“The Man Trap” is the first episode of season one of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.
In the episode, the crew visit an outpost on planet M-113 to conduct routine medical exams on the residents, only to be attacked by a shapeshifting alien who kills by extracting salt from the victim’s body.
This was the first Star Trek episode to air on television, although the sixth to be filmed; chosen as the first of the series to be broadcast by the studio due to the horror-based plot. “The Man Trap” placed first in the timeslot with a Nielsen rating of 25.2% for the first half-hour and 24.2% for the remainder. It aired two days earlier on Canadian network CTV.
The Federation starship Enterprise arrives at planet M-113 to provide supplies and medical exams for the only known inhabitants of the planet, Professor Robert Crater (Alfred Ryder) and his wife Nancy (Jeanne Bal), who operate an archaeological research station there. Captain Kirk, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard McCoy, and Crewman Darnell (Michael Zaslow) transport to the surface as Kirk teases McCoy about his affection for Nancy ten years earlier. They arrive in the research station, and each of the three men sees Nancy differently: McCoy as she was when he first met her, Kirk as she should look accounting for her age, and Darnell as an attractive blond woman who he says looks just like someone he met on a pleasure planet. McCoy finds this remark offensive so Kirk sends the dazed Darnell outside; when Nancy goes out to fetch her husband, she beckons Darnell to follow her.
When Professor Crater arrives, he is reluctant to be examined, telling Kirk that they only require salt tablets. Before McCoy can complete the examination, they hear a scream from outside. They find Darnell dead, with red ring-like mottling on his face, a plant root visible in his mouth, and Nancy standing over him saying she was unable to stop Darnell from tasting the plant. On board Enterprise, Spock analyses the plant. He confirms that it is poisonous, but the mottling is not a symptom. McCoy conducts a medical exam, and together with Spock determines that Darnell died after all the salt was drained from his body. In response, Kirk transports back down to the planet with McCoy and two crewmen, Green (Bruce Watson) and Sturgeon (John Arndt). Kirk tells Professor Carter that he and his wife should stay aboard the Enterprise until they find out what killed Crewman Darnell. Carter retorts that they can’t force them to leave but Kirk is adamant. Crater then runs off trying to find Nancy. He finds Sturgeon’s dead body and a little later Kirk and McCoy find it too. Meanwhile, unseen by them, Nancy has also killed Green; the faces of Green and Sturgeon show the same mottling as Darnell. Nancy alters her shape, assuming the form of Green, and meets Kirk and McCoy. They beam back up to the ship with Sturgeon’s body.
“Green” roams the corridors, first following Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) into the botanical laboratory as she brings Lieutenant Sulu his lunch with a salt shaker. A plant in the lab reacts to “Green” with alarm, scaring “him” away. When “Green” meets Uhura, he assumes the form of a black man who speaks Swahili. Uhura reacts with delight but then freezes as “Green” gets closer and closer. As Sulu and Rand appear, she comes to her senses and gets away from “Green”. The creature then moves on, attacking several crew members, killing one. It then shape-shifts into the form of McCoy. Meanwhile, Spock confirms that scans show only one person, Crater, on the planet; Kirk and Spock beam down to capture him. They find Green’s body before Crater tries to frighten them away with phaser fire. After they stun him with a phaser beam, the dazed Crater reveals that his real wife was killed by the creature – the last member of a long-dead civilisation of shape-shifters who feed on salt – a year earlier. The creature continues to take on the appearance of Nancy out of affection for Crater, and he has been feeding it. Kirk informs Enterprise of the creature’s intrusion, as the landing party and Crater transport back to the ship.
Crater refuses to help them identify the creature, so Kirk orders the fake “McCoy” to administer truth serum. Kirk arrives in sickbay to find Crater dead and Spock injured; Spock’s Vulcan blood made him incompatible with the creature’s needs. Back in its “Nancy” form, the creature goes to McCoy’s quarters. Kirk arrives with a phaser to provoke the creature into attacking. McCoy gets in the way, giving the creature the opportunity to attack Kirk. The creature reverts to its natural appearance and starts to feed on Kirk. McCoy opens fire with his phaser. The creature changes back into the shape of “Nancy” to plead for its life as McCoy continues firing and kills it. As Enterprise leaves orbit, Kirk comments, with a degree of compassion, that this creature – the last of its kind – was probably not inherently evil, but simply desperate.
Star Trek TV Series
You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series here.
Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries
You can find a full index of all Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Marc Daniels.
- Producer(s): Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, and Fred Freiberger.
- Writer(s): George Clayton Johnson.
- Music: Alexander Courage.
- Cinematography: Jerry Finnerman.
- Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
- Original Network: NBC.
- Release Date: 06 September 1966 (Canada) and 08 September 1966 (US).
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.