Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: Elaan of Troyius

Airdate: December 20, 1968
58 of 80 produced
68 of 80 released


The Enterprise has been called upon to ferry an ambassador and his mysterious charge between two warring worlds. This other passenger turns out to be the Dohlman of Elas, a mercurial and difficult to manage member of the royal family, who has been betrothed to the leader of Troyius. Will the crew of the Enterprise be able to handle her unreasonable demands? And will Kirk be able to resist her sexual magnetism?

Because nothing says "sexy" like Burber Carpet Hair...


Matthew: When it comes down to it, this story boiled down to "how well can Kirk control his sexual impulses?" Yes, there's the angle of Elasian tears enslaving men. But that's less sci-fi than it is fantasy. And the setup of two warring planets is superfluous, it could have been two neighboring countries just as easily. So the only real question is whether Kirk is a dog, and whether he can (yet again) display his own superhuman resistance to mind-altering phenomena, and what his priorities are. It's a story we've seen before (And The Children Shall Lead, The Paradise Syndrome, This Side of Paradise, Obsession), but with a more sexual angle now.

Kevin: It's an unfortunate coincidence that I happened to have sit down to watch "The Perfect Mate" a few days ago, because I can't help but make comparisons in terms of plot and execution and this episode definitely comes out on the losing side. I found Kirk's bravado-based bullying really off-putting. I understand it may not have been the intent of the writers, but it totally came off as "women aren't supposed to act that way" as opposed to "well...really, no one should be stabbing the Ambassador." It felt overly chauvinistic.

Matthew: I don't think it's the fault of the performer, but Elaan herself is very hard to like, to the point that it hampers the story. The character should have either been made even more sexually attractive, to ameliorate her irritating personality, or she should have been made more tender and interesting. Neither was done.

Kevin: I think the major plot problem is that Elaan is totally going to stab her husband on their wedding night and that will probably be counter-productive for the whole peace thing. I did like Uhura's offense at her quarter's being found inadequate. I'll have to check, but does the Enterprise have extensive guest quarters? It was a nice touch that only senior officers get the good digs.


Matthew: Judging the acting on Elaan is tough. I think the actress, France Nuyen, committed to the role, and when she wasn't bogged down by bad costuming, she was attractive to look at. But she never surmounted her negative qualities to actually become an attractive person, at least to me. And that's a big problem if the plot hinges on her being irresistible to men.

Kevin: I agree. I think the plot and episode would have worked better if she were just a powerful female figure forced by circumstance into a marriage she didn't want. Think Sirella, Martok's wife on DS9. She's not throwing stuff all the time, but she is clearly a woman accustomed to a certain kind of treatment. But yeah, that was less the acting, more the writing. To extent she was written as a spoiled brat, the actress nailed it.

Matthew: As much as the Elaan role was problematic, the role of the ambassador was well played by Jay Robinson and was a lot amount of fun to watch. He had a nice accent, and sort of squirrely demeanor befitting of a diplomat, but also a very funny and interesting sort of strength. Sort of like the butler who is irritated by uncouth behavior. I enjoyed every moment he was on screen.

Kevin: The Ambassador reminded me of Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun, and here the comparison is a compliment. Eager to please and just the right amount of insincere. He is definitely the highlight of the episode.

Matthew: Shatner's performance was OK. He was at his best when chiding Elaan for her behavior. Not as good, but still acceptable, was the way he played the "trance" state induced by Elaan's tears. In the end, it hasn't his best or his worst performance.

Kevin: Like I said above, his macho shtick got old quickly, but I'll blame the writing, not the acting.

Production Values

Matthew: This was a pretty heavy bottle show. Every scene took place on the Enterprise. We didn't really get to see any interesting locations, except perhaps for "Uhura's quarters." Their set dressings weren't particularly interesting. So this show's visual appeal probably rests more on makeup and clothing. The ambassador's makeup was good. He was a very convincing blue-green guy. The actor certainly helped, with a memorable performance. But ti was a good makeup and hair job.

Kevin: I agree on skin tone. It's an odd one, even by Star Trek costume standards, but they managed to make it look really good. It looks like the skin tone of an aquatic people. And it wasn't overly shiny, which has been a problem with other unusual skin tones. (Think "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield")

Matthew: Clothing was a mixed bag. Elaan's initial outfit was kind of weird. The hair didn't help the character, either. I get that they were going for an ancient Greek/Egyptian look. But this chick needs to make US want her. We're not ancient Greeks or Egyptians. So I felt like they didn't tread the line very well on her look. However, some of the other guest clothes in the show worked well. The Elasian guard uniforms were nice-looking and futuristic. Some of Elaan's later outfits were much more fetching. The dilithium (AKA quartz) necklace was nice, also.

Kevin: I agree on the necklace. Otherwise, the costumes were pretty bad. This is another example how it's not just how much skin the outfit shows. It's a delicate art making it look good, and it just never came together here.


Matthew: Although this episode suffered from some cheesy concepts and lacks a sci-fi backbone, it had a good space battle and at least a somewhat interesting character struggle for Kirk. I have a hard time saying this is anything over a 2, however. The conceit was just not sci-fi enough, and a guest star with loads of screen time was pretty tough to watch. This episode was not an unmitigated disaster. But it wasn't strong.

Kevin: This gets a 2 from me as well for a total of 4. The Ambassador is really the only part I enjoyed without reservation, and the rest just never really grabbed me.


  1. I couldn't really stand Elaan, and I largely blame the actress. Her interpretation was non-stop brattiness, ruining what might have been a strong female character raging against being forced by her people (and Starfleet, which was weird) into a political marriage she didn't want, then accidentally falling in love with a man due to a biological quirk. Dissing Uhura's quarters and stabbing the ambassador were all given the same flat, bitchy delivery, which just made her insufferable, when she actually had some pretty legitimate complaints.

    I said she fell in love with Kirk accidentally, but I guess that wasn't totally clear, and if you're going to have something bogus like 'touching her tears makes you fall in love with her' you've got to give it a bit more effort. She certainly seemed to be deeply in love with Kirk, but that might have just been due to general Kirkness. The vagueness of the magical tear-love made the ending of Bones discovering a cure for love (but Kirk doesn't need it because he already loves the Enterprise more than is psychologically healthy) super lame. I totally agree with "A Perfect Mate" being a much better interpretation of this same basic story.

  2. Oh lighten up! As a little girl I loved this character & the story. Her costumes were gorgeous too! Someone above made a racist remark about her hair looking like Berber carpet? Yet, you guys consider yourselves to be enlightened or morally superior in regard to Kirk's behavior with this character? The point was that she had been surrounded by people who wouldn't stand up to her over anything, including rude behavior.You guys think this spanking, etc. was just so awful & sexist, huh? You must remember that this character was one of the strongest female characters I'd ever seen on a t.v. show or movie back then. Others had power at times or found ways to manipulate, and a few were even tough, but NONE were powerful like Elaan. Do any of you understand that she was testing the crew? Since you enlightened ones brought it up, I'll address her appearance & costume: She was probably the most uniquely beautiful woman ever on the show. Her costumes were exquisite & her hairstyles were breathtaking. As one N.A. descent I was pleased to see a character, a beauty of power, who looked like me & other ethnic women. She was also the only woman that Kirk actually fell in love with, unless you count the fairly annoying Edith Wheeler (Joan Collins), who certainly was not the force of beauty & power that Elaan embodied. My husband also saw Elaan as the most gorgeous & memorable of all the women encountered by the Enterprise.I know strong & beautiful women can be intimidating, but really? Criticizing those lovely costumes? So wrong. Just sooo very, very wrong. I guess today's guys have been brainwashed to believe that the bigger the better as far as sexy women are concerned. LOL So sorry I had no choice but to sign on as Anonymous, but you can call me Ms. Elaan Kirk if you like. ;)

    1. We encourage a diversity of opinion here at Treknobabble - especially when they are so vehement! :-)

      I honestly hadn't considered the carpet remark to be racist, but I can see on reflection how it might be viewed that way, and I apologize. By way of further explanation, I would never make that statement regarding what I thought was someone's actual hair. This comment was aimed at what I clearly thought was a wig (and a pretty bad one).

      As far as strong female characters go, having just finished watching Season One of Voyager, I'll just refer to that as what I want to see in the strong female - strength doesn't equate to nastiness or domineering behavior, but to strength of character, depth of feeling, and moral uprightness. I think Voyager is especially terrific for making one of its very strong women a person of color.

      Elaan just seemed to me to be stuck in the stereotype of second wave feminists - for whom (in the stereotype anyway) being strong equals being a jerk, just like "strong men." That characterization does a disservice to both women and men.

      Anyway, I think it's amazing and cool that Star Trek inspires such strong feelings, and I'm glad you commented.

  3. Also, upon rewatching, I find it kind of disturbing that no one asks the question of whether sending this woman to a foreign land to be married against her will is ethical. "The Perfect Mate" addressed this concern.