Less concerned with who’s first up against the wall than with how to decorate it

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Kevin Carson
    September 2, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    Your point re northern European paganism is something I've tried — with limited success at best — to hammer home with "race realist" shitheads who criticize sub-Saharan Africa for its supposed lack of cultural accomplishment, or dismiss the accomplishments of Mali, etc., as "really just Middle Eastern imports."

    Um, by the same standard northern Europe was a Third World periphery, and the Western culture extant in western Europe and North America today is imported from the Near East via the Phoenicians via the Greeks via the Romans.


  2. K. Jones
    September 3, 2013 @ 11:24 am

    This is a prime example of an episode with not a lot good going on, storywise, but which I can't help but love purely from the production and design. We've had purple skies and bleak wastelands, but nothing quite so like a living, live-in-color example of a cover from a 50s/60s era science fiction paperback.

    We've had scantily clad pulp-type alien women before, but to date, I don't think they've worn chrome bikinis. We've had Kirk in slave or gladiator garb, but never quite in bondage/fetish gear.

    I'd read more into it; about how Christianity subverted the incredibly pagan Triskelion symbol to represent the father, son and holy spirit (because holy spirits are more important than say, "the mother") and therefore eternity, and so the "warrior races" enslaved by the Triskeles could represent pagan tribes indentured by Christianity. But I believe by this time the Triskelion has been reclaimed by neo-pagan groups. The Three Gamesters (of course there are three) represent any central authority that imposes its will onto other cultures. "Provider" is just another word like "Governor" or "Caretaker" – though these sorts of titles are Pulp sci-fi standbys used often when an alien race has no need of being more fleshed out beyond "they've lost their humanity".

    I like noting that here among what are clearly aliens selected from warrior races, is an Andorian thrall, and a missed opportunity to expand that species, get Kirk away from Spock and McCoy and see how he might compare with a technically "friendly" warrior, since the Klingons weren't yet even defined as a warrior race, and were strictly "bad guys".

    I suppose the thing I like most about this episode is how exotic and well-designed the Remastered trinary system and dwarf planet looked. And that's never a great sign.


  3. Adam Riggio
    September 3, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

    I'd like to offer a hypothesis on one of the reasons Star Trek took off so successfully in syndication: You could take each episode as an individual unit more easily, and not as one element in the progression of a television season. Syndication randomizes the order of broadcast, allowing the local station to choose which episodes they'll run, and how frequently a given episode will appear in the schedule.

    So an episode like Gamesters of Triskelion may be mediocre story with interesting visuals whose narrative had already been done to death on the show's original run. But in syndication, one could find this episode randomly and enjoy it free of the context that made it look repetitive. Taken entirely in isolation, Gamesters is a flash-looking story straight out of the 1960s pulp sci-fi handbook, and audiences could enjoy it more in that context. The few fantastic episodes like Mirror Mirror, Balance of Terror, and Tribbles could be enjoyed for the masterpieces they were. The mid-range and otherwise unremarkable episodes could be enjoyed for the hour of fun they constituted.


  4. K. Jones
    September 4, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    That's where the nostalgia kicks in, too, I think.

    A lot of fondness for bad episodes probably stems purely from the fact that they were hard to track down. A completionist hoping to watch every episode might have spent a long time waiting to see something like Triskelion if it didn't get run very often, and didn't sell enough to find its way to a local public library in VHS form in the 70s.

    The cult sci-fi phenomenon is as much about the back-tracker discovering as it is the stories about discovery.

    I've had similar experiences and fairly recently, too, with TNG. I was entirely sure I'd seen all 177 episodes, and it was only during a complete marathon that I discovered I'd never in 25 years of watching syndication, and periodic browsing of Memory Alpha, seen 'The Quality of Life', 'Lessons' or 'Dark Page'.

    I can imagine if I discovered 'Triskelion' as a 'Lost Episode' I'd have no choice but to call it good. Because 'more of what you love' can easily be rose-tinted.


  5. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

    There were a number of years when this was the only TOS episode I hadn't seen.


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