Sunday, June 14, 2009

Star Trek--"The Gamesters of Triskelion"

From time to time, a TOS episode not because of silly elements, but because parts of the are just too disturbing to think about. Often, these plots are glossed over. I am thinking about the archeologist from “The Man Trap” who continued on with an alien as his wife, the Companion reanimating a corpse at best, killing a woman to take over her body at worst, in “Metamorphosis,” destroying entire planetary societies because they do not fit Kirk’s values system in various episodes, and the deaths of numerous red shirts laughed off in many others. But none of that has ever bothered me as much as ’The Gamesters of Triskeion.” How this one got past the script treatment stage is beyond me.

The episode has a cookie cutter plot. Powerful aliens kidnap several members of the crew. They are treated as pets for their captorssaditic amusement while Spock searches for them in his own logical way which infuriates McCoy and Scotty. In the end, Kirk manages to both nearly talk them to death and wins a physical brawl. If that were all, this would be just a run of the mill episode. Unfortunately, it is not.

The first object able point disturbs me on two levels. Uhura is all but sexually assaulted on screen. We see a large man enter her cell, we hear her struggle and scream for the better part of a minute, and after the commercial break, the man is adjusting his pants and scolding her for resisting. The assault wasa completely unnecessary addition to the story. It completely degraded uhura’s character, which frankly does not get any respect on the best of days. She never did, either. Nichelle Nichols had to dance naked as a sixty year old woman to distract aliens in Star Trek V as late as 1989! It is awful, because by all accounts, she is one of the most gracious of Trek actors to her fans.

The second point about the incident is no one cares, on the show ort off. Kirk expressed helpless concern while while the assault was going on, but never followed up on it. He is too busy with the airhead in the silver bikini that makes her look likea baked potato. Chekov is busy, too, with a man/woman/thing or whatever the heck he wound up with that it was implied he was supposed to havesex with. Supposedly a knee slapping hilarious moment, but terribly offensive after what just happened to Uhura.

As for off screen, you never hear this sexual assault mentioned at all. Contemporary audiences had strong opinions one way or the other regarding the interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura in “Plato’S Stepchildren,” but her rape here earns nary a mention. The writer of this episode was a woman, Margaret Armen. I have to assume she was attempting to make a point by what Uhura suffered, but since she is given no sympathy, sense of justice, or even support from her colleagues, I am at a loss as to what it might be.

Second, Kirk’s logic on how to alleviate the situation disturbs me almost as much as when he voluntarily destroys the society of certain planets on a whim. Here, Kirk convinces the Gamesters to one fight, volunteering his entire crew as prisoners if they lose. If he wins, the slaves are freed, but they will have to stay on Triskelion and build a society with the gamesters Guidance. Bearing in mind these are all people who have been kidnapped and deserved to be sent back home even if they no longer remember anything about home. At best, Kirk is trading an iron cage for a velvet one. But what does he care? He and his crew get to leave regardless.

The wildest part is howhe brags to the gamesters the Federation has forced their idea of civilization on coutless of “barbaric races across the galaxy. So the result is the same. Both the federation and the Gamesters impose their ways on a people. It is just the federation somehow does it so much better. Whatever you say, Captain.

Kirk has also changed his attitude at some point between "Arena” where he refused to kill the gornfor the amusement of a "superior" race and now. He happily foughtto the death against three opponents. But, lo and behold, he will not kill the hot girl in the silver bikini. Ah, id only the other three had been sexy. Not that he cared about her, either. After seducing her with talk of where her home might be, he stranded her there just like everyone else. The final scene is asad moment whereshedreams of reaching the stars herself. Oh, well. I am sure things will work outwell with the former enslavers running the show unchecked with lots of former slaves now free to engage in anarchy. I am sure they do not hold any grudges against the Gamesters, either. What could go wrong?

“The Gamesters of Triskelion” is not the worst episode of TOS, but it runs dangerously close.

I would like to gag, too.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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