“Elaan of Troyius”
Written and directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Season 3, Episode 2
Production episode 60043-57
Original air date: December 20, 1968
Captain’s log. The Enterprise has been sent to a pair of warring worlds, Elas and Troyius, under radio silence, beaming Ambassador Petri aboard from Troyius. Kirk’s orders are only to do as the ambassador says, and he says to head to Elas to beam a delegation aboard. The Elasians are pissed that the Enterprise is late—which Kirk didn’t think they were—and Spock and McCoy discuss the anthropological report on the Elasians: the men are vicious and bad-tempered, and the women are “mystical” and drive men wild. (McCoy is smirking creepily as he says that.)
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty meet with Petri in the transporter room. Three security guards beam aboard to secure the room for Elaan, the Dohlman of Elas. Petri and the guards get down on one knee to pay homage to her; once she materializes, the Enterprise crew also kneel.
When Kirk and Spock try to discuss things, the security chief, Kryton, shuts them down, saying Elaan has not given them permission to speak. She then haughtily declares that he is allowed to show her to her quarters. Kirk fobs that off on Spock and takes Petri aside—after Elaan generously grants him permission to leave.
Petri finally actually explains what’s going on: Elaan is to marry the Troyian leader, to bring peace between Elas and Troyius. Petri’s job is to prepare her for her impending nuptials, which is a difficult task, given Elasian arrogance in general and Elaan’s pomposity in particular.
For whatever reason, Elaan is given Uhura’s quarters rather than VIP quarters on the ship (they must have them—where the heck were all those ambassadors sleeping in “Journey to Babel“?), and she is dissatisfied with them, a fact that irks both Uhura and Kirk.
Kirk goes to Uhura’s quarters to find that Elaan doesn’t want any of the gifts Petri has brought, doesn’t like Uhura’s cabin, and doesn’t want any part of this. She has Kryton forcibly remove Petri from the cabin, leaving Kirk to deal with Elaan’s tantrums. Kirk tartly informs her that there are no better quarters (really? the communications officer has the best quarters on the ship?) and that he’d be happy to fill the place with breakables for her to throw at the wall. He then leaves without getting her permission to leave.
Petri is at his wit’s end. Kirk suggests not being polite to her, as she doesn’t respond to it. They respect strength, so Kirk thinks he should go at her strong.
Spock detects what appears to be a sensor ghost. Elas and Troyius are proximate to Klingon space, and the empire has claimed the system as well. The “ghost” moves closer and reveals itself to be a Klingon warship, which is now pacing the Enterprise, despite the fact that the latter ship is moving as slowly as possible to give Petri maximum time to prep Elaan.
Unfortunately, that preparation is going poorly. Elaan is snotty to Scotty as she tours engineering and stabs Petri in the back. The ambassador recovers in sickbay, but he will have nothing further to do with any of this.
So it’s left to Kirk to tame the shrew. (Ahem.) He yells at her and tells her that she has to be civilized. Elaan seems uninterested, and at one point tosses a knife at Kirk, but misses.
Returning to the bridge, Kirk has Uhura contact the Klingons to ask their intentions, but they won’t respond.
Kirk goes to Elaan’s quarters, keeping Spock on standby to stun her guards in case they are recalcitrant—which they are, as Elaan has threatened to whip them if they let Kirk in. When Spock asks how he knew that would be necessary, Kirk just says, “Mr. Spock, the women of your planet are logical. That is the only planet in the galaxy where that is the case.” And then I ran to the bathroom to throw up.
Once I got back from puking, Kirk enters her cabin and touches her, which is a capital offense on Elas—but not on the Enterprise. After throwing another temper tantrum, Elaan finally admits that one thing she can learn from Kirk is how to get people to like her. She doesn’t want people to hate her, and she starts to cry. Petri mentioned earlier that Elasian women’s tears make men fall for them, and sure enough, as soon as Kirk wipes away Elaan’s tears, he’s totally smitten with her. (And the look on her face makes it clear that that was her intention.)
Kryton enters an inexplicably empty engine room and sabotages the ship, killing one engineer who notices him. Kryton then sends a tight-beam signal to the Klingon ship, which Uhura picks up. Kirk manages to pry himself off Elaan long enough to send security to engineering. They capture Kryton, who kills himself rather than be interrogated. Elaan reveals that Kryton was in love with her and was furious that she was to marry another. Apparently that jealousy was enough to sell out to the Klingons.
Elaan is unconcerned about the Klingons, as she used her tears to seduce Kirk in the hopes that he would use the Enterprise to destroy Troyius and allow them to rule the system together. Kirk is appalled by the notion, but smooches her anyhow, thanks to the Magic Tears Of Doom—at least until Spock and McCoy interrupt.
McCoy tells Kirk about the Magic Tears Of Doom. Kirk tells the doctor to work on an antidote while Kirk and Spock head bridge-ward, as the Klingon ship is on an intercept course. They go to red alert. Kirk is about to order Sulu and Chekov to warp to give them maneuvering room, but then Scotty discovers Kryton’s sabotage: he triggered the warp drive to blow up as soon as it’s engaged, and also destroyed the dilithium crystals. The Enterprise must fight on impulse only—but the Klingons aren’t trying to fight, they’re trying to prompt the ship to go to warp and go boom, so they technically won’t violate the Organian Peace Treaty.
Elaan continues to hammer away at Kirk, trying to get him to refuse to turn her over to another man to marry, but Kirk’s sense of duty outweighs the power of the Magic Tears Of Doom. He sends her to sickbay so McCoy and Chapel can work on an antidote.
The Klingons are now going overt: trying to engage the ship in battle. But the loss of the crystals means they can’t fire weapons. Kirk tries to stall, but the Klingon captain isn’t having any of it.
Petri approaches Elaan humbly, asking her to at least put on the necklace (if not the dress and the wedding slippers) as a token of peace between their worlds. Elaan dismisses him, aggravated at how men of other worlds (meaning Petri and Kirk) can only seem to talk of peace and duty, bah fooey. However, she takes the necklace, goes to her quarters, changes into another dress (her fourth of the episode), and then goes to the bridge because she wants to die with Kirk. How romantic.
The Klingons fire. Sulu nimbly maneuvers, but the ship can’t respond fast enough on impulse power.
Internal sensors pick up an odd energy reading on the bridge, and Spock traces it to Elaan—specifically her necklace. She dismisses them as common stones, but they happen to be dilithium crystals. No wonder the Klingons want the system for themselves. Spock runs them down to engineering while the Klingon ship continues to fire on the Enterprise. Kirk stalls the Klingons until the crystals are in place. He waits until the last minute to kick in the warp drive and then has Chekov fire a full spread of photon torpedoes, which cripples the Klingon ship. Kirk resumes course for Troyius, confusing Elaan because he doesn’t finish the Klingon ship off.
Kirk sees Elaan off when they come into orbit of Troyius. She gives him her dagger, as they don’t wear such things on Troyius, as a memento. (“Here, have this thing I tried to kill two people with.”) They beam down and everyone is weepy for Kirk’s artificially created love used to manipulate him into getting her out of a marriage she didn’t want.
McCoy comes to the bridge and announces that he found a cure, but Spock says that Kirk already found the cure: the Enterprise. And it’s a good thing the episode ended, ’cause I gotta throw up again…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently dilithium crystals are all over the place on Elas and Troyius. You’d think the Federation, which Scotty says protects these two planets, would have noticed them, especially since Spock was able to detect them just from them sitting around Elaan’s neck. Did no one actually, y’know, visit the place?
Fascinating. Kirk fully intends to have Spock mind-meld with Kryton as an interrogation tool. That’s totally ethical.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. This episode is the first time McCoy says to Spock, “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?” It is not the last—he’ll say it again in The Wrath of Khan and the 2009 Star Trek.
Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu engages in some nifty maneuvering to keep the Klingon ship from destroying the Enterprise until Scotty and Spock can get the warp drive back up and running.
It’s a Russian invention. Once he can actually fire weapons, Chekov is able to cripple the Klingon ship with a single spread of photon torpedoes.
Hailing frequencies open. Uhura has lots of pretty things in her quarters. Elaan throws a lot of them against a wall, and also throws a knife at one of her paintings. (That’s the last time she makes her place into an Air B&B, I can tell you that…)
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty spends the entire episode complaining—about the mission, about Elaan’s tour of engineering, about how long it’ll take to find what Kryton did, about how risky it is to use Elaan’s crystals, and at this point you just wanna smack him, y’know?
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. During one of Elaan’s tantrums, Kirk says that he is tempted to give her a spanking, an Earth custom for brats who are misbehaving. Later, after Kirk is whammied by the Magic Tears Of Doom and they smooch, Elaan asks for more information about spanking, and Kirk just smirks and says they’ll talk about it later. Wah-HEY!
Go put on a red shirt. Evans manages to survive, but he does let Kryton take his phaser and kill himself with it, thus preserving Enterprise security’s record of total incompetence. Meanwhile, a redshirt does get killed, but it’s an engineer rather than a security guard.
Channel open. “We cannot make peace with people we detest.”
“Stop trying to kill each other—then worry about being friendly.”
Petri giving up on diplomacy and Kirk showing him how to make it work, maybe.
Welcome aboard. Jay Robinson and Tony Young play Petri and Kryton, Lee Duncan and Victor Brandt play the redshirts (Brandt will return in “The Way to Eden” as a space hippie), Dick Durock and Charles Beck play the guards, and K.L. Smith plays the Klingon captain. Plus we have recurring regulars George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Majel Barrett.
But the big guest is France Nuyen as Elaan. Probably also known for her role as Dr. Kiem on St. Elsewhere, Nuyen tries her best to bring dignity to a most undignified role.
Trivial matters: This is the only story in the entire 50-year history of the Trek franchise in which the sole writer and sole director are the same person.
We see a Klingon ship for the first time in this episode, establishing the iconic design that would remain the standard for all Klingon vessels going forward. In “Errand of Mercy,” “A Private Little War,” and “The Trouble with Tribbles,” the ships were kept off camera (though they would be seen in the remastered versions of those episodes, as well as in “Trials and Tribble-ations“), and in “Friday’s Child” it was just a distant blob of light (also rendered in more detail, in line with the designs debuted in this episode, in the remastered version). “Day of the Dove,” which actually aired prior to this one, reused footage from this episode of the Klingon ship.
Both Elas and Troyius were fleshed out by both FASA and Decipher for their Trek role-playing games. The worlds appeared again in Firestorm by L.A. Graf and were mentioned in both the Destiny trilogy by David Mack and A Singular Destiny by your humble rewatcher.
Scotty was telling a hapless Enterprise-D crew member all about the events of this episode when he was being escorted to his guest quarters after being rescued from the Jenolen in TNG‘s “Relics.”
To boldly go. “I did not give you permission to leave!” I first read The Taming of the Shrew in high school, and I’ve seen several productions of it over the years, from the famous Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor film in the 1960s to the John Cleese BBC Shakespeare production in the 1980s, plus several staged versions. Those experiences have left me with a deep-seated loathing for the play. The only one I actually liked was a production done at the Delacorte Theatre in New York in 1990 featuring Morgan Freeman as Petruchio and Tracey Ullman as Kate. What I loved about how Freeman and Ullman played it was that it made it abundantly clear that Kate only put up with Petruchio’s shenanigans because, holy crap, the sex was fantastic. It’s the only thing that made the sexist drivel even approach the possibility of palatable to me.
So you can imagine how I feel about Trek‘s take on it.
To be fair, it’s not just a riff on the Bard’s most sexist play. There are heavy elements of the story of Helen of Troy here (as if the title didn’t make that obvious), as well as that of Mark Anthony and Princess Cleopatra (particularly Shakespeare’s version of that historical tale), and, as David Morgan-Mar pointed out in his comic-strip recap on Planet of Hats, Casablanca.
But it’s just as awful. People have been debating about Shrew for centuries, but what I ultimately see is a story in which a man verbally abuses and gaslights a strong-willed woman in order to bend her to his will and turn her into a meek, domesticated non-entity.
What’s frustrating about “Elaan of Troyius” is that we see the same transformation from strong-willed woman who does as she pleases to a much meeker person who does her duty—but the actual transition doesn’t seem to have happened for any good reason. In fact, the only interpretation that does make sense is the same one that Tracey Ullman used in 1990, and that we also saw last season in “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” to wit, the power of James T. Kirk’s smooches are enough to radically alter an alien woman’s entire worldview.
It’s especially frustrating, because there’s the potential for an interesting story here, and it’s one that I think France Nuyen would have been able to pull off. We’ve got a woman who, on the one hand, is the ruler of her world and accustomed to being obeyed by everyone to whom she speaks—yet she is being forced into a marriage against her will. She sees in Kirk a way out, and so she uses her Magic Tears Of Doom to bend him to her will the same way she’s been bending men to her will all her life—but then it doesn’t work, because his sense of duty is greater than her chemically induced infatuation. She could have been a magnificently tragic figure; she could’ve been a complex character.
Instead, she’s a caricature, a “mass of conflicting impulses” like all women, just a spoiled brat who should be spanked, whose sole purpose is to annoy the men around her. At least, that is, until she finds the love of a good man—and there’s no better man than Jim Kirk, ain’t that right, ladies? (Cue wink at the camera.)
The episode has its moments. The climactic battle against the Klingon ship is kinda fun, with all the maneuvering and stalling, and William Ware Theiss outdid himself with Elaan’s incredibly sexy outfits. (Less so with Elaan’s guards’ outfits, which look like a cross between Roman legionnaires and glam rockers.) But ultimately, it’s a piece of wrongheaded drivel that wastes its primary guest star’s talents, viewing her only as a bratty object instead of as a person.
Warp factor rating: 2
Next week: “The Paradise Syndrome”
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone to please preorder the eBook of his Stargate SG-1 novel Kali’s Wrath at Amazon or Amazon UK. It goes on sale on the 19th of May. If you prefer the print version, it’ll be out in June. Also check out Keith’s rewatch of the Stargate TV series and movies right here on Tor.com.