Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Man Trap"

2.5 stars

Air date: 9/8/1966
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Directed by Marc Daniels

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A salt-dependent alien lifeform that can assume any identity begins killing members of the crew in its need to appease its appetite for salt, which it completely drains from each of its victim's bodies. The alien initially poses as an old love from McCoy's past, who is a scientist at an archaeological dig on the planet the Enterprise is orbiting. Inevitably, the alien is unknowingly beamed aboard the ship.

Why NBC chose to air "The Man Trap" as the first episode of Trek instead of launching the series with its actual pilot, the better-paced and more textured "Where No Man Has Gone Before," is something of a mystery. "Man Trap" features a relatively nondescript plot that moves along slowly and features one particularly lackluster action sequence that begs for the bold, renowned Alexander Courage underscore but doesn't have it.

Much of the story follows the alien around the decks of the Enterprise as it takes the form of other people in preparation for luring more victims—scenes that don't benefit from nearly enough tension or suspense. Saving the episode is the respectable torment brought to Bones in the final showdown, which benefits from good portrayal of confusion on the part of DeForest Kelley; and good use of the cast as an ensemble overall.

Next episode: Charlie X

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66 comments on this post

Fri, Mar 7, 2008, 7:21pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, I love your reviews. I would love, though, if you could review TAS, for completion's sake. What do you think?
Tue, Aug 28, 2012, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
I wish they hadn't aired this one first, too. The episodes in order show a marked and progressive development in both character and the relationship between characters. These cast members shouldn't be this tight and complementary until the time when this should have been aired--the 6th episode.
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 6:13am (UTC -5)
You'd think they'd pick something better and more memorable as the first episode. However the ending was good (Kirk's unhappiness at having to kill the last of a species).
William B
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 10:20am (UTC -5)
OK, well, starting TOS now! Some of these I've "only" seen once before.

Movie/television blogger Chris Stangl summed up this episode by saying it is “about how McCoy has to metaphorically shoot his ex-girlfriend because she turned into a succubus.” What we have, I think, are two separate, not fully compatible stories spliced together: “the last of the buffalo” and the, well, succubus ex. The two stories do blend together to a degree, because exes who might want to pull you back into their orbit certainly have their reasons for doing so. But, uh, that’s kind of thin.

The episode makes some effort to depict this saltsucking fiend as a problem across genders, where it appears as a Space Prostitute (presumably) from “Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet” to Crewman Darnell and an attractive black guy to Uhura. (The episode counterbalances this latter moment by having Uhura coming onto Spock earlier in the episode, which I had forgotten about and makes the Uhura/Spock thing in the reboot franchise a little more consistent with the series than I had remembered.) The central story with McCoy himself is that he has to “get over” his lost lover, somehow, and not have his life (and later identity) taken over by her as he pines away for her. I guess. It’s a little vague. He eventually shoots her, and thus gets over her and moves on with his life; because this the first (aired) episode, we can, if we like, imagine a version of McCoy who spent all the intervening years since he left Nancy behind somewhat sad and moody, staring at her picture and not moving on, and here he does. That the real Nancy is dead represents corresponds to the recognition that the person people pine for, when they pine over their ex, is actually gone; the real person has aged and changed over time, and is not really the same person anyway, especially if they’ve married someone else. The episode introduces to the audience very early the McCoy-Kirk-Spock spectrum from emotionalism to rationality, where Kirk tells McCoy to stop thinking with his glands and that he could learn a thing or two from Spock; making this a McCoy show was a good move.

That we are told that the buffalo are extinct by the 23rd century, incidentally, is an early clue that the Star Trek future is one in which things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, eventually cemented with the introduction of the Eugenics Wars and the horrors of World War III before the rebirth represented by the discovery of warp drive and first contact with alien life. I like that Kirk is saddened by ending a species, but is not really going to let his crew be killed by it. It is sad that there is no real effort to reach a peaceful solution. I mean, this creature obviously survived for years on the salt that Crater got there, without saltsucking Carter. Is salt in such short supply that the creature must be killed? I guess the creature itself is what forces this—but I feel like someone should have offered more than a handful of salt tablets. Most likely, the problem is that the creature actually craves not eating salt in rock form, but actually consuming salt from other living beings, for some reason, and so wouldn’t be satisfied for very long with actual salt. Or, it’s just a problem with scripting.

I like the scene late in the episode with Crater, in which he talks about his wanting to save the creature for noble reasons—it’s the last of its species and deserves a right to live!—and Kirk quickly identifies the less noble motives behind it: Carter is using the creature as his own personal wife, lover, friend, parent, child.... The themes here, of fantasy/reality and objectification, of complex symbiotic relationships in which it’s not clear who is exploiting whom, are ones the show will revisit again and again (and already started to in “The Cage”). There is also good setup for the personalities of the supporting cast, especially Uhura but Sulu and Rand as well.

I think 2-2.5 stars is probably fair.
Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
The creature is smart enough to imitate not just the appearance of humans, but to imitate behavior, and that takes some mental capacity. But it isn't smart enough to realize it could have had all the salt it wanted just for the asking? Perhaps salt is so rare on its planet that it can't imagine it is common elsewhere.

Why didn't Crater simply tell Starfleet "My team was killed by an alien that lives on salt. Please send a shipload of salt." Problem solved. He probably thought they would come and kill it, but it's the alien's planet, and the creature is harmless if left alone. The alien obviously survived before he arrived, but it may have been just barely surviving.
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
I watched these episodes as a kid, and now -36 years of age - I'm revisiting them on DVD (restored version with new visual effects).

I'm really disappointed. After watching this "first" episode I'm completely disillusioned. It's really bad.

Look, I know that things were different in the late sixties. TV shows was a while different ballgame altogether, with low budgets and a primitive way of telling a story than we're used to today.

But .... man, it's just so incredibly boring. The dialog itself is horrible and the bad timing just makes it even worse.

I was expecting to experience a sense of fun, kitchy nostalgia. Instead I'm just bored to tears.

Based on what this episode has to offer, I'm sorry to say that TOS has aged badly (even with new, improved visuals, which I applaud).

I can't see how anyone today would be able to genuinely enjoy this show - exept, of course, through a very strong sense of nostalgia alone.

I really wanted to love this, but I'm afraid that I just find it plain bad (not even "fun-bad").
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 7:59am (UTC -5)
Nostalgia yes...the saltmonster reminds me of my ex wife. She craved money instead of salt, attached herself to other men, and sucked the life out of you. 3 stars.
Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 10:40am (UTC -5)
This episode was more enjoyable than watching "Enterprise." I'm seeing the heart and intentions of the episode and not the bad special effects.
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
Actually TOS had a much larger budget then a lot of shows in the 60s. If you really want to see a show string budget, check out Doctor Who's 60s period.
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
When the salt monster was in the form of Green and went into where Sulu was working, I couldn't help thinking he was there to tempt Sulu. Since Green was quite attractive. I know I know, Sulu's not actually gay, but still... :P
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
Caine, maybe you should just keep watching TOS a bit. The episodes, by and large, DO get better, especially as the relationship between the 3 core characters develops. It's not a great idea to condemn the whole series just because you saw one episode you didn't like. (And "The Man Trap" isn't super-great to begin with. Even the real pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is more interesting to watch than this one).
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 1:06am (UTC -5)
"Captain's Log, Stardate 1513.4. In orbit around Planet M-113. One crewman--member of the landing party--dead by violence. Cause unknown." So how do you know he's dead by violence?? That archaeologist and his wife sure were bad at keeping a secret, too. They both mention they need more salt at the dig site and on the very same visit Darnell turns up dead with all the salt extracted from his body? 2 + 2 still equals 4 in the future.

They should have just waited for the tablets, but the woman/creature is bereft of self-control and does the worst job ever of impersonating a crewman. And how did it know Swahili? This one's going to hurt my head if I keep thinking about it. And it's so SLOW. They had an idea for a 25-minute episode and stretched it out into 50. An awkward introduction to a epic program, but it could have been worse.
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 8:33am (UTC -5)
I've decided to start watching TOS on Netflix and this was my first episode. I'm primarily a DS9 fan with a guilty love of Voyager. I wasn't expecting too much from this early episode as I'm sure that it gets a lot better like most series do and so I was very happy with 'The Man Trap'.

I was really impressed with the dialogue, especially the sizzling scene between Spock and Uhuru near the start. It's a lot better than most of the dialogue on Voyager or TNG.
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
@William B: Great analysis.

@Caine: Watch more old episodes first, as others have said.

@K'Elvis: Completely agree.

Episode contains some positive character interplay and one could generously read into the themes in the background of the episode. However, in my view, this is a bleak episode because of the one sided nature of the monster.

Main problem: the creature is too fanatically obsessed with salt. The fact that the creature kills so frequently and without hesitation mars what could have been an interesting, morally ambiguous episode. Further, this extreme salt dependency creates a number of serious logical problems with the entire episode. As has been pointed out, the creature's unthinking monstrous urges would seem to conflict with its purported intelligence, its supposed ability to coexist peacefully with Crater, and its apparent survival on the planet for years. Obviously the creature could have received salt from the Enterprise simply by asking. Also, if the creature needed salt so badly it needed to go on a killing rampage, it wouldn't have been able to live peacefully with Crater (for a year or two). Moreover, if the creature is so dependent on salt, and there is little salt (or none?) on the planet, it seems extremely improbable the creature could have survived before Crater arrived. In any case, as I alluded to before, by creating a creature that was so obsessed with salt at all costs, the writer loses the opportunity for a more complex and challenging conflict. As it is, the creature has insufficient moral ambiguity for us to care about it.

Another problem I have with this episode is the thoughtlessness demonstrated by the Enterprise crew. Frequently, characters are given sufficient information to anticipate the actions of the monster, but fail to act. I was hoping that the "truth serum" was a clever ploy by Kirk to test McCoy, knowing that he and Spock knew there was no such thing. But, alas apparently there was a truth serum. I can't remember whether this serum was ever referred to by the Federation again. I know some villains had used a truth serum, but I don't remember the Federation using it. Anyway, very disappointing episode.
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 3:30pm (UTC -5)
One last thing: why bother giving the creature a line in the script at the beginning where it asks for salt?

Even on the initial away team (not long after it asks for salt), the creature promptly kills for salt.

I guess its fatal flaw was impatience?
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
Edit: In the post above, I meant even "during the visit of the initial away team," not "on the initial away team."
Sun, Aug 23, 2015, 5:11pm (UTC -5)
I rather liked this episode due to the creepy story premise. But I have to agree with Eli that having the creature so salt obsessed was a bit of a plot hole. Another problem with the plot is when the three team members first beam down McCoy goes on at great length as to how he and Nancy broke up over 10 years ago. Then when the creature is introduced to the sacrificial red shirt he sees her as a young blonde woman of about 25 or so. Could this poor guy be so dumb as to not do the math? That would mean that McCoy must have broken up with her when she was in her mid teens. So unless the federation has lower the legal age of consent to 12 the redshirt should see the numbers don't add up. But no, when she exits the structure and gives him the "come hither" look he immediately follows her confident he is about to get a knob job from McCoy's ex. Despite obvious plot holes I thought the general concept and moodiness carried the episode. And I rather liked the humorous exchange between Spock and Uhura. Spock: "Vulcan has no moon Miss Uhura." Uhura: "I'm not surprised Mr.Spock." Classic.
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
"He's dead, Jim."

Classic line, first reel before the first commercial of the first episode. Other than that... :-D
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 9:08am (UTC -5)
Interplay between the characters is already strong.
Trying to raise ethical questions right away (though muddily)
Reassuring to see so many Trek cliches in place right away (so many dead away-team members!)

Rand and Uhura act like morons when confronted by the creature
Letting us in on the secret of the episode in the first scene makes the pacing drag to a crawl
Spock wanting to kill the creature is out of character

The final action sequence. Just terrible.

Final rating: A slow episode with a laughably bad fight scene, mostly buoyed by the building blocks that will eventually lead to great episodes. Two out of four.
Thu, May 26, 2016, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
I'm not complaining about the fact that this is the first episode. It honestly felt a bit like an introductory episode, what with the introductory captain's log that mentioned Spock, and McCoy's names, Uhura's chat with Spock on the bridge, Sulu and Rand conversing in the botany lab, it's all meant to slowly get to know these people. I see no difference in those scenes than I see in Farpoint, Emissary, or Caretaker. So putting this episode first made sense to me. Maybe they knew they didn't have enough of a plot to fill a full episode, and thus added these scenes to fill it out and introduce us to everyone. Makes sense to me.

Meanwhile, the conference scene was probably the best part of the episode. With the creature in the guise of McCoy, it tries desperately to plead for its own life while his one supporter also tries to support it without giving away that McCoy was not actually McCoy. The episode did a good job of making us feel sympathy for the creature as well, even though we know the danger it presents. Even with Kirk telling Carter that his crusade may not be entirely unselfish, we still have sympathy for it. But unfortunately, if there is no way to stop it peacefully, the crew has to protect itself. The tension in that room was palpable, and was an enjoyable scene.

Unfortunately, while the show tried to give the creature sympathy, they didn't do a good job of making sure that it must die. Kirk said so, and so it must be. Clearly, there's enough salt to satisfy the creatures hunger, but unfortunately it tries to kill instead. Yes, the tablets Kirk held was far less than what he held in his body, but surely she could see that attacking Kirk in full view of McCoy would not go well for her. And after Spock started attacking it, it never pleads for its life. Why not? It was trying to plead for its life in the meeting, why not when it was trapped and cornered? Because, well, they needed to have McCoy shoot it to complete the story, but didn't have a good reason for why it had to stop it. Bad plotting on their part.

So, in general, not that great a start to the series, but I suppose it could have been worse.

As an aside, what's with the Captain's Log? It seemed rather... dramatic, don't you think? Not very professional sounding. I think Kirk took a creative writing correspondence course the week before this episode occurred...
Sun, May 29, 2016, 11:28am (UTC -5)

"The creature is smart enough to imitate not just the appearance of humans, but to imitate behavior, and that takes some mental capacity. But it isn't smart enough to realize it could have had all the salt it wanted just for the asking?"

Any creature worth its salt would have done that.

But yeah, you're right -- except that without the creature's evident need to create mayhem in its quest for NaCl, there wouldn't be a story. It's kind of like the episode in which Sulu and some others were freezing on a planet and the crew couldn't use the transporter to bring them up because it was creating evil duplicates -- why didn't they just send down a shuttlecraft? In both instances one line of dialogue could have addressed these concerns:
-- "The creature not only wants salt, it wants to kick ass too."
-- "The shuttlecrafts won't be here until Tuesday."
Mon, Jun 13, 2016, 3:47am (UTC -5)
Hmm, as I sit here on the precipice of rewatching TOS, having finished Enterprise, it occures to me that Jammer has not yet reviewed 'The Cage'. Lots to discuss. Or does 'The Menagerie' make a review redundant?
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 7:00am (UTC -5)
All right! Been a long-time lurker on this site and am impressed with your reviews on Trek, of which I am perhaps one of the biggest fans. You should expect many of my comments on some reviews if only to voice how much I enjoy it.
As for The Man Trap, this review is spot-on. I admit I overrate it a bit but 2.5 is about right.
All the best- Peter.
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
The plot hole that bothered me the most was the fact that the salt vampire was not a shapeshifter; it got into people's heads and made them see what they wanted to see. That's why it could appear to Kirk, McCoy, and the crewman as three different women at the same time (old Nancy, young Nancy and the "pleasure planet" woman).

Since it was not a shapeshifter, ship's sensors or a tricorder would have read it as an alien, not a human, so they should have noticed when they beamed it up. Also, if anyone was looking through the ship via viewscreen, the creature would have appeared as itself. I guess this early in the series they hadn't thought it through or established what the technology could and couldn't do.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 9:12pm (UTC -5)
I thought the salt vampire creature design was terrifying.
Ashton Withers
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 11:14am (UTC -5)
Happy 50th Star Trek!
I am going to watch this tonight exactly 50 years later, I'm very excited.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed this episode. You got to know the crew. The concept itself was interesting. The plot moved along at a good pace. The salt vampire was scary looking. In fact, it was probably one of the most memorable sci-fi monsters that I can recall. 3 stars.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
This episode suffers from the contradiction of a supposedly intelligent creature that thinks it has to kill to get one of the most worthless substances in the universe. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, but the show makes the alien more like a monster than a true Trek alien. The creature acts more like a serial killer motivated by strange compulsions than a rational being suffering from hunger. Having Crater in on the secret almost works but it just belabors the stupidity of it all. Picard would have had this all tidied up in five minutes. Still, the monster (and the facial makeup of the suction marks) is pretty freaky to look at, and I love Sulu's "potted plantimal" which AFAIK has never made another appearance.
Fri, Jan 13, 2017, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Enjoyed this episode - although as many have said, it shouldn't have been the first one to air as all of the usual crew members seem to already be in steady state.
The premise of the episode is interesting - the salt vampire is highly intelligent, can read minds, but is also given to uncontrollable urges to kill to get salt. I guess it must have been sated when it was all alone with McCoy all that time.
I'm somewhat surprised it kills Crater, although this could be because it got uncontrollably hungry again after having to sit through the meeting disguised as McCoy and after attacking Spock.
In retrospect, Crater wanting to stay alone on the planet with the last of the salt vampires is a very risky prospect given how little salt he had left...
This episode kept me interested the whole way as the creature wandered around the ship. The ending is a good climax with Kirk in danger and McCoy struggling to get over his emotions for Nancy.
For me, a 3/4 rating.
Ralf Möller
Mon, Jan 23, 2017, 11:55am (UTC -5)
This was probably written out of hatred for people who put extra salt on their meals without having tasted.

Quite stupid that no one recognized the incredible usage of salt as a hint for the existence of something strange.

And here we also have the dying of the no-names right from the start. In a ridiculous way.

Very disappointing to see this. I was such a fan as a kid. The monster looks stupid.

Two stars solely for historical relevance, even if it wasn't even really the first episode.
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Let's see how long I can last a rewatch of TOS :p

A very slow start, with some of the long drawn out scenes (generally of the creature slowly staring/approaching) almost going to the level of The SlowMotion Picture. But, as others noted, a reasonable introduction to the crew.

The Cage was a much more interesting intro IMO, it's a shame they didn't go with that but they had to go through a few years of being 'reined in' between The Cage and The Man Trap - Uhura and Sulu were extremely progressive for the time of course, but the strong female second-in-command really gave The Cage a more feminist feel (mind, I think that'd go down just as badly in 2017 as it did in the 60s, I can already feel readers recoiling in horror at the 'f' word). But let's be honest the 'wouldn't you like her as your personal yeoman?' scene seems so cringey now! That's part of the experience of watching these old shows though, just shows how far we've come, and ultimately the change in feel between The Cage and Man Trap is what compromise looks like - something the modern world needs to re-learn.

The first redshirts didn't wear red shirts! I can't remember how often this is actually the case - 'red shirts' may be one of those false legends a bit like how Kirk never said "Beam me up Scotty"?
Thu, Mar 30, 2017, 12:25am (UTC -5)
If memory serves the salt creature did plead for its life after McCoy shot it for the first time. "Leonard No!"
Sat, Apr 8, 2017, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
The Farscape episode "Born to be Wild" had a similar creature only it needed bone not salt to survive. However they did a much better job addressing what many commenters here pointed out regarding the creature's intelligence vs. its obsession.

@Dusty The Swahili was part of the creature's bag of mental tricks.

Also of note: a quick stock shot of crew members in the corridor rushing to their stations and one female is actually wearing pants. There were only a few other examples of this uniform type in TOS.
Sat, Apr 8, 2017, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
^ That should read "Bone to Be Wild"
Wed, May 17, 2017, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
This isn't a bad episode of TOS, just not a great one. The final sequence drags on far too long. McCoy standing there letting Kirk almost get killed is bad enough, but then Spock too? Especially since McCoy says earlier that death would be almost instantaneous. Definitely watch your weirdass ex grope him, then turn into a sea monster in front of you. They are some serious saps for love in the future. At least Mc Coy was reprimanded for it (maddeningly, Kirk apologized, then McCoy's glands almost got him killed.)
Wed, May 17, 2017, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
Also, why did the Nancy monster kill the professor at the end? He was her only ally. She'd managed to co-exist with him for at least a year without eating him. And after she'd already eaten like 4 crewmen, shouldn't she have been kind of... full? Maybe to justify McCoy killing her later I guess (not a noble buffalo after all, just a gluttonous monster in a rubber suit.)
Tue, May 30, 2017, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
This is basically just a "monster of the week" show. However, for such a show it is well done.

There are some plot holes. Uhura says she doesn't recognize the crewmen that the salt creature pretends to be. However, the entire crew of the Enterprise is 435. Granted, we don't know how long they've been out of space dock and how much interaction there is among the various departments. Still, the Enterprise is essentially a small village in space. Wouldn't everybody on the ship get to know everybody else pretty quickly?

Vanessa raises an interesting point I had not considered. Why would the salt creature kill its only ally?

Finally, in "The Devil in the Dark", Spock comments that as the Horta is the last of its kind, killing it would be "a crime against science". (Although he eventually relents and agrees with Kirk.) Here, Spock makes no comment saving this creature because it is the last of its kind.
Fri, Sep 8, 2017, 6:46am (UTC -5)
Happy 51st anniversary to Star Trek -- "The Man Trap" the 1st episode to air. May not have been the ideal start to the canon, but no matter -- the effect on sci-fi/pop culture started here and has been profound.

Last year's 50th anniversary saw the sci-fi channel on TV start re-airing TOS which got me hooked on Trek again after 20+ years of not watching it / seeing it (for whatever reasons). Since then it's been great re-discovering what I loved about TOS from my childhood and then some -- the acting, the themes, the musical scores, the characters etc.

Over the past year, I've been getting through the other 4 series and really enjoying them too (to varying degrees of course). So 9/8 will always be a memorable day for me!
Trek fan
Thu, Sep 14, 2017, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Fair review from Jammer -- some strong stuff here, especially good scenes for Sulu and Uhura in addition to the strong McCoy story. Nice sharp Uhura-Spock scene and I liked the Uhura speaking Swahili scene as well. More backstory is hinted for her in these early episodes than we'll see in a long time, perhaps ever.

On McCoy: We really don't get many solid "McCoy episodes" after this one until "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" in Season 3; he obviously plays a big role in a few more Seasons 1-2 stories (like "City on the Edge of Forever" and "Friday's Child") but doesn't get as much screen time or backstory in them. Oddly enough, we probably learn more about the McCoy backstory here (i.e. his nickname "Plum" and romantic past) than in many future installments, and his moral dilemma is at the center of this story more strongly than most other shows. Intriguing to me that he gets the big moment at the end here rather than Kirk or Spock, as it's the first episode that aired, but perhaps "Man Trap" came at a fortuitous time before Shatner and Nimoy started eating up all the screen time?

As for killing Crater, I always assumed the Salt Vampire did it because Crater seemed to be wavering in the briefing room on revealing the creature's identity. Since Crater was the only person who could identify the creature in disguise due to its peculiar salt-craving tics, as telegraphed in the briefing scene where the creature is disguised as McCoy, it made sense for the creature to bump him off. And I'm just assuming the creature was keeping McCoy alive in order to hide with him or snack on him later if need be. Regarding the creature's motives and Crater's read on them, we also don't know how sincere the creature was being when it said (in McCoy disguise) that it was merely defending itself, and we perhaps underestimate how its desperation -- trapped on the Enterprise with no way to get off -- might have driven it to panic and act illogically. After all, it was a cornered animal, and the actors/actresses playing the creature in its disguises (including DeForest Kelly) do convey a simmering fear along with the hunger.

On the other hand, Spock's vibe doesn't feel quite right here, as Nimoy is still clearly feeling his way to the center of the character. His desire to kill the unique creature -- and to kill the uniquely evolved Gary Mitchell in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," for that matter -- does seem inconsistent with his desire to protect the Horta in "Devil in the Dark." On the other hand, Spock had the certainty of a mind meld about the Horta's motives in "Devil," whereas he knows only that Mitchell and the Salt Vampire are threatening to destroy the crew/ship without any apparent moral limit or noble mothering instinct. So it's not quite as out of character as it might seem for him to want to kill an aggressor without asking further questions, but it kind of hinges on his read of the aggressor's motives, and his character -- much more complex than the Kirk or McCoy archetypes -- is evolving here.

I like Yeoman Rand and Grace Lee Whitney, and I find it intriguing -- given that she finished her "Trek" career alongside George Takei on the Excelsior in Star Trek VI, Star Trek Voyager's "Flashback" episode, and a fan film -- that she shares a scene with Sulu in this first-aired episode. In a way, TOS begins and ends with her friendship with Sulu. But I don't care for the wolf whistle-type reaction she gets from two crewmen.

Overall, although this episode is pleasant and even strong in spots, there's also a low energy feeling and something of a "Sci Fi monster" retread vibe to it that doesn't feel very fresh or as representative of Trek as other TOS episodes -- it's almost like the show is a bit uncertain of its own identity at this point, as only Shatner and Kelly seem to be firing on all cylinders. So it's hard to give it more than 2 1/2 stars even though it may feel like 3 stars if it catches you in the right mood. Anyway, I've taken to watching "Where No Man Has Gone Before" first when I watch TOS, as it's the pilot even though it was aired out of order, and then watching this one second. The true pilot is much better for me, even though it's less polished and McCoy and Uhura don't appear in it, and there's nothing to prevent one from watching it before this.
Trek fan
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
PS -- On second thought, I might give "Man Trap" 3 stars, mostly because I still find myself thinking about its implications -- the relationship between Crater and the creature, the creature keeping Crater alive to supply salt (we might assume the creatures died out after exhausting the planet's salt supply from both natural and animal sources), the implications of wiping out the last of a species, etc. This is good stuff. In analyzing and responding to reader critiques in my comments above, I've argued myself into appreciating this one more than I previously did. And even though many comments on these Star Trek episodes use the phrase "it raises more questions than it answers" as a criticism, I tend to view it more as a badger of honor: I don't *want* Star Trek to wrap up every loose end in a neat bow with some exhaustive explanation, as many of the later spin-offs tended to do, but to leave things a little messy in a way that challenges me to think. I believe TOS does that especially well: There's a real pulpy sense of risk and adventure in these shows even if "Man Trap" unfolds a bit slowly. And when we look at "Man Trap" as a Trekkian take on the Sci-Fi monster movie, rather than comparing it to Trek overall, I think we can appreciate what it's trying to do: Ultimately the creature is killed, but only after a debate in which people try sincerely to find compassion for it. And although the creature finds a tragic end after the briefing it overhears causes it (I'm avoiding gender pronouns since the creature appears both male and female in the episode) to panic and eliminate Crater, Kirk exhibits regret over having to kill it. That feels pretty Star Trek to me.
Trek fan
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:17pm (UTC -5)
PSS -- And kudos to the whole "my ex is a salt vampire" subtext to the episode. That's a fun head trip: McCoy's sweet ex-girlfriend has died and been replaced by a rampaging beast. It's a snarky little piece of irony that is very typical of classic Trek; we may sometimes miss these fun little plot winks when we take Trek too seriously.
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
Why did the network choose to air Mantrap as the first episode? Leonard Nimoy sort-of answered this in a show he once did - a retrospective on Trek to that point and a teaser for what was the next thing in Trek (can't remember if it was one of the movies or perhaps TNG).

Anyway... Mantrap was an episode with a recognizable monster - most closely conforming to the expectations of the network execs as to what sci-fi was all about - monsters and aliens terrorizing mankind. They weren't exactly enlightened.
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 2:22am (UTC -5)
The episode was fine, especially for a series this old. That was one ugly monster!
Daniel Bolger
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
Could you also review the pilot episode that preceded this? 'The Cage'. The pre Shatner debut episode with Jeffrey Hunter in. I don't particularly rate it but I'd be interested as to your overall review thoughts.
Thu, Feb 15, 2018, 8:09pm (UTC -5)
Why was it shown first? The studio felt that sci-fi fans needed to see a monster as well as a strange new world.

And as for the camaraderie being too soon? 60s TV didn't care. There were few story arcs and episodes were meant to be stand alones. They were rarely even broadcast in production order until the end of the season when they were cranking them out barely ahead of airdate. (And even then, some stinker would be held back to be shown second-to-last -- Hello "The Alternative Factor" and "Bread and Circuses"! -- to avoid hurting the ratings.)
Thu, Feb 15, 2018, 8:22pm (UTC -5)
Signed off too soon, lol!

The thing I always enjoy about this episode is the crew's familiarity and camaraderie. Sulu, Uhura, and Rand felt more like part of an ensemble with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, rather than the secondary players they'd become later. Uhura flirting with Spock was another highlight of these early episodes (see "Charlie X' for more).

All of this would be lost when Shatner started to flex his muscles and diminish their roles in favor of Captain Kirk.
Tue, Sep 25, 2018, 7:59am (UTC -5)
Answer to order of TOS: they were shown out of order because when an ep was suppose to be due to run, it wasn't ready. Things were diff back then and the crews were learning to make stuff up because it did not exist. You can see in the first 13 eps how it was by the uniforms worn. Where No Man Has Gone Before was #1.

That salt monster scared the heck out of me for years. I could not look at it for years on top of years. Now let us get real, this saltsucker was the only one left because IT sucked all its family dry of salt when none [salt] was left on the planet. Whew. It was just greedy. Walking around the ship as other people it sucked its closed fist at the thumb.

Get a load of Kirk shouting down McCoy's throat about his lost love. No one ever shouted or made fun of Kirk and his lost loves that appeared from nowhere and that robot from Methuselah that he fell in love with. Spock showed pity and took the memory while Kirk slept. Kirk was jealous of other men having romances.

The lies told about the buffalo are just that, lies. During the '60's scientists were killing themselves to bring the buffalo back into a reasonable existence because the white man had nearly wiped them out once they hit the western USA. Real mindless.

No, no, no. Crater did not think Starfleet would send anyone to kill saltsucker, he knew the thing could shapeshift; that is how it got to Nancy and killed her and he no doubt had sex with the damn creature as Nancy. Oh, his nancy .... no man would boo hoo over his woman after being with her that many years. Nor would McCoy bawl like baby because he left her behind. McCoy had been married several times with bad experiences. He was not going to marry any woman again.

And, why in God's name would 2 people be sent beyond space and time, so far away, to dig in dirt? No shuttles. Have to wait a century for food. That planet was arid, there wouldn't be anyway a tomato or an ear of corn could grow there. Think about that one.

for Navamske may 29, '16:::::::
"The shuttlecrafts won't be here until Tuesday."
Yeah, Baby [like Mike Myers with funny teeth] that first shuttle really did not get in from Arizona for the episode so guess what? Gene Roddenberry invented beaming on the spot. Everybody hollers, 'what!' Yeah, beaming, transporters, that's the ticket [Jon Lovitz] And my dears, that how transporters came to be.

Yes, Jim, you are right, it was mind control, not shapeshiting. I am sorry.

Cloudane" The Cage had problems. A woman was #1. Jeffrey {i can't spell} Hunter who played Jesus was the captain, and various directors and producers despised the doctor in real life and other trash. It never got shown until Roddenberry made The Menagerie [or the cage].

Mr. gorgeous Hunter was old by the time he got this role and was married for the umpteenth time to a very young girl. They said she would stand around directing every body on how to film Jeffie. Holding his head one way and then 'tother. Can't film this side of his face cause he don't like that side of his face to be filmed. I truly do not remember how much time passed after this but Jeffrey it was reported was changing a light bulb at home, standing on a chair when he fell off and was killed. In the past few years I read on the net that his wife was really hateful to him and could have gotten angry enogh to do him in. Blank happens when little girls think marrying old me will get them DIMUNT RINGS AND MINK COATS. In the '50's and '60's before PETA, these 2 things are what 95% of the girls in hi school wanted. They would steal and did steal to get MINK, a real MINK. I knew one who embezzled the bank she worked in to get her mink and her cotton mill mama was so proud. No, never caught even when the State bank auditors came in to find out why so many mops and brooms were being bought because there were no mops or brooms at the bank. Hell, she was the one who signed the tickets! Servicers brought their own equipment when they came in at night to clean.

I am glad to see Farscape mentioned. Yep, Ben Browder's wife played the bone eater. Scopius takes her aboard his ship and she gets to eat her fill of bones. We don't see that, though. But men are disappearing though. It was BONE TO BE WILD. I just loved their titles and I watch Farscape when I go to bed. I know it all.

Can't stand it any longer. Where no man has one liked the doctor in this ep either and when the green light was lighted, get someone else to play the doctor....You know, there is so much hatred among the people in hollywood it is a wonder any person ever got a job. DeForest was brought in.
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
Ich fange an, die Serie erneut zu sehen, da mir diese Folge nicht gefällt, zu altmodisch für meinen Geschmack, nicht für die Kostüme und Effekte dieser interrassischen Charaktere
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 11:59pm (UTC -5)

Ich bezweifle, dass sehr viele der Besucher dieser Website Deutsch verstehen. Wünschst du nicht Reaktionen dieser Gemeinschaft?

Zu dieser Serie, was war alt, ist wieder neu, nicht? Wenn man über die Anachronismen der Zeit hinaus schauen kann, dieses ein ganz besonders Fernsehprogramm ist. Viel Spaß!
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 3:26am (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer, not the best way to start the show... but hey, it's an entertaining episode after all!

I wrote about it here:
Mon, Mar 4, 2019, 7:04am (UTC -5)
I decided to rewatch TOS since I hadn't done it in 40 yrs or more, when it was on reruns, after school.

I watched The Cage and can only say, Jeffrey Hunter and Susan Oliver sure were pretty. It was an ok episode, but the show was probably better off with the final cast, with the exception of turning Majel B into Nurse Chapel.

This salty episode was pretty well, too. I'm still working on getting my head back into the 60s. Watching it, I'm overwhelmed with both how daring it was, and how dated it is.

Nichelle N was so beautiful! The cast is nice looking, but she's a standout. Yeoman Janice's hair overwhelms her and is truly nutty. I can't see anything but the hair. Shatner - eh. Nimoy and Kelly stand out on the acting front.

The story was fine. Some minor plot holes and contrivances. The monster itself was great and scary.

I do wonder if I'm really going to be able to get through 3 seasons. We'll see.
William B
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 10:49am (UTC -5)
@Springy, I hope you stick with it, at least for a while.

"Watching it, I'm overwhelmed with both how daring it was, and how dated it is."

TNG and later feel much more like modern storytelling -- often great/very good, sometimes not as good. TOS feels at times like it's beamed in from another universe, and it comes across as shockingly brave/foolish, things that the newer shows wouldn't be able to try. I think a lot of that is how much the show's sensibility comes not just from 60's television (which was a big factor -- Roddenberry had a long tv career before this, of course) but also that era's sci-fi, pulp sci-fi. The show has a higher density of professional sci-fi writers than the other Treks, with a lot of overlap with The Twilight Zone as well as print publications. Most TNG-and-after Trek episodes really are written by television writers (many of whom are extremely good), with some definite sci-fi interest/background but obeying the laws of sensible television storytelling more rigorously.
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 3:39pm (UTC -5)
I don't honestly think I could review TOS...
Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 2:27am (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!


I'd seen a post of yours at the beginning of a comment thread, and realized you were doing a TOS view after DS9. I haven't looked lately, but I hope you are continuing.

I'd started to watch Trek around '77, after Star Wars got me hooked, and it was on every day at 4pm. :). I even audio recorded them, and in later years could tell folks where they had removed lines for more commercials. I figure I started to watch them around the same time as you did.

I am looking forward to your reviews...

Regards... RT
Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
3 stars I enjoyed this one
Sat, Jul 13, 2019, 11:25pm (UTC -5)
It wasn't until a commenter above suggested that this monster-being (and let's call it a "being" and not a "creature"; it was sentient life) behaved like an obsessed psychopath that I ever had a truly unsympathetic thought about it. Although it's possible that its mental state was far from "normal", but had actually been warped by living in a near-starving state and having seen everyone they ever knew die from lack of salt-food.

I didn't see why, in the end, they'd need to kill it. Phasers can be set to stun, they could do an intra-ship beam to a cell with a forcefield, or give it a shot of something to knock it out for a bit. They could have ambushed it and while 2 guard held it down, then Spock do the mind-meld to communicate with it (let is know they have limitless salt out in the galaxy and it doesn't need to kill for it—if it's really not killing out of bloodlust but, rather, the need for salt as sustenance.
Wed, Nov 6, 2019, 9:35am (UTC -5)
Wow can you imagine this happening on the Enterprise-D or Voyager? Picard and Janeway would divert so many resources trying to rescue both people here. I'm sure that Sisko would hesitate but eventually shoot it, but Bones doesn't even hesitate to killed her once she transforms and tries to take his salt.
Wed, Nov 6, 2019, 9:36am (UTC -5)
*His being Kirk*
Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
The registered fx can be so frustrating. It’s nice to see beautifully rendered planets, but the super-clean image of the ship just look awful. It looks exactly like what it is- a model.

Now of course I know it’s actually, ironically, a cgi ship. But it’s cgi of a model with insufficient detail for the resolution it’s being shown at.

It’s a trade off, because the love actor footage looks brilliant in the remastered set. I would probably be happiest if I could watch the old ship fix with the remastered actors.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Mon, Aug 31, 2020, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
So "The Man Trap" = "Woman." And Uhura is completely creeped out by the salt-sucker posing as a crewman, who has her cornered up against a bulkhead, but then is swooning over him in two seconds once he starts speaking Swahili. I love the 60's!

I thought Captain Kirk came off well here--competent and decisive. While Bones McCoy is nostalgically fawning over his lost love Nancy, Kirk snaps at him to shut up and remember that there's a dead crew member lying on the sick-bed next to him and that they need to find out how he died. Then later, when he and McCoy are on the planet, he correctly points out that their ship has far greater scanning technology at its disposal than two guys with phasers and that they ought to get the hell out of there. And I loved it when he accused Professor Crater of being too soft when Crater objected to hunting down and killing the damn salt-sucker. If it were my ship and there was a shape-shifting salt-sucker from the Planet MS-13 aboard, you're damn right I'd track it down and slaughter it.

Overall I thought "The Man Trap" was passable. I was digging the slow tension and Twilight Zone vibe once the salt-sucker was on the ship posing as various crew-members, and especially when it took on the appearance of McCoy himself. My 11-year-old son was mostly bored out of his mind throughout the episode (he probably hoped it would be more like the Star Trek movies), but my older son and daughter were riveted.

I did think that if the creature was so "intelligent" and worthy of survival, why was it so stupid as to not simply ask for salt politely? I guess it's probably because it was just a purely evil, salt-craving, psychopathic lunatic (that description fits my mother-in-law actually, and my wife would agree with me), so there's probably no more explanation needed as far as its thought processes or motives were concerned.

Best line -- Janice: "Why don't you go chase an asteroid?"

My Grade: B
Wed, Oct 21, 2020, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
The Man Trap

2 1/2 stars (out of 4)

"Why don't you tell me I'm an attractive young lady, or ask me if I've ever been in love? Tell me how your planet Vulcan looks on a lazy evening when the moon is full.”

- Uhura trying to avoid responsibility for making a mistake in the sub-space log by flirting with Spock. It doesn’t work.

I have been watching Star Trek on and off my whole life. My mom watched reruns of TOS when I was in the womb. But now I am older than Kirk and Spock were (or at least the actors playing them were) when The Man Trap first aired, though not yet as old as Bones. It seems the perfect time in life to go back and give TOS another look-see.

I agree with @Skeptical, this is actually a pretty good place for TOS to have started. The episode introduces us to most of the major characters we’ll know and love for decades and decades and decades to come: Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Sulu & Janice Rand. Only Scotty and Chekov are missing. Well, Majel is missing too.

There are two key scenes in the episode that really set up the Bones-Kirk-Spock dynamic for the ages.

The first key scene is Spock with Uhura on the bridge. Spock does not react to Uhura's flirting, which is of course his choice. But then word comes down that a crew member has died on the away mission. And Spock doesn’t even flinch. It sends Uhura into a fit. She turns her back and walks away. If TOS had aired today, Uhura would have yelled something like “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Fortunately TV in the 60’s had different standards, and the turn away allows Uhura to speak volumes without talking. Sometimes less can be more.

The second key scene is Bones with Kirk, in sickbay, with the dead crewman. As @Proud Capitalist Pig says, Bones is wallowing in lost love when Kirk snaps at him:

KIRK: How your lost love affects your vision, Doctor, doesn't interest me. I've lost a man. I want to know what killed him.

Bones feels too much. Spock feels too little. And Kirk is there to maintain a balance. That is the touchstone for TOS.

There is also some really subtle humor. @redshirt28 has the hilarious comment above about his ex-wife. Even more subtle is when the salt monster was in the briefing room disguised as Bones (what @Skeptical calls the conference scene). The hilarious thing about the conference scene: that was not the Real McCoy!!!!

@Vanessa asks why the salt monster killed the professor? Two reasons, one obvious - because he could ID her - and one more subtle - because she had moved on to McCoy. The ex-wife metaphor again.

TOS did a much better job than newer iterations of the show are doing at showing people the way they actually are, not some amped up TV version. I didn’t notice what @Sean points out, but I think it makes sense. Sulu and Janice Rand sitting together talking about the flowers. Later on they are strolling together in the corridor when they find a dead body. They seem like wonderful, yet completely platonic, friends. I suppose you could look at an Asian man and White woman as the least likely of all interracial pairings to explain the complete lack of sexual tension. But you know what has even less sexual potential? NTTAWWT.

By the way, I tried to follow @Viktor and @ Elliot’s conversation via the google Universal Translator. Google translates “interrassischen" as interracial, but somehow I think @Viktor means he enjoyed the multi-racial aspect of the show? Still, with the Rand/Sulu and Uhura/Spock scenes, @Viktor might have meant interracial. I kind of really want to know.

Finally the buffalo. It is fascinating to note that from day 1, Star Trek has been interested in talking about extinction. Its a theme that will take us all the way through a fun time-travel movie exactly 20 years later, and even to this day, with another time-travel story about a girl and her animal-lover boyfriend, this time, a whole millennium later.

Gandhi used salt to beat the British Empire. Is it any wonder that that simple chemical, NaCl, launched this epic Trek.
Fri, Apr 16, 2021, 7:22am (UTC -5)
In this episode the Enterprise is just a delivery ship in this episode. It's next job, which gets delayed, is delivering chili peppers.
Tue, Jul 6, 2021, 7:36am (UTC -5)
I just circled back to season 1 after completing season 3. It is remarkable to see how much more detail was put into season 1, the food, the crewmen, the plant nursery, the trinkets on the planet, etc. I really loved this episode. A powerful alien that could change shapes at will and able to make different people see it as different things. This episode alone was better than most of season 3 combined. The alien was something of a nympho in that it could never quite get enough salt to be satisfied and constantly needed more, which was it’s downfall. Crater’s want to preserve the creature as Nancy was compelling too. I give it a solid A. Spock’s pleading with McCoy to kill it was well done too!!!
Sun, Sep 12, 2021, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
I'm watching this for the first time. The opening episode was okay, but hardly great. The new CGI planet / ship is good and the HD makeover is fantastic.

I don't understand how Kirk and McCoy could see two versions of the same woman, when there's only one alien in the room! Surely they would both see the same thing? No?
Sun, Sep 12, 2021, 10:10pm (UTC -5)

I have always taken the "every man sees the same woman differently" (remember, the crewman who ends up dead sees a COMPLETELY different woman) as an indication that at least part of the illusion is some psychological/telepathic manipulation.
Mon, Sep 13, 2021, 6:41am (UTC -5)
@Trish Fair enough, that's a good explanation. I liked the episode but so far (only seen two) I prefer Charlie X.

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