A diplomatic mission. An invisible ship that follows the USS Enterprise. A traitor on board. Sounds like the Journey to Babel storyline from season two, doesn’t it? Well, it does, but it’s also the rough outline of Elaan of Troyius, the thirteenth episode of the third season whose second half we’re now officially in (I still can’t believe that I’m getting to the end of Star Trek: The Original Series!!!).
The plot seems to come from a medieval European history book. In order to seal a peace treaty between the planets of Elas and Troyius which have always been at war with each other and have now the capability of annihilating each other with their weapons, the beautiful Elaan (France Nuyen) and a prominent member of the Troyius government must get married. Captain Kirk has the task of bringing Elaan to Troyus while Ambassador Petri (Jay Robinson) teaches her the customs of his people. The mission is very delicate because the system is close to the Klingon empire and it’s almost certain that the enemies of the Federation will try to interfere with it. That could be, but, at least initially, the Klingons are the least of the problems! Ambassador Petri is an inept who cannot connect with Elaan, and she herself is anything but accommodating, so much so that Kirk knows only one way to make her behave: he uses strong manners, and even slaps her in the face! You know, 50 years ago things were a bit different…
Personally, the biggest problem I have with this episode is having already seen The Perfect Mate (fifth season of The Next Generation): the story is practically identical! Famke Janssen played the promised bride who fell in love with the captain of the Enterprise just like it happens here with Elaan and Kirk. This is another idea of the original series used (better) in The Next Generation! For example, whereas in the latter series the scenes between the beautiful Janssen and Patrick Stewart work great, here the ones between Nuyen and William Shatner are not that great. And I must say that 1968 sexism has aged quite badly, a problem to which The Next Generation is naturally immune.
Furthermore, Elaan of Troyius seems unable to find a focus: there’s a love story with Kirk that goes nowhere, there’s a sabotage on board (with yet another redshirt falling for the cause, engineer Watson played by Victor Brandt and killed by the treacherous Kryton, Tony Young), there are Klingons somewhere (at their sixth appearance after Errand of Mercy, Friday’s Child, The Trouble with Tribbles, A Private Little War, and Day of the Dove), the alien ambassador seems to be the protagonist initially and then disappears… in short, it’s a bit of a mess. In the end, I found it difficult to be interested in any of all these micro-stories hardly related to each other (and the ending is a bit ridicolous with the Enterprise’s dilithium crystals replaced with Elaan’s jewels), and I don’t think I would suggest to watch this episode in a hypothetical selection of the best ones of Star Trek: The Original Series. Ciao!
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