Star Trek: The Original Series

"Elaan of Troyius"

2 stars

Air date: 12/20/1968. Written and directed by John Meredyth Lucas

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A mission of diplomacy brings the Enterprise to Elas to transport warrior leader Elaan (France Nuyen) to Troyius, where she is to marry into their society as the first step of bridging the two peoples and ending the long-lasting hostilities between them. The problem (or, more specifically, the running gag)—Elaan is a terrible-mannered woman from a society short on manners. She must be taught in the ways of etiquette. Her teacher (after she stabs the first one) is James T. Kirk, naturally.

Watchable, mostly brainless, middle-of-the-road fare, "Elaan of Troyius" is at its best when it shows Kirk balancing the approaches of diplomacy and forceful wording when dealing with the brat that Elaan is. Of course, the frustrating and repetitive joke of Elaan being so appalled at having to behave in a civilized manner is something that gets old quite fast, and it's not very wittily developed.

The episode turns into a mild muddle when it begins juggling mystical "love potion" (Elaan's tears) notions, Klingon battleship attacks, and mysteriously tensionless spy missions and sabotage, without really knowing which of the plots is important, or if any of it means anything when rolled into one. Still, seeing Kirk on the bridge while under the influence of uncontrollable love urges is somewhat amusing.

Previous episode: The Empath
Next episode: Whom Gods Destroy

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27 comments on this review

Sun, Feb 24, 2013, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
I disagree with the rating. I like the various plot lines that come together at the end. No big philosophical statements, but better than long, drawn out one strand plots. I was surprised at Nguyen's ability to pull off this part, one note that it is.
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 7:58pm (UTC -5)
Trivia: the only Trek episode with a "written & directed by" credit. Besides John Meredyth Lucas, the only other person with a writing credit for an episode he also directed is David Livingston for "The Nagus" (plus Nimoy's and Shatner's movie credits). In fact, hardly anyone else has both writing and directing credits for Trek. Others include Tom Benko, Kenneth Biller, and, lest we forget, Robert Picardo.

Further trivia: according to Memory Alpha, Lucas was the stepson of "Casablanca" director Michael Curtiz.
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 12:06am (UTC -5)
This episode was terrible. I liked it when Elaan had to learn about duty, but the whole tear thing was gimmicky. Quite frankly, I'm not sure Kirk needed the excuse of love potion. He turns into a moron the instant any woman is in front of him. I wish at least for this episode he could have kept it in his pants.

Zero stars.
Sun, Nov 24, 2013, 5:53am (UTC -5)
It's interesting to see these again, and notice the influences on TNG that exist throughout TOS - In particular, this episode seems to be the seed for season five's "the perfect mate".

It also seems quite inspired by "Taming of the Shrew"
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
This was ok.

But the deus ex machina that Elas happened to have dilithium crystals as a "common stone" was a bit hard to take. Seriously. . . the Federation never noticed this before?
William B
Mon, Nov 3, 2014, 2:37am (UTC -5)
In which Kirk asks for the ship to move forward at .035 sublight speed, and the episode's pacing ultimately matches.

It's not as wholly, mind-bogglingly bad as something like "And the Children Shall Lead," but it's aimless, dull and offensive. It's *possible* that the "Taming of the Shrew"-esque plot (Joseph is correct that this episode has something in common with that play -- and also that "The Perfect Mate" has some broad similarities to this episode) could have worked under other circumstances, and there are the hints of a possible culture clash story here, focusing more strongly on the fact that Elaan's problem is that she's from a warrior culture, unable/unwilling to adapt to peace, rather than that she's awful as a *woman*. The story sort of tries to do this, and some of the moments which almost work rely on this story element. Still, to deal with why Elaan is so awful for not wanting to be married against her will, there has to be at least some acknowledgment that it's totally reasonable for a person to not want to be married against their will. Kirk almost gets there at one point, by suggesting she could quit her job as Dohlman, implying that she has *some* choice. But, you know, the idea that as ruler she *has to* marry someone else is weird, backward, and I think not a little sexist, with the implication that she needs to accept that the planetary merger means her basically ditching all her independence, strength and identity. Then the story throws in the magic tears story element. I *could* read this story generously, but it has the hallmarks of certain sexist tropes about women using emotions and crying to manipulate men. Not one of Trek's more, uh, progressive hours.

But at least it could have been fun, you know? The episode just wanders from story point to story point, never particularly building on any element when moving to the next section. Kirk's attempt to teach Elaan like Eliza Doolittle gives way to the tear plot and then to her apparently falling for Kirk, and then Elaan has a complete personality transformation at this point, choosing to commit to "duty" when she had been stabbing people for entering unannounced not long before. The confrontation with the Klingons is dull at this point. No one seems to know or even particularly care why this Elas/Troyius merger is so important, which makes Kirk's utter indifference to Elaan's continued protestations that she doesn't want to get married all the more frustrating.

I guess 1.5 stars if I am feeling generous.
William B
Mon, Nov 3, 2014, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Scratch that, I'm not feeling generous -- 1 star.
Mon, Aug 31, 2015, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Okay, I'll confess. Can't argue with Jamahl or the other posters here so I won't rate this episode. Can't bring myself to do it.

Because... I'll always be enthralled watching France Nuyen as Elaan just as much as I am watching Sophie Marceau's performances in "Braveheart" and that silly Bond movie ("The World Is Not Enough").

Yeah, okay. I know I'm a dick. To each his own.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
I have to disagree with you peeps, on the low ratings. For some reason this episode is like-able, and I would say one of the better TOS episodes.

Reason 1 : finally a proper storyline.
well this is one of the RARE episodes thats NOT about either "yet oneother earth" or "kirk outsmarts the computer"
And it is about diplomacy, finally something that really DOES belong to the federation.

Reason 2 : klingons
Always good to have some agresive klingons, some secret agenda's and plotting, and the reason in this case (a huge dilithium mine) is quite logical.

Reason 3 : Shakespeare
I like those plays and taming of the srewd in fact is one of my favorite plays. even though a weak substitute, the hint towards it is clear enough to be enjoyable.

Reason 4 : Shut up woman!
While I don't like sexism, I don't like feminism either, and in this era of today woman are in fact behaving like spoiled brats, playing the card to get everything for free, yet have no old-time obligations for those freebies in turn, seeing such a woman be turned down a notch is always a pleasure.

Well having that said it is not all good :

Criticism 1 :
Sexism again, kirk just HAS to make up with this woman. Do I have to spell unprofessional? Starfleet = Military, and behaving this way in line of duty is unacceptable. And as often said TOS genrally has WAY to much sexism.

Criticism 2 :
Love tears, there was no need whatsoever for them to be in this episode, other than to drag to one more I gonne miss you so much, yabber, that in light on how many times kirk already has said that to tons of other woman is totally unbelievable

Overall I would rate this with a solid 2.5 - 3.0 stars.
making it one of the 15 best TOS episodes.
Mon, Feb 8, 2016, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
What a mess.
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
You guys are nuts, this episode was one my favorites from TNG. Espionage, intrigue, and a love story that doesn't feel forced. I'd say that Elaan was generally one of the few women that Kirk genuinely felt love for, with of course the help of her tears.

I was thinking about it and the tears make sense on a planet like Elas. People there are hard and war like, with tears being a rarity. I'd imagine that women on Elas use their tears as a way of choosing a mate, the mate being someone they trust enough to cry around.

When said I love you on the turbolift, it felt genuine. And Kirk does everything in his power to stay himself despite his emotions. Powerful stuff.
Thu, Sep 1, 2016, 8:47pm (UTC -5)
I like it very much also. 3 stars at least. It was fun and with a lot of tension. Having a different culture in the ship is nice, and in fact we got two different species that think not alike. It would be better if the ambassador took the role of Kirk in the whole love story, though.
Trek fan
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 2:25am (UTC -5)
Good, solid, fun TOS episode. The plot overreaches perhaps just a bit, short-changing the developing sparks between Elaan and Kirk in favor of a neat Klingon battle that is drawn out a little too long. But I would give this one a solid 3/4 stars, if not 3 1/2 stars, because of the amusing battle of wills between the ever-diplomatic Kirk and the charismatic Elaan.

France Nuyen, the Vietnamese-French actress from several Hollywood classics, makes a strong impression here as the first Asian woman to play the main guest role on a Trek episode. There's an undeniable energy to her performance that sustains interest in the somewhat placid pacing of the episode. All of the regular actors, from Shatner down to Majel Barrett, feel very comfortable in this one -- nicely underplaying their parts with an easy chemistry that has really matured by this point in Season 3.

I enjoy both parts of the episode, namely the diplomatic crisis half (primarily centering around Elaan's friction with everyone on board) and the tactically driven (TOS is a throwback to the days when Trek space fights involved actual strategy rather than technobabble pyrotechnics) Klingon battle half, which tie together through the espionage plot. The A/B plot with a connecting link here actually foreshadows the way DS9 and other later Trek shows would often script their episodes. My only complaint is that, in this case, the drawn-out Klingon battle unfortunately pulls our attention away from Elaan's character a bit sharply -- it's much more jarring here than in the shorter battle sequence and spy plot that interrupts the diplomatic mission/interpersonal crisis in "Journey to Babel." And as fun as it is to see the Enterprise in a strategic dogfight with a Klingon warship, it's not as compelling as the Elaan-Kirk dynamic that it pushes to the background. But that's a small gripe in an otherwise engaging episode of Star Trek.
Mark J
Mon, May 8, 2017, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
This is an episode where the remastered effect really help. Instead of seeing the same effect of the Klingon ship several times we get much more variety of shots. It made it a more enjoyable watch as a result.
Fri, Jun 30, 2017, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode and disagree with Jammer's review/rating. It's not perfect but it does a lot of things right: France Nuyen as Elaan reminds me a bit of how Klingon women are portrayed in later Trek series -- the first part of the episode when she's a big brat was done convincingly (although it was irritating to see) but then she softens up considerably and even toward the Troyian ambassador Petri. I think her tears touching Kirk had a reciprocal effect on her -- that was really the turning point in the episode.

This episode also had a lot going on -- kind of similar to "Journey to Babel" focusing on diplomacy and some of the Federation interests. Although I have to guess the UFP didn't have time to discover that there's a fair amount of dilithium crystals in the universe, which is why the Klingons have an interest.

I thought the battle scene was quite well done - got to see Kirk try and work some tactics with limited resources. Of course that the necklace was made with dilithium crystals was very fortunate.

Shatner did a good job as Kirk trying to teach Elaan some manners, while trying to be respectful, following orders. It was amusing to watch.

I'd have to say "Elaan of Troyius" is a pleasant surprise and just gets to 3.5 stars for me. I can't say I agree with forcing Elaan into a marriage but we accept it as part of what these alien cultures have decided and that it is Kirk's job to make it happen. Throw in some good battle scenes after the sabotage and you've got a fun episode. The guest actors for Elaan and Ambassador Petri were engaging.
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
After another viewing, I think my initial rating was a tad generous. This is a pretty good episode with a solid performance from Nuyen (helps that she naturally has an accent). It becomes easier to understand Elaan's behavior when understanding she's being married against her wishes and all the "responsibilities and obligations" she has to deal with. She didn't want the role she was chosen for and this comes out in the end in her love for Kirk (reasonably well portrayed).

The ending battle scene was one of the better ones from TOS although I wonder why the Enterprise didn't fire photon torpedoes until after the dilithium crystals were replaced. I didn't think you'd need the crystals to fire torpedoes. It's easier to understand why phasers wouldn't be an option without the crystals.

3 stars for "Elaan of Troyius" -- seems to me to be one of the TOS S3 episodes with a bigger budget and it is used reasonably well with a number of guest actors, costumes, battle scenes (which are much better in the enhanced video version).
Mon, Jan 8, 2018, 1:16am (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!

Admittedly, it has been a couple of years since I saw this one, but there is a part that mildly bothers me: weren't the TOS phasers powered by batteries? I think back to The Doomsday Machine, where Scotty informs Kirk that he has one bank recharged while they are on the Constellation. I'd think they could be stone dead in the water and still have phasers, if the batteries hadn't been bled off for something else. It wasn't until The Motion Picture that they said they were powered directly from the warp engines, and specifically made the point when Commander Decker countermanded Kirks order for phasers when they were having their problem.

Here, Kirk asks Scotty if he can get him partial power to the phasers, and he replies "No, sir, not a chance".

If I am mistaken, or mis-remembering things, please let me know. I just figure they'd have phasers because they had already been charged from the get-go.

All that being said, this was one of my favorite episodes growing up (around 12 or so when they started to show full episodes in the afternoon in '77). It was tense, had intrigue, and a bit of a space battle. I still enjoy it when I queue it up and would give it a thumbs up.

Take care and have a great day... RT
Tue, Feb 6, 2018, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Perhaps the tear thing is a metaphore for trying to draw pity. There was an obvious attempt at seducing as well.
Gul Densho-Ar
Fri, May 18, 2018, 11:37pm (UTC -5)
Ah, the good old story of the capricious woman who just needs a strong guy teaching her some manners. Not sure if the magic tears nonsense made this episode better or worse. No rating.
Steve McCullagh
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 11:50am (UTC -5)
I can't believe it took me so long to realise that the title is a play on "Helen of Troy".
Mon, Aug 13, 2018, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Another episode I loved as a kid, so I may be blinded by nostalgia. Everything was new to me then (including, or perhaps especially, the cliches... both Trek and otherwise) and I remember it fondly as a rip-roaring adventure. The guest star totally owns it with her performance, which holds up well today. In a weird way it reminds me of a PG-rated Mr Rogers' Neighborhood as a simplistic but effective lesson in manners and controlling your emotions, and it's still very powerful if you can accept all the exaggerated characterizations.
Mon, Oct 1, 2018, 10:01am (UTC -5)
Maybe it's because I'm starved of Trek, but watching this for a second time made me appreciate it much more. The tragedy and plight of the alien princess really shines through once you're familiar with the plot, her warrior culture is nicely sketched, and you begin to appreciate more the way she masks fragility and innocence with aggression, fire and bluster. I thought her tears - a kind of pheromone used to trap a mate - were a neat scifi concept. The idea that an aggressive species might be pressured by evolution to develop something like this, is pretty neat.

Others above have complained about pacing; I disagree entirely. This is a fast episode, packed with clever rapid-fire dialogue. Finally, the episode makes excellent use of the Klingon's; the combat sequences and little tactical game they play with Kirk, is very imaginative.
Peter G.
Sun, Nov 4, 2018, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
Ok, so when was I was a kid I didn't get the allusions being made here: Elaan = Helen, Troyius = Troy, Ellaas = Hellas (aka Greece) .So it's the Helen of Troy story, right? Except that TOS episodes are so good that they *begin* with a template like Helen of Troy and only build from there. In this episode we have the following amazing building blocks:

-Helen is being made to go to a foreign country, a union that should unite them but is instead causing strife (so far like The Iliad).
-But in this case Elaan is unwilling - wrinkle #1. Why? She's a warrior and doesn't want to be a lover. Huh, ok. Except that:
-The reason she resists is not because she wants war, but because she cannot stand being made a pawn in someone else's agreement rather than having the freedom of choice. Therefore she, herself, is a case in point of the following argument:
-That even a supreme monarch, when forced into a situation of duty, realizes that free choice matters more to her than fulfillment of others' wishes, therefore giving her something in common with a Federation ethos. Possible message here is that all people would eventually agree that freedom is beneficial, if only they were in the position that they were made to realize it.
-The Klingons have a stake in dilithium in the system, therefore implying they're creating a wedge in local politics to mine resources, a very Cold War theme that we've seen before, but here it implies further that local disputes can often be traced to foreign powers manipulating them for profit. A very controversial and uncommon theme for the 60's! And quite subversive in some ways to say it (if obliquely).
-Kirk tries to teach Elaan civility, even through force, but she won't accept it. Instead she sees his power and accepts *him*, as a lover, to use him as a weapon of war. Except that Kirk's loyalty to the mission supercedes his feelings and he rejects the love. In seeing him sacrifice his own desires (which she knows for sure he has) for duty his finally does instruct her, and I think out of respect for him she chooses duty as well in the end, in emulation of him.
-Thus the Trojan epic ends with Paris (Kirk) choosing duty over the world's greatest desire, showing real heroism for what it really is: not getting what you want, which classic hero stories are about, but about knowing when *not* to take what you want. And that is very heart and soul of Trek: when what you want hurts the common good, you reject it.

This used to be a skipper for me, certainly as a kid, but now I see that the very best themes of Trek are in it, as well as the best uses of writing: borrow a good story, but tell something new with it. The messages here are so much more evolved than in a classic hero story about triumph.

I'll also note one more thing: I only now realize that TNG's The Perfect Mate is a complete carbon copy of this one, almost down to being an exact replica in the final goodbye scene. And to whatever extent people have debated whether Perfect Mate is sexist versus enablist, one thing is for sure: Elaan of Troyius is much more evolved in terms of feminism. While TNG's outing is about a woman who's blatantly desirable and seen as the object of everyone's desires, and how she copes with that, this one is about a woman portrayed as undesirable and petulant, presumably because she absolutely refuses to be seen as the object of anyone's desire and will be her own woman. That she's portrayed in such an ugly light on account of these characteristics is a damning indictment of how women were seen at the time who wouldn't "play ball" and be nice. It's so much harsher a criticism of culture than the TNG episode is, which may loosely be called a story about women's rights but realistically doesn't a fraction of the guts of the TOS version. Troyius is the much stronger story, and Kirk's part in it significantly more compelling that Picard merely playing the good boy in his version.
Gaius Maximus
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 9:32pm (UTC -5)
Some pretty ugly sexism in this one, with Kirk threatening to spank Elaan and commenting that Vulcan women are the only logical women in the galaxy. Also, some uncomfortable 'dragon lady' overtones with an East Asian actress in this part. What I really wonder, though, is why it was so damn dark on the bridge in this episode?
Tue, May 28, 2019, 4:56am (UTC -5)
I wonder how Kirk would respond if Star Fleet told him that in order to keep peace in the Quadrant, he was going to have to marry a green skinned Queen of another planet, and go there to live as her dutiful husband for the rest of his life?

I'm sure he'd either comply or quietly give up his commission and leave Star Fleet.

Had some fun elements, but mostly ruined by preachy, arrogant Kirk.
Tue, May 5, 2020, 1:01pm (UTC -5)
I was reminded of this woman with The Final Frontier, did anybody else notice the similarity between this actress and the woman they met in the prison camp?
Peter G.
Tue, May 5, 2020, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
@ MaraCass,

Tbh I didn't. Maybe the accent is what's making them similar to you? According to Wiki, Iman is Somali while France Nguyen (Elaan) is French-Vietnamese, so the accents shoudn't be the same. Maybe there's some phonological similarity the Somali language and French? Visually I don't really see it.

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