Star Trek: The Original Series (1967) – The Squire of Gothos and Arena

Captain’s log: stardate 2124.5

The Squire of Gothos. Oh man, what a fun episode. Penned by Paul Schneider this episode had it’s first airing on 12 January, 1967.

Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) vanish from the bridge, and when Spock (Leonard Nimoy) sends a landing party, led by McCoy (DeForest Kelley) to investigate on the planet, Gothos, below, they find they have to match wits with the incredibly powerful alien Trelane (William Campbell).

As a young viewer, I loved the reveal at the end of the episode, it felt kind of Twilight Zone like (a show, that, at that time, I was only passingly familiar with), and I loved that Kirk had to use his brain and his brawn to take on Trelane who seems to think Earth is still living in the 18th century.

Campbell is perfect as Trelane, such a great performance, foppish, charming, fun, and ultimately, bratty.

In later years, after the introduction of the Q Continuum in the later series, several fans put out the theory that perhaps Trelane was a very young Q.

It’s a fine idea, but it doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the episode. I quite enjoy the way Kirk and Spock, with a little help from McCoy, figure out how to deal with Trelane, and Kirk goes toe to toe with the alien. So much fun.

I love that there is a Salt Vampire in Trelane’s little collection which gets phasered out of existence, and Spock gets a chance to be snippy with Trelane in his Vulcan way.

This was another episode that affected me a lot when I was a child, watching Kirk take on the villain, even when the being seemed more powerful than he, standing up for his crew and his ship, inspired me.

And it’s so there now, something I couldn’t see as a kid, Trelane is a bully. When Kirk stands up to him, Trelane’s own weakness is revealed, and he finally backs down, in a fashion. Kirk is so damned cool in this episode, playing to the image Trelane perceives him as, and also very much embracing the Horatio Hornblower sense of adventure that is part of the the spirit that is classic Star Trek.

Campbell is so perfect as Trelane, it will almost be distracting when he returns as a Klingon.

It’s also of note that the use of humour in the series continues to grow, adding another layer of humanity to the characters, and filling out the reality and relatability of the series.

will4

Captain’s log: stardate 3045.6

I can’t think of an episode that introduced me more to Kirk maneuvers, like the shoulder roll, the double fist hit, the elbow crawl than Arena.

Written by Gene L. Coon with a nod to a story by Frederic Brown, this one originally aired on 19 January, 1967. This episode also introduced the cold-blooded, reptilian species known as the Gorn.

Kirk finds himself in a physical contest against the captain of the Gorn vessel when their ships are captured passing through a solar system inhabited by superior beings. The Enterprise is pursuing the Gorn for their destruction of a planet-side starbase. These beings, known as the Metrons, loathe hostility, and instead of having each ship destroy the other, they match the two captains in mortal combat.

This gives Kirk a chance to show brains and brawn, and somehow against all odd doesn’t get a shirt ripped in the process. It includes a sequence that was perfectly lampooned in the brilliant Galaxy Quest, as the captain puts together an advanced weapon by using his surroundings.

As a kid, this was just a fun, action-packed episode firmly entrenching Kirk in my mind as a hero, but watching it a few times since there is also a commentary on our violent ways, and also our morals, as Kirk shows mercy to his enemy. Something the Gorn may not have done.

The Gorn were sadly never seen again in the original series, but they were always a favorite of mine because the were on the cover of my treasured Monsters of Star Trek book (I can’t tell you how many times I read through it as a youngster, and couldn’t wait to see some of the episodes it referred to).

The episode features a starship chase, another sequence highlighting how awesome Kirk is.

Through it all, however, Spock and McCoy offer advice and support, and I will admit that I can see both sides of the argument as Kirk is adamant about stopping the Gorn, to show them that they can’t invade Federation space.

It’s a bit of a brutal moment looking at it now, Kirk is almost a warmonger in this episode, he’s intent on putting down the Gorn, not quite to the level of bloodlust, but it’s bold and aggressive, and I guess, shows why Kirk is in the centre seat but relies on his crew to advise him as much as follow his orders.

From a really geek standpoint, this is the first episode to feature photon torpedoes, and also establishes that the Enterprise’s top cruising speed, excluding emergencies is warp 6.

Some thing that made me smile was that once the Metrons allow the Enterprise crew to watch the contest play out, they obviously have a sense of the dramatic by cutting to close-ups and intercutting with the Gorn. They have a fine taste for drama.

And in ending, I like that when the crew learns that they may have been in the wrong, that the Gorn were only trying to protect themselves, they are willing to correct their error.

This is a strong, fun episode that touches on morality, the use of brains over brawn, and seeking understanding about the universe around them.

Until next time, boldly go.

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