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Happy 50th anniversary – The Man Trap

Star Trek turns 50 years old this week, in the USA the first episode, “The Man Trap” aired today, September 8, at 8:30PM in 1966. Our friends to north in Canada got to see “The Man Trap” two days earlier on September 6.

“The Man Trap” was part of the first batch of finished episodes which also included: “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, “Charlie X”, “The Naked Time”, and “Mudd’s Women”. Read on for some trivia about the first ever Star Trek episode to air.

“The Man Trap” was ultimately chosen as the first episode to air because of the interesting plot device of the shapeshifting creature, it offered a monster-of-the-week, a familiar idea from The Outer Limits and Lost in Space, and of course, demonstrated the central idea of exploring a strange new world.

The strange ancient ruins on Planet M113

The first group of episodes all have a bit of a different feel to them, thanks in part to many of the production crew coming from more moody black and white productions.

tos-man-trap-salt-vampire-bts

Filming The Man Trap

“The Man Trap” is a rather unique episode:

• It is one of a small handful of episodes that have a captain’s log entry narration done in hindsight, rather than as it happens (“Court Martial” is another first season episode to use this technique).

“Captain’s log, additional entry. Since our mission was routine, we had beamed down to the planet without suspicion. We were totally unaware that each member of the landing party was seeing a different woman, a different Nancy Crater.”

• This episode features a never used again stun sound effect, almost like a ricochet of a bullet, and an accompanying brief voice slow down to demonstrate the stun effect.

• The first few episodes produced originally had an electric violin version of the opening theme, which has mostly been forgotten. Since being packaged for syndication, and subsequently in nearly every home video release, the standard Season 1 theme has been used.

 

The episode is of course most famous for the “Salt Vampire” (officially called the “M113 Creature”), which has had a lasting impact on Trek fans and pop culture in general.

A newer take on the M113 creature was made for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek (2009) but it ended up on the cutting room floor.

st09-salt_vampire

There was even a Salt Vampire cake at the big Star Trek Las Vegas convention this year. Read more about the cake.

salt_vampire_cake


TrekMovie’s John Duchak will be live tweeting “The Man Trap” tonight at 5:30PM PDT/8:30PM EDT

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Wow. I remember watching the premier episode. I think it was after “Daniel Boone”. Hard to believe it’s been 50 years …

Regards.

Happy Birthday Trekkies.

We made it to 50!

It’s the Future!

If someone new to Trek watched “The Man Trap” to see what all the fuss was about, they wouldn’t come away with a very representative picture of what Star Trek is all about.

“The Man Trap” may have been the first BROADCAST, but it wasn’t the first MADE, and it was far from the best. I think it might be wiser to celebrate the anniversary with the first episode made that featured Jim Kirk — “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — or with the episode that most TOS fans think is the best — “The City on the Edge of Forever” — or with an episode that showcases TOS’s positive messages, such as “The Devil in the Dark.”

Just because “The Man Trap” was the first episode broadcast, I really don’t think we need to be tied to this episode for every anniversary forevermore. :-)

True. If this had been a late 1st or 2nd season episode Spock would be arguing to save the creature and Kirk would have gon4 along or Kirk himself would have rallied around the idea of saving the creature. After all, all it needed was salt, like the Horta needed silicon. In reflection, there was no need to kill it. It was, like the Horta, only trying to survive

Exactly! They hadn’t really solidified who the characters were yet, and Kirk’s and Spock’s actions during this episode are rather out of character. “Kill the monster!” is not what we want people to think Star Trek is about!

True that. It’s hard to see that Spock after so much different history of his character.

Happy 50th!!! Been watching Trek films on sci-fi channel all day! LLAP

It’s almost too bad that as part of the birthday, NBC couldn’t air The Man Trap at the same time tonight, just as a special anniversary presentation. But with licensing, and the fact that rival CBS owns the series now, that was never going to happen.

From NBC’s point of view, the fact they had the first NFL game of the regular season tonight is probably more important than who owns a series they broadcast fifty years ago.

Not a huge of of this episode, though it’s far from the worst. There are a few great character moments, and the idea of a murderous creature who can nevertheless double as a fantasy companion is an interesting one, especially when coupled with the theme of extinction. But Alexander Courage’s score is dreary and monotonous (which apparently infuriated Roddenberry), and none of the crew comes off as all that likable. That NBC insisted on starting off with a monster story just shows what they thought of their own audience. In spite of the cast and other changes–which begged for an explanation in any case)–IMO “Where No Man Has Gone Before” would have been a better choice on just about every level.

(Incidentally, that new-and-improved salt vampire is pretty cool, one of just a handful of things in JJ-Trek that managed to improve on the original. They really should have left it in.)

Michael Hall September 8, 2016 4:49 pm

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” would have been a better choice on just about every level.

Yup.

“Courage’s score is dreary and monotonous”

Bet Berman would’ve loved it

M Hall, “the idea of a murderous creature who can nevertheless double as a fantasy companion is an interesting one, especially when coupled with the theme of extinction.”

It’s also quite interesting in view of current research on the number of bacteria in the human biome, parasites/symbionts, and the continuation of parasitic/symbiotic species. What an asset for a such a creature, the ability to be a fantasy companion — even if it shortened the “host’s” life, it might be agreeable to a lonely person. Then this parasite could move on … as long as there was another “host” handy. The ethics question would be … fascinating to examine.

Didn’t the Canadians actually get to see it two days before on CTV in 1966?

Um yeah, it’s in the intro…

Matt Wright,

Sorry, must have jumped over it in jumping over the slow loading picture on my lousy connection.

Thanks for confirming the CTV part nonetheless. It helps keep my cobwebs cleared.

Happy Birthday Star Trek! Without The Man Trap we probably wouldn’t be here today. Here’s to many more to come :]

I started The Man Trap up from my bluray at the appointed time this evening. Not normally one of my go-to episodes, but is fun to watch it exactly a half century later. I was quite young when it originally aired, but I remember watching it with my dad on that night.

Happy 50th Birthday star trek ……..LLAP .. the decades channel has lots of trek specials on today and smithsonian channel aired ” building trek” again tonight and this comming Saterday night , the man trap and the cage is on ME.TV channel saturday night , the Hero’s & icon channel is airing all five series every night sunday night they have two Episold of the animated series & all five series ….monday- friday just the five series on that channel . yea the syfy channel is airing only three star trek movies over and over again today

I just rewatched it in my timezone, and… it’s not so great. There are some good scenes and character moments, but it drags in the middle and in the end is a “how do we kill the monster” episode. The premise was handled a lot better in “Devil in the Dark”.

I was a little too young to have watched the original broadcasts, but I did grow up on the syndicated airings during the early 1970s.

James Blish did novelizations of all the original series episodes, in most cases just working from the original script. In some cases the episode was rewritten during filming and came out different. In this episode, using the original title of “The Unreal McCoy”, Crater was named Bierce. I have a nagging feeling this was a script editing error. The novelization begins. “The crater campsite — or the Bierce campsite, as the records called it” (meaning Bierce had a campsite in a crater). I can see the script note: “Crater changes to Bierce. Correct to Crater throughout.”

9/8/66 was a Thursday too. Is that a feature of a 50 year anniversary that it’s always on the same day and date?

Pretty cool.

Depends when in the four-year leap cycle the 50 years started. In this case there were 13 leap years and 50+13=63 which is integrally divisible by 7, meaning Sept 8 came back around to Thursday 9 times. If ST had started in 1968 and the 50 years ended in 2018, there would have been only 12 intervening leap years (i.e., February 29’s) and a given Thursday (e.g., Sept 7) would have ended up on a Wednesday in the 50th year.

Happy Birthday Star Trek – As I watch this episode (for the 100th time) as part of BBC’s marathon I’m looking at it from the perspective for a first time viewer from the 60’s. Four things pop out at me: 1) After viewing this and the next 3 or 4 subsequent episodes, did people in the 60’s know that “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was the pilot, or did they say WTF is this? Why are all the people different; look at the uniforms etc. Did the 60’s crowd know what a pilot was back then? 2) Rand, Sulu, and Uhura stand out as really being part of the show. Of course they don’t over-shadow the trio (Spock, Kirk, McCoy) but they are part of the unfolding drama. 3) Uhura is seen in the opening shot at navigation, piloting the ship. She is then having a sassy conversation with Spock. She has an interaction with a crew member. She is running communications and later is sitting at Spock’s station. As this is the first episode I can certainly see why Whoopi Goldberg or Mae Jemison (or any person of color or woman period) would be so excited about this show. 4) Uhura flirting with Spock is amusing. Then with Charlie X being the next episode where he smiles at her for humming as he plays the vulcan Lyrette. She apologizes for doing it again (indicating this is an ongoing thing), I can see how the Kelvine Timeline may have… Read more »

I couldn’t agree more about “Beyond”.

You also make some great points about Uhura. It’s really a shame that she wasn’t given more to do
in the episodes that followed. She seemed very interesting in these early episodes and then was more or less window dressing except for the rare episode like “Mirror, Mirror”.

Chuck; Steve,

I agree about Uhura. I suspect perhaps Southern US station affiliates had a few words in NBC’s ear about her. I could be wrong. She was a dynamic character in some episodes; it’s really too bad she was reduced to “Hailing frequencies open” in some episodes.

And re: the friendship with Spock — Perhaps this is why I greeted the Kelvin Timeline Spock/Uhura with such enthusiasm. “It’s perfect!” I thought. Although in retrospect, it could have been done better: A little less “girlfriend/boyfriend” but with a moment here and there of mutual love in private, a little more “sounding board/mutual advisor” vibe.

What stands out for me about this pretty forgettable episode is how provocative that opening scene is with the young crewman getting over excited about his image of McCoy’s old flame.
I think Gene Roddenberry wanted to appeal his show to the guys in their 20’s who read Playboy and who enjoyed the sci fi articles in Playboy as well. It was adult science fiction and the fantasy element of Kirk as a planet jumping playboy was something I’m sure Roddenberry enjoyed cultivating.

Re: Kirk’s romantic image, I much preferred the adult Kirk on display in “Conscience of the King.”

Saw it last night during the marathon. All bright and shiny again after the remastery. Still held my attention throughout!

I rewatched TMT also last night in honor of the anniversary of course. Definitely not their best, but still a worthwhile effort. Obviously, they had not yet gotten to the diplomacy first, weapons later and only if no other choice theme for the series, but the character moments alone are worth seeing again.

Too bad they couldn’t digitally replace Sulu’s living plant/hand puppet with a CGI representation for the remastered Blu-Rays, but I’m sure that would have been a LOT of work to do ;) .

I will say this for this episode: It scared the @%#^% of me when I first saw it in the early 1970s…I was probably about 7 or 8 years old and I definitely had nightmares for a while after that…and I would deliberately turn my head/avert my eyes whenever I would try to rewatch this episode as that kid and the final scene with the Salt Vampire revealed came up.

And although some of the music may be a bit repetitive, it still gives me some chills when I hear it. Was that why I had a little trouble falling asleep last night? :)

Happy 50th to Trek!

Jon

Jon “Too bad they couldn’t digitally replace Sulu’s living plant/hand puppet with a CGI representation for the remastered Blu-Rays”

I think this every time I see the phaser SFX in the indoor scenes. Ugh. Too bad.

No one mentioned it yet, though we all should know this…………….
Like Fox did to Firefly…..
NBC did not show the episodes in 1966 in their proper production order, hence some got confused back then of the look in WNMHGB, then having it bounce back to ‘normal’ the following week.

& where was this marathon some of you talked about?
Saturday, MeTV is having a special viewing night but I heard of nothing else in the Toronto-Buffalo corridor of broadcasters.

The marathon is on BBC of America (Comcast). I’m in the San Francisco Bay area. The quality is actually quite good. However, I can’t get used to the remastered Enterprise. It looks like my AMT model I played with when I was a kid. Though I understand the CBS effects team was under great pressure time wise and some of their other work was just wonderful. But the ship gives me fits.

OK, that explains it…I cut the cord in 2004, bought three ATSC tuners, built PVRs and a tower antennae.
Like a good Browncoat, been doing a little larceny ever since and love the release groups cutting out the commercials ever since. MeTV is a retro network that runs on sub-channels and in my area transmits from the old ABC transmitter in Concord NY [south of Buffalo].

{really needs an edit button here, bad grammar, bad habit of staring at keyboard, rather than screen}

Browncoat,

“A little larceny”

Great way to put it. Been guilty meself.

Long live Firefly

In defense of NBC — now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write — it would have been impossible to air the episodes in their original production order, mostly due to their post-production requirements, which varied wildly from show to show. With its elaborate (for 1966) visual effects, “The Corbomite Maneuver” was actually the 11th episode to air, even though it was the first regular show to be shot. By contrast, from what I’ve read Fox’s treatment of “Firefly” was a case of sheer malevolence, or incompetence, or both.

Yep, I admit I did read that in one of the “Making Of…..” books, but still it was indicative of the networks back then, even though I was only 10 at the time, I could have waited [saw the promos, after all there were only six stations here at the time] until October. It blew my socks off, so much better than “Lost In Space”! Watched it on both CTV and the current WGRZ [they changed their call letters in the intervening years, like the CBS station did] but I don’t remember the old one. CFTO has always been CFTO but their digital signal is so bloody weak now, a measly 10.8kw that I can’t get it now, but seeing as its owned by Bell Media, outside of Toronto, they want everyone to have cable or satellite. So screw them!
http://www.remotecentral.com/hdtv/index.html

M Hall,
The execs at FOX who screwed Firefly will perhaps be subjected to reruns of every crappy TV sitcom and zombie show when they get to purgatory, and be reminded of their guilt in killing a great show. [Rubbing hands with glee] I do hope they will lament their cancellation of the excellent “Firefly.” Peckerheads.

Amazing that the 8th of September 2016 is also a Thursday as in 1966.

At least to me.

Paramount really should have released Trek Beyond worldwide on 8 September 2016. I would’ve hated waiting, but the promotion department could have done a lot of 50th anni—

… nevermind. Wouldn’t have happened

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TREK!

I agree!!! Releasing Beyond on September 8th would have been a great move plus give it free promotion with the Anniversary date!

I’ve been saying that all along…

Why is everybody bashing this episode? It was great!

Growing up watching this episode, albeit when it was in syndication, as a young child, I was horrified at the creature reveal at the end. My parents were very strict about what I could watch and Star Trek seemed to be safe to them at the time. Wah Chang’s creature work is terrific even though the salt creature is on for just a little bit at the end. I think the costume was sold at auction sometime back in the 00s wasn’t it?

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