Episode number: 18th episode aired, 20th episode produced
Written by: Gene L Coon, Star Trek producer and hated by the NAACP, based on a 1944 story of the same title by scifi writer Fredric Brown (apparently accidentally; Coon didn’t mean to rip off Brown’s story)
Directed by: Joseph Pevney, who directed probably the best original series episodes, including City on the Edge of Forever and Amok Time
Captain’s Log: There was a porn series called Sex Trek that tried, for at least a
while, to match the episodes of the original Star Trek (ie, they had
one called Where No Man Has Cum Before). I don’t know if they’re still
making these parodic porns, but if they ever did get up to episode 18,
Arena (Are In Ya? Ass in Ya?), they would have some ready made porn
humor: Kirk, Spock, McCoy and a bunch of guys just itching to get
killed off are about to beam down to the colony of Cestus III. See, you
could make that Incestus III! This stuff writes itself. Anyway, the
away team is getting ready to beam on down, and they’re talking about
Commodore Travers, who is the honcho of Sexus III (there’s another one.
Take it for free. My gift to you, the people of porn who have given me
so much) and what a dope spread he always has laid out. My man is a
gourmand, you see, and he has a personal chef. In one of the best
exchanges ever in Star Trek, Kirk say ‘Rank hath its privileges!’ and
McCoy, with the creepiest, sleaziest look on his face, says ‘How we
both know that.’
It seems to me that this line opens a whole new
possible word of slashfic. Why are we getting so hung up on Kirk and
Spock doing it when we could be writing UseNet stories about Kirk and
McCoy having their way with red miniskirted cadets? At the same time?
Imagine Kirk and McCoy doing the Eiffel Tower over Yeoman Rand’s milky
white back*, Jim looking deep into Bones’ eyes as he pumps wave after
wave of hot, captainy sperm into Janice’s supple, suckling mouth.
Excuse me. Anyway, they’re talking about good eats and Spock is all
sorts of disapproving. He accuses McCoy of being a sensualist, and
McCoy says ‘You bet your pointed ears I am!’
Another little trip
off the path here, if I may. Why does no one bring McCoy in for
harrassment? This is really beyond the pale – you pointy eared so and
so, you green blooded muckety muck. Does Starfleet have no regulations?
Does he go up to Sulu and say ‘You bet your squinty eyes!’ or to Uhura
and say ‘You bet your nappy black hair!’? I imagine he doesn’t. Fuck
slashfic, let’s write some workplacefic, where Kirk has to sit McCoy
down and talk about his out of control racism. When McCoy refuses to
apologize to Spock, Kirk bends the doctor over and begins spanking his
aged yellowy ass. Yeoman Janice Rand walks in and gets her miniskirt
caught in the automatic door, tearing her clothes off and…
Okay. Let’s get back to the show. The landing party beams down and
discovers that there won’t be any meal today: Insectus III has been
blowed up, but good. Days before, in fact. Which means that the message
Kirk got from Commodore Travers was faked by whoever blew up the base
(and since the message has Travers calling Kirk ‘Jim’ it’s a pretty
weird thing that the show never actually gets into), and that this was
all a trap. If only Admiral Ackbar was in this franchise the entire
episode could have been avoided.
Spock gets life readings, so
they go investigate. It’s a dude in a white shirt who, judging by
what’s on his face, was in an industrial Silly Putty accident. Mufucker
is dealing with lots of radiation poisoning, and he’ll be dead in a
half hour unless they do something about it. While they’re talking
about how fuxored this dude is, Spock picks up more life readings. But
they’re not human. They’re cold blooded. Is it possible that your
ex-girlfriend is responsible for this attack?
Kirk sends a dude
to check it out… and it’s a red shirt! Finally! The red shirt meme
has just not been all that present in the first 17 episodes of Star
Trek, so when this cracka ass cracka gets disintigrated, everybody lets
out a big cheer. Red Shirt Death in the hizzouse!
that’s not bad enough, the landing party starts getting shelled from
what appears to be the hills of Burbank. Kirk calls up to the ship, but
they are shit out of luck – an alien vessel is attacking the
Enterprise, and with their shields up (although Sulu keeps calling them
screens, like they exist to keep flies out of your house on summer
days), the away team cannot be beamed up. Spock says that the situation
is looking real grim, as they’re completely outnumbered. Kirk,
remembered how in twenty five years it will be said that he cheated at
the Kobiyashi Maru and that he hates no-win situations, says that
they’ll make do.
How will they make do? Kirk begins an elaborate
series of barrel rolls and weird crawling on his elbow maneuvers in an
attempt to get to the armory of the destroyed base. He stops halfwat to
phone home; things are not going well up in space, and Kirk orders Sulu
to get his woman, the Enterprise, out of there. Sulu is like, ‘Dude,
you’re gonna get killed down there,’ and Kirk is all, ‘Don’t worry
about me, save my ship!’
Meanwhile, Spock sees that Kirk’s
current strategy is standing in the middle of a clearing, talking on a
radio device that can be triangulated. He runs over to warn the captain
that maybe getting out of the middle of the Cestus III public square
would be a good idea, almost getting hisself shelled for his efforts.
When he gets there, the aliens hilariously turn his tricorder into a
bomb, which he tosses off screen.
While all of this mishigoss
has been happening, Kirk has found himself a photon mortar, and he lobs
a photon shell into the Burbank Hills, just left of where the PF Changs
is. There’s a big flash of light, and it turns out that Spock’s math is
better than the aliens, since the blast has spooked them off. They beam
up off planet; Kirk orders a search party beamed down to check for
Cestus III survivors and then he gets on his ship and orders immediate
pursuit of these alien cocksuckers.
As the Enterprise follows
the aliens to an unexplored part of the universe, the dying white shirt
guy tells Kirk that the base saw a ship coming in on their sensors, and
the bad guys knocked out their phaser banks first thing. Cestus was
taken by surprise because they didn’t have anything of value. The
colonists – who had women and children hanging around, as those useless
types are wont to do – tried to surrender, but the aliens would have
none of it and just kept on fucking them up.
Kirk is furious
about this. He says it’s the opening salvo of an invasion, and Spock is
like ‘But how do you know’ and Kirk is like ‘AAAAARGH I WILL FUCK YOU
RIGHT IN THE MOUTH I AM SO MAD AT THIS SHIT’ and even Spock’s Vulcan
logic can’t surmount that line of thinking. The first officer says that
if this is an invasion, they must make sure the alien ship never
reaches its home base.
Kirk is so worked up about this that he
orders Sulu to take the ship to Warp Factor 8, which makes everybody
all nervous. Apparently Warp Factor 8 is faster than they should be
going, and if they go too long at that speed they’ll blow up. Somewhere
Ralph Nader weeps, declaring the Enterprise unsafe at any speed.
Anyway, Kirk doesn’t care. He’d rather blow up with his ship than…
well, then live to warn everybody else that an invasion is happening, I
By now the alien ship has really taken the Enterprise
off into hicksville (which is a real place in Long Island. Fuck Long
Island, by the way), and nobody knows where the heck they are. Then
Uhura notices that some sort of scanning beam is coming from a nearby
solar system. It’s not overtly hostile, but it’s scanning them like a
kiddie toucher scans the monkey bars, if you know what I mean. While
everybody is wondering who the heck is scanning the ship, the alien
craft slows down, and then stops. Kirk thinks it’s coming around to
attack, but it’s just dead in space. And then the Enterprise starts
slowing down, until it too is motionless. Engines are dead, as are
weapons, but all life support functions remain operational.
then it becomes clear – the scanning was from a nearby race of aliens
called the Metrons. They present themselves by taking over the bridge’s
main display and turning it into a Microsoft Media Center
visualization. The Metrons want both of these asshole races off their
lawn, and don’t appreciate them bringing conflict to the Metron sector
of space. The race decides that the disagreement will be settled in the
most civilized way possible – a mano y mano brawl to the bloody,
painful death. Er… okay, Metrons. Whatever you say.
They make Kirk and the
captain of the other ship – the race is identified by the Metrons as
the Gorn – disappear and reappear on a nearby planet. They say that the
planet has all of the resources necessary to make one captain,
whichever has the most skill, smarts and contractual obligations to
appear in future episodes of Star Trek, the winner. When Kirk appears
on the planetary surface he’s shocked to see that his opponent, the
Gorn captain, is a big ass lizardman in a gold lamé one piece dress.
Horrified by the notion that space lizards crossdress, Kirk is slow on
the uptake as the Gorn wastes no time in running to a nearby tree and
pulling down a huge branch, most likely with the thought that he’s
going to pummel Kirk with it. Our captain runs to his own conveniently
placed tree and spends like a minute trying to pry something off and
ends up with a twig. It looks like Kirk wants to roast marshmellows
with his opponent.
The two enter deadly combat! Deadly combat that looks like it was shot
at the bottom of a pool, since the guy in the big foam rubber Gorn suit
might as well be moving in slow motion. It’s actually hilarious to see
Kirk gingerly delivering two-handed punches to this monster and then
slowly miming a dodge away from the Gorn’s retaliation. You’ve heard of
combat as ballet? This is combat as a line dance.
Eventually this becomes too ridiculous even for a 60s television
series, so Kirk runs off. When he puts some distance between himself
and the lumbering Gorn (whose paint is already chipping at joints. Oh
the wonders of watching old shows at definitions beyond the original
filmmaker’s wildest dreams. Hey there, balsawood bridge doors!), he
starts narrating into this recording device that the Metrons gave him.
He does the full Blair Witch thing, a whole ‘Whoever finds this let it
be known I was killed by a stunt man suffering from heat stroke in a
costume that has cheese graters for eyes’ monologue. He remembers that
the Metrons said that the planet would give him all he needed to beat
his enemy, but he sees nothing but diamonds around him, and no Orthodox
Jews to whom he can sell them.
In the middle of his monologuing, Kirk hears the rasping, gurgling,
phlegmy sound of the Gorn captain’s attempts to breathe. It’s sort of
sad to listen to the guy; you’d think a lizard would thrive in a desert
environment, but this dude sounds like he has the worst case of asthma
ever. As Kirk formulates a plan to steal the Gorn’s inhaler (sucks to
your assmar!), he comes up with a new solution.
The Gorn is at the bottom of a hill, whittling or carving his name in a
rock or something. It’s unclear, but he’s wheezing to beat the band.
Inspired by his academic studies of ancient docutapes, especially the
bloody and frightful records of the Great Roadrunner/Coyote Wars of the
late 20th century, Kirk decides to drop a big fucking boulder on the
Gorn’s head. This works (aided and abetted by an editor who puts
together a truly hilarious reaction shot of the Gorn looking at the
offscreen boulder, followed by a cut to Kirk, 100 feet above, having
puffs of dust dirty his boots) and Kirk thinks it’s all over. But not
so fast! That lizard is tough to kill (unlike my own iguana, Huey, who
froze to death in the bathroom of my Brooklyn apartment. Kirk should
have really just forgot to turn on the Gorn’s heat lamp), and he shrugs
off what would have been a fatal bouldering for you or I. Things look
hairy when Kirk gets caught in a trap the Gorn set (he gets wonked by a
smaller boulder that smooshes his hips), but as the lizardman is about
to deliver his excruciatingly slow death blow, Kirk escapes and hobbles
away. Even with a smashed pelvis Kirk easily gets away from this
Back on the bridge McCoy is being a total dick, demanding that Spock
help Kirk. Spock is like ‘Guy, I don’t know even know where the fuck he
got off to. Space is big and the Metrons are yet another in a long
series of aliens we encounter who embody that Arthur C Clarke quote
about advanced science looking like magic and/or lazy writing.’ But
fret not, crew! The Metrons realize this contest of wills could be a
big ratings winner, so they broadcast it on the ship’s monitor.
It’s at this point that you realize we’re one Jeff Probst away from a
particularly good final challenge on Survivor. Forget building a fire
or breaking tiles or constructing a puzzle – have the sides build
cannons that will shoot diamonds at the other tribe!
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Kirk is resting up when the Gorn
starts talking to him through what Kirk thought was a recorder. It’s a
universal translator! The Gorn heard Kirk whining the whole time – no
wonder he really wanted to kill our captain. The Gorn says that if Kirk
stops running, his end will be quick and merciful. ‘Like those on
Cestus III?’ Kirk says, all indignant, and then the Gorn is like ‘What
the fuck, dude. Y’all were invading OUR space.’
Back on the Enterprise McCoy is horrified by the dumb moral lesson of
this episode. ‘What if we’re the bad guys,’ he wonders, as a lone
Indian cries in the background. Except you’re not, Bones – even if you
set up your base on their planet, they showed up and fucking murdered
everybody. By this morality I should be filling Jehova’s Witnesses with
buckshot every Sunday morning for being on my doorstep. Well, I should be doing that anyway, but
you get the point.
Back on the planet, Kirk figures out what the Metrons were talking
about. There’s all the diamonds, and then there’s a whole bunch of
colored dust, and Kirk remembers the formula for gunpowder (Spock
figured this out a whole commercial break or so earlier, just by
watching it on TV. You don’t want to watch Jeopardy with this guy. No
fun at all). So Kirk begins constructing a rudimenatry lathe.
As the Gorn gets closer, Kirk finally has his weapon ready. It’s a
cannon made from bamboo; shit looks like Pier One went into the
Army/Navy business. The Gorn gets close and Kirk shoots him right in
the chest with a full barrel of fucking DIAMONDS. I’m surprised some
bling obsessed rapper hasn’t stolen this idea already. And if this was
an 80s action movie, Kirk would have said ‘You’ve been… iced!’ or
‘Diamonds lacerate forever!’
The Gorn lays on the ground, really wheezing this time, his chest
filled with precious stones. Kirk lifts a stone dagger the Gorn has
made over his head and is about to kill the beast but then decides he
won’t. He’s going to spare the bad guy!
The Metron shows up, and Kirk is shocked. The Metron claims to be 1,500
years old but looks like a boy. A twink boy you might see wandering the
streets of West Hollywood. He’s dressed in a toga and shit, and I’ve
totally seen dudes dressed like that on Saturday nights in WeHo, taking
massive hits of amyl nitrate**. The Metron is pretty impressed – he
thought for sure that Kirk would kill the Gorn. Since the humans have
shown mercy and compassion, the Metron says that they may be just a few
centuries from actually hanging out with us. Then he teleports Kirk
back to the Enterprise, shoves the Enterprise 500 parsecs away and
everything is just okay and nobody important died anyway.
since both Grace Lee Whitney and DeForrest Kelly were prostitutes in
later life, you could have probably acheived this dream if you had a
couple of Ben Franklins on your person.
** is this still a thing gay people do when they’re partying? I’m
making my broad based stereotype jokes based on possibly outdated
Review: While Squire of Gothos was the epitome of shitty, boring Star Trek, Arena is iconic in another way. This is one of the ass-kickingest episodes of any of the Treks, and features one of the ultimate Trek shooting locations – Vasquez Rocks, outside of Los Angeles – one of the cooler alien designs (even though modern eyes see the Gorn as a hyper cheesy foam rubber Godzooki looking dude, at the time he was the ultimate in space beastery. Every kid of the era had space adventures in their back yard featuring some Gorn-esque alien, I wager). It’s also one of the most action-packed episodes in the series. There’s very little trademark Star Trek fucking around on the bridge or gobbledygook going on here – it’s all an excuse to have Kirk fight a giant lizard man.
While the episode is almost extraordinarily dated – even the lowest budget SciFi Channel shows can engage in more varied action these days – and while I find the moral center laughable (seriously, the Gorn way overreacted. They are the bad guys, no ifs and or buts, but I appreciate the ballsiness of this message during America’s Imperial Age), this episode really takes the standard Trek high-mindedness and attaches it to excellent two-fisted action. Arena holds up on most levels and delivers great science fiction action fun.
Kirkin’ Out: Oh man, where to start? Kirk gets to do so much action this episode; I’m tempted to give it to the barrel rolls and elbow crawls, but I think the real Kirkin’ Out moment is when he grasps his hands in that trademark double-fist punch and slowly hits the Gorn in the small of the back. You can almost hear the stunt man say ‘Ah, my sciatica!’
Spockmarks: When Kirk shows up on the view screen, Spock immediately notes the dust around him. When McCoy asks him what’s up, Spock says something like ‘Maybe nothing…. maybe everything’ or whatever. In any case, this is a moment that marks Spock as a guy who probably talks through movies, wondering aloud why the hero doesn’t go through that door, or why the heroine hasn’t secured the window. Keep it down, you pointy eared jerk!
Redshirt: Huzzah! There’s an actual red shirt death, and he gets disintigrated, just to make it more fun. There are a couple of blue shirts also killed on Cestus III, but nobody cares. I’m not sure if Silly Putty radiation man pulls through.
Dilithium Bullshit: The Metrons are super magic. They can stop the Enterprise with an unknown force and can teleport people and entire starships ludicrous distances. Warp 8 is introduced as the equivelent of going on the Autobahn in a Yugo.
Staff of the Week: McCoy manages to be creepy and essentially useless in this episode. His outburst at Spock on the bridge, demanding that they find Kirk when all reason indicates it’s impossible, is a perfect McCoy moment. My man is all emotion and not a shred of logic.
Continerdity: Amazingly, the Gorn do not recur until Enterprise. I’m not really sure why, especially because the Mego toy release of the Gorn (just a repainted Marvel Superheroes Lizard), etched the character in the minds of the next generation to discover Trek after it got canceled. I imagine there will be a Gorn at some point in the new film series – they’ve already worked in green bitches. Vasquez Rocks were used in a number of Trek episodes, but Arena is what they’re best known for. In the original script, it was revealed that the Metrons were going to destroy the ship of the winner, for that race must have been most savage. That was cut from the episode, but was in James Blish’s novelization. Arena marks the first episode to have someone talking about the Federation.
Set Phasers to Quote: “Grr! Slurgh, gasp, ralgharch achthsh!” – Gorn Captain
Five Positive Baby Clint Howards Out of Five