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Elaan of Troyius

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 3, 2006 - 10:45 PM GMT

See Also: 'Elaan of Troyius' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is sent to act as courier to end a war between Elas and Troyius, ferrying the Dohlman of Elas to marry the Troyian prince. However, the warrior Dohlman has no interest in being wedded to a Troyian "dog" and refuses to learn the etiquette and customs she will be expected to perform on Troyius. When Ambassador Petri is stabbed as he attempts to indoctrinate Elaan into Troyian behavior, Captain Kirk takes over his role, but he falls in love with her after touching her face while she weeps, not knowing that the tears of an Elasian woman will cause any man to become obsessed with her. Meanwhile, one of the Elasians sabotages the Enterprise and Kirk soon discovers that a Klingon battlecruiser hovering nearby intends to board or destroy the vessel. Confused why the Klingons would interfere in a diplomatic marriage, Kirk receives his answer when he learns that the crystals in Elaan's necklace are made of dilithium. The raw crystals enable Scotty to repair the ship's antimatter drive, the ship delivers Elaan to Troyius as planned, and Kirk throws himself into his work as distraction from the effects of Elasian tears.

Analysis: I'm just going to come out and call this episode a guilty pleasure of mine. I have no excuses, really: it's a feminist's nightmare, the Enterprise being used to drag an unwilling woman to a wedding to stop a war, with Kirk threatening to spank her when she fails to behave according to his own standards of acceptable female behavior -- the Klingons don't, either, but I never heard Kirk threaten to spank Kor. And he doesn't once try to convince the Troyian ambassador that, as an emissary removed unwillingly from her home and the life she knows, Elaan really deserves to be cut some slack by himself and his prince. This is basically the same storyline as The Next Generation's "The Perfect Mate", but where Picard's crew is horrified there to learn that a woman is being used as a gift for a powerful man, Kirk's officers go along with his insistence that the marriage must take place whether the bride agrees or not, even though none of them understand the nature or seriousness of the threat from the Klingons until much later.

It would all be thoroughly distasteful if Elaan didn't have the upper hand all along. Her tantrums are colorful, flamboyant and such a charming contrast to Starfleet obedience that it's hard not to root for her, even when she's trashing Uhura's quarters and making snide comments about the masculinity of the men who surround her. She eats with gusto and can't be bothered with knives and forks; she dresses to turn heads and then expresses outrage at being stared at. "I have not dismissed you!" she shouts at Kirk, only to dismiss him instantly when he bristles. It's impossible to know whether Elaan was raised to expect her every whim to be indulged - given her warrior training, it's hard to believe that she's the spoiled brat Kirk makes her out to be - but one begins to suspect that this is all a performance to make Ambassador Petri give up and let her go home. Even when she breaks down, it's an act of defiance. "I don't know how to make people like me," she sniffles miserably to Kirk, knowing all the while that she has the power to make him adore her glistening in her eyes. Presumably her future husband won't be much of a problem, either, once she gets close enough to weep on him.

It's never entirely clear how Starfleet got involved in the peace negotiations between Elas and Troyius, but someone in the bureaucracy clearly dropped the ball on background research. Petri speaks of the Elasians in condescending tones before they have even arrived and Kirk seems all too willing to accept his assessment. Nor does anyone on the Enterprise expect the Elasians to have the technical know-how to wire the ship's engines to blow up; when Scotty complains about intruders in Engineering, it's purely because he finds them a nuisance underfoot. The Klingon conspiracy comes as something of a surprise to everyone, viewers as well as crewmembers, and the discovery that the ship is in real danger has a kind of comical edge as a result. How come nobody realized that there would be dissidents from the peace process, and how come anyone thought it was a good idea to leave Kirk alone with a gorgeous woman, even before Spock and McCoy knew about the effects of Elasian tears?

Kirk's shift from rage to lust, and his accompanying distraction from duty, has a kind of perverse charm, with the added hilarity of Spock casting concerned glances in his direction that at times seem very nearly envious. He positively gloats when he tells McCoy that Kirk's attachment to his ship and crew are greater than his interest in the Dohlman. As for Kirk, his passion seems forced and awkward, probably a result of Shatner's over-the-top performance with his eyes bugging out and Elaan's name falling desperately from his lips. Elaan's behavior really isn't any worse than Deela's...is Kirk attracted to her all along, is that why he's such a bungling failure as a diplomat, using bullying rather than charm to try to convince her of her importance and irreplaceable value in holding a civilization together? How did this man get the plum assignment to ferry ambassadors to the Babel conference, anyway? His temper is nearly as bad as hers!

In the end, Elaan makes her own decisions for her own reasons, giving the captain her dilithium crystals to save his ship and agreeing to go to Troyius without further struggle. In this she is more admirable than the traditional figure for whom she is named, Helen of Troy, who abandoned her own husband to run off with the man she wanted. Personally, I find Elaan's most criticized qualities - her deplorably indelicate, unfeminine, graceless manners - to be among her more admirable traits; I'm rather rooting for her to show up on Troyius and turn their "civilized" society from one that shows respect to women by giving them fancy necklaces to one that shows respect to women by treating them with more autonomy than anyone ever treats the Dohlman. It's a sad fact that Kirk is far more respectful of Elaan as an individual after she's worked her teary magic on him than when he's storming around her quarters trying to make her behave.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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