Giving robots a bad name since 2007.

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Star Trek: The Original Series Episode 05 - The Man Trap

Original Airdate: September 8, 1966

We open with Spock at the conn, and Uhura, of all people, at navigation. Jim & McCoy, along with Crewman Darnell, are beaming down to planet M113. There are ruins there, and a lone archaeologist and his wife are studying them. They've been there five years, and every year, a starship pops by to give them routine medical exams; McCoy has apparently drawn that straw this year.

The wife in question is an old flame of McCoy's; one he could never really forget. As they walk over to the residence, Jim teasingly picks some tall grass and asks McCoy if he'd like to take her some flowers. The doctor asks Jim if that's how he gets the girls to like them, by bribing them. Jim smiles, and they knock on the door. No one answers, so they walk right in. (Doesn't anybody ever knock in the future?)

A moment later, Nancy walks in, and greets McCoy warmly (with the nickname she used to call him, Plum); he sees her in a sort of soft glow, with dark hair. Jim introduces himself, she turns to look at him, and he sees her as about 15-20 years older, graying and freckled. She then introduces herself to Crewman Darnell, who sees her as a haughty, insipid-looking blonde. He stammers out something about swearing he left her behind on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet and McCoy is APPALLED by that. Jim smiles a little and mercifully sends the kid outside.

He stands outside the door, goofing around, and when Nancy steps outside to go get her husband for the medical exams, she flirts with him and lures him off after her. We see this from outside, so we see the blonde Nancy. As this is the break for the opening credits, I think we all know that the kid's not likely to last long.

Robert Crater comes into the residence and tells McCoy & Jim off loudly and in no uncertain terms. They're trespassing, this is his planet, and they're not needed, so they can just pack up their effing stethoscopes and leave. The Craters just need some more salt tablets against the heat.

McCoy doesn't take this lightly, and replies hotly that it's his job, and they're getting their exams by the book. Crater finally sits down and lets him get the basics out of the way and figures out that this is the McCoy his wife has often mentioned. Strangely, for a man so territorial, instead of going apeshit jealous, he softens and seems glad that Nancy got to see an old friend; she gets lonely sometimes. Leonard goes on and on about how little Nancy's changed - no gray at all, she still looks 25. Jim, affectionately, says, "she's got some gray, Bones. Excuse me, professor - she's a handsome woman. But not 25." Bones starts, a little pissed. Crater says, "You see my wife with the eyes of your past attachment, doctor. I'm sure that when you see her again, she'll be a believable age."

Ok, since Jim finally warmed up enough to the doc to give him the nickname that will last til the end of the TOS cast movies, I'm going to start using it. I didn't want to have to explain to newcomers why I was calling him "Bones" appropo of nothing. "Bones," if you don't know, is short for "sawbones," an old old old (like wild west, I think) name for doctors.

the mottling

Nancy screams, and Jim draws his phaser and runs outside, Bones following, Crater a bit behind. They all see older Nancy ("younger" Nancy will not be seen again) screaming over the body of Darnell. Jim goes to him, notices the strange red markings on his face, and pulls a bite of some kind of food out of his mouth. He calls Bones over, and Bones pronounces him dead. Nancy is playing the high drama card, gulping and choking and crying and telling them how she watched him take a bite of the Borgia plant and it was too late, she couldn't stop and down he went, just fall'd right over.

They decide to look into this further - they move to beam up, tell the Craters the exams will be finished tomorrow, and before they go, Nancy reminds them to bring salt tablets. She sounds a little panicky.

Lucy and Schroeder
And now we have a painful little scene designed to ram home to us that Spock is not like us humans - he is Vulcanian and not emotional. Spock's in the big chair, and Uhura's going over some "paperwork" with him. He tells her he smugly that he caught an error in frequency on her report. The way he says it does a nice job of getting across that Uhura apparently, never, never screws up. She sighs and says that sometimes she thinks if she hears the word "frequency" again, she'll scream. He says he finds that an illogical thing for a communications officer to say. She says she's just trying to make conversation, and rolls into "why don't you tell me I'm an attractive young lady, or ask me if I've ever been in love. Tell me about how your planet, Vulcan, looks on a lazy evening when the moon is full."

The look on his face is priceless. For someone who's not supposed to be emoting wildly, he sure is doing a good job of projecting "creeped out" and "speechless." He finally settles on "Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura" as his reply. "I'm not surprised, Mr. Spock," she answers, and gets back to her station.

There is something about their body language and expressions throughout that reminds me of Lucy and Schroeder.

At this moment, there's an announcement from the transporter room guy that they're beaming up, and one is dead. Spock acknowledges, and Uhura goes into the Horrified Speech of Even Though We Humans Have Known That Vulcans Are Unemotional For Over a Century Now, I Can't Believe You Aren't Showing Any Emotion Over This Situation, You Monster. I know the series is about playing up humanity's strengths and weaknesses, and Spock (and other aliens) help show those things by contrast, and that they're just trying to keep delineating the differences (and maybe getting dramatic tension out of it) but I'm sick to death of this stuff. Uhura, you went to Starfleet Academy with tons of aliens. STFU already.

And enough of that icky flirting. I like my Uhura competent and unfazed, not moony-eyed.

Bones and Jim discuss the crewman's cause of death in Sickbay; Bones can't find a thing wrong with him - Nancy might have lied, because there's no trace of the alkaloid poison Spock tells them the Borgia plant would have caused, and this man is in perfect health. He's going to run the test results again though, because he thinks his eyes are failing him ... he didn't see any signs of age on Nancy, after all, and as he starts wistfully wafting off about her, Jim abruptly cuts him off and tells him he wants answers.

Later, Jim & Spock are in Sickbay discussing developments with McCoy, when he admits to having written off the red marks as "mottling;" turns out they are more important. Jim says that no one's counting his errors and asks if he's in the mood for an apology. Bones tells him to forget it, and all is well. As both Craters went out of their way to ask about salt tablets, Bones thought about that and sure enough, the tests show that Darnell is lacking any and all sodium chloride in his body.

They beam back down to talk to Dr. Crater; he calls this harassment and tells them to hit the skids. They tell him it's protection and it's non-negotiable; he and Nancy are coming back up to the ship until they figure out what's going on here. Spock calls them, and while they're talking to him, Crater sneaks off. He finds one of their crewman, dead and mottled, and starts yelling for Nancy. "Yo, I've got salt! SALT!! Smell the lovely salt? Yoo, hoo, salt..." and we see her, kneeling over the other crewman with her hand over his face. She stands, but then Bones starts calling after Crater. Crater gives up and skulks away. Nancy becomes the fallen crewman.

Bones finds the first crewman, Sturgeon, and declares him dead. "Crewman Green" walks over and says that he walked around looking for whatever did that to Sturgeon, but found no one. Both Craters are now missing, and Bones gets a little agitated about going off after them. Jim says fairly harshly, "You could learn from Spock. Stop thinking with your glands." They can find them much easier with the ship's instruments. The three of them beam up, and Jim & Bones get back to work.

"Green," however, wanders the halls. He runs into Janice Rand, waiting for a turbolift with a tray of food she's sneaking bites from. She asks him what went on down there as she salts something, and Green fixates on the shaker. He reaches for the food, and she slaps his hand. "Who do you think you are?" she asks him. Cute question, considering. The lift comes, and he lunges on after her. As she gets off, he follows very closely, and irked, she tells him to go chase an asteroid.

She walks into the botany dept., and if you remember enough of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," you know who's the lucky recepient of the tray with the cute, brightly colored fruit cubes. Sulu! He started out in the Botany department. While he eats, she plays with a plant reminiscent of a Venus Flytrap, except it's got a big pink flower and it makes noises.

Green comes in, having followed the salt trail. He looms right over Sulu's meal and wigs out everybody, including the plant. It wails and hides and scares Green off, back into the corridor.

Uhura steps off the lift, and Green becomes a tall, handsome black man who flirts with her in her own language, Swahili. He backs her against the wall, fixing her in his gaze, and she ignores the captain's calls for her to come to the bridge. Sulu and Rand step out and break the spell, and Uhura leaves with them, disturbed.

On the bridge, they've located Crater, circling around and around, as if looking for something. No sign of Nancy. Jim's beaming down with Spock, and tells Uhura to keep a tight fix on them - "if one of us lets out a yell, I want an armed party down there before the echo dies."

For you trivia buffs
Uhura's flirtatious crewman sees McCoy's quarters, and becomes Nancy again, just before he comes out and sees her. He brings her in, and she behaves seductively. He protests a bit, and she says "My husband? I like your feelings better." He says he needs to get to sleep, and she agrees. Nothing like a sleeping victim! She goes to get water for the sleeping pills. As he's drifting off, Uhura's constant pages for McCoy to report to the bridge go unanswered.

The last crewman killed by "Nancy" is found by Sulu and Rand and Sulu rings the alarm.

The paging for McCoy becomes insistent and finally, Nancy becomes him and heads for the bridge. When "Bones" gets to the bridge, Rand and Uhura are talking about their run-ins with the "twitchy" imposter. He says tentatively, "Creature leading you a merry chase, Sulu?" Sulu turns around, surprised, and asks, "creature?" "Whatever it is that's killing the crewmen. Perhaps I can help."

On the planet, Crater is hiding (poorly) and yelling for them to go away, they're not wanted. Spock finds Green's body, and he and Jim realize quickly that the Green that beamed up with them was an imposter. Crater begins yelling that he'll kill them, and shoots the ruins down around them.

They formulate a plan, and flank him. Spock yells and distracts him, Jim shoots him with the lowest stun setting so they can interrogate him. He tells them that Nancy died a year or two ago, at the hands of this creature, but she understood. So does he. It's the last of its kind, and it's just trying to survive. He goes into this comparison with the buffalo of Earth, but then, he is delirious from the phaser blast. They beam him up.

In a conference room, the three of them, Uhura, Rand, and "Bones," discuss the situation with Jim finally asking Crater if he can recognize the creature on sight. Crater looks away, and "Bones," sitting next to him, looks nervous. Jim says that he'll forgo charges up to this point, but now this creature's on his ship, and he'll have it or Crater's skin, or both!


Crater gets schmaltzy and pleads for it, that it needs love as much as it needs salt. And Jim goes there. He says how very nice it must be, the whole planet, Crater's private paradise; wife, lover, best friend, idol, slave ... the entire universe at his beck and call, and he wins all the arguments. No wonder he won't turn it in. He asks again, can he recognize it in any form? Crater says yes, but he will not help.

Spock recommends truth serum. "Bones" is ordered to go administer it. He agrees, and doesn't even mind when Spock insists on accompanying them to Sickbay. Of course, the creature promptly clocks Spock, knocking him out, and turns on Crater, sucking him dry and killing him.

Damn Salt Monster collaborators.

Nancy's aged really badly

Jim is thankful it didn't kill Spock too, but fortunately, Spock's ancestors spawned in a different ocean, and his Vulcan blood kept him safe.

The creature runs into Bones's quarters, becomes Nancy, and wakes him up, wailing that they're going to kill her. Jim enters, phaser drawn, and explains that it's not Nancy. He holds out salt pills, taunting Nancy with them. Bones gets between them, and begs Jim to leave her alone. If only he were paying attention to the hungry, clutching way Nancy tries to get the pills.

Bones lunges for the phaser, and Jim knocks him out of the way, just in time for Nancy to put her fingers to Jim's face, freezing him in place while she starts sucking the salt from his body. Spock bursts in, and tells Bones to shoot it quickly. Bones, however, must still be groggy from the sleeping pills, because he still seems to think that's Nancy and refuses vehemently.

Spock punches Nancy in the face repeatedly and she knocks him clean across the room. She goes back to finish Jim off, and Bones yells, "NO!" She turns to look at him and shows him her true self. We get a close up of the suction devices on the fingers that have left the telltale marks on its victims' faces. As Jim screams in pain, Spock shoots, wounding it. It becomes Nancy again, pleading with McCoy.

Bones mutters, "Lord forgive me," and shoots it dead. After all that, Jim has the kindness and class to say, "I'm sorry, Bones," instead of "you goddamn ninny, why didn't you shoot?"

Notable Moments

  • Uhura's wearing her green plastic (or maybe jade) hoop earrings and silver nail polish I love so much.

  • There's a cute exchange when Jim really delves into solving the mystery. Uhura tells him their next scheduled stop, Space Ship Base Ankara, is getting antsy over their lateness; Space Commissioner Domingus says the supplies they're waiting to get from the Enterprise are urgent. Jim tells her that Jose' will get his chili peppers when they get there - they're prime Mexican reds, he picked them himself, but Jose' won't die if he has to wait a few days for them.

    I like it when they throw in silly little details like that. Generally, I think science fiction shows need any and all grounding in normality they can get, and little bits like the above just make it more fun.

  • When Jim, Spock, and "Green" beam up, Jim tells the transporter operator that they left Sturgeon's body down there, and he responds with "we'll get him home, sir." I like that.

  • Oh and by the way - I'm reasonably sure that Sturgeon was named for well-known science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, who would go on to write a classic Trek episode called Amok Time.

  • candy!
  • When Jim gets on the turbolift to go to the bridge, there's a weird bit where the camera seems to get right in his face at an odd angle, and we hear heavy breathing that isn't Shatner's. You want to think something's not right in the lift and it's part of the episode, but really? I think it's the world's worst cameraman swinging the camera into Shatner's face inexpertly and breathing into the mike.

  • When Sulu takes lunch from Rand, he says, "may the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet." Series creator Gene Roddenberry was jokingly called "the Great Bird" for years.

  • In the conference room meeting, when "Bones" is asked for his recommendation, the creature says meekly, "I think we should offer it salt without any tricks." Ha!

  • Whenever the salt monster is starting to get desperate, it sucks its finger for salt.

  • The panel lights look like candy. I swear they licked jujubes to make them sticky and stuck them to the panels.

  • When the monster becomes Bones, it leaves the room with a long look at him, as though it's nervous and trying to memorize his appearance.
  • Best Line of the Episode
    Jim to Crater, delivered in a very film noir way:

    "It's a mystery. I don't like mysteries, they give me a bellyache, and I've got a beauty right now."

    Mid Century Design Moment

    The bookends in Bones' quarters.


    Gorgeous Visuals

    The Botany Lab


    It's Worse Than That, He's Dead, Jim

    2; Darnell, ("dead, Jim") and Sturgeon ("He's dead").

    Special Guest Star

    Michael Zaslow plays Darnell; you might remember him as Roger Thorpe on Guiding Light. I certainly do. He had a long career in soaps, had austere good looks, and was always memorable. Sadly, he died in 1998 of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

    Michael Zaslow

    Trek 101

    Here's a list of full character names, ranks, and job titles.

    Captain James Tiberius Kirk: yes, the middle name is after the Roman emperor.

    Commander Spock, first officer, science officer: According to his human mother, the family name is unpronounceable by humans.

    Commander Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy, Chief Medical Officer: According to fan lore or "fanon," the "H" stands for "Horatio." If I start calling him Plum occasionally, you'll know why after this episode.

    Commander Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer: drinks a lot.

    Lt. Hikaru Sulu, helmsman: Fanon gave him the first name Hikaru. It was finally made official in ST:TUC.

    Lt. Nyota Uhura, Communications Officer: "Nyota" is never used in canon. For a while in the early '80s, writers of the PocketBooks Trek novels used both "Penda" and "Nyota," but you never see Penda used anymore. Uhura means "freedom" in Swahili.

    Ensign Pavel Andreivitch Chekov, navigator: young Russian guy with a bad Davy Jones wig. Good screamer.Good buddies with Sulu. You won't see him til second season. His creation was a response to the USSR's part in the space race.

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