Arena (TOS)

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In this episode Captain Kirk fights a lizard man.

I am being flippant in that opening sentence but that is only because I do not have a lot to say about this episode. Don’t misread that. This is not a bad episode it is just that because much of it is action there isn’t much to say.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Gorn costume doesn’t look the best. However given the limitations of the time I think they did a damn good job. And honestly, relatively speaking, it is about as good as the CGI Gorn we would later get in Enterprise. Given the story, the Gorn had to look more alien than just a human in strange clothes. Nevertheless I don’t think he needed to make quite so many noises while fighting.

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The Enterprise arrives at Cestus III. The crew are excited to take advantage of the famed hospitality of the base’s Commodore. Well not Spock. He would never stoop to expressing an emotion as base as excitement!

When they materialise on the planet they discover the base has been destroyed. I am forced to wonder why the damage was not spotted as soon as they entered orbit.

I am nitpicking again. It is a useful crutch because it is either this or think about the real world. Who wants that?

Kirk concludes that the messages that brought them here were faked. Soon the landing party comes under fire.

The battle is done well. You really feel as though the crew are in danger. Pretty soon one of the redshirts dies. That is not exactly news.

Before that though we get a rather odd line from Spock. He has picked up the Gorn (we don’t know their name yet) on his tricorder and describes them as non-human. Er Spock you aren’t human either. Nothing wrong with not being human it just seems like a strange thing for him to say.

Kirk orders the landing part beamed. Sulu is unable to do that as the Enterprise has come under fire.

This is the first time that an inability to beam through shields has been mentioned. It will continue to be an important detail throughout the francize. Except when the writers decide they don’t want it to be true this week.

Kirk is a bit of a micromanager when it comes to the battle. Since he has left Sulu in command you would think he would trust him to defend the Enterprise.

Eventually the landing party are beamed up. The Enterprise heads off in pursuit of the Gorn. Kirk concludes that the plan must have been to lure the Enterprise to Cestus III, destroy it, and thus leave the Federation open to invasion. Kirk decides that the only option is to make sure the Gorn ship never gets home. Doing this will leave the enemy in ignorance as to their strength and hopeful stop a potential invasion.

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In terms of Star Trek this seems like very militant thinking. Honestly though it is hard to argue with Kirk’s way of thinking. The Gorn are shown to be potential as powerful, or maybe more powerful, than Starfleet.

The pursuit leads them to another star system. Both ships are immobilised and hailed by the inhabitance of this system.

We are the Metrons. You are one of two crafts which have come into our space on a mission of violence. This is not permissible. Yet we have analysed you and have learned that your violent tendencies are inherent. So be it. We will control them. We will resolve your conflict in the way most suited to your limited mentalities.

It is a common in Star Trek to impose impose their will on other races. I can’t help but think that if the Metrons are so much more advanced can’t they think of a better way of doing things than a death match?

Apparently not – also I could have done without Uhura screaming when Kirk was taken.

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Kirk defeats the Gorn captain by means of a diamond firing bamboo canon – well it is not bamboo considering this is not Earth. Then we get to the crux of the story. Kirk refuses to kill. The Gorn attacked Cestus III because they saw the colony as an invasion. As such their actions were comparable to Kirk’s determination to destroy their ship.

The Metrons state that neither the Gorn ship nor the Enterprise will be destroyed. Yet they do go on to offer to destroy the Gorn. Knowing this kind of story that was probably just another layer to the test.

The meaning of this story episode is fairy obvious. Kirk’s actions show that there is hope for humans. However there is a whiff of human superiority to the story.

I have never like this aspect of science fiction. The idea that humans are better than other races. I think that this episode would have worked much better if the Gorn had also realised that the Federation need not be an enemy.

The Enterprise is flung 500 parsecs from where they were. Kirk orders them back to Cestus III.

The last few lines of the episode nicely rounds off the story. Kirk recounts his conversation with the Metoron. Who told him that there is hope for humans – although it might take a few thousand years for them to prove they are civilised.

End of episode.

I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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