Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Thirteen “Elaan of Troyius”

Stardate: 4372.5 (2268)
Original Air Date: December 20, 1968
Writer: John Meredyth Lucas
Director: John Meredyth Lucas

“Mister Spock, the women on your planet are logical.
That’s the only planet in this galaxy that can make that claim.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

On a top-secret diplomatic mission, the Enterprise has entered the Tellun star system –a border region which is also claimed by the Klingons– in order to pick up the ambassador from Troyius, Petri (Jay Robinson). Troyius is the outer planet within the Tellun system. Next, the Enterprise heads for the system’s inner planet, Elas, for a covert escort mission. The Elasians are a demanding race and their women are rumored to possess strange mystical powers over men –a man who is touched by the tears of a woman of Elas has his heart enslaved forever. Nevertheless, Kirk is not excited about this transportation mission, he calls it simply another ”cloak and dagger order” from some “desk-bound Starfleet bureaucrat.”

Upon arrival at Elas, a trio of hostile, garishly dressed Elasian guards beam aboard to investigate the ship, and then we meet the Cleopatra-esque Dohlman of Elas named Elaan (France Nuyen) and she claims dominance over everyone aboard the Enterprise, much to the reluctance of Kirk. Petri requests that the Enterprise respect, or at least tolerate, her demands because she is to be transported back to Troyius in order to be married and (hopefully) help ameliorate the possibility of war between Elas and Troyius. The failure of this mission would be catastrophic for both the Federation as well as the Tellun system –the Troyians and Elasians are mortal enemies

Almost immediately following arrival onboard the Enterprise, Elaan behaves with a rude, contemptuous tone. She throws a fit over her living quarters, refuses to learn the appropriate customs on Troyius as described by Petri, and demands a tour of Engineering to learn not only how the engines work (the Troyians have only advanced to nuclear propulsion, not yet warp drive) but rather Elaan hopes to learn about how the Enterprise functions in wartime. However, Kirk dismisses her, and for some reason, decides not to use Warp drive and instead the Enterprise travels toward Elas on mere impulse power, which Scotty notes will take a much lengthier amount of time.

Suddenly, a Ghost sensor issue emerges on Enterprise scanners. As it moves closer, it turns out to be an unresponsive Klingon vessel. Then Petri is found stabbed by the Dohlman in her chambers, though he is able to fully recover in sickbay. To complicate matters, the Federation High Commissioner announces his plans to attend the impending wedding on Troyius, all the while Elaan demands to be returned to Elas. Eventually, she is brought to the breaking point while Kirk attempts to teach her courtesy lessons. She cries as she wishes more people were fond of her. Kirk then mistakenly wipes a tear away from her face, and he suddenly falls in love with her.

Their burgeoning romance is cut short by a bomb plot in Engineering, and the hostile Klingons attempt to frighten the Enterprise away from the Tellun system. After a tense standoff, it is revealed that the Klingons did not wish to risk open warfare with the Federation (hence why a bomb was planted in the Enterprise’s Engineering sector) and that they are merely protecting their interests in dilithium crystals in the disputed region. The Enterprise is able to mortally damage the Klingon vessel and instead of destroying the ship, Kirk orders Sulu to resume course for Troyius. In the end, Kirk is forced to wave goodbye to Elaan, and despite his affections, he decides against beaming down to observe the wedding ceremony. His only true commitment is to the Enterprise. In a brief epilogue of sorts, Bones claims to Spock that he may have discovered a possible antidote to Kirk’s infatuation, but he is brushed aside. Kirk has found his own antidote.


My Thoughts on “Elaan of Troyius”

Generally speaking, I find myself drawn to episodes like “Elaan of Troyius” and “Journey to Babel” where we are granted the opportunity to observe the ordinary business and internal politics within the Federation. As always, it’s fun to see Kirk disgruntled and impatient over Federation bureaucracy. While this is not typically a Star Trek fan favorite episode in the series, I still thought it was an all-around great “bottle episode.” I am a sucker for a fairly tight script with a plethora of classical allusions (nods to Shakespeare and classical antiquity abound in this one). However, I still have a few lingering questions –for example, why does Kirk not simply use warp speed at the outset when traveling to Troyius? Why travel at such a slow pace? Also, why is the Federation not aware of a rich surplus of dilithium crystals on Troyius? Shouldn’t this be a well-documented fact?

At any rate, Elaan joins the somewhat lengthy list of women rejected by Kirk in favor of his commitment to the Enterprise, though in truth her feelings are left somewhat ambiguous. Did she truly love Kirk, or was she merely using her tears as a ploy to escape her arranged marriage predicament on Troyius? Elaan’s character jumps all over the page in this episode, but in the end, Kirk managed to pursue the better path.


Writer/Director

This was one of three episodes directed by John Meredyth Lucas, writer, producer, and show director (“The Ultimate Computer,” “The Enterprise Incident,” and “Elaan of Troyius”). Along with serving director, Mr. Meredyth Lucas also wrote the script for “Elaan of Troyius.” He is the only person to have written and directed a Star Trek TOS episode.


Star Trek Trivia:

  • The rumor behind this episode is that it was written to lure more prospective female viewers to the show by including a romantic subplot involving a planetary princess.
  • The episode’s title character pays tribute to Helen of Troy from Homer’s Iliad, and its plot borrows from William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as perhaps the musical My Fair Lady (which is based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion).
  • This episode has the distinction of being the only episode of the series to have all seven principal characters in the final shot on the Enterprise bridge – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov – along with an unidentified female Ensign.
  • This episode features the final appearance of Eddie Paskey as Lt. Leslie, and Bill Blackburn as Hadley (he had appeared in 75 Star Trek episodes as both Hadley and also DeForest Kelley’s stand-in).
  • Elaan’s guard Kyrton was played by former marine Dick Durock (1937-2009).
  • Actress France Nuyen (1939-present) is believed to be the first Vietnamese actor to appear on American television, though she was born in France. She made her debut in the film South Pacific, and later had a public fling with Marlon Brando. Like many other cast members, she was a staunch supporters of Robert Kennedy. She was shocked and distraught while filming this episode to learn that he had been assassinated.
  • This episode features the first appearance of the D-7 class Klingon battle cruiser designed by art director Walter Jeffries.

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

1 thought on “Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Thirteen “Elaan of Troyius”

  1. Having worked before with Shatner in Broadway’s The World Of Suzie Wong, France Nuyen had good chemistry with him and particularly with the next interracial kiss on Star Trek after Plato’s Stepchildren. Thanks for your review and trivia.

    Liked by 2 people

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