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Season One:
-1: "The Cage"
-2: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-3: "The Corbomite Maneuver"
-4: "Mudd's Women"
-5: "The Enemy Within"
-6: "The Man Trap"
-7: "The Naked Time"
-8: "Charlie X"
-9: "Balance of Terror"
-13: "The Conscience of the King"
-16: "The Menagerie"
-20: "The Alternative Factor"
----: _Time Travel Season 1
-21: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"
----: _Prime Directive Origins
-22: "The Return of the Archons"

-23: "A Taste of Armageddon"
-27: "Errand of Mercy"
-28: "The City On the Edge of Forever"
-29: "Operation -- Annihilate!"
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The Man Trap

(Star Trek story #6 in production order)
  • written by George Clayton Johnson
  • directed by Marc Daniels
  • music by Alexander Courage

The Man Trap

There are some really enjoyable levels of characterization in this story as we see the series regulars going about their day-to-day routines, characterizations which deserve to be highlighted and celebrated. This somewhat spices up an otherwise decent and average mystery-thriller plot that divides its action fairly evenly and unpredictably between the interior of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the surface of planet M113. All in all, a good and decent entry for the show's sixth episode.

But then enters the bizarre twist of the networks deciding that this should be the episode that gets broadcast first on September 8, 1966 - the episode that marks the debut of Star Trek to the world. Producers Herb Solow and Robert H. Justman rationalize that there were only a small handful of episodes that could have been made ready in time, which I take to mean in part that production #3 "The Corbomite Maneuver" for example would remain tied up in post-production getting all its model shots and optical effects completed. But, this hardly excuses the makers of DVD and Blu-ray sets decades later who have strangely opted to follow the crazy broadcast schedule on their disc-by-disc layout, while at the same time taunting their audience with the episode numbers of the much more satisfying production sequence on their disc menus. Weird.

Indeed, putting this episode first adds a burden onto it that it was never designed to bear. Unlike the two pilot episodes, we don't get a careful odyssey through the environments of Star Trek to ease the audience into the new universe we are seeing. Instead, it is assumed and tossed off as everyday - great for a sixth episode but not for a first. The best that this story achieves is in its sequence of Green coming back aboard ship, as we see all the bizarre activity here anew through his eyes.

Some of the things that do work wonderfully well here are the scenes amongst the crew. Lt. Uhura gets her first real scene in the entire series so far showing some character from her, as she gets two good exchanges with Mr. Spock right off the bat. This is also the first time that the costume designers have got her in the correct colour of uniform. It really does feel like she's arrived properly in this episode.

There's also an excellent rapport between her and Sulu and Janice Rand - these three make a really nice trio, and it's easy to feel comfortable in their company, as though it'd be great to work with them and have them as colleagues.

Our more prominent trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are all working well in this episode, both separately and together. William Shatner's Captain Kirk in particular really seems to be inhabiting this universe extremely well and making it his own. Here we really get to see who he is naturally, without any kind of soul dissecting stunt from a sci-fi plot device.

Of course, Dr. McCoy gets a bit of extra backstory from this adventure, which is a nice touch, but not all that groundbreaking or relevant to any arc outside of this episode. It works to humanize him, but with McCoy's standard demeanour making him the most humanized castmember already, it doesn't really change his game much at all.

The plot is good, but won't win any awards for triggering profound thought or the advancement of any philosophy. It's just a decent story turned into a decent episode.

The reveal of today's creature's true form is held back for the ending, which is an okay call to make. Since the realization had to be a bit basic on Star Trek's budget, perhaps it's best that the creature lives mostly in the imaginations of the audience and the protagonists. However, the final design has some merit in that the face goes on to be one of those images of early Star Trek that burned itself into my memory and continued to creep me out in my youth, and subsequently had me keenly looking for the episode in later years to see how well my memory matched up to the fact, while I revelled in nostalgia. The hands of the creature are also quite critical for the plot, and work successfully. The rest of the body (and its "costume", which I assume was quite hastily cobbled together) isn't that great to be honest.

One of the more irksome aspects of the creature's realization is in how badly the creature's morphing effects are achieved. I won't hold it against the makers of Star Trek that it was just a simple dissolve effect, but I do think they could have done a much better job of locking the camera off in a steady position when doing those dissolves. It is really only the very last of the 8 or 9 morphing effects that actually shows a background that holds still. And it's additionally bizarre when you consider that shooting the footage for this effect correctly is pretty much the same process as shooting footage for the transporter "beaming" effect, where they never have any trouble at all locking the camera into a steady position, either in this episode or any other. So a minor point lost for effects here.

The action at the end is somewhat interesting, and it is memorable, but it's not really a great ending. Memorable imagery, yes, but nothing profound or enlightening at all. And the ending is particularly downbeat and uninspiring. The general mood one takes away from this episode as the credits roll is kind of depressing. Not a great start for Star Trek's broadcast sequence. It's much better to watch this episode as the sixth in the run, where your enthusiasm for previous episodes can help get you past this one and provide the momentum to continue further on.

Not too bad a standard action episode in the end, but far from great, and not having the essential philosophical uplifting spirit that the franchise often wants to lay claim to.

Read the next Star Trek review: "The Naked Time"

This story is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season One "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend develop from its infancy. Set contains 29 episodes from the first season in their original wacky broadcast order, including "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2" which used footage from the original unaired pilot "The Cage". However, "The Cage" itself is only included with the Season Three Box Set.

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....


DVD Canada


Standard DVD Extras include:

  • original restored broadcast versions of the 29 episodes.
  • "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" documentary (24 min.)
  • Text only commentary by Denise & Michael Okuda on "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", and "The Conscience of the King".
  • "To Boldly Go" featurette (19 min.) discussing
    "The Naked Time", "City on the Edge of Forever",
    "The Devil in the Dark", and "The Squire of Gothos".
  • "Reflections on Spock" featurette (12 min.)
  • "Sci-Fi Visionaries" writing featurette (17 min.)
  • "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" featurette (10 min.)
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (7 min. total)
  • Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Standard DVD Remastered with CGI:
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R2
Standard DVD only R2

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek sets are more readily available, and in addition to picture and sound quality restoration, liberties have been taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Most famously, new CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects. Unlike similar upgrades applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, the CGI effects cannot be turned off to see the original effects. The kicker for me comes from reports that the episodes have been rescored with new music. Interesting, funky, but since it's primarily the original music I'm after in the first place, this was not the set for me.

Another curiosity: Season One was released on double-sided discs, with standard DVD on one side and HD on the other. Reportedly, not all extras are accessible on the standard DVD side. However, by the time the remastered versions of seasons two and three were released, HD had clearly lost the standards war to Blu-Ray, and so seasons two and three "remastered" offer standard DVD only yet again.

Adding to the bizarre formatting is the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage. The season 1 set fares better than its counterparts for seasons 2 or 3 though, in having some interesting bonus features not found on any other season one Star Trek set:

DVD/HD Combo Season 1 Exclusive extras:

  • Starfleet Access interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews for "The Galileo Seven" (HD version only).
  • "Beyond the Final Frontier" History Channel documentary (SD, 90 min.) with host Leonard Nimoy.
  • Trekker Connections interactive DVD game (SD side)
  • Star Trek online game preview (SD, 3 min.)

Season One - Blu Ray

  29 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • option to watch episodes with original or new CGI effects.
  • Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD, 20 min.) covering the restoration, CGI effects, and music upgrades.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 6 episodes:
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before
    • The Menagerie Part 1
    • The Menagerie Part 2
    • Balance of Terror
    • Space Seed
    • Errand of Mercy
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies (HD, 13 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / Gorn)
  • Kiss 'N tell: Romance in the 23rd Century (8 min.)
  • Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "The Naked Time"

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