Like "The Apple", this episode is an assembly of TOS worst cliches. Once again, we have childlike natives in bad makeup on a planet of slavery (this time with God-like overseers), giving Captain Kirk the opportunity to do some fighting, smooching, and moral lecturing. Toss in the fight music from "Amok Time" and the love theme from "Metamorphosis", and you get exactly the kind of episode that those who mock the series would expect. (Even haters expecting the worst, however, would probably be shocked by the innuendo of Uhura being raped being used as a cliffhanger for a commercial break. Happening off screen with dialogue and screams, the writers and network probably figured the kiddos would just think her life is danger. Regardless, it's in poor
What is unusual about "Gamesters" is that it sets Spock and McCoy aside in favor of placing the thrust of the episode squarely on the shoulders of Captain Kirk, giving William Shatner a chance to carry the hour. (Chekov is thrown in as comic relief and Uhura is included as something for Kirk to protect, but neither contributes much to the Teaming up with guest star Angelique Pettyjohn, Shatner almost makes it all work. When the story finally winds its way to Shahna and Kirk in a fight to the death (reminiscent of "Amok Time"), there's finally a feeling of, "Ah, this is what everything was leading Unfortunately, the tedious journey to get there doesn't make the payoff worth the investment of time. (It doesn't help that all the planet stuff was shot on a small stage. Star Trek has a fine planet set, but it's small and claustrophobic and works best when used in concert with location shooting, as in "Friday's Child").
All that said, if you're a male geek/nerd/socially awkward teenager, there's something exciting about a megahot, innocent girl who asks, "What is love?", and Angelique Pettyjohn (who would later sell nude photos at Star Trek conventions) is quite convincing in the role. Meanwhile, Joseph Ruskin (who would later appear in almost all the other Star Treks) guest stars as Galt, the Master of Ceremonies, and contributes a rather humorous walk. Spock, McCoy, and Scotty though absent from the main plot, do get a brief B story where Spock acts on a hunch to chase down the captain... but he won't admit it's a "hunch" because that's not logical.
Remastered Version: Whereas the original episode uses two stock planets (the orange planet from "The Deadly Years" and the blue planet from "Friday's Child"), the new version gives us more majestic replacements: a dynamic, ringed cratered world for the Enterprise to study and a planet with three stars, just as repeatedly said in the dialogue. (Kirk calls them suns, but that's incorrect. Earth's star is called the Sun. Other stars have other names).
Interestingly, a poor looking matte painting from "The Devil in the Dark" (replaced in the remastered version of that episode) appears here intact, probably due to difficulties in replacing it with so much happening in the foreground. The original works okay here, however, because it's far enough away to disguise its issues.
In "Gamesters", the basic plot is about slavery. Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov (nice twist since, for once, we don't get Spock and McCoy) are kidnapped and forced to compete for their lives. While Kirk, go figure, gets the best dialogue and diatribes to discuss the evil of slavery, William Shatner puts in the amount of passion needed to make the lines stand out. I do wonder, though, if Uhura and Chekov could have had more to do, especially as Uhura's ancestors had to deal with slavery firsthand. This episode was solid, but I think it could have been more poignant. But it was also the 1960s, with stronger censors - only Kirk could be allowed to say his impassioned pleas...
But Uhura could have had more to do in the episode padded out by Kirk making it with the latest "hottie of the week" -- the commercial break scene where Lars appears to be heading toward her so he can rape here is one of the most horrific scenes TREK, or any show of the time, ever dared to do, and Uhura was simply a damsel in distress. But Kirk stuck behind bars and unable to do anything except cry out for her makes the proceedings even more unnerving, as Kirk was always the type to protect and defend his crew (unlike more recent captains, who would merely gun down a fellow crewmember out of convenience, despite his crew saving him from the same fate... but that's another
Spock gets a couple of good interaction scenes with McCoy...
The trinary sun idea is imaginative but little is done with it. But the philosophical bent makes this story more interesting than the science...
Oh, I love how the lead baddie's name is "Galt". There are elements of Ayn Rand's philosophy in this story, though - upon viewing - there are seemingly as many times it feels as if Ms. Armen is mocking Rand as she is supporting Rand's views...
Definitely worth a watch, even if Kirk spends half the story trying to get with the girl - had "Gamesters" been unique in wanting to teach love, then it wouldn't across as hokey as it does. But the running jokes about Kirk and 60s Trek where he's going after all the women does render laughable what should be a solid scene discussing emotional platitudes, caring, et cetera...
There's not a lot of love for episode on this site, perhaps because people want their sci fi to be timeless. The sixties are very much present in this episode, notably in the Barbarella costumes and characters. Others might find the story a bit simple. Yes, this is one of those instalments that give William Shatner the opportunity to be the action hero, and he clearly enjoys it. Like in some weaker episodes (and film versions) Kirk comes up with a rather obvious solution to his dilemma, just before time runs out.
But I think you shouldn't only accept and enjoy the flavour (and innocence) of the sixties, there are some things to admire if you see the episode in its context. Lieutenant Uhura gets picked for the small away team, which is remarkable on its own. (The series never really explained what Uhura's area of expertise was. Linguistics? Alien culture?) As the story unfolds, slavery appears to be a theme. Having Uhura there must create a link with not only the painful history of African Americans but also with the civil rights movement that had just reached its peak. (This episode aired at a time when optimism was running high, three months before Martin Luther King was assassinated.) The link is not particularly stressed, but it must have been poignant and daring for a prime time entertainment show of its time.
Three members of the Enterprise are transported light years away to perform in martial combat for all-powerful "brains".
A story that is cliched from the beginning, plenty of episodes dealt more effectively with the idea of humans faced with more powerful beings. Maybe most insulting is Kirk's willingness to engage romantically with his "Drill Thrall" at the same time that he states at the end that she is too unintelligent to travel to the stars. The script is not rising above the lowest of stereotypes here. Of all the Kirk romancing "green women" (or green-haired in this case), this one may be the most poorly-written.
Its also pretty far-fetched that the ultra-advanced Gamesters of Triskelion really think that wagers on combat and slavery have any intellectual value - even some comic books of the time were more sophisticated in examining the topic. The idea that Kirk would risk his crew on his final battle is totally without believablity as well. Shatner was in good shape for this episode, so he goes shirtless for a lot of scenes. But does the story really say anything about life in future centuries? Not really, its more 60s formulaic schlock.
I suppose that one positive aspect of the installment is using an Andorian as one of the captured Thralls, a bit of series continuity. But despite the violins first introduced in "Metamorphosis" playing in the background, this episode is really shallow in its script and ultimate impression on the viewer.
Not TREK's finest hour, "Gamesters of Triskelion" mines the sort of storyline that would have fitted better into Lost in Space than in STTOS. It would get worse in the final few episodes of Series 2 (and I will gert to those in due course) but really - Kirk and crew as slaves in a gladiatorial arena is a bit of a low point.
The only this that makes this stand out in most Trekkies minds is the appearance of Angelique Pettyjohn as a fighting femme - though when TREK fans want to cite examples of bad TREK, they'll often allude to "alien girls in silver bikinis". That'll be our Angelique, then!
So - a bit of a space-filler ... but not as bad as "A Piece of the Action"
Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are transported from the Enterprise to a distant planet, where they are treated as slaves and forced to compete in gladiatorial fights with other beings. Starts off very promising, but ends up a rather messy episode...
In the first few minutes of this episode, I thought this might be a series classic. Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are whisked away from the Enterprise and become gladiatorial slaves. The first act is indeed full of promise.
Sadly, as the story goes on, it becomes a rather messy fare. By this point, the 'shine' was starting to come off of the series, with episodes feeling less polished and less pleasing to watch.
The plot itself isn't all that bad, but script-wise it certainly isn't one of the series' sharpest.
Apparently, Sulu was originally meant to feature in this episode in place of Chekov, but George Takei was busy filming 'The Green Berets' (released 1968) and unable to appear in this story; Takei has since said that he regrets this.
Anyway, Kirk might be held as a slave, but it's not long before he's putting the trademark romantic Kirk moves on his 'drill thrall' Shahna. He never misses a trick!
Back on the ship, there is some nice but slightly generic feeling dispute between Spock and McCoy (and Scotty thrown into the mix) as they argue where they should be looking for the missing trio.
The idea of captured crewmembers being forced to participate in gladiatorial bouts has a lot of promise, so it is a shame that it isn't really developed very well here, and at best feels like an average episode.
The episode isn't a complete flop – as I say, the first act is very good, and the plot has plenty of potential. The fight scenes themselves are well choreographed (Shatner was in good shape during the period), and the story does have its intriguing points.
This isn't bottom of the barrel – it is watchable and there would (sadly) be much worse to come; but the episode is let down by a shaky script, and comes of mostly feeling as a missed opportunity.
That lucky Kirk gets to be the one to deliver a girl's first kiss in so many episodes. Shana's reaction was priceless. This episode was exciting and well written. And the parallel development between what was going on on the Enterprise and the landing crew was done well. I loved Kirk's reaction and expression when he suddenly realizes how to possibly save the day while talking to the Providers. Great ending scene where Shana is looking up to the sky telling Kirk she will watch the stars.... and remember.
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