Stardate: 2124.5 (2267)
Original Air Date: January 12, 1967
Writer: Paul Schneider
Director: Don McDougall
The Enterprise crosses a strange “void” while transporting supplies to Colony Beta Six located about eight days away (Kirk and Bones express some unusual nostalgia for the desert on earth). Spock announces a strange space disturbance in the form of an iron silica body, magnitude “1E” the size of a planet. Enterprise radio communications are interrupted and Kirk orders Mr. Sulu to veer the ship 40 degrees to starboard –but suddenly both Sulu and Kirk disappear entirely from the bridge!
Without knowing where his crewmen went, Spock takes the helm of the Enterprise while it orbits this lone unknown planet in the middle of a “Star Desert.” When trying to arrange a search party, Enterprise scanners reveal that the planet has no signs of human life. It is a toxic, hot, arid place with continuous volcanic eruptions. Then two silly messages appear on the communications screen: “Greetings and Solicitations” and “Hip-Hip-Hoorah! Tallyho!”
Dr. McCoy and two others –Lt. DeSalle (Michael Barrier) and geophysicist Jaeger (Richard Carlyle)– beam down wearing masked life-support gear, though when they arrive, the atmosphere of this planet is actually revealed to be the same as “our own” (presumably referring to earth). Here, they encounter an old Germanic castle filled with ancient artifacts and artwork, including an amusing redress of the salt vampire from “The Man Trap” and a bird from “The Cage.” And soon they spot Kirk and Sulu frozen like waxwork figures. Nearby, a strange whimsical man dressed in dapper medieval garb is playing the harpsichord.
His name is Squire Trelane, a retired “General” (William Campbell). He announces this planet’s name is Gothos (McCoy runs a quick scan of Trelane but the man appears to not exist at all). He is a jovial fellow, he is enthusiastically obsessed with humanity, including the history of earth’s warfare: humans are one of the few ‘predatory species that preys even on itself.’ Trelane is like a child in a candy store when mentioning Napoleon or Alexander Hamilton. He is one of those aliens who possesses extraordinary powers, he can transport matter and alter its shape, and he effectively imprisons the entire Enterprise crew, forcing them to play his childish games on Gothos. A host of strange situations occur eventually concluding in a duel between Kirk and Trelane. Kirk uses his shot to break a nearby mirror which disrupts Trelane’s sub-space power, however the games continue as Kirk and Trelane battle for the freedom of the Enterprise. At one point, the Enterprise crew escapes and engages emergency warp to Colony Beta Six but they are sucked back to Gothos on a collision course where Trelane hails Kirk for a 17th century trial followed by an extended sword fight.
In an ending reminiscent of “Charlie X,” two green amorphous forms appear at the last moment. They reveal themselves to be Trelane’s parents. It turns out that Trelane is little more than a petulant child, playing with his new “toys” (a.k.a. the Enterprise crew). His parents demand that Trelane stop his tricks. They apologize to Kirk and promise to punish their spoiled son.
While “The Squire of Gothos” is a chucklingly silly episode, it is still good fun. William Campbell’s performance as the foppish Trelane is terrific, and Trelane is the obvious precursor to Q in The Next Generation.
Writer Paul Schneider (1923-2008) also wrote fellow Season 1 episode “Balance of Terror.” These two episodes are his main claims to fame.
Director Don McDougall (1917-1991) was a screenwriter and director of numerous episodes of popular television shows from The Rifleman to Star Trek.
Star Trek Trivia:
- In this episode the Captain’s log is read several times by Science Office Spock.
- When reflecting on this “Star Desert” Kirk mentions they are 900 lightyears from any nearby desert.
- Writer Paul Schneider initially intended to write an anti-war story but the plot changed over time.
- This episode contains memorable echoes of the earlier Season 1 episode “Charlie X.”
- Trelane’s parents are voiced here by Barbara Babcock and Bart LaRue (James Doohan’s best friend), both of whom made multiple TOS appearances.
- Many Trekkies have noted the similarities between Trelane and the recurring character Q. It has been suggested that Gene Roddenberry created Q based on Trelane for TNG. Some versions of Trekkie lore even describe Trelane as an adolescent version of Q.
- Trelane’s coat as seen in this episode was borrowed from an episode of The Monkees “The Prince and the Paupers.”
- The salt vampire from “The Man Trap” and one of the birds from “The Cage” can be seen in Trelane’s castle. McCoy does a double-take when he spots the Salt vampire, which took the form of his one-time lover in “The Man Trap.”
- William Campbell was selected instead of Roddy McDowell whom they feared would make the character appear gay. Producer Gene L. Coon then selected William Campbell for the role.
- Some fans have noted the timeline impossibility of Trelane observing earth history “900 years ago” such Alexander Hamilton in 1804 or Germany in the 1930s.
- When meeting Yeoman Ross, Trelane slightly misquotes Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
- William Shatner had a disagreement with William Campbell over his desire for an English wig in this episode (Shatner felt it would take too much production time to track down an insignificant prop like this).
- William Campbell later stated that during his forest fight scene with William Shatner he fell down and dislocated his shoulder which then quickly popped back into place. He can be seen favoring his shoulder in certain scenes in this episode.
- William Campbell later returned to Star Trek in Season 2’s “The Trouble With Tribbles.” He frequently attended Star Trek Conventions and was friendly with fans of the show.