The Cage | Charlie X
E2 Star Trek episode guide : Original Series : Season One
The Man Trap
Airdate: September 8, 1966
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Director: Marc Daniels
Regulars: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Yeoman Rand
Others: Nancy Crater...Jeanne Bal
, Francine Pyne
Robert Crater...Alfred Ryder
Crewman Darnell...Michael Zaslow
Crewman Green...Bruce Watson
This is the first episode that TV audiences saw, and reviews were mixed. Fans often deride this episode by referring to it as “The Salt Vampire.” The main objection is to the behavior of Kirk, et al, when faced with an unknown, dangerous creature. In future episodes, Kirk would go to great lengths and risks to prevent the death of misunderstood alien lifeforms, even when they had killed humans, most notably the Horta in Devil in the Dark. Here, they hunt it to extinction, which seems to contradict the Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations ethos expressed throughout later episodes of the series.
Story (with spoilers)
The USS Enterprise stops by Planet M-133 to drop off supplies and give a medical checkup to the planet’s only inhabitants, archeologists Robert and Nancy Crater, who are investigating a long dead civilization. One problem: Nancy Crater is Dr. McCoy’s long lost love, “the one who got away”. Kirk, “Plum” (Nancy’s bizarre nickname for McCoy), and one Crewman Darnell beam down and meet Nancy Crater, but each of them see a different woman. McCoy sees her exactly as he remembers her, as a young woman. Kirk sees an older but still attractive woman. Darnell sees a young blonde he remembers from “Rigley’s Pleasure Planet”. Darnell unwisely points this out and gets kicked outside of the Craters’ hut for his rudeness. But Nancy leaves Kirk and McCoy to fetch her husband and, once outside, has Darnell following her like a lost puppy.
Robert Crater arrives alone and angrily demands Kirk and McCoy leave, asking for no supplies except salt. He relents and agrees to a medical exam, which is interrupted by Nancy’s scream. They find Darnell dead, with strange red rings on his face. A tearful Nancy explains that Darnell had eaten a poisonous native plant. However, back on the Enterprise, an autopsy convinces McCoy that Darnell was not poisoned, and determines that the cause of death is a complete absence of sodium chloride from his body. The Craters’ insistence on renewing their salt supplies makes Kirk suspicious and he beams down to question the them. Kirk and McCoy interrogate Robert Crater while crewmen Green and Stugeon look for Nancy. Robert runs off while Nancy kills both of the crewmen sent to look for her and assumes the form of Green. Kirk, McCoy and Green beam up, intending to locate the Craters with the Enterprise sensors, but Spock can only find Robert Crater on the planet’s surface.
Green roams the corridors in search of salt. He stalks Yeoman Rand for a while, then assumes the form of a Swahili-speaking crewman to confront Uhura before finally finding a snack in the form of a Crewman Barnhart. He reassumes the form of Nancy Crater and and meets Dr. McCoy in his quarters, drawn to him by his potent memories of her. When Rand and Sulu find the crewman’s body, Dr. McCoy is summoned to the bridge. The real Dr. McCoy sleeps soundly while Nancy assumes his form.
Kirk and Spock beam down to fetch Robert Crater. They find Green’s body and realize an intruder is onboard the Enterprise. When Crater is found and subdued, he tells them about a creature native to the planet, the last of its kind, who killed his wife a year or two ago. The creature, who needs salt to survive, assumed the form of his wife and settled into a peaceful coexistence with him.
They return to the ship and plot how to capture the creature, not realizing that it is sitting there in the briefing room as Dr. McCoy. Crater refuses to help them find the creature, so they decide to give him truth serum. But in sick bay, the creature assaults Spock (who, fortunately for him, has inedible blood salts), kills Robert Crater, and escapes with Spock’s phaser. The creature returns to Dr. McCoy’s quarters, reassumes Nancy’s form, and pleads with him to help her. Kirk shows up and tempts her with salt tablets, but the creature tries to suck the salt out of him too. Then Spock begins wailing on her with his Vulcan strength, but she bitchslaps him. (Yes, she does, I swear!) Through all this, McCoy refuses to believe that the creature is not the real Nancy Crater, but finally phasers it to death to prevent it from sucking on Kirk’s face
Propmaster Irving Feinberg looked all over LA to find the most futuristic-looking salt shakers he could find, but Gene Roddenberry rejected the bizarre-looking chrome shakers (liveforever tells me that the shakers were of dernier cri-type Danish design) fearing that audiences wouldn’t figure out what they were. Instead, the salt shakers spent three years in Dr. McCoy’s sick bay as medical instruments.