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Star Trek: TOS - The Man Trap

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Stardate: 1513.4 - In Orbit Around Planet M-113

Revised March 31, 2012, by Will Hoover

Written by prolific science fiction scribe George Clayton Johnson, The Man Trap episode of the classic original series first aired on September 8, 1966.  Although it was chosen by the network to air first (introducing audiences to the Star Trek universe for the first time ever), this installment is officially listed as the sixth production of the series.

McCoy, Kirk and crewman Darnell beam down to planet M-113

In the story (directed by frequent original series helmer Marc Daniels), Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and a surprisingly blue shirted Crewman Darnell (Michael Zaslow) beam down to the surface of planet M-113 to administer routine health examinations to archaeologist, Professor Robert Crater (Alfred Ryder) and his wife Nancy (Jeanne Bal).

The isolated couple has already lived on M-113 for nearly five years, collecting alien artifacts and studying the ruins of the ancient civilization that once thrived on the now mostly barren planet
.

In the opening sequence, we see that McCoy appears visibly anxious about the prospect of seeing Nancy again, since he and the archeologist's wife were involved in a serious relationship more than a decade before the events depicted in the episode.  Naturally, Kirk can't resist teasing his chief medical officer about visiting his "old girlfriend," but things really get interesting when Nancy actually does show up and all three visitors from the starship Enterprise begin to each see her in a very different way.


Kirk picks "flowers" for McCoy


The playful side of Captain James T. Kirk

The captain sees Nancy Crater as a "handsome" middle aged woman, but the good doctor is convinced that she still looks 25 and hasn't aged a day in the intervening 12 years.  Crewman Darnell, on the other hand, sees an entirely different woman altogether.  "Ma'am," he blurts out with unbridled boyish enthusiasm, "if I didn't know better, I'd swear that you were somebody I left behind on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet."


Three different versions of the same woman... er... "the Salt Vampire"


Darnell gets cheeky

An indignant McCoy demands, "A little less mouth, Darnell!"

Realizing he's offended present company, Darnell stammers to apologize and is more than relieved when Kirk tells him to step outside for some fresh air.  Nancy then reveals her pet name for McCoy from years past is "plumb."  Of course, this is a subject for further amusement for the captain, but naturally reason for embarrassment on McCoy's part.  Afterwards, when Professor Crater finally makes his entrance, he is openly hostile towards the Enterprise landing party.


Crewman Darnell, the first real casualty of the original series, was NOT a red shirt!

Though at first mysteriously rude and quite resistant, Crater must submit to being examined by McCoy

After excusing herself (having left with the expressed intention of finding Professor Crater), Nancy (aka the M-113 creature, aka "the Salt Vampire") transforms into a slinky temptress (Francine Pyne) that the young crewman once knew, and poor Darnell quickly becomes the first televised casualty of the original Star Trek series.


Crewman Darnell vs. the Pleasure Planet Girl - aka the Salt Vampire

As McCoy finishes up his examination of Professor Crater, Nancy lets out a blood curdling scream from somewhere in the distance.  Kirk, Bones and Crater rush out to find her standing over the body of a now deceased Darnell, his face marred by a collection of red rings of some inexplicable type.


Walk this way, Darnell baby!

"Nancy" quickly produces crocodile tears

Interestingly enough, the poisonous root that Nancy claims to have seen the ill fated crewman consume, presumably causing his death, is called "the Borgia plant."  Originally identified and catalogued by Professor Crater and his wife, this Star Trek universe poisonous tuber is native to planet M-113 and named after Lucrezia Borgia, an infamous poisoner who was the daughter of Renaissance era Pope, Alexander VI.


Darnell's death seems less important to Nancy than the Crater's need for additional salt

Darnell bites it! And the Borgia plant too, or so claims the creature masquerading as Nancy Crater.

As you may have guessed by now (that is, if you've not already seen or heard of this classic episode), an alien entity has taken the form of Nancy Crater.  In fact, this particular creature, native to planet M-113, can assume at will, the shape of anyone it so chooses.  This "salt vampire" apparently has such a voracious need to consume sodium chloride, that it must resort to the killing of other life forms to get enough of the otherwise common mineral.


The strange alien life form of planet M-113 likes its meals extra salty!

Of course, literally sucking every last drop of salt from the body of Crewman Darnell is still not enough, so the creature uses its chameleon-like shape shifting ability to continue to prey on the Enterprise crew.  The Man Trap episode clip from CBS.com below, shows the creature's next two unfortunate victims, crew members Sturgeon (John Arndt) and Green (Bruce Watson).  Still in the dark about the alien life form they are dealing with, Kirk and company unwittingly beam the creature back up to the ship with them, this time in the guise of unassuming looking crewman Green.

As one might imagine, with such an intelligent and resourceful predatory life form on their hands, more members of the Enterprise crew fall victim to the voracious Salt Creature, and before it's all over with, even the alien's protector, the "too pure and noble" Professor Crater (as Kirk puts it), falls victim to its desperate bid for survival.


From Nancy Crater, to Crewman Green to an unnamed Swahili speaking suave, handsome stranger...

... back to Nancy, to Dr. McCoy, to the creature's true appearance and back to Nancy again.


And finally, the end comes for the Salt Vampire creature, the last "buffalo" of planet M-113

Final Enterprise crew body count: 4
Total body count for this episode: 7 - Including Professor Robert Crater , his wife Nancy and the Salt Vampire creature, "the last of its kind," which Doctor McCoy reluctantly kills with a hand phaser when it attacks Captain Kirk in the climactic final act of the episode.


Casualties of the Man Trap Creature of Planet M-113

For a single episode of a low budget prime time TV drama that was crafted over 45+ years ago, The Man Trap still holds up remarkably well as first class science fiction entertainment.  Visit CBS.com to see more clips from classic Star Trek episodes.  And if simply watching the show isn't quite enough, you can head on over to Chrissie's Transcript Site ("your one-stop site for who said what and when on Star Trek and classic Doctor Who") to read all the dialogue for this still impressive and remarkably enduring first chapter in Star Trek history.

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owns all copyright, trademark, wordmark, and servicemark references to Star Trek - All Rights Reserved
Star Trek theme music by Alexander Courage

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