Monday, May 17, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Gamesters of Triskelion

Airdate: January 5, 1968
47 or 80 produced


Kirk, Spock and Uhura were all set to perform a survey of planet Gamma II, when they suddenly disappeared from the transporter room. When they regain awareness, they find themselves on Triskelion, a strange place in which gladiatorial games are the rule of the day. Can our heroes survive long enough for the Enterprise to locate them?
This is how we express affection on Triskelion, Jamey!


Matthew: We get a pretty decent sci-fi premise, with the prototypical "brains in jars" beings who manipulate bipedal beings towards various ends. The antagonists end up being a sort of cross between the Talosians of "The Cage" and the survivors of "Return To Tomorrow."  The ends that these oddly colored brains have are ones of entertainment. Are the antagonists the most original? Maybe not. But does it make for good TV? You bet your sweet silver-clad bippy it does.

Kevin: I like the idea that we find an (essentially) non corporeal entity who is bored with their existence. So bored, they have to torture people for amusement. I enjoy the idea every so often that progressing toward not having a body might not leave you with a lot to do.

Matthew: We get an interesting quote from Kirk, that "all beings in the galaxy capable of superior development," and that "we've done it [developing] with countless other cultures." So apparently we have quite a bit of cultural imperialism, and perhaps paternalism on the part of the 23rd century Federation.

Kevin: I have just thrown my hands in the air on TOS and the Prime Directive. They are not granted a blanket pass, cause if they aren't I will simply go insane.

Matthew: I understand it from a perspective of TV Drama logic, but in terms of the actual story's logic, why does Shahna fight Kirk, after he beats 3 others? Those weren't the terms of the final big bet between Kirk and the Gamesters. Apparently, there was a clause in which a wounded but not killed thrall would be replaced with a fresh one. Why would Kirk agree to such terms? If he shies away from killing them, this means that basically he will be pledged to a never-ending fight with consistently fresh opponents. The whole scheme just kind of fails to hang together.


Matthew: This performance was very much "in the groove" for The Shat. Lots of action and fisticuffs, with some romancing, too. I like the balance Shatner portrays between actually enjoying himself and manipulating Shahna for the sake of survival.

Kevin: One of my favorite parts of the episode is Kirk's outrage that they are punishing her for something he did or got her to do. It's consistent with how he treats his crew. He wouldn't ask them to take a risk he wouldn't, so it would hurt him that someone else suffered for his actions.

Matthew: This episode lends itself to good supporting cast moments. We get two big roles with the other captives. Koenig got some genuinely funny moments for Chekov, if they were a bit sexist (oh ho, look at the big ugly babushka lady and the little Russian!). Nichols gives Uhura a fiery spunk, defiantly resisting the slavery of the Gamesters. The interplay of characters on the Enterprise, searching for the missing crew, was also very well done. This is a great episode for characterization of supporting cast.

Kevin: Big Bertha (for I assume that was her name) was a bit much with Chekov, but I agree, the scenes with Uhura were quite enjoyable. I've said it before, and I will say it again. When TOS wants to portray strong female characters, it does so well. I even liked Shahna's performance. She seems genuinely hurt by what she views as Kirk's deception and using of her, and aside from the wig, she did a solid job with a character that's only notable for its absence of personality. I also want to add that the interaction between McCoy and Scotty with Spock was what Galileo Seven should have been. Their objections and concerns were credible, and butting heads with Spock believable. It managed to create a conflict without needing to reduce any character to a frothing bigot.

Matthew: As far as our guest stars, Galt was a great casting choice. This actor later plays a Vulcan Master in Voyager - and he's perfect for both roles. A little other-worldly, very cool voice. It's amazing that he seems just as old in both roles, some thirty years or so apart. Was his name a dig at Ayn Rand? Shahna is hot and has a rockin' bod, no doubt about it. But she was a little blank for me. It's hard to say whether that is writing or acting, or both.

Kevin: "Galt" was also the mysterious, shadowed Cardassian that Odo meets in the caves in "Improbable Cause" and the Grilka's majordomo Tumek in two DS9 episodes. And I agree, he does have a neat voice.

Production Values

Matthew: In the Gamesters' underground lair, we see a reuse of the matte painting from Devil in the Dark, and the plastic dome from The Alternative Factor. Overall, the sets were pretty decent. Nothing was stunning in its realism, but nothing stood out as hyper-cheesy. Maybe the multicolored brains were a bit much. Have the Triskelionese evolved into three separate species, each with a different fluorescent brain color? Yet again, I like the "greco-roman" ruins of the ancient provider city.

Kevin: I assumed they were artificial constructs for encoded data, but I kind of liked them. They are if nothing else visually interesting. Overall, everything was good, if not great. I thought the arena itself was an interesting design. I like that they incorporated the different colored fields into the action.


Matthew: This episode is a lot of fun, to be sure. But I can't say without reservation that it is above-average Trek. Everything's just kind of adequate, and I don't want to skew ratings just because I'm predisposed towards liking average Trek better than anything else. So it's a 3.

Kevin: I always hate calling an episode "adequate" because it sounds like I am damning it with faint praise. But, this episode could have easily gone off the rails. The sets remain interesting without being garish and the story is interesting if not a barn-burner. I am giving this a 3, like Matt, for a total of 6, but like we have both said several times, average Star Trek is better that most television.


  1. I wasn't wild about the brains; I saw this ep in a long line of omnipotent energy beings, so I was getting pretty tired of all-seeing, all-powerful, dubious-evolving beings. It was a good-time campy episode: the famous tinfoil bikini, Kirk's outfit, the weird fight scenes, but it all kind of degraded the Spock v. McCoy stuff which was a lot more tense and interesting.

    BTW, for inexplicable reasons CSI parodied this in an episode where there's a murder at a Sci-fi convention. Two of the lab techs are fans of the copywrite-observant Trek rip-off, and the guy who had a crush on the girl kept having fantasy sequences that reproduced scenes between Kirk and Space Lady Gaga.

  2. I saw that episode of CSI, and it was thoroughly entertaining.