Star Trek (1967): S01E18 – Arena


Introduction

“Arena” is the eighteenth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

In the episode, while pursuing a Gorn vessel for an apparently unprovoked attack on a Federation outpost, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain.

Outline

The USS Enterprise arrives at the Cestus III Outpost by invitation of its commanding officer, but the crew find the outpost obliterated. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a security force beam down to find one survivor (Tom Troupe) who says the base came under heavy bombardment from an unknown enemy. The landing party find themselves under fire from nearby, with two of the security team killed in the initial volley. The Enterprise is also under attack from an unknown vessel, preventing the crew from beaming up the landing party. On the surface, Kirk finds a grenade launcher from the outpost’s stores, and uses it to scatter the alien forces. The alien ship recovers its crew from the surface and begins to retreat. The landing party is beamed back aboard the Enterprise before they give chase.

Both ships enter an unexplored sector of space, and shortly thereafter, lose all propulsion power. The Enterprise is contacted by a species calling themselves the Metrons (voiced by Vic Perrin), who zealously guard their sector of space from intrusion. They announce that they will pit the respective captains against each other in “trial by combat”, a one-to-one battle to the death, with the ship of the losing captain to be destroyed and the other ship free to leave. Captain Kirk is suddenly transported to the surface of a rocky, barren planet along with the captain of the other ship, who is of a reptilian species known as the Gorn (voiced by Ted Cassidy). The Metrons speak to Kirk, explaining that while neither captain has communication with his ship, each has been given a vocal recording device that will translate their words to the opposing captain as well as transmit them to their ships. Kirk is told that the planet has numerous resources either captain can use to defeat the other. Aboard the Enterprise, the crew are allowed to watch Kirk’s actions.

Kirk attempts to communicate with the Gorn, but receives no response. The Gorn tracks down Kirk, and Kirk realizes he is outmatched physically and relies on his agility to outrun the Gorn. Kirk gets caught in a rope trap set by the Gorn that injures his leg and slows him down. The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk via the translation device and offers to put him out of his misery. Kirk accuses the Gorns of being butchers, but the alien defends their attack on Cestus III, stating the outpost had been built in what the Gorns considered to be their territory. They viewed the Federation’s presence in this part of space as an intrusion and a possible prelude to full-scale invasion.

Trying to stay ahead of the Gorn, Kirk discovers numerous valuable minerals and resources on the planet, seemingly useless at this point. He is inspired upon finding stalks of bamboo and raw chemicals that can be mixed into a black powder formula. He constructs a makeshift weapon, using chunks of diamond as ammunition. Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and fires on him, severely wounding him. As Kirk prepares to deal a death blow, he considers the Gorn’s claims that the attack on Cestus III was only in self-defense, and allows him to live. Suddenly, the Gorn disappears, and a Metron (Carole Shelyne) appears to Kirk, congratulating him on not only winning the battle but showing the advanced trait of mercy for one’s enemies. Kirk refuses to have the Metrons destroy the Gorn ship, leading the Metron to comment that “you are still half savage, but there is hope”, and that the Federation should seek out the Metrons again in several thousand years time. Suddenly Kirk finds himself aboard the Enterprise, his injuries healed, and the crew finds the ship on the other side of the galaxy, 500 parsecs from Metron space, the Gorn ship nowhere in range.

Trivia

  • The episode marked the directorial debut of Joseph Pevney, who was hired by Gene L. Coon.
  • Likewise this was Coon’s first episode as script writer.
  • After the episode was released the story was found to be similar to one by Fredric Brown, published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction.
  • Coon then bought the rights to this story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit.

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): Joseph Pevney.
  • 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: 19 January 1967.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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