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 byGene Nelson
Written byMargaret Armen
Cinematography byJerry Finnerman
Production code046
Original air dateJanuary 5, 1968 (1968-01-05)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Trouble with Tribbles"
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"A Piece of the Action"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 2)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Gamesters of Triskelion" is the sixteenth episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Margaret Armen and directed by Gene Nelson, it was first broadcast January 5, 1968.

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.


The Federation starship Enterprise is on a routine inspection of an unmanned station at Gamma II. Captain Kirk, Communications Officer Lt. Uhura and navigator Ensign Chekov attempt to transport, but disappear before the system is activated. Observing no signs of life from the station, Commander Spock orders a system-wide search for their missing crew members. No trace of them is found, but Spock discovers a faint ion trail, 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 find themselves in a gladiator arena on a strange planet. They are attacked by four humanoids and defend themselves for a time but are finally subdued. A humanoid calling himself Galt, Master Thrall of Triskelion, informs the three they are to be trained to participate in games to entertain his masters, the Providers. Each is fitted with a "collar of obedience" that engages when they disobey the Master Thrall's orders. Uhura, Chekov, and Kirk are assigned individual "drill thralls": Lars, Tamoon, and Shahna, respectively; Uhura and Chekov do not get along comfortably with their instructors, but Kirk develops a rapport with Shahna. After a period of training, the Providers bid for the new thralls in their currency, "quatloos".

During a run among ancient ruins outside the arena complex, Kirk tries to gain information about the Providers from Shahna, but her collar is activated when she begins to speak too freely. Kirk protests that he should have been the one punished, and when they are returned to their cells, Shahna expresses her appreciation for this. When she moves to embrace him, Kirk knocks her unconscious, and uses her key to free himself, Uhura, and Chekov, but they are stopped by Galt.

The Enterprise follows the ion trail where they find a planet with a humanoid settlement. As Spock and McCoy prepare to beam down, the voice of Provider One warns them not to make the attempt. Kirk's voice is also heard, and he brings them up to date. Kirk then challenges the Providers to show themselves and finds himself in an underground chamber, where the Providers are revealed to be three disembodied brains. Kirk offers them a wager: he and his two officers will fight an equal number of thralls. If Kirk and his party win, the Providers will free them, give up their games, and teach the thralls to govern themselves. If they lose, the entire Enterprise crew will become thralls. The Providers agree, but stipulate that Kirk must battle 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 a third. Galt sends in Shahna. Kirk manages to subdue her, and she surrenders. The Providers declare that Kirk has won the wager and unlock the thralls' collars. Shahna expresses a desire to follow Kirk to the stars, but he answers that she and the other thralls must first learn to live in their newfound freedom.

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.[2][3]

Kirk's speech to Shahna about love was referenced in the South Park episode "Hooked on Monkey Fonics".[2] The scene in the South Park episode is taken from this Star Trek episode "complete with similar incidental music".[4]

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."[5]

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.[6] "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"[7], 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".[8] 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".[9]

Production details[edit]

It was produced after John Meredyth Lucas had taken over for Gene L. Coon as the program's operating producer at the latter's request. Gerald Perry "Jerry" Finnerman was the director of photography for the installment, and his cinematography protege, Al Francis, was chief camera operator.

The episode was originally titled "The Gamesters of Pentathlan".[2]

The original script called for Sulu instead of Chekov, but George Takei was away filming The Green Berets at the time.[2][3]


In 2017, Den of Geek ranked this episode as the 12th "best worst" Star Trek episode of the original series, noting its entertainment value.[10]

In 2016, TVline ranked this as having one of the top twenty moments of Star Trek, when Kirk not only spares the life of his defeated opponent, but also convinces the alien authority to allow a free society.[11]


  1. ^ Yonassan Gershom (2009), Jewish Themes in Star Trek, p. 55, ISBN 978-0557048007
  2. ^ a b c d Myers, Eugene; Atkinson, Torie (April 22, 2010). "Star Trek Re-Watch: "The Gamesters of Triskelion"". Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Knowles, Elizabeth M., ed. (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (revised ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 521. ISBN 9780198601739. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  6. ^ 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 February 1, 2015.
  7. ^ 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 February 1, 2015.
  8. ^ 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. (eds.). Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture. SUNY Press. pp. 45, 54. ISBN 9780791443330. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  9. ^ Cantor, Paul A. (2001). "Chapter 2: Shakespeare in the Original Klingon: Star Trek and the End of History". In Lawler, Peter Augustine; McConkey, Dale (eds.). Faith, Reason, and Political Life Today. Lexington Books. pp. 27, 33. ISBN 9780739154960. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  10. ^ "The 15 Best Worst Episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series". Den of Geek. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Mason, Charlie (July 19, 2016). "Star Trek's 20 Most Memorable Moments". TVLine. Retrieved July 4, 2019.

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