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The Man Trap

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Nancy Crater and Dr. McCoy ('Bones') in The Man Trap - Star Trek season 1
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The Man Trap – Star Trek season 1

The Man Trap – The Star Trek series begins with Kirk and his crew at deadly risk from an alien creature that feeds on the salt in a human body and can take on any form. And it’s taken on the form of an old girlfriend of Dr. McCoy. Originally aired September 7, 1966


The first aired episode of Star Trek: The Original Series is very good, and a little bit different. It deals with a “monster of the week”. At least, that’s what the network executives thought. It was the sixth episode filmed, but the first aired, since they thought the “monster” would bring in more ratings for the inaugural episode. But, as became common on Star Trek, the monster was more than that. It’s also unusual in that it’s more centered on Dr. McCoy (‘Bones’) than on Kirk or Spock.

The basic story is as follows: the U.S.S. Enterprise is visiting a remote planet, where a couple is doing research. Their job is simply to have Bones certify their health. But the woman is Dr. McCoy’s old flame — and married to a rather cantankerous man, who clearly doesn’t want either of them to be examined. What the audience sees, but the crew doesn’t initially, is that the woman visually appears different to different people. And, she gets one member of the landing party alone …. And he’s dead soon afterward.

Not long after, the couple is taken about the Enterprise, and killings begin happening there as well. Leading to the eventual reveal that “Nancy” isn’t herself …

Captain James T. Kirk: Your wife, Professor, where is she?
Professor Robert Crater: She… was the last of her kind.
Captain James T. Kirk: The last of her kind?
Professor Robert Crater: The last of its kind. Earth history, remember? Like the passenger pigeon, or… the buffalo …
Mr. Spock: The Earth buffalo. What about it?
Professor Robert Crater: Once there were millions of them – prairies black with them. One herd covered three whole states, and when they moved, they were like thunder.
Mr. Spock: And now they’re gone. Is that what you mean?
Professor Robert Crater: [nods] Like the creatures here. Once there were millions of them. Now there’s one left. Nancy understood.
Mr. Spock: Always in the past tense.
Captain James T. Kirk: Where is your wife? Where is she now?
Professor Robert Crater: Dead. Buried up on a hill. It killed her.
Captain James T. Kirk: When?
Professor Robert Crater: Oh, a year… or was it two?

There’s an excellent moment toward the end when “Nancy” is attacking the Captain. She feeds on salt, and can appear differently to different people. She’s not evil — but starving. And she’s killed crewmen by siphoning all the salt from their bodies. Spock begs McCoy to shoot the creature, but he sees his beloved Nancy. Spock pulls her off, and begins hitting her — strongly.

Mr. Spock: If she were Nancy, could she take this?
Dr. McCoy: Stop it! Stop it, Spock! Stop it!
Mr. Spock: [getting knocked backward] Is that Nancy, Doctor?

And as “Nancy” goes to feed on the Captain — and kill him — McCoy regretfully fires, killing it.


The Man Trap is very well done, dealing more with characters and relationships than monsters and explosions. Something that modern sci-fi shows could learn. There’s also a short interaction between Uhura and Spock on the bridge, that doesn’t directly relate to the main story. But it does help cement their characters in the audience’s mind, and it’s well done:

Mr. Spock: Miss Uhura, your last sub-space log contained an error in the frequencies column.
Uhura: Mr. Spock, sometimes I think if I hear that word ‘frequency’ once more, I’ll cry.
Mr. Spock: Cry?
Uhura: I was just trying to start a conversation.
Mr. Spock: Well, since it is illogical for a communications officer to resent the word ‘frequency’… I have no answer.
Uhura: No, you have an answer. I’m an illogical woman, who’s beginning to feel too much a part of that communications console. 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.
Mr. Spock: Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura.
Uhura: I’m not surprised, Mr. Spock.

Cast of characters

Additional cast

  • Jeanne Bal … Nancy Crater
  • Alfred Ryder (True Grit; The Invaders) … Prof. Robert Crater
  • Bruce Watson … Green
  • Michael Zaslow … Darnell
  • Vince Howard … Crewman
  • Francine Pyne … Nancy III

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