Before the rise of “Peak TV,” fans of a series or franchise had to find the connective threads for their favorite show or shows.
One of these threads that created rampant speculation among Trek fans when The Next Generation debuted was if there was a link between the Q and Trellaine’s family in “The Squire of Gothos.” While the series never acknowledged the connection on-screen, it did lead to one of my favorite tie-in novels, Peter David’s Q-Squared.
Not only did the novel tie Trellaine to the Q but it also connected Mitchell’s power from “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to the Q continuum. (And this fan ate it up with the proverbial spoon). The novel even found a way to make sense of why Trellaine’s observation of Earth and its custom is so far behind the times of the original starship Enterprise.
My affection for that novel could be making me take a rosier view of “The Squire of Gothos,” I suppose. But even before David began to pull the threads together, this one ranked as one of those enjoyable, fun outings of classic Trek that I looked forward to seeing each time my station rolled through the original seventy-nine.
A lot of the fun of this one comes from a great performance by William Campbell as Trellaine. Campbell injects Trellaine with the right mixture of mirth and menace as he ably switches between the two at a drop of a hate. Trellaine’s initial enthusiasm at meeting Kirk and the Enterprise crew (especially when he discovers the crew includes women) is delightful and fun. You can see the twinkle in his eye and the joy he feels at finally having a new group of friends to play with. However, like a spoiled child, his mirth can quickly turn to menace when things don’t go precisely as he wishes. The delivery of several lines including his anger at Spock and that he never misses a shot when he and Kirk fight their duel are two that quickly come to mind.
When I first read “The Most Dangerous Game,” I recognized that “Gothos” had borrowed some elements of that story for this one. The hunt between Kirk and Trellaine (giving him a “real” game) mirrors the one told in that famous story. Only with “Gothos” we get the parents coming out onto the porch to call their son home for supper to resolve the conflict.
The idea that Trellaine is a kid who needs to grow up is fascinating. Trek encountered more than its fair share of potentially supreme beings during its initial run (and across the run of the entire franchise for that matter). But rarely did we find out that the supreme being in question was just a child and that there could be even more powerful beings out there to encounter or contend with. It’s also interesting to note that these beings are content to not use their great power to subjugate an entire society or world but instead merely want to observe the crew as Trellaine does or don’t consider them worthy of much more than a passing glance as the “parents” do.
“Gothos” moves from story point to story point with admirable ease and assurance, making it an enjoyable way to pass an hour. It’s also one of the original seventy-nine that showed how the cuts made for syndication could change a plot thread or character moment. If you watched this one with the syndication cuts, the sequence in which Kirk debates the mirror and Trellaine’s fascination with it with Spock is substantially reduced. It ends up making Kirk appear a lot smarter or more willing to take a risk than the original version does since we aren’t given the foundation for why he feels he can challenge Trellaine and reduce his threat by removing the mirror.
The episode also gives us another example of Kirk altering is log a bit to include the references to Trellaine as being a spoiled little boy. It’s no wonder Picard and company didn’t make the connection between Trellaine and Q when they met up with Q in “Encounter at Farpoint.”
This episode also has a promiment blooper from the infamous Trek blooper reel. As Trellaine expresses his delight that Kirk has challenged him to a duel, Shatner gives the line, “If you have the courage” in a slightly different tone and emphasis than the final version. If you haven’t seen it, head over to YouTube and you can find it.
Other Thoughts on “The Squire of Gothos”