I caught an old episode of the original Star Trek, "Arena," in which Captain Kirk comes extremely close to the Gorn he is fighting:

My question is, what prevented the Gorn from simply biting Kirk's face off? Being as the Gorn was stronger than Kirk, clearly close enough in the face-to-face initial contest to have used his vicious looking front teeth to inflict serious damage to Kirk, why did he not end it quickly by what would seem to be the "natural" way?

Is there a canonical, in-universe explanation for this? Does Gorn psychology make such a tactic unacceptable? Has their physiology come to the point where their mouth's cannot open wide enough for such a maneuver? Or some other reason?

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    Let me add some other questions about the worst fight scene in history: 1. Which creature, including humans, needs more than 2 seconds for punches and counterpunches ? 2. Why does attack Kirk, the "fighter", with a waist level kick which you should do never in combat because of the precise reason the Gorn demonstrated ? 3. Why does the Gorn not simply rip off Kirk's leg when it is convieniently offered ? 4. Why does the Gorn, when he/she/it needs to throw Kirk, throw him with full force so that former Kirk left a dent in the wall (Remember the stone) ? – Thorsten S. Apr 1 '15 at 21:26
  • @ThorstenS. - The Gorn is very strong, but very slow. That pretty much answers all of your questions. – Valorum Apr 1 '15 at 22:13
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    @Richard - No, it would answer 1. and 4. The questions were then why the Gorn could get Kirk's leg if he/she/it was so slow and why he/she/it does not tear the leg out of Kirk's torso slowly ? – Thorsten S. Apr 1 '15 at 22:21
  • It's a ludicrous scene, I'd rather not discuss it at all. – gd1 Apr 2 '15 at 14:15
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    @ScottS: If you were locked in hand-to-hand combat, would you bite your opponents nose off? Maybe some people might, but it borders on the unimaginable for a lot of people. The cannibalism taboo is strong. Not even necessarily cannibalism: If you were being attacked by a weasel or a spider, would you bite it? The Gorn can feel exactly the same. – ThePopMachine Apr 2 '15 at 14:53

According the official novelisation (by James Blish) the Gorn did try to bite him, but Kirk was able to keep it at bay by pushing it away with his arm:

Kirk sprang aside barely in time. As the Gorn passed, somewhat off-balance, Kirk swung a killing blow into its midriff. The impact nearly broke his hand, but it seemed to have no other effect. The club lashed back, knocking Kirk sprawling against the rocks.

The Gorn wheeled around, clumsily but swiftly, and pounced. Kirk, dazed, tried to counter with a forearm blow to the throat, but it was like hitting an elephant. Then the creature was gripping him like a grizzly. Kirk’s arm just managed to keep the teeth away, but that grip was going to break his back.

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  • Such publications are available online, if you know where to look, Omegacron. I do it sometimes when I want to review something. In this case, this was a storyline I was familiar with (having watched the show and read the books) and knew there wasn't anything to be had in the book series that would help explain BAD screenwriting... – Thaddeus Howze Apr 1 '15 at 21:25
  • What does the book say how he escaped the crushing grip ? – Thorsten S. Apr 1 '15 at 21:35
  • @Omegacron - Because I own all 1280 Star Trek books and all the recent comics. And I've read (or at least glanced through) most of them. – Valorum Apr 1 '15 at 21:54
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    @ThorstenS. - "Freeing his arms with a sudden twist..." – Valorum Apr 1 '15 at 21:56
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    @Richard - "Drinking an ocean with a big spoon..." – Thorsten S. Apr 1 '15 at 22:07

There is likely no canon excuse for why the Gorn wasn't easily able to bite and kill Kirk once the grappling had started. This is poor writing.

  • The scene has two inconsistencies which should make that very clear. The grappling between the Gorn and Kirk should have ended the fight immediately given their very clear differences in strength.

  • That difference is highlighted by the size of the rocks thrown by Kirk and then by the Gorn. Such a strength variance between the two should have meant as soon as the two of them grappled, the Gorn should have been able to break Kirk's back like a very dry twig, Kirk's resistance, notwithstanding.

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    Get that logic out of here, man - Logic has no place here! – Omegacron Apr 1 '15 at 21:15
  • But they could have easily avoided any application of logic by NOT having the Gorn pick up that rock. If they had Kirk throw his and the Gorn resisted it, we would have NO CLEAR BASIS for the difference in strength. We would have had to assume the Gorn was stronger, but we would not see how MUCH stronger and assume Kirk just wasn't quite manly enough. But we could give Kirk props because the Gorn was not quite able to get the upper hand, either. With the rock scene, we are aghast to see just how strong the Gorn had to be! – Thaddeus Howze Apr 1 '15 at 21:21
  • @Omegacron If you stick to that precondition, then the original question should not be asked at all... – Thorsten S. Apr 1 '15 at 22:12
  • Yes, I realize there are a number of other issues with the clunky fight scene. Just wanted to find out if some "excuse" was made in-universe for the lack of bite. I agree the apparent strength difference leaves one wondering how Kirk fought him off at all, but then perhaps Gorn have a certain alien rock levitating ability that makes them able to lift them as if they were lighter, which of course would not work on human flesh (sounds like a good "out," right? Hehehehe). – ScottS Apr 2 '15 at 13:13
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    In-universe, Kirk seems to have the uncanny ability to do the impossible. He's like Scotty, only with situations & conflict instead of engines. – Omegacron Apr 2 '15 at 14:51

There is probably only an out of universe answer for this.

Animatronics were not at that level at the time, and it was a cheesy sci-fi costume.

  • Yes, I am of course aware of the out-of-universe explanation for some of the Gorn effects--which is why I did not ask about that. – ScottS Apr 2 '15 at 13:14
  • But in this series, fights between two men look similar, without animatronics involved… – Holger Apr 2 '15 at 13:29

Have you ever read The Man Who Counts, or War of the Wing Men, by Poul Anderson?

I suspect that the Gorn were aware of the possibility of something similar to the climatic plot twist in that novel. I suspect that possibly they scanned the Humans on Cestus III and learned that their biochemistry was poisonous to Gorns. And Thus the Gorn Captain wouldn't want to get any Human tissues in his mouth, even if he was brutal enough to want to bite someone.

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