Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Squire of Gothos"

2 stars

Air date: 1/12/1967
Written by Paul Schneider
Directed by Don McDougall

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise is snagged by an unknown force near a barren planet, and Sulu and the captain are kidnapped. Upon beaming down to search for them, the landing party finds itself the unwilling guests of the quirky Trelane (William Campbell), a strange lifeform with unusual powers and particular tastes for being amused.

"The Squire of Gothos" is a lot like its central character Trelane: It can be fun to watch but it's ultimately undisciplined and meandering. The story provides Kirk with one obstacle after another, as he and Trelane become adversaries in a series of potentially deadly games, but few of these gimmicks enhance the storyline. More is not better. Also, this episode isn't sure if it's out-and-out comedy or something more relevant.

The ending sequence is overly obvious and overlong, with a theme (a powerful being turns out to have the mind of a child) that is little more than a rehash of the far superior "Charlie X," which had a far more sympathetic antagonist. Sure, some of the gimmicks are interesting, and Campbell does a good job with a selfish character, but it's not enough.

Previous episode: The Galileo Seven
Next episode: Arena

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28 comments on this review

Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
I've been reading through your reviews, Jammer, and once again you've got this one pretty spot on. Personally, I'd probably add half a star as it kept me consistently entertained. There's no real depth or substance here aside from the basic theme that intelligence and power without discipline is destructive, which is applied pretty obviously. It's obvious that Gene Roddenberry drew Q from the character from Trelane, but I actually prefer The Squire of Gothos to Encounter at Farpoint, due to EaT being "a little all over the place". My major criticism of this episode would be the ending. I thought it was just a little overdone, with Trelane literally acting like a spoiled little brat. It kind of reminds me of the ending of Day of the Dove, where the crew members and Klingon's break in to bouts of laughter to rid the ship of a disruptive entity; not an episode breaker, but it did leave me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 2:19am (UTC -5)
It's Melllvar!
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
Review is pretty much dead on except I would not give it 2 stars... Maybe not even 1.
Thu, Oct 16, 2014, 7:29am (UTC -5)
I have to point out that ya'll are saying that Trelane "had the mind of a child'and was "acting like a spoiled little brat",when in fact,Trelane WAS a child. His parents showed up and apologized for their child's selfish and immature behavior and even went so far as to assure Kirk that he would be punished for his bad behavior. The female parental figure even takes some of the blame saying they "spoiled" him. I think this justifies the characters' behavior completely. He acted like a child because he was a child.
Sun, Nov 30, 2014, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the rating pretty much, but I had fun watching this episode. Trelane is a delightfully spoiled brat, and the actor plays that role well. I didn't mind the ending. Yeah, it's not as good or nearly as tragic as "Charlie X", but it was fun nonetheless.

As an aside, I'm also glad that the Wiki for "Trelane's Parents" confirmed that the voice of the father was NOT James Doohan. I'd heard that it was, but it didn't sound anything at all like his voice.
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Just watched this episode last night, and it was better than I remember* (*my experience with TOS as a whole so far, really - maybe I've mellowed out, but when I watched TOS last time, and read Jammer's reviews, I thought his scores were too high, now i feel the opposite... but that was like a decade ago?).

Anyway, this time through, having watched the rest of Star Trek canon with me, my wife was apt to point out the similarities with Trelane and Q. Like Q, (in his 2nd appearance), Trelane is dressed as a French Military commander facinated by Napoleonic Era France. Also, later he plays the part of a Judge. I thought these were pretty good observations.

Finally, I would add, that in Voyager we see that the Q do have children. Could Trelane be a young Q (or even, *the* Q, as played by John De Lancie)?

Q de Lancie does, after all pull the same stunts, and is likewise reprimanded by "the Q continuum" - maybe the continuum thought his parents were doing a poor job of raising him, and took him away, or he's an adult and Q societies problem now instead of his parents.
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
This was a weak episode, very similar to "Charlie X" but worse. The plot is simplistic and does drag on and the ending is extremely similar to "Charlie X". Otherwise there's no way for the Enterprise to get out of their pickle -- an even more superior power (parents) is needed to restore order.

Trelane is an interesting character and does turn out to be a child of the advanced life form that he is -- but he still throws a tantrum in front of his parents and Kirk at the end.

I don't think the episode goes far enough with making the point about wise use of tremendous powers or whatever the point is. Not an episode to generate enough intrigue, tension, entertainment for me to watch again. For me, 1.5/4 stars.
Jason R.
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 7:32pm (UTC -5)
"Anyway, this time through, having watched the rest of Star Trek canon with me, my wife was apt to point out the similarities with Trelane and Q. Like Q, (in his 2nd appearance), Trelane is dressed as a French Military commander facinated by Napoleonic Era France. Also, later he plays the part of a Judge. I thought these were pretty good observations. "

There was a Peter David book as I recall called "Q Squared" that had Trelane as an infant member of the Q Continuum.

After having re-watched this episode, I too enjoyed it more than I expected. William Campbell really imbues the Trelane character with a combination of childish exuberance, petulance and creepy menace that yields a really compelling performance. I actually prefer him to Delancy as Q, at least in the early appearances in STNG season 1. The story in this case is nothing special, but I do enjoy watching this character in action, even if there is little else compelling about the episode.
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 8:54pm (UTC -5)
Re-watching this episode for the first time in many years while on a bit of a TOS nostalgia tour, I found the similarities between Trelane and Q from TNG to be very uncanny. Perhaps the writers of TNG were, ahem, inspired by this episode when they wrote "Encounter at Farpoint" and "Hide and Q"? I seem to remember hearing about an expanded universe Trek novel confirming that Trelane was an infant Q. It would certainly explain a lot!

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode on second viewing - William Campbell was great! I feel that Jammer sometimes takes TOS eps too seriously - some eps are just supposed to be pure fun and not meant to be overanalyzed. Then again, I guess everyone has that one series they view through rose-colored glasses. For me it's TOS (I was born in the 90s and was hooked on TOS via my dad, who grew up watching TOS in 70s reruns), and for Jammer it's TNG/DS9. I don't mean this as a criticism - it's inherently subjective, and everyone brings their own perspectives and biases to the party - that's part of the fun!
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
I think it goes without saying that Q in Season 1 of TNG is directly inspired by Trelane.

#1 - The Napoleonic military uniform. Seen in 'Hide and Q'.
#2 - The trial. Seen in "Encounter at Farpoint".
#3 - The playful aspect of the character.
#4 - The ability to transform energy to matter and vice-versa via thought.

I think the TNG writers took Trelane and adjusted it. Q would be a peer in his realm, not a child. Also his concerns would be broader than mere game playing.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
Rahul - agreed that Trelane seems repititous of Charlie X. However the big difference is Trelane meant well, while Charlie would have murdered millions due to his unbalanced mind. Charlie was not really interested in humanity like Q, more of a sociopath, a 'user'.
Sat, Sep 2, 2017, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Hi Alex,

I've never heard/read anywhere if Q was inspired by Trelane but your point about the direct inspiration makes a lot of sense to me. That's the great thing about TOS -- it left plenty of ideas on the table for future series to flesh out.

I'd actually say the difference between Trelane and Charlie is more subtle. They're both immature. Trelane would have killed Kirk and then presumably tortured/killed other members of the Enterprise when they refused to cooperate. Charlie was just even more immature and short-tempered, so he'd make people disappear or murder them at the snap of his fingers.

But yes, it's true that Trelane is interested in humanity (like Q) whereas Charlie just wants to be accepted etc. so that is the main difference in the episodes. The Trelane episode plays out as a bad Q episode (reminds me of TNG's "Qpid") whereas there is more substance to "Charlie X".
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
Some people have already pointed out the similarities between this and Charlie X. However, I must say that the first season of TOS have too many episodes with the "the crew gets saved from powerful being that can do anything at will by some Deus Ex Machina or by something not really consistent to the adversary being all powerful". Charlie X and Squire are already pointed out, but The Cage, Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Corbomite Maneuver, all fit to the description.

Besides, did anyone else think that one of Trelane's statues (that he phasers away) look A LOT like the creature from The Man Trap?
Trek fan
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
This is the original "Q" episode -- bear in mind that nearly everything in first half of TNG is a direct lift from TOS, from the ship models to the themes it picks up and develops further -- and it's a lot of fun. William Campbell, also known for his Klingon captain Koloth in "Tribbles" and DS9, turns in a terrifically fun performance as the iconic Squire of Gothos Trelane. The games get a bit repetitive before we finally get some insight into Trelane, but I dig the TOS universe where humans struggle to survive as a lower species on the food chain, and I like how the "Squire of Gothos" continues to explore encounters with powerful beings who mean well but lack the emotional maturity needed to temper their hostile instincts -- a nice critique of our own cultural hubris. It's not top tier Trek, as the crew's powerlessness to escape Trelane becomes repetitive without advancing the plot, but it's good stuff and an iconic hour of Star Trek. I give it 3 or 3 1/2 stars.

Spock has some zingers in his considered distaste for Trelane, including his response to the question of whether Vulcans are predatory: "Not normally, but there have been exceptions." And the little nods to continuity, like McCoy's double-take on seeing the stuffed and mounted Salt Vampire ("Man Trap") on Trelane's trophy wall, are fun. Also nice to see Uhura make it into the landing party, albeit unintentionally when Trelane snatches her and the yeoman -- Nichelle Nichols has wonderful physical expressions, especially the look she gives Trelane when she pulls her hand away after his "Nubian princess" insult. Trelane's stereotyping of the crew according to their ancestry (African, German, French, Asian, etc.) is presented as distasteful to Kirk and his officers, underscoring the racial harmony of TOS that remains one of its strong suits.

Overall, I loved this one and the Q episodes of TNG/DS9/VOY as a kid because I grooved on the pure ID of Trelane and Q, but now that I'm older I share the crew's irritation (Kirk and crew lay the template for all the later crews who find Q annoying) at these childish supreme beings. It's an interesting shift in perspective for me; part of me still enjoys "Squire of Gothos," but not as much as I used to like it. And yet it's still pretty good as an archetypal and quintessentially Trekkian story.
Sat, Feb 24, 2018, 2:47am (UTC -5)
Trek fan makes an excellent point: this episode is far more enjoyable for children than adults - and none the worse for it.
Wed, Aug 22, 2018, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
It is a quirk of human development that intelligence develops before compassion. Intelligence without compassion is what we usually label "evil". The things that prevent us from labeling children as evil are (a) they don't have enough power over outcomes and (b) we are psychologically programmed to love them more than adults (to find them cute).

Through a brilliant artifice, this episode removes both the reasons above, thus blending our perception of evil and child. Let us not underestimate the brilliance of Campbell's portrayal of Trelane. He manages to portray him in such a manner throughout that we will think of him as an evil psychopath, or (in a second viewing) an innocent child at play. The shock to us is that without the crutches of (a) and (b) above, we cannot tell the difference. This episode, bordering on the philosophical, asks whether "innocence" and "evil" (which we naturally would classify as far apart, if not polar opposites) are in fact one and the same thing.

= = = =

Observation 1

One may ask, isn't Spock similar? Isn't Spock all intelligence, no compassion? We may ask, if Vulcan's are purely logical, not emotional, why do they not turn out to be evil? Spock answer's the question in a very matter of fact and brief manner in this episode. His answers are "discipline" and "purpose". Discipline, to rein in the natural needs of the mind, and purpose to create new goals in its place. This is a wonderful exposition of the Vulcan society. A "purely logical" being is still free to maximize whatever he chooses to, such as his own enjoyment over others'. In what Vulcans deem as logic, seems to be embedded a meta-logical approach to choosing goals.

= = = =

Observation 2

Many TOS episodes have trivial resolutions. Parents take the child away. It was all a dream. The computer explodes due to a logical paradox. Aliens were just testing you. The mad scientist falls prey to his own doomsday device. Good adventure stories are where the resolution comes about through a charming and novel combination of the protagonists' heroics, and yes, some luck. Many TOS resolutions seem to come about through pure luck, no heroics. Not very satisfying.

A good way to watch TOS is not to consider the episodes as adventure stories at all. The adventure is incidental, the philosophy is core. With a mind not hooked on seeing an adventure every week, these episodes can be enjoyed more. When TOS does do adventures / escapades, they do them very well. The brilliance of these episodes causes the other episodes to pale in comparison, but only because we insist upon extracting only a particular kind of enjoyment out of it.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 9:09pm (UTC -5)
It irritates me that Spock comes out with such garbage. Less than a minute in and he defines a desert as a "waterless, barren wasteland." That is not at all the definition of a desert, which depends solely on the amount of precipitation--it can be teeming with life, such as in the Australian outback, or somewhat sparse, as in Antarctica. But sheesh! You'd think Spock wouldn't yammer unless he were sure of his facts!

Aside from that, this was a fun romp. I too thought Trelane must be a Baby Q, and William Campbell played him to perfection!
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
@ grumpy_otter,

"Less than a minute in and he defines a desert as a "waterless, barren wasteland." That is not at all the definition of a desert, which depends solely on the amount of precipitation--it can be teeming with life, such as in the Australian outback, or somewhat sparse, as in Antarctica. But sheesh! You'd think Spock wouldn't yammer unless he were sure of his facts! "

To be fair, the word desert literally connotes that a places is "deserted". I mean, it's right in the title. The fact that our "deserts" do have life in them sort of means that they're only 'sort of deserts' if you catch my drift. Although there appears to be no place on Earth that is truly deserted, presumably on other worlds and by the 23rd century they will have discovered places that are 'true deserts' and are utterly devoid of life. By that standard the Earthen deserts might well be redefined into "arid zones" or something, and actually that would make sense.
Fri, Sep 28, 2018, 10:39pm (UTC -5)
Isn't the whole of Vulcan basically a desert? You would think Spock would know a thing or two about them.
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 8:30am (UTC -5)
Silly in the extreme.

TOS version of a bad Holodeck ep.

Below average.
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Ah I'm round to this one. Q Beta (or Discord Alpha, for those who follow deLancie's equine appearances)

This HAD to be the inspiration for Q, no doubt about it.

I do give it a great deal of credit for being watchable twice - the first time with Trelane as malevolent, and the second time with him as a child playing with "pets". Also a very early take on the argument of having pets to begin with.
Sleeper Agent
Thu, May 23, 2019, 12:18pm (UTC -5)
Very enjoyable, mostly because of Campbell's extremely solid acting.

3 Stars.
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
One of my favorite episodes, yes trelanes castle has 101 inaccuracies in it but it still is great and once again a great job of casting campbell as trelane.
my review--simply smashing!!
Sun, Aug 25, 2019, 3:48am (UTC -5)
One of my favourite TOS episodes. Far more alien, even eerie, than many that were more impressive in production values. And far superior to Q in almost every way. Trelane would have made a much better Q than Q. At times the episode had the tone and atmosphere of one of the more disconcerting Twilight Zone episodes. The lion’s share of the credit for that belongs to the excellent William Campbell, whose mercurial Squire was unpredictable, friendly, ingratiating, wheedling, incredulous, hurt, tantrum-throwing, and terrifying by turns.
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
I would visualize this as Q having a daydream, as a young Q. Specifically our De Lancie Q so as to keep the theme working later in development. Otherwise there’s no real place for this in the modern Star Trek galaxy. Q would need to be looking at Trelane in a snow globe, ready to shake it. Similarl to his absence during Species 8472, I think it’s more a convenient writer miss.
Thu, May 21, 2020, 8:11am (UTC -5)
I liked William Campbell's nice mix of menace and whimsy, which I think keeps this episode from being a total dud. Shatner had some great moments where he called off the bluff and talked down the squire. You can really see that Shatner is a much better actor than the material he was given.

While I agree with others with the comparison between the Squire and Q, I think people oversimplify Q's role on TNG. Unlike the squire, Q has a specific agenda of teaching his opponents a lesson. Q isn't just a playful superbeing that's curious about humans. It's the latter reading of the character that leads to his butchering in Voyager, unfortunately.

2 stars.
Peter G.
Thu, May 21, 2020, 10:48am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

Especially interesting about Trelane is that he requires technological devices to amplify or even create his powers. Does that mean that he's not really godlike but is just part of a race with godlike tech? Or does it mean that being godlike and having advanced tech are essentially the same thing, and that bio/tech/evolution all amount to the same thing if you trace it forward millions or billions of years?

That being said, while it's fun for Trelane to have a mechanical weakness here, it works because he's portrayed as a child and we're not supposed to really have any respect for him. In VOY the same premise turns out to be poison for the mythos of the Q, where "Q guns" being used by humans ends up being one of the most preposterous writing choices in Trek history, probably up there with Threshhold and Profit and Lace in terms of the ball being dropped in the writer's room. We're left to ponder whether Trelane's parent's also need tech to power them, or whether the tech wasn't so much what he was reliant on, and more they were just his toys to play with before he knew how to use his real powers.
Thu, May 21, 2020, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G

That's a good point that Trelane's power seems to be technology-based akin to Ardra or the like. The nature of his existence gets a little murky towards the end because we see these pulsating energy orbs in the sky representing Trelane's parents. It could be that Trelane's people have evolved past their corporeal forms and that's why they at once find human beings recognizable yet interesting. And -- what we're shown might just be advanced technology.

It is to the episode's credit that it leaves the door open on the subject, and like you said we get a certain "Wizard of Oz" feeling to Trelane's abilities. The whole thing is just smoke and mirrors and you need someone like Kirk who can navigate calmly and peacefully through it.

Q was also called a "flim-flam man", but not because his powers were fake, but what he was offering as a "gift" to humans was hollow. I get the feeling that after Q was humiliated by Picard/Riker he upped his game quite a bit so he could show that he is the real deal - not just in terms of power but in wisdom.

As for the magical Q guns - yeah - it was just a slapdash way to make Voyager come to the rescue in a vaguely Civil War manner, and I try not to think about that episode too hard.

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