Genre: Short
Volume 10 of Paramount's DVD series of original Star Trek episodes includes "Arena," based on a script by Trek producer Gene L. Coon, the other indispensable figure (besides Gene Roddenberry) in making Star Trek what it was. After writing what he believed was an original teleplay about a one-on-one battle between Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the reptilian commander of an enemy vessel, Coon realized he had probably been subconsciously inspired by a similar short story written by Fredric Brown (who was promptly credited and paid). The concept of a human-and-alien duel to the death in primitive terrain, however, was slightly ubiquitous in the 1960s (see "Fun and Games," a masterpiece from the original The Outer Limits TV show), and was revisited in the '80s via the Arnold Schwarzenegger feature, Predator. But under Coon's guidance and direction by Joseph Pevney, "Arena" stands on its own as a particularly strong story of what battle does to one's humanity. Shatner is in great form for this one. Also in this volume is a minor episode, "The Alternative Factor," in which Kirk encounters two versions of a fellow named Lazarus (Robert Brown), one from our own dimension and the other from an antimatter cosmos. The latter Lazarus intends to create an opening between worlds, potentially causing an intergalactic Armageddon. Though directed by Gerd Oswald, an interesting feature filmmaker from Hollywood, "The Alternative Factor" has to work a little too hard to make its point. Still, it isn't boring, and the theme certainly fits that long-standing Star Trek obsession with dualities. --Tom Keogh

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