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Recap: Star Trek S 1 E 18 Arena
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Episode: Season 1, Episode 19
Title: Arena
Previous: The Squire Of Gothos
Next: The Alternative Factor
Recapper: Scooter007

The Enterprise is invited to visit an outpost near the edge of Federation space; Kirk, Spock, McCoy and three Redshirts beam down at the outpost commander's behest — only to discover that the invitation is a pre-recorded ruse; the outpost has been destroyed.

Almost immediately Kirk and co. are beseiged by unseen aliens. Simultaneously, the Enterprise is attacked in orbit by an alien vessel, so the away team cannot beam up. Two of the Redshirts are killed (one is allowed to die offscreen), but Kirk finds a mortar-like weapon among the rubble and manages to repel the alien attackers. Beaming back up to the Enterprise, Kirk initiates a pursuit of the alien ship, which was clearly responsible for the outpost's destruction, and he means to avenge that attack.

However, as the two ships fly through space, they are seized by a group of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens called the Metrons, who are not pleased with the war-like goings on. But, as Sufficiently Advanced Aliens typically do, the Metrons have the solution, and Kirk abruptly vanishes from the bridge.

Kirk finds himself out at Kirk's Rock, sans weapons but with a recording device/universal translator/short-range transciever, where he is to engage in a Forced Prize Fight To The Death with the alien captain (called a Gorn, and no, it's not that kind of Gorn), with the loser's ship also being destroyed in the bargain. Kirk has no weapons but is told that the environment has been "prepared" with everything he might need to make one. Kirk quickly begins casting about for a phaser or some sort of technological gizmo as the Gorn captain (a huge reptiloid creature) comes after him. Just for good measure, the Gorn is not only bigger than Kirk, it is much stronger and tougher as well.

The Metrons, by means of their Sufficiently Advanced-ness, somehow allow the Enterprise bridge crew to follow the action on their viewscreens (and presumably the Gorns as well). As Kirk futilely fights off the Gorn, the Gorn raises the accusation that the outpost was in Gorn territory and that they thought it might be the foothold of a Federation invasion — a possibility which shocks McCoy, thinking that the Federation might actually be in the wrong this time. Despite Kirk's denial of the accusations, the Gorn keeps coming, relentless and seemingly unstoppable.

Finally an exhausted and nearly defeated Kirk begins to notice the various mineral deposits all around, and eventually recalls that these can be used to formulate a crude form of gunpowder. Kirk quickly assembles a makeshift mortar using a bamboo shoot and crystal shards for bullets as the Gorn approaches, firing it off Justin Time. The Gorn is pierced, and falls immobilized and helpless.

Kirk is the victor and is ready to deal the death stroke... and abruptly announces to the Metrons that he refuses to kill the Gorn, whom Kirk believes was only defending his territory. An image of a Metron appears and expresses surprise at Kirk's mercy, noting that were the tables reversed the Gorn would not be so merciful. "You are still half-savage. But there is hope."

Recapper's Note: According to Word of God, the Forced Prize Fight was indeed a Secret Test of Character, but not quite as it comes across: The script includes a bit of dialogue (not aired) which reveals the Metrons had planned to destroy the winner of the fight rather than the loser, considering the winner to be a bigger threat to them. Luckily for us, Humans really Are Special. (The line is, however, included in the novelization by James Blish.)

Compare to "Duel" an early episode of Blake's 7 that is practically a remake of this story.


This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Bamboo Technology: Kirk's cannon.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Inverted. Kirk saves himself and the Enterprise because of his morality.
  • Forced Prize Fight: The plot.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Kirk shows hints of this when he cobbles together a crude cannon out of the elements in the landscape.
  • Humans Are Special: The Metrons' justification for sparing the Enterprise.
  • Insult Backfire: Spock accuses Bones of being a sensualist. "You bet your pointed ears I am!" the good doctor says proudly. It isn't often one of Spock's insults backfires on him!
  • The Juggernaut: The Gorn.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The outpost was destroyed at least a day before the Enterprise's arrival.
  • Lizard Folk / The Reptilians: The Gorn again.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: The Metrons announce that the planet has been stocked with "everything [the fighters] might need to make [a weapon.]" Luckily, our good captain is extremely resourceful.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: A striking example: the Enterprise is under attack in orbit while Kirk is planet-side. Although Kirk is himself under fire, he takes time out to micromanage the space battle over the communicator (with such insightful tactics as 'fire phasers' and 'fire torpedoes'), rather that just letting Sulu do his job.
  • Name's the Same: The staff got in a bit of trouble due to the episode's similarity to a short story of the same name they hadn't been aware of. The threat of a copyright lawsuit was settled by giving a credit to its author Frederic Brown.
  • Narm: The initial brawl between Kirk and the Gorn. The limitations of the costume makes it look like they're underwater.
  • Otherworldly And Sexually Ambiguous: The Metrons were like this; they had an androgynous appearance and wore a shimmering dress-like garment.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Metron Kirk deals with is 1500 years old.
  • Redshirt: The first man to die is wearing a red shirt. A yellow-shirted man dies offscreen.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Kirk admits "Like most humans, I seem to have an instinctive revulsion to reptiles."
  • Revenge: Kirk's goal for the first part of the episode. When given the opportunity to take it, however, he refuses.
  • Sssssnake Talk: The Gorn says "I weary of the chasssse. Wait for me. I ssshall be mercccciful and quick."
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Kirk refuses to kill the Gorn.
  • Sword over Head: Kirk, in this position with the Gorn, refuses to kill him.
Star Trek S 1 E 17 The Squire Of GothosRecap/Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek S 1 E 19 Tomorrow Is Yesterday

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