Star Trek TOS: Whipped like a Mule, Kirk Was Born a Gamblin’ Man

Star Trek TOS: Whipped like a Mule, Kirk Was Born a Gamblin’ Man
Star Trek TOS: The Gamesters of Triskelion

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 2, Episode 16

The Gamesters of Triskelion

KIrk and a couple of others attempted to beam elsewhere, but the transporter malfunctioned. That freaked out Scott tremendously while Kirk wound up somewhere unfamiliar with a cast of bizarre characters. Phasers did not work as the characters threatened, so hand-to-hand combat began. It didn’t go well.

The planet was Triskelion. Kirk, Uhura, and Chekhov were taken as prisoners by the ominous Galt. And he was one of those types of guys that never blinks his eyes, increasing his on-screen eerieness. 

Galt ordered collars wrapped around the neck of Kirk and his friends, ones with the capacity to deprive oxygen. Galt was not messing around. Back on Enterprise, Spock was in charge amid Kirk’s absence. The same problems that arose in a similar situation before with Spock– during The Galileo Seven episode — occurred again. Spock leaned on logic to determine Kirk’s whereabouts while McCoy chided him for being too robotic given the circumstances. 

On Triskelion, it was implied Uhura was raped during her captivity. An unruly guard entered her cell and perpetrated the act as Kirk yelled helplessly. This was a low moment for the franchise. It was too visceral. To date as a crewmember, Uhura experienced her memory erased in a previous episode, and now she was sexually assaulted. She probably needed to find a different job while holding to account the rapist. Not a good work environment. 

An attractive captor dined with Kirk — quite the change of pace from Uhura’s rapist. And Chekhov’s company tried to seduce him without force. A raw deal all around for Uhura. 

The strife between Spock and McCoy continued on Enterprise. McCoy told Spock he was “out of his Vulcan mind,” a humorously risque line for 1968. 

Image Courtesy of StarTrekAbridged on YouTube:

The villains on Triskelion kept going. Kirk swapped himself in for Uhura when she was about to be whipped like a slave. This episode — for some reason — really twisted the knife on enslavement-of-Blacks memories. Kirk ended up winning the “match” and was promptly sold to someone called a Provider. So, this was the slavery episode

The woman who befriended Kirk right after the rape of Uhura, Shahna, fell for him after she was supremely intrigued by romance. Unless he was using her as a foil, Kirk fell for her, too. 

But then he turned on her — it was a setup of the best kind. Meanwhile, Kirk also determined this mini-society was established on an obsession with gambling — hence an auctioneer-like voice during Kirk’s fight earlier in The Gamesters of Triskelion

Of course, Kirk flipped their gambling addiction on the Triskelions, raising the stakes of a wager to free himself and his friends if his side won a battle. Kirk won but not before confessing to Shahna he indeed cared for her romantically. She wanted to trek home to Enterprise with him, but Kirk insisted that she and the other Triskelions must acclimate to their newfound freedom — because, apparently, they were freed as a result of the bet. 

The episode was a parable on slavery and its ills. With lashes all over his body, Kirk saved the day, freeing a planet based on the merits of a ballsy wager. If only it were so easy throughout nonfiction human history.

Themes: Slavery, Quest for Freedom

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).