In a possibly misguided attempt to participate in this thread, I watched this episode last night. It’s probably been thirty five years since I last saw it, but it was a favorite of the younger me, mostly because of the ending moral of mercy and solving problems though empathy and listening to the other side before acting rashly. Plus, you know, wrestling Sleestacks and doing chemistry.
There was lots of stuff I forgot - or more likely never noticed - in my childhood viewings.
Noted above was the Gorn’s fairly belligerent response to encountering a new race. You could argue that the fairly extensive Federation outpost was pretty militaristic – after all, it apparently included a sizable armory with nerf-ball ordinance that could wipe out large numbers at a good distance – but that rationalization kind of falls apart when you realize that the Gorn must have learned a great deal about humans if they were able to fake a transmission from “The Commodore” and lure Kirk and his “tactical team” down to the surface for one of the most inept ambushes ever televised.
I was struck by the voice of the Metrons telling the crew of the Enterprise that they control every aspect of the ship’s operation; the term they used sounded like the intro to The Outer Limits. Glancing at IMDB, that’s no accident since the voice of the Metrons is the same actor as the Outer Limit’s “Control”. For that matter, the voice of the Gorn is Lurch from the Addam’s Family.
Man, the scenery-chewing in the first act is astounding. The rescued crewman demanding that the universe (and Kirk, apparently) give him some answers was particularly bad. “Why did they do it? Why? WHHHHHYYYYYYYY!!!” I can only assume that the silly-putty makeup meant to show scarring was really itchy.
I didn’t mind the horrible Gorn costume or the ridiculously-slow movement. They showed fairly convincingly that as slow and cumbersome as the Gorn was, it was also effectively impervious to harm and would kill Kirk if/when it ever caught up to him. Apparently in Coon’s original script the fighting area was supposed to be enclosed in a force-bubble (thanks again IMDB) so Kirk couldn’t just jog away… I wish they would have had time to show that little tidbit.
The final theme was something that is shown in TOS many times: Everyone justifies violence as a reasonable thing to do, but when “the adults” sit the antagonists down and ask them to justify their actions, they reluctantly/sheepishly admit that beating each other up was kind of silly. The Metrons seem a little more hard-hearted about it than the Organians, but I guess even post-corporeal beings can be dicks.
More trivia courtesy of IMDB: This was the first episode where the term “Federation” was used with respect to Kirk’s organization; it was the first time the term “Starfleet” as used; it was the first appearance of “photon torpedoes”.