Star Trek: The Squire of Gothos

Kirk: "If it's fighting that you want, you may have it."
Trelane: "Are you challenging me to a duel?"

I've always enjoyed this episode. It was probably a combination of William Campbell's gleeful, exuberant performance as Trelane, and the clever twist at the end.

Outwitting an out of control, all powerful being was done a lot on Star Trek; even at this point in the series, I can refer you to "Charlie X," "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Menagerie" – and it's early yet. I wonder if Gene Roddenberry had a difficult relationship with God? Maybe he just resented authority figures, or organized religion, or both. And another common Star Trek theme was Kirk sacrificing himself to save his ship, as he nearly did here. I always got the impression that Trelane would have skewered Kirk and left him to die horribly without thinking about it twice, like a thoughtless little boy stomping on a beetle.

Trying to outrun a planet was new and interesting, and I also thought the heatless fire and tasteless food were nice touches of unreality. But for me, the best part of this episode was the mutual dislike and verbal dueling between Trelane and Spock. Spock was exceptionally dry and authoritarian, and Trelane strongly resented him, possibly because Vulcans were even more "grown-up" than the grown-up humans. Spock's rudeness toward Trelane was rather endearing. Vulcans aren't perfect, after all.

One big continuity booboo stands out now. It's mentioned that they are 900 light years from Earth and Trelane was watching (and imitating) events that occurred 900 years ago. Except that Trelane was obviously talking about the 18th century. It is later established that the original Star Trek series takes place in the 23rd century, and I'm fairly certain this was mentioned in an early episode, too. Oops.

William Campbell (Trelane) also played Koloth, a Klingon, in "The Trouble with Tribbles," and reprised Koloth in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – making him one of the few actors who played a Star Trek character in more than one series. He was a guest at a con I attended. I was behind him in line as he was checking in at the front desk of the hotel. He told everyone in line how happy he was to be there, and he turned and hugged the first available Trekkie, who happened to be me. (Sorry to bore you with these silly con memoirs, but come on – the guest star of this episode hugged me. Had to mention it.)

Ben says...

Your mother is a flashlight and your pop is a headlight! Three reasons why I am not a big fan of this episode:

1. Is it me or is there a consistent theme that children are basically monsters and god is the worst of the lot? I guess some others are more parental, but on the whole, isn't the conclusion basically that gods are a bunch of brats? Absolute power whines absolutely or something?

2. GLA's (God-Like Aliens) are a staple of televised sci-fi (interesting in its own right as a lot of written SF from the period, even when it's of a spiritual bent like Stranger in a Strange Land or Childhood's End, is about the god-nature of humans, either technological or otherwise). I always kind of hated the conceit of the GLA. It's a lazy way of forcing our characters into situations without real cause. Kind of Deus Ex Machina in reverse.

3. Years ago a friend of mine used to rant about this episode: "One of these days, Kirk's going to meet a god who doesn't need a battery," she would rant. Then we had Star Trek V: God needs a Starship? Somewhere she is, I'm sure, still annoyed by the inconsistencies of GLA's. What kind of god hides his battery in a mirror?

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 2124.5.  The laws-o-physics-defying planet of Gothos, encountered during a supply run to Beta 6.

— The opening scene featured everyone drinking out of the coffee cups that looked exactly like styrofoam painted a futuristic silver. If they'd been Coke cans, I'd suspect product placement.

— Except for the fact that he turned out to be a child, Trelane bore a striking resemblance to Q, the continuing all-powerful god-like character on Next Gen who was always "playing" with the Enterprise crew. There was even an extended mock trial in the pilot episode of Next Gen, with Q as the judge.

— The small pocket of habitable Gothos looked Earthlike, with the exception of a green sky.

— One of the niches in Trelane's "drawing room" contained the salt vampire from "The Man Trap."

— Uhura mentioned "Space Fleet Command." We still don't have a Starfleet Command, but it's getting closer.

— This week's revolving butthead navigator was the expressionless Lieutenant De Salle, who also led the landing party. And the crew member most likely to become a dead red shirt was blue-shirted Yeager, whose name may have been a tribute to the immortal Chuck. Or not.

— This week's revolving Yeoman got an idiotic line: "Captain, I was so worried." She got one of those wild historic costumes, too. I think Uhura should have gotten that one, instead of being forced to play the harpsichord.


— Lime green pants? Okay, it was the sixties.

Quotes:

Spock: (reading in a dry voice) "Hip hip hoorah. And I believe it's pronounced, 'tally ho'."

Trelane: "Aha, a Nubian prize. Taken on one of your raids of conquest no doubt, Captain?"

Spock: "I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose."
Trelayne: "Oh, Mister Spock. You do have one saving grace, after all. You're ill-mannered."

Kirk: "You want to commit murder? Go ahead. But where's the sport in a simple hanging?"
Trelane: "Sport?"
Kirk: "Yes. The terror of murder. The suspense. The fun."

Kirk: "A small boy. And a very naughty one, at that."
Spock: "It will make a strange entry in the library banks."
Kirk: "But then, he was a very strange small boy."

Three out of four fencing foils,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

WriterDrew said...

Hi Billie,

There's a Next Gen novel called Q-Squared by the great Peter David (possibly the best Trek novelist out there) which reveals that Trelane is a member of the Q Continuum and that Q has been assigned as his mentor.

Billie Doux said...

Hi, WriterDrew:

Yes, I've read it, and it might not be canon, but I think it makes sense. Peter David is my favorite Star Trek novelist. He had a feel for the Star Trek universe that I believe no other writer has ever had. He was also a frequent guest at my favorite con, Shore Leave, and I always enjoyed seeing him there.

GreenHornet said...

I think William Campbell (and the script) played it just right, not giving too much away but with hints of his character's true nature -- excited, petulant, very rules-focused yet breaking them at will, PLAYING with the toys I mean crew of the Enterprise. The first time this episode is seen, the final revelation is a fitting surprise; and subsequent viewings reward us with several "ohhhh, there it is" moments of recognition. Nicely crafted!

I also like the Q tie-in, and you're right, it definitely works. Do I remember correctly as well, that Q was not particularly fond of or interested in Data either (being in this sense a Spock stand-in, logical and not so bendable to a higher power's will)? Neat how things can fit together; reminds me of how the writers of Battlestar Galactica said they elucidated the answers behind The Final Five and that shared dream-scene in the opera house. Chance does sometimes favor the prepared mind, regardless of whose!

Anonymous said...

Billie - This has nothing to do with the episode review above, but I noticed that you mentioned Shore Leave - did you happen to attend this year? As a pretty big fan of the new Battlestar Galatica, it was great to see Edward James Olmos and Katee Sackhoff as guests this year. It was kind of shocking to see how different Katee is in real life, but that makes me appreciate her performance as Starbuck all the more. If you had the chance to go, I hope you had a good time!

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Anon:

No, I haven't been to Shore Leave in a few -- I moved to California awhile back. And I somehow can't get it together to go to Comic Con. It's just too huge and intimidating.