Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 18
Directed byJoseph Pevney
Story byFredric Brown
Teleplay byGene L. Coon
Featured musicAlexander Courage
Cinematography byJerry Finnerman
Production code019
Original air dateJanuary 19, 1967 (1967-01-19)
Running time50 minutes (runtime)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Squire of Gothos"
Next →
"Tomorrow Is Yesterday"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 1)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Arena" is the eighteenth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Gene L. Coon (based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown)[2] and directed by Joseph Pevney; it was first broadcast on January 19, 1967.

In the episode, while pursuing a Gorn vessel for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain.


The USS Enterprise arrives at the Cestus III Outpost by invitation of its commanding officer, but the crew find the outpost obliterated. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a security force beam down to find one survivor (Tom Troupe) who says the base came under heavy bombardment from an unknown enemy. The landing party find themselves under fire from nearby, with two of the security team killed in the initial volley. The Enterprise is also under attack from an unknown vessel, preventing the crew from beaming up the landing party. On the surface, Kirk finds a grenade launcher from the outpost's stores, and uses it to scatter the alien forces. The alien ship recovers its crew from the surface and begins to retreat. The landing party is beamed back aboard the Enterprise before they give chase.

Both ships enter an unexplored sector of space, and shortly thereafter, lose all propulsion power. The Enterprise is contacted by a species calling themselves the Metrons (voiced by Vic Perrin), who zealously guard their sector of space from intrusion. They announce that they will pit the respective captains against each other in "trial by combat", a one-to-one battle to the death, with the ship of the losing captain to be destroyed and the other ship free to leave. Captain Kirk is suddenly transported to the surface of a rocky, barren planet along with the captain of the other ship, who is of a reptilian species known as the Gorn (voiced by Ted Cassidy). The Metrons speak to Kirk, explaining that while neither captain has communication with his ship, each has been given a vocal recording device that will translate their words to the opposing captain as well as transmit them to their ships. Kirk is told that the planet has numerous resources either captain can use to defeat the other. Aboard the Enterprise, the crew are allowed to watch Kirk's actions.

Kirk attempts to communicate with the Gorn, but receives no response. The Gorn tracks down Kirk, and Kirk realizes he is outmatched physically and relies on his agility to outrun the Gorn. Kirk gets caught in a rope trap set by the Gorn that injures his leg and slows him down. The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk via the translation device and offers to put him out of his misery. Kirk accuses the Gorns of being butchers, but the alien defends their attack on Cestus III, stating the outpost had been built in what the Gorns considered to be their territory. They viewed the Federation's presence in this part of space as an intrusion and a possible prelude to full-scale invasion.

Trying to stay ahead of the Gorn, Kirk discovers numerous valuable minerals and resources on the planet, seemingly useless at this point. He is inspired upon finding stalks of bamboo and raw chemicals that can be mixed into a black powder formula. He constructs a makeshift weapon, using chunks of diamond as ammunition. Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and fires on him, severely wounding him. As Kirk prepares to deal a death blow, he considers the Gorn's claims that the attack on Cestus III was only in self-defense, and allows him to live. Suddenly, the Gorn disappears, and a Metron (Carole Shelyne) appears to Kirk, congratulating him on not only winning the battle but showing the advanced trait of mercy for one's enemies. Kirk refuses to have the Metrons destroy the Gorn ship, leading the Metron to comment that "you are still half savage, but there is hope", and that the Federation should seek out the Metrons again in several thousand years time. Suddenly Kirk finds himself aboard the Enterprise, his injuries healed, and the crew finds the ship on the other side of the galaxy, 500 parsecs from Metron space, the Gorn ship nowhere in range.


Vasquez Rocks

According to an account by Herbert Solow in the book Inside Star Trek, The Real Story,[2] the relation to Brown's short story may have been an unconscious inspiration. After Coon had written what he thought was an original script, Desilu's research department, headed by Kellam de Forest, noted the similarity. It was therefore agreed that Desilu's Business Affairs office would call Brown and offer a fair price for the story, before it was shot and broadcast. Brown agreed without knowing that the script had already been written; he was granted screen credit for the story.

The episode was filmed in part on location at Vasquez Rocks, which was subsequently used as a shooting location in other Star Trek episodes and films.[3]

The Gorn captain's vocalizations were provided by actor Ted Cassidy, who also appeared in person in the Star Trek episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and provided the menacing voice of Balok in the episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". The Gorn was portrayed by stuntmen Bobby Clark and Gary Combs and by extra Bill Blackburn in close-ups.[4]

William Shatner recalls standing too close to a stage prop explosion during the filming of the episode, causing tinnitus, which became chronic.[5] Leonard Nimoy was also afflicted. Shatner has it in his left ear and Nimoy had it in his right ear.[6]

"Arena" was the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast in color in the UK (BBC, November 1969).


In 2009, GameRadar+ noted this episode for death of an Enterprise crewman at the start of the episode, after the away mission beamed down to the planet's surface.[7]

In 2010, SciFiNow ranked this the second best episode of the original series.[8]

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A-' rating, noting the episode's influence and noting the use of a theme of Star Trek, the "uncertainty of exploration".[9]

In a ranking in 2017 of the "25 greatest episodes" of all 'Star Trek', including later series, "Arena" was ranked as the 6th best.[10] At that time there were about 726 episodes of Star Trek television.[11]

IGN ranked "Arena" number 10 in a top ten list of original series episodes.[12]

In 2016, Newsweek ranked "Arena" as one of the best episodes of the original series, and they note was a popular episode.[13] In 2016, Business Insider ranked "Arena" the 12th best episode of the original series.[14]

In 2016, Empire ranked this the 41st best out of the top 50 episodes of the all the 700 plus Star Trek television episodes.[15] They note that Kirk wins in this episode, not by killing a dangerous alien, called the Gorn, but by showing mercy which impresses the powerful aliens that pitted them against eachother.[15]

In 2017, Business Insider ranked "Arena" the 12th best episode of the original series.[16]

In 2018, Collider ranked this episode the 7th best original series episode.[17]

In 2018, PopMatters ranked this the 6th best episode of the original series.[18]

In 2019, Nerdist included this episode on their "Best of Kirk" binge-watching guide.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e ""Star Trek" Arena (1967) - Full cast and crew". IMDb. n.d. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (June 1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. Simon & Schuster. pp. 206–207. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.
  3. ^ Anthony Pascale (November 24, 2007). "Famous Location To Appear in New Star Trek Movie". Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Cushman, Marc (2013). These are the Voyages — TOS: Season One. With Susan Osborn. San Diego, California: Jacobs/Brown Press. pp. 402–404. ISBN 9780989238113. LCCN 2013940946.
  5. ^ "William Shatner speaks about his tinnitus".
  6. ^ David Letterman with William Shatner - March, 1996!! on YouTube
  7. ^ Feature, Total Film 2009-05-04T07:00:00 123Z. "8 Nastiest Star Trek Redshirt Deaths". gamesradar. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Top 10 Best Star Trek Original Series episodes". SciFiNow. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  9. ^ Handlen, Zack (March 13, 2009). ""The Squire Of Gothos" / "Arena"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  10. ^ Cooley, Patrick (September 24, 2017). "Before 'Discovery:' the best 25 'Star Trek' episodes of all time". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  11. ^ "How to Binge Watch 726 Star Trek Episodes (and 12 Movies)". Tom's Guide. May 17, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Staff, I. G. N. (September 5, 2016). "The Top 10 Classic Star Trek Episodes". IGN. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Newsweek Special Edition On 1/2/16 at 9:09 AM (January 2, 2016). "Newsweek's top 10 episodes from the original Star Trek series". Newsweek. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  14. ^ Kiersz, Elena Holodny, Andy (September 22, 2017). "Here are the 13 best original 'Star Trek' episodes, ranked". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. July 27, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  16. ^ Kiersz, Elena Holodny, Andy. "Here are the 13 best original 'Star Trek' episodes, ranked". Business Insider. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  17. ^ Lesnick, Silas (August 14, 2018). "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". Collider. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  18. ^ "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". PopMatters. July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  19. ^ "A Guide to Binge Watching 7 Great STAR TREK Arcs". Nerdist. Retrieved July 15, 2019.

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