Written by John Meredyth Lucas, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Running out of plot ideas in this third season, the writers here turn to Shakespeare and craft their own version of The Taming of the Shrew, involving a reluctant bride, a stuffy ambassador, and the Captain of the Enterprise.
The Enterprise taxi service is charged with accompanying Ambassador Petri of Troyius (Jay Robinson) to the planet Elas. The two planets have been at war for some time, and it’s thought that uniting the two planets by marriage would be beneficial. Elaan (France Nuyen) is to be wed to the King of Troyius and become their new Queen. Ambassador Petri is charged with teaching her proper etiquette and behavior.
Upon arriving upon the Enterprise, though, Elaan shows she’s not having any of it. She is used to being deferred to. No one is to speak unless she permits it. All kneel in her presence until she releases them. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) ignores her demands and assigns Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to show her to her quarters.
What follows is something of a re-creation of Taming of the Shrew with Elaan as the shrew. She rejects everything Ambassador Petri tries to show her and at one point stabs him in the back. Fortunately, he survives. However, he declares that will not allow his leader to marry Elaan. That’s fine with her.
With the Federation High Commissioner on the way to attend the wedding, Kirk takes the situation in hand and decides to deal with Elaan himself, despite knowing that Elasian women have a reputation for driving men wild with mystical powers. You see where this is going….
Meanwhile, the Klingons make their presence known. One of Elaan’s bodyguards is in contact with them, but what exactly is happening there is a little less obvious than the relationship between Kirk and Elaan.
There’s a lot that’s bad in this episode. Much as My Fair Lady suffers from sexism and misogyny when watched in retrospect, so does Elaan of Troyius. This is another case much like Friday’s Child where a woman being belligerent is met with a slap and it’s presented as completely justified. Hey, I don’t know that I’d be happy being forced to marry someone I didn’t even know for the sake of their two worlds.
What works is the overall plot where Elaan learns not manners or obedience from Kirk, but duty. It’s not done in a heavy-handed way, either, but a gradual realization on her part. Once Kirk is under her spell, he confesses to wanting her to stay but knows what his duty is. Elaan doesn’t want to grasp that concept, but eventually, she comes to understand that she has a duty to her people and to those on Troyius. France Nuyen does a great job with her, conveying the anger and anguish as she evolves throughout the story. She really gives a great performance in this role.
Though predictable where the story will go, Shatner manages to have a good turn as Kirk. He conveys a lot of the story with expressions of exasperation. We know the Captain prefers exploration to diplomacy, and here he’s put to the test. His collection of women grows with his attachment to Elaan, but it didn’t feel like he was ever truly under her spell.
The Klingon subplot doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways, but it adds a bit of a distraction and peril necessary for Elaan to eventually realize what she must do. There are some good effects. The costuming of Elaan’s guards might be questionable, but hers are along the lines of what Star Trek is remembered for. That first time she’s seen on the transporter pad, the first thing noticeable is the skimpy costume. However, it’s also a sense of strength conveyed that ultimately makes her convincing as both beautiful and warrior-like.
I found Elaan of Troyius to be fun, despite the drawbacks. I enjoyed watching it, and in particular France Nuyen’s performance. It holds up to watching now, with a few moments that might make you cringe.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Empath
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Whom Gods Destroy