The Enterprise arrives at the Cestus III Outpost, where Kirk is invited to a dinner engagement with Commodore Travers, a man renowned for his hospitality and friendship. However, upon beaming down to the planet, the landing party, consisting of Captain Kirk, First Officer Spoc, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy and three tactical officers, Kelowitz, Lang, and O'Herlihy, find the outpost nearly obliterated. A lone survivor is recovered, and he tells them the outpost came under heavy attack, bombarded by an unknown enemy. Suddenly, the landing team itself comes under fire, and Lang and O'Herlihy are killed.
Simultaneously, in orbit, the Enterprise comes under attack by an alien warship of unknown origin. The Enterprise is forced to energize its tactical deflector shields, which prevents the landing party from returning (as the ship's matter transporters cannot beam through deflector shields). Kirk manages to find the outpost's arsenal and retrieves a photon grenade launcher, which he uses to drive off the alien attackers.
The aliens also break off their orbital attack, giving the Enterprise a moment to drop shields and beam Kirk and the survivors back to the ship. They soon give chase to the alien warship at warp factor 5, leading them into an unexplored sector of space, gradually (and dangerously) increasing speed. The alien craft suddenly slows and Kirk prepares to move in and destroy them. But before he can do so, the Enterprise is scanned and, like the alien ship, suddenly begins to decelerate to a dead stop, incapacitated.
The Enterprise is then contacted by forces who identify themselves as the Metrons, powerful beings who zealously guard themselves against intrusion. The Metrons force Kirk to a "trial by combat", a one-on-one duel with the captain of the alien vessel, identified as the reptilian Gorn. The purpose of the fight is to solve their dispute, and the loser of the match will be destroyed while the winner goes free.
Before he can even reply, Kirk and the Gorn captain are simultaneously teleported to an unknown desert planet somewhere nearby. The terrain of the planet is harsh and rugged, and the two are completely stranded without communication with their ships. However, the Metrons tell them that the planet's surface has sufficient raw materials to build a weapon. The only things Kirk and the Gorn are equipped with are recording devices, meant to provide a play-by-play commentary on the fight. Kirk begins to chronicle his situation with the device. Unbeknownst to him, the device is sending the translated audio of Kirk's words to his Gorn adversary, who learns not only where Kirk is, but also what he is planning.
The Gorn tracks Kirk down, but the alien's hissing noises alert Kirk that his opponent is coming closer and he prepares an ambush. Kirk manages to push over a large boulder which rolls down an embankment and strikes the Gorn. To Kirk's surprise, however, the alien is unharmed. Kirk observes that the Gorn may be physically strong; however, he moves rather slowly. Kirk makes a run for it, but ends up caught in a rope trap which the Gorn captain has set. He is able to make an escape, but he injures his leg in the process.
Back aboard the Enterprise, Spock and the rest of the bridge crew get a camera view of the action on the bridge monitor courtesy of the Metrons, who believe Kirk will shortly be defeated. Unable to help their captain, all they can do is watch and hope the captain survives.
The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk by using the translation device and offers to put Kirk 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. This exchange prompts the watching Enterprise bridge crew to wonder if the Federation may be in the wrong. McCoy states that the Gorns may have been only trying to protect themselves. Spock concedes the possibility, admitting, "We know very little about that sector of space. That question is best left to diplomats."
Kirk soon discovers that there are plenty of natural resources lying about to craft a weapon. He finds elements needed to make black powder. Then he finds a bamboo-like plant and cuts a portion of the wood to form a makeshift gun barrel. He also finds large, pointed diamonds to use for the projectile. Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and when the Gorn appears, Kirk fires, taking the Gorn down. Coming to the realization that the Gorn may have been acting in self-defense by destroying the Cestus III outpost, Kirk decides against killing his adversary.
With the duel over, the Gorn disappears and a white-robed Metron appears to "congratulate" Kirk not only for his victory, but also for displaying the advanced trait of mercy to his enemy. When Kirk turns down the offer to have the Gorns's ship destroyed, the Metron is impressed enough to note, "You are still half savage, but there is hope." Requesting that Kirk's people seek the Metrons out in a few thousand years, the entity returns the bewildered captain, with his injuries healed, to the Enterprise, which has been returned to a position near Cestus III.
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- Uhura screaming when Kirk disappears despite not doing so when Kirk disappeared in the 'The Squire of Gothos'. She wasn't expecting it to happen so soon after the last time.
- Why doesn't the Gorn try to bite Kirk? The Gorn might not want to risk Kirk kicking him in the teeth.
- The Federation apparently developing the means to create precious gems between the events here and the incident in Catspaw. Kirk could be lying in Catspaw about the Federation being able to make gems at will.
- MarkN on Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 1:30 pm: Hah! I found a nit that Phil missed in his book and that surprisingly no one here or in the archived nits above saw either, and that's when after the requisite redshirt gets killed Kirk and Spock rush up into the corner of the destroyed building there and Kirk flips open his communicator while at the same time bumping up against the ruined concrete reinforced wall and the wall moves! No wonder the place was so easily pulverized by the Gorn! The walls weren't so very well reinforced after all, were they? The foundations were probably weakened by the Gorn attack.
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- The Metrons pronounce their name "Meh-trahn" but Kirk mispronounces it as "Meh-trohn" every time, and so does Spock. Lots of names have more than one pronunciation for the same spelling.
- When Kirk is coming down the hill after pushing the rock on the Gorn, his left side is leading. In the next shot, his right side is leading. He's probably adjusting his posture to avoid falling over.