Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) – The Man Trap and Charlie X

Captain’s Log: Stardate 1513.1

I was going to wait until I finished one of the other shows that I am watching for the blog before I dove into Star Trek, but the 50th Anniversary beginning in September, and the DK Canada book, The Star Trek Book on the The Book Shelf this week drove me to start sooner rather than later.

Lots has been written about Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creation, history and making of, not to mention all the episodes that have aired but, I thought I may share some of my thoughts, and maybe not necessarily rehash the stories (though I’m sure that will happen as well) but share my own memories.

The Man Trap was the first Star Trek episode aired, 8 September, 1966 and was penned by George Clayton Johnson. It was not, however, the first episode shot, but we’re going broadcast order and will work through all the series that way… Buckle up, this is gonna be a long one, but a highly enjoyable one, I expect.

The Man Trap was one of the first Trek episodes (but not The First) I saw as a kid, catching them as reruns some Saturday morning when I was six or seven. I remember seeing it on the television, and diving into the world immediately.

I was fascinated by the characters, the stalwart ,courageous captain, James T. Kirk (William Shatner), intrigued by the alien, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and have always longed for a friend like Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley).

In this tale, we discover an alien on the planet M-113, an alien masquerading as a lost love of McCoy’s Nancy Crater (Jeanne Bal). But she’s an alien, an alien that feeds on salt, and will draw it out of a victim’s body, killing them in the process.

McCoy gets to say “He’s dead, Jim.” A line that will (almost) always elicit a smile from me.

One of the odd things about the story is that Kirk’s log talks about events and the existence of the creature before the characters actually know about it. Odd.

The show also introduces Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and Sulu (George Takei), serving as ship’s helmsman and work as a botanist, or maybe just pursuing a hobby (with a weird plant that’s actually a hand puppet). Uhura doesn’t have the best dialogue in the episode, she does show that the bridge crew is fairly informal with one another.

The creature, christened the Salt Vampire, is pretty creepy, especially for the time, and drove me to buy one of my first Star Trek books, The Monsters of Star Trek by Daniel Cohen. I must have reread that book countless times and it fueled my adventures as I perfected my shoulder roll and constructed phasers and communicators out of lego.

The story played up some horror aspects, as well as some minor action beats, showing that Kirk could be a man of action, and could use his brains as well, with McCoy and Spock providing balance.

This was also the first time that I had seen a spaceship besides ones in Star Wars, and the Enterprise was and continues to be beautiful. Boy was I ready to beam up onto this show!

star-trek-premiere-1966-the-man-trap

Captain’s Log: Stardate 1533.6

Charlie X had an airdate of 15 September, 1966 and was written by D.C. Fontana from a story by Roddenberry.

While the Salt Vampire from M-113 may have been a little creepy, there was something in this story that truly unnerved me at a very young age.

Young Charlie Evans (Robert Walker Jr.) is handed over to Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, having been recovered by the crew of the Antares. He tells a story of growing up alone on a remote planet, but there is more to him than we know, and he’s got a rare ability, incredible psychic powers, so you’d better stay on his good side.

While the story doesn’t handle the female characters quite so well, it does show the need for authority figures in one’s life, as well as control over impulses. That’s handled well, and as the story unfolds the boy’s fate and the things he does end up being rather terrifying.

It’s weird then, that the only thing that really troubled me is the crewmember who is rendered faceless by Charlie for laughing. I understand how it was done, but as a child, that was a bothersome image, and even now, the idea of it haunts me.

Kirk gets to match wits with Charlie, but also teaches him a little about looking after himself, and the ‘proper way’ to treat a woman. This is where I started to learn the shoulder roll, and boy did I practice that a lot. I’m sure the shoulders of my shirts were covered in grass stains.

Uhura and Spock get to jam together in one of the rec rooms, something that wasn’t done enough, as it once again demonstrates the relaxed informality of the crew, and how at ease they are with one another.

I love all the brilliant colours in the show, and the lighting designs, which seem like they wouldn’t work in the real world, but look great on the screen.

This type of story was done a number of times before Trek took it on, and it’s been done countless times since, but this was the first time we ever saw it with this group of people. And it doesn’t have much in the way of action sequences, but I remember being captivated by it when I saw it one Saturday morning. I had never seen anything like it!

Watching it now I can’t believe that it takes Kirk so long to do something about Charlie, he doesn’t seem to even consider him a threat despite Spock’s urging. Also, I’ve never understood Rand’s hairstyle.

And it was at the young age of six or seven that I got the birds and bees talk from James T. Kirk, and learned, to ‘go slow.’

Charlie is just a boy, and doesn’t necessarily deserve the fate he gets, in fact, it’s kind of scary…

But my journey aboard the Enterprise are just getting underway…

Space. The final frontier…

Let’s go!

charliex2

 

 

 

 

 

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