It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #18!
This week’s episode is “The Squire of Gothos” and if you thought last time’s episode was pretty loopy, this has it beat!
Our story begins with the Enterprise, en route to the Beta IV colony, having to pass through a “star desert,” a region of space where solar systems are uncommon. They unexpectedly encounter a lone planet; Sulu, at the helm, prepares to steer around it when he suddenly vanishes, as does Kirk.
Spock and the bridge crew conduct a sensor sweep to determine where the two are and come to the conclusion that they must be on the planet even though their instruments indicate it is inhospitable.
A landing party led by Spock beams down and, to their surprise, discover a Gothic manor in an Earth-like atmosphere. They enter and discover a room full of bizarre artifacts and Kirk and Sulu, frozen in place. A door slams, a harpsichord starts playing and the party turns to see a man who identifies himself as General Trelane, the Squire of Gothos (William Campbell).
Trelane unfreezes Kirk and Sulu with a wave of his hand and explains that he wishes to befriend the landing party, implying that he’ll only let them leave when he feels like it. Kirk tries to make a break for it, but an enraged Trelane snaps his fingers and teleports them to the surface of the planet away from his house, which is full of poisonous gas. As Kirk falls to the ground, choking, Trelane appears and informs him that he simply cannot leave and must do as he says. But who or what is Trelane and what does he want with the Enterprise?
If certain elements of last time’s episode–if you watched the episode, you know what I mean–remind you, as they did me, of the timeless Q from TNG, then Trelane will too. Key to that is Campbell’s performance, which has just the same egomania and childlike glee that John de Lancie gave to Q decades later. Acting off a charismatic villain like that gives the cast some great material: Shatner demonstrates Kirk’s cunning, Nimoy gives us some more great Spock facial expressions and Takei actually gets something to do for once as Sulu.
To go back to Q for a second, according to Memory Alpha, in a Next Generation novel called Q-Squared, Trelane is revealed to actually be a member of the Q Continuum along with two other beings revealed at the end of this episode in a fashion that reminded me, of all things, of “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” the Futurama episode that paid tribute to Trek. But while that reveal was humorous, this was a little more poignant.
As with any charismatic villain, key to making Trelane work is the script and this one, by Paul Schneider, is a good one, giving Campbell plenty of crackling lines to bite into. Schneider wrote the immortal “Balance of Terror,” and his prowess is just as on display here. The direction, by Don McDougall, is a delight, taking great pains to set up Trelane’s backwards perceptions of Earth culture (he dresses and acts the way he does because he thinks the Earth is still in the 17th Century) and ramping up the conflict between Trelane and Kirk, which results in some wonderfully spooky imagery with some very effective lighting. Overall, this episode is recommended without a doubt.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.