TOS Final Rewatch 1 - The Man Trap



"The Man Trap"
Season 1, Episode 1

Something's Happening Here
Doctor McCoy's old flame, Nancy Crater, and her husband Robert are on an archaeology mission to a deserted planet that was home to an ancient, almost defunct civilization. While there, they run afoul of the last of the former residents - a knuckle-biting, shape-shifting whatzit with a nasty habit of draining people's bodies of salt, killing them in the process. When the Enterprise swings by for a regular medical check-up, it turns out that the Crater's salt supply has run low. Mayhem ensues, with the red shirts getting the worst of the bargain. Would you like some freshly ground pepper?

Check Your Local Listings
What choices would a TV viewer be offered on September 8, 1966, the Thursday night that Star Trek made its first appearance for viewers in the United States. Before Star Trek, you could tune in to Batman, F Troop and Daniel Boone, to name a few. Later in the evening, you might go with Dragnet or The Dean Martin Hour. At 8:30 PM, NBC offered up Star Trek for the first time. Opposite it, on CBS and ABC, were several well-known sitcoms that have survived to this day in eternal syndication and streaming - My Three Sons, Bewitched and That Girl.

Beginnings
The first reveal of the fabled Star Trek bridge opens on a frowny Mr. Spock seated in the captain's chair. Who is the last character we see in the last Star Trek episode? We'll see about that. Uhura soon leaves her temporary post at navigation and wanders over to flirt with Spock. Spock's not having it and shuts her down right away.

How May I Direct Your Call?
As things get underway, Uhura's switchboard is unmanned and she is at the navigation console. If memory serves, Uhura is rarely seen in anything but a redshirt/miniskirt apparatus of decidedly indecent proportions and yet she manages to remain mostly unscathed over the course of the next three seasons. There's the episode where she has her memory wiped completely clean and has to reload her brain from scratch, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. All in all, one of the more (most?) substantial parts for "Miss Uhura," as Spock calls her here. She is mostly relegated to taking calls for the rest of the mission.

Red Means Dead
Kirk's voiceover mentions that he and McCoy are beaming down to a planet that contains the ruins of a long-dead civilization. The redshirt (in a blue shirt) who beams down with them doesn't get a mention and so the pattern for redshirts is set from the start. This is Darnell and while he is not gone in sixty seconds, it's close.

It's not long before we realize something is wrong. Kirk sees Nancy Crater as she would be if she were still alive and McCoy sees her as he knew her in the old days. As for the unfortunate Mr. Darnell, he sees her as a saucy dame, complete with saucy dame musical cues, a good bit of sashaying and foot-long fluttering eyelashes (send the kids from the room, mother). His days are numbered.

"This man should not be dead," McCoy notes after Darnell's low-sodium corpse is examined. Darnell did not get that memo. He is quite dead.

On the next visit to the planet, Green (the redshirt in the gold shirt) is quickly done away with and shapeshifter Nancy "borrows" his body for a while. Sturgeon (the redshirt in the blue shirt - please try to keep up), meets his demise with relatively little fanfare.

What does one do with a dead crew member (or five) over the course of a five-year mission? I don't know think this important administrative detail is ever addressed as the stiffs continue to pile up over the years. But it would be interesting to know.

Down in the Hole
There are a surprising and rather refreshing number of "lower decks" interactions here. We start to get an inkling that a starship is not the sole province of three leading men and a handful of supporting actors. Rand and shapeshifter Green have their interactions and Rand hangs out in Sulu's exotic garden and quarters, which are surprisingly spacious. Apparently square footage is not at a premium on a starship several centuries in the future. There's also a fairly random shot of two crewmen ogling Yeoman Rand and making vaguely lewd remarks. Which probably should have ended up on the cutting room floor, but there it is.

Space Eats
Kirk dines on some yummy Sesame Street shapes. Sulu digs into space celery, among other things.

Cup holders have yet to be invented in this version of the future. Either that or they are not considered appropriate equipment for a captain's chair. One good hit from a photon torpedo and you're wearing your prune juice.

Doctor Doctor
Tongue depressors will never go out of style and it's possible to give a man a pretty complete physical by waving a medical tricorder over his upper back and chest a few times.

"Plum" - Nancy Crater's nickname for the good doctor.

"Dead, Jim." - Darnell's demise results in the first appearance of that immortal phrase, minus a pronoun.

Shapeshifting 101
Everyone on the planet sweats like a horse, although not quite so much for shapeshifter Nancy. Given these circumstances, I might consider bumping off a few people and sucking the salt from their bodies.

Shapeshifters can shift their bodies with surprisingly fidelity to whatever they are mimicking. As a bonus, they can even shift clothing. In the end, it turns out that the actual un-shapeshifted creature looks like Raggedy Ann's corpse on a bad hair day. Maybe they should have passed on the big reveal.

Colors and Stuff
A luridly enticing shade of red, the skies of this lonely old planet. TOS does good skies. The ruins seems very clean, as ruins go, and not very ruined. Vegetation consists almost exclusively of a few scattered clumps of straw.

Say It Again
Early in the episode, Kirk refers to the doctor as McCoy, but "Bones" surfaces before long.

"Dispensary to Captain." Eventually known as "sickbay."

Let's Set a Date
We open on SD 1513.1. I'm almost geek enough that I need to know how star dates work but I cling to some shred of dignity. And yet something pulls at me, some gravitational force that tries to snag me into its orbit. Somebody must have worked this out by now. If not when TOS was created, then afterward, when some fanboy worked out an intricate system of star dates down to the very last femto-second. I will not be assimilated.

Miscellany
Guest star Jeanne Bal's most significant TV role was probably in Love and Marriage. It was a short-lived 1959 sitcom, where she co-starred as the daughter of William Demarest (My Three Sons), a music publisher trying to adjust to modern music.

Look! A female crew member wearing pants. Which would have been an improvement over the micro-miniskirts. But people who catalog this sort of thing claim it never happened again.

The open field running thing Kirk does here and elsewhere in the series might have been a valid military tactic, but when he does it, it just looks silly.

The death toll. Robert Crater and five redshirts.

At the climax of the episode, Spock can't get the phaser away from McCoy. But to be fair, his superhuman Vulcan strength has not been established yet.

Spock's glittery space Band-Aid is a nice touch.

"Let me look at you," Says Nancy to McCoy. Requesting permission to look at someone was actually fairly common in TV and movies of yesterday.

The Verdict
My memory of this episode was that it wasn't very good. It's all subjective, I suppose. But it probably isn't, especially when you stack it up against some of the episodes that followed. Like the very next one - Charlie X - which is quite good. But if you pretend you're watching an old B-movie about a killer critter, with some Star Trek junk thrown in for good measure, it makes for passable entertainment.

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