Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Star Trek at 50: The Squire of Gothos

Season 1
Episode 18: The Squire of Gothos
Filmed: October/November 1966 
First Air Date: January 12, 1967

Karen: While "The Squire of Gothos" is a very competent episode, it's not one that I find particularly interesting or entertaining. I'm not a fan of the 'omnipotent alien entity', especially the mischievous kind, which is a trope Star Trek would dip into more than a few times. Trelane in this episode is clearly the inspiration for the being Q who appeared frequently in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Besides Trelane, the Enterprise crew in the original series would encounter Apollo, Sargon and his fellow disembodied aliens, the Organians, the Metrons, and I'm sure other all-powerful types I am forgetting. Trelane is remarkable for appearing to be a cosmic dandy, but in reality was just a small boy, playing at war. 

Karen: This episode was written by Paul Schneider, who had also delivered the screenplay for "Balance of Terror."  Clearly this story was much more fantasy-oriented, and even he had some reservations about it. But the staff was generally pleased with his script, which obviously borrowed heavily from The Most Dangerous Game. Producer Gene Coon came in to do some script polishing, including beefing up Kirk's confrontation with Trelane at the end.

Karen: Long-time BABsters know that Doug and I are both huge Planet of the Apes fans, and fans of actor Roddy McDowall, who played the chimps Cornelius and Caesar in the films. Can you imagine McDowall as Trelane?  Well, both director Don McDougall and casting director Joe D'Agosta had wanted to hire McDowall for the role of Trelane, which would have been fantastic!  But Gene Coon thought William Campbell would be perfect for it. Coon had worked with Campbell before on The Wild, Wild West and brought him in to read for the part. Campbell was excited about it, finding the role well-written. He certainly threw himself into it whole-heartedly. Maybe a little too much, but I suppose he was playing an over-imaginative, excitable boy. It brings to mind the Warren Zevon song of the same name. But I digress. Campbell would also appear on Trek as the Klingon commander Koloth in the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," a role he would reprise on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Karen: For Trelane's home, an entirely new set had to be built. 'Trelane's Drawing Room' was a round set -an unusual concept for that time - which designer Matt Jefferies was rightly proud of. The set was also decorated with some recognizable trophies, including the Salt Vampire from the "Man Trap" episode.McCoy does a fun double take at this.

Karen: The interactions between Trelane and Kirk are well done, but for my money, Spock gets the best line in this episode, when he states his objections to Trelane, as seen in the clip below:

Karen: Stan Robertson, the NBC representative, complained that this was another episode with a court room sequence (like "Court Martial" and "The Menagerie") and we were again seeing Kirk in a 'hunt and chase' situation. But most of all Robertson was concerned that the audience would not believe  or perhaps not understand the story's conclusion, with Trelane revealed as just a child -all-powerful, but a child nonetheless. Of course, he had no reason to be concerned; the audience got it just fine.


Humanbelly said...

I think the All-Powerful-Spoiled-Child trope was probably well-used in SF even in the 60's-- and there's always a pretty hefty Suspension of Disbelief to be swallowed if one dwells too deeply on matters of the development of sentience and such-- but I've always loved this episode-! And I believe one of Peter David's ST:TNG novels solidifies the Trelane/Q relationship (although I don't quite recall the specific family dynamic).

Love the set. Geeze--LOVE the railing design! A masterpiece of inexpensive elements cobbled together in an interesting, atypical design to create a feeling of opulence. Hmm-- wonder if I could make that. . . (the newel post, no-- 'way beyond my abilities).


Edo Bosnar said...

I generally like this one, and a big part of it for me is that Campbell really owned the role. Also didn't mind the 'omnipotent (or least very, very powerful) entity' trope that much either: one thing I really like about the original series in particular is that the Enterprise crew often encountering incredibly powerful beings and/or forces. It really underscored the idea that space travel and exploration, if it ever becomes something humans engage in, will not just be exciting but also rather scary.

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, by the way, Karen, I think the Providers (from the Gamesters of Triskelion) would also count as some of the all-powerful types you mentioned...

Anonymous said...

Roddy McDowell had played the arrogant, aristocratic Octavian/Augustus in "Cleopatra" just two years earlier so that's probably why he was considered for the role of Trelane.

Martinex1 said...

I thought Trelane was kind of a humorous version of Charlie X with a very similar ending (again with a more humorous feel).

I find this episode to be a mixed bag. I really liked the beginning and the mystery around what was happening, the appearance of the salt vampire, the weirdness of it all. By the time the final sword fight came around, I was a bit bored.

A side note, Campbell was once in an old horror movie called Dementia 13. I caught that movie on one of those Saturday morning monster shows as a kid and it scared the bejeebees out of me.

Garett said...

I liked this one and thought Campbell was great in the role. Playful! Your one photo of the room is blurry.

Pat Henry said...

Humanbelly got there and made the point before I did. And just for that I'll fix him by wishing him into the cornfield!

...not really.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind this episode, although Trelane is kind of a goof at times. There's been some (more recent) fan speculation that Trelane may have actually been a member of the Q, there's a story I want to see!

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Mike Wilson - the story has been written - by Peter David in his ST Next Generation novel Q Squared.
David also tied in Gary Mitchell and possibly other all powerful beings from the Trek universe. It has been years since I read it but I enjoyed the way David pulled everything together.

david_b said...

Campbell did a great role..., his wide-eyed portrayal was a great dynamic to use against Shatner, it worked very very effectively, I thought.

Another unmentioned character.., Michael Barrier as DeSalle. This was his first of three episodes his character appeared in (later, 'This Side of Paradise' and 'Catspaw').

Excellent square-jawed actor, it's a shame he (like Riley before him) wasn't utilized in later episodes. Especially in 'Catspaw', he played a great fill-in strong leader type, with nice tense dialog with Chekov and Uhura.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: Cool; I like Peter David's writing, so I'll have to check that out.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Another great review! Yeah, this episode was enjoyable mainly because of William Campbell's over the top performance. I dunno, Trelane was intriguing, a seemingly omnipotent character with the playful mindset of a child. The writers must have had a field day with imagining all the crazy possible situations the Enterprise crew could find themselves in!

- Mike 'Trelane and Q should make a 2 god Broadway show' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Hunter said...

Roddy's name is spelled McDowall.

Hunter said...

Roddy's name is spelled McDowall.

Karen said...

Long day so I am jumping in late, but thanks again for all your comments guys.

Edo - yep, the Providers are another one of those darned omnipotent alien races!

Martinex1 - I hadn't thought about Charlie X, but that's true -they're both adolescents.

Garrett -sorry about the photo. One of those things where it looked good on my laptop, but not so good on a larger monitor.

David -yes, Lt. DeSalle was one of those crewmen who seemed like he could have joined the regulars or semi-regulars. It was interesting how they changed him from Command division to Engineering -I read in These are the Voyages that Gene Coon actually wanted to do more with the character but it just didn't work out. It may have been for the best -we probably would have seen less of our existing supporting cast.

Hunter -thanks, I corrected the spelling. Do you have anything to say about the episode?

I haven't read the Peter David book (I haven't read many Trek novels, although John Ford's The Final Reflection was terrific) but it would make sense if Trelane and Q were connected. But I thought Q was one of the worst things about Next Generation. I really have no desire to see any episodes with Q in them. Like nails on a chalkboard for me.

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