Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 18
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Teleplay by Gene L. Coon
Story by Fredric Brown
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 019
Original air date January 19, 1967 (1967-01-19)
Running time 50 minutes (runtime)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Squire of Gothos"
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"Arena" is an episode of the original American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is a first season episode, #18, production #19, first broadcast January 19, 1967, and repeated on July 6, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown,[2] and directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn.

Set in the 23rd century, the series follows the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Federation starship Enterprise. In this episode, while pursuing an unknown enemy for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain unarmed.


On stardate 3045.6, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, commanded by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), arrives at the Cestus III Outpost, where Kirk is invited to a dinner engagement with Commodore Travers, a man renowned for his hospitality and friendship. But upon beaming down to the planet, the landing party, consisting of Captain Kirk, First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) and three tactical officers, Kelowitz, Lang, and O'Herlihy (Grant Woods, James Farley, and Jerry Ayers), find the outpost nearly obliterated. A lone survivor (Tom Troupe) is recovered, and he tells them the outpost came under heavy attack, bombarded by an unknown enemy. Suddenly, the landing team itself comes under fire, and Lang and O'Herlihy are killed.

Simultaneously, in orbit, the Enterprise comes under attack by an alien warship of unknown origin. The Enterprise is forced to energize its tactical deflector shields, which prevents the landing party from returning (as the ship's matter transporters cannot beam through deflector shields). Kirk manages to find the outpost's arsenal and retrieves a photon grenade launcher, which he uses to drive off the alien attackers.

The aliens also break off their orbital attack, giving the Enterprise a moment to drop shields and beam Kirk and the survivors back to the ship. They soon give chase to the alien warship at warp factor 5, leading them into an unexplored sector of space, gradually (and dangerously) increasing speed. The alien craft suddenly slows and Kirk prepares to move in and destroy them. But before he can do so, the Enterprise is scanned and, like the alien ship, suddenly begins to decelerate to a dead stop, incapacitated.

The Enterprise is then contacted by forces who identify themselves as the Metrons (voiced by Vic Perrin), powerful beings who zealously guard themselves against intrusion. The Metrons force Kirk to a "trial by combat", a one-on-one duel with the captain of the alien vessel, identified as the reptilian Gorn (voiced by Ted Cassidy). The purpose of the fight is to solve their dispute, and the loser of the match will be destroyed while the winner goes free.

Before he can even reply, Kirk and the Gorn captain are simultaneously teleported to an unknown desert planet somewhere nearby. The terrain of the planet is harsh and rugged, and the two are completely stranded without communication with their ships. However, the Metrons tell them that the planet's surface has sufficient raw materials to build a weapon. The only things Kirk and the Gorn are equipped with are recording devices, meant to provide a play-by-play commentary on the fight. Kirk begins to chronicle his situation with the device. Unbeknownst to him, the device is sending the translated audio of Kirk's words to his Gorn adversary, who learns not only where Kirk is, but also what he is planning.

The Gorn tracks Kirk down, but the alien's hissing noises alert Kirk that his opponent is coming closer and he prepares an ambush. Kirk manages to push over a large boulder which rolls down an embankment and strikes the Gorn. To Kirk's surprise, however, the alien is unharmed. Kirk observes that the Gorn may be physically strong; however, he moves rather slowly. Kirk makes a run for it, but ends up caught in a rope trap which the Gorn captain has set. He is able to make an escape, but he injures his leg in the process.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Spock and the rest of the bridge crew get a camera view of the action on the bridge monitor courtesy of the Metrons, who believe Kirk will shortly be defeated. Unable to help their captain, all they can do is watch and hope the captain survives.

The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk by using the translation device and offers to put Kirk out of his misery. Kirk accuses the Gorns of being butchers, but the alien defends their attack on Cestus III, stating the outpost had been built in what the Gorns considered to be their territory. They viewed the Federation's presence in this part of space as an intrusion and a possible prelude to full-scale invasion. This exchange prompts the watching Enterprise bridge crew to wonder if the Federation may be in the wrong. McCoy states that the Gorns may have been only trying to protect themselves. Spock concedes the possibility, admitting, "We know very little about that sector of space. That question is best left to diplomats."

Kirk soon discovers that there are plenty of natural resources lying about to craft a weapon. He finds elements needed to make black powder. Then he finds a bamboo-like plant and cuts a portion of the wood to form a makeshift gun barrel. He also finds large, pointed diamonds to use for the projectile.

Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and when the Gorn appears, Kirk fires, taking the Gorn down. Coming to the realization that the Gorn may have been acting in self-defense by destroying the Cestus III outpost, Kirk decides against killing his adversary.

With the duel over, the Gorn disappears and a white-robed Metron (Carole Shelyne) appears to "congratulate" Kirk not only for his victory, but also for displaying the advanced trait of mercy to his enemy. When Kirk turns down the offer to have the Gorns's ship destroyed, the Metron is impressed enough to note, "You are still half savage, but there is hope."

Requesting that Kirk's people seek the Metrons out in a few thousand years, the entity returns the bewildered captain, with his injuries healed, to the Enterprise, which has been returned to a position near Cestus III.


Vasquez Rocks
  • According to an account by Herbert Solow in the book Inside Star Trek, The Real Story,[2] the relation to Brown's story may have been an unconscious inspiration. After Coon had written what he thought was an original script, Desilu's research department, headed by Kellam de Forest, noted the similarity. It was therefore agreed that Desilu's Business Affairs office would call Brown and offer a fair price for the story, before it was shot and broadcast. Brown agreed without knowing that the story had already been written; he was granted screen credit.
  • The episode was filmed in part on location at the Vasquez Rocks, which was subsequently used as a shooting location in other Star Trek episodes and films.[3]
  • William Shatner recalls standing too close to a stage prop explosion during the filming of the episode, causing tinnitus which he has suffered with to this day.[5] Leonard Nimoy was also afflicted; each suffer the condition in opposite ears. Shatner has it in his left ear and Nimoy had it in his right ear.[6]
  • "Arena" was the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast in colour by the BBC when it was first shown in the UK in November 1969.
  • The ability to construct a working weapon out of bamboo and black powder was tested (and found to be implausible) in an episode of the television show MythBusters titled Mini Myth Mayhem.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, noting the episode's influence and noting the use of a theme of Star Trek, the "uncertainty of exploration".[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e ""Star Trek" Arena (1967) - Full cast and crew". IMDb. n.d. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (June 1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. Simon & Schuster. pp. 206–207. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  3. ^ Anthony Pascale (November 24, 2007). "Famous Location To Appear in New Star Trek Movie". Retrieved May 19, 2010. 
  4. ^ Cushman, Marc (2013). These are the Voyages — TOS: Season One. With Susan Osborn. San Diego, California: Jacobs/Brown Press. pp. 402–404. ISBN 9780989238113. LCCN 2013940946. 
  5. ^ "William Shatner speaks about his tinnitus". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Handlen, Zack (March 13, 2009). ""The Squire Of Gothos" / "Arena"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 17, 2009. 

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