Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Last of Its Kind: Star Trek episode 5, "The Man Trap"

One of the most celebrated aspects of Star Trek -- among its fans, certainly -- is the ethical nature of many of the inherent trappings of the show.  Go to a Trek convention, and you won't be able to take a step without tripping over somebody giving the show an attaboy for its diversity, its forward-looking optimism, and so forth.
  
I'm not always convinced that these sentiments are entirely earned by the series.  As expressed by Trekkies, these sentiments often feel smug and self-congratulatory.  I should know; I've found myself taking pride in them on occasion, too.  Regardless of whether the fandom could be convicted on charges of smugness, the fact is that the bulk of TOS -- and, for the most part, the series which followed it -- do indeed express an inherent sense of optimism and progressivity.  Here in 2017, we're in a weird place where it's somehow verboten to punch a god damned Nazi in his fucking face: an odd, disconcerting turn of events, and one which gives me pause when I'm considering doing things like criticizing Trekkies for being smug.
  
But I have the thoughts that I have, and the reason why I'm here is to explore them for myself.  And that being the case, I couldn't help but be a wee bit troubled by "The Man Trap," which in some ways is less an example of the optimistic and ethically-advanced Star Trek Trekkies declaim than it is a simpler thing: a monster-movie done for television.
  
Or is it?
  
  
   
  
In a way, it makes sense that the first episode of Star Trek to air was one which is not entirely typical of its philosophies.  Something like "The Man Trap" sits somewhat uneasily beside later episodes like "Devil in the Dark" and "Metamorphosis," or even "The Corbomite Maneuver."  But then there are other episodes like "Obsession" and "The Doomsday Machine" that are more akin to this one than to those.
  
The fact is, Trek has never been quite as consistent in its philosophies as its fans might have you believe.  It's almost as if the show was a raft of optimism that was afloat on a sea of pessimism, one that on occasion got a bit waterlogged and didn't float so much as tread water.  So while we might get something like The Motion Picture or The Voyage Home on occasion, we were just as apt to get something like The Undiscovered Country or "Q Who?"  In the latter, the Federation is confronted by an unstoppable force (The Borg) bent on subjugating and replacing everything in its path.  "The Best of Both Worlds" intensifies that conflict.
  
But then, lo and behold, the sequel to that episode turns it on its head somewhat, with the unstoppable enemy stopped not by force, but by ingenuity and trickery (Data giving their hive mind an order to go into a looped diagnostic mode, i.e., putting them into a sort of coma).  It's not diplomacy, but neither is it genocide; so that's kind of Trek-ish in its philosophy.
  
The franchise would not be able to maintain that stance on the Borg, however, and later episodes would revert somewhat.  Eventually they appeared in a movie (First Contact), where they are no more than monsters to be defeated.  Good movie; bad philosophy (at least within a Trek-ian context, or perhaps just within a Roddenberrian context).

But let's all remember that the first episode of Star Trek to air came at things in a similar manner.  In "The Man Trap," the crew is stalked and preyed upon by a creature indigenous to the planet M-113, a shape-shifting, telempathic being that needs salt to live.  This "salt vampire" (as fandom commonly refers to it) is the last remaining member of an otherwise-extinct species, and its sources of sustenance are seemingly all gone.  It has been living with a human scientist on M-113, having killed the scientist's wife and assumed her form.  The scientist knows this, and has accepted it.
  
The episode mostly treats the M-113 shapeshifter as a monster which must be defeated.  It kills four crewmen, plus Professor Crater; and, at the very least, has already killed the true Nancy Crater.  The emphasis in the storytelling is put on making the shapeshifter seem ominous and evil: the music is creepy, Uhura and (to a lesser extent) Rand are threatened, the actress playing "Nancy" employs unusual posture and hand movements to amplify the alienness; and so forth.




None of this is bad.  It makes for an entertaining hour of sci-fi action/adventure, and serves as a good introduction to the series.  But for a series that, over the course of five decades, has self-proclaimed its virtues as an ethically progressive storytelling mechanism, doesn't it strike you as notable that the first episode is about a "monster"?  Doesn't it seem incongruous that nobody -- especially our high-minded Captain Kirk, a man of ideals and principles -- stops and says, "What can we do to preserve this life?"  Why does Spock, the allegedly-logical demi-Vulcan, not speak up at some point and say, "If this being can be detained without further loss of life to the crew, then it should be detained, and not harmed"?

It doesn't quite wash with me.  On Doctor Who, maybe; on Star Trek, not so much.

Even so, is that a reason to pillory this episode?  No sir.  I don't rank it as a personal favorite, but it passed the crucial test: I watched three times in three consecutive weeks and enjoyed it each time.  Shatner is on top of his game; so are Nimoy and Kelley, as well as the other regulars, plus guest stars Jeanne Bal and Alfred Ryder.  Jerry Finnerman's cinematography is top-notch; the production design is good, if limited; the screenplay has good dialogue, provides for crisp tension, and does a good job of fitting a monster-movie shoe on a space-adventure foot.  Provided you are able to view it through '60s-colored lenses, this is good television, period.

If you're a Trekkie of the same variety I am, though, maybe that attitude toward the M-113 creature continues to stick in your craw a bit.  Just a bit, mind you.  We can take a bit of comfort in the fact that the episode itself seems to be aware of what is happening, and doesn't seem entirely comfortable with it.  If you're in total monster-movie mode, then maybe you watch the scene in which the alien is in the guise of McCoy with your skin crawling; you hear Crater and the McCoy-thing talking -- to Kirk! -- about how the creature is just doing what it naturally needs to do to survive, and you think, "Boy, somebody needs to kill that fuckin' monster DEAD!"

I don't think the episode plays it that way, though.  I don't think DeForest Kelley plays it that way, either.  He speaks softly as the McCoy-thing, calmly, rationally.  Spock even makes note of how laudable -- if ill-timed -- "his" thoughts are.  It might or might not be considered a murderer, but clearly, this being is one which is capable of intelligent thought and action; perhaps its natural drives are getting the better of it, but nevertheless, the potential is there for this being to behave as a civilized one.

When it is at last revealed in its true form, the shapeshifter is decidedly alien and monstrous, but it also has an inherent sadness.  The eyes seem perpetually on the verge of tears; the mouth seems to be forming an inherent moan of sadness.




That's only there if you see it there, of course; but if you look at it in that way, it really is a forlorn and pathetic looking being.
  
As the episode ends, I think the central trio of characters -- Kirk, Spock, and McCoy -- all seem rather depressed over the entire affair.




The side of my brain that veers toward fanfiction-type fillings-in of the blanks insists on casting this as a moment of change for Kirk (and the others): it is his failure here that makes Kirk more willing to go the extra mile in, say, "The Devil in the Dark."  That's just me making shit up, of course; but it's tempting, and it kind of fits.  If I cared to walk down that road a bit further, I might speculate that this week, Kirk is taking a hardline approach because he is still integrating the two sides of his personality that were split apart as the result of the events in "The Enemy Within."  The aggro side of Kirk's personality is exerting itself, possibly in an effort to try to get back out; but by the end of "The Man Trap," Emo-Kirk is back in control, and knows he's allowed mistakes to be made.

Horseshit ... but fun horseshit!

Regardless, even though this might be a monster-of-the-week space-adventure episode, how many episodes of that nature -- on any series -- do you know that end with the victors downbeat and seemingly regretful, pondering the loss of the buffalo (metaphorical and otherwise)?  Folks, think about it: this is a fairly powerful way to end the episode, and even if one asserts that "The Man Trap" represents Trek at its not-quite-finest hour ethically-speaking, the final scene makes it plain that this is a series that will call humanity out for its bullshit every so often.  Even when its own human characters have engaged in that behavior.

It almost feels as if the people who made this episode were saying, "Hey, look, we might have to do things like this -- i.e., kill a monster -- every so often in order to survive on American television, but that doesn't mean we're obligated to feel good about it."  I don't necessarily think that was an intentional message, but neither would I rule it out.

That was the aspect of the episode that stood out most strongly to me on this most recent rewatch.  There are other things to consider, too, though.

For example, this feels like the episode where the production had figured out how to use the ensemble AS an ensemble.  With the exception of Scotty, who sits this episode out, all the extant regular cast members get good moments to play.  This goes from the top down, too; it's not like all of Kirk and Spock's scenes had to be jettisoned in order to squeeze in the others.  No, Kirk gets to be just as charismatically in command here as he was in previous episodes.  (Remember, this might have been the first episode to air, but it was the fifth to be produced; sixth, if you count "The Cage.")  Shatner loses nothing: he is terrific, never more so than when he -- correctly -- chastises McCoy for mooning over his lost love while the body of a dead crewman grows cold literally right beside him.  He's just as good a few scenes later, when Kirk apologizes to McCoy for his outburst.

Then, soon thereafter, Kirk goes after McCoy again, this time for expressing concern for Nancy after yet another dead crewman is discovered.  "You could learn something from Mr. Spock, Doctor," he says.  "Stop thinking with your glands."




In lesser hands, Kirk could seem petulant or wishy-washy in the cumulation of these moments.  For that matter, McCoy could seem irresponsible.  Shatner and Kelley play the scenes just right, though, and the fact that they both seem like they are still friends -- albeit regretful ones -- at the end of the episode plays as believable.

Meanwhile, Nimoy gets to explore his allegedly unemotional side a bit.  There's a terrific scene between he and Uhura that seems, at first, to be a mere piffle.  Uhura, bored, approaches him and asks him why he doesn't tell her she's an attractive young lady, or tell her what his planet looks like "on a lazy evening when the moon is full."




"Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura," answers Spock.

"I'm not surprised, Mr. Spock," responds Uhura nimbly.

It's a fantastic, humorous character moment, but it turns deadly serious only moments later.  A message comes in saying that the landing party has beamed back, and there has been a fatality.  Spock acknowledges the message, and Uhura wheels on him, aghast that he would show no concern, despite the fact that it might be Captain Kirk -- his only friend -- who may have died.

Spock insists that his response will not change whatever has happened, but as Uhura stalks away from him, the look on his face indicates practically anything but lack of concern.  He simply isn't comfortable with expressing his feelings to others.




Spock seems somewhat rattled throughout the episode.  He takes up a position in opposition to that of "McCoy" (actually the M-113 shapeshifter), who makes a rather logical suggestion that the creature is simply following its nature, and that they might try to apprehend it without harming it.  "Your attitude is laudable, Doctor," says Spock, "but your reasoning is reckless."  Is it?!?  From whose perspective?

Then, as the episode's climax arrives, Spock responds quite emotionally to the Nancy-thing attacking Kirk.  First he shouts at McCoy to kill it, then he ferociously attacks it with his bare hands.

None of this exactly serves as proof of a man void of emotion, does it?

It's stuff like this, of course, that makes Spock -- and Nimoy's portrayal of him -- so compelling.  We see Spock for who he truly is; but we can also see why somebody like Uhura sees him as she sees him.  In the gulf between those two ideas, that's where "Spock" is.  Fascinating!  No wonder it still works half a century later.

I would be remiss if I did not also point out how good Nichelle Nichols is in that scene with Spock on the bridge.  She gets a line -- which really only plays if you've seen the previous episodes -- about how tired she is of saying the word "frequency," and that gets a laugh.  But she's flirty, determined, and adamant, too; even Spock is no match for her, at least in these moments.

Nichols is also good in her later scene, in which the shapeshifter poses as a man drawn literally from Uhura's imagination.  She is both disturbed and beguiled by this apparition, which seems about right.  What else would your response be?

The beginning of that scene contains an interesting moment.  Uhura is walking out of a turbolift, and is crowded by two men who are trying to walk in.  She stares them down until they back out of her way, gets off, makes a maintenance request (!) of one of them, and then smiles a huge smile as she goes about her business.






What is all of this about?

I think I have a handle on it, so I'm going to give it to you as I see it.  I might be totally off base, and if so, somebody please correct me.  Here goes:

  • First of all, it's basic elevator etiquette: everyone who wants to gets off before anyone gets on.  This is immutable, and if you are guilty of not following that etiquette, you are a bad person.
  • Let's remember that this episode came out during the sixties.  I have a dim memory of reading something about how, back in the height of workplace sexual harassment, men would sometimes use elevators as places to trap women and harass them a bit.  Is that a thing that actually happened?  I honestly don't know, but it seems possible.  If so, then...
  • ...maybe this scene represents two men -- either by failing to exhibit proper turbolift etiquette or by being sexually aggressive -- trying to intimidate and/or overpower what they perceive to be a vulnerable woman.
  • Uhura, who has recently won a confrontation with no less intimidating a personage than Mr. Spock, is having none of it -- regardless of which scenario is the truth -- and simply stares them men down until they are chastened.  Either way, wouldn't this play wonderfully as a wish-fulfillment moment to anyone woman -- especially a woman of color -- in 1966?  Hence Uhura's big smile, perhaps?
  • What's up with her making the maintenance request about her doors rattling?  One of two things seems likely.  One, she's putting the one worker in his place by asking him to do some menial work for her.  (Possibly -- again, hence the big smile -- work that doesn't even really need to be done.)  Two, maybe she's just initiated a booty call?  Maybe she's decided to dangle the possibility of such in front of this poor sap as a sort of thumb-in-the-eye gesture.  Either way, big smile.

What's clear, regardless of the specifics of how you read the scene, is that Uhura is in total control in this moment.  Interestingly, it's here that the shapeshifter makes contact, assuming the form of what "he" purports to be a figure Uhura was just thinking about.  Does that mean that she's got an image in her mind that, if that crewman she just cock-teased looked like, she'd actually fuck him?  What else CAN that mean?

However you look at it, this is deeply interesting stuff.  It all just makes me love Uhura more than I already did.

A similar thing happens with Janice Rand in this episode, too.  A few minutes prior to this scene with Uhura coming out of the turbolift, Janice herself has emerged from the turbolift, with the shapeshifter (in the form of Crewman Green) following her.  She notices his attention.





"Why don't you go chase an asteroid?" she says, not entirely uncompanionably.  You can tell she wants Green to leaver her alone, but doesn't want to bust his chops over it.  This is a woman who is used to having to fend off attention of the kind she perceives this to be.  In fact, mere moments later, she is doing so again.  In the same hallway are four other male crewmen, all of whom eye her quite appreciatively.




"Is that for me, Janice?" asks one of the men, the one who looks like he ought to be playing bass for Elvis Presley.

"Don't you wish it was?" replies Janice.

I don't think either one of them means the celery.

This, of course, was the same era depicted in Mad Men, and if that series is to be believed, then it was an era of rampant sexual harassment in the workplace.  Like Joan on that show, it seems like Janice Rand knows how to navigate those waters.  I don't want to suggest that it's a good thing that she would have had enough experience with it to be as expert as she obviously is ... but I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that I find it to be alluring as hell.  I don't want the world to create a Janice Rand by strengthening her through abuse; I'd prefer she get there through sheer competence and self-confidence (as, for all I know, is exactly the case with Rand).  Either way, that one's a keeper, if you can manage to land her.

I like Rand's scene with Sulu, too.  She's determined to express her own opinions without alienating Sulu or kowtowing to him (not that kowtowing is required on his part -- it isn't), and then she continues to offer the Green-thing sass.  "You been nipping Saurian brandy or something?" she asks the Green-thing.
  
And remember, in production terms, just last week (in "The Enemy Within") she was assaulted by a guy who'd been at the brandy ... so she should know.  No ill effects of that episode seem to be in evidence, though; she even shares a few brief moments with Captain Kirk, and does not seem to be holding a grudge against him.  Yeah, yeah, I know; none of that continuity is actually present.  It's fun to try and wedge it in, though.

It was nice to see the ensemble get so many moments to play.  All of them -- including Sulu, who showcases a great affability ("May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet," he says to Rand, beaming, after she brings him some food) -- are very good, and it's a shame more of the series wasn't able to exploit their talents in this fashion.

A few more stray observations:

  • I'm very intrigued by the shapeshifter's telempathic abilities.  It can obviously read the minds and emotions of people it encounters, and reflexively uses that knowledge to broadcast images of itself as whatever the people viewing it see it as.  This is obviously based in part on whatever is already on the minds of those people.  So, for example, McCoy sees what he wants to see (Nancy as he last knew her); Kirk sees "Nancy" as she is, obviously having no expectation of any kind; and Darnell, who obviously has pussy on the brain, sees a prime piece of tail.  Later, everyone expects to see Green, and so they do; but the shapeshifter is able to read Uhura's mind and pluck out a fantasy she is having.  This is a more complex idea than a mere shapeshifter.  Too bad Enterprise didn't devote an episode to exploring it further.
  • A few moments in Alexander Courage's score remind me of Stravinsky.  What are those, oboes?
  • When "Nancy" first meets McCoy, she puts her fingers on her face in a manner similar to the way she will touch her victims' faces later.  This is very creepy once you know what she's doing.



  • Crewman Green is played by Bruce Watson, who is great in a creepy little role.


  • "You bleed too much, Crater," accuses Kirk.  "You're too pure, noble..."  Conservatives everywhere rejoice at Kirk taking a shot at the bleeding-heart liberal!
  • The sickbay is called a "dispensary" throughout this episode.
  • Spock is attacked by the shapeshifter, but he has no salt in his blood, and is unharmed.  "Fortunately," he says to Kirk, "my ancestors spawned in a different ocean than yours did."  Take that, evolution deniers!
  • "Lord, forgive me," says McCoy before shooting the Nancy-thing.  A mere euphemism, or should we believe that McCoy is a man of faith?

Overall, a highly enjoyable episode.  It's richer than it might appear at first glance, and while I am committed to experiencing these episodes in production order, this really does make for a solid first outing, if you watch in broadcast order.  It aired on September 8, 1966 (September 6 in Canada), and I'm guessing that on September 9,  many hours at schools and workplaces were spent talking about that cool new space show from the night before.

A legend was born!

Before we move on to the behind-the-scenes component of the post, howsabout a few screencaps from the Remastered version of the episode?  We haven't looked at those the past time or two, have we?


The Remastered effects are mostly limited to orbital shots of planet M-113, but...

...there is also one scene in which the planet's surface is rebuilt in CGI.  It's moderately effective, but the CGI looks fairly dated by 2017.  So I continue to feel that these Remastered episodes were a bit of a waste.





Nice planetary shots, though.

Now:




Marc Cushman's book continues to be massively enjoyable.  I'm strongly tempted to charge my way through the rest of it (and its two sequels).  I mean, shit, what if I die next week and never finish reading these suckers?

That might yet happen, but for now, I'm going to keep parsing the reading out an episode at a time.  And even if I don't, I'm to lie about here and say that I am!  You won't know the difference either way.

In any case, our behind-the-scenes coverage of "The Man Trap" commences with your faithful reporter informing you that Marc Cushman devotes an entire chapter to the director of that episode.  His name: Marc Daniels.  He would go on to direct a total of 14 episodes of TOS, which ties him for the most (with Joseph Pevney).  Daniels was a highly-respected television director by the time he got to "The Man Trap," and had been for years.  Cushman gives the reader a four-page recap of his career-to-date highlights; it was very interesting, and I'm glad Cushman went into such depth.

He is nowhere near as in-depth when it comes to the credited writer of the episode, George Clayton Johnson.  But, then, Johnson wrote one episode whereas Daniels directed fourteen, so the imbalance seems warranted.

Johnson had written for The Twilight Zone and would go on to co-write the novel Logan's Run, so he's a guy with solid genre credentials.  His screenplay for "The Man Trap" was based on a story outline by Lee Erwin, and would end up being heavily rewritten by Roddenberry.  Nevertheless, Johnson brought quite a lot to the table: "I started thinking in terms of a shape-changer and came up with the idea of 'the last of its kind' -- the idea that, at one time, there were three, four, five states completely covered by one herd of buffalo, tens of hundreds of thousands of these beasts, and now there are almost none of them left.  What if there was only one left?  That appealed to Gene -- that idea, the very last of its kind."

Johnson's final draft screenplay emphasized this element more than would be the case in the broadcast episode.  For example, in his version, Crater lived; devastated by the loss(es) he has endured, he opts to stay on M-113, alone, hoping to find more of the planet's natural inhabitants.  Cushman also reports that, in this version, "Kirk's anguish is more profound than what we see in the filmed version.  We sense from Johnson's writing that, with the danger now over, with Kirk thinking with a cooler head and realizing how wrong he was about Crater, he truly has taken some of the heartbroken man's anguish onto his own shoulders."

I think some of that comes through in the episode as is.  Part of me wishes it had been filmed that way, but another part of me thinks it is a bit more subversive for the episode to almost turn on a dime right at the end; it's almost a message saying, "Hey, you think you've been watching this, but you've actually been watching this."  By being more stereotypical up front in its capitulations to genre and medium, does the episode actually end up achieving a greater subtlety in the end when it makes its turn?  I'm not convinced either way yet; this is a topic that requires more thought.

Roddenberry also added some lines of dialogue that Cushman perceives to be cheesy: "Go chase an asteroid!" is one; "Do you suppose he's gone space happy or something?" is another; and the bit about the "great bird of the galaxy" is a third.  None of these bother me.  Telling a pervy dude to go chase an asteroid seems like an outer-space equivalent of telling him to take a long walk off a short pier; I've got no problem with that at all.

Cushman hates all three lines, though.  He's much more forgiving of some of Roddenberry's other changes, however.  For example, Johnson's version sent Scotty (not Spock) with Kirk down to the surface to try and subdue Crater.  Roddenberry subbed Spock in, and who can argue with that change?  He also added the scene in which Kirk says to McCoy, "How your lost love affects your vision doesn't interest me, Doctor!"  That moment when the shapeshifter speaks to Uhura in Swahili?  Yep, that was Roddenberry, too.  (An English translation of the lines is provided.  The creature's words mean, "How are you, friend?  I think of you, beautiful lady.  You should never know loneliness."  Which, given how lonely the shapeshifter must be, is rather touching.)

The way Cushman sees it, the final draft by Johnson and the revised final draft by Roddenberry are equally meritorious, but in different ways.

The way I see it, this was a series originated by Gene Roddenberry.  It's his show, and if he wanted to make changes to bring it more in line with what he wished it to be, that was his right.  Evidence indicates he perhaps went about it in an impolitic way; but still, his show.

This extended to the title of the episode, which in outline form was "The Man Trap."  Johnson's initial draft changed it to "Damsel with a Dulcimer," which is explained by Cushman via "Mark Alfred, a fan of both Star Trek and English literature."  Alfred says:

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poem in 1797, published in 1816, called "Kubla Khan."  It was a wild vision in his imagination of the savage Khan's establishment of a "pleasure dome."  But the last few lines of the poem changed gears to describe [Coleridge's] poetic vision.  The last stanza begins, "A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision I saw," and says that if the writer could only reproduce her beauty and song, the world would go wild for it, and say that he was crazy for carrying on so.  [Johnson] wanted to use this reference to Coleridge's poem to form a deeper resonance in the mind of a perceptive Star Trek viewer.

Alfred has misquoted.  The final stanza actually begins, "A damsel with a dulcimer / In a vision once I saw."  And I'm not sure I agree with his analysis, or with the use to which Johnson seems to have put the repurposed quotation.  Read the poem for yourself and be your own judge, but my reading of it -- which is admittedly brief and ill-informed -- is that in the first two stanzas, Coleridge is describing the "pleasure-dome" that Khan built.  It's unclear (at least to me) whether this is a real thing or a fever-dream or an outright fiction, but I believe the idea is that the narrator of the poem holds the idea in his mind regardless of such considerations.  Then, in the final stanza, the narrator described having once dreamed of a "damsel with a dulcimer," the music from which was surpassingly lovely.  If the narrator could bring the beauty of these dream into the world he feels he could build -- in mid-air, perhaps out of the very air itself -- a thing as marvelous as that fabled pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan.  This is a yearning for real life to be as sweet as dream.

So what was Johnson's intent in giving this episode that title?  Was the idea that the replica Nancy Crater was a better and more preferable Nancy Crater than the real Nancy Crater was?  If so, I'm not sure that the episode -- or even Johnson's final draft, as it is described by Cushman -- bears out the association.

In other words, I don't think it works.  Neither did Gene Roddenberry, who changed the title back to "The Man Trap," a pulpier and less lofty title, but perhaps also a more appropriate one.

I don't know.  Maybe there is something in "Kubla Khan" I'm not getting.  I just don't see the connection.

The last thing I'll mention is that Roddenberry was rather displeased with the episode's score, written by Alexander Courage.  Cushman quotes a memo from Roddenberry to William Hatch, the head of Desilu's music department: "The music for 'The Man Trap' was most disappointing.  It was ethereal, very science-fiction-ish, if not outright fantasy in quality, often very, very grating on the narves, as it whined on and on.  Was this a failure in communication?  Or are we in trouble with a composer who will not, or is unable, to follow the expressed format directions of the producer?"

Roddenberry has a few points.  Courage's score does indeed play up the monster-movie vibe of the episode, but given that many of Roddenberry's changes to Johnson's "final" draft accomplished the same goal, isn't Courage's music serving Roddenberry's purpose?  In any case, I don't think it's half as good a score as what Courage had previously done for "The Cage" and for "Where No Man Has Gone Before," but neither do I think it somehow hurts or subverts the episode.

But this won't be the last we hear of tension between Roddenberry and Courage.





I just love this book to pieces, man.  Am I a broken record on the subject?  Too mother-humpin' bad!  It's too true to not mention.

Some gems from Solow and Justman:

  • Head cameraman Jerry Finnerman -- who was a massively influential creative force in terms of the show's look -- approached Justman the day before filming on his first episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver," was scheduled to begin.  He was nervous about his ability to carry out the job with which he'd found employment, and tried to resign.  Justman talked him out of it, partially by threatening him with severe career repercussions (which was what Finnerman was afraid of in the first place).  Justman: "Luckily, he was more afraid of me than of his personal demons.  However, during the first season of the series, after viewing the 'rushes' with me every day and listening to my critiques and suggestions, Jerry sometimes proceeded to the nearest men's room to throw up.  But he was our cameraman, and as I had hoped, he was a great one."  
  • In August of 1966, prior to the show's anticipated premiere date of September 8, a screening was held at Desilu for NBC executives.  The purpose: to choose the debut episode from among the contenders that were finished enough for consideration.  Says Solow, "There were really only two serious candidates: 'Man Trap' and 'The Naked Time.'  The second pilot, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' was held back because it was too expository in terms of the series concept and characters, a problem with most pilots telecast as series episodes.  'Where No Man' was necessary for selling, not necessarily for televising.  'Mudd's Women' was out of the running because the opening-night critics would have had a field day with the story of 'space hookers in the galaxy.'  'Charlie X' was too gentle a tale, dealing with the problems of a teenager.  'The Enemy Within' was another shipboard show that lacked the scope of Star Trek's premise.  Despite a fine performance by William Shatner, it was held back for later telecast."  Justman pushed for "The Naked Time," but both Roddenberry and Solow advocated for "The Man Trap," and Justman later admitted that they were correct to do so.  Bryant's take: among those episodes, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" would have been my nominee.  But "The Man Trap" is a perfectly acceptable choice, offering strong scenes for virtually all of the regular characters and a compelling -- if somewhat philosophically incongruous -- story.
  • Matt Jeffries not only designed the show's sets, he also ended up designing the plastic model kits that (after their purchase of Desilu) Paramount Pictures eventually began selling by the boatload.  Jeffries received $0.00 in royalties from the licensing.  "The man whose creativity brought millions of dollars in revenues to Paramount never saw a penny for himself."  Jeffries is hardly the only creative person to get turked out of royalties by big corporations.  I'm not here to sing the evils of corporations, though; I'm sure such a song could be sung, but I'm the wrong person to sing it.  I'll settle for saying that in all such instances, it seems like an easily-avoidable shame.  Speaking of which...
  • ...not everyone is unable to avoid such perils, even if it means turking some other artist in the process.  Solow: "When Sandy Courage was given his contract to write the Star Trek music, he was unaware of a two-sentence clause toward the end of the agreement.  Thinking it was more of the usual boilerplate, Sandy signed the agreement without reading it fully.  The clause, inserted by Gene's attorney, Leonard Maizlish, gave Gene the right to write a lyric to Courage's theme."  The upshot was that once NBC picked up the series, Courage received a call from Maizlish, informing him that from that point forward, Roddenberry would be collecting fifty percent of the royalties on the theme music.  This seems, to me, like a singularly churlish act.  I mean, it's easy to see why Roddenberry would feel entitled to a slice of the pie, given that the series originated with his ideas; and it's easy to see how Courage is at fault for not having a lawyer read the contract before he signed it.  It's also easy to imagine that even a mere fifty percent of the royalties on the Star Trek theme music must, over the decades, have added up to quite a bit of money.  Courage likely did okay out of that deal, even with Roddenberry's hand in his pocket the whole time.  Still, there's no denying it: this makes Roddenberry seem like a complete prick.
  • One of the cost-saving measures Justman enacted was to film a set of stock reaction shots.  This prevented similar shots from having to be filmed on an episode-by-episode basis.  So if you see Sulu looking backward, worried, at Kirk and find yourself thinking, boy that shot sure does look familiar ... well, there's a reason for that.  The same process would be repeated the next season, adding Walter Koenig into the mix as Chekov.





The first chapter I read from this book this time around is all about Mr. Spock, and offers the following assessment that might be considered pertinent to a discussion of "The Man Trap":

A basic tent of the Vulcan philosophy is nonviolence.  Vulcans do not believe in killing in any form.  they may hunt for the skill involved in tracking but eons ago ceased to kill the animal they are tracking.  As a vegetarian, the mere idea of eating animal carcasses, cooked or not, is revolting to Spock.  Even his vegetable diet is limited to the simplest of vegetable life forms.

Spock himself admits, however, that Vulcans are not totally incapable of killing.  If given sufficient reason, a Vulcan will kill quite efficiently, but it must be a very logical reason.  Normally, however, they will kill only in self-defense, and then only after first having expended all other meansavailable to avoid it.  It is a matter of record that Vulcans in the Space Service must occasionally be ordered to kill, if they do not think the situation logically justifies it.

This does not mean that Spock will not resort to physical violence of a lesser degree, again if logical.  He has become quite famous for the "Spock Pinch."  Applied with the fingers of his right hand to the area on the top of the right shoulder, near the base of the neck, it blocks blood and nerve responses to the brain and produces instant unconsciousness.

Next up was a briefer chapter all about McCoy, which informs us that:

As Senior Ship's Surgeon, "Bones" McCoy is one man who can approach Captain Kirk on the most intimate personal levels relating to the Captain's physical, mental, and emotional well being.  Indeed, he has the absolute duty to constantly keep abreast of the Captain's condition and speak out openly to Kirk on this matter.  He is probably the only person aboard who could talk back to Kirk, say something sharp of argumentative, and get away with it.  Part of this stems from the relationship between himself and his Captain and part from his own crusty personality.

McCoy is something of a future-day H.L. Mencken, a very outspoken character, with more than a little cynical bite in his attitudes and observations on life.  He has an acid wit which, under close scrutiny, carries more than a grain of truth about medicine, man, and society.  Like most cynics, Dr. McCoy is at heart a bleeding humanist, but he attempts to hide his sensitive humanitarian feelings with the brusqueness of his personality.

And:

He was married once, but the details are a mystery to all in the Space Service.  What is known is that the marriage ended unhappily in a divorce.  However, he has a twenty-one-year-old daughter named Joanna, from that marriage.  McCoy has properly provided for her well-being, hears from her as often as interstellar communication permits, but his duty aboard the Enterprise keeps them apart.  Ordinarily, a general practitioner would be of little practical value aboard a starship, but McCoy's unhappy marriage and subsequent divorce made him long for an escape from familiar and painful surroundings.  He therefore plunged into intensive courses in Space Medicine and then volunteered for Star Fleet.  Dr. McCoy, like many a man before him, has taken up wandering in order to get away from painful memories.

We also learn, via a quote from Roddenberry, that:

In a future story we will bring McCoy's daughter Joanna aboard.  She will be a lovely girl, and Captain Kirk, of course, is going to be involved with her.  Dr. McCoy is suddenly going to discover he is a father viewing Kirk from a father's perspective.  An interesting and sometimes angry new McCoy-Kirk relationship will be seen.

It's fairly common knowledge among Trekkies that this storyline was planned.  I, for one, am glad it never came to pass.  It seems distasteful for Kirk to get romantically involved with a woman who is (at minimum) fifteen years his junior and also the daughter of one of his closest colleagues/friends.  Either of those things on their own are okay, in my opinion; put them together and it's a big no-no.




There's not much here in the way of behind-the-scenes info that hasn't been covered elsewhere, but I was intrigued by some of Asherman's opinions on the episode, particularly this one:

Disregarding the exceptional gifts the creature obviously possesses, and the intelligence that goes along with them, Kirk only tries to hunt it down and kill it.  There is never any talk of communicating with it, except for one remark from Crater.  If all "Star Trek" episodes were structured in this manner, the series would not have been the same.  One of the most uplifting aspects of the show is the appreciation shown for all life forms.  Throughout the series, Kirk crossed paths with various living things and destroyed them, e.g., "Obsession," "The Immunity Syndrome," "Operation: Annihilate!" and "The Lights of Zetar."  The creatures in those episodes threatened entire civilizations.  In "The Man Trap," though, it is difficult to believe that we are dealing with the same Captain Kirk who would later try to communicate with the Horta despite Spock's recommendation to kill the creature.

I said something similar toward the beginning of this post, and while I wrote those words before re-reading the pertinent section of Asherman's book, I nevertheless wonder if I didn't get some of my ideas from The Star Trek Compendium.  I don't mean for this post, per se; I'm wondering more about my attitudes toward Trek in general.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was a big deal to me.  I was still highly impressionable when I read it -- (I say that as though I'm not STILL highly impressionable...) -- and I wouldn't be surprised if Asherman's words about the incongruity of Kirk's actions made me do some soul-searching.  I don't have any memories of that sort of thing happening, but it seems plausible that this could have been a sort of epiphany moment.  Maybe even a double whammy wherein I saw that storytelling could be inconsistent and result in characters who failed to behave "naturally" from story to story; and wherein I also saw that Star Trek had a sort of higher aim that could, on occasion, be deviated from.

It's very tempting to believe that such a thing happened.

I also read a chapter from Shatner's Star Trek Memories this week, but it was basically just a recap of the filming of "The Cage," as told to him by people who were there.  (He wasn't.)  It's a lot of fun, but none of it is germane to this week's episode, and anyways, we already talked about a lot of it.

As has been my wont lately, I'm adding another book into the rotation this time:





I sort of intended to dive into this book last time, when discussing "The Enemy Within."  The first chapter is all about Whitney being sexually assaulted -- raped, arguably -- during the production of the show's first season.  And, you know ... "The Enemy Within" features a would-be rape of Janice Rand, so it seemed like a logical segue.

Until I started thinking about writing it, that is.  So I opted to defer discussion of that chapter -- which is riveting, horrifying stuff (though not in precisely the way you may be imagining, if you are imagining it at all, which I hope you aren't) -- until later in this chronology.  The assault happened the filming of "Miri"; the initial fallout from it happened during Whitney's final TOS episode, "The Conscience of the King."  So while it makes sense for The Longest Trek to begin with that incident, it makes more sense for out purposes to cover what happened to Whitney in more of a chronological order.

I knew about Whitney's rape, but had forgotten about it until I saw it mentioned on Twitter recently.  Shatner talks about it -- erroneously, in part -- in Star Trek Memories, and I'd read that years ago; then, years later, I was reminded of it by Dog Star Omnibus.  Despite this, I put it out of my mind until early 2017.

Does this make me a bad person?  Nah, I don't think so; I mean, if I am a bad person (a status which I will permit others to determine in my stead), there are probably tons of better reasons for it than the fact that I forgot about somebody I don't know having been raped over fifty years ago.  As character flaws go, that doesn't rate.

There's more to it than that, though.

See ... Grace Lee Whitney died in 2015.  This somehow escaped my attention until a few weeks ago.  So not only did I forget about her having been raped, I also forget about her existence sufficiently that that existence was able to come to an end without my taking notice of it.

If I paid no attention to movie and television news, I might write this off as permissible; but I do pay attention to those things, so if Whitney's death passed me by, it's because it didn't really make much of a stir on the day it happened, or the day after.  And as I'm watching these first-season episodes with fresh eyes, it occurs to me that Whitney's death going largely unnoticed would be a thing that has a certain amount of resonance with her tenure on the show: mostly unnoticed by the wider world.

I mentioned in relation to "The Enemy Within" that I always loved Janice Rand as a child watching Star Trek, and always wondered why she wasn't on more episodes.  Well, the short version of the story is that she got unfairly booted off the series.  what could, and perhaps should, have been a role that put her on at least equal footing career-wise with George Takei and Nichelle Nichols and James Doohan (if not DeForest Kelley) instead made her a footnote.  There are things about those actors that I learned which stuck with me over the years: that Takei had been in an internment camp during WWII; that Doohan was missing a finger; that Nichols had been asked to stay on the series by Martin Luther King, Jr.; that Kelley had played the bad guy in a bunch of Westerns.

I knew these things because being a Trekkie, one encountered those bits of knowledge on a semi-frequent basis.

And yet, I managed to forget about Whitney having been raped.

And then managed to not even notice that she died.

To some extent, my lack of awareness is my fault; but to another extent, it's because Whitney was not allowed to stay inside that publicity machine that was/is Star Trek.  She was relegated, quite early on, to outsider status.  It's an oversimplification to say that that was unfair; "unfair" doesn't cut it.

Something in this rewatch I'm undertaking has brought home to me the fact that Whitney really was a major element of the series during the first half of the first season.  I'd noticed that the last time I mounted a rewatch (circa 2009), but had not thought much about it beyond the mere noticing of it.  But this time, I'm freshly aware of the circumstances behind her departure -- of of her account of it, at least -- and I am feeling something about it with each passing episode of which she is a part.

What I'm feeling is a sense of personal responsibility to Grace Lee Whitney.  As I began reading her book, that feeling intensified.  The copy of it I bought was used, and inside, I found this:




Did your eyes see that personalization and get "Bryant" from it?  Mine sure did.  If you think that that momentary, disorienting "personal" connection increased my odd feeling of responsibility to this woman's memory, you'd be correct.

It makes me sad that my copy is one with a personalized autograph; sad that the owner later decided it was so unimportant that he sold it.  (Possibly our man Brant passed away himself, leaving some relative to unload the book on the Internet, cheaply and to the first willing buyer.)  But of all the things that might have then happened to it, it ended up in my hands.  I don't believe in fate.

I do believe in making use of the things that happen to you.  So when I begin feeling a sense that I owe Grace Lee Whitney's memory a bit of care, and then a copy of her autobiography falls into my lap with a personalized autograph that, if I remove my glasses, appears to be made out to ME...?  I don't believe it's a sign, but I do believe it's a good excuse to follow my inclinations.

And so I shall.

We learn that Whitney's birth name was Mary Ann, and that it was her adoptive mother who gave her the name Grace.  She did not learn she was adopted until she was seven years of age, at which point in time her mother sat her down and explained it to her.  "In those few moments," writes Whitney, "my safe, secure world vanished like a vapor.  Suddenly, I didn't know who I was.  I didn't know who my parents were.  I didn't feel I belonged anywhere or to anyone.  I felt I had been set adrift in the dark."  At around the same time, she learned that Santa Claus was not real, and lest it seem ridiculous for the two things to be put side by side, I can tell you from personal experience that that can be a rough moment in a child's life.  Says Whitney, "I began to feel that everything I had ever trusted and believed in was a myth.  I didn't know what was real or what was unreal."  She adds, "And that's why, at a very early age, I ceased to believe in God."

By this point in the book, we are well aware that Whitney is an alcoholic, and has been for the vast majority of her life.  In fact, I believe she might argue that alcoholism -- or the urges that underpin it -- is a sort of birth defect.  Her adoptive father saw her playing with other kids one day when she was nine, and knew something was wrong with her by observing the bossy and controlling way she played with the other kids.  "He didn't know it," says Whitney, "but he was observing the symptoms of my disease.  He was on to my alcoholic tendencies.  The abuse of alcohol is just a symptom of a much deeper disorder -- a disorder that recovering alcoholics call 'self-will-run-riot.' "  she continues, "It doesn't matter what we are addicted to -- alcohol, heroin, cocaine, Valium, tobacco, food, sex -- these are just the outward symptoms.  The real disease is self-will-run-riot.  And self-will-run-riot is really a form of self-centered fear -- fear you won't get something you want, or that you'll lose something you have.  I was full of that fear when I was a child -- and it is never far from me today.  It has taken me 60-some-odd years to get in touch with that fear, to recognize it, to realize that it's self-centered fear that makes me tick.  I've had it all my life."
  
Whitney became sexually active and began drinking around the age of 13 or 14.  "I got my driver's license at 14," she says, "the legal age in Michigan at that time, and began to drive my parents' car.  One day I was driving on Grand River Avenue in Detroit -- a big, wide street with a median strip down the middle.  I had been drinking, and I was out driving the car by myself.  Ahead of me, an older man was standing on the median strip -- and just as I was approaching, he fell in the road, right in front of my car.  I didn't even have time to hit the brakes.  I felt the car bounce as it ran over him.  I looked back, but I didn't stop, didn't even slow down.  I just knew I had killed the man.  I went home and his in the house.  I was certain the police would come knocking on my door any moment -- but they never did.  I was never caught, and I never told anyone at the time.  I suppose there's a chance the man survived -- but in my mind, I was convinced I had just killed a man.  And I probably did."

I could not help but think of a scene in Stephen King's novel The Shining in which Jack Torrance remembers being with a drinking buddy one gin-soaked evening.  The two of them are drunkenly driving down the road when they run over something.  They stop and get out to see what it is and discover a crumpled child-sized bicycle.  No child is evident, and both are haunted by the twin uncertainties of whether there was a child there at all and what happened to him/her if there was.  Whitney's situation seems to have been very different -- she knows there was a person -- but I can see how it would be a thing that would never leave her thoughts.  Of course, if it happened the way she says it happened, then not only was it not her fault, but neither her age nor her lack of sobriety would have had anything to do with it.  But -- and these are my words, not hers -- it seems as if the need to guiltily protect her secret disease caused her to turn into a fugitive when there was really no need for her to do so.  I'm not sure she realized that even by the time she was writing this book.

Whitney goes on to talk about how, at age 14, she went on a search for her birth mother.  It was unsuccessful, and would remain so for the next fifty years.  She did finally find her ... two years after her birth mother's death.  "When I located my birth family," she says, "no one would agree to meet with me or acknowledge me except one cousin and her husband.  She had me autograph a photo for her children, and I felt wonderfully accepted by them.  She and I keep in touch to this day.  The rest of the family, however, didn't want to hear anything about me.  I was in my sixties, I had found my birth family -- and I felt rejected all over again."

If you're beginning to get the feeling that family is a concept that was very important to Grace Lee Whitney, and also one which played a large determining factor in how her disease was expressed, you are on the right track.  She talks about how, as a child, she asked her adoptive mother why she went to seances (a thing she did with her best friend).  Her mother explained, "I go and talk to my real children.  My children who were stillborn are there in heaven, and they talk to me through the medium."  Whitney continues, "One day when I was 13 or 14, my mother came home and showed me five little clear stones, like rough jewels in various colors.  'These are from my real children,' she said.  'They gave me these stones from heaven.' "  Whitney sums this up by saying, "She wanted to believe, so she believed."

Is it any wonder Whitney began drinking at such an early age?

From here, the story of Whitney's early years includes an intense love affair with her then boyfriend, which ended when he got another girl he had been seeing pregnant.  She refused to take him back, and expresses the feeling that this hurt her more than anything else she ever did.  She sees it as a self-destructive act; but personally, I think that the self-destructive act is her seeing it that way.  She characterizes it as being a case of "I'll burn my own house down just to get back at you," but she's the one who was wronged in that scenario.  It makes me sad that she seems to have gone through life feeling that way.  Spoiler alert: it won't be the last time.  "Alcoholics sabotage everything of value in their lives," she sums up.

Including, I would add, the ability to recognize that sometimes, it really IS somebody else's fault.

Whitney's story continues, and eventually includes her own early pregnancy, which was terminated via "coathanger abortion" by her boyfriend's mother's boyfriend.  "After the bleeding and contractions started," she says (meaning "stopped," I think/hope) "Freddie took me to a jazz concert at the Michigan Theater on Woodward in Detroit.  I stood in the back of the theater, watching Sarah Vaughn performing on stage.  It was the same theater where, many, many times before, I had seen Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and other stars.  This night, however, I didn't enjoy the concert.  Standing there, I bled so heavily the blood ran down my legs and into my shoes.  I was so scared, I thought I was going to die.  Finally I told Freddie, 'I have to go home.  I'm too covered with blood.'  I went home and the baby passed out of me in shreds.  It looked like long pieces of raw liver."

Fuck.

The story gets marginally happier when Whitney tells us how she got into the performing arts, pursuing her love of music and, eventually, acting.  "Singing and performing meant more to me than simply providing entertainment for people and receiving their applause," she says.  "Once I learned I was not my parents' biological child, I became desperate to find out who and what I was.  I didn't feel I belonged in my parents' home, so I was desperate to find my own place in the world."

She changed her name from Grace Elaine Whitney to Lee Whitney, embarrassed by how "square and Christian" the name Grace sounded.  She was modeling by day and singing by night, and opened for legendary singer and noted heroin addict Billie Holliday.  She says, "Sometimes I guarded the door to the john while [the guys with the junk] came in with the bag, tied her off, and shot her up."

One thing led to another, and Whitney eventually appears in a burlesque show, which is turned into a movie, in which she also appears.  She meets a Jewish drummer, converts to Judaism, gets married, is unsuccessfully wooed by Howard Hughes (to be specific, by agents on behalf of Howard Hughes), turns down a studio contract with Universal at her husband's insistence, appears on You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx, tours as an understudy in The Pajama Game, has a baby, and understudies Lotte Lenya for Three Penny Opera.

As the chapter ends, she's headed to Los Angeles to audition for a show called Peter Gunn.  One senses that things don't necessarily go her way.

We'll find out next time.

Hopefully you forgive this self-indulgent ode to Grace Lee Whitney, but guys, I can't help feel pangs of remorse for this brassy woman who walks the corridors of the starship Enterprise, batting down unwanted advances like a pro and going about her business because she knows her business.  That must have been a dream come true for Grace Lee Whitney; Janice Rand must have, in some ways, been the version of her that she always wanted to be.

In a way, that version of her is preserved for all time via Star Trek.  But thanks to her early departure, it's a less substantial image than it ought to have been; she's a sketch when she should have been a painting.

I'm enjoying the painting that is The Longest Trek, even though some of it is hard to read.  Hopefully you don't begrudge me the time spent passing it along to you.

We have now reached the time on Sprockets when we check out what James Blish's adaptation was like.




I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying these.  It's fun to get these alternative perspectives on the episodes.

Blish's version of "The Man Trap" appeared in the inaugural volume of his series, which was published in January of 1967, halfway through the first season.  Star Trek (the television series) was still brand-spankin'-new, so much so that two of the episodes represented herein appear under different titles.

"The Man Trap" is one of them, appearing here as "The Unreal McCoy," which is a rad title.  Our experience with Blish's adaptations by now has taught us that his "changes" and "additions" are typically anything but: he's working from the final-draft screenplays, so those deviations are the handiwork of the production and/or post-production processes.  This makes me wonder if at some point, "The Man Trap" was actually titled "The Unreal McCoy."  If so, then I'm surprised that Marc Cushman has no mention of it in his book.  But if not, where did Blish get it?

The cover art on Blish's Star Trek is terrific.  I had a small poster of it at one point in time.  Google informs me that the art is by James Bama, but I cannot swear that that is 100% accurate.  Either way, it's worth giving you a bigger version I found on Pinterest:




Let's also glance at the back cover:




Huh.  Three characters were mentioned, and Yeoman Rand was one of them.  It's almost as if she was designed to be a major character or something...

We're obsessive types around here, so I may as well mention that I have two copies of this book, one of which is slightly different in the title department:





I like both covers, but the one for Star Trek 1 scratches some nostalgic itch for me that Star Trek does not.  Plus, I like the rare occasions when a thing is titled sequel-fashion but with the first iteration ending in a "1."  I'm a little amazed some hipster-bait type movie hasn't tried that.

By the way, check out that back cover.  Does a planet called "La Pig" actually appear in the series?  That rang zero bells with me, so I took to Google to figure out what was up.  Evidently, that was the nickname of the planet in "The Naked Time."  The things you learn...!

"The Unreal McCoy" is really quite different from "The Man Trap" as we know it.  The entire shirt story is told from Kirk's point of view, and I admire Blish's adherence to good prose-sense in that regard.  However, it does mean that certain aspects of the story are almost utterly omitted, and whether this is entirely due to Blish's stylistic decisions or entirely due to screenplay variations, or whether it might be some mix of the two, I cannot say.  I suspect it's a mix in this particular case.

One of the most substantial differences is that we no longer have "Nancy" appearing in three different ways to the Enterprise landing party.  Blish does hint at that being the case -- McCoy still tells Nancy that she hasn't aged ("You ... you haven't aged a year," he says) and Kirk still gets some indulgent amusement out of this, plus McCoy later says he's "not quite trusting my eyes lately" -- but does not go beyond hints.  Surprisingly, this does not particularly harm the story.  Or maybe it does and I'm filling in the blanks with my knowledge of what ought to be there.  Either way, Blish has expertly avoided falling into the trap of trying to represent in prose something that is inherently cinematic.

Other interesting differences:

  • Nancy and Bob Crater are now named Nancy and Bob Bierce.  Interestingly, they are apparently investigating some sort of crater site on the planet (which here is Regulus VIII, not M-113).
  • Kirk is much harder on Darnell for his verbal misstep with Nancy.  "The next thought of that kind you have will probably be in solitary," Kirk threatens.
  • The scene between Spock and Uhura is gone, a casualty of Blish's strict POV adherence.  Also gone: Uhura's scene with the shapeshifter.  Also also gone: Rand and Sulu, both 100% missing.  Uhura does at least get mentioned.
  • McCoy gives Darnell a full autopsy, including removing his brain, which makes Kirk a bit uneasy.  During this scene, Kirk is much more verbally defensive of Darnell, pointing out that he was too seasoned a crewman to do something so stupid as eat a plant he's never seen before.
  • Rather than beam back down to the planet, Kirk orders the Bierces to be beamed up.  So neither Green nor Sturgeon are killed; but they may as well have been, because here, they don't even exist.
  • Kirk orders McCoy to administer "pentathol" (truth serum) to Bob.  This makes the professor quite groggy, and he still has the equivalent of the episode's scene in which he has been phasered and speaks slowly and with difficulty.
  • Kirk is more accusatory toward Bob in the sense of wanting to know whether "Nancy" fulfills other roles for him as well.  "Tell me this," Kirk says stonily: "When it's with you, is it always Nancy?"
  • We find out that the shapeshifter has taken McCoy's place only when Kirk finds out via Spock.
  • Kirk gives Uhura an order that we've never heard before, and will (so far as I know) never hear again.  "Lieutenant Uhura," he says, "make television rounds of all posts and stations.  If you see any person twice in different places, sound the alarm."  In fact, the monitoring capacity of the ship is greatly enhanced here, as we find out a few paragraphs later, when Kirk overrides the intercom system to give himself visual access to what is going on in McCoy's cabin.  None of the Trek series have delved into the topic of security cameras very deeply, and I can understand why.  It's obviously a technically-advanced marvel, but one which makes people very nervous.  It could not be more obvious that the many Trek producers have been much more comfortable simply ignoring the issue.
  • We stay in Kirk's POV so consistently that the confrontation with the shapeshifter fades out when the creature is shot (Kirk having lost consciousness thanks to his proximity to the creature).  Blish does a good job of briefly evoking the sense of what happens, however.  From a sheer standpoint of telling the story through prose, Blish does a very good job with "The Unreal McCoy."
  • Spock's aside about having been spawned in a different ocean is pushed to the final scene, where it serves as a bit of a laugh moment prior to Kirk's musing about the buffalo.

I've enjoyed reading the Blish material each time, but for this particular episode, I enjoyed it very much indeed.  There are plenty of interesting differences, and Blish seems fully engaged with the material in a way that seems perhaps not to have been entirely the case in some of the later books.

And now, leftover screencaps, Blish-enhanced for your enjoyment:


"The crater campsite -- or the Bierce campsite, as the records called it -- on Regulus VIII was the crumbling remains of what might once have been a nested temple, surrounded now by archeological digs, several sheds and a tumble of tools, tarpaulins, and battered artifacts.  Outside the crater proper, the planet was largely barren except for patches of low, thorny vegetation, all the way in any direction to wherever the next crater might be; there were plenty of those, but there'd been no time to investigate them, beyond noting that they had all been inhabited once, unknown millennia ago.  There was nothing uncommon about that; the galaxy was strewn with ruins about which nobody knew anything, there were a hundred such planets for every archeologist who could even dream of scratching such a surface."

"There were only three of them: McCoy and a crewman, Darnell, out of duty, and Kirk, out of curiosity."


"Kirk restrained himself from smiling.

Nancy Bierce was handsome, but nothing extraordinary: a strongly built woman of about forty, moderately graceful, her hair tinged with gray.  It wasn't easy to believe that the hard-bitten medico could have been so smitten, even at thirty or less, as to be unable to see the signs of aging now.  Still, she did have a sweet smile."

"Slightly taller than McCoy, his face was as craggy as his body; the glint in the eyes, Kirk thought, was somehow both intelligent and rather bitter.  But then, Kirk had never pretended to understand the academic type."

"McCoy had finished his checkup with the tricorder and produced a tongue depressor with a small flourish.  'She hasn't changed a bit,' he said.  'Open your mouth, please.'  Reluctantly, Bierce complied.  At the same instant, the air was split by a full-throated shriek of horror.  For an insane moment Kirk had the impression that the sound had issued from Bierce's mouth."

"Just beyond the rim of the crater, Nancy, both fists to her mouth, was standing over the body of Darnell."

"Kirk, feeling no obligation to add one bedside manner more, said evenly, 'How'd you know what the root was if you'd just come within calling distance?' "






" 'Kirk to Transporter Room.  Lock and beam: two transportees and a corpse.' "

"The autopsied body of Darnell lay on a table in the sick bay, unrecognizable now even by his mother, if so veteran a spaceman had ever had one.  Kirk, standing near a communicator panel, watched with a faint physical uneasiness as McCoy lowered Darnell's brain into a shallow bowl and then turned and washed his hands until they were paper-white.  Kirk had seen corpses in every conceivable state of distortion and age in one battle and another, but this clinical bloodiness was not within his experience."



"Kirk had to admire the performance.  What he was seeing was no doubt an alien creature, but its terror was completely convincing.  Quite possibly it was in terror; in any event, the human form conveyed it as directly as a blow."


"The creature, as if hypnotized, took another step forward.  Then, without the slightest warning, there was a hurricane of motion.  Kirk had a brief impression of a blocky body, man-sized but not the least like a man, and of suction-cup tentacles reaching for his face.  Then there was a blast of sound an he fell."



I typically just launch ALL of my leftover screencaps into this section, but a decent number of them were from scenes that Blish omitted.  So, as a post-postscipt, we'll have a gander at those, too.  Why let good screencaps go to waste?













creepy





That one guy looks like he could be James Doohan's shiftless cousin.






































And that, folks, is all she wrote for "The Man Trap."
  
Next time will be naked.

9 comments:

  1. "the final scene makes it plain that this is a series that will call humanity out for its bullshit every so often. Even when its own human characters have engaged in that behavior."

    Indeed. And a fairly common perspective among WW2 vets, actually, now that I think about it. Which I guess makes perfect sense.

    Regarding Spock's remark and your question "from whose perspective," granted Spock is written somewhat inconsistently in this area, as was Trek altogether, but I always take such perspective as simply the baseline attitude of anyone on a ship/ hierarchy of military command. i.e. anything is reckless which priorizes the safety of anything above the life of a crew, but particularly an officer, etc.

    Your analysis of Uhura leaving the turbolift makes sense to me.

    "Fortunately," he says to Kirk, "my ancestors spawned in a different ocean than yours did." I love stuff like this, but it always makes me start asking questions the show/ make believe can't adequately answer. Namely about how such disparate evolution/ blood could possibly produce a half-human, half-Vulcan child, or any interspecies breeding at all, etc. But! Who gives a toss.

    Fascinating stuff from the Justman and Solow book, as always. I've yet to read a single Maizlish anecdote that doesn't make him out to be one of the bonafide villains of the Trekverse.

    There is something very "For sale - baby shoes, never used" sad about acquiring a ominously-personalized memoir from Janice Rand. I don't blame you at all for forming the relationship with the text that you have, nor do I find it egregious in the slightest.

    Another fine Blish section! I love this part of these posts. That list of differences is gold, too, it's fascinating to see these alternate roads Trek might have taken on its way to the finished episodes.

    One of my favorite episodes to think about. I'm very much on the writer-provides-original-story/ the-Genes-send-it-through-their-sex-and-culture-divorce-therapy-midlife-crisis-space-ghost-machine. The finished product: TOS gold.

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    1. That's a good point about Kirk's attitude being one typical of veterans.

      Also a good point about Spock's line being indicative of a military viewpoint. Hmm! Kind of a subtheme brewing underneath that episode, isn't there?

      It does seem like Spock's biological makeup should have been at least partially human, and therefore at least partially useful to the M-113 shapeshifter. Maybe he just tasted gross.

      Yeah, the Blish stuff this episode was especially rewarding. The next episode ("The Naked Time") is also represented in that first book, as is the one after that ("Charlie X"), so I expect the treasure to continue.

      One of the most interesting aspects of this project so far has been the discovery that (A) a LOT of the Trek screenplays (the early ones, at least) received that level of extensive rewriting and (B) that so many people got and stayed butthurt about it. I mean, is that not what television is?!? Decades later, Stephen King was rewritten by Chris Carter. It just doesn't seem to be unusual.

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    2. Not at all, no. Showrunners/ the writing room get the second-to-last say, then the Executive Producer(s). Then the network, I guess. But just saying - plenty of other voices in the chorus!

      Joss Whedon said the writers get treated the best in TV, at least compared to movies. I assume he refers to this sort of thing, at least somewhat. Who knows.

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    3. This reminds me that I need to buy a copy of Harlan Ellison's book about "The City on the Edge of Forever." I used to have one but lost it in a move years ago; it'll be essential reading when time for that post comes around.

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  2. Great post again...do have to disagree with the comment on Doctor Who though. The Doctor always gives the "monster" a chance for redemption, or to leave, or to go quietly. He only kills as a last resort. The only example I can think of in over 50 years is Pertwee shooting an Ogron in cold blood in Day Of The Daleks. Pretty shocking moment actually. Don't think the Ogron even had a gun!

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    1. Good points all. But I'd argue that "Doctor Who" is more likely than "Star Trek" to work in monster-movie mode. Part of its stated appeal is making kiddies hide behind couches and whatnot.

      No offense toward "Doctor Who" was intended, however. It's a titan of a series, and I hope it stays that way. (I have yet to see the most recent Christmas special. Not sure why. I should get on that!)

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    2. The Christmas special was great actually. It was a long time gone this last year. Have you seen the new spin off series Class? It was pretty good and capaldi was in the first episode, really hope there is a second season.

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    3. I was aware that such a thing existed, but did not know it had already aired. Glad to hear it was good!

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    4. It hasn't aired in the US as yet, although should be soon I believe. I bought the UK DVD and shipped here. I heard yesterday it had not been renewed for a second season though! :(

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