Star Trek Episode Review: Arena (1967)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the television episode that first aired January 19, 1967,

Synopsis: The Enterprise discovers a human outpost has been completely obliterated and, after a short fight with the lizard-like Gorn, pursue the alien ship in an attempt to destroy it. However, another alien race, the Metrons, intervene by disabling both ships and sending both Kirk (William Shatner) and the Gorn captain to a deserted planet so they can fight each other in hand-to-hand combat.


Thanks to the rain we had yesterday, I figured the trails I would normally walk would once again be too wet and I wound up going home for lunch instead. While there, I remembered starting this episode a couple days ago and decided to finish it.

As I have watched both this episode and previous episodes of this original series for the first time, I have come to two conclusions. The first is the original series seemed to have plots that were very similar to each other (especially plots that involved all-powerful alien races). The second, and more important one, is I have serious doubts about Kirk's fitness as a captain.

This episode is one that actually does a great job of revealing his major character flaw as the guy in charge on the Enterprise, he lets his emotions influence way too many of his decisions.

In this particular case, none of his decisions made any sense. The Enterprise was up against an alien race that showed superior firepower in a ship that didn't even get scratched when the two ships battled it out. Yet, he decided to pursue the ship, putting the lives of his crew in danger by pushing the Enterprise to the limit, believing he had a chance of destroying the other vessel? Even his explanation about trying to delay or prevent an invasion was kind of weak considering they were in the middle of nowhere and wouldn't blame his crew if they decided to commit mutiny as a result.

In fact, there were times when his determination actually made him look a little insane. Though, to be fair, that could have just been William Shatner's infamous overacting.

I also found I wasn't a big fan of the battle between him and the Gorn captain. This is both because the alien (which was played by Gary Combs, Bobby Clark and Ted Cassidy) looked pretty darn fake and because Kirk pretty much only survives by luck.

Let's face it, if the Gorn had any sort of speed, Kirk would have been killed in a matter of minutes. He only survived because the other captain gave him plenty of time to remember his chemistry lessons, collect a bunch of supplies and make a primitive gun, making their deadly battle actually a little dull.

Final Opinion

I'm sure this episode has redeeming qualities I am missing. But, with Kirk's arrogance costing him some respect in my eyes, I just have a hard time liking this one regardless.

My Grade: D

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Updated: 05/17/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Have you seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? That may have been the film where it comes out that Captain Kirk cheated on his final exam in that he altered the game and didn't follow the rules.

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