Star Trek TOS - Season 1 - Episode 17
2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's a decently entertaining story nevertheless.
- The atmosphere is reported to be extremely hot and toxic with tornadoes raging and volcanos erupting everywhere. So they beam down with no protection other than breathing masks? Why not have full space suits? Or better yet take a shuttle?
- Given that Trelane's information about Earth is stated to be 900 years out of date, numerous details are flagrantly anachronistic including but not limited to references to Napoleon, references to Alexander Hamilton, dueling pistols, the spherical globe, the Rococo style painting and fireplace, the quality of Trelane's mirror, Trelane's too modern for the time period outfit, Trelane's collection of too modern European flags, the harpsichord, the yeoman's dress during the waltz, the waltz itself, and the 17th century dueling sword. At one point Trelane even quotes a play by Christopher Marlowe published in 1604: "Is this the face that launch'd a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" (The play is Doctor Faustus.)
- Kirk speculates that the range of Trelane's power is probably limited to "the point [they] first entered [Trelane's] solar system." This is a common error. The term they were looking for is planetary system. The planetary system we live in is called the Solar System because our star is named Sol. As such, the term "Solar System" is a proper noun, not a generic term.
- The Enterprise is said to be 900 light years from Earth in this episode.
- A stuffed trophy salt monster is featured in Trelane's manor. One of these creatures was originally featured as the primary antagonist in The Man Trap.
- Trelane making his entrance.
- Spock to Trelane: "I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose."
- Trelane magically giving Uhura the ability to play a harpsichord.
- Spock: "'Fascinating' is a word I use for the unexpected."
- Kirk firing on Trelane's machine rather than Trelane during the pistol duel.
- Kirk arguing with Trelane at his little court.
- Kirk convincing Trelane to be more "sporting."
- Trelane enjoying Kirk's game.
- The revelation that Trelane was just a child.
This simple but charming story is the first to turn a god-like antagonist into a compelling character, something this show has had difficulty doing in previous episodes. Indeed Trelane is both well acted and for the most part well written aside from a few technical goofs. Unlike previous god-like characters, the narrative of this particular story refuses to take Trelane too seriously, which is its greatest asset. Comparatively, Charlie from Charlie X and Gary Mitchell from Where No Man Has Gone Before were both painfully overwrought.
Much like Shore Leave, this episode proves that Star Trek is adept at doing humor. Unlike Shore Leave though, this episode didn't quite lose itself in whimsy which unfortunately ruins some of the fun. It's obvious from the very first moment that Trelane is up to no good despite his incessant smile, so none of the characters can take much delight in the period eccentricities. One of the most amusing moments of the episode is Uhura's silly joy at suddenly knowing how to play the harpsichord. The reason that small moment is so satisfying is because for whatever reason, Uhura allowed herself to enjoy that small detail in spite of the obvious danger she and her comrades were in. A very human moment.
However, most of the episode is comprised of the crew not trusting Trelane and trying to find a way to escape. In this sense the plot is somewhat slow and repetitive. A better episode would have featured more plot than Trelane toying with the crew and perhaps more substance than merely an immature god-like alien playing with humans like pets. These details are without a doubt fun but more texture and nuance would have enhanced the comedy and provided some actual opportunity for drama rather than leaving us with this slightly oversimplified goofiness. On the whole though the episode is well done goofiness, so at least there's that!
The following are comments submitted by my readers.
- From 411314 on 2009-06-15 at 10:08am:
This the thrid episode broadcast where a villain assumes cruel power over everyone else (the first two being Charlie X and Where No Man Has Gone Before), but this one is much more interesting then the other two. Trelane is a great character who reminds me of Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. The part where Trelane's parents scold him cracked me up, especially when one of them said something like "let [Kirk] go, or you will not be allowed to make any more planets". The way Trelane whined "aw, but I was WINNING, I would have WON", I woud've felt sorry for him if "winning" didn't mean murdering someone. I thought it was interesting how Kirk cleverly used Trelane's own phsychology against him ("it's not nearly sporting or exciting enough to just hang me, is it? Wouldn't you rather hunt me?")
- From CAlexander on 2011-04-23 at 2:11pm:
Trelane is great. He does a wonderful job from the start trying to portray an immature god-like alien.
- As soon as Kirk and Sulu are abducted, Spock orders red alert and full reverse. Pretty quick reflexes. What ever happened to just sitting around dumbfounded :-)
- TOS didn't seem to be very clear on what the year was, or maybe it was just not spread around to all the writers. Trelane was clearly not imitating the 14th century in any way, rather the episode seems to think that Earth time is much later than the 23rd century.
- I like that Kirk tries two very reasonable approaches to defeating Trelane (destroying his machine and playing on his ego), either of which could have been successful in a different episode, but neither of which works here. It shows that Kirk doesn't have to be infallible to be a hero, just persistent.
- From Tooms on 2013-09-03 at 3:49am:
I'm not a fan of any episodes where characters have unexplained god-like powers. Especially when they are bratty kids.
I did enjoy the salt monster (from The Man Trap) being on display in Trelane's room.
- From Scott Hearon on 2014-03-19 at 9:02pm:
Just watched this episode for the first time. Not a bad one. It was just intriguing enough to keep me watching, though (like many episodes), it probably could have been streamlined into a better 30-minute tale.
The notion of beings who have mastered energy-matter transformation is an interesting one, though it's odd to hear the creatures talking like a bickering, petty family. Is it too much to ask that they be a tad more evolved in their demeanor and behavior?
Also, any story that uses a Deus ex Machina like this one automatically loses a few points in my book. Way too pat a conclusion.
I did enjoy Spock's confrontation with Trelane. His few lines about intellect and power are some of the more thoughtful ones in the series so far.
- From Peter Collins on 2015-02-10 at 5:33pm:
I think this episode, despite flaws, benefits from great acting by Trelane, which makes him believable as a truculent kid trying to act grown up. I"m not sure the criticism of the time flaws holds water. First, if he knows earth only from a certain point in its history, it's not unreasonable for him to have picked bits and pieces from different times as he saw fit. As for the crew, isn't it fair enough to assume that they were unclear, without external help, what earth times specifically Trelane had based his role-playing on? Anyway, having just watched that one today, I rather enjoyed it.