|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.17 “The Squire of Gothos” – (Original air date: Thursday, January 12, 1967)

TrekSquireofGothos

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Squire of Gothos.”

  • On this day in history: Dr. James Bedford becomes the first human to be cryonically frozen in the hope of one day being resuscitated. Fun fact: Dr. Bedford has been relocated several times since 1967, and his original dewar (his cryocapsule) began to fail in 1991, which necessitated another move to a new capsule. Some time later he was moved to Alcor’s facilities in Arizona. As far as I know, he’s still there, and Ted Williams is one of his neighbors. And he’s still dead.
  • The #1 single on the day Dr. Bedford was frozen was “I’m a Believer,” by The Monkees.
  • The Squire of Gothos” was an episode that I remembered, but not clearly, which led me to believe that I didn’t like it much. Turns out, that isn’t true. It didn’t make the All-Time Best Trek list, but I liked it quite a bit.
  • This episode was written by Paul Schneider, who also wrote “Balance of Terror.” Some of Schneider’s earliest work as writer was on the Mr. Magoo cartoons, and he would later write for the 1980s science fiction series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
  • In the teaser, the Enterprise is zooming across what Dr. McCoy calls a “star desert,” an area of zero space density, no stars.
  • After Bones waxes poetic about dunes, oases and mirages, Spock remarks that he can’t understand nostalgia for a “waterless, barren wasteland.”
  • McCoy’s rejoinder: “Mr. Spock, I can’t imagine a mirage ever disturbing those mathematically perfect brain waves of yours,” which Spock takes as a compliment.
  • Our obligatory witty banter concluded, we get on with our story. Our intrepid explorers discover a planet where no planet should exist. That’s interesting.
  • There’s also a new face at the navigator’s station. His name is DeSalle, and he will return in a couple of later episodes, but not as navigator.
  • Sulu, our helmsman, suddenly disappears before he can turn the ship away from the planet, which Uhura informs us must be a natural radio source, causing strong interference on subspace.
  • Kirk then disappears as he hurries over to Sulu’s station.
  • DeSalle may be just a navigator, but he’s bucking for promotion to Captain Obvious as he says, “Mr. Spock, they’re gone!”
  • End of teaser.
  • I’ve discovered that I like the theme music that plays in the background before Shatner stops speaking, but I’m not a huge fan of what comes after.
  • A message appears on one of the bridge monitors. It reads, in archaic-looking script: “Greetings and Felicitations. Hip-Hip-Hoorah. Tallyho!” As messages go, not exactly an effective one.
  • Spock orders the beaming down of a landing party consisting of Dr. McCoy, our new navigator DeSalle, and Lt. Jaeger, a meteorologist but not the television kind.
  • Scotty volunteered to join the landing party, but Spock felt that neither Scotty nor himself could be spared. McCoy is apparently as expendable as DeSalle and Jaeger.
  • The landing party discovers an unexpectedly pleasant atmosphere, plus a stone building with an iron-bound wooden door. The door is unlocked.
  • Weird time to be noticing this, but our landing party members are all wearing black belts. The pirate-like slash weapons belt is absent in this episode.
  • Inside the building, Sulu and Kirk stand frozen, like waxwork figures.
  • And Liberace is there also, playing the harpsichord.
  • Okay, it’s not Liberace, but he certainly resembles him, especially in his ruffled shirt and lavishly decorated cloak and jacket. Plus, he’s playing a harpsichord. I don’t think the resemblance was lost on the episode’s director either.
  • Liberace introduces himself as General Trelane (retired), the Squire of Gothos, and says the landing party are his guests. He unfreezes Kirk and Sulu as well.
  • Trelane says that Earth is somewhat of a hobby of his. Since they are 900 light-years distant from Earth, the images that Trelane has been studying are from 900 years ago.
  • That explains some of his home’s décor. There’s a bust of Napoleon, a suit of armor, tapestry and swords and shields on the wall. And a large mirror that figures into the plot in a bit.
  • It doesn’t explain the stuffed Salt-Sucker Monster, like the one in “The Man Trap,” standing in one of the alcoves. You would expect some sort of comment from Dr. McCoy about his former girlfriend.
  • Trelane speaks French to DeSalle and German to Jaeger.
  • Trelane admires his reflection in the large wall mirror, notices DeSalle raising his weapon, and then freezes him, taking his phaser from his hand. He tests the phaser on a couple of his exhibits, including the Salt-Sucker Monster. He’s like a kid with a new toy.
  • Trelane reveals that he, and others like him, can alter the shape of matter at will.
  • When Kirk angers Trelane, the foppish general (retired) transports Kirk, briefly, to the natural atmosphere of the planet as a warning to behave.
  • Back on the Enterprise, Spock and Scotty discover Trelane’s little pocket universe in the chaotic atmosphere of the planet. Spock says they’ll attempt to transport up any living beings their sensors detect down there.
  • Back at Trelane’s place, McCoy tells the others that Trelane doesn’t show up on his scanners at all. Not alive, not dead. It’s as if he doesn’t even exist.
  • Jaeger points out that the wood fire in the fireplace burns steadily, but doesn’t give off any heat at all. Kirk is heartened to hear this. He says that this means that Trelane isn’t all-knowing, infallible.
  • Suddenly, the landing party is beamed back aboard the Enterprise. Yay! Spock and Scotty came through. And Act Two begins in earnest.
  • Kirk immediately calls for the ship to warp out of the area at maximum speed.
  • Trelane appears on the bridge. He’s “only a bit upset” with Kirk. He blames Spock for taking his playmates from him.
  • Trelane transports all of his original guests back to the drawing room of his castle, plus he brings along Spock, Uhura and Yeoman Ross.
  • There is a large dining table in the middle of Trelane’s drawing room, set for a banquet.
  • Trelane forces Yeoman Ross to dance with him while Uhura plays the harpsichord. Trelane also gave Uhura the sudden ability to play the harpsichord, which suggests he can do more than convert matter to whatever form he wishes.
  • Kirk becomes certain that the giant wall mirror is somehow the source of Trelane’s powers (via technology, not magic, you understand).
  • Kirk acts jealous because Trelane is flirting with Yeoman Ross. He slaps Trelane and challenges him to a duel. Trelane retrieves a box containing a pair of dueling pistols. Trelane warns that he never misses
  • Act Three picks up at the duel. Trelane, as the challenged, claims the first shot. He fires his gun into the ceiling, harmlessly.
  • On his turn, Kirk shoots the mirror. This does indeed make everything seem to go haywire. Trelane disappears near the mirror and the landing party is able to escape to the ship.
  • As the Enterprise is trying to zoom away again, the planet Gothos keeps appearing in front of them, whichever direction they go. Eventually, Kirk orders the ship to return to orbit, planning to beam down alone.
  • Before Kirk can use the transporter, Trelane brings Kirk down to his kangaroo court, where Trelane is wearing a wig and is the judge. The verdict is a foregone conclusion, and Kirk will hang by the neck until he is dead, dead, dead.
  • I’ve heard others suggest that Trelane may have been one of our first shown members of the Q-Continuum (and I think there’s at least one Star Trek novel that purports this). This court room scene that kicks off Act Four makes me think that there might really be something to this. It is a very Q-like move.
  • As dramatic as the trial scene begins, it peters out quickly. Kirk convinces Trelane that hanging him is just too easy, and that Trelane needs a real challenge. He suggests a hunt.
  • Now we’re doing “The Most Dangerous Game,” that classic Richard Connell short story that’s become a done-to-death television trope. You see, man is the most dangerous game, so the best hunt would be to hunt humans.
  • Kirk eludes Trelane for a while, but just when Trelane is about to kill him, Kirk breaks his sword and begins to scold him like a child. Because, it seems, that’s what Trelane really is. A spoiled, overgrown child.
  • To drive this point home, Trelane’s parents show up to get their son. The parents are disembodied green lights in the sky, and this deus ex machina ending is reminiscent of that in “Charlie X.” Trelane’s parents tell him that it is “time to come in now,” after scolding him for how he treats his pets.
  • In what now has become our familiar epilogue scene, Spock wants to know how to describe Trelane in his reports. Kirk says to classify him as a “small boy – and a very naughty one at that.”
  • Kirk goes on to say that Spock probably pulled the same sort of mischievous pranks as a boy, then goes on to list some pranks that seem incredibly anachronistic for a series set in the future.
  • Dipping little girls’ curls in inkwells? Stealing apples from a neighbor’s trees? Tying cans on—
  • I think he was going to say something like “tying cans on the tails of cats.” Kirk trails off because he realizes that none of this could apply to a stoic individual such as Spock. Or perhaps to anyone since Huck Finn.

Okay, it’s still not one of my favorite episodes of TOS, but it’s not that bad. I don’t like a lot of magic mixed in with my science fiction, and Trelane’s powers smell more magical than technological to me. But, when I factor in the fact that he is a member of an alien race much more advanced that humans, I can overlook this. Arthur C. Clarke is over-quoted talking about sufficiently advanced technology, so ’nuff said.

The giant green head saves the day ending was a huge weak point, story-wise, and I would much rather Captain Kirk had solved the problem without the intervention of Trelane’s god-like parents. And yet, still, this is classic Trek to me, and I would watch it again if I stumbled across it while flipping channels.

This one has earned 3.5 out of 5 stars from me.

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