Eruditorum Press

Less the heroes of our stories than the villains of some other bastard’s

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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.

19 Comments

  1. Josh
    June 21, 2013 @ 6:29 am

    I appreciate your reading of this episode in the context of how Star Trek is evolving, but I never liked it. I never liked omnipotent "God" aliens who acted like petulant children, Charlie Evans and Q included. A character with that power whose sole drive seems to be to terrorize the crew and spar with the captain just for kicks seems antithetical to the premise of that character. (In contrast, this is why I'm not so much bothered by something like the Organians or the Metron, who operate in ways we don't necessarily understand.)

    Granted, it's been a while since I've viewed "Squire" and am talking mainly about Q, who worked as well as he did due mainly to deLancie's performance. Your praise of Campbell's here gives me a reason to rewatch "Squire" and re-evaluate it for the first time in many years.

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    June 21, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    Well yes I think the scene that kills Trelane's effectiveness dead is when he's revealed to be a misbehaving child. The episode is total gangbusters up until then and gearing up to be one of the cleverest things TOS did, but, as I say above, that one scene grinds everything to a screeching halt and undoes all of the good things the rest of the episode had done.

    I definitely agree about Q, though: Not to get too far ahead of myself (but as so many people seem to see Trelane as Q's natural precedent, why the hell not) there are two kinds of Q stories on TNG IMO: Serious, intelligent ones where he is a powerful authority and trickster mentor judging the character's actions and testing humanity's claim to be an ideal society and goofy, silly, childish ones that undermine that detournement. Again, it seems an awful lot like the show doesn't want us to think too hard about its underlying ethics.

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  3. Ununnilium
    June 21, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    See, I see the two as easily fitting the same thing. Trickster mentors can be goofy and silly without losing any of their authority; indeed, it can make their critiques sharper.

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  4. Jack Graham
    June 21, 2013 @ 11:15 am

    Isn't there a bit of a contradiction in noting that Trelane idolises Napoleon and then stating that he extolls a "Tory aesthetic"? After all, Napoleon was hated and feared by Tories (and their kin across Europe) even after he became a nationalist dictator and imperialist. Still, I suppose a Napoleonic schizophrenia may be present in Kirk and his Federation. Uniformed warriors who claim to spread democracy and peace?

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  5. brownstudy
    June 21, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    The ending kind of belongs in the family of pulpish-SF/Twilight Zone twist endings, which I guess the audience and the creators were familiar with. Esp. since Star Trek at this time was more of an anthology show of weekly short stories rather than stories-long or series-long arcs that we got used to later. Would be interesting to know the history of the script's development, and know if the writer did indeed have a different street he wanted to walk down, but the form of the show dictated a more conventional ending.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    June 21, 2013 @ 11:34 am

    I think that's probably a part of the character. Trelane loves all things aesthetic and warlike, so he absorbs as much 18th and 19th century culture along these lines that he can. Naturally, this leads to some anachronisms, as Kirk and Spock point out several times throughout the story. Ultimately, I feel Trelane is meant to be an amalgamation of all the worst aspects of that period of Western history, horrifically dolled up in its most celebrated trappings.

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  7. Cleofis
    June 21, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

    Fantastic essay, I've been meaning to watch this one especially out of the original TOS run for quite some time now.

    Incidentally, speaking of Trelane being Q's predecessor, I highly recommend Peter David's Trek novel Q-Squared (and all of his Trek novels, really; he is to Trek books what Paul Cornell is to Doctor Who's, more or less, even if they're not always as ambitious in the same ways that Cornell's are).

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  8. brownstudy
    June 22, 2013 @ 6:22 am

    The ending kind of belongs in the family of pulpish-SF/Twilight Zone twist endings, which I guess the audience and the creators were familiar with. Esp. since Star Trek at this time was more of an anthology show of weekly short stories rather than stories-long or series-long arcs that we got used to later. Would be interesting to know the history of the script's development, and know if the writer did indeed have a different street he wanted to walk down, but the form of the show likely dictated a more conventional ending.

    Would be interesting to know what other shows on at that time did anything rather daring with their formats.

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  9. Ununnilium
    June 22, 2013 @ 6:35 am

    Yeah, just because two empires are at war doesn't mean they don't share certain things aesthetically.

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  10. Josh Marsfelder
    June 22, 2013 @ 6:37 am

    From what I've read, Schenider always intended Trelane to be a misbehaving child. The entire impetus for the script was him watching young boys playing at war and being horrified by this, so he extrapolated that concept out to a superhuman level.

    There are a few other contemporaneous shows that did some rather intriguing things, but they're getting Sensor Scan posts between the first and second seasons 🙂

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  11. Josh Marsfelder
    June 22, 2013 @ 7:05 am

    Thanks for the support and recommendations!

    I'm just now working out how to handle the Pocket books and novelizations: There's a lot of spin-off material I want to cover once I get to TNG/DS9 and a few things in particular I know I absolutely want to talk about. I'll give David a look: A quick glance at Memory Alpha shows him to be the writer of "The Modala Imperative" for DC and co-writing something with Micheal Jan Friedman, which definitely puts him in good company in my book!

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  12. Cleofis
    June 22, 2013 @ 10:22 am

    Of the books written and set chronologically before the "the new movies are alternate timelines so we're going to take the initiative of continuing the main Trekverse" line we have today, David, Friedman, the Reeves-Stevens, Andy Robinson himself for one brief shining moment, and more recently Una McCormack (her "Hollow Men" is an absolute must-read) are in my experience the best; anything with their names on it is worth checking out. I have complete confidence in your research skills, but if you want any further recommendations for titles I've found particularly choice, I'd be glad to oblige.

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  13. Cleofis
    June 22, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Also, of particular interest to you may be Christopher L. Bennett's recent Department of Temporal Investigations books 🙂

    That aside, something I've been meaning to mention is how incredibly relieved I am at your reading of Shatner's performance in TOS; Kirk never really got significant character development until the films, and bearing in mind all of the near-crippling intrinsic flaws to Trek as it existed then, I have to say the reading of Shatner as drag pulp action hero, that the artifice of the performance is a deliberate twist on his part, is both ingenius and something I don't think I'd ever have picked up on otherwise.

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  14. Josh Marsfelder
    June 22, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    I'm definitely going to spend a lot of time on Friedman, the Reeves-Stevens and McCormack. Friedman in particular is practically getting his own section. Also Mark A. Altman, who is IMO both one of the greatest and one of the most underappreciated Trek writers of the 1990s. And I may wind up doing something with the DTI…They're definitely worth at least a mention 😉

    "A Stitch in Time" is something I know I'll have to take a look at, and aside from Andy Robinson, there are a number of Trek actors-turned-authors with some really cracking stuff: A teaser-Expect to see some work by John deLancie, Mark Lenard and William Shatner himself!

    Speaking of Shatner, I'm really glad to hear you like my reading of his performance. Redeeming Shatner is one of my primary goals of the TOS phase of the blog, and so far I must say it's one of the things I'm most proud of that I've written so far.

    I do truly believe he's a much savvier and more perceptive actor than many people give him credit for and his influence is very much one of the major factors that really does help cement Star Trek's progressive legacy. The biggest thing about Shatner is that his acting style is of a kind I don't think most US viewers are actually used to seeing, and that oftentimes leads to him getting a puzzled and changeable reaction.

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  15. Ununnilium
    June 23, 2013 @ 5:31 am

    You should definitely cover John M. Ford's Klingon novels – they were the first place that the Klingons were developed into an actual culture, and are clearly the template for TNG's (I almost wrote "the New Series's") characterization of them. (Also, his "How Much For Just The Planet", which masterfully turns Star Trek into something between a screwball comedy and a Gilbert & Sullivan musical.)

    Also, in terms of "what is the most extreme a certain type of storytelling can go", the short shory "Our Million-Year Mission" from the anthology Strange New Worlds VI. It features the U.S.S. ÜberEnterprise (NCC-1701-∞), 250 km sphere of liquid metal), under the joint command of Kirk and Picard, in the year 1012260. It is magnificent and also great.

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