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.