Monday, March 3, 2008

TOS Rewind #16: "The Squire of Gothos"

Today's episode:  The Squire of Gothos (1/12/1967).  The drink:  beer (Smithwick's).

Here's Eric and my podcast for this episode:

Listen here

This entry gets a double shot:  written and podcast.  Eric gets the first part:

Doc and I just did our podcast of this episode, so I’ll keep this short. Simply put, “The Squire of Gothos" is one of my favorite episodes. It’s a wonderfully imaginative story (with a really cool twist at the end) that is not only great Trek but great SF.

First, a couple of pieces of trivia:

1)    William Campbell also played the Klingon Captain Koloth in the
second season episode “The Trouble With Tribbles".

2)    In the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, William Campbell was originally going to reprise his role as Trelane (a grown up version), but Roddenberry ended up going with John DeLancie as Q. It’s assumed, though, that Trelane and his parents were also part of the Q. If you watch the early ST:TNG episodes with Q, you’ll see that the open handed gesture Q makes when using his powers is the same gesture Trelane uses in “The Squire of Gothos".

I have no big complaints with this episode. There are some technical errors, but Doc and I covered those in the podcast. One thing that just occurred to me, though, is that Trelane’s folks showing up in
the nick of time to rescue Kirk and company could be considered a deus ex machina. But if so, it’s not blatant, and it works well in the context of the story rather than coming across as a contrived plot device.

At its heart, this is just a very well done episode: terrific idea, great writing, solid directing and production, and great acting. For example, Trelane is comic, if a little nuts, at first, and then he
steadily becomes more malevolent. Campbell does a great job maintaining a petulant, spoiled brat demeanor throughout, but it doesn’t become clear that that’s what it is until the very end. When his parents come to take him “home" it’s a genuine (and delightful) surprise because everything comes together and makes sense.

So the story is based on a really cool concept—an incredibly powerful alien child who plays with the Enterprise crew like a human child might play with an ant colony—and it’s also an example of excellent story telling. And, unfortunately, great storytelling is not that common in TV, or the movies, today.


Okay, so here are some brief points I got from watching this one.

Even though the idea of beings that can manipulate energy/matter with their minds alone (or with the aid of some sort of tool as in "Forbidden Planet") had been done prior to this episode, I can't think of an example in which this had been done with this kind of flourish.  The Q-like (or he is Q) being has human-like traits.  One could argue that this is the idea that even if humans get to the point where they can do this sort of thing, they'll retain their immaturity (at least when they're young).  And the Q of Next Gen is obviously a being that never grew up!  So, Trelane turns out to be a spoiled child.  This of course allows for the "parents" to bail out Kirk and co. at the end of the show, but this is tough to avoid when you pit mere humans against all-powerful uber-beings. 

The acting is quite good here with Campbell standing out as trelane.  Kirk and Spock get to play along while looking annoyed.  There is a lot of fun in this episode, which makes it more rewarding for me as a "lightweight" episode than "Shore Leave."  Both episodes have ideas behind their plots, but this one is, for me, better executed.  And hey, how often does one get to see Uhura play the harpsichord?

Next time:  “Arena"