Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 1

The Man Trap

Aired Unknown Sep 08, 1966 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
290 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk and his crew are at deadly risk from an alien creature that feeds on the salt in a human body and can take on any form.

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  • Dr. McCoy's got the hots for an old acquaintance who might not be who he thinks.

    Kicking off Star Trek with a horror episode, "The Man Trap" (which is really a misnomer since it also proves to be a woman trap) is more boring than frightening with its languid pacing and emphasis of guest stars over the regulars. By all accounts, writer George Johnson really wanted Star Trek to succeed and worked hard on the script, and he does deserve credit for developing one of the franchise's key plots: the crew beams down to a planet, discovers a threat and tries to deal with it. We even get our first televised "extra" deaths on the planet, though they don't know yet they're supposed to be wearing red shirts! But the construction of the plot is clunky, with Johnson seemingly unable to make up his mind as to exactly what kind of creature this is. Early scenes emphasize its ability to appear differently to different people, with Kirk even including the notion in his log. (How he knows this is a mystery, especially since Kirk and McCoy see essentially the same woman and the other crewman involved has no chance to describe his vision). Later, the creature continues to shape-shift, but its appearance seems be consistent to everyone. It's not technically an inconsistency; there's nothing to say the creature can't assume the same shape in everyone's eyes. But why spend so much time early in the go showing an ability that will be dropped and not factor into the plot?

    Guest stars Alfred Ryder and Jeanne Bal do the script no favors. If ever an episode needed a sexy actress to help us through the dreariness and lack of action, this one is it; as is, Ryder and Bal and capable but nothing special.

    All in all, this is Star Trek still trying to figure out what it is and stumbling a bit. You certainly won't see this one in a marathon of best episodes, but it also won't be laughed about as one of the show's worst episodes. It's a bit of an odd choice to be the first piece of Star Trek to make the air.

    Remastered Edition: Since the original version of "The Man Trap" includes only basic special effects, and, with few bridge scenes, doesn't even include anything of interest on the view screen, the remastered edition's only notable changes are the Enterprise flybys coming out of commercial break. Appropriately, the new version keeps the same (standard) angles and (like the original) doesn't let the flybys call attention to themselves - with the exception of one artistic shot from above the ship late in the episode.

  • okforlatenight

    Not good first impression
  • This exciting "monster" episode has some real problems in the credulity department, perhaps the result of too many people fiddling with the story.

    A salt-hungry "vampyre" stalks the Enterprise, able to change shape and assume alternate identities.

    There are things that are fun in this episode, shape-shifters lend a lot of possiblities. My favorite part is that there could be a recreational "Ripley's Pleasure Planet" in the 23rd century - I like those rugged human details in a 1960s TV series. Kirk really ribs McCoy, I kind of enjoy the interaction there.

    What bugs me a LOT, and other people seem to forget, is that the alien is impossibly characterized. I have read that some people say that this is an episode that shows the inhumanity of the "Star Trek" universe - killing a being that is the "last of its kind". That would have some weight if the alien here was an "innocent" life form. But it doesn't come out in the wash. First of all, there is no hope for a creature that has no breeding partners. But most importantly, this is a being able to assume any identity, and that also can mimic any human's thought patterns to carry out its deceptions. Does this highly intelligent and capable life form just explain the situation and ask for salt to live on? No, it decides to stalk and kill the very people it needs to ultimately survive. Unlikely, incredibly unlikely. The only real conclusion is that the alien is insane, full of ability and thought - but stupidly homicidal.

    I tend to believe that there was a good science fiction story underlying this episode, but that there was some pressure to make a "horrifying monster" - and so the story suffered as a result of that.moreless
  • Unbeknown to anyone, an old flame of Dr. McCoy's has been taken over by a form-shifting creature that feeds on salt, sucking it out of its victims. A reasonable start to a classic series...moreless

    As is well known, although this was the first 'Star Trek' episode to air in the U.S., it was actually the sixth episode to be filmed (not including original pilot 'The Cage'). Various theories have been presented over the years as to why this episode was picked to air first; personally I think that original second pilot 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' would have made a better premiere episode. That said, I still really like 'The Man Trap'; it is a mostly exciting story with an interesting creature. Some fans don't like this episode, and while there are a couple of flaws, I for one really enjoy it.

    The 'salt vampire', as it is sometimes dubbed, is an interesting creature; I like the twist of how it appears different to every person, and it has a good costume for its true appearance. As some other reviewers have commented, its treatment is many a bit suspect compared with the handling of other unknown creatures in various other episodes, but I can't say it overly bothered me.

    The episode also gives some good character development, most notably for Bones, but also with botanist Sulu, and a nice scene with Uhura trying to make conversation with Spock. (The character emphasis of the episode is one of the various suggested reasons that the episode was picked to air first).

    There are a few things that let the episode down very slightly (in particular, Sulu's plant, which is quite clearly just a hand puppet), but all-in-all there is enough going on in this episode to make it a very fair entry. There would be much better episodes later on, but for the selected first outing, it's not too bad at all.moreless
  • Between "Bones" and "Plum" Dr. McCoy could use some more virile nicknames.

    Die hard fans ripped this one apart, and I heard somewhere that Leonard Nimoy decried it as the first of the "monster episodes" and how that wasn't what they'd wanted for Star Trek to be. However, this episode has too much fun stuff in it for me to give it a poor rating. Most notably, in our household this was one of the most "quoted" episodes as far as cheesy-fantastic lines. There's ditzy Janice Rand's glib take on Green to Sulu, "Do you think he's space happy?" and Kirk's smirking and scoffing McCoy's reaction to his old flame, right in front of the apparent husband, "No offense...she's a handsome woman...but hardly twenty-five." Then there's Spock, belting the incarnate Nancy back and forth across the face, "If she were Nancy, could she take this?!" and McCoy watching in mild puzzlement. It really seems like he's about to say, "Well, Spock, Nancy always was a tough ol' broad..."

    Other highlights include Kirk screaming like a girl when the creature closes in on him, and the deliciously hideous monster itself, when in its true form.

    All in all, it's full of goofs and question marks, but I rate it a "good" for pure entertainment value.moreless
Alfred Ryder

Alfred Ryder

Prof. Robert Crater

Guest Star

Bruce Watson

Bruce Watson


Guest Star

Michael Zaslow

Michael Zaslow


Guest Star

Grace Lee Whitney

Grace Lee Whitney

Yeoman Janice Rand

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (13)

    • Trivia: This is the first episode where McCoy says, "He's dead, Jim."

    • Trivia: The designation on McCoy's stateroom is 3F 127.

    • When the salt creature goes to put its suction-like hands on Kirk, Kirk begins to scream before the creature even touches him, and continues to scream as the creature places its fingers on Kirk's face. However, all the other times that crewmen were killed on the planet, there were never any screams emitted. In fact, the only scream heard was from "Nancy" finding the corpse, which was within earshot of Kirk and McCoy.

    • Trivia: Truth serum is still used in the 23rd century.

    • After Darnell's death, why do Kirk and McCoy return to the planet with Sturgeon and Green, who are science and command officers respectively, not security officers.

    • Trivia: In a conversation with Uhura, Spock reveals that Vulcan has no moon.

    • When Kirk and Dr. Crater argue about Kirk's telling Crater and Nancy to stay on the Enterprise for safety reasons, shots behind Kirk show his arms are crossed. In shots from behind Crater, Kirk's arms are not crossed.

    • When Rand and Sulu find the dead man in the environmental suit, Sulu bends down towards him to check his pulse. As soon as Sulu's fingers touch the man's face, you see the supposedly dead man's eyes flinch.

    • When Rand brings Sulu the plate of food, it has a bowl of colored fruit cubes on it, and that is how it appears in most scenes. In the scene where Green wanders into the Botany lab and looks longingly at the salt shaker on the tray, a single close-up shot shows the bowl of cubes has transformed into a plate of cubes.

    • When they first arrive on the planet, the tricorder Kirk is holding for McCoy starts on his left shoulder, disappears in the next shot, then in the next shot after that reappears in his right hand.

    • Despite the fact that McCoy has a tricorder that can scan for life forms, Kirk orders him to return to the Enterprise to scan for life forms there.

    • Several times the communicators fail to chirp when someone activates them.

    • When McCoy tell Kirk that the dead crewman has no salt in his body, the blood pressure gauge was almost all the way up.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • McCoy: The machine is capable of almost anything, but I'll still put my trust in a healthy set of tonsils.

    • Crater: The heroic captain and the intrepid doctor cross interstellar space to preserve our health! Oh, your sense of duty is overwhelming. Now, will you please go back where you came from and tell whoever issues your orders to leave me and my wife alone?!?

    • Uhura: Mr. Spock, sometimes I think if I hear that word "frequency" again, I'll cry.
      Spock: It is illogical for a communications officer to resent the word "frequency."
      Uhura: Then I'm an illogical woman. Why don't you tell me what an attractive lady I am? Or how your planet looks when the moon is full.
      Spock: Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura.
      Uhura: I'm not surprised.

    • Kirk: You bleed too much, Crater. You're too pure and noble. Are you saving the last of its kind... or has this become Crater's private heaven here? This thing becomes wife, lover, best friend, wise man, fool, idol, slave. It isn't bad to have everyone in the universe at your beck and call. You win all the arguments.

    • Uhura: Starship base requesting explanation of our delay, sir. Space Commander Dominguez says we have supplies he urgently needs.
      Kirk: Tell Jose he'll get his chili peppers soon. They're prime Mexican reds. I handpicked them. But he won't die without them.

    • Kirk: He's all yours, Plum. (McCoy glares at him) Dr McCoy.

    • Kirk: He's not trying to kill us. He is trying to frighten us. And he is doing a pretty good job.

    • Kirk: How your lost love affects your vision, Doctor, doesn't interest me. I have lost a man. I want to know what killed him!

    • Kirk: (speaking to McCoy) You could learn something from Mr. Spock, Doctor. Stop thinking with your glands!

    • Kirk: We're all aware of the need for salt on a hot and arid planet like this, Professor, but it's a mystery, and I don't like mysteries. They give me a bellyache and I got a beauty right now.

    • Crater: Earth history, remember? Like the passenger pigeon or the buffalo ... once there were millions of them; prairies black with them. One herd covered three whole states. When they moved -- like thunder.

    • Kirk: It isn't a bad life to have everyone in the universe at your beck and call, and you win all the arguments.

    • Sulu: May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet.

  • NOTES (12)

    • Sulu uses the phrase "The Great Bird of the Galaxy." The term was a nickname for Star Trek creator and producer, Gene Roddenberry.

    • In the opening credits William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy's names appear without their usual 'Starring' and 'Also Starring' credits.

    • Sulu's plant (the one that he and Yeoman Rand debate about being male or female) is a hand-operated puppet. When its "petals" extend, it shapes just like the hand that's operating it.

    • Dr. Crater's weapon is a reuse of the Starfleet laser pistol from the first two Star Trek pilot episodes.

    • As Green walks around the Enterprise, at one point there is a rare appearance of a command division female officer wearing the standard skirt uniform with black pants. This occurs immediately after the first scene with Sulu and Rand in the Botany Lab. It's clearly the skirt top with black pants, as the collar is deeper, like the skirt uniforms, rather than the male shirts which have tight collars.

    • Crewman Darnell, played by the late Michael Zaslow of Guiding Light fame, is not, in fact, the first red shirt seen killed on Star Trek, because he wears a science blue uniform. Zaslow returns later in the second season as Ensign Jordan in "I, Mudd" and also has an uncredited role almost 30 years later as Eddie, the Town Barkeeper in the movie Star Trek: First Contact.

    • In the episode "The Squire of Gothos" the Salt Monster can be seen again as a statue in Trelane's collection.

    • This is the first time we learn that Lt. Uhura speaks Swahili from her encounter with the creature pretending to be a crewman.

    • The Botany Section was merely a redressing of the Sickbay.

    • This was the first time Kirk calls McCoy "Bones". Kirk did not use the nickname in the episodes that were originally scheduled to air before this one.

    • The real Enterprise model that was used in this epsiode currently resides in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

    • This is the sixth episode of the original Star Trek series produced, yet NBC decided to choose it to open its first season.