The Squire of Gothos (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

Nope. Not Liberace.

Nope. Not Liberace.

Episode: The Squire of Gothos – Season 1, Episode 17 (1966)

Director: Don McDougall

Story: Paul Schneider

The Enterprise is on an 8 day supply mission to Colony Beta VI, moving through a particularly vacant area of space, when they come across a solitary, uncharted planet. After Sulu and Kirk are “disappeared” from the bridge, it’s up to Spock to find them on the planet below.

Of course it’s just Trelane. Trelane! For years, and I mean up until watching this episode just now, I thought he was played by none other than Liberace in all of his effete bombast.[1] Look at him rocking the harpsichord! But no, we owe our appreciation to William Campbell for this stellar performance.

It turns out that the human race is Trelane’s “hobby,” but sadly his light-based instrumentation leaves him with information dating from the age of Napoleon. Ever the graceful guests, Kirk and crew try to disabuse him of his enthusiasms, but Trelane wants a dinner party (with girls![2]) more than just about anything, and won’t let them go.

Even before the ultimate reveal, Kirk treats the Squire of Gothos like a precocious (if misguided) child. And doesn’t the retired general act the little boy, with his narcissism, his tantrums, and his embrace of pennants and the finery of combat? It’s only by playing into Trelane’s fantasy and goading him into a pistol duel that our Captain manages to damage one of the alien’s powerful toys and get the landing party back to the ship.

It’s a temporary victory. Kirk is abducted from the ship once more and made to stand in the dock, captive of Trelane’s idea of a court. Once more, this ultra-powerful entity allows himself to be played by the more mature human, and Kirk gains just enough time for Trelane’s parents to show up and put an end to games for the day. The franchise has always loved the capricious super-being, mucking around in human affairs. This theme recurs so often, I find it unbelievable people are still willing to journey into space. I mean, the human race ranks a smidge above fruit fly compared to most of these entities – why take the risk?[3] Are we so anxious to be judged, played-with, tested? There are so many of these things out there, and one would be enough.

And in this instance, what profit to the human race, other than yet more proof that the universe is a large and dangerous place full of things beyond our comprehension? The audience hardly needs to be reminded that ability and wisdom don’t always coincide. In his impatience, Spock says it best:

I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose.

Is this an indictment of the martial virtues that Trelane embraces? Maybe war is a game best left to boys after all.


[1] I’m not the only one. Type “star trek liberace episode” into Google and you get more than 3 million hits.

[2] Trelane abducts two. Uhura and Yeoman Teresa Ross (Venita Wolf). Ross gets to dance and be fought over while Uhura gets stuck playing the harpsichord. I’m waiting for the episode where Roddenberry doesn’t conceive of Nichelle Nichols as the most musical person in a given scene.

[3] Culminating in my least favorite STtNG character, Q (John de Lancie). The problem with designing a fictional character to be annoying to other characters is that it’s easy to be overly successful.

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Filed under Childhood Memories, Star Trek Original Series

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