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The Trek Nation - The Gamesters of Triskelion

The Gamesters of Triskelion

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 7, 2006 - 8:07 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Gamesters of Triskelion' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While beaming down to the unremarkable Gamma II, Kirk, Chekov and Uhura vanish from the transporter pad and find themselves on the distant world Triskelion, where they are promptly attacked and enslaved with collars of obedience that cause pain if they resist. While they are being trained to compete as gladiators in combat for the entertainment of three powerful beings called The Providers who bet on the outcomes, Spock, McCoy and Scotty quarrel about the likely fate of the away team, with Spock finding no evidence that they are still in the Gamma II star system though the others insist that that is the only logical place to search. Each of the missing crewmembers has been assigned a Drill Thrall to train them in the Providers' preferred forms of combat, and Kirk begins to seduce his trainer Shahna in order to learn more about his captors and seek a means of escape. Spock eventually discovers that a powerful beam abducted the captain and the others, but when the Enterprise arrives in orbit around Triskelion, the Providers take over the controls and threaten to destroy it. Kirk makes them a bet: if he can beat three Drill Thralls in single combat, they will free his ship and educate all their captives to be independent, but if he loses, his crew will fight in the arena for the Providers' entertainment. He wins, and the Providers keep their end of the bargain.


Analysis: There are just-plain-bad episodes of the original Star Trek, which for me include things like "That Which Survives" and "Spectre of the Gun", two very boring hours of television. Then there are gloriously bad episodes like "And the Children Shall Lead" and "Turnabout Intruder", which are terribly written, but the acting and the alchemical magic among the main cast members somehow makes them entertaining to watch. "The Gamesters of Triskelion" does not reach the magnificent lows of "And the Children Shall Lead," with Shatner's woeful, "I'm losing the Enterprise! My ship is sailing on and on!" but at times it nearly comes close, and this is its saving grace.

This is somebody's perverted little virgin slave fantasy, in which a hunky male thrall stops his intended rape of Uhura to report her because she objected and a yellow-skinned bimbo with the voice of a transvestite nearly scares the pants off Chekov...all right, bad phrase. Kirk, of course, has no such problems: he is given as his trainer a green-haired innocent in a silver bikini and high-heeled silver boots, who can wield a scary pronged weapon but doesn't really want to use it on him, and a little sweet talk and two kisses later, he has her swooning in his arms. I've always said that one of the things I liked about Kirk was that no woman was ever completely undesirable to him - she couldn't be too ugly, too scary, too smart, too brutish, too alien - and here we see one of several cases where he initiates a seduction for selfish reasons but ends up liking his conquest and fighting for her people.

There are some nice visuals on the planet - Galt's glowing eyes that activate the light-up collars of obedience, the spare, clean slave cells and the rocky terrain over which Shahna takes Kirk for an exercise run - and some gratuitous whipping and shirt-ripping, not to mention the shadow-play on the wall as Lars assaults his trainee while Kirk has one of his fine panicked ranting moments, "What's...happening...toLieutenantUhura?" There are also tantalizing hints of a past that is never developed, the ruins through which Shahna leads Kirk and the history she claims it is forbidden to discuss, though the Providers are amused when Kirk chooses to kiss her instead and elect not to punish them. The Providers are clearly sadists but it's hard to take them completely seriously as villains, for they have senses of humor and keep complimenting Kirk on how refreshing he is. For all the talk of how the newcomers may have to be destroyed, the landing party is never in mortal peril, only some rather icky nonconsensual sexual scenarios.

After Kirk challenges that the Providers haven't the courage to show themselves, he is taken deep inside what my son calls the Planet of the Butt-Heads, since the colorful disembodied brains from a distance look rather like a different portion of humanoid anatomy. Kirk gets to slam his hands on their protective shield, rant about freedom and engage in gambling with them in a matter of minutes; if he wins, he insists, the Butt-Heads will educate and train the thralls "to establish a normal self-governing culture...we have done the same with cultures throughout the galaxy." (What does he think this is, Iraq...er, Vietnam?) Kirk doesn't intend to stick around to be certain that the teaching meets with his approval, and we don't hear about Federation plans to check up on Triskelion; instead we are left with the image of Shahna staring tearfully after Kirk, who has returned to the lights in the sky.

Though there are more of them, the scenes on the planet don't work nearly as well as the scenes on the ship, where Spock encounters his usual problems in command as McCoy and Scotty put forth what they believe to be sound arguments against his planned course of action. Their relationships have evolved considerably since "The Galileo Seven" - now Spock can joke in whispers on the bridge about whether the two of them intend to mutiny, and they both have the grace to look embarrassed and agree to stop complaining. When Scotty first reports Kirk's disappearance, Spock says, "I presume you mean they vanished in a manner not consistent with the usual workings of the transporter, Mr. Scott," and that kind of thick-headed Vulcan logic continues through the episode to very nice effect. Later, Spock says he'd welcome a suggestion from McCoy, even an emotional one, and after McCoy accuses Spock of leading them on a wild goose chase, Spock assures him that he is not pursuing an aquatic fowl.

In some ways "Gamesters" is the quintessential second season episode, full of Spock and McCoy's bickering, Scotty's promising to push the engines past warp seven, Kirk facing a stronger alien and getting the girl in the process of arguing for truth, justice and the American way, and reminders that restrictions on freedom are bad and having godlike powers always leads to abuse. It's sillier than most, and the action is more gratuitous, yet it's hard to take entirely seriously, and that makes it entertaining in spite of everything.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.