I’m a big fan of Jenny Trout. I haven’t read a single book she’s published because I’m no so into genre fiction (though I am dying for a copy of her Such Sweet Sorrow; it’s Romeo and Hamlet in Hell which is all kinds of awesome). But I love reading her blog here.
And one of the things she does semi-regularly when her writing schedule allows for it is an episode by episode in-depth analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she approaches each ep with a list of things, mostly recurring themes or character attributes, that she looks for, such as:
2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
15. Only Willow can use a computer.
18. Oz is the anti-Xander.
Stuff like that. Oh, and my personal favorite, 7. All the monsters look like wieners. I don’t see the wienerliness of them beyond some tentacles that could be considered phallic, but whatevs; it’s fun to talk about. Jenny has a list of almost twenty things she looks for and she adds to it occasionally.
Anyway, this whole endeavor seemed like fun, and I certainly enjoy reading her reports, so I thought I’d give it a go. But not with Buffy; that’d be copying Jenny. No, I’m going to do this with Star Trek: The Original Series, which is my favorite show aside from Supernatural (if TOS doesn’t kill me, I might try SPN at some point). I’m going to try to do two episodes a week, three if I’m feeling adventurous, and with any luck, this will help keep me writing when I’m feeling less than inspired.
Here’s my list:
1. Kirk Fu wouldn’t actually help you; it’d probably get you killed instead.
2. Roddenberry predicts SCIENCE!
3. Space Husbands (Spock/Kirk), Space Boyfriends (Spock/McCoy), and Space Biffles (Kirk/McCoy), oh my!
4. Doomed Crewmen Aren’t Always Redshirts (but they usually are)
5. Scotty talks about SCIENCE! and it’s mostly fake physics.
6. Social issues are addressed.
7. Bones is adorable/grumpy (which is the same thing to me)
8. WTF?! moments are my fav.
9. WTF?! aliens are also my fav.
10. They referenced this in the reboot films!
11. Matt Jefferies was a genius!
12. Catchphrase running tally:
- Bones—He’s dead
- Chapel—Doctor!/Doctor McCoy!
- Chekov—anything regarding Russia
- Kirk—Kirk out
- Scotty—the laws of physics
- Sulu—repeats an order
- Uhura—Hailing frequencies open
13. The Prime Directive doesn’t matter because Kirk knows best.
14. Omg, costumes!
I’ll admit, some of them are fairly broad, but that’s so I can include sub-themes and whatnot. I will also talk about what I love, what I would change, and what I hate about each episode, as well as any headcanons I developed because of them.
I know there’s at least one person who will be watching along with me for her first time through, so for any of you like Kait, I’ll do my best to not spoil things as we go.
We’ll be doing this in airing order, folks, so without further ado, The Man Trap:
I’m going to admit right now, I’m not overly fond of this one despite it being Bones-centric. (You will come to learn McCoy was my first love and continues to be my baby. You have been warned.)
The episode opens as nearly all of them will, with an establishing shot of Our Lady Enterprise orbiting a planet. And cue Kirk voice-over:
Captain’s log, Stardate 1513.1. Our position, orbiting planet M-113. On board the Enterprise, Mister Spock temporarily in command. On the planet the ruins of an ancient and long-dead civilization. Ship’s surgeon McCoy and myself are now beaming down to the planet’s surface. Our mission, routine medical examination of archaeologist Robert Crater and his wife Nancy. Routine but for the fact that Nancy Crater is that one woman in Doctor McCoy’s past.
Except (and here I’m going to tangent real quick) Nancy Crater isn’t that one woman–as I interpret it, the one who got away–in McCoy’s life. He’s written to be a sort of lady-killer, not as openly as Kirk will prove to be, but he’s a flirt and he’s been married. And to me, Jocelyn was that one woman in his life.
Anyway, we join Kirk, McCoy, and Crewman Darnell on the planet and the good captain teases McCoy about seeing Nancy. McCoy’s obviously nervous, Kirk, way to be a jerk about it #3.
Now, we’re given to believe that Crater and Nancy are the only two people on the planet right now. This is a thing Starfleet does and I don’t understand it. They put minimal teams down on desolate planets and expect them to not go space-happy. Really? I start to go stir-crazy if I’ve been alone in my room for more than a few hours.
In search of the archeologists, Kirk, McCoy, and random Blue Shirt Darnell, go inside. Kirk asks McCoy if he’s nervous and no shit he’s nervous, Kirk. He’s here to give his ex-girlfriend a medical examination. Not only is it somewhat awkward to just bump into your ex, I can’t even imagine being their doctor on top of it.
McCoy doesn’t call Kirk out on his dumb question because #3 and instead replies:
Yeah, a little bit, I guess. You see, we walked out of each other’s lives ten years ago. She married Crater, and for all I know she may have forgotten me completely. Of all the bonehead ideas, Jim, how’d I let myself in for things like this?
Which brings us directly to #7.
But before Kirk can say something clever, Nancy shows up and we get three different images of her.
McCoy sees the girl from his memory:
As a side note, I love the names of the planets.
When Darnell mentions that, hey, he’s seeing someone completely different (without mentioning that she’s blond), McCoy snaps at him (#7) and Kirk tells him to go take a walk. Then Kirk suggests he leave as well and Nancy reacts with the sensibilities of a well-mannered woman of the 1960s:
What? And let Plum examine me all alone?
And now Kirk knows her old nickname for McCoy, way to go, Nancy. McCoy suggests they just wait for Crater to show up and he’ll do their examinations at the same time. Nancy says, “I’ll go find Bob.” And she leaves.
But not without pausing to flirt with Darnell on her way:
And then we’re blessed with opening credits complete with the Enterprise shwooshing through space. It’s pretty awesome.
When we come back, we get another Kirk voice-over:
Captain’s log, additional entry. Since our mission was routine, we had beamed down to the planet without suspicion. We were unaware each member of the landing party was seeing a different woman, a different Nancy Crater.
This is a technique they’ll use pretty much every episode if I’m not mistaken. It’s a good trick to help fill the audience in if they’ve tuned in late since TiVo and DVR didn’t exist then.
When we rejoin Kirk and McCoy inside the Crater’s homelivingroomofficeplace, Crater comes storming in, angry about being interrupted by Starfleet orders and he tells them to buzz off, but please refill their salt supply.
Crater: Doubtless the good surgeon will enjoy prodding and poking us with his arcane machinery. Go away, we don’t want you.
McCoy: What you want is unimportant right now. What you will get is required by the book.
Kirk: Quote. All research personnel on alien planets are required to have their health certified by a starship surgeon at one year intervals. Like it or not, Professor, as commander of the starship, I’m required–
Crater: To show your gold braid to everyone. You love it, don’t you.
Kirk: He’s all yours, Plum–Doctor McCoy.
#3, Kirk, #3.
As soon as Crater hears Kirk call McCoy by name, he’s a little less dickish since he realizes he might be in the company of his wife’s ex-boyfriend. They make some small talk in which Crater establishes that, yes, McCoy and Kirk both spoke to Nancy and McCoy completes Crater’s examination. And we get a line that annoys me every time I hear it:
Crater: It’s just that it gives me pleasure to know that she’s gotten to see an old friend and has a chance for some company. It’s different for me, I enjoy solitude. But for a woman. You understand, of course.
Unfortunately, as much as I love and adore this show, it does tend to have the habit of incorporating gender stereotypes and it annoys the hell out of me. There’s not much I can do, obviously, other than just remember this was written and filmed in a different time and that still to this day, these sort of things are ingrained in society’s subconscious. I may or may not point it out when I come across it, but it’s likely I’ll do my best to ignore it.
Moving right along, the men start talking about Nancy, how she looks, how McCoy still sees her, McCoy’s genuine affection, etc. And then something wonderful happens:
McCoy: Open your mouth.
Crater: Why, I thought the machine–
McCoy: The machine is capable of almost anything but I’ll still put my trust in a healthy set of tonsils. Now, open your mouth.
One of the things I absolutely love about McCoy is that while he is a doctor of the twenty-third century and he lives in a society that puts a ton of faith and trust in their science and tech, he’s still stubbornly old-fashioned and traditional. He’d rather see for himself. Of course, he’s not fond of “needles and sutures” and thinks twentieth century medicine is barbaric because we can’t regrow kidneys yet.
Before the medical exam could be totally finished, Nancy screams off-screen and, heroically, the men run out to see what’s wrong.
Ladies and gentleman, we have our first casualty of the show. And check it out, he’s a Blueshirt. Awesome, #4.
Before checking on the Deadshirt, McCoy makes sure Nancy’s all right. Okay, I get that he cares about her because they dated and he’s a gentleman, but he’s a doctor, darn it, he should check the guy laying on the ground. When he does:
They get Nancy to tell them what happened. Basically, she says, she wanted to talk to Darnell and tell him she wasn’t offended when he pretty much called her a prostitute (if I understand the purpose of the Pleasure Planets correctly) and he ate the green plant seen in Kirk’s hand. Yeah, Kirk just fished that out of the dead guy’s mouth. There are reasons I’m not a doctor; dealing with things in other people’s mouths is one of them.
At this point, McCoy sees that Nancy actually is older and he’s a wee bit startled. There’s some more talking in which Crater yells at Kirk, Kirk snaps at Crater, Nancy asks about getting more salt tablets, and then McCoy, Kirk, and Deadshirt the First beam up to the ship.
On the Bridge, Uhura’s flirting with Spock a little, trying to figure him out a little, and he’s just like, “Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura,” when they hear about the death. She tries to chastise him about being so cold about the death and, true to Vulcan fashion, Spock calmly replies:
Lieutenant, my demonstration of concern will not change what happened. The transporter room is very well-manned and they will call if they need my assistance.
Which is all manner of hot. Just saying.
In Sick Bay, which at this point is referred to as the Dispensary, Kirk and McCoy are trying to figure out why they have a dead Blueshirt on the table:
McCoy: She called it a Borgia plant.
Kirk: Something new to me.
Spock [OC]: Bridge to Dispensary.
Kirk: Go ahead, Mr. Spock.
Spock [on monitor]: Borgia plant listed in library record tapes as carbon group three vegetation similar to Earth nightshade family. Alkaloid poison. Chemical structure common to class M planets. About the strange mottling on his facial skin surface. There is no reference to this symptom.
McCoy: Well, then this man wasn’t poisoned.
Kirk: Stand by, Mister Spock. She said she saw him eat the plant.
McCoy: She’s mistaken. I know alkaloid poison, what to look for. There’s not a trace of it in his body.
Kirk: There were bits of the plant in his mouth.
McCoy: Jim, don’t tell me my business. He could not have swallowed any. My instruments would have picked up any trace of it whatsoever.
Kirk: Then what kills a healthy man?
McCoy: I’ll tell you something else. This man shouldn’t be dead. I can’t find anything wrong with him. According to all the tests he should just get up and walk away from here.
I love it, I love it, I love it when they get to do their jobs. Like, actually do their jobs. McCoy gets to be a doctor, Uhura speaks other languages, Scotty gets to play in the wires. I love it. It doesn’t happen very often, but I love it.
Kirk and McCoy talk some more. McCoy admits that maybe he was distracted by Nancy being there. Kirk calls him out on it, too, amidst some pretty intense eye-fucking. (#3)
Later, after the commercial break, a Kirk voice-over, and back on the Bridge, Kirk discusses the Borgia plant with Spock and everything else Spock’s research has dug up.
The Borgia plant is essentially just a member of the nightshade family, as Spock reported earlier. There’s nothing dangerous about it other than the alkaloid poison it contains.
Kirk: And Professor Crater and wife?
Spock: Check out perfectly. They arrived here nearly five years ago. Visited by various vessels, made fairly heavy shipments out, of artifacts and reports. However, there has been a marked drop in shipments during the last year.
McCoy reports from the Sick Bay (and it will always be the Sick Bay to me, no matter what it’s called in the show) that he’s found something but he doesn’t want to talk about it over the comm.
Kirk and Spock join McCoy in Sick Bay and give us something I take great joy in:
McCoy: So improbable we almost didn’t check it.
Firstly, #12, secondly, #3. From time to time, Spock and McCoy know something Kirk doesn’t and they don’t immediately fill him in. I like that.
What McCoy found was that the Deadshirt died from extreme salt depletion. Something sucked all the of the salt from his body, guys. That’s super gross. And the only mark on his body were the red rings on his face.
Kirk: You called that skin mottling.
McCoy: I thought it was, sir. Another error on my part.
Kirk: I’m not counting them, Bones. Are you in the mood for an apology?
#3 All I’m saying.
Kirk points out that both Crater and Nancy specifically mentioned salt and Spock puts together a landing party of Kirk, McCoy, Green, and Sturgeon, and they go down to talk to the Craters.
On the planet, Crater is even grumpier and more dickish than he was earlier. Nancy is conspicuously absent and when Kirk asks, Crater’s like, “Dunno. We don’t keep military logs,” and Kirk sends Green out to find her. Then he has Sturgeon send a cutting of the Borgia plant up to the Enterprise so Spock can go all CSI on it.
Crater argues with Kirk some more. He and McCoy inform Crater about the salt depletion and when they mention that both the Craters requested more salt tablets, Crater makes a crack at McCoy for being unable to “explain our need for salt tablets?”
Kirk: We’re all aware of the need for salt on a hot and arid planet like this, Professor, but it’s a mystery, and I don’t like mysteries. They give me a bellyache and I’ve got a beauty right now.
Can I just say that I love the language of the show? Because I do. No one talks like that anymore and we all should.
They talk some more about salt. There’s so much salt talk in this ep that I’m craving french fries. And when Spock reports that the Borgia plant is indeed what it says on the tin, Crater runs off. Because that’s not suspicious.
Outside, the plot twist is revealed:
Crater: Nancy! You! Salt! I’ve got salt! Smell it! Smell it, Nancy!
Crater hears Kirk and McCoy chasing and calling after him and he takes off to find Nancy, leaving them to find Deadshirt the Second, Sturgeon.
McCoy: Jim! Jim, it’s Sturgeon! He’s dead.
(#12) Here’s when it gets really weird, though. Kirk and McCoy call for Green to regroup and we know Nancy’s been with him while he looks poorly.
That’s not an inviting expression. But don’t worry, it doesn’t last long.
Yeah, we’ve got a shape-shifter on our hands. Green!Nancy joins Kirk and McCoy and they beam up to the ship while McCoy protests because they can’t find Nancy. So, basically, Kirk just brought the monster on board the Enterprise himself. Smooth.
Back on the ship, Kirk gives the order to search the planet for both Crater and Nancy with the ship’s sensors and he gets into the turbolift.
I want to talk about the turbolift for a minute. See that window behind Kirk with the descending lights? That was done by rolling a tube with a stripe either up and down or left and right. The theory behind the turbolift wasn’t that it would just go up and down, but anywhere in the ship seeing as they were so massive.
The indicator window was a Matt Jefferies design (I believe) and like a lot of his work and that of his crew, it’s genius. #11 I have great respect for him and his crew despite that he never really understood Star Trek.
Kirk goes to the Bridge where Spock says they can only find Crater, while Green!Nancy begins to stalk Yeoman Janice Rand because she’s got Sulu’s lunch with a salt shaker on it.
Green!Nancy is super creepy about it, too.
Green!Nancy follows Janice to the Life Sciences Section, Botany Department where Sulu’s working because in the first few episodes, Sulu wasn’t the primary helmsman, he was a scientist. Which I think is hilarious because this room is never seen again.
In Sulu’s Garden, Green!Nancy just creepily watches Janice and Sulu as they chat and try to get zir to say something. Green!Nancy leaves when Beauregard the Plant starts screeching in fear. #8
I love Beauregard:
Green!Nancy flees in terror of the glove-plant and hears Uhura speaking in the corridor to a Ship’s Services Crewman, and Green!Nancy turns into this guy:
And when they get Uhura’s attention, Nancy speaks to her all creeper-like.
Uhura: Crewman, do I know you?
Handsome!Nancy: In a way, ma’am. You were just thinking of someone like me. I’m guessing of course, but you do look a little lonely.
Uhura: I see. So naturally, when I’m lonely I think of you.
Uhura’s super sweet with a metric ton of sass when she delivers that line. But Handsome!Nancy speaks to her in Swahili which is awesome because it’s one of the only evidences that Uhura’s an actual linguistic genius because she only speaks something other than English, like, three times, tops. Maybe I should switch #5 to The Bridge Crew Does Their Job…
Anyway, somehow Handsome!Nancy has Uhura in a sort of trance and they back her up against the wall. The trance is so effective that Uhura can’t hear Kirk calling her to report to the Bridge over the comm. The only thing that breaks the trance is Janice and Sulu coming into the corridor and talking somewhat loudly. Uhura hurries away to answer the captain’s call.
Meanwhile, in Cabin 3F 127, McCoy’s worried. Kirk suggests he take “one of those red pills” so he’ll get some sleep. Behold, one of the only (read: 2) times pills are mentioned in the entire series.
On the Bridge, they’re still searching for Nancy. But Crater’s the only person in a hundred mile radius. Kirk decides he and Spock are going to go down and force Crater to tell them where Nancy is.
Except Nancy’s on the Enterprise and now she’s found McCoy’s quarters. She changes back into regular!Nancy and goes in. Without knocking. Girl, you don’t know what he might be up to.
Luckily, TOS is pretty innocent, so he was just laying down, staring at the ceiling. They chat and she convinces him to take the sleep aid.
Elsewhere, Sulu and Janice find Deadshirt the Fourth, #4, and report it. A medical team is dispatched and McCoy is summoned to the Bridge.
“But wait,” you cry. “Didn’t McCoy just take a sleeping pill?” You’re right; he did. Guess who Nancy turns into next?
So now we have an imposter McCoy to deal with. More on that later because Spock has finally left the ship and is down on the planet with Kirk as they search for Crater, who is in no mood to deal with anybody. Seriously, he’s shooting at them as they try to find out where Nancy is.
Sulu calls down to Kirk over the communicator and informs him about Deadshirt the Fourth, and Spock finds original!Green, who is also dead. Whoo! All our Deadshirts are not Redshirts, #4. But now Kirk knows there’s an imposter on the ship and tells Sulu about it.
Kirk: You have an intruder aboard. Could be masquerading as Crewman Green. General quarters, security condition three.
Sulu: GQ security three, sir.
The crew reports GQ Three has been obtained and Kirk and Spock begin to attempt to apprehend Crater, who is still firing and yelling.
On the Bridge, Sulu’s organizing the search for Crewman Green with McCoy!Nancy standing nearby.
Sulu: Keep in mind if you find him, he’s not Crewman Green. The Captain reports Crewman Green is dead.
Janice: And he, or rather it, followed me. I thought there was something twitchy about him.
Sulu: He, whatever, was probably your crewman, too, Lieutenant.
Uhura: He must have been it. You know, I would have remembered a crewman like him.
McCoy!Nancy: The creature leading you a merry chase, Mister Sulu?
Sulu: The creature?
McCoy!Nancy: Or whatever it is that’s killing the crewmen. Perhaps I can help. Fill me in.
Way to almost blow your cover, McCoy!Nancy!
On the planet, Kirk hits Crater with a stun ray from his phaser and we’re treated with the only conscious stunning in the series. Crater is awake, but he can’t move and his brain a little muddled. Because he starts talking about the buffalo, #6, and speaking about Nancy in the past tense.
Kirk: Where’s your wife? Where is she now?
Crater: Dead. Buried up on the hill. It killed her.
Crater: Oh, a year, or was it two?
Ho, snap. Y’all in trouble now, Kirk.
The captain gets in touch with Sulu and they confirm among them that what they’re looking for is a shape-shifting creature, and I can stop typing Nancy. Awesome. They all beam up and it’s time for Briefing Room Shenanigans.
I’m just kidding. There’s no shenanigans, just a lot more talking. They’ve got (in speaking order) Uhura, Kirk, Janice, Spock, the Creature, Crater, and Sulu (on the comm) all crammed in there, discussing what to do, how to find the creature, etc. It’s a little meta considering the Creature is right freaking there!
They’ve apparently put out salt bait in the corridors, hoping to lure the Creature out of hiding so they can capture it. But the Creature, pretending to be McCoy, is like, “You don’t need to trick it. It isn’t dangerous or anything. It just needs salt to survive.”
Then we learn that Crater can recognize the thing no matter what it looks like. And he’s not going to reveal who it is. But if you’re paying attention to just how hard fake!McCoy is defending the Creature’s right to live and how he’s not freaking out about Nancy anymore, it isn’t hard to guess who the Creature is.
Spock suggests using truth serum on Crater to get him to talk and he leaves with Crater and the Creature to go do that in the Sick Bay.
And the next thing we know, Spock’s on the tilting biobed:
Turns out, Spock had some suspicions about fake!McCoy and the Creature attacked him. Luckily, Vulcans don’t have salt in their biology. Unfortunately, despite his efforts to defend it, the Creature turned on Crater and killed him.
The Creature takes Nancy’s form again (thought I was done typing that) and runs to McCoy in a “panic.” She wakes him just as Kirk runs in after her and demands McCoy move aside so he can take the Creature into custody. McCoy obviously doesn’t believe him and defends the Creature.
McCoy: Are you insane?
Kirk: It killed four crewmen. Now Crater.
Kirk: The creature. It kills. It needs salt to live. Bones, move aside.
Kirk: My guess is she needs more. You want it, Nancy? Come and get it.
McCoy: You’re frightening her, Jim.
Kirk: Not fright. Hunger. Look at her.
Creature: Leonard, if you love me, make him go away.
Kirk: Come on. You want this, Nancy? Come on Nancy. Come and get it. Come and get it. Here it is.
There’s a lot that’s wrong with this scene. Aside from Kirk talking to the Creature like it’s a puppy, but I’ll get into that a little later.
McCoy and Kirk struggle with each other for possession of Kirk’s phaser while the Creature gobbles the salt tablets Kirk was using as bait. McCoy wins the struggle for the weapon and is shoved away from Kirk, who then become transfixed by the Creature:
And lucky for Kirk, Spock comes in shouting that the Creature is trying to kill Kirk. McCoy is still refusing to believe that it isn’t Nancy despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In order to convince McCoy that it’s a Creature and not Nancy, Spock smacks it around a bit. Now, you’ve got to remember Vulcans are much stronger than Humans and a Human woman wouldn’t have been able to withstand that sort of treatment. But the Creature barely even blinks. And a swat from it sending Spock staggering backward until he hit the wall behind him.
At this point, it seems the Creature is tired of being something it isn’t and changes to its natural state (#9):
Finally, McCoy comes to his senses and he shoots the monster. It changes once more into Nancy to beg and plead with him but he fires again and the thing dies.
And I don’t have to type Nancy anymore.
What I loved about the episode:
To be totally, brutally honest, not much. Mostly I enjoyed the broments between Kirk and McCoy and I’m glad the writers established that relationship early on in the series because it becomes a huge thing for this particular crew and it would have felt weird as an onlooker to see how close the two were without the evidence of it in The Man Trap.
What I would change:
There are some lines in the episode regarding Janice that just don’t need to be there:
Blueshirt: How about that?
Redshirt: Yeah, how’d you like to have her as your personal yeoman?
These guys are blatantly objectifying Janice as she’s trying to do her job. I get that having women in successful careers on television was slightly novel at the time, but couldn’t she just get on with her work without her colleagues leering after her in her tiny, regulation, skirt? I mean, really.
What I hated:
The entire final confrontation scene. It feels sort of like badly written fanfic. McCoy is just a little too out of character for my tastes regarding how he deals with Kirk and fake!Nancy. And I get that he was probably in love with Nancy in the past, but the whole episode, he couldn’t do his job properly because he was distracted by her. Yes, I realize this happens IRL, but in future eps, McCoy finds a pretty girl and he doesn’t let it go to his head as much as he did in this one. I don’t know; it just doesn’t sit right with me.
Headcanons I developed because of this episode:
Spock can freaking lie, man. Holy shit. Yes, I’m aware that because of Kohlinahr, Vulcans are far more likely to tell the truth, but Spock has even said, “It does not constitute a lie to keep the truth to oneself.” And as far as I’ve been able to research, there’s no actual thing as truth serum, and if there is, it’s probably ridiculously against regulation. By him suggesting to use it, I feel like he was lying to see what McCoy would do/say in that scene, to suss out if it was the good doctor or the Creature.
Catchphrase Tally: 6
And we made it through the first of seventy-eight episodes! Well done, you.
Next up is Charlie X, and I’ll post on Wednesday/Thursday.