Monday, September 27, 2010

Captain Kirk Is Defeated By One Of The Lamest Villains Ever: "The Squire Of Gothos!"

The Good: Moments of humor, Moments of acting
The Bad: KIRK IS THWARTED BY THIS GUY?! Character, A lot of the acting, Resolution
The Basics: In an all around terrible episode that rips off an earlier one (a bad sign at episode 18!), the Enterprise encounters the Squire of Gothos and the audience gets bored.

It was only a few days ago when I was writing a review for the episode "Charlie X" (click here for the review!) that it occurred to me that Captain Kirk is nowhere near as heroic sometimes as we would like to believe. No, in the first season, he is defeated - dead in the water defeated! - by two adversaries and in both instances he is bailed out by a more powerful force. The third occasion where he was essentially beaten, Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are rescued . . . yet again, by a force even more powerful than they are. It's kind of sad to consider that Captain Kirk is nearly ended in the first year of the show by pretty lame oppositions.

The second time this happens is in "The Squire Of Gothos," which is an all-around terrible episode that might well be the source of mockery of fans of Star Trek. I mean, sure, Star Trek brought us all sorts of noble ideas of understanding history, standing with your fellow brothers and sisters, working together and prioritizing peace over war, but whenever Star Trek fans cite the show and its contributions, they're not citing "The Squire Of Gothos." I mean, the generally lame episode "Plato's Stepchildren" had the first interethnic kiss; "The Squire Of Gothos," well, it has a pretty kick-butt costume and Elvis hair!

The U.S.S. Enterprise is exploring space when it comes upon a rogue planet, a planet that is not orbiting a star. When Kirk and Sulu abruptly disappear from the bridge and the Enterprise receives a strange communication in archaic English, Spock and a landing party beam down to the only habitable portion of the planet. There they find Kirk and Sulu and a castle where Trelane, the Squire of Gothos lives. Dressed like a 17th Century noble, Trelane soon illustrates that he is virtually omnipotent and can prevent the Enterprise crew from leaving. Indeed, in their attempt to escape, Trelane uses the planet to block their path. As Kirk becomes less and less amused with the parlor trick of the possibly insane all-powerful Trelane, he tries to find the source of his adversaries power before the games turn truly lethal . . .

Sometimes, I sit down to write a review and I try to muster up all the sophistication and verbiage and descriptive power I can when what I honestly wish is that I could just say "he's bad." Trelane is a lame villain. He is the epitome of poorly conceived trickster gods and while the rumor is that Trelane is the model upon which Gene Roddenberry created Q for Star Trek: The Next Generation's pilot "Encounter At Farpoint," Trelane is no Q. Trelane lacks the genuine charm, the sincere menace and the reasoned expression of power to compare him to Q.

Instead, Trelane is an over-the-top villain. He is a parody of a villain and watching "The Squire Of Gothos" is like watching a terrible parody of this series I love. Instead of being thoughtful, considered, and high concept, this episode is almost exactly the opposite. There are moments where the lowest road of entertainment is taken and it all centers on Trelane because almost every scene in the episode is about him or reacting to him.

The problem is, Trelane is so over-the-top and flamboyant that he is not effectively sold as a truly real villain. Moreover, from the moment Kirk realizes he has limitations, a power source, the episode takes a turn for the disturbing and pointless and nonsensical. Trelane is more ridiculous than menacing and the idea that Kirk and his crew (and us as viewers) waste so much time on him is troubling and disappointing. Sure, he has a wonderful costume, but he's still ridiculous.

The real problem here is that in context, "The Squire Of Gothos" does not take the series anywhere it has not already been. This is essentially a recasting of "Charlie X" with a less sympathetic antagonist! Indeed, any ambiguity or complication that the prior omnipotent, petulant being episode might have had is stripped away; Trelane is all-powerful and Kirk and his people are his playthings. He is dangerous and immature, but even the episode's resolution is basically a redux of "Charlie X." And "Charlie X" was not all that good to begin with, so recasting it with a character without any underlying sense of humanity just makes for a truly terrible episode.

Trelane is played by veteran actor William Campbell and he sure is convincing. Trelane is consistently bug-eyed, over-the-top and somewhere between eye-rolling crazy and dangerous crazy. Campbell plays Trelane without any reservation or any sense that he is anything but a complete psychopath in complete control. This, unfortunately, means Campbell plays one of the worst characters the series ever produces remarkably well. He's wired and on in every scene he is in and he's good at his job. He just has a terrible job to do.

Unfortunately, Campbell's often hammy performance brings out much of the same in William Shatner. I suppose it's like the bad seed corrupting the good seed because by this point in the series, I'm pretty much sold on William Shatner's acting in the role of Captain Kirk. Campbell, though is over-the-top and Shatner goes there in several scenes seeming less like the intrepid Captain Kirk we know and love than I am comfortable with.

I honestly can't imagine who would fully enjoy this episode enough to buy it. I mean, as a loyal Star Trek fan, I did once upon a time, but objectively, it's pretty terrible. It's Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder and will probably not amuse fans of comedies or standard dramas except in that context.

Yeah, it's bad.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the premiere season by clicking here!


For other reviews of Star Trek episodes, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. Hi.

    You're right about this one. It's a very irritating episode. I didn't liked it either.

    1. Yeah, I doubt it would ever win any fan favorite awards!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!