First of all, let me introduce the trekkie side of my personality at the start of this journey to explore The Original Series (TOS). If someone asked me, I would answer without hesitation that I am totally a trekkie, even if I havn’t seen nor read everything that this brand has produced. Considering all the books books, comics, movies, and series out there… I think that doing so would be humanly impossible! In any case, I consider myself a trekkie because I grew up with The Next Generation and I’ve seen all the episodes at least twice (“at least” here is very important: I saw some of them even a dozen times!), and I can say the same thing for Deep Space 9. And I’ve seen many times the films of the original canon, that is, from The Motion Picture to Nemesis. Since I don’t love the work of J.J. Abrams, you can easily understand that I’ve made too big of an effort already by having watched his 2009 Star Trek and the horrible Into Darkness (2013). That’s enough for me!
Today I finally decided to watch TOS. The plan is to do it without any rush, I’ve always hated binge watching, so with this post I’m starting a real long-term plan, but I hope you’ll bear with me (and I especially hope that my girlfriend won’t back down after approving this same plan). For the occasion, I bought these fantastic Blurays:
There’s a lot of work behind these Blurays: the images have been have digitized starting from the original films, everything has been cleaned up and remastered, the sound is now 7.1 Surround, and even the special effects are improved! But the great thing is that you can choose to watch either the remastered version or the original one with mono audio, for real die hard fans. And thanks to these improvements, the vision of a product released more than 50 years ago has become much simpler.
And so here we are, starting a three-seasons mission: in some way, I already know what awaits me, having seen the same type of show in its latest incarnations as well as Kirk and company in their high-budget version of the movies up to that masterpiece that is Star Trek VI. But at the same time I’m ready to be amazed by what I don’t know about this legendary science-fiction series that began to revolutionize the genre, the entire television panorama, and the whole pop culture in 1966.
Season 01, episode 01: The Man Trap
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the series, didn’t waste any time catapulting the viewer into the world of Star Trek: the first episode doesn’t introduce the concept of Federation, nor it explains what the Enterprise is. And there are no scenes used to present the various members of the crew. Everything is left in the hands of Kirk’s voice which over the opening titles explains that the Enterprise is a space ship on a five-year mission to explore space in search of new life forms and new civilizations. Take it or leave it.
In The Man Trap, the USS Enterprise reaches an uninhabited planet, M-113, where archaeologist Robert Carter and his wife Nancy have been studying the ruins of an ancient civilization for five years. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and crewman Darnell teleport to the surface where they first meet Nancy, a former girlfriend of McCoy, and then Professor Carter. We immediately sense that there is something strange: each of the three members of the Enterprise crew sees Nancy as a different person. And immediately afterwards crewman Darnell starts what will become a real tradition: that of the crew member who accompanies the protagonists of the series to a planet only to die after a few minutes. And this allows McCoy to say his most famous line: “He’s dead, Jim“. In short, Darnell is the first of a series of so-called red shirts, even though his shirt is blue.
The episode is absolutely pleasant to watch. The mystery is well-constructed, and even if as a viewer we know what’s going on (a shape-shifting monster is on a killing spree on board of the Enterprise), the situation is tense from beginning to end. The interpersonal relationships among the main members of the crew start to be developed: Kirk and McCoy are all friends, so much so that they use their names, Jim, and nicknames, Bones, with each other; Kirk is a womanizer, there’s a line by McCoy confirming that; and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) doesn’t express any emotion, as it’s clear from a dialogue with Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).
As for the rest, Star Trek: TOS is a product of the Sixties. All girls wear extremely scanty uniforms, with impressive miniskirts. Except for Uhura, all the women on the Enterprise, even though they were uniforms, simply bring food to the male crewmen who loudly appreciate their bottoms. And there’s even time for some Mexican stereotypes, with Captain Dominguez who cannot wait to have his red hot chili peppers. Basically, all that type of stuff that today would never get green light from a studio! But I think that we should always bear in mind that this series was made in 1966, and that it was revolutionary when it came out! Among other things, it featured African American characters on the (star)ship bridge, the first inter-racial kiss in the history of US TV, and a smart treatment of themes like pacifism and tolerance!
What else can I say about The Man Trap? Nice episode, well-written and well-developed, and with a theme which has been re-used a lot in the future Star Trek shows. Worth watching!
PS: no Scotty (James Doohan) so far!
Next episode: Charlie X