Whelp, it looks like we made it to the first episode of Star Trek: The Original Series to air. “The Man Trap” first aired on 8 September 1966. According to Wikipedia, NBC chose to air “The Man Trap” first due the horror-esque plot. And can I just say that I’m so glad that I was taking notes because otherwise I think I would’ve gotten this episode a bit confused with “The Cage”? Both episodes had plot elements that included an alien being that could make you see what wasn’t there. It’s not that I mind this trope so much, but I hope we can move away from this in the next few episodes and explore other territory.
In “The Man Trap,” the USS Enterprise arrives at the planet M-113, an arid planet that as far as the crew knows has two inhabitants: Professor Crater and his wife, Nancy. Kirk and McCoy along with a crewmember named Darnell beam down in order to do what should be a routine medical checkup of Professor and Mrs. Crater. The only thing that isn’t so routine is that Nancy is McCoy’s ex. It turns out that the Craters weren’t the only inhabitants of M-113: there was a species of alien living there that lived off salt (if the name of this alien race was ever mentioned, I missed it; consequently, I’ve been thinking of them in as “the salt aliens”). They eventually killed each other off save one. The remaining salt alien eventually killed Nancy about a year before the arrival of the Enterprise because it was desperate for salt, but for some reason left Professor Crater alive. I guess they struck up a deal or something. Anyway. When crew members of the Enterprise star dying off, Kirk and company figure out that the alien has been taking the shape of Nancy Crater and can, in fact, take the form of anyone it chooses. Kirk tries to enlist the help of Crater to hunt down the alien, but he refuses, saying that it’s not the alien’s fault that it lives off salt and it’s desperate. The alien ultimately kills him, too.
If I’m being honest, the thing that excited me about “The Man Trap” was not the plot itself but the fact that we finally get to see some of the main characters that I have long been associating with Star Trek: TOS. Captain Kirk? Check. McCoy? Check. Uhura and Sulu? Check and check. So, yay.
Speaking of these iconic Star Trek: TOS characters, one of the things I wondered while watching “The Man Trap” was what exactly is Sulu’s job on the Enterprise? It didn’t seem like he spent a lot of time on the bridge with Kirk, Spock, and Uhura. The presence of plants in his quarters made me wonder if he’s a botanist or something? But I’m also kind of unclear as to what the Enterprise needs a botanist for? Does the Enterprise encounter a lot of weird plants they need identified or something? And actually, now that I think about it, it seems unlikely that he’s a botanist. After all, when Kirk initially thought the crew was being killed by eating poisonous plants, they would have gone to the resident botanist for information, if they had one. Instead, Spock was the one who was looking up information in the ship’s archives. So I guess I’m just confused. I’m sure I’ll gain some insight eventually.
Also, can we talk about those miniskirts? One of the differences in costuming I noticed between “The Cage” and “The Man Trap” was that the female crew members of “The Man Trap” pretty much all have these miniskirts as part of their uniforms whereas the female crewmembers of “The Cage” mostly got to wear pants. The miniskirts struck me as very impractical for the type of work they have to do.
Speaking of the women, another one of the differences I noticed is that Kirk doesn’t seem to be as spooked by women as Pike did. I was going to say that Kirk seems to be more comfortable around women crewmembers, but then I started trying to remember when he had to talk to any of the female crewmembers in “The Man Trap.” Sure, he talked to Nancy, but that’s not quite the same as speaking to someone you’re stuck in confined quarters with and have to work with. So perhaps I should reserve my judgment for later.
So that’s it for “The Man Trap.” This post is much shorter than I expected, so I’d love some feedback as to how you feel about the length of this post vs. the last one.