(written from a Production point of view)
Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov are kidnapped by aliens and forced to fight other aliens so that a mentally superior race can gamble on the winner.
- "Captain's log, stardate 3211.7. We are entering standard orbit about Gamma II, an uninhabited planetoid with an automatic communications and astrogation station. Ensign Chekov, Lieutenant Uhura, and I will beam down and make a routine check of its facilities."
The three Starfleet officers leave the bridge with Captain Kirk leaving Commander Spock in command. They enter the transporter room and wait to be beamed down but just as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott begins the sequence, the three instantaneously disappear from the starship. They find themselves lying on their backs on a strangely decorated floor. Kirk surmises it could be a transporter malfunction, and then realizes by looking up at the planet's sky that there are three suns and they are on an entirely different planet, judging from the color of the sky. Meanwhile, Scott reports to Spock the unusual disappearance of the landing party, but they can find no reason.
The three trapped officers try to use their communicators to contact the Enterprise only to discover that none of them works. At this point, they are surrounded by four alien warriors, all carrying a weapon of some kind, and approaching menacingly. Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov draw their phasers and wait for the right moment to fire. Kirk gives the command, but their phasers do not work either. The captain quickly orders hand-to-hand combat, but they are eventually outnumbered and overpowered. Kirk is knocked onto his back and finds a sharp blade aimed at his throat by an alien woman.
- "Captain's log, stardate 3211.8. While beaming down from the Enterprise to inspect facilities on Gamma II, the normal transporter sequence has been interrupted, and we find ourselves on a strange and hostile planet, surrounded by creatures belonging to races scattered all through the galaxy."
A mysterious bald figure appears, clothed in black. He commends the Starfleet officers for their fighting spirit and introduces himself as Galt, the master thrall of the planet Triskelion. They are taken to a dungeon and cuffed to the walls where they are fitted with metallic collars. Galt reveals that his masters, the Providers, were "expecting them and arranged their transportation". The three are to be trained as thralls and to fight in the games for the Providers for the remainder of their lives.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Scott has checked the transporter from one end to the other and found absolutely no malfunction. Spock has scanned the planetoid twice and found no life. Doctor McCoy is becoming frustrated with Spock's inability to find any leads on their friends' whereabouts.
Back on Triskelion, the captain, Chekov, and Uhura are taken to "quarters" that have been prepared for them. They are prison cells complete with barred doors with their names on them. The three attack the thralls guarding them and begin to make a run for it. Galt closes his eyes and they start to shine like two stars. The small, white devices on the collars they are wearing light up. They stop dead in their tracks, grabbing at their collars, and drop to the ground in total agony. When Galt opens his eyes, the collars shut off and they slowly get back to their feet. Galt tells them that escape is impossible while they wear their Collars of Obedience. The three voluntarily return to their cells.
On the Enterprise, Spock has determined that their missing crewmates are not within the confines of the solar system they are in. Doctor McCoy's frustration is mounting while Spock is at a loss as to where else to look for them.
Back in their cells, the prisoners discuss the possibility of rescue by the Enterprise. Uhura is visited by Lars, her Drill Thrall, with a tray of food. He backs her into her cell and tells her, "There is little time. I have been selected for you." The sounds of a struggle follow and Uhura cries out while Captain Kirk shouts, helplessly, from his cell. One of the female thralls approaches Kirk's cell. He reaches for her through the bars shouting, "What's happening to Lieutenant Uhura?"
Kirk still looks on from the bars of his cell as Lars leaves Uhura's cell, telling her that it is not allowed to refuse "selection". Kirk's Drill Thrall enters with food telling him it is the "nourishment interval" and sits to watch him eat it.
- "Captain's log, stardate 3212.2. First Officer Spock in command. The Captain, Lieutenant Uhura, and Ensign Chekov have been missing for nearly two hours. Computer probability projections are useless due to insufficient data."
Ensign Jana Haines at the science station on the bridge reports a fluctuating energy reading on a hydrogen cloud. Spock takes over at the science station and identifies it as an ionization trail. The ship's computers can offer nothing that would account for it. Spock orders a course change to follow the ionization trail. Dr. McCoy accuses Spock on taking them on a wild goose chase. Spock informs him that it is the only lead they have. They leave the system on 310 mark 241 at warp 2.
Chekov gets a visit from his big, female drill thrall and is worried that she has been "selected" for him. She has not. She introduces herself as Tamoon and promises to train him well. If her provider chooses him, they may yet be selected for each other. Chekov looks away, grimacing.
In Kirk's cell, Shahna tells him that the color on the collars are the sign of the provider that owns them. "The Provider that offers the most quatloos puts his color on us." While eating his "nourishment", Kirk begins telling her of the concepts of slavery. He starts asking about who operates the collars and how, but Shahna tell him that it is not permitted to speak of that. Kirk then starts flirting with her, telling her she is very beautiful, but she has never before heard the word. He shows Shahna her reflection on a food cover as a definition. When he asks about where she was born and who her parents were, she tells him her mother was killed in a "freestyle match." A light and gong signals the beginning of the "exercise interval." Shahna gives Kirk a training harness to wear.
On the Enterprise, McCoy and Scott express doubt as to their course of action. Spock has them heading for the nearest solar system along the path of the ionization trail, M24 Alpha, 11.630 light years ahead.
Back in the arena area where they first landed, Kirk, Chekov, and Uhura are practicing with weapons with their drill thralls. Galt brings out a thrall – an older black man who Galt says was slow in obeying a command – for them to use as practice target. Uhura hotly refuses the training exercise, as do Kirk and Chekov, which earns them a taste of their collars of obedience. Galt orders Uhura bound, but Kirk claims responsibility for the actions of his crew and takes her place as practice target. Galt regrets losing Kirk in this way, but says that it is worth it as an example to the others. Kirk is bound and placed in the center of the arena.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. Stardate… unknown. Our strange captivity continues. This planet is called Triskelion. We do not know its location. We do not know who controls it. Its dangers… are abundantly clear."
Kirk is already bleeding from a wound to his back from the whip of Kloog, the towering alien thrall that has been selected to administer his punishment. During a rest interval, Shahna gives Kirk an energy drink and advises him that Kloog's left eye is weak and to attack him from that side. When the combat resumes, Kirk works at his bonds and manages to partially untie them. Getting his hands in front of him, he eventually gets Kloog in a strangle hold and is about to defeat him when a voice from above says "Hold!" It is the voice of Provider 1. He, Provider 2, and Provider 3 begin bidding for the newcomers. They eventually are sold to Provider 1 for the price of 2,000 quatloos. Kirk asserts that they are free people and belong to no one. Providers 2 and 3 then place a series of wagers: fifteen quatloos that Captain Kirk is untrainable, twenty quatloos that all three are untrainable, five thousand quatloos that they will all have to be destroyed, all of which Provider 1 accepts. Galt's eyes light up and the color of the three Starfleet officer's collars changes to red. Galt tells them that they now bear the mark of a fine herd and that any disobedience is now punishable by death making escape unlikely.
On the Enterprise, Scott is arguing that it does not make sense that their missing friends could have been transported this far and that they should continue to search the area where they were lost. Spock reminds him that they did and found no sign of them. McCoy is beginning to fear that they might not still be alive after all the time that has passed.
Somewhere outside the thralls' compound, Shahna and a shirtless and whip-scarred Kirk take a break near some old ruins after a two-mile run. Kirk asks why the Providers like watching people suffer and if they are computers, but Shahna does not seem to know. She gets nervous when he starts asking if this was a city for the Providers, and he starts talking about how the area they are in reminds him of his home planet, Earth. She is unfamiliar with the concept of planets and suns which Kirk says make up the lights in the night sky. He comes closer to Shahna and starts speaking about the concepts of freedom and love, and how, on Earth, no one selects a mate for you, you get to choose your own. Shahna does not think his words are permitted and starts to walk away. Kirk goes back to asking about the Providers. She begins to tell him that she has never seen them but that they are said to be "not like us". Before she can tell him any more, her collar lights up and she drops to the ground in agony. Kirk looks to the sky shouting that it was his fault, that he made her talk and begging them not to kill her.
Kirk continues to plead for Shahna's life, asking that they punish him instead. The voice of Provider 1 asks if that is what Humans call compassion. It is interesting but of no use here; he must learn obedience, if he is to be an excellent thrall. Shahna's collar shuts off and she asks him why he would risk his own punishment on her behalf. He tells her that it is the custom of his people to help each other when they are in trouble and kisses her on the lips. She asks if this, too, is "helping," and he says you could call it that. Looking into his eyes she asks, "Please… help me once again." After some more kissing she begins to understand that a man and a woman can be together of their own choice. Galt appears out of nowhere but because they have amused the Providers, there is no punishment. Kirk protectively puts his arm around Shahna and they walk off together.
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Spock asks Scott if they can sustain a speed greater than warp 6. Scott and Dr. McCoy think they have gone too far already on a hopeless errand. Both of them want to go back to Gamma II for another search. Spock takes them aside and reminds them that he is in command and that they will remain on course unless they are planning to announce a mutiny. They ask that if they do not find them in the trinary system they are approaching, can they then go back for another search of Gamma II. Spock agrees and asks if Scott can give him warp 7. Scott happily says yes, "and maybe a wee bit more." Spock orders warp 7.
Shahna brings Kirk his dinner and tells him that he makes her feel "strangely". He begins kissing her again and as she looks at him with bedroom eyes, he knocks her out. Taking her key, he frees Chekov and Uhura, who have also disabled their drill thralls. They plan to find their phasers and try to short out their collars. As they move across the arena, Galt appears and activates their collars but does not kill them. The voice of Provider 1 tell them that this was just a warning.
The Enterprise assumes standard orbit around Triskelion. Sensors show only one concentration of lifeforms on the planet, in the lower hemisphere, and humanoid. Not wanting to endanger the captain and the others if they are alive by beaming down a large force, Spock plans to beam down with Dr. McCoy hoping to rescue the captain and the others. Before they can even leave the bridge, the ship's systems are frozen by the Providers. Kirk and Provider 1 explain the situation on Triskelion. Kirk accuses the Providers of being too afraid to show themselves. Since they feel he presents no danger while he wears the collar, Provider 1 transports Kirk to a chamber 1,000 meters below the planet's surface, where three disembodied brains sit in a dome-shaped glass case. An enormous power plant looms in the background. The Providers explain that their race once had humanoid form, but they evolved beyond that form. The games have become their only purpose. They had hoped that the Humans would bring new blood to the thralls, but regret that they will now have to be destroyed. Kirk threatens that to do so would mean their own destruction at the hands of the Federation and Starfleet, but the Providers plan to make it look like they were destroyed by a magnetic storm so that no one will ever know they were responsible. Enraged, Kirk accuses them of being murderers without the spirit to really wager for the lives they take. As soon as he says it, he realizes that gambling is the key to these creatures. He tells the Providers that his people are the most successful gamblers in the galaxy and it is in their nature to win. He wagers that his crew can defeat an equal number of thralls set against them. The providers immediately start placing bets on the outcome in quatloos, but Kirk tells them that quatloos are trivial and that the stakes must be higher. If they win, the Enterprise goes free and the thralls are freed and started on a course to self governance. If they lose, the entire crew of the Enterprise will become thralls and give them generations of the most exciting wagering they've ever had. The Providers agree but on the condition that Kirk fight three other thralls on his own. Kirk protests that the odds are not fair, but he is told by the Providers that they are extremely fair since the alternative is death. Because he is fighting for the lives of his crew, the Providers allow them to watch the combat on the ship's viewscreen. Kirk must stay on the yellow sections of the arena; his three opponents, Kloog, Lars, and an Andorian man, must remain on the blue sections. Touching another's color deprives a competitor of a weapon. An opponent must be killed to be removed from the game. If only wounded, he is replaced by a fresh thrall.
The combat begins. Kirk takes out Kloog and then Lars, but only wounds the Andorian. Shahna is brought in to replace the wounded. Kirk does not want to fight her, but she accuses him of having tricked her with lies and attacks. Kirk gets her on the ground with his knife to her throat and she surrenders. The Providers keep their word and tell everyone to remove their collars. Kirk tells Shahna that he did not lie and she asks if she can go with him back to the lights in the sky he had told her about earlier. He tells her that she has much to learn on Triskelion first before reaching for the stars. He kisses her goodbye and gently strokes her cheek. Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov beam back to the Enterprise as Shahna, a tear running down her cheek, Tamoon, and Galt look to the sky to which Kirk has returned. Through her tears, Shahna says, "Goodbye, Jim Kirk. I will learn and watch the lights in the sky… and remember." The Enterprise then leaves for Gamma II.
"Hope? I always thought that was a Human failing, Mister Spock."
"True, doctor. Constant exposure does result in a certain degree of contamination."
- - McCoy and Spock, as the Enterprise searches for Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov
"I would welcome a suggestion, doctor, even an emotional one, as to where to look."
"First time you've ever asked me for anything, and it has to be an occasion like this."
- - Spock and McCoy, after nearly one hour into the search
"It is not allowed to refuse selection."
- - Lars, to Uhura
"Doctor, I am chasing Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Uhura, and Ensign Chekov, not some wild aquatic fowl."
- - Spock, as McCoy describes the search focus on Triskelion as a wild goose chase
"How can one live on a flicker of light?"
- - Shahna, after Kirk tells her that he comes from one of the stars in the sky
- - Galt
"Please, help me once again."
- - Shahna, as she and Kirk kiss again
"This is going to kill our romance."
- - Chekov to Kirk, after tying up Tamoon
"What in the name of heaven is this?"
"Heaven's got very little to do with this."
- - McCoy and Scott, commenting on the Triskelion game
"All your people must learn before you can reach for the stars."
- - Kirk's parting words to Shahna
"Goodbye, Jim Kirk. I will learn. And watch the lights in the sky. And remember."
- - Shahna, looking up at the sky after Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov depart
Script and production
- The original title was "The Gamesters of Pentathlon" on the first-draft script from 1 May 1967.
- The original version of the script featured Kirk, Sulu, and Uhura being taken captive while traveling in a shuttlecraft. However, the production staff thought it was too similar to the teaser of "Metamorphosis", and changed it to feature them being detained while transporting down instead. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two, p. 433)
- Eventually, Sulu's part was replaced with Chekov, to accommodate George Takei's schedule. (see below)
- Uhura's drill thrall was originally written as a large muscular black man, but Robert Justman complained that it would reinforce the "different but equal" policies presented in some network programs, and opted to cast a white actor in the role instead. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two, p. 434)
- Margaret Armen's original script featured a "slithering vine", named a "Delka Vine" grabbing Shahna and tossing her into a pond, and Kirk having to rescue her by wrestling the tentacle vine. Robert Justman found this idea much beyond the scope of the series budget, and the scene was scrapped. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two, p. 437)
- Dick Crockett, who appeared in the episode as an Andorian, was stunt coordinator for this episode. (The Star Trek Compendium)
- Robert C. Johnson, voice of one of the Providers, was one of America's most famous voices for a few years: he was the tape recorded voice that gave the Impossible Missions Force its assignments at the beginning of most episodes of Mission: Impossible. Mission was filmed next door to the Star Trek set, and actors from the series would often wander over to see what was happening on the Enterprise. Johnson previously did voice work on the first Star Trek pilot, "The Cage".
- When asked why his character was never developed more, George Takei stated that "one episode of Star Trek would have helped to develop Sulu very much and that was "The Gamesters of Triskelion"." The first draft of this episode did feature Sulu, however, Takei was away on location in Georgia for the filming of The Green Berets and despite his intentions to appear in the episode, he was unable to return to Los Angeles to make the appearance due to complications on the film set. Much to Takei's disappointment, he did not appear in this episode, yet despite this, Takei said "things turned out well anyway, I got to do The Green Berets and they rewrote all of Sulu's lines for Chekov, so Walter (Koenig) got a good break." (Starlog issue #3, p. 31; The Star Trek Compendium)
- The ruins that Kirk and Shahna encounter while jogging were recycled from the surface of M-113 in "The Man Trap". Some rock formations and branches are recycled from the previous episode filmed, "Obsession".
- An ultimately unused take of Paul Baxley stunt doubling for Kirk during the fight scene resulted in the stuntman splitting his pants. (Star Trek: Lost Scenes)
Props and special effects
- The Janus VI mining station backdrop painting from "The Devil in the Dark" is reused in the scene under the surface of Triskelion.
- The top of Lazarus' ship from "The Alternative Factor" was recycled as the glass bubble that encases the Providers. (The Star Trek Compendium)
- The daggers used by the Terran Empire crew in "Mirror, Mirror" were used by the drill thralls.
- The "collars of obedience" are very similar to the control device placed around Dr. Zachary Smith's neck in the Lost in Space episode "Invaders From the Fifth Dimension", aired 3 November 1965.
- The spear used on Lars was made up of two pieces, front and back, to give the illusion of impalement. An unused take of this scene was not used due to the two pieces of the spear not lining up. (Star Trek: Lost Scenes)
- McCoy's exchange with Spock regarding survival in a transporter beam ("It's been nearly an hour. Can people live that long as disassembled atoms in a transporter beam?" "I have never heard of a study being done, but it would be a fascinating project.") is ultimately realized by fellow Enterprise crewmember Montgomery Scott in TNG: "Relics". Scott successfully survives after being suspended in transport for 75 years (2294 to 2369), following the USS Jenolan's crashing into a Dyson sphere, however his partner, Franklin, does not.
- This episode was parodied in The Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer".
- In the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" Quatloos were used as points in the trivia contest.
- In the South Park episode "Hooked on Monkey Fonics", one scene parodies the entire 'How can one live on a flicker of light?' exchange almost word for word.
One piece of new footage was added to this episode, the establishing shot of the planet Triskelion, shown during the opening credits, now included the system's trinary suns.
A short part of the end credit roll was also visually altered; at the start of the original end credit roll, the Enterprise was seen from the aft when departing Triskelion. For the remastered version, the new CGI Enterprise was seen approaching headlong when departing.
- The next remastered episode to air was "Metamorphosis".
- A cat version of "The Gamesters of Triskelion" was featured in Jenny Parks' 2017 book Star Trek Cats.
- Story outline "The Gamesters of Pentathlon" by Margaret Armen: 10 April 1967
- Revised story outline: 5 May 1967
- Second revised story outline: 8 May 1967
- Revised story outline by Gene L. Coon: 12 May 1967
- First draft teleplay by Armen: 20 June 1967
- Second draft telepay: 28 June 1967
- Revised second draft teleplay: 1 August 1967
- Final draft teleplay: 16 August 1967
- Revised final draft by John Meredyth Lucas: 28 September 1967
- Second revised final draft: early-October 1967
- Third revised final draft "The Gamesters of Triskelion": early-October 1967
- Filmed: 17 October 1967 – 24 October 1967
- Day 1 – 17 October 1967, Tuesday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge, Transporter room
- Day 2 – 18 October 1967, Wednesday – Paramount Test Stage: Int. Providers' chamber, Cell corridors
- Day 3 – 19 October 1967, Thursday – Paramount Test Stage: Int. Kirk's cell, Uhura's cell, Chekov's cell
- Day 4 – 20 October 1967, Friday – Desilu Stage 10: Ext. Combat arena
- Day 5 – 23 October 1967, Monday – Desilu Stage 10: Ext. Combat arena
- Day 6 – 24 October 1967, Tuesday – Desilu Stage 10: Ext. Combat arena, Providers' ancient city
- Original airdate: 5 January 1968
- Rerun airdate: 3 May 1968
- First UK airdate: 18 November 1970
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1986
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 24, catalog number VHR 2359, 2 April 1990
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 2.6, 2 June 1997
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 23, 5 June 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- James Doohan as Scott
- Steve Sandor as Lars
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- Jane Ross as Tamoon
- Victoria George as Ensign Jana Haines
- Dick Crockett as the Andorian thrall
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- Walker Edmiston as Provider 2 (voice)
- Roger Holloway as Roger Lemli
- Robert C. Johnson as Provider 3 (voice)
- Bart LaRue as Provider 1 (voice)
- Jeannie Malone as a yeoman
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Unknown actors as
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- "The Gamesters of Triskelion" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Gamesters of Triskelion" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Gamesters of Triskelion" at Wikipedia
- "The Gamesters of Triskelion" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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