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Old April 12 2013, 02:09 AM   #38
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Location: On Risa with a Eurasian version of Carolyn Nelson or Barbara Anderson.
Re: Joel Revisits TOS....

The Man Trap

Story: The Enterprise is on a routine medical check at planet M113, where an 'old flame' of McCoy's Nancy Crater lives with her scientist husband, Bob Crater. The plot thickens when Bob Crater specifically asks to replenish a salt supply, while also urging to have the crew leave his planet as soon as possible; not too mention a murder of a crewman - Darnell - who saw Nancy Crater differently than the other members of the landing party: McCoy and Kirk.

Themes/Ideology: Women do have a equal place in the Star Trek universe, and their feminity doesn't have to be suppressed to be on said equal level. Furthermore, Star Trek works best when unconsciously showing equality - gender, racial - rather than consciously.

Plot Holes: I seriously couldn't find any.

Miscellaneous Thoughts: After the sexism in previous episodes, this episode seems to depict the females in an interesting, alternative light; and, I think this is a more unconscious gesture rather than conscious (in my experience, Star Trek seems to always work better when it does "progressive" gestures unconsciously). We not only have the vampire, which doesn't have a specific sex, but it does seem to be comfortable in the female form, taking on attractive human female forms in order to ensnare male victims. Now, with that said, Uhura is a potential victim until she runs to Sulu and Janice Rand on the elevator...but, even Janice Rand isn't necessarily a victim (possibly since the 'salt vampire' is still getting used to its surroundings since it took the form of Crewman Green to gain access to the Enterprise, also Janice Rand has a holder of salt on a tray she is taking to Sulu, which caught the attention of the alien and not her).

Another interesting depiction is Uhura. In previous episodes, she was a primarily an attractive 'phone operator;' albeit a black woman who was allowed to be physically sexy and be prominently featured even though her dialogue was minimal, but her she breaks away from her station at one point in the episode and flirts with Spock who is in command at the time Kirk is on M113. (This may have inspired the Spock/Uhura romance in the J.J. Abrams films). She also gets a chance to show attraction to another Enterprise crewman, which the 'salt vampire' takes the form of; this crewman is also black, presumably from the same area as Uhura, since he - or the 'salt vampire,' taking information from Uhura's mind - is able to speak Swahili. Now, what always bothered me about Star Trek is that it tends to keep black people only paired with black people even if they are aliens, unless the performer is under heavy make-up like Michael Dorn who portrayed Worf, but here it is interesting...especially since Uhura did show some interest in Spock earlier.

A third depiction happens quickly: We see a female crewperson hurry to her station, and she is wearing pants with a tunic. From this shot, we gather that women are allowed variations of the uniform, either the skirt/boots combo or the tunic/pants. I was always upset the way that later Trek tried to supress any 'feminity' by saying that women couldn't be respected unless they were constantly covered up. I believe the J.J. Abrams 2009 film followed this same idea of showing Starfleet women wearing either regulation pants or skirt, similar to the way women - in 'real life' - have choices in what they wear.

The relationship between Bob Crater and the salt vampire is interesting. Bob Crater is described by Kirk as 'noble' when, during a briefing, where the salt vampire has taken the form of McCoy, Crater pleads to have the alien be left alone since it is trying to survive. (The McCoy alien obviously agrees). However, it's interesting that Kirk brings up the idea that the salt vampire - as we've seen earlier - able to make itself look like Nancy...and very possibly a beautiful form of Nancy, who died prior to the Enterprise arriving at M113. Kirk also observes that Crater has his own little paradise since he and the alien are the only two individuals on the planet, a reason Crater wants to be left have his 'fantasies' continue (to paraphrase a line in the episode, so he could 'think with his glands'). Of course, once things get desparate, the salt vampire kills Crater too, showing that even he - Crater - wasn't safe.

The crewmen who beam down with the 'regulars' and those who are murdered by the creature are given some depth. These crewmen, who are either wearing yellow or blue, like Darnell or Green, actually move the plot along. It's not like the later episodes (or in Trek lore overall) where it's sort of a laughing matter when a nameless 'red-shirt' comes onscreen only to get killed by an unknown force and is never heard from again. I should mention too, the actor who portrays Green has some interesting mannerisms, especially when it is the salt vampire who takes his form; 'Green' is filmed in a close-up in one scene, slightly grinning as McCoy and Kirk try to make sense of a situation that is getting curiouser and curiouser.

Speaking of crewmen, Sulu has an interesting bit here as a botanist, or at least showing that he has an interest as a botonist. In the next episode I will be reviewing, 'The Naked Time,' we see that he will also have a knack for fencing (also referenced in the 2009 Star Trek film) and even later on in 'Shore Leave' we will find out that he also has an interest in firearms. So, he has a little bit of depth and dialogue in this episode. On another note, I found it interesting how he brought out that ships are usually referred to as 'she,' which is true. However, while watching the anime Superdimensional Cavalry Southern Cross, I recalled the lead character Jeanne referring to her tank as 'he.' (So, it may depend on the gender).

Spock is more logical in this episode. Where he was sexist, and a bit 'daft' in the previous episode, he pushes to kill the creature for the survival of the Enterprise crew...and eventually the creature is killed as a matter of self-defense. The time to talk or reason with the creature was past since people have already died. Hence, on both sides - the Enterprise crew, and the salt vampire - it is 'kill or be killed.' With that said, the creature seems to be 'logical' at first only attacking the lower deck crewmen, until things get desparate and 'it' decides to attack the captain.

Lastly, this episode always had a funny bit that was never edited: When Kirk and Spock come after Crater on M113, Crater is cornered and gets a stun shot. The film is sped up as Crater fall back on a rock, making it look very comical.

Score: I was going to give this episode a 3.33, but I think I will bump it up to about 3.43 based on the female depictions and how Sulu was depicted; again, I think this was done unconsciously by the writers and producers. The episode overall is still 'routine,' but an improvement over the last couple of episodes.

Next Up:
The Naked Time
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