Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Star Trek: Arena

Episode: "Arena"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 18
Original Air Date: January 19, 1967
via Memory Alpha
In my first semester of college, my freshman writing seminar was entitled "UFOs in American Society."  Among other topics covered, we discussed the changes in the depiction of alien beings in science fiction movies, changes that reflected prevailing attitudes toward foreign cultures in general.  Star Trek was just one step in the path between the monstrous invader images of the 1950s and the kinder, gentler entities in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  "Arena" is one episode that seeks to push that evolution along.

The Enterprise arrives at Cestus III Outpost expecting a warm reception only to find the installation destroyed, apparently by an unprovoked alien attack.  Our heroes pursue the offending ship, bent on vigilante justice.  Suddenly, an unseen third party identifying themselves as the Metrons, seize both vessels, freezing them in space.  Both Kirk and the captain of the opposing ship are instantly transported to a desert plan where they are instructed to fight to the death, the fate of their ships resting on the outcome.

The Captain's adversary is a Gorn, a reptilian humanoid species.  With all of the grunting, roaring and stumbling around, the Gorn is very much the image of the old B-movie alien, the sort that must be destroyed immediately and without remorse.  But of course, this is Star Trek and despite Kirk's initial vengeful anger, all shakes out quite differently.

As with the last episode (reflection here), there is some Q foreshadowing in this story.  The Metrons stand in moral judgment of both ship crews just as Q will in his tales.  The idea of a superior civilization deeming Earthlings unworthy of survival is actually a fairly common one in science fiction well beyond Trek.  If the scary, green otherworlders aren't out to kill us, probe us or build an interstellar highway through us, surely they'll condemn us for our many sins: Cosmic Ethical Darwinism.

*****
via Memory Alpha
Carolyne Barry (credited as Carolyne Shelyne) plays the Metron who finally appears to Kirk near the end of the episode.  Her voice, however, is performed by Vic Perrin.  Barry was born Carole Stuppler on July 20, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York.  In addition to hundreds of acting credits, she is a professional dancer and dance instructor.  She majored in dance at UCLA with a minor in theatre arts.
via Memory Alpha
21 years after "Arena," Barry appeared in the Next Generation episode "Home Soil" as an engineer. 

18 comments:

  1. I remember Kirk kept dashing out and kicking the gatorman then running away --until he made cannon and shot gatorman in the belly. It was an absorbing episode but I didn't get to see it clear through. I will do so tonight, 45 years later. Your freshman year seminar must have been fun and fascinating!

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    1. It was a fun class, and it shall be on my transcript forever!

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  2. Why are so many of the aliens green ?
    I love these reviews !
    I remember seeing this episode after seeing the photo but I couldn't tell you anything about it.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Why green is a very good question. My guess would be that a few early popular depictions had them as green and it stuck.

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  3. That's the episode I remember best from when I was a kid and, for years, any time I saw Trek on, it was that episode.
    Every time.

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    1. I had a similar experience with the old Battlestar Galactica series. I'm pretty sure I only ever caught one episode but I saw it at least five times.

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  4. Hey, I think that's one of the, like, three episodes I've seen!

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    1. It's fun in its way, but not the sort of episode that's going to hook anyone into the series.

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  5. Clasic!
    I didn't know about Carolyne Barry that is cool!

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    1. I'm finding quite a lot of the guest stars made multiple appearances over various series. It would seem the extended Trek family was a loyal one.

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  6. An engineer...or a Metron secretly reevaluating humanity???

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    1. Or maybe she's a Cylon! Whoops, wrong franchise...

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  7. Interesting. Star Trek always looked so good. I should watch it one day.

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  8. So funny how this is the episode everyone remembers...ME TOO! This is the first episode I remember seeing as a kid. I may have seen others, but this is the first one that made an impact.

    You just don't easily forget a big green lizard-y alien.

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    1. I have no idea what my first what have been way back when. I just remember thinking of Trek as being quiet and boxy compared to my beloved Star Wars - took me a while to warm to it.

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  9. "my freshman writing seminar was entitled "UFOs in American Society."

    What a fantastically weird topic!

    The Gorn probably set the stage for all my nightmarish imaginings of what an evil alien looked like. Although now, he's hardly scary at all. My kids were unimpressed. Anything that moves that slow is not really a formidable enemy.

    Our favorite green alien nowadays is Vastra. "Hello, I am a Lizard Woman from the Dawn of Time. And this is my wife."

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    1. Yup, Vastra's awesome. So excited for the Christmas special!

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