The Man Trap

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"The Man Trap"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by Marc Daniels
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 6
Original air date September 8, 1966 (1966-09-08)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Cage"
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"Charlie X"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Man Trap" is a first season episode of the science fiction television series, Star Trek. In this episode, an illusory, shapeshifting, salt-hungry creature terrorizes the crew of the Enterprise. It originally aired on September 8, 1966, and was the first episode to be shown on NBC. It was written by George Clayton Johnson and directed by Marc Daniels.

Although it was the first aired, it was not the first produced (the pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and several regular episodes had been produced before it). The current official timeline considers "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to be set first.


The starship Enterprise arrives at planet M-113 for medical exams of Professor Robert Crater and his wife Nancy. Captain Kirk, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Crewman Darnell beam down, and Kirk teases McCoy about his affection for Nancy Crater ten years ago. Nancy arrives, and each of the three men see her differently: McCoy as she was ten years before, Kirk as she should look age-wise, and Darnell as a totally different, attractive younger woman. Kirk sends the dazed Darnell outside and when Nancy goes out to fetch her husband, she beckons Darnell to follow her.

Professor Crater arrives and doesn't appear happy to see them, telling them that all they really need are more salt tablets to help them cope with the planet's arid climate. Kirk orders Crater to have a medical exam, but before McCoy can complete the procedure, they hear a scream from outside. They find Darnell dead, with red ring-like mottling on his face. There's a plant root in his mouth and Nancy says she saw Darnell taste the plant and she couldn't stop him.

On board, Spock analyzes the plant, the Borgia root, and confirms that it's poisonous, but skin mottling is not a usual symptom. McCoy conducts the initial exam, but can't find any cause of death. Kirk and McCoy compare notes on Nancy, and McCoy admits he might have been seeing her the way he imagined her from ten years ago.

McCoy and Spock determine that Darnell died from having all salt drained from his body. Kirk beams back down to the planet with McCoy and two crewmen, Green and Sturgeon. They spread out to search, but Crater slips away. Kirk and McCoy find Sturgeon's body, unaware that Green is dead too. Nancy changes shape turning into a duplicate of Green, who meets with Kirk and McCoy, and they beam back up to the ship to conduct a search from orbit.

"Green" roams the halls, first following yeoman Rand, who is carrying a food tray with a salt shaker on it. After assuming the identity of a different person, he then tries to seduce and attack Lt. Uhura, who escapes.

In his quarters, McCoy is trying to sleep. Spock confirms that scans show only one person, Crater, on the planet, and they beam down to capture the professor. "Nancy" assumes her female form, goes to McCoy's quarters, and seems reassured by the fact he has strong memories of her. Nearby, Sulu and Rand find a dead crewman with the red mottling.

McCoy is asleep, so "Nancy" takes on his form and goes to the bridge. On M-113, Kirk and Spock find Green's body and realize an imposter is on board. They find Crater, who tries to frighten them off with phaser fire. They stun him, and the dazed Crater says that his real wife died a year ago, killed by the creature, which is the last member of a long-dead civilization of shape-shifters who feed on salt; the creature still appears to him as Nancy out of affection, and he's been feeding it. Kirk informs the ship of the creature's intrusion.

Kirk calls a meeting with Crater, McCoy and Spock, but unaware that "McCoy" isn't the true McCoy. "McCoy" suggests they try to deal with the creature peacefully. Kirk prefers to eliminate the predator and insists that Crater help identify it. Crater refuses, so Kirk orders McCoy to administer truth serum. They go to sickbay, and a suspicious Spock insists on going with them. The alert goes off, and Kirk arrives in sickbay to find an injured Spock. Crater is dead, killed by the creature, but Spock's Vulcan blood made him incompatible with the creature's needs.

Back in her "Nancy" form, the creature goes to McCoy's quarters and asks him for help. Kirk arrives with a phaser and a handful of salt and tries to entice the creature into attacking. McCoy refuses to believe Nancy is false and gets in the way, giving the creature the opportunity to attack Kirk. It hypnotizes him and prepares to feed off of him while McCoy holds the phaser, indecisive. Spock arrives and tries to use his superior strength against the creature, but it knocks him to the floor. McCoy finally realizes the creature isn't Nancy. The creature reverts to its true alien appearance and starts to feed on Kirk. McCoy opens fire with his phaser and breaks the creature's grip on Kirk. Although it changes back into the shape of "Nancy" to plead with McCoy for its life, the doctor continues firing and kills it.

As the Enterprise leaves orbit, Kirk comments, with a degree of compassion, on the fact this creature - the last of his kind - was probably not inherently evil, but more simply desperate.


For a while during production, the episode was known as "The Unreal McCoy" — a name which refers to the M-113 creature taking the form of Dr. McCoy. This title survived in the James Blish adaptation of the episode for Bantam Books. Johnson himself called his original story outline "Damsel With a Dulcimer".[citation needed]

In the book Inside Star Trek The Real Story, producer Robert Justman recalled feeling that showing the "The Naked Time" as the first episode of the series would have made it easier for viewers to understand the characters. He suspected that NBC chose "The Man Trap" as it was "scarier and more exploitable than the others". However Justman later agreed with NBC's decision.[1]


Daily Variety columnist Jack Hellman gave the episode an unfavorable review, stating, "Not conducive to its popularity is the lack of meaningful cast leads. They move around with directorial precision with only violence to provide the excitement."[2]

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club was more favorable and gave the episode an "A-" rating, describing the episode as "done very well" with a plot that is dark and ambiguous.[3]


  1. ^ Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. p. 163. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  2. ^ Solow, Justman, 1997. p. 265
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack (January 16, 2009). ""The Man Trap"/"Charlie X"/"The Naked Time"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 


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  • Block, Paula M.; Erdmann, Terry J. (2010). Star Trek: The Original Series 365. New York: Abrams. ISBN 9780810991729. 
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  • Shatner, William (1993). Star Trek Memories. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 978-0060177348. 
  • Solow, Herbert F.; Justman, Robert H. (1996). Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0671896287. 

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