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Recap / Star Trek S1 E17 "The Squire of Gothos"

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Trelane channels his inner Liberace.

Original air date: January 12, 1967

The Enterprise happens on a planet ruled by a being named Trelane, who has unnatural powers. When he attempts to force his will on the crew, Kirk determines to leave - a decision that is easier made than implemented.

It all started when the Enterprise was just on its way to Beta VI and crossing a "star desert" when they come across a rogue planet comprised primarily of iron-silica. Sulu is just going to steer around it when BOING! He disappears! Kirk soon also disappears with a similar BOING!

Soon after, the Enterprise receives a text greeting in Old English Font. After a quick scan, Spock assigns three officers (no Red Shirts this time) to rescue the Captain and Sulu. The place they beam down to has thick vegetation and a manor house in French style architecture, and they can't get a communication signal. Maybe they're in Louisiana?

No such luck. The landing party investigates the manor to find it filled with unusual artifacts, including one that looks suspiciously like their old nemesis, the Salt Vampire. Sulu and Kirk are frozen like wax figures, but freed with a touch. Slam goes the door. Tinka-tinka-tink goes the harpsichord. They are introduced to General Trelane (retired), the Squire of Gothos.

The Tropes of Gothos:

  • Accent Slip-Up: Trelane speaks in a posh, eloquent manner befitting his cultured façade, e.g. until his parents appear. Then, he tellingly starts talking like a stereotypical bratty kid with more of a working-class American accent. e.g.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Half buying time, half serious, Kirk lets himself be Trelane's plaything if he promises to let the ship go, and can't quite hide his fear when the noose swings towards him.
  • Affably Evil: Trelane fancies himself a retired general with an elegant home to show his captives every hospitality, or to at least play at doing so.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Trelane wasn't receiving radio signals, but clearly was limited by speed-of-light transmission when he thought that 18th-century fashions and behavior were the latest things for Earth people, there on his planet some 900 light years from Earth. Then again, he was merely a child from a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and might be excused from making such a mistake.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Trelane counts to four in German and says "Gehen wir mit dem Schießgewehr!" (We go with the rifle shooting!) Jaeger responds (in English) with "I'm a scientist, not a military man." (However, his last name does mean "Hunter".) Trelane asks DeSalle (in French) if he is really French. ("Un vrais Francais?") DeSalle responds (again in English), "My ancestry was French, yes."
  • Bling of War: It's unlikely he did anything to earn them, but Trelane believes no general costume is complete without a few medals.
  • Continuity Nod: The salt vampire from "The Man Trap" is among Trelane's collection. Bones does a double take when he sees it and a musical cue from that episode is briefly dubbed in.
  • Dance of Romance: Trelane starts his idea of one with Yeoman Ross while Uhura plays the harpsichord. (After he magically gave her the ability to do so?)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sulu is in fine form this episode:
    • When Kirk introduces Bones and Sulu, Trelane (correctly) intuits the latter's Japanese ancestry (somehow, since Sulu isn't a Japanese name) and bows deeply to him in a hilariously over-the-top fashion.
      Trelane: Welcome, good physicianer! (bows) And honourable sir.
      Sulu (aside, to Bones): Is he kidding?
    • Later, after Trelane teleports the entire bridge crew back down to his "estate" on Gothos:
      Trelane: Anyway, the decor of my drawing room is much more appropriate - (Jump Cut to everyone in his drawing room) - and tasteful. Don't you agree?
      Sulu (very dryly): No.
    • To add insult to injury, Trelane bows at him again in response.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens plot that regularly showed up in science fiction (and would again on Trek). Why would god-like aliens even bother with unpowered humans? Because in Trelane's case, he's a Spoiled Brat. And how do the puny humans defeat such an incredibly powerful foe? They don't, they just survive long enough for his parents to basically call him in and tell him to wash up before dinner.
  • Deus ex Machina: Trelane's parents show up and take their son away, also giving Kirk the ability to return to the ship.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Trelane likes admiring his reflection. Of course, this makes sneaking up on him difficult.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness
    • There was still a very vague idea of just how far into the future the series was set, but going from this episode, it's at least the 27th century given the statement that Trelane's information is 900 years out of date. The TOS era would later be firmly set in the 23rd century.
    • At one point, Uhura refers to Spacefleet Command rather than Starfleet Command.
  • Energy Beings: What Trelane and others like him are when they aren't pretending to be human.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Kirk realizes Trelane has a "lot to learn about everything" right before Trelane's parents show up.
  • Foreshadowing: Trelane indicates that he's a fan of the title "Squire". While historically the term was later used as a term for landed gentry and the lord of a manor, its original use was for a knight's apprentice, an appropriate appellation given that he's little more than a child still learning how to use his powers.
  • Flynning: Justified, as Trelane is a fan of swordfighting but has never actually tried it before.
  • Ghost Butler: When the group sent down to find Kirk and Sulu enter Trelane's house, the door closes itself just before Trelane appears.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: The crew realize that Trelane is not all-powerful because of numerous mistakes in his playground; the food he provides has no taste, and the fires in the fireplace and on the Hollywood Torches on the wall do not produce heat.
    Kirk: Whatever we're dealing with, he certainly isn't all knowledgeable. He makes mistakes.
  • Glove Slap: Kirk uses one of Yeoman Ross' gloves to challenge Trelane, who is all too eager to take part in an old-fashioned Duel to the Death.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Subverted. Trelane transformed Ross' uniform into an expensive-looking ballroom gown, which covers more than her uniform.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Trelane's outfit, as well as the gown he conjures up for Yeoman Ross.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Trelane believes this. The Regency style gown with High-Class Gloves he zaps Yeoman Ross into is a fine shade of lavender.
  • Hanging Around: Trelane tries to make Kirk stick his head in a noose, but he naturally refuses.
  • Hanging Judge: Trelane makes believe at being one, complete with powdered wig.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kirk intends this, staying behind to distract Trelane so that the Enterprise can escape from orbit. This would have two possible outcomes— either the vengeful Trelane kills him, or Kirk dies from oxygen deprivation after defeating him. It's subverted when Trelane's parents show up just as he is about to finish Kirk off.
  • Hollywood Torches: There are a number of them burning at various places on the walls of Trelane's mansion. This is Justified In-Universe because Trelane is a Reality Warper who created his mansion using his powers;
    Notice the wood fire, Captain? Burning steadily, ember bed glowing, and it doesn't give off any heat at all.
  • Hot Blooded Sideburns: The passionate and quick-tempered Trelane has a pair. Granted, he may only be wearing them because they were fashionable in the timeline he's trying to re-create, but it still fits.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Trelane believes this. That's why he admires them so!
  • Humans Are Special: Trelane's father chides him for his high-handed attitude, telling him, "They're beings, Trelane. They have spirit. They're superior." (though he seems to be referring to corporeal intelligences generally rather than humans specifically).
  • Immortal Immaturity: Trelane is an extremely powerful near-god and hundreds if not thousands of years old, but acts like a child... and by the standards of his race, he is— his parents show up at the end to drag their whining kid home.
  • Insult Backfire: "I can't imagine a mirage ever disturbing those mathematically perfect brain waves of yours," snipes Bones at Spock. Spock thanks him for the compliment.
  • Japanese Politeness: Trelane bows to Sulu and calls him "Honorable Sir." Sulu responds, "Is he kidding?!"
  • Judicial Wig: When Trelane puts Kirk on trial for defying him, he wears a long and curly white wig along with his judges' robes.
  • Large Ham: Trelane.
  • Mood Whiplash: Goes from a whimsical "we're dealing with a weird alien" plot to a God-like Trelane going berserk over Kirk's actions. And back again when we find out Trelane isn't God, just a spoiled brat.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Yeoman Ross serves up cups of coffee for everyone on the bridge at the opening of the episode. Doesn't it strike anyone as odd that they're allowing open beverages near what is probably very important electrical equipment?
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Gothos itself, an uncharted planet which shows up light years from any star and heralds the beginning of the weirdness.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Trelane practically squeals with delight over thoughts of savagery, war, and violence. He abducts the crew specifically to hear stories of their military achievements.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Trelane is rather obviously modeled after Liberace, with William Campbell being hairstyled and costumed similarly, and spending much of his screen time playing a keyboard instrument (albeit the harpsichord instead of the piano).
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Trelane provides a sumptuous dinner the second time he abducts part of the Enterprise crew. Too bad none of it tastes like anything, because all he knows about Earth food is what it looks like.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Trelane repeatedly complains that hunting Kirk is "too easy" to be any fun.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Trelane doesn't kill or even injure anyone aboard Enterprise over the course of the entire episode (though, perhaps, not through lack of trying). The worst they suffer is a delay in their otherwise routine mission and some humiliation. Yet the majority of the tension of the episode comes from knowing that Trelane is so powerful, as he demonstrated on multiple occasions, that he could kill the entire crew with a flick of his fingers if he decided to— and he seems to think that death is only a "time out" or a temporary loss in a game, so he could easily kill them without having the slightest understanding of what that really means. Kirk walks a delicate tightrope for the entire runtime: keeping Trelane entertained enough not to kill them, bored enough to consider letting them go, but not so bored he'll kill them all out of spite.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The entire planet Gothos does this when Sulu tries to get the Enterprise away at warp speed. No matter where the Enterprise goes, there's Gothos, right in front of them!
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Trelane doesn't like Spock, but does approve of him being ill-mannered.
  • Planet Baron: Trelane is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien with his own planet, though he only uses a portion of it.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Trelane treats the crew like his toys and he essentially throws a tantrum after Kirk destroys his computer, thus ruining his fun. He loves boasting about his authority and tries to make the crew play his little games. Once Kirk realizes what kind of person Trelane is, he plays on his need for fun. Based off the ending, he seems to be a child by his species’ standards and he is chastised by his parents for his treatment of Kirk and his crew.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: In order to show off his knowledge of Earth, Trelane speaks in French to DeSalle and in German to Mr. Jaeger without any translation for the audience.
  • Reality Warper: Trelane. Which brings us to....
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Trelane is a godlike alien reality warper who creates new worlds to suit his whims. He torments the Enterprise crew with his powers, but just as he's about to kill Kirk, his parents show up and remonstrate him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kirk dishes one out to Trelane, along with a couple of bitch slaps.
  • Revealing Reflection: When one of the abducted officers tries to shoot Trelane while he’s admiring himself in the mirror, Trelane notices and freezes him on the spot.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Kirk convinces Trelane to spare him because it would be more fun to Hunt The Most Dangerous Game.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Kirk and co. try to pull this at first. Trelane punishes Kirk for attempting to do so by briefly transporting him to another part of the planet with a noxious atmosphere. When Trelane is distracted by his broken toys, Kirk and co. beam back to the Enterprise, where Kirk tells Sulu to floor it. (Not that this works.)
  • Silly Walk: On hearing the name of the meteorologist is Karl Jaeger, Trelane does an exaggerated goose-step while counting in German. Lt. Jaeger is not amused.
  • Spoiled Brat: What Trelane ultimately is. He drops his suave gentleman act when his parents show up and starts acting like a whiny little child. The parents apologize, realizing that it's partially their own fault for over-indulging him.
  • Stock Sound Effects: When Kirk damages Trelane's equipment with the dueling pistol, we hear some stock cartoon "things have gone haywire" sound effects.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The character of Yeoman Ross was very likely written as Janice Rand until Grace Lee Whitney left the series.
  • Sword Fight: Trelane and Kirk get into one. Trelane doesn't fight fair.
  • Taken for Granite: Trelane's first act is to kidnap Kirk and Sulu, turning them into statues; he turns them back to normal when the rest of the crew arrive, seeing as that was his intent.
  • Trial of the Mystical Jury: Trelane puts Kirk on trial.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Along with the usual "BOING" whenever anyone disappears, we get a cavalcade of goofy noises right out of an old Warner Bros. cartoon when Kirk shoots out Trelane's mirror, where he's been hiding the power source of his illusions. This is likely intentional, for Trelane doesn't seem to understand the difference between representations of reality and fictional imagery.
  • Where's the Fun in That?: Kirk asks his captor "Where's the sport?" in simply hanging him as he had planned. Instead, Kirk talked his captor into staging a "royal hunt". This bought Kirk enough time for a Deus ex Machina rescue.
  • Younger Than They Look: Despite looking like an adult human, Trelane is actually a child by the standards of his incredibly long-lived species.
  • You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You: Bones tries to tell Uhura what Trelane is like, but gives up. She'll soon find out for herself anyway.