Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Squire of Gothos”

“The Squire of Gothos”
Written by Paul Schneider
Directed by Don McDougall
Season 1, Episodes 18
Production episode 6149-18
Original air date: January 12, 1967
Stardate: 2124.5

Captain’s log. Enterprise is proceeding to Beta VI to deliver supplies, and they’re travelling via a large void between star systems. To everyone’s surprise, a planet appears out of nowhere directly in their flight path. Spock finds it hard to believe nobody charted this before, but they don’t have time to investigate. Kirk orders Uhura to alert the authorities to this new planet, Spock to gather as much data as possible while they fly by, and Sulu to veer forty degrees to starboard.

However, Uhura can’t punch through subspace interference, and Sulu just disappears. Kirk runs over to the helm to see what happened—and he disappears, too.

Spock orders a full stop, the ship to red alert, and a search commenced. Four hours later, there’s no sign of Kirk or Sulu on the ship, and sensor sweeps find no human life on the planet. Ship’s Meteorologist Karl Jaeger reports that the surface of the planet is uninhabitable.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

The screen above Uhura lights up with words in a fancy font using archaic wording. Spock authorizes Lieutenant DeSalle to lead a landing party along with McCoy and Jaeger to the source of the signal.

The trio beam down to a verdant forest, completely unlike what Jaeger described, complete with oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. However, they can no longer communicate with the ship. They do find a large structure that looks like a medieval castle. They enter to find a lushly appointed drawing room, complete with fireplace, candles, tapestries, paintings, and a harpsichord. They also find Kirk and Sulu, frozen in the exact positions they were standing in when they disappeared.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

A foppish gentleman appears at the harpsichord. He restores Kirk and Sulu with but a gesture. He calls the planet Gothos, and says he couldn’t resist “summoning” the crew here when he saw the ship pass by. He identifies himself as “General Trelane, retired,” and he’s thrilled to have guests from the planet that he’s made his hobby. Jaeger realizes that the furnishings, costumes, and speech patterns of Trelane are all from Earth’s past—but if he viewed the planet through a telescope, the distance would mean he’d only see older Earth images. “How fallible of me,” Trelane says with regret.

Trelane is fascinated by what he’s viewed of Earth’s history, and wants to know all about their campaigns and battles. Kirk’s insistence that they’re on a mission of peace fall on deaf ears. Trelane is also fascinated by DeSalle’s phaser (he uses it to disintegrate two statues). Everything he owns and discusses relates to battle and warfare.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

In any case, Trelane wants them all to stay and have dinner with him. To emphasize the point, he sends Kirk to the part of the planet that isn’t under his protection. Kirk almost asphyxiates before Trelane brings him back.

McCoy reports that he detects no life signs of any kind from Trelane, while Jaeger points out that the fire doesn’t actually radiate any heat. Kirk tries to convince Trelane to let them go by appealing to his sense of duty, but Trelane won’t hear of it. Kirk pushes, saying that there are over 400 men and women on board—but the only word Trelane hears is “women,” and he’s fascinated by the notion of “the fairer sex” serving aboard ship.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

On the Enterprise, Scott is able to fine-tune the sensors to detect Trelane’s little oasis. Spock orders him to beam up any life signs they might find. The landing party is safely whisked away, to Trelane’s annoyance, and Kirk orders the ship to leave the planet at maximum warp.

Trelane appears on the bridge, says he forgives Kirk for his rudeness, and transports everyone on the bridge—Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Jaeger, Sulu, DeSalle, Uhura, and Yeoman Teresa Ross—to his dining room. However, the food and drink have absolutely no taste to them. Trelane knows only form, not substance. Kirk and Spock hypothesize that he has assistance in doing all his little magic tricks, probably mechanical.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Trelane forces Uhura to play the harpsichord and he then dances with Ross, going so far as to put her in a ballgown. Kirk decides to go along with Trelane’s play-acting, and acts as the jealous lover, pulling Ross away from him and objecting to Trelane dallying with her. He removes one of the gloves from Ross’s gown and uses it to slap Trelane, challenging him to a duel.

To Kirk’s surprise, Trelane chooses to shoot first, but fires harmlessly into the ceiling. When Kirk takes his shot, he fires at the large mirror that Trelane is always standing in front of. The machine behind it explodes, the fire in the fireplace goes out, and DeSalle can contact the ship now. Trelane is furious, and tells Kirk to go back to his ship—and that he’s earned the wrath of the squire of Gothos.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

And then Trelane disappears, which worries Kirk, as this means he still has some power left…

They beam back to the Enterprise and Sulu floors it. However, everywhere they go, Trelane shoves Gothos in their path. They can’t get away from it. Fed up, Kirk decides to beam down alone—but before he can even reach the transporter room, he finds himself in a courtroom. Trelane is the judge, complete with robes and white wig. Trelane declares that Kirk is guilty and that he will hang until he is “dead, dead, dead!”

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

And then Trelane is giddy as a schoolboy—he’s never been angry before, and he rather enjoyed it. But the act of actually killing Kirk is too easy. Kirk convinces him that it can be much more fun to kill someone if there’s suspense and terror involved, rather than just forcing Kirk to put his head in a noose. Trelane agrees to a game of hide and seek, where Trelane will hunt Kirk through the forest.

Kirk leads Trelane on a merry chase through the trees, and Kirk even manages to get Trelane’s sword away from him—though the squire simply creates a new one for himself. Eventually, however, Trelane traps Kirk and orders him to his knees. Kirk refuses to, and Trelane gets furious.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Before the conflict can continue, Trelane’s parents show up and tell him it’s time to come in now. Trelane insists that they promised he could have that planet and do what he wanted! But his parents do insist, and take him away. The parents apologize to Kirk, saying it’s their fault for indulging him too much, and then they all disappear.

The Enterprise proceeds to Beta VI.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Trelane and his people have the ability to change matter into energy and back again, and can also alter the forms that both the matter and the energy take. Trelane needs his “instrumentality” to accomplish his goals—it’s unclear if his parents (who appear as green glowy blobs) need the same.

Fascinating. Trelane at one point declares that Spock’s one saving grace is that he’s ill-mannered.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy can determine no kind of life readings from Trelane whatsoever—leading Sulu to ask if he’s dead, but McCoy says it’s more like he isn’t there at all. Having said that, he gets a similar reading on Kirk and Sulu before Trelane unfreezes them.

Trelane also has a statue of the salt vampire from “The Man Trap,” the sight of which causes a double take from McCoy…

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu has one of the best lines of the episode when Trelane transports the bridge crew to his dining room and asks if the décor is more appropriate and tasteful. Sulu just stares at him, smiles, and says, “No.”

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty points out to Spock that just beaming up whatever’s in that oasis is a shot in the dark, but Spock says the alternative is to do nothing. The spectacular danger of beaming something onto the ship without knowing what it is fails to be brought up by either of them.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Hailing frequencies open. Although she’s obviously nauseated by Trelane’s “Nubian princess” line, Uhura does enjoy playing the harpsichord for the first time.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Ross looks rather fetching in her gown. After they return to the Enterprise, Kirk jokes with her to turn in her glass slippers and get back into uniform. Once she goes off to change, Kirk gets a she’s real purrrrrrty look on his face.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Channel open. “‘Fascinating’ is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think ‘interesting’ would suffice.”

Spock discussing his semantic choices with McCoy.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Welcome aboard. William Campbell plays Trelane, the first of two appearances by the actor on the series; he’ll return in season two’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” as the Klingon Koloth. Michael Barrier makes the first of three appearances as DeSalle; he’ll be back in “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw.” The latest member of the post-Rand yeoman derby is Venita Wolf as Ross, while Richard Carlyle plays Jaeger and Eddie Paskey plays Leslie (Leslie has no lines, but is sitting in the captain’s chair at one point before being relieved by Kirk, despite Uhura being right there; as progressive as the show was, they still weren’t about to put a black woman in charge of the ship…). Recurring regulars DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and James Doohan are all present and accounted for, as well.

In addition, Bart LaRue and Barbara Babcock make uncredited vocal appearances as Trelane’s parents.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Trivial matters: Star Trek deliberately avoided specific references to when it took place, though this is the closest they’ve come to an overt reference so far, as Jaeger identifies Trelane’s outfit and furnishings as being from 900 years in the past—based on the planet being 900 light-years from Earth—which would put Trek in the 27th century, since Trelane’s accoutrements are all 18th/19th century.

Trelane’s harpsichord is playing two pieces by Domenico Scarlatti, and later Uhura plays “Rosen aus dem Süden” by Johann Strauss, to which Trelane and Ross dance. The pistols he brings out for the duel are apparently the same as those used in the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

A popular fan theory was that Trelane was a member of the Q-Continuum, as introduced in “Encounter at Farpoint” and seen throughout TNG (as well as DS9 and Voyager), despite the fact that Trelane needs technology to help him out, unlike any member of the Q we ever met. Despite that, Peter David wrote the novel Q-Squared, which paired Q and Trelane.

Trelane also appeared in the videogame Judgment Rites (voiced by William Campbell), the 45th issue of DC’s first Star Trek monthly comic by Steven H. Wilson, Rob Davis, & Arne Starr, and in Marvel’s Star Trek Unlimited #7 by Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton, Ron Randall, Tom Morgan, Art Nichools, & Scott Hanna.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

To boldly go. “Are you challenging me to a duel?” The lighter side of “Charlie X,” this is another case of a child being given absolute power, but Trelane isn’t a character we feel even remotely sorry for as we do Charlie Evans. Part of that is because it’s obvious that Trelane is supposed to have this power, he’s just a big ol’ brat.

Not that we have to feel sorry for him. Instead, we can just enjoy the ride as he acts like a buffoon. The eye-rolling engaged in by Sulu, Jaeger, DeSalle, and Uhura as Trelane throws ethnic stereotypes at them is a delightful deconstruction and repudiation of those same stereotypes. And William Campbell is generally having so much fun in the role that it’s very easy to just go along for the ride. The revelation that Trelane is just a child puts the entire episode into focus, as it explains how mercurial he is, not to mention how easy he is to manipulate. When Kirk talks Trelane out of hanging him by the noose, the first thought is that it’s the sort of thing only a child would fall for—but Trelane is a child.

Star Trek the original series, The Squire of Gothos

Indeed, the episode’s only true flaw is how thick they lay on the parent-child thing at the end. Suddenly, Trelane is speaking exactly like a human four-year-old, and it’s a little too on the nose.

Still, the episode is a comic delight, from Campbell’s prancing about to William Shatner’s tense calm holding everything together to Leonard Nimoy’s dry recitation of Trelane’s initial greeting. And the episode is another that makes good use of the greater ensemble. I would’ve liked to have seen more landing parties involving junior officers like the one DeSalle led that included Jaeger and McCoy.

 

Warp factor rating: 8

Next week:Arena

Keith R.A. DeCandido is involved with two nifty Kickstarters, one for a superhero anthology called The Side of Good/The Side of Evil (in which Keith will have a story), the other for a web series that combines 50s and 60s pulp sci-fi with a modern sensibility (think Buckeroo Banzai meets Emma Peel) starring Singularity & Co.’s Cici James called Atomic Annie (for which Keith will be putting together a short-story anthology).

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