Season Two, Episode Seventeen: The Gamesters of Triskelion
On the bridge, Kirk is getting ready for a routine check on the planet Gamma II's communications station. Kirk tells Spock to mind the store while he, Chekov, and Uhura head towards the turbo lift to get going.
(((That is literally the only exchange our boys have in the entire episode. Fortunately, TOS was kind enough to make up for the slash drought with pure Yay 60s nonsense. It ain't gay, but it's entertaining.)))
Our team for the episode (Kirk/Chekov/Uhura) step onto the teleportation pad only to be blinked out existence in a non-transporter fashion. They're instantly blinked back into existence laying on a ground painted like a…strange….biohazard…sign?
So that's a problem.
They get up and look around, Kirk assuming it was kind of transporter malfunction.
Kirk: "This isn't Gamma II, look at that sky!"
(((Not even on the right planet, man. Well shit.)))
Uhura: "And this is the craziest landing pad I've ever seen."
Kirk: "It's a trinary sun."
(((Oh well that clears everything up.)))
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Scotty beeps Spock on the bridge.
Scotty: "Mr. Spock, the captain, Lt. Uhura, and Chekov…they vanished. They got onto the transporter platform and they just vanished!"
Spock: "I presume you mean they vanished in a manner not consistent with the usual workings of the transporter, Mr. Scott."
Scotty: "Aye, of course I mean that! D'you think I'd call you if they just beamed down?!"
All of the usual suspects are working fine, so Spock elects for a more thorough check while he scans Gamma II for the landing party.
Back on Wherever The Hell The Landing Party Is, they're just as clueless. Kirk tries to contact the Enterprise when…::cough::…when uh….::snicker::….when some caveman looking guy with big false fangs comes around the corner and brings the fight music from Amok Time with him.
Wait now there's some guy in short skirt/vest thing with great hair headed for them too.
(((And unless that guy can travel through solid rock I would really like to know where he came from.)))
Uhura spots the crazies and Kirk orders their phasers set to stun. Then two chicks with wigs and shiny outfits appear with plastic weapons and nobody can hold back the tears of laughter anymore why god why.
(((DSDJskfjdkfl I can't hold it in anymore.
Yay 60s everywhere.)))
As they're ganged up on, Kirk gives the order to fire but whups, the phasers don't work. He changes his order to "hand to hand."
Uhura gets stuck with the two ladies while Kirk and Chekov each take on a guy.
(((Not that Uhura isn't a badass, but she's just a communications officer. Can the captain get double teamed or something? I mean, poor girl.)))
Kirk gets karate chopped to the ground, and takes a swing so wide that it makes total sense when the dude's knife goes flying out of his hand.
(((There is so much wrong with the above description that I can't even.
Why karate chop when you have a knife.
Why leave in the take where Shatner blatantly misses the stunt guy.
So much why.)))
Pretty soon Kirk is the only one who has yet to be tamed. One of the women (with a big green wig and a sparkly skimpy silver outfit made out of fetishes and absurdity) spots and opening and gets the pointy end of her plastic weapon pointed at Kirk's throat.
(((When I looked up who wrote this episode, everything made sense. Our writer today is Margaret Armen, who penned two other episodes: The Cloud Minders and The Paradise Syndrome. Cloud Minders is even more awful than Triskelion, and Paradise Syndrome is the 'Kirk loses his memory and becomes a family man' thing.
Then there's the director of Triskelion, Gene Nelson. This is the only episode he ever helmed.
Yeah, I'm suddenly not surprised by this episode at all. And yet, the presence of the other Genes (Roddenberry and Coon) is not entirely missing. You'll see what I mean.)))
A Captain's Log catches us up just in cased we missed anything, then Count Chocula blinks into existence. Count Chocula is impressed with their fighting and shit.
Count Chocula: "You also, Uhura. Your spirit is as great as the captain's."
(((WOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH THAT'S RIGHT NYOTA MOTHER FUCKIN' UHURA IS JUST AS BIG OF A BAMF AS THE CAPTAIN AND COUNT CHOCULA ACKNOWLEDGED IT LET THAT SINK IN)))
(((NO WONDER THEY LET HER TAKE ON TWO ENEMIES AT ONCE WHAT WAS I THINKING)))
Count Chocula: I can see you will all prove invaluable here. I am Galt, master Thrall of the planet Triskelion. I have been sent to welcome you."
Cut to Kirk being choked into restraints.
(((In some circles that wouldn't be a half bad welcome, actually.)))
(((Also, I'm gonna keep calling him Count Chocula because reasons.)))
Apparently they're going to be trained, and apparently they were expected. Some group called The Providers were the ones who snatched the landing party off the transporter pad. They run shit around here.
Kirk: "What do they want from us?"
Count Chocula: "You are to be trained, of course."
Count Chocula: "What other use is there for Thralls?"
(((I got a couple ideas for a Thrall like Kirk if u kno wut i mean.)))
Kirk tries to explain that he and his people are officers so, you know, this is a mistake. But Count Chocula says nope you're Thralls congrats have fun let me show you to your cells I mean rooms.
Kirk: "We're not going anywhere until we have some information! Who are you? What is this place? What do you think you're going to do with us?"
Count Chocula: "I'm Galt, master Thrall. This place is the planet Triskelion. You are to be trained and spend the rest of your lives here."
(((Someone bang the set, I think we've looped back to the beginning.)))
Kirk just stares at him like 'Oh, you're stubborn. Well damn.'
On the Enterprise, Scotty reports to Spock that whatever the hell happened wasn't technical. Spock can't find any life on Gamma II, either. Everyone's clueless, including McCoy.
McCoy: "We can't just leave them out there, wherever they are."
Spock: "We shall continue sensor scans, doctor. At the moment, that is all we can do except hope for a rational explanation."
McCoy: "Hope. I always thought that was a human failing, Mr. Spock."
Spock: "True, doctor. Constant exposure does result in a certain degree of contamination."
(((A couple of notes here:
1. This is, if memory serves, the first time Spock admits to human emotion having rubbed off on him.
2. If one were to argue that Kirk's several instances of teasing Spock were not flirtatious, I would show them this. McCoy is halfway across the bridge, not even looking at him, and muttering somewhat under his breath as an irritated afterthought. When Kirk says stuff like this to Spock, he is in close proximity, right up in Spock's grill, and grinning his face off. McCoy is how you behave when you're trying to annoy someone or piss them off. Kirk is how you do something else entirely. Your mileage may vary as to his canonical intentions, but the difference itself is huge.)))
Back on Triskelion, Kirk etc are being shown their cells. They try to make a break for it but whups, their neck collar things are activated and send them to the floor in hilarious agony.
(((Swear to god, this episode is like Bread and Circuses meets Spock's Brain.)))
(((Also, Count Chocula's glow-y eyes?
Count Chocula assures them that escape is impossible and orders back to their cages. The three of them reluctantly oblige.
(((Can I just say that as hysterical as this episode is, it's really nice to see Kirk in the regular uniform instead of the wrap shirt for a change. Hnng.)))
Not much in the way of development on the bridge, though Spock has figured out the landing party isn't even in the solar system. McCoy's a bit worried 'cause this crap has been going on for an hour now.
McCoy: "Can people live that long as disassembled atoms in a transporter beam?"
Spock: "I have never heard of this study being done, but it would be a fascinating project."
McCoy: "Fascinating?! Those people are friends of ours out there, if they're still alive."
McCoy: "Well the odds are not good!"
Spock: "No. I would say approximately four hundred-"
McCoy: "Don't quote odds, and don't give me any more dispassionate logic, Mr. Spock. Just keep looking for them."
Spock: "I would welcome a suggestion, doctor, even an emotional one, as to where to look."
McCoy: "The first time you've ever asked me for anything and it had to be an occasion like this."
(((First of all, you guys need to stop before I fall over from the preciousness.
Second of all, I love how Kirk will always indulge Spock and let him rattle off his calculations but McCoy is like SPOCK I AM NOT THE CAPTAIN I DO NOT THINK YOU'RE CUTE SHUT UP AND SEARCH.
Or you know. Something.)))
Kirk and the gang talk from their respective cells. They've got no idea where they are or how the Enterprise would find them. Kirk's not even sure they're in the same dimension. Wherever they are, it's a far ass way from the ship.
Then the soldier Thrall from earlier (not the caveman dude, the other one with the good hair) goes into Uhura's cell, says they've been chosen for each other, and pretty much tries to rape her. We even fade out to commercial in the middle of the attack like that's the suspense to keep us in our seats.
(((If it wasn't so disturbing, Shatner's utter failure at big emotions would be pretty damn funny.)))
Back from commercial, the soldier Thrall is pissed because she's not allowed to refuse 'selection.'
(((So not only are beings kidnapped and pitted against each other, but they're forced to fuck. But heaven forbid a black woman kiss a white man because the censors just won't stand for that kind of unnerving display.)))
The green haired chick from earlier enters Kirk's cell and plops down some food for him. Kirk looks at Chekov like 'the hell kind of shit have we gotten into?'
(((Note that his reaction is not 'hey hey hey, lookit this pretty thing I can bang.' Kirk's not a happy camper, and for good reason.)))
On the bridge, they pick up a faint trail through space and Spock plans to follow it.
McCoy: "You're gonna leave here without them, run off some wild goose chase halfway across the galaxy just because you found a discrepancy in a hydrogen cloud?"
Spock: "Doctor, I am chasing the captain, Lt. Uhura, and ensign Chekov, not some wild aquatic fowl. This is the only lead we've had."
…just throwing that out there for anyone in need of a Spock related url.)))
And off they go.
Speaking of Chekhov, his Drill Thrall pops into his cell with food as well…except it's obvious he doesn't find her all that alluring. He's pretty creeped out by the whole situation actually.
But Kirk is chowing down on his food and getting information from the green haired chick. According to her, Thralls are bought. Kirk likens it to slavery, because it is, and she disagrees. He tries to get details on the collar thing but that kinda talk is forbidden, Kirk, duh.
Kirk: "Will you provide all my nourishment?"
Green Hair: "Of course, I am your Drill Thrall. I will train you well."
Kirk: "Yes, I'm sure you will. I must say, I've never seen a top sergeant who looked like you."
(((Alrighty, so Kirk doesn't start to put the moves on her until he knows she's been assigned to him for the duration of his training. This gives him time to win her over, charm her into a moment where he could possibly escape or, even better, get her to full out help him.
But even when he switches gears to flirting, which his subtext doesn't do until the text itself gets there, it's not with the usual verve. Kirk is very good at using sex as a weapon, but he's not trying too hard this time. Maybe because she's so naïve and inexperienced? I'm not sure. All I know is we've seen him full tilt and this isn't it.)))
Green Hair: "What does that mean?"
Kirk: "It means you're a very beautiful woman."
Green Hair: "What is beautiful?"
Kirk: "You mean nobody's ever told you that before? Well, uh, beautiful is…"
He holds up the shiny lid for the tray up to her face.
Kirk: "That's beautiful."
She looks at her reflection.
(((One moment please
::is violently ill::
After the blatant compliment, he learns more about her and Drill Thralls.
(((Very obvious tactic here. A little flattery, a little information.)))
They're interrupted by flashing red lights signaling a training session. Now Kirk gets to put on a harness of some kind.
(((And all the kinky Kirk fans start rubbing their hands together.)))
Meanwhile, Spock is still traveling great distances along the ion trail, to which McCoy insists that he's out of his Vulcan mind for doing so and the entire world applauds because he said the thing.
Aaaand back to Triskelion. They're training (you tell by the clinkity clink of their weapons) when Count Chocula comes in with handcuffed Thrall. This Thrall didn't hop to it when given an order, so naturally the trainees will use him as target practice. Happy fun time.
Count Chocula: "You begin, Uhura."
(((Uhura is so fucking offended by this asshole it is beautiful.)))
Count Chocula: "It is not allowed to refuse a training exercise."
(((It's not allowed to refuse Selection either but fucking watch her do it.)))
Uhura: "I don't care whether it's allowed or not, I will not do it!"
(((GET IT GIRL)))
Kirk: "None of us will do it."
Count Chocula: "It is part of your training. The Providers wish it."
Kirk: "The devil with The Providers."
Count Chocula turns on their collars for a second, then tells the Thrall that was going to be punished that now he's going to do the punishing? The guy with good hair starts to tie her wrists and Kirk is very casually just like 'uh, no' and splits them up.
Kirk demands to see The Providers, but we all know how his demands go in these situations. Now that he's assumed responsibility for his crew, HE will be punished instead.
(((It's like hot potato with the punishing around here.)))
Count Chocula says the punishment is less painful than the collar, but then he explains that Kirk will be used as the training target and killed? So I'm wondering what kind of hellish fucking experience the collars must be?
Back from commercial and Kirk is getting attacked by the caveman with a whip and fishing net.
(((I'm no expert, but surely that's not how you actually whip a person…)))
Kirk is literally fighting with his hands ties behind his back. He manages to kick the guy before Count Chocula calls a time out. Green Hair says the caveman is blind on one side so there's that. Kirk's ties comes loose enough so that he can roll out of it…
(((And as ludicrous as this is, he's kinda hot doing it.)))
Kirk wins, and the disembodied voices that are The Providers start bidding on Kirk and company. Kirk isn't happy about this, so The Providers start betting on whether or not he's trainable, and then Count Chocula changes the color of their collars.
(((I have no idea what's going on but Kirk's shirt is torn so I don't care.)))
And still, nobody on the Enterprise knows what the hell is going on.
Kirk and Green Hair are jogging, Kirk now shirtless in his harness like you do, and he waves her to stop. They take a break, and Kirk comments how it's nice to be away from the main compound for a change.
(((Translation: All the better to manipulate you, my dear.)))
He tries to get more info on The Providers, but Green Hair is a very simple woman and pretty much only knows what she knows.
(((Girl's not too good at thinking on her own.)))
All of these questions bother her, so he takes a new approach.
(((You see him switch gears. It's easy to spot.)))
Kirk: "Very pretty country. Very much like my home planet, Earth."
He cozies up to her from behind.
Green Hair: "Planet?"
Kirk: "Where I was born. Shauna, don't you ever look at the night sky, the lights up there?"
Green Hair: "I have looked at them."
Kirk: "Well, those are stars, and around them are planets. And there are people that live on them just like us."
Green Hair: "How can one live on a flicker of light?"
Kirk: "From Earth, Triskelion's three suns are just a flicker of light."
He drops his hands and turns away.
Kirk: "Actually, this is the darkest planet I've ever seen."
(((Even if his I Can You Show You The World shtick wasn't an obvious ploy, it still wouldn't be genuine. This chick is practically a child, with only a basic understanding of the world around her and a highly manipulated, controlled thought process that's been forced on her since she was either born or kidnapped. Either way, she hasn't just drunk the Kool-Aid but mainlined it. Kirk is not the kind of asshole to take advantage of her situation farther than 'I need to get my people out of here and if I'm charming enough you'll let something slip.' He can't even maintain that approach for too long without a break back to reality.
This is just another instance of Kirk flirting with an ulterior motive, a trademark tactic of his.)))
Kirk tries to talk some sense into her, make her see how fucked up this whole thing is, but when that quickly fails he turns to educating her on Love.
Kirk: "On Earth, we select our own mate, someone we care for. On Earth, men and women live together, help each other, make each other happy."
The music builds. Face smashing? No face smashing?
Green Hair: "I do not think your words are allowed."
No face smashing.
Kirk drops the bullshit and straight up asks her about The Providers. Right when she's about to tell him where they are, her collar activates. She collapses. Kirk yells emphatically at the sky for them to stop.
(((I can barely watch through my fingers oh my god.)))
He tries to explain that he made her talk, it's his fault, etc etc, and that if anyone should be punished it should be him.
(((Well I mean yeah, she IS a deer in the headlights and he DID cause this.)))
(((Kirk's one of those heroes where hurting them isn't nearly as effective as hurting others. You see it a lot in compassionate badasses like him.)))
The Providers don't really go in for that compassion crap, but they turn off her collar anyway. Kirk and Green Hair face smash and then participate in dialogue so cheesy I can't even type it.
(((Kinda gentle face smashing for Kirk, actually.
Also, his profile looks really good here don't judge me.)))
Count Chocular breaks up the make out sesh and tells them to get back to their cells.
On the bridge, everybody's still in the dark only more pissy about it.
(((Well, McCoy is more pissy about it, but he's more pissy about everything. God love him.)))
Spock is like, 'I think they're somewhere over here and you can either follow my command or mutiny, bitch,' and everyone falls in line after that.
Spock has Scotty push the ship to warp seven.
(((Fanfic alert: Spock pushes the Enterprise too hard and fucks it up right as they find the landing party, then has to tap dance his way out of explaining to Kirk that he did it because Space Husbands.)))
In his cell, Kirk turns to see Green Hair come in with a tray of food. She tries to leave but he catches her by the arm.
Kirk: "You're disturbed about what happened today."
Green Hair: "Yes. You have made me feel…strangely."
(((Oh god I can't watch this.)))
Green Hair: "If it were allowed, I would ask that you have another Drill Thrall."
Kirk: "I wouldn't like that, Shauna. I wouldn't like that at all."
(((It's not as menacing as it sounds.)))
They face smash.
He gives her a little punch in the face to knock her out.
(((It's literally just this little 'and sleep' move)))
He apologizes, lays her down, takes her little knob key thing, and let's himself out. Chekov is ready and waiting, his Drill Thrall inexplicably bound and gagged.
(((All I can think of is Chekov playing S&M to get her tied up and now I need to pour bleach in my eyes)))
Kirk frees Uhura as well, and they hatch a plan to find a phaser and short out the collars because circuits?
They get to the arena area just in time for Count Chocula to blink into existence and turn on their collars for a few seconds to teach them a lesson. Whups.
And FINALLY, Spock has safely narrowed down the landing party's whereabouts to a planet. Spock has hope. McCoy not so much, but he volunteers to go with Spock anyway, who welcomes the offer.
Unfortunately, they don't even get off the bridge before the bridge turns into a disco.
The Providers: "No, Mr. Spock, you will not leave the ship. None of your control systems will operate."
By the way, the disembodied voice can be heard on Triskelion, too. Kirk wanders towards the center of the arena, smiling.
Kirk: "Spock? Spock?!"
(((You also hear McCoy's voice say 'What the devil's going on?' over Triskelion's invisible loudspeaker. Possibly my favorite moment of the episode.)))
Kirk is all 'Yoooo you've been expected.' The Providers commend Spock for being able to track them down, and together they and Kirk provide the exposition necessary for the crew to not be completely buttfucking lost.
Now The Providers are groovy with meeting Kirk because the collars mean he's not a threat and his people are kinda rad, you know, for Thralls. So they blink him into a cave where…where there are three flickering brains colored red, yellow, and green under a little dome, with the backdrop from Devil in the Dark behind them.
::puts on jacket::
Kirk looks around, and The Providers say they're way the hell underground. He takes a closer look at the brains.
Kirk: "Primary mental evolution. Incredible."
Green Provider: "That is not true, captain. Once, we had humanoid form, but we evolved beyond it."
(((So you're evolution was primarily mental, then.)))
Yellow Provider: "Through eons of devoting ourselves exclusively to intellectual pursuits, we became the physically simple, mentally superior creature you see before you."
(((Kirk and McCoy are gonna use this SO HARD against Spock.
'Careful, Mr. Spock. Wouldn't want to turn into a little blue brain, now would you?'
'Providers: the only race brainier than you.'
If they don't seize the opportunity at least once they're fools, I tell you. Fools.)))
TL;DR - Bored brains like gambling on gladiators.
The Providers like him, but he and his crew are too smart and must die. Kirk gets the idea to make a wager: Him, Uhura, and Chekov vs. Three of their best Thralls for not just his crew's freedom, but every single Thrall's as well. And not even just the Thrall's freedom, but to educate said Thralls to become an independent people.
(((He's such a proponent for freedom and helping others I'll be over here with Kirk feelings despite this god-awful episode don't judge me.)))
The Providers don't think Thralls will ever govern themselves but Kirk is like hey man, we do it all the time are we just more awesome than you or…
And The Providers take the bait they probably should have been smart enough to realize was bait in the first place.
BUT THEN, in order to make the stakes even, Kirk says that if his crew loses, they will all become Thralls.
(((He has that much confidence in his people I'm not okay.)))
Wellllll, The Providers agree, except they don't want any of that fair fight nonsense - they want Kirk alone against three thralls.
(((Or maybe Kirk's true plan is to just talk the brains to death DO SOMETHING)))
They wrap it up (at last) and pop Kirk to the center of the arena. And hey, since he's fighting for the crew it's only fitting the crew be allowed to watch.
Before the fight starts, there's basically one rule: Thralls stay in the blue area, Kirk stays in the yellow. If anyone steps out of their area, they lose one weapon.
This is a rule they take very seriously, and you can tell because everyone steps out of their color every two seconds and not a goddamn thing happens.
(((Sure, they generally try to stay in their colors, but they fail so hard and so often that if you played a drinking game you'd be dead in two minutes.)))
Count Chocula sends Shauna in to fight and she is none to happy with Kirk.
Green Hair: "You lied!"
They fight (clumsily) and Kirk takes her down (eventually) but doesn't kill her (sadly).
The Providers agree to honor the wager, so at least they're honorable psychopaths.
Kirk: "I'm sorry, Shauna. I didn't lie, I did what was necessary. Someday, I hope you'll understand."
Green Hair: "I understand…a little."
(((BOOM. BAM. HIYAAA. THWACK. SLAP. WHOOSH.
Textual, canonical proof from Kirk himself that he will use his sex appeal to get out of trouble if he has to. She was not a love interest, she was a mark.
In case you ever need cold, hard proof in disproving Kirk's rampant womanizing, here you go.)))
She wants to go with him to see some stars and shit, but Kirk can't take her. She has wayyyy too much to learn. It's a Prime Directive-ish thing.
Kirk kisses her goodbye, and it's genuinely sweet. But then they beam up and she looks to the sky and tearfully promises to remember and all of our palms smack into all of our faces.
Thus Endeth 'The Gamesters of Triskelion'
The Score of Colorful Brains:
Random Crewman Body Count – 22
Times Kirk rips/loses/has no shirt – 14
Times Spock is injured – 8
Times Kirk Kissed a Woman While Driven By an Ulterior Motive/Controlled by Other Force – 8
Times Kirk outsmarts computer – 5
Times the Ship is Taken Over/Hostage – 5
Kirk Taken Hostage/Prisoner – 5
Kirk and/or Company Play Dress Up to Fit in with Their Surroundings – 5
Times Kirk is injured – 5
Times the Transporter Breaks/Malfunctions – 4
Times Kirk completely ignores/resists a pretty woman when he has no 'reason' to – 4
Times Spock uses the Vulcan salute – 4
Times god-like being is featured – 3
Time Travel is Featured/Discovered – 3
Times a disease threatens the crew – 3
Times Immortality is Found – 3
Times they land on an "Earth-like" planet – 3
Times Kirk Honestly Kissed a Woman – 2.5
Times Someone Says 'Live Long and Prosper' – 2
Pointless Rolls – 2
Times Kirk is put in a ridiculous machine – 2
Times an Alternate/Parallel Universe is Featured – 2
Times Kirk offers himself instead of crew/ship – 2
Times Kirk "Dies" – 1
~Bonus points to Shatner for keeping a straight face while doing almost an entire episode shirtless and strapped into a harness~
Next Episode: Obsession