Director: Marc Daniels
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Jeanne Bal, Alfred Ryder, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Bruce Watson, Michael Zaslow, Vince Howard, and Francine Pyne
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 9/8/1966
Production #: 6149-06
Upon arriving at the planet M-113, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) attempts to provide Professor Robert Crater (Alfred Ryder) and his wife Nancy (Jeanne Bal and Francine Pyne)—a former flame of Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley)—with supplies and medical examinations. Shortly thereafter, Crewman Darnell (Michael Zaslow) perishes when the sodium is inexplicably drained from his body. Despite having little evidence to support his inclinations, Kirk suspects that Nancy—or something impersonating her—could be responsible for Darnell’s death.
A formulaic but occasionally profound episode, “The Man Trap” provides a worthwhile introduction to Kirk, Spock, and other members of the Enterprise crew. Especially terrific are the interactions between Kirk and McCoy, which would become a defining aspect of Star Trek: The Original Series and its follow-up films.
Alexander Courage’s eerie composition can be heard as Kirk, McCoy, and Darnell beam down to the surface of M-113 for the first time, creating a spooky atmosphere to accentuate the haunting, ominous nature of George Clayton Johnson’s narrative. A similar effect occurs when the salt vampire, now disguised as Crewman Green (Bruce Watson), sneaks aboard the Enterprise and stalks Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), and Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) in search of another victim—a chilling sequence that benefits from the creepy, subtle music of Courage.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy take an exceptionally long time to solve the mystery of Darnell’s murder, leaving little room to explore the ethical dilemma at the core of this offering. (It should be mentioned, however, that a “whodunit” format works perfectly for Johnson’s monster-of-the-week premise, similar to many episodes of The X-Files.)
“The Man Trap” contains a thought-provoking conflict that should appeal to viewers of an intellectual disposition. On one hand, Professor Crater makes a compelling argument for the creature’s right to continue existing, drawing parallels between the salt vampire (an endangered organism) and the now extinct buffalo and passenger pigeon. Kirk, in contrast, indicates that the M-113 entity must be destroyed before it can eliminate the entire crew, establishing the first of many intricate problems that Kirk, McCoy, and the Enterprise crew would encounter throughout this series.
The first Star Trek: The Original Series episode ever broadcast on television, this installment should be viewed by science fiction enthusiasts and monster movie buffs alike. Notably, “The Man Trap” deserves praise for its ghastly creature effects, topnotch performances, and moral discussions of a complex variety.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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