The Gamesters of Triskelion

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Cutie McWhiskers, Apr 16, 2018 at 1:03 AM.

  1. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Captain Captain

    When I saw this episode as a kid, there was all sorts of action and people running around and quite a lot of shades of green. The rich green of the background/horizon, the hunter green of Shahna's hair, the baby food puke green of Tamoon's skin... but it seemed like a bland outing with nothing happening except everyone beating the snot out of each other.

    ...after a few hundred decades later and I rewatch the episode:

    It's remarkably a strong and compelling story, despite a few half-baked and convenient action scenes.

    Spock and McCoy get some great verbal sparring, and long before "look that up in your funk'n'wagnalls" came "you're out of your Vulcan mind!" to annoy censors with. Margaret Armen's plot is somewhat generic, with obligatory cliché fight scenes with too-easy resolutions, but is far more than made up for by some sharp dialogue in a number of scenes. Later stories are novel, also elevated by some fantastic dialogue.

    It's nice to see Uhura and Chekov be a part of the show for other than the catchphrases.

    I can't help but to laugh as Kirk says, twice in the episode, how they're beaming down to check out the facilities. Not a bad thing to do on those long distance tips when the next restroom is four light years away and your vehicle lacks the requisite equipment... just like the Brady Bunch house, go figure...

    It's a memorable and chilling cliffhanger to see Uhura being cornered by Lars (who also gets to wear a miniskirt, unique in the show...) and the Captain is unable to help. Pity the reprisal shows an interruption - it might have been nice to see Uhura use cunning to steal his weapon, use it, but then get knocked down by the Providers.

    The scene where Uhura refuses to comply with an order to punish a slave, with Kirk stepping in to speak for the crew, topped by his taking responsibility for his crew's actions - while Galt indicated their titles and rank meant nothing, it's interesting that Galt humors the concept for letting Kirk be the sole thrall to be punished. There is a deeper side to Triskelion's culture than meets the eye.

    The only scene that grates is the Kirk/Shahna scene where he teaches her all about looooooooooove, though Shatner's style of acting manages to make the scene watchable. Though she eventually rejects it (she gets punished) until the end of the episode where Kirk outproviders the Provider and becomes a Provider. It's kind of a nice bittersweet ending, since Kirk can't just pick up everyone he finds.

    There are no duff performances.

    Joseph Ruskin in particular puts in a reasoned performance as the Master Thrall Galt. I bet his first name wasn't John... then again, yeoman Rand's name wasn't necessarily inspired by Ayn unless it was, so it's all good. Probably.

    I almost laughed in how Kirk and Chekov fight males, and Uhura has to fight Shahna. Thankfully Shahna gets a moment to use her silver-painted wood giant lobster claw prop to keep Kirk down. And, later, how she's shoehorned in for a final battle against Kirk (which somehow gets the Providers to bend the rules to let him win anyway... it's a trifle convenient, but the episode had to be wrapped up and, who knows, maybe they decided that Kirk's talk of educating the Thralls into a better society was ultimately more compelling than keeping them all as boring cattle?)

    Angelique Pettijohn too is memorable, convincingly portraying the situation her character was in.

    It's a shame Chekov gets to little to do. But when he is given something, it's got substance. His "Cossacks!!" makes up for almost every scene in season 2 when he gets all campy and claims a little old lady in Leningrad invented whiskey or whatever. (I prefer SeriousChekov vs CampyChekov any day. A united crew in Earth's future simply didn't need backhanded comedy relief.)

    Another cliché fight was at the end, where the Providers spare Shahna's life for no reason. Without 1960s mores and censorship standards, I wonder what Ms. Armen would have done if given complete free rein. The episode hints at a lot of horror, but could only go so far in showing anything to begin with.

    Interestingly, "triskelion" was a term appropriated by Celtic neopagans when its origins are said to be Ayran (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triskelion#cite_note-10 ) Read up on the figure and there is something of a metaphorical connection to the story.

    I wish Galt's outfit was just an inch lower. Then every shot he was in would make it look like he was gliding. Which is more effective than seeing his boots half-draped. The scenes where it looks like he's gliding convey so much more creepiness and menace...

    It's not everyone's cup of tea, and Ms Armen has written better episodes later in TOS's run, but it's easy to see why she would return. The characterizations are refreshing and engaging to watch, and the themes are very solid overall, and that's what makes the story worthwhile.

    7/10
     
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  2. johnnybear

    johnnybear Commodore Commodore

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    I liked Triskellion a lot as a child and I still appreciate it today but I wonder why the Providers didn't have any Klingon thralls? Or they did and we just never got to see them? Or the production crew didn't want to overuse the Klingons that much as they were in three episodes already of the second season?
    JB
     
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  3. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commander Red Shirt

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    Great post, @Cutie McWhiskers . Heh - I love this board. All these years, 40-plus, watching TOS I don't know how many times, so much dialogue memorized, and I *never* thought of "are you out of your Vulcan mind" as a censor nudge/dodge. That's great.[SIZE=4]

    I think this is one of the very few TOS episodes, if not the only one, that ends with a line spoken by anyone other than the Enterprise crew. I've always found the ending scene sweet and touching.

    I agree that Chekov is very effective in this one. I like that little bit during one of their escape attempts (and further to your point about the fight scenes, there one or two too many futile escape attempts, with no real consequences) where Kirk heads down a corridor and Chekov redirects him to the proper way out. Hey, he's the navigator, right?

    I never much liked it when the phasers, communicators and tricorders, which are soooo cool, just didn't work with no explanation. It was great once, when Apollo did it with a great line ("none of your toys will function"), but after that it was pretty much one time too many. However, without checking the transcript I think Kirk announces that they need to search for his phaser and use its circuits to short out the collars.

    I totally agree that Galt looked terrifically menacing when he was "gliding."

    You're spot on about the dialogue too; it was great. Many, many memorable lines, including most of the Spock/McCoy/Scott interaction on the ship (particularly the "aquatic fowl" and "Daniel, as I recall, had only his faith") and Kirk's face-to-face with the Providers. ("Thralls? Govern themselves? Ridiculous.")

    I thought Angelique and all of the guest stars did a very nice job. The three voice actors for the Providers are great.

    Would Shahna be empowered to surrender for the thralls? It seems as though the Providers would not allow one of their slaves that kind of authority in such a high-leverage situation.

    I know a lot of fans dismiss this one because they feel that it and "The Savage Curtain" rip off "Arena," inasmuch as the three episodes constitute the You May Watch Your Captain Battle For Your Lives on the Viewscreen trilogy, but your post captures a lot about what makes it well above average.[/SIZE]
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 5:22 PM
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  4. johnnybear

    johnnybear Commodore Commodore

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    Well it is one of the Arena group of episodes I guess! But do you include Amok Time and Bread And Circuses as well?
    JB
     
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  5. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Captain Captain

    Great questions! I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the writers' room. I suspect your point on "Klingons were used three times already" might be a if not the prevailing factor. Too much focus on one species when there's a whole galaxy to explore or potentially reflect, even if the law of probability is that multiple FTL-spacefaring civilizations might not all exist in the same span of time. And TBH, part of me wants to know more about the places where Shahna, Tamoor, Lars, Jaws-with-Big-Hair guy, the guy punished to death by whipping, etc, came from. The episode is ahead of its time in terms of setting up seeds for potential future episodes and subverting what we see on screen as set up by the seeds. Tamoor's people could be quite vicious. Big Hair Jaws' people could be a lot more complex than a caricature with dracula fangs. Lars has a great fashion statement, almost as good as the Scots' kilt and underwear choices.

    [SIZE=4]

    :)

    I've also been known to expand sailors' dirty vocabularies too, but it's all good! :D

    I am assuming Margaret was pulling a fast one over the censors. She definitely had a grasp on the characters and "out of your Vulcan mind" just suits McCoy so perfectly. It's still culturalist (replace "Vulcan" with, say, "German" and the same harshness is there but without the wit. Spock's handling of it all is also deftly done. It takes a good writer to get away with material that could be deemed offensive.)

    [SIZE=4]

    True... Kirk does have to abandon Shahna, but he is trying to be sympathetic about it. It is a bittersweet ending and it does leave the audience wondering what might have been if he had taken her in as refugee, but Kirk was also right - the Providers would retrain the thralls to form a better self-governing system. The episode does gloss over some bits and pieces but nails Trek's core values perfectly.[/SIZE][/SIZE]

    [SIZE=4][SIZE=4]Another squee moment is when it's revealed that only one part of the planet is populated. Sci-fi, especially on tv or in movies, rarely addresses multiple cultures. "Triskeleon" (lampshades?) it by saying only one part of the planet is populated with the concentration of life forms. A story that is generalized on one level knows when to put in some details that are actually quite big.

    Armen, who also wrote "The Cloud Minders" does use big concepts and ends up having to scurry at the end. Which I'm ambivalent about because, despite feeling rushed, the guts of the story try to be big and mention so much more. I almost find that preferable to a thin-plot story with smoother ending.

    And, of course, "Triskeleon" uses so many Trek staples that it's no wonder various scenes and music get lampooned or parodied in other shows. I'd find that to be a compliment in a way. The episode made a mark, even if core meanings get tossed in favor of the superficial aspects used as jokes. After all, nowhere near as many shows make references to "It Takes a Thief", as plot inspiration or even as reference for homage or joke.

    Going back to the overuse of "love" in Kirk's era, it also has to be said that even DS9's "Emissary" has aliens doing the "What is this Earth emotion called love?" routine. So it's nice to see some of what Armen brought into Trek stay true two spinoffs later, even if I still wish "Emissary" didn't hyperfocus on it.

    I drank too much coffee this morning...

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    Yeah, the Proividers were way too lenient at times... though Kirk preferring that he be punished for goading Shahna had more of a point than the audience being reminded "We're lenient to ward you Earth people because you are new."

    [/SIZE][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=4][SIZE=4]

    It becomes magical, too easily. Apollo had a great one-liner, but in "Triskeleon" it feels like walking on hallway carpet - done a thousand times. The episode has some padding, but given everything else Galt and the Providers could do... That's a reason for a point being knocked off. I had to roll with it, but the story nails it in so many ways and scenes that it's easy to roll with the plot conveniences.

    [/SIZE][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=4][SIZE=4]

    The Daniel line, from Spock, was GREAT. As was his literal interpretation of "wild goose chase".

    [SIZE=4][SIZE=4]Ditto for the Spock/Scotty/McCoy near-mutiny scene. The latter two are so certain they are right, despite Spock's using the facts of the beam emanating from the trinary (cool!) system. Spock also opines they can go back to Gamma II if the crew are not found. Armen was very creative here. Especially in getting Spock to diffuse the situation while remaining convincingly Vulcan. (The director's camerawork during the scene was brilliantly timed as well.)[/SIZE][/SIZE]

    The Kirk/Providers scene was impeccably done. Well written, well acted.

    Indeed, going back to the Shahna/Kirk romping in the wilderness scene - everyone understandably knocks his "teaching her love" (and space herpes! Okay, that was eradicated by the 23rd century, it's all good!) but he's also putting in liners on how people help each other out. As with outprovidering the providers, there is an intertwined theme. Armen nailed it all beautifully.[/SIZE][/SIZE][/SIZE]

    [SIZE=4]The reaction shots of everyone removing their collars was fantastic. The ending where Tamoon, Shahna, and Galt just stand near each other is also quite good. "What happens now?" I dare say the story begs for a sequel.
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    [/SIZE][/SIZE]
    Easily. They all played it with sincerity. Shatner as Kirk definitely sells the most important scenes with classic Shakespearean accent. There was one scene I think he was edging toward OTT, but Kirk is an impassioned character and depth. It's easy to see why Shatner got the role. He does make it iconic.

    [SIZE=4]

    Yeah, it's all part of the sugary glossy ending. The Providers clearly set the terms. What is so special about Shahna? It's another "roll with it" moment, but so much of the story is strong enough and more to compensate for these one or two moments.

    [/SIZE]Thanks! :)

    I'll rewatch "Savage Curtain" again. I recall it feeling like a worn episode, but with a couple moments that stood out. I like the idea of the Captain's mind being rummaged through to find one of his heroes and the alien extrapolating how Lincoln would act... and the basic concept of a third party observing good vs evil. Just how it's done can make all the difference. In some ways, "Curtain" is better because it's an actual alien, not humanoid, a rock monster curious about these space travelers nearby... instead of glowing ball of light that turns into a 15 year old blond teenager wearing a shiny toga interceding over a territorial dispute with big lizards, filmed on location at the Alamo set.

    I'm not sure what compelled me to watch the episode again. Glad I had. Maybe because it's often panned by critics. Or as I remembered her name. I've always enjoyed Margaret's works as she manages to carry a LOT of topics in her stories that are true to Trek and with compelling characterizations... and the level of tragedy in "Paradise Syndrome" is so unlike most 1960s entertainment because it ends on a very depressing note - not even bittersweet, just tragedy and murder. A reminder of the prime directive in some ways?

    Memory Alpha also revealed she would have been script editor at Freiberger's request had Trek gotten a fourth year. Shame she didn't get it for season 3. Shame it got canceled, actually. With Fontana gone, Armen would have made a perfect choice because she was great with the characters.
    [/SIZE]
     
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  6. johnnybear

    johnnybear Commodore Commodore

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    I think that the makeup guys on the Triskellion set just made do with what they had! They had an Andorian outfit from Journey To Babel in the closet and so used that and gave the other actors a different look, as none of those characters had been seen before or had their worlds of origin identified and I'll bet there was very little information on them in Margaret Armen's script!
    JB
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Armen did the teleplay for "The Cloud Minders" but the story pitch was Gerrold's.
     
  8. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    FYI, this sequence was filmed very differently than what wound up in the final broadcast version. It was significantly changed in the editing room.
     
  9. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Can you elaborate on the differences?
     
  10. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    Would you throw virtual vegetables at me if I said that that scene is one of the lost scenes we show in our book?
     
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  11. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Looking forward to reading about it! :hugegrin:
     
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  12. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks, much appreciated!
     
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  13. Joe_Atari

    Joe_Atari Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Okay, I want this book yesterday. It's almost enough to make me forget about your TMP Memory Wall footage. Almost. ;)
     
  14. alchemist

    alchemist Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for supporting the book, and sorry about that incident with the memory wall footage. We never intended to simply tease about it. As we were teeing up for its public release -- after we had transferred the film -- something happened that caused things to go... south.:sigh:
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018 at 9:44 PM
  15. Steven P Bastien

    Steven P Bastien Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    How did an entire alien society evolve into three body-less brains housed in a basement? And, why is their sole purpose to bet meaningless monetary units on gladiator fights? And, even if this is their sole enjoyment, how could they get outsmarted by Kirk and so willingly give up their paradise?

    Personally, I can't get past the whole background of the episode to appreciate the good things about it. And don't forget, Kirk punched a beautiful unsuspecting women in the jaw in this episode. Man, that's cold!
     
  16. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    It's metaphorical! ;)
     
  17. Steven P Bastien

    Steven P Bastien Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Well, sometimes I do miss the metaphor, but whatever it is a metaphor of, it's a bad metaphor. :)
     
  18. Joe_Atari

    Joe_Atari Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, on topic... "Gamesters" is the first Trek episode I recall seeing ever, in mid-'70s syndication; I distinctly remember the glowing brains. Looking back now, for me it's notable for just how many Trek tropes (some already mentioned) it incorporates. Offhand:

    - Landing party out of contact with the Enterprise & imprisoned / enslaved, Enterprise searches for them, finds a trail.
    - Spock vs. McCoy conflict
    - Enterprise disabled by aliens
    - Forced combat at the hands of alien observers, Enterprise crew watches on the viewscreen
    - Shirtless Kirk
    - Kirk romances scantily-clad alien babe (as much as I hate how this one has been overblown over the decades)
    - Kirk asserts the human values of freedom and self-determination
    - Pain-inducing devices
    - Kirk refuses to kill a defeated combatant
    - Kirk outwits rather than overpowers aliens
    - Scotty getting maximum speed out of his engines
    - Phasers / communicators don't work

    Even as a somewhat middling episode incorporating a lot of standard Trek elements, I still think it makes a worthy intro to Trek.

    Off topic, in 1980 "The Way to Eden" was the first episode I ever videotaped (although I had seen it previously). Watched it over and over, probably a dozen or so times; it was the coolest thing ever to be able to do that. Pity it wasn't one of the better episodes (although I still enjoy it quite a lot).

    Oh I get it; no worries. It's not too hard to figure out what the issue probably was. I'll check back in another 9 years to see if anything's changed! :whistle:

    Seriously though, any chance we might see it on a future official release ("The Roddenberry Vault: Volume 2" perhaps)?
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018 at 12:11 AM
  19. DrCorby

    DrCorby Commander Red Shirt

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    I thought from his book on the making of "The Trouble With Tribbles" that it was the other way around -- that Gerrold was asked to do rewrites on "I, Mudd" and "The Cloud Minders". It's been quite a while since I read his book; am I misremembering?
     
  20. mos6507

    mos6507 Commodore Commodore

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    I think this one is a good pairing with The Savage Curtain as far as representing the lighter, campier side of Trek. You're really not supposed to sit there and think about the back-story of those three brains. You're supposed to just be dropped into the story like escapism. It just ticks Trek trope boxes. Hot alien babes, overacting, Kirk speechifying, etc...