(airdate: January 19, 1967)
Teleplay: Gene L. Coon From a story by: Fredric Brown
Director: Joseph Pevney
Ensign O'Herlihy: Jerry Ayres
Metron: Carole Shelyne
Lt. Kelowitz: Grant Woods
Gorn (uncredited): Bobby Clark, Gary Combs
Voice of the Gorn (uncredited): Ted Cassidy
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is making a routine visit to the Earth observation outpost on Cestus III, but when they beam down they find that the outpost has been destroyed. Kirk and the landing party manage to repel another attack by the invaders, who then flee the planet. The Enterprise pursues them into an uncharted part of the galaxy, where both ships are stopped dead in space by a powerful species called the Metrons, who transport both captains down to a nearby planet to settle their differences personally. While fighting for his life, Kirk learns that the aliens, called Gorn, considered the outpost on Cestus III to be an invasion into their space and responded accordingly. Despite being physically outmatched, Kirk constructs a crude firearm from raw material on the surface and overpowers the Gorn but refuses to kill him. The Metrons, impressed by this act of mercy, send both ships on their way.
Whoops!: The pronunciation of the name "Metron" varies from scene to scene. The Gorn captain moves comically slow in the first fight against Kirk. Right before the Gorn is struck by the falling boulder, he drops his sharpening rock in what is probably best described as a "Holy crap!" moment.
The Metrons transmit images of the fight to the Enterprise bridge, complete with pans, cuts, and zooms. Meanwhile, most of the episode thereafter is us watching the transmission, framed by the viewscreen. The net effect is that it looks for all the world like the bridge crew have decided to watch an episode of the classic 20th-century television show Star Trek.
Classic Lines: Spock: "Doctor, you are a sensualist." McCoy: "You bet your pointed ears I am."
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Nearly everyone at the outpost is killed, obviously, but Ensign O'Herlihy (in red) is also killed by a disruptor blast (red, with a thick blue outline), while Lt. Lang (in gold) is killed off-screen.
Kirk and the Gorn captain engage in a close-quarters battle on the surface of an unnamed planet.
Library Computer: Cestus III was an orange-red planet [a nasty-looking yellow-green planet in the remastered version] on the edge of Federation space. The surface of the planet looked somewhat arid, with lots of brush covering the area that we see. Cestus III was the location of an Earth observation outpost, led by a Commodore Travers, who was famous for his hospitality. Ships were permitted to use the outpost's facilities as necessary. Women and children were stationed at the outpost, as well as possibly Travers' personal chef. The arsenal included a mortar-style grenade launcher that uses blue spheres as ammo; the spheres appear to be a type of photon explosive [the sound is identical to the launching of a photon torpedo on the Enterprise]. It was an isolated colony, however, and it was largely destroyed in an attack by a race known as the Gorn.
The Gorn are a cold-blooded, green, reptilian biped race with silver eyes that look similar to compound eyes. They have two fingers and a thumb on each hand, and a small ridge that runs down the center of their head. They appear to be very strong - the Gorn seen here can lift and throw a small boulder, and can withstand being struck in the chest with a large rock without obvious ill effect - although a blow to the ear holes causes them to stagger. However, they're not particularly agile. They have red blood. The Gorn captain wears a simple metallic gold and red tunic covered in a pattern of circles, with leather gauntlets that reach to the elbow. They are capable of interplanetary travel and have powerful disruptor weapons, "like phasers, only worse". They are also capable of overloading a tricorder by feeding its impulses back on itself, and of faking messages from the outpost to the Enterprise. [The remastered version provides a glimpse of the Gorn ship, which looks like a central trapezoidal hull with two wings protruding from either side, with two warp nacelles stacked on top of each other at the end of each wingtip. It's honestly pretty hard to make out even in the remastered version.] The Gorn considered the Earth observation outpost on Cestus III to be an invasion by the Federation. ["Arena" marks the first use of the word "Federation" to describe the political entity that the Enterprise is a part of, although here it seems to be used more or less interchangeably with Earth. (Note how Cestus III is described as both an Earth outpost and a Federation installation, with no real distinction between the two terms.) We'll have to wait a few weeks, for "A Taste of Armageddon", before we get the full-fledged "United Federation of Planets".]
The Metrons appear to Kirk as humanoid, wearing white-silver, sparkly togas. Their signal appears on the main viewer of the Enterprise as underwater, multicolored concentric circles. They are powerful, scanning ships with an unusual wavelength and capable of stopping them dead in space via a power unknown to the Enterprise. They can also transport ships over a distance of at least five hundred parsecs. They inhabit an unexplored region of space, where there are "rumors of certain strange signals on subspace channels", though none have been recorded. 2279 PL and 2246 PM are in this area - 2246 PM being the solar system from which the Metrons' scans initiated. Prior to the Enterprise's encounter with the Metrons, there were legends of intelligent life in the sector, but nothing definite. They disapprove of violence in their sector of space and so force the captains of both ships to have a personal fight on an unknown planet, which also appears to be quite arid but also with substantial scrub brush cover and mineral deposits exposed on the surface. They tell Kirk and the Gorn that the winner will be permitted to go free, while the loser's ship will be destroyed. After Kirk shows mercy to the wounded Gorn, however, the Metrons allow both ships to depart unmolested. They provide Kirk and the Gorn with a simple belt and a metal cylindrical recording device, and they can transmit images of the battle between Kirk and the Gorn to the Enterprise's main viewer.
The Enterprise is the only protection in the sector of the Federation containing Cestus III. Sustaining warp 7 is dangerous and could potentially blow up the ship, but warp 8 is also achievable. The ship is equipped with both phaser banks and photon torpedoes [thus marking the first use of the latter term].
The meals aboard the Enterprise are reconstituted. McCoy was looking forward to a non-reconstituted meal.
Kirk knows how to combine potassium nitrate, sulfur, and coal to make gunpowder. He states that he has an instinctive revulsion toward reptiles.
Final Analysis: "You are still half-savage, but there is hope. We will contact you when we are ready." Well-remembered for the fight between Kirk and the Gorn, and while that is the heart of the episode, the scenes before are just as, if not more, watchable. There's a lot of good drama at the core of "Arena", and the fight is merely an outward expression of the conflict that's present in the whole episode. Placing the Federation in the wrong is a good move, and it all moves at a fast clip. Wonderful stuff.
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Page originally created: November 22, 2009
Page last updated: July 29, 2019