What bugs me the most about "Arena" was that the story suggested that maybe Kirk and Co were in the wrong.
I mean really, the Gorn attacked the outpost, slaughtered EVERYONE there including defenseless colonists even though they had surrendered.
Then they lured the Enterprise there with a false message so they could kill them too.
I'm sorry, but that isn't exactly the most proportionate response to folks encroaching on your boundaries when you're not sure these folks even KNEW you existed in the first place. Kirk would've been fully in his rights and duties as a Starship Captain destroying the Gorn.
But the point is that it's not a zero-sum game where one side is entirely right and the other is entirely wrong. One side being wrong does not mean the opposite side was therefore right. As is so often the case in real-world conflicts, both
sides were in the wrong. Yes, the Gorn reaction was excessive by human standards, but they had a legitimate claim to the territory that the Federation settled. It was a tragic misunderstanding that got out of hand, and the important question is not who deserves the blame, but how the conflict can be ended so more people don't have to die.
That's what's good
about the episode -- the fact that it deflates the simplistic us-vs.-them view that drives so many wars and instead acknowledges that both sides can be in the wrong.
Wasn't the original script based on another science fiction story about a war between Earth and another group of aliens? I read it more than 20 years ago so I can't remember the details. I thought in that story the 'testers' took someone of each ship and had them duke it out. Then the "tester" guys just wiped out the losers planet.
The story can easily be found as a free ebook online, for instance here:
Your recollection is basically correct.
Well, except that the Trek episode wasn't intentionally
based on Brown's story. Gene Coon wrote it, and then the research department pointed out its resemblance to Brown's story, and Coon remembered that he'd read it in the past, so he couldn't rule out being unconsciously influenced by it. So the producers contacted Brown and bought the rights to the story.