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Star Trek: Arena

Kirk: "We're a most promising species, Mister Spock, as predators go. Did you know that?"

This episode had not one, not two, but three continuing Star Trek themes: an all-powerful superior race or being toying with the Enterprise, a seemingly heartless and evil enemy turning out to have good reasons for what it was doing, and Kirk once again sacrificing himself for his ship. But they are good themes, and the ultimate point of the story was valid. We're better than this. Brain is mightier than brawn. Mercy toward an enemy is the right thing to do, even if you're not sure they deserve it.

I'll admit out of the gate that the Gorn doesn't wear well, and probably always looked like a guy in a bad monster suit and a psychedelic sixties outfit. But most of this episode was memorable and fun. I always liked the silly stuff with the rocks – like the scene where Kirk picked up and threw a tiny rock at the Gorn, and the Gorn responded by picking up a huge boulder and throwing it at Kirk. Later, Kirk pushed a huge boulder (probably the same one) over a cliff and it managed to land right on the Gorn, too. Very Wile E. Coyote.

And even though it was obvious that the sulfur and diamonds, etc., were planted there for Kirk and he just kept not getting it, I always enjoyed it when he finally figured out what to make with them and took out the Gorn with his little bamboo mortar. Good set-up, too, showing the high-tech mortar at the start of the episode so that Kirk's low-tech version would flow a bit better. Although the fact that Kirk aimed it perfectly the first time was way lucky.

Spock was again the voice of reason when it came to the treatment of other species. It took Kirk longer to come to the same place, but he finally did. And bravo for the human race. We might actually be worthy of the Metrons in a couple of thousand years.

Ben says...

I think this episode may very well have been the episode where Star Trek became the Star Trek we remember. You get the action. You have Spock arguing for not just blasting the aliens even after the attack. You have the classic Trek patronizing god-like aliens. And you have the outstanding rubber masked alien menace, the Gorn! An alien so scary that he can only be defeated by an improvised bamboo cannon. (It even influenced Lady Gaga's choice of eyewear).
Note the lyrics from Bad Romance: "Rah rah ah ah ah /Gorna Roma ma /Gaga Ooh la la." The linkages are startling.

Billie always gives some great quotes, but here are a few that should have been:

"Like most Gorns, Me have instinctive revulsion to mammals, they icky and warm-blooded."

Or maybe:

"Hey, I'm the only guy on this transporter platform with a red shirt on. Ah, why worry." The classic blunder.

Or maybe:

Mr. Spock, talking about all the mineral deposits.: "Perhaps nothing, doctor. Perhaps (pause) some really outstanding additions to my rock collection." My opinion, Spock had nothing, but wanted to snow McCoy.

Seriously, this is a good episode in a lot of ways. Great fun and classic Trek messages about peace, violence and humanity.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3045.6. Earth Observation Outpost Cestus 3. An unknown planet was the titular arena.

— Finally! A reference to Starfleet Command and to the Federation.

— We already had communicators that look like today's cell phones. On the bridge, Spock was wearing what now looks like a big Bluetooth.

— Warp eight is dangerous? Why? We still don't know what a warp factor actually means. Well, other than that it's really, really fast.

— A red shirt got vaporized early in the episode.

— This week's revolving butthead in the navigation chair, Mister DePaul, was mostly just a poor actor.

— The Metron was fifteen hundred years old, and looked like a teenage angel without wings.

— Ted Cassidy was back again to voice the Gorn.

— Four spinoff series later, in Star Trek: Enterprise, Scott Bakula got to fight a Gorn in the two-part episode "In a Mirror, Darkly." It was CGI, though, instead of a guy in a monster suit.

— Dan, who is not as familiar with original Trek as I am, watched this one with me. During this episode, he turned to me and said, "Is Shatner wearing a toupee?" I could not stop laughing.


Spock: "Doctor, you are a sensualist."
McCoy: "You bet your pointed ears I am."

It had its moments. Three out of four reptilian aliens,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Prior to viewing this episode for the first time, I had read the short story it's based on. So that was kind of a cheap thrill. It was a great story. Brown was one of my favorite authors.

    The short story was a bit different, of course. No Star Trek. Humanity and an alien space fleet were poised for a decisive battle at the edge of our solar system. There'd been no communication between the two sides other than skirmishes.

    A much more advanced alien race recognized both races were equally matched and equally worthy of victory. However, this battle would so weaken both sides that neither would survive in the long run.

    So the alien race chose one fighter pilot from each side and took them to strange planet where they would fight to the death, determining which side would win.

    The things that happened on that planet were very different than in this episode, stranger and more interesting actually. But of course, the story had to be poured into the Star Trek mold.

    The human is cleverer than the other alien (well, Duh!) and so we survive. The super aliens distroy the rival fleet. It was really a quite good story.

  2. I've always liked this one.

    You know, Mythbusters (actually the Build Team) tackled the myth in this one: Kirk being able to make a working canon from bamboo and pure sulfur and potassium nitrate. The result: no. According to their findings, no only would the Gorn not be hurt at all, Kirk may have killed himself when firing it. The bamboo would not have held up at all.

    But I comfort myself thinking that, although Kirk's Rock is the main rock (and, boy does that rock get around the galaxy!) they're on an alien planet (or, according to Kirk, an asteroid) so the bamboo may be a lot tougher than that on Earth. It would have worked on an alien planet (or, you know, asteroid).


  3. Kat, I saw that episode of Mythbusters. Even though I try my best to avoid Mythbusters. The geek quotient is just so high! :)

  4. I love this one! The Gorn captain was scary as a child, and cool as a teenager and later. They were my go to race in Star Fleet Battles for years too. The game even mentions that the Federation and Gorn became allies after 'an unpromising start between two hot headed captains', referencing this one!

    This is a such a good one and has good lessons without coming off as too preaching. Spock's play by play got a little annoying, but it also fits him and keeps the audience in the loop, so it works.

    This is definitely a top 5 TOS episode for me.


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