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"Star Trek: Arena (#1.18)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Star Trek" Arena (1967)

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Kirk's instinctive revulsion to Reptiles

9/10
Author: Bogmeister from United States
10 July 2006

This is the one with Kirk battling a captain of an enemy ship; this other captain happens to resemble a man-like lizard. He or it hisses at Kirk and even speaks, promising a quick, merciful death - it certainly feels cold-blooded. It's based on a fairly famous short story by sf author Fredric Brown, though Gene Coon conceived the piece thinking it was original. That's because it's such a primal, simple plot which almost any writer could come up with: the essence of warfare is distilled down to the most basics of just two individuals, who go at it mano-a-mano (see also the TV Movie from 1970, "The Challenge"). Though this episode is one of Trek's best action stories, it's also a commentary on the needlessly huge casualties which occur during a war: why sacrifice thousands of individuals when an issue could be solved by the death of just one? This story kind of points out that maybe our nations, instead of engaging in traditional war, should just send our best soldiers or leaders; let them fight it out, thereby saving many other lives. It sounds pragmatic, or maybe too clinical; either way, when it becomes as personal as it does here, the results may not be as expected.

The episode begins at a shattered Federation outpost. The Enterprise was called over to the planet by a bogus call. There's some impressive set design here for a TV show; the outpost, though wrecked, still looks neat, with vaguely Roman-like architecture (catch those two globules at the entrance, representing symbols of the Federation). This episode also touches on a concept not addressed much in all the Trek shows: the possible intrusion by the expanding Federation into another civilization's space. Suppose we find a planet with no intelligent life; we begin colonization; then, several months later, we find out another society has laid claim to this region of space a year earlier. What happens now? The answer suggested here by Spock is - bring on the diplomats. In the 3rd act, everything shifts to an asteroid, where Kirk meets his deadly-looking opponent - the sudden shot introducing the Gorn still sends shivers down my spine, even if it is a man in a suit. The Gorn was revamped much later on the "Enterprise" show with computer FX, but I still prefer this slow-moving version. Kirk can outrun the Gorn, but the lizard-man is much stronger; it's an interesting contest. Kirk's solution in finding a method of killing the stronger enemy is a bit too pat, but nonetheless exciting.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Kirk vs. a giant lizard

10/10
Author: Max_cinefilo89 from Italy
18 June 2009

Although it may seem like a silly story on the surface (in essence, Kirk fights against a man-sized reptile), Arena is actually one of the best Star Trek episodes, being an insightful critique on the unnecessary casualties of war.

The episode begins with the destruction of a Federation outpost, which prompts Kirk to go after the alien attacker and destroy him at all costs. During the pursuit, the Enterprise is seized by more powerful beings who send Kirk to a desert planet so that he can face his adversary: the reptilian Gorn. Whoever wins the duel will be set free; the loser will be destroyed, along with his ship and crew. Given the Gorn is much stronger than Kirk, the latter has to come up with an inventive strategy to survive.

Of the many examinations of the futility of war that Star Trek has offered, Arena is undoubtedly one of the more interesting ones, all because of its central idea: the preconception that all conflicts must end with the total annihilation of one of the two conflicting sides. The episode's presentation of the villain also plays on man's natural fear of all things unknown or different, making for 45 minutes of intelligence and tension that still resonate four decades on (despite the fact that the Gorn is obviously a stuntman in a suit).

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18 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Not one of the first seasons finer moments

5/10
Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
24 March 2007

I enjoyed this episode much more when I was a kid, growing up on Star Trek.

The episode that brought us the memorable fight between Kirk and a 6' tall scaled down version of Godzilla (The Gorn Captain) is not one of the better thought-out first season episodes. It starts out strong - somebody has completely destroyed a federation outpost and Enterprise detects an alien vessel while the landing party is stuck on the surface. A brief engagement is followed by a long pursuit, as Kirk's desire for revenge mounts. Finally, both ships are stopped by yet another omnipotent advanced culture, The omnipotent alien power (The Metrons) exsplain that violence is not tolerated in their system and that the Gorn and Star Fleet are therefore unwelcome. And Kirk and his counterpart on the Gorn ship are transported to a planet to settle their dispute with hand-to-hand combat. To the victor goes life. To the loser - death for the entire crew. The Metrons have apparently adopted pacifism, but have no qualms about hypocrisy. Kirk's character is also somewhat inconsistent throughout this episode. The Gorn's lizard body suit is pretty cool looking, but his costume, as well as that of the Metron is straight out of Flash Gordon. Despite its high rating among some fans, I consider this episode somewhat dispensable.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good, if simplistic, with one flaw

6/10
Author: intp from United States
3 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I thought this was a good, if simplistic episode, with one major flaw.

The set-up is good: Kirk comes across a Federation outpost in the outskirts of known space, where an alien race has massacred everyone except for one survivor who confirms their brutality. Kirk decides to seek vengeance, pursuing the alien ship. They come within range of some advanced civilization (the "Metrons") that deems both sides "uncivilized" and has Kirk and the captain of the other ship (the race is Gorn, a reptilian species of great strength, but slow moving) to fight it out on a nearby planet or asteroid; the winner is to be allowed to leave; the loser will be killed and his ship destroyed.

The episode consists primarily of Kirk figuring out how to build a viable weapon with the limited resources on the planet surface, while being pursued by a more powerful, but slow moving, enemy. Predictably, Kirk eventually triumphs after a long and difficult struggle, and has the Gorn captain at his mercy. But he declines to kill him. The aliens are impressed that humans have the 'advanced' trait of mercy and so allow them to leave.

Okay, so the message was simplistic enough, but not a bad one-- the Gorn may have attacked the Federation outpost because they viewed it as an incursion on their own space; Kirk perhaps shouldn't have jumped to conclusions but should have attempted negotiations out of respect for other sentient life forms. I'm not 100% convinced that the Gorn's excuse was sufficient or valid, but there was at least an argument that could be made that Kirk shouldn't have immediately leaped to violence as the solution.

The flaw comes from the fact that the Metrons were utter hypocrites-- willing to utterly destroy one of the two ships for having the 'nerve' to commit violence in their vicinity. Umm, how is that any different from just letting them fight it out? Shouldn't the Metrons have just neutralized the conflict and transported both antagonists far out of their space, and from each other, if they were going to intervene at all? Otherwise, why even interfere, since they were going to destroy one of the ships anyway? Even at the end, the Metron who speaks to Kirk offers him the chance to destroy the Gorn ship, which he declines to do.

I agree that the Metrons are worth negotiating with in the future-- but only because of their vastly superior technology, not because of their lofty ethics. Their 'morals' seem no more upright than those of the Federation.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Hilarious...

Author: Pussytiddy from Wednesbury, England.
11 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one episode I'll watch over and over because of the hilarious fight scenes between Kirk and the Gorn. Wrestling commentator Kent Walton used to make a lot of 'speed and agility'...well I wonder what he would've made of the Gorn!! Telegraphing his punches? He was using carrier pigeons.

The actual storyline is a bit daft because the Gorns want the human 'invaders' off 'their planet' Cestus 3, yet they lure more humans there with a fake distress signal. This heralds the chase to the death where the Metrons intercede. Not a brilliant entry to the Star Trek legend, but the scenes on the asteroid are a laugh with the breathless lizard throwing huge polystyrene boulders at Kirk. Then later, Kirk's at the top of a cliff where there's a boulder waiting on the edge (that's straight out of The Roadrunner Vs Wile E Coyote!)...our poor giant lizard is industriously making a man trap below and Kirk looks at the boulder...then at the Gorn...and I feel for the Gorn just like I do for the poor Coyote because we know what's coming...poor bugger!

This isn't really a classic episode, but an unintentionally very funny one.

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excellent episode but too many misunderstand the Metrons

9/10
Author: CineMage
12 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Enough people have described this episode already that there is no reason for me to go through its storyline again.

In some ways, the clunky costume of the Gorn works better for the purposes of this story than would some of the more "realistic" designs in modern CGI. Accepting its flaws for the sake of the story encourages the viewer to enjoy the episode at a heightened level rather than at a dully literalist level, appropriate for a 1960s SF episode that doubles as a fable.

The Metrons and the Organians are two of the best evocations of godlike races found in Classic Trek episodes (with Trelane coming in an uncertain but respectable third), though many commentators here seem to misunderstand them.

The Metrons (said to be named after Metatron, the Voice of God in Judaeo-Christian tradition) appear at a superficial glance to be irrational and hypocritical: they tell Kirk & Company and the Gorns that they will not be allowed to fight and kill in Metron space only to place the respective captains in an arena to fight to the death with the threat that the loser's ship and crew will be destroyed. Near story's end, Kirk meets one of the seraphic Metrons, who then offers to destroy the Gorn Captain and his ship.

But it is clear with any second glance that the Metrons already knew what would happen. The arena functions less as a battleground and more as a "secret test of character" (a common enough trope in the various Star Trek series over the decades). The Metrons are no hypocrites: their actions and Kirk's response only make sense if they know from the start what will happen (just as the Organians knew the future in a different episode), and the Metrons use this opportunity to teach (test) Kirk about mercy and empathy and, presumably, teach the Gorns about what it is like to be shown such mercy and empathy.

For one thing, the raw materials for a gunpowder cannon have clearly been placed where they could be found in a condition in which they could be easily used by anyone with the cunning and verve to do so.

More importantly, when the Metron first meets Kirk, within a few sentences he makes a joke about how killing Kirk and his crew "would not be ..." pregnant pause "civilized", smiling lightly and with an amused lilt to his voice. Then, when he offers to kill off the Gorn Captain and his ship, he seems wholly unsurprised that Kirk turns him down.

Before the Metrons' intervention, Kirk was obsessed with hunting down and destroying the Gorn ship even though it would likely ignite an interstellar war; on the arena planet, Kirk admits to a further revulsion against the Gorn based solely on its reptilian appearance. Yet by the end of the episode, Kirk has progressed past his revulsion and hunger for vengeance enough to feel compassion for the Gorn Captain, to recognize that the Gorns may have had reasons for what they had done, and to hope to someday talk with and open relations with the Gorns.

None of this would have occurred if the Metrons had left them alone to incite their interplanetary war or had simply disrupted their ability to kill each other. This is not hypocrisy on the part of the Metrons but an opportunity for enlightenment (another common Star Trek trope).

Now, thanks to the Metrons' intervention, Kirk's report to Starfleet will advocate compassionate diplomacy with the Gorns and share also the wonder of having met the Metrons, rather than urge a blood-soaked war of vengeance and mammal-reptile xenophobia.

An excellent episode overall!

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Some glaring mistakes

6/10
Author: gjenevieve from United States
29 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shortly after the episode begins, Kirk and a landing party go down to the surface to supposedly meet with people from one of their outposts. As soon as they arrive they see that the outpost has been destroyed. They find one of the people from the outpost and he is supposedly quite injured with internal injuries and Kirk instructs the doctor to keep him alive. However, if his injuries are that life threatening, he should not have been that alert and mobile. He was wiggling around quite a bit for someone so near to death.

There is a chase scene which eventually ends up with the Enterprise and an alien (Gorn) ship being stopped dead in their tracks and then Captain Kirk and the Gorn captain are sent down to a planet where they are to duel one another. The initial fighting between the two of them is so lame. It is in slow motion and so incredibly fake looking. Later Kirk makes a comment that he cannot possibly fight the Gorn one on one as the Gorn is too strong and yet that is how they initially started the fighting and Kirk really was not that hurt. If his comment about the Gorn being that strong was true he should have been pretty close to dead already. He later pushes a huge boulder up a slight hill and over the edge. No way he had that kind of strength. The Gorn has rigged a trap that Kirk gets caught in and a boulder rolls on top of his leg. You can see that the boulder really isn't that heavy and if it had been a real boulder his leg would not have just been slightly hurt, it would have been crushed.

Kirk then finds a large hollow tube and he starts filling it with potassium nitrate, diamonds, sulfur, etc. However, it is a hollow tube and he keeps carrying it straight up and down which means everything he has just put into would be falling out the bottom.

Overall, an interesting episode, if cheesy at times. Another fine example of how humanity is not as violent and unmerciful as some seem to believe they are. I would have rated the episode higher if it weren't for the aforementioned issues.

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Kirk fights a 'lizard-man' at Vasquez Rocks

8/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
7 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the Enterprise is called to the remote outpost of Cestus III the away team are shocked to discover the settlement has been wiped out; not only that the sole survivor claims that no messages had been sent… somebody wanted to lure the Enterprise there! Soon both the landing party and the ship are attacked by unknown aliens. They manage to repel the attack and Capt. Kirk orders the Enterprise to pursue and destroy the attackers believing their destruction of Cestus III was a precursor to an attack on the Federation. The pursuit is ended when both ships suddenly come to a complete stop in an uncharted solar system; here they are contacted by a race known as the Metrons who beam Kirk and the captain of the alien ship to a remote planet where they must fight to the death; the crew of the loser's ship will share the fate of their captain. They are told that there are materials required to make weapons and Kirk will certainly need to find them if he is to defeat his much stronger adversary; a lizard-like creature known as a Gorn.

This is one of the most memorably episodes of the original series partly due to the 'man-in-a-rubber-suit' Gorn and partly for the classic location; Vasquez Rocks… used so often in Star Trek that they became known as 'Kirk's Rocks'. While the look of the Gorn is rather dated and almost comical the story is solid and doesn't shy away from the possibility that it may be the Federation who were in the wrong; the Gorn claim the outpost was built in their territory. The plot doesn't warrant too much scrutiny; the Metrons claim to be forcing Kirk and the Gorn captain to fight because they disapprove of barbarity but what they do is little different to letting the ships fight it out in space… one might think they are testing the two for signs of mercy but they express surprise when Kirk spares Gorn… to be fair though there is no rule saying beings claiming to be morally superior can't be hypocrites! There are some accidentally amusing moments when the crew on the enterprise view the action on the main screen… Spock instantly recognises an innocuous white powder as potassium nitrate when it could be any number of more likely but less useful things. Overall despite its flaws I found this to be a highly entertaining episode.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

My personal favorite

10/10
Author: siluriandalekmulder from New Jersey
9 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While the Arena is looked on as a great episode of Star Trek by fans it isn't regarded as one of the best. I however consider Arena to be one of the best. It has excellent character development for Kirk and a not-so- evil adversary in the form of the Gorn. Though the Gorn is criticized for looking "Unrealistic" I personally love it in here. A shame the Gorn didn't appear after this episode. As a Godzilla fan I don't have a problem with men in suits. The episode it self is also very enjoyable and fast paced. The conflict we are presented with is a ton of fun to watch and the acting is solid. By far my favorite episode of the show.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Kirk Goes Off Half Cocked

7/10
Author: eti55 from United States
29 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When comparing Kirk to Picard, it's fashionable to say that Picard would rather talk his way out of a fight, whereas Kirk would shoot first and ask questions later. For the most part, that actually wasn't true (it depended on who was writing a particular episode). In this episode, Kirk saw a federation outpost blown away for no apparent reason, immediately assumed invasion, and took off after the attacking ship with the full intent of destroying it before it reached home.

He was not without his reasons. The Enterprise had also received two faked messages, the first asking them to come to the doomed outpost on planet Cestus 3, and the second inviting Kirk and his officers to come ashore (with emphasis on their "tactical aids"). It turned out both messages were a ruse to trap the Enterprise and its officers. Of course, as it turns out, when a third party superior race intervenes (a recurring theme in "Trek"), we see that the truth is not so simple.

But back to Kirk. This reaction is completely inconsistent with the way he had dealt with hostile aliens in other episodes. Case and point: The encounter with the Romulans just a few episodes earlier. He agonized over whether or not to attack them and possibly start a galactic war, after the invaders had clearly committed an act of war by blowing away FOUR federation outposts. Same for the Corbomite Maneuver. Kirk used force against the cube that was blocking the ship only when every other option had been exhausted, and only when it began emitting radiation. Kirk actually admonished a young lieutenant for being too quick to the trigger.

Also, how is it that the ship's sensors didn't pick up the fact that the entire outpost on the surface of the planet had been destroyed (not to mention failure to spot any alien presence)? If the aliens were doing something to block the sensors, it wasn't explained. More likely it was an oversight. This was ultimately Roddenberry's responsibility, as part of the job of both the producer and executive producer is rewrites. This isn't the only instance where there's been a continuity problem with the series.

All of that said, this is an entertaining episode, and one that points out that even in extreme circumstances, it's possible that things may not be all that they seem to be. And yes, the Gorn was probably the cheesiest looking alien in Star Trek history; possibly the only time this series sunk to the level of Lost in Space in the costume/effects department. According to some reports, the original story on which this episode was based was also the basis for the Outer Limits episode "Fun and Games," although according to IMDb they have different authors.

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