For the game’s third mission, the Enterprise’s one-way ticket to Boredom Town, population 430 (scanning radiation clouds near Omega Corvus), gets canceled in favor of locating ships that have disappeared in the Delphi system. Upon arriving, Kirk encounters an old nemesis: Trelane, the omnipotent child that forced the crew to play with him in the first-season episode “The Squire of Gothos”.
This time, he’s piloting a triplane and calling himself the Baron of Gothos. If you play on the Federation Cadet (i.e., easy) difficulty, you skip the fight entirely. Otherwise, you get dragged into a protracted space battle, and even if you win, Trelane accuses you of cheating. The outcome is the same no matter what, and skipping it doesn’t adversely affect your mission score, which, while really nice, removes any incentive for putting effort into it.
When you wake up, you find yourself trapped in a basement with some hay and a few crates of schnapps for non-humanoid company. After setting a fire to clear the place out, you venture out into the town and interact with the townsfolk, in the process working toward a comprehension of the long and short of your situation—viz., that Trelane has created a simulacrum of a World War I–era German village, indicating that his obsession with Earth’s history of war has moved up to the 20th century. Of course, given the superficial nature of Trelane’s interest, the village is filled with anachronisms and inaccuracies, a byproduct of his complete lack of understanding of the true grisly nature of war.
In “The Squire of Gothos”, Kirk destroyed a machine inside which Trelane had concentrated the power that allowed him to generate the space they were inhabiting, thereby temporarily gaining him and his crew some relief from the mad child. Here, scanning the premises reveals that Trelane’s power is distributed among a variety of objects, including a table clock, a blackboard, a locket, and his triplane. Since destroying them individually will allow the others to kick in as backup and give Trelane time to redistribute his power elsewhere, your primary objective then becomes finding a way to dispense with all of them simultaneously in an effort to get Trelane’s attention and confront him directly.
Besides locating Trelane’s power objects and determining a way to compromise them, you also have to deal with the rather bitter Lt. Cmdr. Ellis, security chief of the USS Zimbabwe. Whereas 25th Anniversary saddled you with a red rando in each mission, Ellis is one of only two non-senior Starfleet officers to appear in any mission in Judgment Rites, and his role is used to powerful effect. For Ellis is that rarest of creatures: a redshirt with a backstory. Ellis harbors a toxic grudge against Kirk because he feels Kirk allowed a friend of his, Ralph Garvin, to die on a landing party under his command. According to Ellis, Garvin was killed by “some blood-sucking cloud”, a direct reference to the episode “Obsession”.1 As lampshade hangings go, this is a rather dark one; “Obsession” has one of the highest redshirt casualty counts of any original-series episode.2 Kirk often laments the fate of redshirts in passing in his captain’s log, but rarely if ever is he later faced with the subsequent effects of those fatalities. So not only do you have to worry about finding and rescuing multiple starship crews, you also have to placate this loose cannon and refrain from beating the tar out of him (which you can do if you give in to the impulse to lose your patience, at the expense of significant damage to your mission score).
“No Man’s Land” is the one of the few missions where playing the voiced version of the game is a real treat. That’s because William Campbell reprised his role as Trelane for the occasion. Making the most of his return, Campbell doesn’t just chew scenery, he practically swallows it whole. In a game with better acting, it might have been distracting, but stacked against the muted and morose mumbling of everyone around him, it provides a much-needed infusion of excitement. His line reads are positively dripping with impatience and grating childishness, and it’s stunning the amount of petulance he was able to pack into his voice even as he was pushing 70. It’s a shame his gusto wasn’t a little more contagious, although there are, incredibly, noticeably more times in this episode when Shatner actually manages the proper inflection on a key line.
The only real knock against “No Man’s Land” is that it’s definitely one of the more drawn-out missions in the game. The space battle at the beginning can easily eat up at least ten minutes if you put real effort into winning it, and it also takes quite some time to walk back and forth fulfilling the favors the townspeople ask of you when you request certain things. If you miss a conversation that triggers the next step in the process, you can whittle away a fair chunk of time trying to root it out. If it didn’t lean so hard into the fetch-quest element, it’d be absolutely flawless. But it’s an excellent sequel as well as a powerful meditation on democracy, and if you’re excited for lore, character building, and a little bit of unflinching social commentary, this is likely to be your favorite of the non-story-arc episodes.
MVP & LVP
- My MVP on this mission is the kid in the store who gives you (almost) everything for free. The young generation, dismantling capitalism from the inside? Warms the cockles of my cold black heart.
- Although he gets better, I give the LVP to Ellis, because it’s kind of crazy how relatively leniently Kirk treats him given his toxic attitude. You could argue Kirk’s hands are a bit tied since Ellis isn’t his crewman, but since it’s so unlikely he’d let anyone under his command jeer and snipe at him the way Ellis does, you’d think he’d be less inclined to go easy on someone who isn’t, not more. Or maybe he’s making a concerted effort to take the high road to demonstrate to Ellis how to be a better officer. Either way, Ellis crosses way over into bald-faced insubordination on multiple occasions and it’s pretty appalling.
Nuggets & Other Stray Bits
- The world celebrated the hundredth Armistice Day on November 11, 2018, less than two weeks before this post went up. The date in the mission is given as October 16, 1918, and several characters express their opinion that the war will not last much longer.
- It’s subtle, but Trelane is much more monstrous in his return appearance, even if you don’t take into account his casual dismissiveness of the brutality of war. For example, the townspeople of Gothos are actually crew members of the SS Shinobi that Trelane has kidnapped and brainwashed into believing they are German citizens. Naturally, prepare for a wide variety of German accents, ranging from rather effective (the armory commander) to delightfully sultry (Gretel Gernsbeck, the bartender) to painful (Fraulein Humperdinck, the schoolteacher).
- One of Kirk and Ellis’s friendlier exchanges:
“Just think of it, Captain. Only one security officer for you on this mission. It must be unusual to have so little protection.”
“I don’t know. It seems like I’m carrying excess baggage on this mission.”3
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”
- Ellis, after Kirk wins the poker game: “Give me a good match of somanjitsu any day.” Googling this term turns up literally no results, so you’re free to run as wild as you like with it in your imagination.
- Sundergard, in the poker room: “There’s no hand worse than the one you deal yourself.” Sage advice.
- The ideal ending to the mission requires convincing Trelane to plumb the depths of the Enterprise’s memory banks so he can recreate a far more realistic World War I trench and making him confront the true ugliness of war head-on. However, you can also end the mission and still achieve the highest score by having his babysitter show up, which is somewhat amusing, albeit a heavy retread of the “Squire of Gothos” ending. (Just call Scotty on the communicator and he’ll pick up on a second life form in the neighborhood, at which point she’ll appear.)
NEXT TIME: Gettin’ that old-time religion in “Light and Darkness”