Star Trek: The Squire of Gothos

Star Trek Opening TitlesIf you love Rufus T. Firefly, you know what happens when you call him an upstart.  Don’t call Rufus T. Firefly an upstart.  Doing so can get you smacked in the face, and war can be declared.  The Marx Brother’s aren’t the only ones who believe a face-smack can lead to war.  Enter the magnificent Squire of Gothos played outstandingly by William Campbell.  His ability to be smacked in the face is second to none.  He barely flinches.  I guess he has one of those faces.  But it was beyond the smack that made me laugh; the noise is so loud.  There’s a pop quality to it that just cracked me up each time it happened.  It’s such an odd episode but I can’t help but enjoy it.  But Trek does have a lot of odd episodes featuring near god-like entities, so this is just an example of what’s to come.

Let’s start off by saying that on this side of the pond, no one seems to know what a squire actually is.  Simply put, it’s a land owner, usually noble.  Ok, this guy owns a planet.  He can even pilot it (probably irritating Daleks everywhere).  And he dresses regally, so I guess he’s a squire.  A squire that studies Earth but is seeing images from several hundred years ago.  A common mistake, could happen to the best of us.  Somehow studying us, he’s learned about combat and fighting.  He wants to experience “the fun” of murder and killing.  And in that one moment, delivered in the latter half of the episode, we realize there’s a terrible message here.  All of our transmissions that go out into space, may reach other races one day.  Hell, maybe the already have.  And what are they seeing?  Most of our shows and movies will depict an enjoyment of killing.  We are so doomed.  Our only hope is shows like Star Trek.  Maybe Star Trek does offer some much needed hope.  I mean, aliens watching our beloved Mr. Spock may learn a thing or two about us, right?  “I object to you.  I object to intellect without discipline.  I object to power without constructive purpose.”

Speaking of Spock, I did learn something I had previously failed to observe.  Spock uses the word “fascinating” to mean something unexpected.  This makes me wonder: if someone threw him a surprise party, would that be “fascinating”?  I guess he means unexpected scientifically.  Like finding a salt vampire stuffed in a guys foyer.  Who thinks they make a good display piece?  Yes, that would be fascinating.  Shame it gets disintegrated.  Actually, you have to wonder about Trelane, the titular Squire.  He has more than enough opportunity to hurt Kirk and his crew.  He even has the opportunity to shoot Kirk, but chooses not to.  His entire desire seems to be to have a little fun; invite some people over, talk, play a bit, and probably let them go afterwards.  I admit that I actually found Kirk and company to be the insufferable ones in this story.  I kept thinking that Kirk could have tried to entertain what Trelane was asking for.  It does get out of hand but that’s after Kirk continually treats Trelane badly.  I don’t know why I liked the character so much; maybe it was just that he seemed like he was in need of a friend.  He’s Slartibartfast with no one to appreciate his work (fjords?) and he wants someone to hang out with.  I felt badly when his searchlight parents showed up and took him away.  “I would have won!”  He can’t make any more planets.  Sort of sad.  All Kirk had to do was hang out with him for a little while.  Instead he shoots the guy’s mirror!  How rude.  (And did DeSalle not see that GIANT mirror when he was sneaking up on Trelane?  I shake my head in bewilderment!)

Well, Trelane doesn’t kill anyone so our count is stable.  At most, we have to wonder how we were supposed to pronounce Yeager/Jaeger and is the Discovery Kirk tells Uhura to contact the same Discovery from the current CBS series?  We may never know.  And that is also sad!  ML

The view from across the pond:

As I mentioned before, I am approaching Star Trek completely back to front. I watched TNG, DS9 and Voyager all on first broadcast, but the original series has always been virtually a blank to me. My observations are therefore somewhat in reverse, and I found myself thinking what a rip-off of Q Trelane was in this episode, before realising the error of my ways. This came first. The similarities are striking though, and Trelane fits so perfectly into the later concept of the Q Continuum that he was ret-conned as Q’s Godson in the 1994 novel Q-Squared. Trelane is an alien who is fascinated by the human race, and is copying us for fun. Basically, he’s a cosplayer.

But cosplayers don’t always get all the details correct. I’ve seen some fairly questionable Doctors over the years at conventions, for a start. And Trelane understands how things look but that is the only one of the five (or six) senses he can rely on. He creates fire without heat, and food without taste. He also can’t count to 900. OK, here is another case of foreknowledge, because I’m well aware that Star Trek is not set 900 years after the 19th or 20th Centuries, although I’m pretty sure the actual date in which the series takes place hasn’t been pinned down at this point. Trelane certainly has knowledge of the 19th Century – there are several references to people and music of that era. He also almost certainly has knowledge of the early 20th Century due to his Nazi impersonation, which really can’t be brushed off as the Prussians if you know much about history. But this is an episode that you can’t think too hard about. The very wobbly “waxwork figures” are enough on their own to require considerable dedication to the suspension of disbelief.

This is also not an episode that really goes anywhere. Once Trelane is established as an omnipotent cosplayer, the story has been told apart from the resolution, and there is nothing else to do apart from a series of escapes and captures, Kirk’s obligatory physical fight of the week, and some casual racism thrown in (possibly justified by the reveal at the end, if you squint). The fun of omnipotent foes is seeing how our heroes will find a way out of a near-impossible situation. That can, and should, be done by a victory of cunning or intelligence over power. In the worst examples, like this one, some other even greater power shows up to bail out the heroes, and it’s not the first time that’s happened in Trek. At least the revelation of Trelane being a child of his own race, mistreating his pets, was a good one, and made a lot of sense of the rest of the episode. I also liked Kirk’s attempt to define Trelane as a “God of War” and then as the “small child” that he truly is, because that was ultimately the most thought-provoking message this episode offered. An obsession with warfare is a childish folly, and man’s inability to leave behind the tin soldiers of their youth has long been to the detriment of the human race. In the end, a “God of War” and a “small child” are exactly the same thing.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Star Trek: The Squire of Gothos

  1. scifimike70 says:

    It’s interesting that you mention the obvious similarities between Trelane and Q. Because I recall spotting in a Trek novel about a connection between Trelane and Q. I didn’t read it but I’m sure it must have been attractive to Trekkers who like to see such similarities explained. It easily makes me wonder how many alien species in the Trek universe, like Vulcans and Romulans, that looked, sounded or acted alike, may have been somehow related.

    For all the down-to-basics SF storytelling that Trek is famous for, The Squire Of Gothos earns a big prize for giving such class and style to a villain, thanks to William Campbell’s brilliant acting, that indeed makes your point about the thrill of war being a childish folly. It was a smart twist for this one and set a tone for how most Trek twists would creatively unfold.

    Thank you both for your reviews. 🖖🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    • scifimike70 says:

      In further reference to how Q-Squared inspired how novels could bridge gaps in Treks that were left for us by the TV shows, much like Big Finish did for Dr. Who, it perks our interest about Trelane’s potential for being a recurring character in the same way that Q was. Yet I can easily understand why it didn’t happen on TV. Because his specific revelation made his debut more appropriate as a stand-alone story at least for TV. But with Trek novels, we are blessed with enough flexibility to see creatively fulfilled whatever couldn’t be on either the TV or movie screens.

      Liked by 1 person

      • scifimike70 says:

        I remember being fascinated by how all our TV and radio transmissions going out into space might be interpreted by ET civilizations. There was evidence though, as I recall, that at a certain distance our transmissions may start dissipating, which is depressing. But all the same it makes us wonder what ETs must understand about us by now.

        Liked by 1 person

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