My favorite episode of the original Star Trek series, "The Gamesters of Triskelion," is about slavery. However, although the characters do occasionally refer to the situation using words like "slavery," the gamesters' preferred terminology for their prisoners appears to be "thralls." Moreover, when it comes time for Captain Kirk and his companions to be auctioned off, the gamesters do not refer to them as being "sold," but rather "vended."

These choices of less common synonyms for ordinary words have always struck me as peculiar. Is there any indication of why this was done? Was this a conscious choice by the screenwriter Margaret Armen, or perhaps by the producers, to give the episode a particular character?

  • 1
    Both terms are fairly archaic.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 23:11
  • 6
    It certainly gave the situation an exotic flavor. That was my first encounter with the word 'thrall'.
    – LAK
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 23:33
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    Not so much archaic, but there is a fine distinction between north European thralldom and American slavery. I suspect, however, that the writers chose the term thrall as a perhaps less offensive option. Vend just means sell, so. The 1960s was ethnically charged in the US, the Klan was still quite active, there were still people alive who were actually slaves and there were still some Civil War vets who had died within living memory. (The last CW widow, e.g., died in 2020.) So while the term is certainly exotic, I suspect a more prosaic rationale.
    – elemtilas
    Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 9:58
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    @elemtilas: Well, the episode contains the line "Our race has another name for it. Slavery.", hence the word slavery was not completely avoided. And while the context of the production crew was indeed "US history", the episode itself is arguably most reminiscent of slavery in Ancient Rome with its gladiator fights. Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 23:15
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    @elemtilas I think you may be projecting modern sensibilities back on things. The attitude of the era was more to doubly condemn people who did horrible things, but tried to cover it in soft language. The Gamesters circumlocuted around what they were doing to protect their own sensibilities, not the viewer's.
    – Jedediah
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 3:33


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