A Mind for Mercy, TOS: S2E16 “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

We cannot become intelligent beings if we don’t value life. A simpleton lacks empathy, but sensitive, compassionate, and well-rounded people can see themselves in the other. An important step in maturity is the ability to recognize others have needs outside of ourselves. On a larger scale, a certain amount of moral growth prompted our ancestors to abolish one if our most egregious historical scars: slavery.

“The Gamesters of Triskelion” is a simple story built around this charged social issue. While on their way to carry out the routine inspection of an unmanned space station, Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Uhura, and Ensign Chekov are captured and forced into slavery. Nothing unique stands out about the manner in which they were captured or imprisoned. Aside from interacting with the other slaves and trying to explain the concept of freedom, the three officers mainly focus on escape. It is later revealed that the slave owners are simply bored brains in a jar who spend their time placing bets on which slave would win a competition. Much like the gladiatorial games the story is themed around, the “Providers” are using slaves for entertainment.

It is ironic that for all their superior intellect, betting on sports events seems like the least intelligent way for these disembodied “Providers” to spend their time. By their own admission, sport is the only thing the don’t understand. Would this imply that they could easily solve all of the galaxy’s most complex issues? Why are they wasting time in a fishbowl?!

Since helping people and solving complicated disputes hadn’t crossed their minds, the gamesters chose to battle what they thought were inferior beings. It is the sense of superiority which turned these intelligent creatures into cruel slave owners. They were so focused on how far they had come in their own evolution that they lost sight of the value of other life forms. Such a gap in their intellect prevented them from becoming fully advanced beings. They had succumbed to petty gambling to escape boredom and fulfil their need for risk.

In the spirit of betting, Kirk beats them in their own fair game. After Kirk won the gladiatorial competition, the brains agreed to hold up their end of the bet and educate the now freed slaves. Considering that the brains thought these creatures unteachable, the creativity and patience required to educate them may finally give the gamesters of Triskelion a challenge.

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