Star Trek: The Original Series


1.5 stars

Air date: 1/19/1967
Teleplay by Gene L. Coon
Story by Fredric Brown
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When an Earth outpost is attacked and destroyed by a race called the Gorn, Kirk orders the Enterprise to pursue the Gorn ship with the intent of destroying it. In the midst of this high-warp chase, both the Gorn ship and the Enterprise wander into the territory of the powerful Metrons, who halt both ships and express their disdain for violent ways. The Metrons force Kirk and the Gorn captain to a planet where they must battle to the death using whatever primitive weapons they can find or create. The battle's winner's ship will go free; the loser's will be destroyed.

"Arena's" anti-violent, show-mercy-to-all message is heavy-handed, featuring a final scene that explains the message with the grace of a brick shattering on pavement. The use of Yet Another All-Powerful Alien Species™ to pass judgment on primitive humans is quickly becoming a cliché. In the meantime, the action sequences are laughably inept, even for late ‘60s Trek. Kirk's nemesis, the Gorn captain, never comes off as anything more than a klutzy man in a cheap rubber suit, performing "stunt scenes" that often have unintentionally comical results. (Ironically, considering the outdoor locations, it must've cost a lot of money to film this episode.)

The "cleverness factor" that is supposed to emerge from Kirk's situation doesn't pan out; Kirk's attempts to gain the upper hand with resourcefulness are undermined by bad pacing and a lack of suspense. And the notion of the Enterprise crew watching the entire fight on the viewscreen is both logically dubious and dramatically useless. The story scores a few points for being well-intentioned, but it was very poorly conceived.

Previous episode: The Squire of Gothos
Next episode: Tomorrow Is Yesterday

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60 comments on this post

Sun, Mar 16, 2008, 11:40pm (UTC -6)
I think that you are right on in your "Arena" review. If they had just followed the original short story (which is considered to be one of the best ever written in the sci fi genre) it would have been a great episode. Fredric Brown is credited with the story, but I wonder how much he was involved in the actual episode; or if it is just a reference to his short story that the show is based on, with the teleplay being a major rewrite.
Sun, May 17, 2009, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
ahhh .. Arena ..was my FAVE when I was ... 9 years old ... lol...
Tue, Dec 15, 2009, 2:13pm (UTC -6)
"Arena" is one of my dad's favourite episodes of TOS. Also, on a completely unrelated matter to that statement, there's a video on YouTube called "Worst Fight Scene Ever". If you're an Original Series fan I highly recommend you check it out.
Fri, Apr 2, 2010, 10:27am (UTC -6)
I still think "the Doosday Machine" is the best overall Trek episode, but after lots of years "Arena" was all that bad either. I wish someday they would clean up (digitally) some of the cheasy rubber suit on the Gorn...
Jeffrey Bedard
Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 9:32am (UTC -6)
This has always been one of my favorites. Just seeing Kirk grappling with the Gorn is one of the most indelible images of TOS.

Yes, the Gorn costume is a bit silly, but it's still remarkably detailed considering the TOS episode budget and is still vastly superior to anything LOST IN SPACE ever did regarding non-humanoid aliens.

I love the action set piece at the beginning, especially enjoying the fact that Shatner and Nimoy are doing some of their own stunts which adds to the believability.

The chase of the Gorn ship is suspenseful despite never seeing the Gorn ship itself (I know that in the remastered version there is now a Gorn ship).

The multi colored light effect for the Metrons is cool and using Vic Perrin for the voice is effective.

Some of the fight scene between Kirk and the Gorn works really well, some of it is a bit silly. I don't understand why the guy wearing the Gorn suit moved so slowly in the early part of the fight. Was that due to limited mobility in the suit, a choice by the director, or perhaps showing us that the Gorn had physical speed limitations on this particular planet? It does distract from the early part of the fight 'cause the Gorn is moving painfully slow.

Not a perfect episode perhaps, but I'd at least give this three stars. We get an out of doors action sequence, a space ship chase, two non-humanoid alien species (despite the human boy version of the Metrons at the end) and a nice illustration of TREK's "humanity can improve on itself" message with Kirk showing mercy to the Gorn. A great closing conversation between Spock and Kirk and a showing of a rare black eye to the Federation in the TOS era and what's not to love?
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
While I might not see it in as favorable a light as I did in my childhood, I still believe Arena is worthy of three stars. Sure, the fight with the Gorn is cheesy when viewed in a modern light and is plagued by some bad pacing, but it remains an iconic cultural image. I actually found the rest of the episode to be quite entertaining; the battle with the unknown and unseen enemy on the deserted outpost and the subsequent chasing of the Gorn ship being prime examples. Overall, for me a good episode.
Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 6:41am (UTC -6)
Arena is definitely overrated.

The morals in this episode are total BS. When the Gorn states his reasons "You were invaders!" McCoy exclaims "Could he be right.", expressing moral self-doubt.
No, that's not even close to a justification.
If group of Cubans settled and island off the coast of Texas which belonged to the US, it wouldn't make it ok for Americans to just start killing them, without any notice or negotiations.

How superior can the Metrons be. Forcing two aliens to fight to the death and promising the execute the loser's crew is hardly the act of a superior being.

The good part is actually the ridiculous slow motion fight scene between Kirk and the Gorn. That is a laught a minute.
Sat, Aug 24, 2013, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
To analyze this episode you must go back to the first time you saw it. The numerous surprises in the plot from the hoax to get them down on the planet, to finding out there were invaders, to chasing them across the galaxy, to suddenly being stopped by the Metrons, to transport to the "arena" for the competition and first discover what a "Gorn" is, and lastly to see that awesome looking "Metron" and learn about their advanced state of being was, as Spock would say, "fascinating". Kirk's final expression of humility and then hope was a superb ending. Four stars for me.
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 12:47am (UTC -6)
Arena is one of my favourite episodes of TOS. It might not be incredibly deep, and it is quite cheesy by modern standards, but the Gorn is iconic, dammit! One of the most iconic images of the series
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
I thought the pacifist message was quite radical and powerful. This episode opens with the slaughter of a human outpost and then positions you to accept this as being "our fault". This is quite a brave stance. The episode positions you to side and sympathise with a group who have commited a massacre.
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
Unlike later Treks, the Original Series always had genuinely alien looking aliens.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
Whats not to love? Mortars, car chase, scavenger hunt, fight to death, speed vs Brawn, iconic alien.

Oh yeah, there was that androgynous liberal at the end... OK well bump it down to 3.5 stars for that. Classic trek.
Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 4:02am (UTC -6)
The redshirt guard accompanying the captain down to Cestus III earns the dubious distinction of Dumbest Red Shirt Ever in my book. Today's lesson: If you're in a war zone and see the bad guys, scream really loudly and stand up tall. That always goes over well.

"CAPTAIN, I SEE SOMETHING!" [ZAAAAAAP!] [instantly vaporized]
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 7:28pm (UTC -6)
Definitely one of those episodes best watched as an 8 year old.
The Man
Sun, Jun 7, 2015, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
The amazing part is how a "superior" race could have two beings fight to the death and have the losers' ship execute yet refer to humans as half-savage. I think the writers missed the boat on that.
A fellow Kalandan
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 3:20am (UTC -6)
Look, I get it, you're a (wannabe) critic. But you've got to take it for what it is: a fun TV show, produced in 1966. This is not a mega-buck movie where the premise and script is honed over months/years and there's plenty of budget for special effects and costumes. [And with this in mind, what's your opinion on Star Wars, Eps 1-3...?]

This is a classic episode, the Gorn an iconic alien. While I did watch Arena for the first time way back when I was a kid, it is still an episode that when I come across it on TV, I will stay and watch until the end. Great entertainment! --Making gunpowder out of the component minerals! Awesome!

Using your metric, I give it all 4 stars.
Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 1:22am (UTC -6)
"Can you manufacture some sort of rudimentary gun?!"

Considering a great scene from Galaxy Quest owes itself to this episode, I think it deserves a higher rating. Agree with the others this was in my top 3 as a youngster.
The Man
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 3:40pm (UTC -6)
Let me see, an alien race murders a colony and then tricks a ship into coming just to murder them but it might be humans' fault because they accidently settled into their section of space? They defend themselves by sneak attacking without communication and taking out weapons and slaughtering people. And then a "superior" race considers Humans half-savage. And they deal with this by having a human cock fight and promising to execute and murder the losing side. The writers fell asleep on this one.
The Man
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 3:43pm (UTC -6)
I also find it ironic that they judge humans on the "advanced trait of mercy" yet they were originally not going to show mercy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black on that one. What were the writers thinking?
Mon, Aug 8, 2016, 6:30pm (UTC -6)
It's probably a good thing I wasn't the captain of the Enterprise (besides the fact that the Gorn would probably kill me...). When the Metron appeared and talked about their superior morality and how humans would one day become as moral as them, I would have laughed in his face. And probably continued laughing at him until he got annoyed enough to blow up the Enterprise. Because this episode's morality was a giant load of malarkey.

Just look at at the much ballyhooed comment from McCoy: "could he be right?" Excuse me? Craig gave an example of the US blasting a Cuban colony right off the coast of Texas, but that's an improper analogy. It would be the US blasting a Cuban colony in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Was there any evidence, anywhere, of Gorn settlements on the planet? Was there any evidence of Gorn settlements in the solar system? In the neighboring solar systems? When Kirk chased the Gorn ship off, he was 30 parsecs behind them. 30 parsecs! They were going at breakneck speed, and given that TOS talked about traveling to the edge of the galaxy with no problems, that must be a very high speed. No other Gorn ship intercepted them. In other words, there was no evidence that the Gorn had any territory anywhere near this outpost. So by what right do the Gorn claim this land? Can you claim a faraway land that you aren't even trying to colonize, or mine, or anything?

And even if you do claim it, without putting up a sign or anything, how the heck is anyone else supposed to know? If you claim an acre in the desert, with no sign or fence around, can you really complain if someone trespasses? Ah, but it's not just complaining that the Gorn did. They killed everyone. Even the civilians. Even after the Federation officer declared their surrender. And then tricked the Enterprise crew members into beaming down and ambushing them. There was no mistake or miscommunication here. The Gorn knew full well what they were doing when they killed everyone.

Fine, maybe that was perfectly acceptable in the Gorn's mind. Maybe they think they are perfectly within their rights to do what they did. But not all moral codes are created equal, and we have no obligation to respect a moral code that doesn't respect ours. And clearly, the Gorn's actions here crossed the line when it comes to respecting us. So the Metrons pretending that everyone is equally bad was just silly. To say nothing of the Metrons moral code being a fight to the death between two people in order to kill everyone else on the loser's team being utterly absurd.

Meanwhile, while all of this is going on, the writers dumped on Kirk's characterization. In their desperate attempt to be preachy and create moral uncertainties, they turned Kirk into a crazed bloodthirsty Ahab rather than the cool collected captain. His statement, that he is the only policeman and something must be done, is absolutely correct. But the way he goes about it, trying to destroy the Gorn ship rather than even trying to communicate or disable it, does not ring true. Is there any doubt that Picard would at least hail them first? Of course he would. And of course Kirk would, too! We know Kirk is acting irrationally, because the wise old Spock kept talking about being troubled by his actions, and we know Spock is the calm logical one. But we had to show Kirk being in the wrong and pretending that the Gorn had a point in order to make the stupid Metrons look wise.

And that, my friends, is why "message" shows are awful. Because you end up shoehorning characters into your message, rather than letting the story flow naturally. Who cares if Kirk's actions are not consistent with his character, the message must prevail. Who cares if the Gorn's justifications don't hold up to scrutiny, we have to pretend they have a point. Who cares if the Metrons superiority is laughable, we need someone to stand in for the writers and preach to us. When the message is elevated above the story and characters, the story and characters inevitably suffer. And you can't blame that on cheesy rubber outfits.
Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
I thoroughly enjoyed this iconic episode as a kid some 30+ years ago and even just watching it now, I still enjoyed it. It's not perfect, but it is a classic TOS episode. Plenty of suspense, action, a decent plot.
I have no issues with the Gorn's rubber costume or the fight scenes. Kirk is supposed to be fighting a large slow powerful intelligent lizard-like humanoid -- and that's exactly how the fight scene plays out. Kirk's ingenuity wins out.
Kirk is justified in pursuing the Gorn ship -- I think Kirk's argument here wins out over Spock although it would have been good if he could have laid out why (all women/children mercilessly killed, Enterprise lured in for destruction) rather than simply disregarding Spock's objections. I don't see how the Enterprise could start believing that the Gorn were merely defending themselves.
What isn't well thought out is the Metron's higher moral standard. Arranging a fight to the death between the 2 captains and then planning to destroy the losing ship doesn't strike me as an example of a more advanced race's ideology.

Anyhow, still a very enjoyable episode of classic TOS Trek. I give it 3.5/4 stars - it is one of the better Season 1 episodes and really feel Jammer's review is much too harsh at 1.5 stars which would put it as one of the worst.
Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 3:57pm (UTC -6)
One other thing to add to my prior comment:

"Arena" is very similar to "Balance of Terror" -- aliens (justifiably in the wrong according to Enterprise) destroy Earth outposts and Kirk & Co. go in pursuit. BoT is a riveting starship vs. starship battle, whereas "Arena" needs some contrivance to become a captain vs. captain battle. It's the contrivance that weakens "Arena" in absolute terms and relative to BoT. But it is still a very strong episode. If "Arena" hadn't interjected the "lesson" of "superior race" etc., it would probably please a lot of people.
Trek fan
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 12:21am (UTC -6)
Ah yes, "Arena." If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this episode is one of the most iconic Star Treks ever, as it epitomizes what's great and cheesy about the franchise in one sublime package. Granted, the climactic fight is laughable in spots, but the script is so sensitive and smartly written that it's easy to forgive all.

I agree with many commenters that this episode is a classic worthy of 3 1/2 stars, knocked down half a star only for the sagging midsection and corny fight stunts; it's the show that many casual viewers remember when pressed to name a Star Trek episode from any of the series. Indeed this episode symbolizes everything I love about Star Trek: Compassion for the alien "other" and belief in the possibility that people can learn to get along after even the most violent of disagreements.

For many viewers, you've got to look beyond the obvious cheese of a guy in a rubber suit doing slow-motion fight moves to appreciate the sincere idealism of the story's payoff. But even the guy in the suit is part of the charm and part of what people love about "Arena," as its obvious budget flaws make the show that much more endearing. Also, the creativity of everyone involved -- the actors are *really* trying in this first season -- shows what can happen when a talented group of people work harder to overcome lack of resources.

I also have to admit that Shatner, although imitated by legions of comics like Kevin Pollak for his staccato monologues here, puts in one of his best Kirk performances here. As Wrath of Khan showed us, Shatner is often at his best when he underplays Kirk, and his theatricality is nicely understated here. There's a deep sobriety and lack of histrionics to his performance that really sells the story from start to finish, as his reactions to the slow-moving Gorn opponent help us overcome the initial guffaw at the fight and take it seriously. While Shatner often employs stylized acting flourishes, "Arena" is actually not one of the shows where he's jerking his body around and shouting at the camera.

There have been times I was underwhelmed at this episode and times I have taken it less seriously. I have tried at times to dislike it. But I just cannot hate "Arena" no matter how hard I work at it: While it's not the best TOS episode, it embodies the futuristic optimism and retro fun of Star Trek better than almost any show from the franchise. And we have to give it credit for that.
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
I was surprised to see the low rating on this one. I disagree with the "cost" of the set. While supposedly "outside" you really only see a few places on the planet. it wasn't that expensive.

Every TOS episode had issues with disbelief and inconsistencies. To me, it's a waste of brainpower to determine when the Gorn people settled into the area, who is right etc. I will agree that having the fight on the bridge screen was silly. But that was only done to fill the hour. Having Spock say "Coal" and things like that put in the 10 minutes or so needed to make a full show.
Klovis Mann
Wed, May 17, 2017, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
I've always liked this one. It's the first episode of TOS that I ever saw. I was 12 years old and watched it with my father the night it was broadcast in '67. Just a footnote that no one has mentioned.......the casualty/survivor the Enterprise crew finds on the destroyed outpost (and takes back to the ship) is played by the same actor that plays Loki in the 3rd season episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield".
Sat, Jun 24, 2017, 2:36pm (UTC -6)
I acknowledge some of the criticisms here, but from childhood until now Arena is still one of my favorites. 4 out of 4
Sat, Jun 24, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
I think the rating is low - I say 3.0 stars.

Craig and Skeptical do raise valid points. However, this is still an entertaining episode. Also, one thing I will say in defense in Star Trek in general is that every episode has now been seen literally many times by millions of people. Therefore, it is not surprising that people will notice that some episodes have plot holes, inconsistencies, continuity errors, etc.

I read the short story on which this story is based (supposedly), and it is a classic science fiction story. (I say supposedly based, because there are conflicting stories regarding the origin of this episode. One story is that the writers wrote this episode, without realizing there was a similar story already written by Frederic Brown.) The Outer Limits episode "Fun and Games" is similar to this episode. Indeed, even Star Trek's own The Savage Curtain and The Gamesters of Triskelion are similar.

I read the story adaption by James Blish (spoiler alert), and he had an interesting twist. In his story, the Metrons would destroy the winner of the contest, as they thought that race posed a greater threat.
Sun, Jul 30, 2017, 10:56am (UTC -6)
RE: craig

'The morals in this episode are total BS. When the Gorn states his reasons "You were invaders!" McCoy exclaims "Could he be right.", expressing moral self-doubt.
No, that's not even close to a justification.'

That's precisely why the moral message is so powerful. Don't forget that the Gorn are an alien race of lizards whom we know nothing about and we can't set the same moral standards for them that we adhere to. Kirk's show of mercy was clearly a testament to that.

"How superior can the Metrons be. Forcing two aliens to fight to the death and promising the execute the loser's crew is hardly the act of a superior being."

That was an obvious bluff if you pay attention to the ending dialogue between Kirk and the Metron. The Metron's believed we were savages and they intentionally put it in terms they thought we'd understand. When the Metron asked if he should destroy the Gorn for Captain Kirk, I took that as a challenge to Kirk's show of mercy to ensure that the lesson was truly learned.
Tue, Jan 23, 2018, 11:24pm (UTC -6)
One and half stars? Really?

This episode is a classic.
Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
@Adam: "If they had just followed the original ["Arena"] short story (which is considered to be one of the best ever written in the sci fi genre) it would have been a great episode. Fredric Brown is credited with the story, but I wonder how much he was involved in the actual episode; or if it is just a reference to his short story that the show is based on, with the teleplay being a major rewrite.

As the lore goes, this was an original script written at home by Gene Coon at over a three-day weekend just to have something ready to shove into the pipeline. When it was sent to the research company, they were the ones who noted the rather...obvious similarity to Brown's story. Then the Star Trek office contacted Brown and asked permission to base an upcoming episode on his story -- neglecting to mention it was already in pre-production. Fortunately for them, Brown was flattered and agreed.
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
This is a pulpy masterpiece, IMO, and works well as a possible critique of the Vietnam war. You essentially have the enemy demonized as lizards for commiting massacres. The Federation go out seeking revenge, but are then revealed to be colonizing another's territory and so partially responsible for retalliation. Mercy, appologies and bridge-building ensues. The lizard monsters are not our enemy.

Gene Coon was so underrated. More than Roddenberry, he defined the soul of Trek.
Bruce B.
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
Ah the Gorn: The bane of my childhood nightmares as a kid in the 60’s when I first watched it...The hissy, vomitous snarling serpentine voice....That maw with its rows of crocodile teeth...buff body but slow movement (musclebound, no doubt)....loved it when Kirk hurled a basketball-sized rock and it bounced off the Gorn’s meaty chest like a pebble...the Gorn was unstoppable and ever-pursuing like a Terminator robot....When Kirk and the Gorn got face-to-muzzle in that bearhug fight, I wanted the Gorn to try to bite off Kirk’s nose...I even got the plastic model of the Gorn when I got over my nightmares of him....Good memories!
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
I agree, Bruce. As a kid the Gorn was 100% real to me. No amount of retroactive "but it's so cheesy!" analysis will change that. This episode was already light years ahead of The Terminator, because not only did it comprise the unstoppable killing machine vs human ingenuity aspect, but the end goes far beyond it where killing the enemy is not the correct solution. Granted, it's easier to justify when it's literally a mindless robot. But imagine a Terminator movie where it isn't a mindless robot but an electronic "person" fighting for his own cultural survival.
Wed, Aug 22, 2018, 1:33am (UTC -6)
I read the original story by Frederic Brown many years ago. I don't know how closely the teleplay of this episode followed the original, but it was interesting---and if it was in any way "cheesy", so what? I love cheese. Now to a couple of details. The Gorn is described as huge, powerful, reptilian---but slow, and this was to Captain Kirk's advantage, even with the sprained ankle. And I got to wondering about something. As the pursuit progressed Kirk was hard put to remember "something about sulfur", but when the bridge crew of the Enterprise was permitted to see the action on the planet's surface he suddenly started remembering things and set about putting together a weapon, and I started wondering---was it possible that Spock was somehow in telepathic communication with the captain, telling him what to look for? I know that the Vulcan could communicate over long distances in this way, and so I began to speculate about this. Whether this was the case or not, I was intrigued by the possibility, and it added to my enjoyment of the episode. I have said before, many times, that every episode, good, bad or indifferent, has something to say, and this was no exception.
Mon, Sep 3, 2018, 11:45pm (UTC -6)
Definitely a favorite from when a kid, lol, but it still has its charms.

It is kind of comical how Spock spends like 20 minutes watching Kirk on the view screen commenting "good, good."

Definitely an iconic episode. This one was featured in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, after all... A great bit where B&T are watching Kirk walk/climb the mountain then later they are forced to walk up the same path from the same camera angle. Vazquez Rocks if you're curious.
Wed, Dec 26, 2018, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
More snooty, superior aliens and McCoy being extra annoying ( why does Spock put up with him) but the gorn made the episode great.
Yes, the grenade they used on Cestus 3 looked like a bocce ball, the gorn wore a rubber outfit, and the translater/communicator looked like an electric razor but that’s what made the episode a classic.
This is one of the few episodes that I can watch over and over again but only for the final segment.
I loved the Gorn’s expression when he saw the huge boulder about to fall on him and how he chuckled while setting his trap. Even spock showed emotion in this one.

Kirk should have realized the gorn’s toughness right away when he saw the gorn’s lack of shoes. Even the tough Klingons and romulans wore shoes.
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
Despite the shortfalls, I think this was a very good episode. I remember watching as a kid, and I liked it once again today!
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 3:30pm (UTC -6)
I think you guys are being a little too harsh on this episode. Sure the costumes are cheesy but there are a lot of smart touches. The chemicals Kirk uses to make gunpowder would really work. Also, more significantly, his final act of mercy after besting the Gorn is what elevates the episode. If this show was made today The Gorn would remain a stupid monster and Kirk would simply kill him. But his mercy and fighting against the superior alien being is a great ending and a good message.
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 9:09am (UTC -6)
That Gorn is just too much.

But it's not fair to knock TOS on the basis of bad special effects. The story is fairly creative but plodding.

Below average.
mag phil
Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 8:04am (UTC -6)
I'm firmly in the "loved it as a kid - still love it now" camp here. I want a Gorn figure now.

Overall the Gorn comes off way better in the fight. He quickly proceeds to build an effective weapon out of vines that serves to neutralize his opponent's advantage (speed). Kirk, meanwhile, inexplicaply logs his tactical status into what he was clearly told is a 'translation device', and he struggles to remember the formula for gunpowder even though according to Spock that's still 'basic chemistry' in their time.

There's a road on that asteroid which is presumably for Metron trucks carrying sulphur, although we never see one.

And when the Metron dude appears in the end, there is a glittering effect next to him that I didn't notice before. It looks like it's part of the set, something hanging there?
Bobbington Mc Bob
Wed, Sep 11, 2019, 3:45pm (UTC -6)
Though not the best episode, its main conceit that humans are "promising" and will evolve into something wonderful is one that was recycled heavily throughout TNG
Jason R.
Thu, Sep 12, 2019, 5:49am (UTC -6)
I think a lot of the comments and Jammer's review are too harsh.

Regarding McCoy's comment, there is a certain context being missed. The analogy isn't a group of Cubans settling on an island off the coast of the USA (as suggested by others on this thread). The correct analogy would be a group of reptile monsters from space doing so.

While I would like to think our first reaction would not be EXTERminaaaate! some degree of fear, hostility or even violence would be at least understandable in context.

One of the best parts about this episode is Spock. He called it right from the get go- he warned Kirk that they didn't really know the context of the attack. He was completely correct. This and other examples (eg: Galileo 7) are reasons I love Spock.

See Babylon 5 for an illustration of the foolishness of running into a situation like this guns blazing without knowing all the facts.

On the subject of the rubber suit, I liked it as a kid and I still like it. In complete honesty it was better than the CGI mush we got from Enterprise for the Gorn. The ridicule this gets is more retrospective and unfairly blamed the episode for the limitations of 60s effects.
Thu, Apr 23, 2020, 4:21am (UTC -6)
"Arena" is a classic, and the best part is, having seen this episode then watching Galaxy Quest. When the captain is fighting the Rock Monster, Guy shouts, "Can't you make a rudimentary lathe?" and I lost it, too funny.
Sun, May 10, 2020, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
This episode is famous for the fight scene between Kirk and the Gorn, but the event leading up to that moment is interesting as well. It was interesting seeing Kirk out for payback for a Starfleet base being destroyed. This was a fun action pack episode.
Wed, Jun 3, 2020, 5:18pm (UTC -6)
I’m rewatching it. It’s great.

I’ll fanwank... there’s a very good reason the Gorn moves in slow motion- it’s explicitly stated the race is cold blooded.

There’s plenty to critique- like why did Kirk and company not immediately beam up when first beaming down to the colony when it was very obviously a trap. And Uhuru screaming when Kirk was taken from the bridge... lol because teleportation is quite mundane in this universe.

But still, this is a first season ep of TOS. Come on, they were quite literally making it up as they went along. And thank you Lucille Ball!
What of Lazarus?
Sat, Jun 20, 2020, 1:48pm (UTC -6)
When the Enterprise first attacked the Gorn ship, it's weapons had no effect. Why did Kirk think they were going to be successful the second time?
Mon, Jun 22, 2020, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
C'mon did Sisko say: "I'd love to meet Kirk and talk to him about the time he saved Earth by letting a social worker die?" or "I'd love to meet Kirk and talk him about destroying the Planet Killer?" No! It was: "I'd like to shake his hand, ask him about fighting the Gorn on Cestus Three."

Damn right. The Gorn fight was an epic Star Trek moment for all the right (and wrong) reasons.

4 stars.

Complain to Sisko if you disagree.
Cody B
Tue, Jun 23, 2020, 3:05am (UTC -6)

I wouldn’t take it up with Sisko but one could sure take it up with the writers. It was throwaway line about Kirk and they had to mention an episode everyone remembers (most people remember the Gorn because of how bad the suit was and how the episode has been parodied). If Sisko said something like “I’d love to meet Kirk and ask him about delivering medical supplies and running into Garth” most people wouldn’t recall that particular episode and just be confused. So just because Sisko says the word Goen doesn’t make this a great episode. I like this episode but I agree with the consensus that the suit looks really REALLY bad and being filmed in the 1960s is not an excuse. It’s bad for the time. If you can really suspend your disbelief and stifle your laughter this is a decent episode I’d agree on 3 stars but I don’t think this quite makes the top ten
Top Hat
Tue, Jun 23, 2020, 9:16pm (UTC -6)
Gee Sisko, you know the most famous fight with the Gorn didn't actually happen ON Cestus III, right?
Paul Mehlin
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
This is the kind of Sci-Fi my childhood was built upon. I embraced it. Sure, many people poke fun at this episode, and so many "Monday morning quarterbacks" like to nit-pick the production quality and script, but Star Trek was something new back when this came out and I found this episode to be a wonderful adventure. I still do!
Fri, Nov 20, 2020, 2:58am (UTC -6)
Ten stars! One thousand stars!!!

Heck, one million stars, if only for the iconic line from Spock,

SPOCK: Now this is the power of Chemistry. Fuck yeaaaah.

Oh, the crap we loved as kids :) Good times.

@Jason R., I assume you are referring to the all-time classic Babylon 5 episode Infection? "Protect!"

Great maker, scifi can be so cheesy.
JJ Not Abrams 8-)
Fri, Dec 11, 2020, 12:28am (UTC -6)
If Sisko had mentioned Garth, we all would have known who
he was talking about. The Gorn however is a classic and
can be haunting (just ask Sheldon Cooper).

I am sure the Star Fleet Academy Case Study that Sisko
read as a Cadet was entitled "Captain Kirk and the Gorn:
Cestas III and the importance of morals in the face of
outrage" (did the Metron mineral planet have a name?)

Does anyone have the rookie card for the Gorn who played
First Base for the Pike City Pioneers?
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 3:24am (UTC -6)
I was waiting, waiting, waiting, for Kirk’s inevitable victory over Godzilla to be followed by the Metrons announcement that their threat to destroy the loser’s ship was “simply a threat, Captain, couched in the primitive terms only you would understand— we, of course, are far too sophisticated to ever do anything so violent.”

It never came, and so this episode was total BS.
Tue, Jun 1, 2021, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
"There’s plenty to critique- like why did Kirk and company not immediately beam up when first beaming down to the colony when it was very obviously a trap."

They had to assess the situation and look for survivors. It wasn't known that the Gorn were still on the planet until they came under fire...after they found that one colonist alive. Also they did try to beam up but by then Sulu had raised the shields because the Enterprise was under attack. Geez.
Tue, Jun 1, 2021, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
I do like FASA's take on the Gorn from their role playing game supplement Demand of Honor: a society that values physical prowess and is ruled by a complex honor code.
Sun, Jul 25, 2021, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
I liked the episode but wish it would have had a bigger battle. The Gorn presented a pretty cool and formidable enemy. Having it just come down to Captain Kirk versus the Gorn Captain was a little disappointing. Perhaps the budget was lacking for a big battle. Creating a giant zip gun with black powder was a neat idea, the thing was that the recoil would have made it highly inaccurate and/or it would have seriously hurt Kirk. Also notice that Kirk is wearing some sort of specialized low cut hiking boots to assist in navigating the rocky terrain. A good concept, I just wanted more! I give it a B+.
Sun, Aug 1, 2021, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
Loved this episode as a teen. I always wondered, though: In the beginning of this episode, how would the Gorn have been able to send a message in the voice of Commodore Travers in order to trick the Enterprise into sending down their tactical people?
Tue, Aug 10, 2021, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
Frankly, I find the morality of this episode to be pretty asinine, for the same reasons others have listed. I mostly enjoy it for the camp value of seeing Kirk fight a big rubber monster, it's genuinely kind of endearing how clunky it all is. Some TOS episodes have great sophistication in their writing and morals, others are just goofy fun, and this episode falls into the latter category for me, despite the obvious attempt at being profound.

I will say, a lot of other works to use the same premise are far more successful on several levels. Many have already been mentioned here, but I'd recommend the Blake's 7 episode, 'Duel', it benefits a lot from playing off an intense rivalry that'd already been established between two characters, and has some genuinely well-directed and choreographed fight scenes for such a low-budget show. It also has an ending which feels almost like a parody of 'Arena', where neither combatant learns *anything* from the whole experience.
Sun, Aug 22, 2021, 3:30pm (UTC -6)
I echo completely the words of "Skeptical" that the moral philosophy of this episode does not pass the smell test. The Gorn had ZERO justification for their actions. Even if the Federation was technically "intruding" on Gorn space, there was no Gorn presence there, no Gorn had been displaced and the Gorn then engaged in a blatant shoot first and ask no questions later policy that resulted in mass murder and extermination of civilians even AFTER attempts to communicate had been made and was then compounded by a deliberate attempt to lure the Enterprise into destruction through fake messages. The idea that there is somehow "moral equivalence" between the two sides in this is laughable on its face and its clear that presenting the Gorn as a hideous looking reptile is meant to play up the "humans react prejudicely to what they don't understand" card.

And as for the Metrones.....ugh. I am so sick and tired of the cliche of sanctimonious, holier-than-thou "superior" races presuming that they are so noble and so perfect and odor-free that they have the right to pass judgment on others and then judge the others on when they can be ready to talk to them on their sanctimonious terms. In presuming to be enlightened and against "violence" they themselves are prepared to engage in their own form of mass killing. Talk about hypocrisy! This is why I can't stand "The Day The Earth Stood Still" either because it has the same fundamental problem. Do as we say or be destroyed in the name of "peace" and "enlightenment."
Tue, Oct 26, 2021, 10:16pm (UTC -6)
Kirk was worried about Sulu having to protect the ship, ummmm, where was Scotty?

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