In the sixteenth episode of the second season ofÂ Star Trek, Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov are kidnapped by a bizarre trio of beings who force them to entertain them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent/rape, slavery, abuse/violence, racial stereotypes.
I don’t think there’s anything intentionally terrible in “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” but this is not a favorite of mine. I think there’s an interesting angle behind the idea of beings evolving beyond the need of bodies, or in examining the perils and complications of servitude. But I also don’t believe the execution of these concepts is all that excitingÂ or appropriate.
This episode dramatically and suddenly drops the audience into a nightmarish scenario, and I do think it’s a brilliant aspect of “The Gamesters of Triskelion.”Â Upon being whisked away to Triskelion, Uhura, Kirk, and Chekov are faced with an increasingly confusing (and violent!) dilemma. While I do think it was clever for the writers to gradually reveal the details of this world, I think that made things even more uncomfortable for me. I could not divorce the images on the screen from the historical impact that they held in America. Seriously, I am thrilled that Uhura is getting more screen time, but didÂ no one think about the implications of putting a black woman into a collar and having a big white man physically abuse her and try to rape her? Like… not one person said, “Hey, this is probably a bad idea,” no?
Science fiction and fantasy do shit like this frequently, though it’s with one of two possible outcomes: either non-white people are put into situations that are way too close to the actual oppression they’ve faced in the WestÂ orÂ a story tries to give a form of oppression normally experienced by people of color to white people. Somehow, “The Gamesters of Triskelion” manages to do both. There’s the unfortunate implications of Uhura’s usage here, as well as Kloog’s, since he’s a black man cast in a slave role. At the same time, Captain Kirk is the one to victoriously save an entire group of people from slavery after spending just a day as a slave, and it’s got a bit too much of a white savior feel to it for me. Now, I know this is a complex issue because simply having the slavery plot line means that there was probably going to be some unfortunate shit in the story regardless. I’m not saying that you can’t write about this or that people of color can’t be written into stories that comment on historical oppression or stereotypes. That’s not the case at all. It’s just that this particular example doesn’t seem to carry any of the weight that it should. It’s less about the slavery than it is aboutÂ Kirk’s experience with slavery. We barely get any chance to see anything from Uhura’s point of view, and Chekov’s sole POV scene exists to make a joke about a woman having a deep voice. This is all filtered through the lens of Captain Kirk, which is a problem for a different reason.
Oh god, there’s so much potential with her character, and instead, the writers give us another romance story with Captain Kirk, and it’s so dry and boring and unbelievable. Y’all, this is an alien who has been held in captivity as a slave her entire life, and the only thing the show comes up with is that she makes out with Captain Kirk? If the show hadn’t featured Kirk making out with plenty of women and aliens prior to this, I might think this was a special thing, but instead, he comes off as a womanizer. He lets women fall in love with him, knowing that he has zero intentions of bringing them along on theÂ Enterprise, and then he leaves them behind at possibly the worst time imaginable. Like, this woman hasÂ never known companionship. That seems like a bad time to take advantage of that vulnerability andÂ then abandon her??? Maybe that’s just me???
But even if we strip away Kirk’s history with other women (we shouldn’t, but just for the sake of discussion), this still isn’t that great. What reason does Shahna have to fall for him? I understood that she was intrigued by him, much like the Providers were, and that thisÂ might have explained her growing compassion for him. But that’s not really what’s explored here. Kirk softens up Shahna’s rougher edges by telling her of freedom and space travel, and it just feels really gross to me that he then makes out with her. The timing of it is so weird, y’all!
That’s why I felt that this episode didn’t have the sort of weight it should have. The romance angle was completely unnecessary, and I think more time could have been spent on worldbuilding or explaining the Providers’ logic. Because THAT made no sense to me at all. Look, this isn’t the first time that we’ve gotten an episode about disembodied beings who are pure intellect, and I don’t understand how “pure intellect” translates to them creating a vicious society of slavery for entertainment. How do you get to that point??? There’s absolutely no discussion about how they got from Point A to Point B, and it’s distracting. And how does Kirk know that the Providers will keep their end of the bargain? These are all-powerful beings who once instituted a slave world on Triskelion, and who’s to say they won’t do it again? Also, there’s no acknowledgment whatsoever that KirkÂ kills a slave.Â That’s kinda fucked up, isn’t it?
Spock / Bones
If there’s one aspect of this episode that I have no criticism of, then it’s all of the scattered scenes aboard theÂ Enterprise. With Spock in control, he and Bones repeatedly argue about the best option to locate and rescue the missing crew. I loved that this explored the ways in which both of them operated with the crew’s best interests in mind. Spock used his logic to try and find them, despite that Bones and Scotty were certain that he was wasting his time. Spock never disagreed with the others that Kirk and company were back at the original planet, hidden from sight or the sensors, but logically, it was entirely possible that the ion residue was leftover from the beam that captured them. Of course, Spock would never admit that this was a “hunch” because that’s not logical enough. So it was interesting to see how Spock eventually won over Bones and Scotty without having to admit thatÂ maybe he had a hunch the whole time. MAYBE. It’s not certain, but it’sÂ possible.
The video for “The Gamesters of Triskelion” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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