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E2 Star Trek episode guide : Original Series : Season One

The Squire of Gothos

Episode number: 17
Airdate: January 12, 1967
Stardate: 2124.5

Writer: Paul Schneider
Director: Don McDougall
Special guest star: William Campbell

Background

The Enterprise crew is held hostage by an eccentric retired general on the planet Gothos, which the ship's equipment suggests is incapable of sustaining life.

Story (with spoilers)

The Enterprise crew is on a routine voyage when it comes across an unknown planet. Kirk has no sooner decided the crew should investigate the planet some other time when he and Sulu suddenly disappear. While there's no indication of where they might be, Spock believes they've been teleported to the planet. But the planet doesn't seem to be hospitable to life forms. Confusion reigns.

Uhura announces that a transmission is incoming, seemingly from the (supposedly inhospitable) planet. "Greetings and felicitations," it reads. "Hip hip hoorah. Tallyho!"

Naturally, this seems like a good enough reason to check out the planet (and search for Kirk and Sulu). Spock has Dr. McCoy and two crew members (named DeSalle and Jaeger) form a search party and beam down to the planet. As it turns out, the planet not only appears hospitable but is the site of a castle filled with historical artifacts — as well as Kirk and Sulu, apparently frozen into living wax figures. Confusion reigns.

The castle's inhabitant then deigns to make an appearance; he is dressed in a seemingly 18th-century Earth period costume, plays the harpsichord and introduces himself as "General Trelane, retired." His military career being over, he now prefers to be known as the "Squire of Gothos." He promptly releases Kirk and Sulu from their statue-like states and proceeds to talk, at great length and with great eccentricity, about himself.

It seems that Trelane is fascinated by Earth's history and has been using an interplanetary telescope to watch Terran events as they unfold. The crew soon figures out that he's been watching events several centuries in the past, and hasn't caught up to the 23rd-century "present."

The creepiest part has yet to come, though; McCoy's equipment doesn't pick up any readings from Trelane or anything else on the planet. That would suggest that none of it — the general or his surroundings — are even there.

The whole thing is rendered irrelevant soon enough, however, as Spock is able to beam the five crew members aboard despite Trelane's protests. (Apparently, the guy doesn't get to entertain much.) Back on the bridge, everyone expresses relief that the bizarre experience is over — and then Trelane shows up and instantly teleports everyone back down to the planet for "dinner."

The whole thing leaves Kirk a little put off; he just wants to go back to the ship and continue the mission, but Trelane insists on dancing with the yeoman (even conjuring up a fancy dress!), having Uhura provide harpsichord accompaniment (though she's never been able to play before!) and providing a meal (which McCoy says doesn't taste like anything!).

Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock realize that Trelane is always hovering around a wall mirror and speculate that it may be what gives him his powers. The captain insults the retired general deliberately, causing Trelane to challenge him to a duel. Trelane demands the first shot but misses; rather than aim at him, Kirk shoots the mirror. It breaks, revealing some sort of mechanism behind it. Everyone assumes this is the source of Trelane's powers, and they beam back to the ship while he continues to freak out.

Attempts to clear the planet are unsuccessful, however; it keeps veering into the Enterprise's path even as Sulu attempts to avoid it. Kirk, having had it, heads for the transporter room intending to beam down to Gothos and finish this thing once and for all, but doesn't make it. Trelane teleports him away again, though he's taken to some kind of court room this time.

Trelane, now posing as a judge, sentences Kirk to death by hanging. Kirk offers him the chance to "hunt" him instead; Trelane accepts and the two chase each other around the castle. Despite disappearing, reappearing, conjuring up weapons and cages and using his superpowers to prevent Kirk from escaping, Trelane declares that Kirk "cheated."

And just when it seems that Trelane can't become any more childish, two alien beings (represented by lights in the sky) reveal themselves to be his parents and tell him it's time to come in. Once they've beamed him away, they apologize to Kirk, assure him their overindulged son will be punished and offer to make it possible for the Enterprise to make its escape.

Review

This episode is remarkably like Charlie X, which also features a one-shot character who can make stuff happen with his mind, causes no end of trouble and then gets hauled away by super-powered beings. In fact, my father had briefly described the premise of this episode to me ("they run into this guy who makes them do stuff but it turns out he's a kid and then his parents come and get him") and, after seeing Charlie X, I thought that was the one he was talking about.

That said, it's a lot more lighthearted and whimsical, and probably better for it. About three quarters of the way through the episode, I started to suspect that it might be the one with the "he's really a kid!" twist. I can't decide whether it might have been better or worse had I not known; something tells me I might have considered it a bit of a cop-out had I not seen it coming.

The best part (if you ask me) is just how archaic Trelane is (on account of his only being able to see Earth events from a certain time frame) and how well it contrasts with the Star Trek universe of the "future." When Spock reads his transmission to the Enterprise as it appears on the viewing screen, he says "Hip hip hoorah... and I believe it's pronounced 'tallyho.'" Classic.

And my favourite exchange, which is so many other people's favourite exchange, takes place between Spock and Trelane during the crew's brief stay in his drawing room:

"I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose."
"Oh, Mr. Spock, you do have one saving grace after all: you're ill-mannered! The human half of you, no doubt?"

(That said, "Do you know that you're one of the few predator species that preys even on itself?" is also a gem.)

I give it a B-. Not in my top five, but enjoyable all the same.

Trivia

  • Trelane's attire and general eccentricity are the most thinly veiled Liberace parody I've ever seen. (No, I haven't seen that many.)
  • My dad purports to have read/heard somewhere that William Campbell had a glorious time filming this episode because he spent so much of his career playing "serious dramatic bad guys" ("...if you can imagine that now." No. No I can't). Timeshredder says Campbell discusses his role as the Squire in, among other places, The Making of Star Trek by David Gerrald.
  • Trelane is thought to have been the inspiration for Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • When the search party first enters the castle, one of the statues they come across is the "salt creature" from The Man Trap. Blink and you'll miss it.

References:

http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/The_Squire_of_Gothos
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708478/
Several viewings.

Wow, there's a lot of unnoded Star Trek. I'm endeavoring to use the original formats set out by other noders years ago.


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