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Monday, August 25, 2014

Star Trek: season one: episode one: Man Trap


Capt. Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and crew member Darnell beam down to planet M – 113 to investigate an archaeological site and its scientists. They encounter Nancy Crater, a woman who has a different appearance for each person. Darnell is enchanted to the dismay of his commanding officers. Nancy’s husband, Prof. Crater, is unwelcoming and wants no medical examinations, but does want salt.

Nancy finds Darnell that with red pucker marks on his face, said toward eaten a native plant, a type of nightshade. However, there is no trace of memorable and poison in his system.

Uhara flirts with Spock, who doesn’t react. In fact, Spock is unusually cold, not just emotionless. Spock seems not to have mastered his role yet, or maybe they were still exploring who Spock is at this point. Either way, Spock becomes adorably emotionless, rather than cold.

Analysis with spoilers:

Darnell has no salt in his body, which makes it pretty clear what happened, although it takes a while for Kirk and crew to figure it out. Prof. Crater is unhelpful. He runs off to give Nancy salt. Two more crewmembers are dead – – one of whom is named Sturgeon (see note below). Nancy takes the shape of one dead crew member, Green, and is teleported aboard the ship. Green pursues a crew member with the model salt. Green, or Nancy, takes on various crew member forms. More pucker-faced bodies appear. Kirk and Spock go back to the planet to find the professor for answers. They get none, but they discover Green ‘s body. The alien is masquerading as Dr. McCoy gets on the bridge.

A little slow on the uptake, Kirk and Spock figure out that the alien can take any form and warn the ship. Professor says the alien is the last of its kind. Nancy voluntarily(?) gave her life to the alien to help it survive.

Spock accompanies Prof. Crater and the alien masquerading as McCoy to help administer truth serum so that Prof. Crater will tell where they alien is. Nancy beats up Spock and then kills her buddy, Prof. Crater. The alien flees to McCoy for his help and pleas in the body of Nancy. Capt. Kirk lures out her alien personality with salt, so she attacks him. After some convincing, McCoy shoots the alien.

The alien is not too bright. It suddenly eats way too much salt. Supposedly, the alien ate less than 25 pounds of salts in the period of a year or two, so it doesn’t make sense that it would need to kill so many people in so short a time.  That comes out to about 15 to 30 g of salt per day. I guess that might make someone a little anxious to be so low on salt. I couldn’t find how much salt the body has. It may be 15 to 30 g, but that would only mean one person per day.

Yet you’d think Nancy would use the same caution she’s used for two years. Why not continue to eat the salt you do have instead of potentially exposing yourself?

Plus, where does the salt go? How does she use the salt? Sodium and chloride, as a metal and gas respectively, do have a lot of energy, but in their ionic state, which is how Nancy’s eating it, they have low energy. This makes sense. Something highly reactive will react and tend to remain at its low reactive state. Chemicals are like little kids. If they have a lot of energy, they will run around until they use it up. Once they use up their energy, they want to take a nap. So there can’t be a whole lot of energy in a salt. Maybe they process it as a nuclear being, but you’d expect Prof. Crater to be dead by now, if so.

It seems to have had a good symbiotic relationship with Prof. Crater but suddenly decides that it will ditch the professor. This doesn’t make sense, especially because if she had waited, she could have had all the salt she needed before she attacked (albeit, it sounds like she needed an extra ration of salt, up to five times as much, so they probably should’ve asked for more). Moreover, if they needed salt why was Prof. Crater chasing the Corey and Capt. Kirk off the planet?

That said, it’s still a pretty cool alien. It’s sad it had to die. This episode provides a good concept that needed a little more developing.

George Clayton Johnson, a Twilight Zone writer, wrote this episode.

  1. Capt. Kirk does a little more narration in the story than normal, as if he’s the narrator as opposed to the audience occasionally overhearing his Captain’s log. Potentially, the difference could mean everything in interpreting this series.
  2. When getting in the elevator, crew members hold on to a knob on the wall.
  3. Sulu and Chekhov are not on the bridge. Although Sulu makes an appearance elsewhere, Chekhov has not.
  4. It would appear that the latest incarnation of Star Trek that the idea for Spock and Uhura’s relationship began here.
  5. A character named Sturgeon dies. A tribute to Theodore Sturgeon?

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