Elaan of Troyius (12/20/1968)
Eric gets the first round:
“Elaan of Troyius” is better than “The Empath,” although this may be another case of damning with faint praise. My primary complaints are that the character development is uneven and the episode in general lacks subtlety.
To my first point, when we are introduced to Elaan, she is obnoxious, arrogant, coarse, and violent. Then, after she “infects” Kirk with her tears (about halfway through the episode), she becomes soft and fawn-like, a diametric shift in her character. Perhaps this can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that she ensnares Kirk—and there is a clear indication that this is intentional—but the change is so abrupt and dramatic that it is jarring and stretches credulity.
And with regards to subtlety, or the distinct lack thereof, the title “Elaan of Troyius” is a thinly-veiled allusion to Helen of Troy, the mythological queen of Sparta who was kidnapped by Paris of Troy and thus instigated the Trojan War. The similarities between this myth and the plot of “Elaan of Troyius” are blatant. The producer(s) may have thought this was clever, but it actually comes across as trite and tacky. Add to this the fact that the resolution of the episode is that Elaan's necklace is comprised of raw dilithium crystals (common stones on her home planet), which are, purely by coincidence, exactly what Scotty needs to save the day. Not quite a Deus Ex Machina, but close enough.
One interesting fact about this episode is that it was actually the second episode filmed in the third season, and as such, it was supposed to include the first appearance of the arboretum set we saw in “And the Children Shall Lead.” (This is where Kirk had ice cream with the Lord of the Flies rejects.)
So there we are. “Elaan of Troyius” isn't a train wreck of an episode, but neither is it a gem. The following episode, on the other hand...
I always found this episode, when I was young, to be fairly ridiculous and the lead guest character annoying. Today, my opinion remains mostly unchanged but there are a few things to appreciate here.
As Eric or Rob pointed out on the podcast, the title is a thinly-veiled take on "Helen of Troy." Er, not so clever guys. The concept of this show feels tired and like the previous episode, has recycled situations. This time the setup is awfully similar to second season's "Journey to Babel" which remains superior in all respects. I feel like Eric summed up the problem with the Elaan character so I won't cover that. The aspect of this episode I think I appreciate more today is the way the scenes are played by the actors. There are scenes in the first act or two that play like actual comedy. The scenes between Kirk, Elaan, and Petri do have good comic timing and help to move the action along. The lightness and perhaps wit also adds a distraction from the stereotypes that are portrayed here.
The fact of the two leads having sex is made pretty explicit, compared to previous episodes where it was more between the lines. Third season seemed to have a bit more freedom in this area. Depending on how charitable you're feeling about late-Trek, this may be a good or bad thing. In any case, the cast, even at this low point of the series, was still doing what they could with the material.
The other plot details with the "finding the cure" and political intrigue regarding the Klingons are fairly boring. Nothing really comes of it and the plot seems like a tired contrivance. At the end Elaan leaves and we don't really care what the other outcomes are. However, the episode is more fun than I was expecting having come back to it after years of avoidance.
The enhanced effects are nice for the space "battle" (also pretty anticlimactic) scenes but the high definition is mainly helpful in this kind of episode for getting really good looks at the kooky cheap costumes the visiting guards are wearing.
Next time: “Whom Gods Destroy”