridge (command center), medical room, a botany room, a meeting room, crew quarters, and a transporter room (for beaming), along with corridors and elevators to connect it all. Additional crew members aside from those named are seen walking about the ship.
The ship has the ability to “beam” people from orbit to the surface of a planet. It can presumably travel faster than light. (At the end, as they are leaving, reference is made to a speed of “Warp One.”) It has scanners capable of detecting how many life forms are down on a planet it is orbiting.
They have a hand held weapon called a phaser. It shoots an energy beam with different settings that can go from stunning a man on lighter settings to more destructive things on higher settings.
The Written Adaptation
Author James Blish wrote an adaptation of the episode, which was available to read after viewing the episode. It follows the story of the episode as aired pretty closely, but there are a few striking differences in names, leading me to suspect it was written based on an earlier draft of the script before these names were finalized. Robert and Nancy Crater are instead Robert and Nancy Bierce, planet M-113 is instead Regulus VIII. And most strikingly, the whole story has a different title, The Unreal McCoy rather than The Man Trap. A pity they changed that, as The Unreal McCoy is something of a catchier title in my opinion.
Anyway, I hope these written adaptations continue. Obviously, not everything in them can be taken as canon, otherwise how could the professor and Nancy have conflicting surnames? But any extra tidbits found within that aren’t contradicted by what is on screen could be interesting!
Anyway, that’s all for this week’s episode. Sorry if the summary of the episode itself dragged on a bit. It’s a new show, and it’s all so exciting! Hopefully as time goes on I can become more concise.
Hope to see your comments below, to hear what you thought of the show! And I’ll be back next week as the Enterprise picks up an unusual young passenger named Charlie.
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