As this episode centers around Trelane and his power, we decided to examine his character from the perspectives of before and after the revelation that he is essentially a very powerful young child.
Trelane the Powerful Being
Through most of the episode, we see Trelane as a very powerful – if occasionally clumsy with his power – being, capable of instantaneous matter/energy alterations and teleportations. It is very easy for those familiar with the whole Star Trek universe to make comparisons to the omnipotent being Q, whose antics never succeed to amuse Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway. They have similar haughty demeanors, similarly enjoy flaunting their superiority over the human captains they are dealing with, frequently refer to their shenanigans as “games”, and both have even put Enterprise crew on trial.Though nothing in official canon is ever said or shown to link Trelane to Q, the similarities are enough that non-canonical stories have been written that explore the possibility. Obviously, the main difference is that Q – while definitely a prankster that is occasionally on the outs with the rest of the Q Continuum – does not rely on a machine to aid his trickery, and his illusions are not empty like Trelane’s fire, food, and drink.
Still, as this episode goes on, you can see Kirk losing admiration of Trelane’s powers as he begins to see that Trelane is not actually perfect or all-powerful, and begins to poke at the being, intentionally provoking him to keep his attention away from the Enterprise and her crew. The captains who became saddled with Q may have lost their tempers with Q on occasion, but they all knew he was fully capable of anything, and so there was a line that basically was never crossed – the few times Q was provoked, bad things happened (we’ll touch on this later during our review of “Q Who?”, where Picard’s flustered attitude lands the Enterprise-D in their first encounter with The Borg).
Trelane the Little Boy
Of course, the pivotal moment comes when Trelane’s parents show up and put a stop to all of his “games”, rescuing Kirk and the Enterprise. Immediately, Trelane’s speech patterns change, going from superior and jovial scoundrel to a cranky little boy whose mommy and daddy are telling him it’s time to put his toys away and take a nap. Despite all of his blusterings and exhiliration of the hunt, Trelane protests that he’s just playing around, makes excuses, and even whines that he never gets to have any fun. Not only does this call to mind images of a young child being told it’s bedtime right in the middle of playing with their toys, it also obviously causes Kirk to quickly realize how much more powerful Trelane’s parents must be, as he treats them with respect. Of course, as they act kindly toward Kirk and the crew, it does seem to distance them from ties to the Q Continuum, as their attitude is not very much like that of the Q.
Though it’s a small point, it’s interesting to note that Kirk doesn’t ask for recompense for their troubles – rather, he is content to let Trelane’s parents deal with the troublemaker, and simply go about his mission. While we don’t think it’s necessarily a social statement to leave the raising – and disciplining – of children to their parents, we can’t help but wonder how different the ending of the episode would have been written with modern-day child psychology and social sensibilities behind it.
It’s certainly not a stretch to compare Trelane to Q, but when you really examine the two characters, they are quite different, although each is dangerous in their own way.