Another rewrite of a Trek review from The Uncommon Geek. Enjoy.
Although it aired as the premiere, “The Man Trap” was filmed several episodes into the series, and was already a step ahead of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” as far as the show’s overall appearance and consistency. Especially in the Blu-Ray restoration, the sets and props on board the Enterprise look gorgeous.
What isn’t quite so gorgeous is the plot and pacing.
“The Man Trap” will likely seem pedestrian to many at this point, and indeed the episode does not make any effort to hide its mystery from the audience, only from the characters themselves. What at first seems like a tragic accident escalates into a true threat that the Enterprise crew must investigate before moving on. Particularly great is Kirk’s reaction to losing a crewman; he flips the switch from being calm and charming, to curt, terse, and brash, and he will not accept anything less than a full understanding of what is preying upon his crew. William Shatner is undeniably fun to watch when he engages into full Kirkness.
Aside from these entertaining moments with Kirk and his banter with McCoy, the episode drags quite a bit. There just isn’t enough story to pad out the hour, so we are left with a lot of filler material. Maybe if the characters had been better developed at this point, there would have been more to work with, or if some of what we see were to pay off in a later episode. As is, it’s fairly hum drum. It’s far from the worst the series has to offer, but I consider it below average nonetheless.
Saving the episode some dignity is the presence of a low key allegory, as the Salt Vampire is compared to the North American Buffalo. While the episode does not go into great detail about the precise circumstances that caused the Salt Vampire’s demise—aside from the lack of a natural salt supply on planet M-113—the comparison made by Professor Crater does seem to suggest that perhaps at one point the Salt Vampires were hunted like the buffalo. The Enterprise crew does acknowledge the necessary tragedy of having to kill the last surviving member of a race out of self-defense, but I would like to have seen this explored further. For example, are the ruins on M-113 those of the Salt Vampire’s civilization, or was there another species around once, that used to be prey?
One noteworthy theme that resonates through the episode is one of loneliness, and how time spent out in space or on a distant frontier world can take a toll on the psychological well being of lifeforms. Out of loneliness, Professor Crater accepted a shapeshifting replacement for his wife, and the Salt Vampire in turn accepted his companionship, no doubt in great torment over being the last of its kind. Dr. McCoy and other Enterprise crew members also willingly fall into “The Man Trap” due to the loneliness and isolation of their long mission. I think the best compliment I can pay to the episode is that it offers a glimpse into the life of these beloved deep space explorers, and how the things they encounter begin to build them into the family that they would later become.
Image used in this post is courtesy of http://www.trekcore.com