Written by Paul Schneider and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Don McDougall
Many fans of both the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation have picked up on similarities in some of the stories presented. Of course, the more recent show was a little more sophisticated and generally had better effects, but there were many stories on Star Trek: The Next Generation which had roots in stories in the original series.
The Squire of Gothos is one such episode. Many people, myself included, believe that the character of Trelane was a precursor to the character of “Q” who would be a recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The Enterprise is on its way to deliver supplies to the colony Beta VI. It crosses a barren area of space in doing so. Mr. Spock (portrayed by Leonard Nimoy) begins picking up something ahead of them in space. It’s a body the size of a planet that seems to have gone uncharted up until now. As Captain Kirk (portrayed by William Shatner) prepares to leave behind a marker for further research, suddenly both he and Sulu (portrayed by George Takei) disappear from the bridge of the Enterprise.
Spock scouts the planet for hours with no sign of the two missing officers. As he’s getting ready to send a landing party down to the surface, they begin receiving strange messages from the planet. Believing there is a possibility that Kirk and Sulu are not in their right minds if they are making those transmissions, he assigns Dr. McCoy (portrayed by DeForest Kelley) to the landing party, along with two other crewmen, DeSalle and Jaeger (portrayed by Michael Barrier and Richard Carlyle).
Despite the readouts which showed a hostile atmosphere, once they beam down to the planet they materialize in what appears to be a garden. Their communicators won’t work, either. As they search for a signal, they stumble upon what appears to be a castle. Inside, are the figures of Kirk and Sulu, in a state of suspended animation.
They are introduced to a humanoid who calls himself General Trelane (portrayed by William Campbell). Trelane is playing the harpsichord and talking quite elegantly, decked out in what seems like noble regalia. He talks of observing humans and not thinking they were capable of space travel. However, he has been observing Earth in what was nine hundred years prior.
Trelane laughs at Kirk’s assertion that they only do battle when they have no choice. He wants to hear the tales of human battles and war. When Kirk tires of the verbal sparring with Trelane, he turns to leave. Trelane shows him how much in control he is by exposing the Captain to the real atmosphere of the planet.
Spock is in command of the Enterprise and scours the planet until he finds the area where the castle exists. He comes up with a plan to bring them back. It appears to work, but soon Trelane appears on the bridge of the Enterprise and brings them all back to his castle. It would seem that Trelane is omnipotent.
What makes The Squire of Gothos work so well is largely William Campbell. He portrays Trelane as something of a cross between Liberace and a spoiled boy. This definitely has undertones that were present in John DeLancie’s portrayal of Q more recently, leading to many of the comparisons between the two characters. Campbell is marvelous in the role, playing the bombastic range of emotions exhibited by Trelane with great exaggeration. However, it works rather than feeling false.
Shatner is early in his Star Trek run and these performances were some of his finest. Here he hasn’t quite mastered the role of acting as a parent to this being, preferring to fight him more along the lines of an older brother. He has a range of emotions during his interaction with Trelane from amusement to exasperation to anger and eases into each emotion without it feeling abrupt.
Some scenes don’t work quite as well as they did when I was younger. As the Enterprise is playing cat and mouse with Trelane’s planet, Kirk orders Sulu to veer hard to starboard and port. It’s funny to watch the whole crew leaning to either side like they are on a roller coaster. The set is obviously a set. Even the supposed outdoor scenes on Trelane’s planet look very false. The other effects are pretty standard for this time period.
The Squire of Gothos is a great episode that combines action and a great story with a bit of humor. It’s generally a fan favorite and one of the most memorable episodes of the series. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Galileo Seven
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Arena