Review “The Squire Of Gothos” Remastered

“What does God need with a starship?”
James Kirk, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”

I know, it’s off the map to mention “Star Trek V” in a review of a TOS-R episode, but in watching “The Squire of Gothos,” I couldn’t help but replay the moment from the 1989 movie through my head where James Kirk faces down a God-like being with some healthy skepticism.  Captain Kirk does not suffer deities kindly, especially those who abuse their power.  Be it an Ancient Greek god or a super-computer, there is a recurring theme that comes up throughout The Original Series and it is best summed up by Mr. Spock in this very episode: “I object to intellect without discipline.  I object to power without constructive purpose.”  Fellow Trek fans, this is the sort of stuff that elevates Star Trek above your average science-fiction fare.  “The Squire of Gothos” is vintage Trek.

Morning Coffee Gets Interrupted.

It’s coffee time on the bridge of the Enterprise when this episode begins.  It seems like everyone except Spock is sipping from a warm mug.  I like moments like this as it points to something Director Nick Meyer liked to inject into his Trek movies, namely the anachronistic touches of human customs set in a modern future.  The image of a coffee mug sitting on the navigation console really struck me as kitschy and fanciful.  Well, as is the case on an hour-long format, the story moves quickly as Kirk and Sulu are abducted from the bridge by an unknown power that emanates from a barren planetoid below.  Leonard Nimoy’s Spock (in this seventeenth episode of the show’s first season) takes command of the situation, injecting calm leadership among a distraught bridge crew.  Part of the reason why this series worked so well early on is that (unlike current shows that drag out character progression over several seasons) “Star Trek” sought to establish the dynamics of its characters early on.  Spock is a trusted force by this point in the series, and it keeps the storytelling tight as a result.  When the cryptic message “Hip Hip Hoorah, Tallyho” comes though on Uhura’s screen, Spock confidently dispatches McCoy and two other crewmembers to investigate the planet to encounter this intelligence and ultimately recover Kirk and Sulu. 

The landing party beams down to the planet to find even bigger anachronisms- a medieval castle and inside it a drawing room, outfitted with a roaring fireplace and harpsichord.  In the corner stand Kirk and Sulu, frozen like wax statues.  Enter the intergalactic Liberace himself, General Trelane (played with panache by William Campbell).  Trelane unfreezes Kirk and Sulu and introduces himself as a gentlemen– refined and powerful all the same, but the reanimated Kirk is immediately unimpressed. 

Kirk is a zero-sum guy and in a show of such limited time, it’s both necessary and refreshing to get right to what the hero is thinking.  Give credit to William Shatner’s performance here, as he conveys Kirk’s varying reactions.  Kirk is initially curious about Trelane and his power, but after a brief exchange, the Captain clearly makes up his mind: he wants to get as far away from this megalomaniac as possible.  Kirk sees the “crazy” in Trelane’s eyes and Shatner’s deft acting helps the audience find comfort in our own growing skepticism towards the flamboyant squire.

Campbell as The Squire – The host with the most

This scenario is what I refer to earlier as “vintage Trek.”  The Wikipedia article on this episode identifies a thematic trend in TOS called “dystheism”— the belief in God’s existence but not in His being wholly good.  While Trelane is not presented as the Judeo-Christian God, Kirk is not enamored with superior power in any form, which clearly parallels that theme.  Other TOS episodes go further in this direction, but consistently we see Kirk has a concrete set of values and priorities that he refuses to abrogate in the face of so-called all-knowingness.  Gene Roddenberry’s moral/secular humanist hero is strongly present in Kirk.  Looking back to when I first started watching this show as a youth, I can see how my attitudes towards organized religion and dogma were partially informed by the humanist hero of Kirk.  This is not to say that Star Trek is anti-organized religion, as I’m sure one could just as easily point out that the show regularly destroyed false gods and golden calves in all forms (and thus bolstered organized religion).  But that’s the beauty of this show– it gives varying points of view room to breath.

Trelane quickly devolves into the pathetic, lonely brat that Kirk identified in his mind early on.  Trelane abducts Uhura and Yeoman Teresa Ross to the surface, ogling them without pity, and ironically embodying the very thing which he accuses Kirk and his crew of possessing, namely “the very soul of sublime savagery.”  There is some nifty writing here, courtesy of Paul Schneider (“Balance of Terror”).  Little twists of dialogue and economical set-ups move the story forward, developing a tension-filled showdown between Kirk and Trelane.  Campbell and Shatner face off well, eclipsing the cardboard scenery with theatrical performances (see the courtroom scene for the show’s true crescendo). And when Kirk finally decides to confront to Trelane, he affirms his status as a hero– one who is willing to risk his life to protect others.  Before Trelane can kill Kirk, two glowing spots appear on a nearby rock. Naturally, these are Trelane’s parents.  They call off Trelane and promise Kirk that they will punish their rambunctious child for mistreating Kirk and his crew.  But there’s a tinge of Trelane’s superiority underlying his parents’ tone (yet another subtle shade by Schneider).  I picture your typical old-fashioned aristocratic couple, embarrassed by their son’s behavior towards “the help.”  And the voice acting, while obviously dated and cheesy, brings the point home regardless.  Kirk attempts to ask Trelane’s parent’s about their origins and powers, but he’s blown off as they disappear (probably to play Pinochle with Q’s parents).

Even gods get scolded

“Cat and Mouse” Never Looked Better!

The remastered effects greatly improve this episode.  CBS-D gave visceral movement to the “cat and mouse” scene where the Enterprise attempts to escape Gothos– with the planet repeatedly appearing in the ship’s path.  I found myself leaning side to side in my chair as I watched Gothos zip by the bridge’s main viewscreen.  That’s some mighty good FX work!  Now, I’ve read comments on this site by some readers stating the hand phaser shots are inconsistent from episode to episode.  I agree that uniformity would be helpful, but I take CBS-D’s work in its entirety and I am extremely impressed and grateful for the majority of what they’ve done up until this point.  This episode in particular benefited greatly from the new Gothos shots. 

Gothos never looked (and moved) so good

Beware The 40,000 Year-Old Virgin

Trelane starts out as an overpowering foe but by the episode’s end he is revealed to be an immature loner lacking friends and social skills.  This motif is used repeatedly throughout the series but starting in the show’s first season, “The Squire of Gothos” is truly one of the classic Treks.  Revisiting its poignant themes about power and free will was a worthwhile experience.


Adam Cohen is the editor and mastermind of the sometimes funny The Jack Sack, a "24" (humor) site.

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July 25, 2007 12:48 pm

Excellent review. Not an episode i remember fondly, but one having read your description of merits i’d never thought about before, I’m up for a rewatch. Thanks!

July 25, 2007 12:55 pm

I wish that CBS would put more space between episode that are basically alike. last week Charlie, this week Trelane.

they did it before with the Nazi episode then next week the gangster episode.

I know Trek was guilty of recycling plot devices, but can we not point them out so obviously

July 25, 2007 12:57 pm

He’s Not a Child! He’s 34! Melllvar’s Mom correcting fry regarding facts in ” Where no fan has gone before”

July 25, 2007 1:03 pm

I for one liked this episode and I was greatly saddened that Trelane wasn’t related ot the Q race. I will always love John De Lancie’s performance as Q, but I can’t help but see Q as a more mature and villinous version of Trelane.

However, all was not lost. They actually made a sequel to this episode in the form of a game called “Star Trek: Judgement Rights”. Even actor William Campbell returns to the role as Trelane which is a real treat. And in this episode of the game, Trelane now emulates the first World War and his parents are no where to be seen in order to stop his bad ways. It even features a space battle between Trelane in his WWI Biplane against the Enterprise which is quite goofy. It also has a great ending to it where Kirk demands that Trelane take both of them to a much more realistic depiction of a war trench after a battle. It’s a pretty dark and uneasy setting that gives Kirk the level he needs in order to explain to Trelane that war isn’t always a glorious thing to behold and take for granted in a way that Trelane dipicts it and it’s never really wanted.

Pretty good stuff. There are multiple ways to end that chapter of the game, but the trench one was my favorite.

July 25, 2007 1:25 pm

#2, yeah I was thinking the same thing. I always liked Gothos, but seeing it right after the more sophisticated Charlie X, it looks like kind of a cheap retread.

And frankly I think it’s a stretch to use Gothos as any kind of statement on religion. Kirk doesn’t trust Trelane because he’s clearly a dangerous and unpredictable alien with incredible powers. I doubt he saw him as any kind of “god.”

Lord Garth Formerly of Izar
July 25, 2007 1:27 pm

Nice review Adam. Where have you been?? I miss our resident science officer

July 25, 2007 1:30 pm

Good show and review. “Kirk is a zero sum guy” is usually quite true. Watching this after not having seen it for many years, I almost thought it was a classic Twilight Zone, with a generic space crew. Meant as a compliment. The powerful beings in TOS kind of made the stories interesting because the crew wasn’t always top dog, as in most of the other series. Both Q and the Borg became parodies near the end. They (TOS) had to scratch their way out of trouble.

July 25, 2007 1:31 pm

…not “All Good Things”, very good.

July 25, 2007 1:45 pm

#6 Thanks, man.

I’m back from a long summer of traveling. You’ll be seeing more of me, don’t you worry :)

July 25, 2007 1:48 pm

I don’t agree with those who have suggested the Gothos is a retread of Charlie. I think you get that because CBS-R played them back-to-back. Come on, this is 1966 TV. There’s a huge appetite for Man v. gods (small g) stories in a post-Vatican II (big V) America.
I think that later Kirk v. god stories (esp. Apple and Adonis) suffer from sheer repetition, but I don’t get that feeling with Gothos, Charlie or Archons.
Since, as you point out, it’s such a common theme in TOS, I wonder if JJ might throw in some omnipotent being/puter/thingie for Kirk to rail at. (As long as it’s not a giant face.)

July 25, 2007 1:50 pm

another fine review Adam…thanks

I have always been curious as well about Roddenberry’s seeming obsession with superbeings. He has them in the pilots for both TOS and TNG and in the two movies he was most involved with TMP and STV…and littered throughout the series. Not sure what his message was…but he sure thought a lot about it.

Squire is not one of my faves but not on my badlist…it good fun effort…the new effects in this episode though really do make an improvement in increasing the tension levels for the ship scenes.

and a planet with some new colors…thanks CBSD

July 25, 2007 1:51 pm

One oddity I noticed in the episode.

At the beginning during “coffee time,” Spock is standing by DeSalle’s console and he’s speaking to Kirk. Mid-sentence, he’s looking down at DeSalle’s console and he reports to Kirk that something’s in front of them.

Kirk asks the navigator – DeSalle – to confirm, and he says he can’t! Spock was looking at that very workstation and DeSalle didn’t see what Spock did so plainly a moment ago?

My only thought is that it was written with an eye toward Spock being at his regular science station, but on the day of shooting, they decided to block the scene with Spock loitering at the navigation station. While it gives a nice, fresh dynamic to the bridge interaction, it makes DeSalle look like an idiot ’cause he can’t read his own display.

July 25, 2007 1:56 pm

“…played with panache by William Campbell…”

Rare, Spock-like understatement. Nicely done.

July 25, 2007 1:57 pm

I believe Peter David’s book “Q-Suared” established that Trelane is a Q.

July 25, 2007 2:05 pm

I was a little disappointed that a new wide establishing shot of the castle was not added in the Remastered version, similar to the new castle shot in Catspaw or exterior beam-in shot in Spock’s Brain. When the crew suddenly notice the castle we see the shock on their faces and hear a loud fanfare but all we get is an underwhelming shot of a door. This was a lost opportunity to really give the viewers an image that would’ve lifted the episode by expanding on its otherwise threadbare exterior planet set.

Lord Garth Formerly of Izar
July 25, 2007 2:11 pm

Brother Adam, Your timing is impecible, you came back at the right time. I had to buy diapers for the next couple days flood of info we are about to recieve.

last o' the timelords
July 25, 2007 2:12 pm

Kirk to Apollo “We find our one God quite sufficient, thank you”. (A very remarked upon comment back in the Sixties’.)

Kirk was no secular humanist and displays the skepticism of one of the faithful when confronted with someone claiming to be a god.

Don’t know what religion he was, but Kirk has a faith. AND his very name means ‘church’. Dwell on that!

July 25, 2007 2:14 pm

I thought DeSalle couldn’t confirm it as Gothos was there and then not there

July 25, 2007 2:16 pm

Great review!

I’m always an advocate of new matte shots, and agree it would have been a nice addition, but the planet chase made up for it. I’m just glad I wasn’t the only one leaning like a ninny during the scene!

July 25, 2007 2:32 pm

Q was a more mature version of Trelane, so was TNG a more mature version of TOS.

The coffee… wow, they had coffee in one episode. Picard had tea all the time (remember? earl grey, hot…) and as I recall Janeway couldn’t start her day without a pot of black coffee on her desk.

July 25, 2007 2:39 pm

Trelane just kind of reminded me of a flamboyant insecure man who acted out his insecurities on the men he envied.It’s a case of a delusional egomaniac with too much power who treats others as objects.I see Trelane as a masochistic homosexual and as someone in a state of arrested emotional development

July 25, 2007 2:40 pm

Sorry meant to say sadistic.

July 25, 2007 2:50 pm

Great review!

July 25, 2007 3:24 pm


“Q Squared” is a Star Trek novel and thus, non-canon.

July 25, 2007 3:30 pm

“I see Trelane as a *sadistic homosexual and as someone in a state of arrested emotional development.”

Homosexual! haha what the hell gave you that impression?

For one thing, Adam’s comment that he was “ogling” Uhura and the yeoman is completely accurate. I don’t remember him ogling Sulu or Kirk. Also, and more to the point, he’s an omnipotent energy alien who probably doesn’t even have genitals to begin with!

Your vilifying of homosexuals by comparing them to Trelane is not something I agree with. As for him being sadistic and emotionally arrested, I whole-heartedly agree.

July 25, 2007 3:53 pm

Just a character study.that happens to be part of the mix I see.Just like most people see Liberace( including the author).I didn’t know it was prohibited to speak about villans with this feature.I guess all villans are heterosexual to you.

July 25, 2007 4:08 pm

>I have always been curious as well about Roddenberry’s seeming >obsession with superbeings. He has them in the pilots for both TOS and >TNG and in the two movies he was most involved with TMP and STV…>and littered throughout the series. Not sure what his message was…but >he sure thought a lot about it.

Aye, but as far as STV is concerned, Roddenberry had little involvement. His role was just a technical advisor. In fact he didn’t like STV and it’s said that he even considered the movie (the book uses this word and not me) hypocriphal (non-canon). His letters written to the producer about the script are in his biography.

>I believe Peter David’s book “Q-Suared” established that Trelane is a Q.

Yes sir. Not exactly canon, but it’s still a good read.

July 25, 2007 4:16 pm

I think Trelane is more flamboyant than gay. If anything, he’s really just a big blob of green energy… who knows how they even reproduce.

July 25, 2007 4:34 pm

By that measure, Koloth had to have been gay too, since he was played by the same actor in almost the same way. lol

July 25, 2007 4:57 pm

29.I think Trelane used flamboyance to mask his insecurity.Deep down inside He didn’t know who he was.He was just barely holding it together.That’s one reason for his envy of Kirk.Trelane was delusional great while Kirk was the real thing.It’s a case of resentement-the green eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds on.

July 25, 2007 5:46 pm

“Just a character study.that happens to be part of the mix I see.Just like most people see Liberace( including the author).I didn’t know it was prohibited to speak about villans with this feature.I guess all villans are heterosexual to you.”

Let’s see … we know he’s flamboyant and he’s sadistic, so he MUST be gay too.

Suggesting he’s gay is pretty far in left field given how he treated the females. Your suggestion is so far out in left field it seemed a little homo-phobic to me. It appeared to pigeonhole homosexuality as a negative characteristic associated with flamboyancy and sadism. If that is not what you intended to imply, however, I’ll take you at your word.

As for your second baseless assumption, I definitely don’t think all villains are heterosexual. Quite the contrary, Star Trek does have a history of implying alternative sexual orientations are a vilifying characteristic. Just look at Mirror Universe Kira from Deep Space Nine. Only in such an “evil deviant universe” could Kira be so promiscuous and appear bi-sexual?

Star Trek (and some Star Trek fans) needs to look more closely at how it addresses issues of sexual identity.

Xplodin' Nacelle
July 25, 2007 5:49 pm

Re: #4

Maybe Q is Trelane’s Grandfather?

July 25, 2007 6:16 pm
It wasn’t Roddenberry per se who had the greatest fascination with “god-like beings” as plot devices during TOS – it was Gene L. Coon. He used non-corporeal creatures with magical and near-infinite powers in “Arena” and “Errand Of Mercy,” two of the eight TOS episodes for which he’s credited under his own name for teleplay. Roddenberry, by contrast, used creatures that could be described as “god-like” in the superiority of their technology and/or mental powers in only two out of twelve TOS scripts for which he was credited with the teleplays – “The Cage” and “The Savage Curtain.” Both the Talosians and the Excalbians were flesh-and-blood (so to speak; the Excalbians being a bit on the stony side) and were much more limited in their abilities than Coon’s near-deities. “God-like aliens” start popping up in Roddenberry’s stories as deus-ex-machinas later, when trying to recreate “Star Trek” in the first motion picture or in the pilot episode of “Encounter At Farpoint.” Coon was long dead by then, and it’s rather as if GR were looking back at some of the most popular episodes of TOS – most of which were written by other writers like Coon – and adopting tropes that either resonated with him thematically or that he thought contributed to the first show’s success. As far as Trek V is concerned, of course, not only is it true that his input there was limited but that he argued vociferously against the whole “Enterprise meets God” storyline and was less… Read more »
July 25, 2007 6:20 pm

Kirk’s actual line in “Who Mourns For Adonais” was:

“Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.”

The second sentence was added at the insistence of NBC Standards and Practices.

Captain James B. Quirk Trek Modeler
July 25, 2007 6:21 pm

Excellent review Adam. Thank you!

July 25, 2007 6:27 pm

#26: “Just a character study.that happens to be part of the mix I see.”

Except that there’s no reason based on the material to think that Trelane is homosexual. The only overtly sexual behavior he displays is toward the female Enterprise crew members.

That a viewer might identify Trelane’s foppish behavior with a camp gay stereotype and conclude as a result that the character was *intended* to be homosexual is an observation on the stereotype itself and on the viewer in question, not actually found in the material

4 8 15 16 23 42
July 25, 2007 7:04 pm

Didn’t anyone tell the writers about how Deus Ex Machina is a fatal error of dramaturgy?

July 25, 2007 7:10 pm

Overacting does not equal gay behavior. If that were the case, shouldn”t the Enterprise’s Captain be raising eyebrows too?

Trelane’s biggest failing was that he was out of his element when it came to human behavior. He really was a social idiot. Kirk picked up on this early on and exploited Trelane’s ineptness to his advantage. Kirk played armchair psychologist and managed to cause Trelane to beat himself. What was rewarding about that strategy was seeing it develop over the course of the episode. By the time Kirk decides he’s going to take down Trelane, you had the feeling that he knew precisely what buttons to push. Sure, Trelane could have wiped out Kirk with the blink of an eye, but he didn’t. That’s a testament to good writing and strong acting for making that set-up so satisfactory in the end. Kirk is so very good at the mind games.

P.S. Thanks to everyone for writing their comments. It is my pleasure to read your reactions and thoughts to this episode.

July 25, 2007 7:12 pm

I don’t recall how He treated the females.I bet ,however it was probably in a degrading manner.Which supports the fact that He’s full of self loathing.Probably to prove something to himself.Remember He had a big issue with his identity ,being very jealous of other men.But anyway that’s my assesment.

July 25, 2007 7:15 pm

Um Yeah,Adam.Captain Kirk had a great fear of commitment.(and Shatner’s a bit of a ham)I hope someone doesn’t get on my back about being a heterophobe!(shatnerphobe)

July 25, 2007 7:16 pm

Um Yeah,Adam.Captain Kirk had a great fear of commitment.(and Shatner’s a bit of a ham)I hope someone doesn’t get on my back about being a heterophobe!(shatnerphobe)

July 25, 2007 7:30 pm

Actually, I was only half surprised they didn’t have John De Lancie redo the dub of Trelane’s “father” (or both; it would have been short order to rewrite the parents dialog as a single voice). I guess that would have been pushing things a bit far. Still…

July 25, 2007 7:36 pm

sweet episode!

sweet review!


defender of the fey
July 25, 2007 7:36 pm

Trelane’s behavior is typical of the way late 18th century “fops” or “dandies” behaved (according to contemoprary description). They were not any more homosexual than posers or players are today. As #36 has pointed, his behavior is foppish rather than homosexual.

What’s the difference? Well, for one thing, “homosexual” is not a mannerism, a character trait or a way of talking, moving or acting — whereas fops and dandies behaved according to a strict code of behavior.

End of lecture. But he sure did act gay. (not homosexual).

July 25, 2007 7:58 pm

Trelane couldn’t have been gay. Judy Garland wasn’t born until way after the 19th century.

July 25, 2007 8:01 pm

I thought Campbell was great in this, BTW.

July 25, 2007 8:08 pm

That randy, foppish, non-gay, megalomaniacal, not a Q, child of green omnipotent energy beings bastard!

And that was a great review, Adam. I have also enjoyed the insightful views from the other posters. THIS is what this site is all about, to me.

(Were they green? I forgot during my opening sentence.)

July 25, 2007 8:15 pm

Foppish, yes…Gay, no.

He did have a fascination with women…unless he was just overcompensating….lol

July 25, 2007 8:29 pm

Mugs? Yeah, if by mugs you mean “styrofoam cups”

July 25, 2007 8:45 pm

Touche, Donnysan.

But Trelane’s castle was styrofoam as well…