Sixth Man [1997]

Volume 3 in this terrific DVD library of original Star Trek programs includes "The Man Trap," the first broadcast episode of the Gene Roddenberry series. Though it was not the first story produced for the show, the process was still new enough that contracted writers were obliged to fill in various blanks, develop some of the key characters, and smoothly introduce some of the Trek technology we've come to take for granted. Writer George Clayton Johnson conceived a story in which an old flame of Dr. McCoy's (DeForest Kelley), a woman named Dr. Nancy Carter (Jeanny Bealy), is in need of medical supplies on a planet where she and her husband (Alfred Ryder) are the only humans. "Nancy," however, turns out to be a shape-shifting creature that sucks the salt from the bodies of humanoids. Once it's loose aboard the Enterprise, the "salt vampire" can look like anyone in its pursuit of nourishment. With McCoy having such a pivotal part in the narrative, Johnson worked with the series' story editor and episode director (Marc Daniels) on fleshing out his underdeveloped character. There were other issues to think about: this premiere show introduced the Enterprise's transporter technology as well as Star Trek's realistic take on scary extraterrestrials. Everyone involved survived the episode, and while it played only to a meager television audience, Trek was off and running for three-plus decades. Also on this DVD is episode 4, "The Naked Time," in which an alien disease that strips inhibitions from individuals affects the Enterprise crew. Sulu (George Takei) frees the swashbuckler in his soul, Kirk (William Shatner) battles his demons, and a young lieutenant, Riley (Bruce Hyde), serenades the entire starship and steers her toward certain doom. Still early in the proceedings, this episode introduced a psychological aspect that would become a cornerstone for the storytelling on all four Trek series. --Tom Keogh

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