Wednesday, August 12, 2009


From Wikipedia:

"Arena" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. 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[1], and directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn. While pursuing an unknown enemy for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain unarmed.

More here.

Another great one. And I mean great. This one's easily on my top ten list, and a viable competitor for best of all time. For starters, it's totally solid, absolutely clicking in terms of the Star Trek formula, no awkwardness, extraordinarily well paced, nothing weird or out of place. You get to see a battle devastated star base. You get to see some high tech Star Fleet ground combat technology. You get to see some red shirts die horrible deaths. You get to see one of the great Star Trek aliens, the lizard like Gorn. You get to see yet another god like and superior race coming in as deus ex machina, the Metrons. You get to see the Enterprise go to warp eight. You get to see Kirk in an extended hand to hand combat sequence, complete with blood and ripped shirt; you get to see Kirk win the fight by constructing a cannon using all natural materials. You get to see some fabulous pre postmodernism when the audience literally joins the crew of the Enterprise while it watches, helplessly, on the bridge screen while their captain fights for his life.

All of the above makes it a really good episode. But what shoots it to the top of the list is Gene Roddenberry's humanistic philosophy.

When Kirk defeats the Gorn, he moves forward to finish him off, but hesitates at the last second. He then chooses not to kill his vanquished foe, declaring, "No, I won't kill you," standing up and shouting to the superior and invisible Metrons, who have arranged the death match, "No I won't kill him! Do you hear? You'll have to get your entertainment someplace else!" When one of the Metrons appears, congratulating Kirk for demonstrating mercy, and speculating that humans might one day equal or surpass them, the Captain is humbled, but happy and encouraged.

I must have first seen this episode when I was four or five, and it is perhaps the single most important lesson I have ever learned: killing, even in battle, is deeply immoral, and is to be avoided in virtually all circumstances; human beings possess greatness, and can become greater still by embracing peace and mercy. Almost everything I believe today has a foundation in the humanism of Gene Roddenberry. I didn't get these ideas from the Bible or school or my family or rock music. I got them from Star Trek. "Arena" may very well be the clearest and most concise expression of that philosophy, and that's why it may very well be the best in the entire series.

Check it out: