Let's get ready to rumble! 'Arena' is probably the most recognizable Trek episode, and it made an indelible impression on the kid I was over 25 years ago. It still holds up for the man-child I am today.
McCoy's looking forward to a 'non-reconstituted meal' from Commodore Traver's personal chef on the Cestus III outpost. Spock accuses him of being 'a sensualist'. "You bet your pointed ears I am." says McCoy the Awesome.
This adventure is indeed a feast for the senses, but not tasty kind. Cestus (named for the spiky gladiator glove) has been totalled (to a man, woman, & child) by aliens. Last survivor of an unprovoked attack? There's a uniform for that. Poor plasma burned Harold is wearing Hansen's outfit from the Romulan attack in 'Balance of Terror'.
Spock & Kirk do some astonishing stunt dives as enemy artillery fire impresses the audience and earns Nimoy and Shatner lifelong tinnitus.
Up in space, Sulu makes Federation first contact of the phaser and photon torpedo kind! Enterprise chases the foe ship at dangerous Warp 7 and desperate Warp 8. Spock urges vengeful Kirk to respect sentient life, but Kirk speaks instead as a policeman who must punish a crime.
In an uncharted region called 2466 PM, both ships are stopped and disarmed by inexplicable, advanced means. The Metrons announce themselves, angelic types who do not permit violence. Therefore they insist the alien captain, called a Gorn, will battle Kirk to the death on a desert asteroid, and the loser's ship will be destroyed in the interests of peace. That's how non-violence works, right?
Kirk feels instinctual revulsion for reptiles, and well, who wouldn't? Bulky, rasping, fanged and clawed, but in a darling leopard print gold lame dress! Revolting... and I love it so. Bought the doll.
The aggrieved captains get down to it. A dropped boulder from Kirk, a vine trap and obsidian knife from the Gorn. Kirk leaves a sign: "Free Bacon for Gorns" beside some ACME dynamite, the Gorn puts a dress and lipsitck on a shapely cactus. That sort of thing.
Kirk uses "simple chemistry" to construct a diamond-firing cannon out of bamboo. Never mind the Mythbusters, whose efforts in recreating this weapon strongly indicated if it did any damage at all it would be to the poor slob beside the cannon.
Instead, I balked today at Kirk's statement that diamonds were the hardest substance in the universe. He was at the table in 'Balance of Terror' when Spock explained how that property currently belonged to "cast rodinium" (or, as I always believed, 'Castrodinium' named for Fidel.) Which is it, Star Trek? Like Kirk and the Gorn, they can't BOTH be the hardest...
Victorious, Kirk refuses to deliver the killing stab and accuses the Metrons of watching them for entertainment. The Metron ALSO has a darling dress. He's a tow-headed lad of 1500 years who admires Kirk for displaying the unexpected and advanced trait of mercy. He lets them get back to slaughter or diplomacy of their own making, hopefully planning to check in again in a thousand years.
The voice of the Metron is Vic Perrin, also the Control Voice in the credits of 'The Outer Limits'.
The profoundly basso creepy voice of John A. Gorn is provided (like Ruk and Balok before him) by Ted Cassidy.
It's high noon and my own Gorn is rumbling for some corn. A corn-fed Gorn. Then tennis with Bjorn?