46. The Gamesters of Triskelion
FORMULA: Arena + Amok Time + The Apple
WHY WE LIKE IT: It manages to achieve some kind of kitsch grandeur.
WHY WE DON'T: It's so very hokey, from the plot, to the costumes, to the principal villains.
REVIEW: The show has always had trouble choreographing fights, so basing an entire episode on hand-to-hand fighting really wasn't a good idea. The arena looks kinda cool, but the fights are only slightly better than the norm, and all the action tends to be repetitive. It's hard to understand why the Providers would praise Uhura and Chekov, for example, when they do really poorly. Kirk may do better, but maybe it's the thralls that aren't all that great to begin with. The final fight is particularly badly choreographed, with the rules about the blue and yellow sections being ignored throughout. Just as repetitive as the action are all the scenes aboard the Enterprise, which have Spock following a trail of technobabble as the other officers - guess what? - don't respect his authority.
Taken seriously, the episode would really fail, but somewhere along the line, everyone started playing it for camp value. Kirk seduces a thrall who's never known love, Chekov's drill thrall is a mannish alien woman in a pink slip, the Preservers are silly glowing colored brains with a nonsense purpose behind their society, Galt seems pulled out of this season's Halloween special, the shameless training harnesses, Kirk is played way over the top, even strident... even in the usually well-handled direction, check how the camera zooms in briefly when there's talk of mutiny. Now tell me they weren't going for high camp.
There are redeeming values, such as the return of Amok Time's battle music, and Kirk being, once again, a master psychologist (insofar as these characters have psychologies). His final gamble pays off, but it all falls on a silly, extended battle. Andorian fans should know one appears here, but shouldn't run to their DVD players... it's not pretty.
LESSON: Slavery by any other name would smell as bad.
REWATCHABILITY - Low: Almost made it to Medium, but then I asked myself if I was ready for another viewing. I'm really not. One for the drinking games, but not to show non-Trekkies to get them hooked.