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Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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Episode no.  Season 1 Episode 18
Story by  Fredric Brown
Featured music  Alexander Courage
Directed by  Joseph Pevney
Teleplay by  Gene L. Coon
Cinematography by  Jerry Finnerman
Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series)

"Arena" is an episode of the original American science fiction television series Star Trek. It is a first season episode, #18, production #19, first broadcast January 19, 1967, and repeated on July 6, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown, and directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn.


Set in the 23rd century, the series follows the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Federation starship Enterprise. In this episode, while pursuing an unknown enemy for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain unarmed.


The USS Enterprise arrives at the Cestus III Outpost by invitation of its commanding officer, but the crew find the outpost obliterated. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a security force beam down to find one survivor (Tom Troupe) who says the base came under heavy bombardment from an unknown enemy. The away team find themselves under fire from nearby, with two of the security team killed in the initial volley. The Enterprise is also under attack from an unknown vessel, preventing the crew from beaming up the away team. On the surface, Kirk finds a grenade launcher from the outpost's stores, and uses it to scatter the alien forces. The alien ship recovers its crew from the surface and begins to retreat. The away team is beamed back aboard the Enterprise before they give chase.

Both ships enter an unexplored sector of space, and shortly thereafter, lose all propulsion power. The Enterprise is contacted by a species calling themselves the Metrons (voiced by Vic Perrin), who zealously guard their sector of space from intrusion. They announce that they will pit the respective captains against each other in "trial by combat", a one-to-one battle to the death, with the ship of the losing captain to be destroyed and the other ship free to leave. Captain Kirk is suddenly transported to the surface of a rocky, barren planet along with the captain of the other ship, who is of a reptilian species known as the Gorn (voiced by Ted Cassidy). The Metrons speak to Kirk, explaining that while neither captain has communication with his ship, each has been given a vocal recording device that will translate their words to the opposing captain as well as transmit them to their ships. Kirk is told that the planet has numerous resources either captain can use to defeat the other. Aboard the Enterprise, the crew are allowed to watch Kirk's actions.

Kirk attempts to communicate with the Gorn, but receives no response. The Gorn tracks down Kirk, and Kirk realizes he is outmatched physically and relies on his agility to outrun the Gorn. Kirk gets caught in a rope trap set by the Gorn that injures his leg and slows him down. The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk via the translation device and offers to put him out of his misery. Kirk accuses the Gorns of being butchers, but the alien defends their attack on Cestus III, stating the outpost had been built in what the Gorns considered to be their territory. They viewed the Federation's presence in this part of space as an intrusion and a possible prelude to full-scale invasion.

Trying to stay ahead of the Gorn, Kirk discovers numerous valuable minerals and resources on the planet, seemingly useless at this point. He is inspired upon finding stalks of bamboo and raw chemicals that can be mixed into a black powder formula. He constructs a makeshift weapon, using chunks of diamond as ammunition. Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and fires on him, severely wounding the alien. Kirk prepares to strike the Gorn to kill him, but realizes the Gorn's attack on Cestus III was likely only in self-defense, and allows the Gorn to live. Suddenly, the Gorn disappears, and a Metron (Carole Shelyne) appears to Kirk, congratulating him on not only winning the battle but showing the advanced trait of mercy for one's enemies. Kirk refuses to have the Metrons destroy the Gorn ship, leading the Metron to comment that "you are still half savage, but there is hope", and that the Federation should seek out the Metrons again in several thousand years time. Suddenly Kirk finds himself aboard the Enterprise, his injuries healed, and the crew finds the ship on the other side of the galaxy, 500 parsecs from Metron space, the Gorn ship nowhere in range.


  • According to an account by Herbert Solow in the book Inside Star Trek, The Real Story, the relation to Brown's short story may have been an unconscious inspiration. After Coon had written what he thought was an original script, Desilu's research department, headed by Kellam de Forest, noted the similarity. It was therefore agreed that Desilu's Business Affairs office would call Brown and offer a fair price for the story, before it was shot and broadcast. Brown agreed without knowing that the story had already been written; he was granted screen credit.
  • The episode was filmed in part on location at Vasquez Rocks, which was subsequently used as a shooting location in other Star Trek episodes and films.
  • The Gorn captain's vocalizations were provided by actor Ted Cassidy, who also appeared in person in the Star Trek episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and provided the menacing voice of Balok in the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". The Gorn was portrayed by stuntmen Bobby Clark and Gary Combs and by extra Bill Blackburn in close-ups.
  • William Shatner recalls standing too close to a stage prop explosion during the filming of the episode, causing tinnitus which he has suffered with to this day. Leonard Nimoy was also afflicted. Shatner has it in his left ear and Nimoy had it in his right ear.
  • "Arena" was the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast in colour by the BBC when it was first shown in the UK in November 1969.
  • The ability to construct a working weapon out of bamboo and black powder was tested (and found to be implausible) in an episode of the television show MythBusters titled Mini Myth Mayhem.
  • Reception

    Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, noting the episode's influence and noting the use of a theme of Star Trek, the "uncertainty of exploration".


    Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series) Wikipedia

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