This is one of the best episodes of TOS. I always enjoy watching it.
The Enterprise is passing through a ‘Star desert’. A vast area of nothing. Well the thing about space is that it is already mostly nothing. There are no stars, aside from the sun obviously, for around four light years – would that be considered a ‘star desert’? I don’t know I am a writer not an astrophysicist.
Kirk and McCoy talk about deserts with an air of romanticism. Spock doesn’t understand this – despite the fact he comes from a desert world! I know. I Know. We hadn’t seen his home world yet.
It is established here that they are 900 light years from Earth. That will be important later. For now let’s get on with the story.
As if by magic a planet appears. (You have to imagine that sentence like a Mr. Benn narration) Spock notes that it is inconceivable that the planet has gone unnoticed all this time. (Please imagine that word in the voice of Wallace Shawn!)(If you don’t know which of those words I mean go and watch The Princess Bride!)
When the planet appears Kirk and Sulu disappear. Starfleet officers are always being abducted. I always find myself wondering if this kind of stuff happens to all ships – or is the Enterprise just cursed!
A search of the planet shows there is only one small area capable of supporting human life. Spock authorises a landing party.
I made mention last time that planets in Star Trek are always conveniently available. In this episode it makes sense because Trelane wants to meet the crew. However I do question why the writers even bother with the idea that the planet is dangerous when the budget can’t run to EVA suits.
The landing party discover a castle. Inside they find a harpsichord, a salt vampire, and Kirk and Sulu frozen like waxworks. Suddenly the door shuts and a man appears from nowhere playing the harpsichord. This is Trelane. He is played wonderfully by William Campbell who would go on to play Koloth.
Trelane has been observing Earth through a telescope. This gives us a bit of a problem. There is a bust of Napoleon in the room. Napoleon was in power from 1799 to 1804 – so that would mean that TOS was set in 2699 – which it is not.
My understanding is that Stardates were invented to hide when it was set. This would forestall questions of when a particular technology might have been invented. In a roundabout way, this episode gives us a date. Later episodes hint at TOS being in the 2160s-2190s!
DeSalle raises his weapon. There is always one! Trelane hasn’t done much that could be considered threatening yet. He did kidnap Kirk and Sulu but given the Starfleet ethos shooting him, even in this era, seems a bit premature. Trelane takes the weapon and is gleeful at its power. He also vaporises the salt vampire. It is not like it is an extinct species or anything!
He welcomes them to Gothos and explains how he created this place by rearranging matter on the planet. Starfleet doesn’t have that technology yet, no matter what Discovery says!
Kirk sees no reason to stay but Trelane thrusts him into the true atmosphere of the planet. After a few seconds of coughing Kirk is brought back and told to behave.
What we have here is (apparently) the standard godlike beings. They appear throughout Star Trek and always seem to want to either experiment on us or to test us. Don’t they have anything better to do? To be fair we are only a few episodes in so it is not a cliché just yet.
Trelane is obsessed with war. He has the banners from various countries on his wall and and speaks of armies marching under them. Sounds almost Klingon doesn’t it?
Ba dum tish
Back on the ship Spock and Scotty figure out how to get the landing party back. There is a beep on Kirk’s communicator and they are beamed away.
Trelane is unhappy with Spock, appears on the bridge, and asks if the natives of Vulcan are ‘predatory’. Spock responds with ‘Not generally but there have been exceptions.’
World building in TOS is interesting. I don’t think they were trying to build a cohesive universe so lines like that are thrown out. However given what we find out later this could refer to the Romulans. Although now that I think about it Spock only surmised a connection between the two races.
Back in the drawing room Trelane meets Uhura. He refers to her as a ‘Nubian prize’ and assumes she is from a conquered people. Oddly Kirk doesn’t argue with that – probably because he has had enough at this point. Also for Kirk, the idea of Uhura being anything other than a free human would seem ridicules.
Now that Spock is here they have a much better chance of getting out of this. Saving their asses each week is almost always his job!
After some discussion they conclude that Trelane must have a device helping him. This feels like a bit of a leap of logic. After all Gary Mitchel had superpowers without any obvious external force behind it.
I should say I am looking at this episode 55 years after it was made. I am used to powerful beings in science fiction. I have seen all kinds of god like beings from Q, to the Nox, to Susan Ivanova. So maybe I am more willing to accept a being of power. Kirk’s solution to this problem is to challenge Trelane to a duel. Why? Because Kirk. If it were Sisko he would have punched Trelane in the face! Picard would have quoted Shakespeare. In any event the crew conclude that the mirror is the sauce of his power. This based on little more than the fact that he never goes too far from it.
Captain’s Log, stardate 2126.1. Delayed report. The whole bridge crew are the unwilling guests of the creature who calls himself Trelane. We are weaponless, powerless, and our only hope of escape with the Enterprise lies in playing his games. I’ve decided to make my move with the field of honour game, and everything depends on my one chance with the ancient duelling pistol.
This log entry feels rather incongruous. It is written as if the events haven’t happened yet.
Kirk’s plan is to shoot the mirror. This is rather silly. Firstly they do not know that the mirror is important, and if it is will a facsimile of a duelling pistol have any effect? Aside from the fact that it works it seems like a big risk.
With the mirror disabled they beam back to the ship but fail to warp away from the planet. Kirk beams back down to the planet for the final showdown with Trelane.
He finds Trelane dressed as a judge and is ready to execute Kirk. However Kirk is able to talk Trelane into a duel. It is amazing how often Starfleet officers get into hand-to-hand combat.
Then we get the reveal. Trelane isn’t a great and powerful being. Trelane is a child.
Two glowing lights appear in the sky. These are Trelane’s parents and they are dissatisfied with the way he is treating his ‘pets’. He is taken away and his parents promise he will be punished. They apologise to Kirk.
Oh and by the way nobody died this week!
Back on the Enterprise we get a bizarre coda. Teasing Spock. That isn’t the bizarre part. That happens so much. Kirk sees nothing wrong in undermining the first officer in front of the crew. No the strange part is the anachronisms in what Kirk says.
Mischievous planks, Captain?Spock and Kirk
Yes. Dipping little girls’ curles in inkwells. Stealing apples from the neighbours’ trees.
According to Wikipedia ink wells were obsolete at the beginning of the 20th century! I remember old desks in school used for our exams – some of them had inkwells. Where they around 50 years old! I wonder if they’re still using them for exams.
This feels like someone from today suggesting that a co-worker might have been involved in a prank involving a quill!
Overall this is a most enjoyable episode. It does have a deus ex machina ending becaue the parents were unknown before they appeared. However in this instance I think it works as a twist and not a copout. All things considered this is a most excellent episode.
I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.
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