- Written by George Clayton Johnson
- Directed by Marc Daniels
- September 8, 1966
- Captain Kirk-William Shatner
- Spock-Leonard Nimoy
- Dr. McCoy-DeForest Kelley
- Sulu-George Takei
- Yeoman Janice Rand-Grace Lee Whitney
- Uhura-Nichelle Nichols
- Prof. Robert Crater-Alfred Ryder
- Nancy Crater-Jeanne Bal
- Nancy III-Francine Pyne
- Green-Bruce Watson
- Darnell-Michael Zaslow
- Crewman-Vince Howard
The Enterprise stops at planet M-113 for to give routine medical examinations to the residents and resupply the outpost only to encounter a strange and dangerous creature that is the last of its kind.
Though not the episode that sold the show to the network, “The Man Trap” was the first episode of Star Trek to hit the airwaves. This heralded the beginning of a phenomenon that went far beyond the wildest dreams of not only the creator but anyone who worked on this show.
Though Shatner as Kirk was the man of action for the show, this was a McCoy centric episode that gave us a look into the good doctor’s past. Not much of one since all we really know is that he last saw Prof. Crater’s wife Nancy 25 years ago when their relationship ended. He is at the center of much of the action and ultimately the one that ends the threat.
The episode itself is a good showcase for Dr. McCoy. We get a feeling for him more personally than he is professionally. DeForest Kelley gets to do some real acting in the part rather be the words of common sense. McCoy’s view of the present is colored by strong feelings of the past. For him Nancy is the one that got away.
The elements that propel the action are an interesting concept about the last of an alien species. They frame it is similar to the buffalo but one thing that always bothered me is that the salt vampires are apparently intelligent and somehow I don’t think the buffalo ever were.
“The Man Trap” also brings something else up: is this creature part of the species that built the ruins that brought this archaeologist to M-113? Or was it a different species altogether? It’s not really important for the purposes of the story but it’s something I’ve always been curious about. I know this episode was touched on to some extent in Lower Decks but as of this writing I have no interest in watching that show and these thoughts may have been addressed there.
One interesting aspect of this from a technical perspective is that the salt vampire has an ability to camouflage itself. Kirk acts as if it’s some kind of shapeshifter but it seems to me that it is more of a telepathic type deal. To illustrate this the creature appears different to each person even if they are all in the same room together. To McCoy he still sees the same 25-year-old woman he encountered years ago. Kirk sees an older gray-haired woman. And a member of the landing party sees what’s implied to be a prostitute from a pleasure planet he had recently visited. This is during the first instance we see its camouflage ability.
I bring this up because this is quite a complicated moment in my opinion from a production perspective. The different visions are intercut together and yet the flow of the story is unbroken. And it switches around several times before the scene ends. Rather impressive and well-crafted in my opinion.
The plot of “The Man Trap” feels a little less deep than some of the other episodes. There is just not as much meat here as in others. And at best it touches on how our perception of the present can be colored by memories of the past. McCoy can’t see the forest for the trees and has trouble believing that this isn’t his lost love but rather an alien salt vampire. Maybe it is not that hard to understand his reluctance after all…
As Star Trek episodes go “The Man Trap” is certainly not the one I would’ve kicked the show off with but even the weakest of the original series is better than most television. If you wish to ease yourself into Star Trek this is a good starting point.