The Gamesters of Triskelion

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"The Gamesters of Triskelion"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Gamesters of triskelion small.png
The arena floor is a triskelion[1]
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 16
Directed by Gene Nelson
Written by Margaret Armen
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 046
Original air date January 5, 1968 (1968-01-05)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Gamesters of Triskelion" is a second season episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, produced after John Meredyth Lucas had taken over for Gene L. Coon as the program's operating producer at the latter's request, first broadcast January 5, 1968, and repeated May 3, 1968. Catalogued as episode #45, production #46, it was written by Margaret Armen and directed by Gene Nelson. Gerald Perry "Jerry" Finnerman was the director of photography for the installment, and his cinematography protege, Al Francis, was chief camera operator.

In the episode, Captain Kirk and his companions are abducted into slavery and trained to fight as gladiators for the gambling entertainment of three disembodied beings.


On stardate 3211.7, the Federation starship Enterprise is on a routine inspection of an unmanned station at Gamma II. Captain James T. Kirk, Communications Officer Lt. Uhura and navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov attempt to transport but disappear before the system is activated. After observing no signs of life from the station, Commander Spock orders the crew to instigate a sector-wide search for their missing crew members. They do not find the officers, but Spock discovers a faint ion trail leading to a nearby star system, and orders the ship to follow it despite the protests of Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Chief Engineer Scott.

Meanwhile, Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov gain consciousness within a gladiator arena on a strange planet. They are attacked by four humanoids, and though the officers find their phasers inoperable, they are able to fend off the attacks. The fight is stopped by another humanoid that calls himself Galt, the Master Thrall of Triskelion. Galt informs the three they have performed well, and now will be trained to participate in games to entertain their masters, the Providers. Each is fitted with a shock collar that engages should they disobey the Master Thrall's orders. Uhura, Chekov, and Kirk are assigned individual drill Thralls, Lars, Tamoon, and Shahna, respectively; Uhura and Chekov find their assigned instructor antagonistic, while Kirk finds that Shahna—once described as "the green-haired female warrior who gets the hots for Captain Kirk"—shows some compassion for him.[2] Kirk uses this to try to gain information about the Providers from Shahna during their drills by explaining the concept of freedom, but when she does open up, the Providers shock her through the collar. Kirk tries to appeal to Galt that he should have been the one punished for disobedience. When they are returned to their cells, Shahna expresses her appreciation for Kirk's attempt to take the punishment. When she moves to embrace him, Kirk knocks her out and uses the opportunity to free Uhura and Chekov and escape, but they are stopped by Galt, and shocked by their collars, with the disembodied voices of the Providers warning that escape is impossible.

The Enterprise arrives at the end of an ion trail above the trinary starlit habitable planet Triskelion located in the M-24 Alpha system. When Spock and McCoy attempt to beam down to rescue the captain, the Providers ensnare the ship with a power beam and take over full control of the Enterprise. The Providers tell Kirk that his ship is now at stake in the arena games. Kirk challenges the Providers to show themselves and then he suddenly finds himself in an underground chamber. The Providers turn out to be three disembodied brains sustained by machinery which hold the personas of the Providers. The Providers explain that they watch over the Thralls and for their entertainment, wager "quatloos" over battles between the Thralls. Kirk decides to give them a wager they cannot refuse and offers that if he and his two officers emerge victorious in battle with their drill Thralls, that the Providers will let him and his crew go while freeing all of the Thralls and instead use their power to teach the Thralls to become a free society, while if Kirk and his officers lose, the Providers can take his crew to use in further competitions. The Providers agree, but stipulate that Kirk must battle the three Thralls alone.

The match is quickly arranged, and as the Enterprise crew watches from above, Kirk is able to kill two Thralls and injure the third. The Providers replace the wounded Thrall with Shahna. Though Kirk is exhausted and does not want to kill Shahna, he manages to overpower her, and she offers him her surrender. The Providers show compassion and agree that Kirk fairly won the wager, and as promised, release his ship and the Thralls. Kirk gives Shahna a kiss and explains the Providers will help them become a free society before the crew is transported back to the ship.

Cultural impact[edit]

The duel was parodied in the Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer", with onlooking NASA scientists wagering quatloos as Homer Simpson fights in an arena.[3][4]

Kirk's speech to Shahna about love was referenced in the South Park episode "Hooked on Monkey Fonics".[3] The scene in the South Park episode is taken from this Star Trek episode "complete with similar incidental music".[5]

The popular Star Trek catchphrase "Beam me up, Scotty" is a common misquotation, with The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations stating that the nearest equivalent is the phrase uttered in this episode: "Scotty, beam us up."[6]

Television studies[edit]

The episode has been mentioned and discussed in a number of works of television studies. In Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon (2013), the episode is compared to the "Green Ice/Deep Freeze" episode pairing in the 1960s Batman television series.[7] "The Gamesters of Triskelion" is also described in Modern Amazons: Warrior Women on Screen (2006), with the character Shahna dressed in "traditional Amazonian attire" and the episode being given as an example of female domination. The authors also note that the episode was one of the few Classic Star Trek episodes written by a woman (17 of its 79 episodes were written or co-written by women) and that Margaret Armen was a "veteran of warrior women shows like Wonder Woman and The Big Valley"[8], although Armen's lone Wonder Woman episode dates from several years after Star Trek ceased production.

The themes of religion and philosophy in this episode are discussed in Robert Asa's detailed critique of the Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?". Asa notes that god-figures, such as those featured in "The Gamesters of Triskelion" are "consistently disappointing, decadent and/or dangerous" and that specifically the Providers of Triskelion use "humanoids as playthings for personal amusement".[9] The episode "The Gamesters of Triskelion" is cited by American literary and media critic Paul A. Cantor as an example of 'the end of history'. In a footnote to his 2001 work, Cantor draws parallels between this episode and Hegelian philosophy, referring to the prediction of Alexandre Kojève regarding gambling and concluding that Kirk dragged the Triskelions "back into history [...] reinaugurating a kind of Hegelian dialectic of masters and slaves".[10]

Production details[edit]

The episode was originally titled "The Gamesters of Pentathlan".[3]

The original script called for Sulu instead of Chekov, but George Takei was away filming The Green Berets at the time.[3][4]


  1. ^ Yonassan Gershom (2009), Jewish Themes in Star Trek, p. 55, ISBN 0557048001 
  2. ^ Fred Olen Ray (2010). "Biohazard - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". NY Times. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d Myers, Eugene; Atkinson, Torie (April 22, 2010). "Star Trek Re-Watch: "The Gamesters of Triskelion"". Retrieved 2015-01-30. 
  4. ^ a b Jones, Mark; Parkin, Lance (2003). Beyond the Final Frontier: An Unauthorised Review of the Trek Universe on Television and Film ; Season Summaries, Characters, Episodes, Movies. Contender Entertainment Group. p. 35. ISBN 9781843570806. 
  5. ^ Johnson-Woods, Toni (2007). "Chapter 7: Barnaby Jones as Cultural Text: Reference, Allusion and Intertextuality". Blame Canada!: South Park and popular culture. Continuum. p. 113. ISBN 9780826417305. 
  6. ^ Knowles, Elizabeth M., ed. (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (revised ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 521. ISBN 9780198601739. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Brooker, Will (2013). "Chapter 3: 1961-1969: Pop and Camp". Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 208–209. ISBN 9781623567521. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Mainon, Dominique; Ursini, James (2006). "Chapter 7: Where No Man Has Gone Before". Modern Amazons: Warrior Women on Screen. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 169–170. ISBN 9780879103279. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Asa, Robert (1999). "Chapter 3: Classic Star Trek and the Death of God - A Case Study of "Who Mourns for Adonais?"". In Porter, Jennifer E.; McLaren, Darcee L. Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture. SUNY Press. pp. 45, 54. ISBN 9780791443330. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Cantor, Paul A. (2001). "Chapter 2: Shakespeare in the Original Klingon: Star Trek and the End of History". In Lawler, Peter Augustine; McConkey, Dale. Faith, Reason, and Political Life Today. Lexington Books. pp. 27, 33. ISBN 9780739154960. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 

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