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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 17 people found the following review useful:

Kirk's instinctive revulsion to Reptiles

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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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Kirk vs. a giant lizard

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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16 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Not one of the first seasons finer moments

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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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Good, if simplistic, with one flaw

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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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: Scarecrow-88 from United States
10 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An earth observation outpost on Sestus 3 has been devastated by attack, almost all there left dead, only wreckage, the black of fire, and smoke remaining as a dark reminder of what once was."Disrupter" bombs start bombarding the remains of the outpost leaving little room for Kirk and his away team to protect themselves. Meanwhile, the Enterprise does battle with an enemy ship returning fire of phasers. Moving out of orbit so as to protect "Kirk's ship", the away team will have to somehow survive non-stop assault as the Enterprise engages in combat with an unknown enemy. Backing off after Kirk shoots a bomb into a mountain where creatures were dropping their own disrupters, beaming back aboard, the Enterprise will pursue the enemy ship as it leaves the area.

Prepared to settle the score with the Gorn hostiles whose starship has entered high warp, heading for an uncharted solar system, Kirk and the Enterprise plan to intercept them, before they can reach their home world and plan a possible invasion. Within this uncharted solar system is a yet unnamed species known as the Metrons scanning both the Enterprise and Gorn ships, stopping them dead in space, soon forcing the captains of both vessels to fight to the death on a planet suitable to breathe. This planet has mineral deposits and natural "weapons" needed for battle and while Kirk acknowledges his advantages in agility and brains, he admits that the Gorn Captain (who has lizard-like features, making a slurping sound when it breathes and talks) has greater strength and stamina, seemingly impervious to hand-to-hand combative techniques. Ingenuity will have to be what Kirk relies on, taking what the planet provides (coal, diamonds, rope, sulfur, and bamboo) in order to use as a suitable weapon against the Gorn warrior who has fashioned itself a stave carved from stone.

What this episode does extremely well is a number of things. First, it shows the capabilities of Kirk when faced when insurmountable odds in a fight for his life with a creature savage enough to offer quite a difficult battle. Second, it calls into question who are necessarily the "invaders" when the motives behind the attack on Sestus 3 are provided. Third, Kirk's readiness to follow the Gorn ship with plans to destroy it, placing the Enterprise in jeopardy as he stretches warp capability, risking the lives of his crew just so he can catch the enemy and destroy them in retaliation puts him at odds with Spock who questions such rash actions. And the battle on the ground actually establishes Kirk's compassion when contemplating the Gorn's actions for attacking Sestus 3 allows the Metrons to see humans as more than just primitive savages with little regard for life. There are lessons learned here by all and Kirk's homemade cannon is quite a concoction that definitely proves to be quite a weapon with some kick.

The opening attack on Sestus 3 produces plenty of explosions, destruction, and evasive maneuvers as Kirk and Spock try to determine the best move to counter the bombardments, quite an impressive way to kick off the sets the stage for the later battle, where phasers and superior weaponry are not available, two lifeforms having to use what the planet provides to try and kill each other.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A very good episode despite really awful special effects

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
6 December 2006

This is a very good episode with a very good plot. The only problem for me is that the enemy (the Gorn) is really cheesy-looking--the head barely moves and looks like a crummy mask. Not terrible by 1966 standards, but today it looks pretty poor.

Now as for the plot, it really rocked. The Gorn attack a Federation outpost and kill practically everyone with their super weapons. The Enterprise has no idea who these enemy are but they know they MUST kill them or risk further attacks. However, in pursuing them, they enter Metron space and these advanced beings are horrified by the seeming brutality of these two races. So, to end the problem, they place the captains of BOTH ships on a barren planet and let them fight to the death--and the loser's crew will then be destroyed.

Despite a relatively simple plot, the episode has three different locales and is a good showcase episode for Kirk. Not the best, but definitely among the better episodes made.

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What happened to the Gorns?

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
17 January 2015

Some aliens have destroyed a Federation colony with a Pearl Harbor style attack and the Enterprise is in pursuit. But the whole thing is halted by a super race known as the Metrons. They whisk the captain of the alien ship and William Shatner down to an uninhabited earth like planet for single combat. Single combat without the use of their futuristic weapons though.

If I was laying odds I wouldn't give much chance for Captain Kirk's survival. He's facing a Gorn, a reptile looking creature that's big and slow and strong. Whoever wins gets to take his ship and crew home and the other gets destroyed.

The Metrons look like our conception of angels in western tradition. These folks don't serve a universal Deity however. But they're way in advance of us or the Gorn.

Super beings the Enterprise contacted before and would again in Star Trek prime. But we never see the Gorn again in any Star Trek show. I think the writers thought them too difficult to work with in putting together a plot. Aliens we meet later on were far more erudite.

Secretly I think the Metrons were rooting for Kirk. But they sure didn't make it easy for him.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

My personal favorite

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

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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