The Enterprise is on a routine inspection of an unmanned station at Gamma II. Captain James T. Kirk, Communications Officer Lt. Uhura and navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov attempt to transport but disappear before the system is activated. After observing no signs of life from the station, Commander Spock orders the crew to instigate a sector-wide search for their missing crew members. They do not find the officers, but Spock discovers a faint ion trail leading to a nearby star system, and orders the ship to follow it despite the protests of Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Chief Engineer Scott.
Meanwhile, Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov gain consciousness on a strange planet within a gladiator arena. They are attacked by four humanoids, and though the officers find their phasers inoperable, they are able to fend off the melee attacks. The fight is stopped by another humanoid that calls himself Galt, the Master Thrall of Triskelion. Galt informs the three they have performed well, and now will be trained to participate in games to entertain their masters, the Providers. Each is fitted with a shock collar that engages should they disobey the Master Thrall's orders.
Uhura, Chekov, and Kirk are assigned individual drill Thralls, Lars, Tamoon, and Shahna, respectively; Uhura and Chekov find their assigned instructor antagonistic, while Kirk finds that Shahna -- once described as "the green-haired female warrior who gets the hots for Captain Kirk" -- shows some compassion for him. Kirk uses this to try to gain information about the Providers from Shahna during their drills by explaining the concept of freedom, but when she does open up, the Providers shock her through the collar. Kirk tries to appeal to Galt that he should have been the one punished for disobedience. When they are returned to their cells, Shahna expresses her appreciation for Kirk's attempt to take the punishment. When she moves to embrace him, Kirk knocks her out and uses the opportunity to free Uhura and Chekov and escape, but they are stopped by Galt, and shocked by their collars, with the disembodied voices of the Providers warning that escape is impossible.
The Enterprise arrives at the end of an ion trail above the trinary starlit habitable planet Triskelion located in the M-24 Alpha system. When Spock and McCoy attempt to beam down to rescue the captain, the Providers ensnare the ship with a power beam and take over full control of the Enterprise. The Providers tell Kirk that his ship is now at stake in the arena games. Kirk decides to give them a wager they cannot refuse, and he suddenly finds himself in an underground chamber.
The Providers turn out to be three disembodied brains sustained by machinery which hold the personas of the Providers. The Providers explain that they watch over the Thralls and for their entertainment, wager "quatloos" over battles between the Thralls. Kirk offers that if he and his two officers emerge victorious in battle with their drill Thralls, that the Providers will let him and his crew go while freeing all of the Thralls and instead use their power to teach the Thralls to become a free society, while if Kirk and his officers lose, the Providers can take his crew to use in further competitions. The Providers agree, but stipulate that Kirk must battle the three Thralls alone.
The match is quickly arranged, and as the Enterprise crew watches from above, Kirk is able to kill two Thralls and injure the third. The Providers replace the wounded Thrall with Shahna. Though Kirk is exhausted and does not want to kill Shahna, he manages to overpower her, and she offers him her surrender. The Providers show compassion and agree that Kirk fairly won the wager, and as promised, release his ship and the Thralls. Kirk gives Shahna a kiss and explains the Providers will help them become a free society before the crew is transported back to the ship.
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- After the Providers transport the trio to Triskelion, Kirk makes a log entry, star date 3211.8. How is he making this entry? Where is it being recorded? How does he know the star date? True, they have just left the Enterprise but Kirk has no way of knowing if they have just traveled through space or have traveled through time as well. Kirk even admits a few moments later that they may be in a parallel universe. Kirk probably made this entry after the trio returned to Enterprise, using a subjective stardate based on the readings before the landing party attempted transport.
- The Providers continually praise the trio for their strength and spirit, but Chekov consistently turns in a very poor showing. In the initial confrontation, a large male named Kloog picks up Chekov and immediately subdues him. Chekov was quickly overpowered. Then, when the trio attempt their first escape, Chekov hits a woman and runs. The woman shows no indication that Chekov did anything other than tap her. She probably knew that the attempt would fail, and wanted to see how far Chekov would get.
- In one scene Kirk takes Uhupa's punishment. After Kloog whips him for a while, Galt announces a rest period. That’s an interesting concept: a rest interval during punishment. Most likely designed to prevent the individual administering the punishment from overtaxing themselves.
- The first time Kirk starts to kiss Shahna, she has an interesting reaction. She tips her head to the side, leans forward, closes her eyes, and drops her jaw. All this from a female who has never kissed before! She certainly learns quickly. She must have developed the means to gain new skills quickly as a means of survival.
- In the final battle, the Providers assign Kirk to the sections of the floor colored yellow and his attackers to sections colored blue. Anyone landing on an opponent’s color supposedly will lose a weapon. Yet Kirk steps all over the blue areas and nothing happens! All of Kirk's opponents also step in the wrong area at one point or another. This would force the Providers to ignore all the transgressions, as confiscating weapons from everyone who steps onto the wrong area would slow down the fight, and leave all the participants unarmed, resulting in a stalemate. [N 1]
- At one point Spock asks McCoy for a suggestion. The doctor brumpily replies that this is the first time the Vulcan has ever asked him for anything, and it has to be on an occasion like this. l realize that McCoy is simply spouting off, but his statement isn't correct. Spock asks McCoy's opinion in Obsession. Actually, McCoy is correct as, according to the official Chronology - and the episode stardates - this episode is set BEFORE Obsession.
- For some reason, the knives used on Triskelion look exactly like the ones used by the crew on the imperial Enterprise in Mirror, Mirror. Maybe the Terren Empire conquered their version of Triskelion, before helping themselves to items of value.
Continuity and Production ProblemsEdit
- When the Providers bring Kirk to their location, the painting that Kirk identifies as their power plant also appears in The Devil in the Dark. The Providers obviously used the standard design, based on their observations of the galaxy.
- Todd Pence on Sunday, November 01, 1998 - 12:00 pm: After the Enterprise people are sold to one of the providers, Galt tells them that since they are now full-fledged thralls, any further disobedient acts will be punished by death. Yet a short time later they try to escape again, and Galt just lets them off with another warning. Perhaps such good quality thralls are hard to acquire.
- Keith Alan Morgan on Tuesday, April 13, 1999 - 2:55 am: What do the Providers do with Quatloos? Go down to the local 7-11 and buy a Slurpee? (Oh, no! Brain freeze!) Todd Pence on Tuesday, April 13, 1999 - 9:45 pm: I think the quatloos are just for the sake of playing the game, the same reason people play for peanuts in pick-up poker games.
- MattS on Thursday, May 13, 1999 - 1:29 pm: Kirk and company beam up without their phasers and communicators. You'd think this is a prime directive violation of some kind, as this will be a learning society (as in A Piece of the Action). Todd Pence on Monday, September 06, 1999 - 11:18 pm: Since the Providers were able to deactivate the Enterprise equipment, and showed themselves to be technologically advanced to the Federation, I don't think that's a big concern.
- John A. Lang on Friday, December 29, 2000 - 1:08 am: When the Providers give their permission to remove the collars, Galt keeps his on. Does he like being treated like a slave? KAM on Friday, December 29, 2000 - 3:58 am: Maybe Galt was afraid his head would fall off? Stephanie Alles on Wednesday, February 14, 2001 - 6:00 am: John, some slave masters are a little bit... strange. Maybe his collar is a matter of status to him.
- ↑ Listed under Plot Holes in the Internet Movie Database entry.