Star Trek: Elaan of Troyius

"Well, I've heard of reluctant brides, but this is ridiculous."

Taming of the Shrew meets Love Potion Number Nine.

It's unfortunate that the writer gave Elaan the A to Z of traditional Asian female stereotypes; she went from a vicious, arrogant queen eating like a pig with her fingers to a quiet, obedient geisha in the space of half an episode. But at least she had not just one, not two, but four gorgeous and revealing costumes. And I liked France Nuyen's performance. She was beautiful and captivating in those Cleopatra braids, and she gave good tantrum. Did Elaan actually care about Kirk at all, or was it just manipulation? She did cry when she left, but that might have been because she had to marry the green pig, after all.

There wasn't a whole lot of the battle of the sexes anyway, because the story rapidly shifted to a space conflict with the Klingons, who were aware that dilithium crystals were scattered around the Tellun star system like cow patties. May I confess that I found Elaan's aide Kryton's actions difficult to follow? He rigged the Enterprise to blow up when she went into warp. Wouldn't that have killed both himself and Elaan? Was he just suicidal because he couldn't have Elaan for himself, and thought he might as well just kill her, too? Unless he hadn't been poisoned with Elaan's tears and was just politically motivated. He couldn't have been paid by the Klingons because he wouldn't have been able to spend anything if he were dead. What am I missing? Feel free to enlighten me.

That thing Christine learned about the tears – that might have been good information for Kirk to have. And hey, McCoy went to all that trouble to find a cure. Did no one consider going back to Elas and selling it to the men? They probably could have traded that cure for every dilithium crystal on the planet.

Ben P. Duck says...

And now let us consider the strange case of the Dohlman of Troyius: vicious, beautiful and manipulative. This episode takes as its premise the fear, felt by many a man, that chicks are just crying to try to control them – only it takes that fear out to an intergalactic scale. Seriously, and the antidote, just focus on your career bro and you can repress your feelings enough to be cold and give her the heave ho. Only the career here is starship captain, and yeah it's to avoid a war, so don't feel bad.

I have said it before but I simply cannot help repeating it for this episode, it is really amazing how retrograde the attitude towards women was in the original Star Trek. Even for someone who was alive in the period (I turn 186 next week), my memory is of the challenges to racial prejudice and gender inequality being more or less simultaneous. Trek Classic really drives home the fact that they were not and that the great victories of the second half of the twentieth century were unrealized in 1968. The National Organization of Women was only founded in 1966 and nobody burned a bra until 1970. Title IX, ERA, and the Supreme Court striking down sex-segregation in employment ads are all from the 1970's. If you look at Star Trek TNG, Tasha Yar doesn't last but Deanna Troi does, and that's the late 1980's. I actually think one might make the argument that as often as not these notably misogynistic episodes (as opposed to the merely stereotypical) might reflect awareness that this transformation of our society was on the way, and the deep discomfort that many felt (and still feel) about it.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 4372.5. The Tellun star system, between the planets Elas and Troyius.

— I didn't realize it until I checked out Memory Alpha for spellings, but the title of the episode was a play on "Helen of Troy." I can't believe I missed that.

— The Elasian soldiers were dressed in orange costumes with shoulder pads, gold gloves and bare legs. It was difficult for Kryton to lurk about surreptitiously while dressed like a Liberace impersonator. I might have respected them more if they'd been dressed like ninjas.


— Ambassador Petri (and I assume all of the Troyians) had green skin with white, heart-shaped hair. I sort of get why Elaan didn't want to marry someone who looked like that. But I rather liked Ambassador Petri. He said some truly funny things, and the actor's delivery was spot on.

— Uhura had to give up her quarters for the Dohlman. I suppose that was simply a set-dressing convenience, because I somehow doubt there are no guest quarters on the Enterprise. If not, where have they been putting their guests throughout the entire series?

— Loved the food. Green chicken, and the painted marshmallows were back.

— The Klingon ship was captained by an unnamed Klingon who didn't even introduce himself. And Kirk introduced himself to the Klingon two or three times. I thought courtesy was for everybody.

Quotes:

Kirk: "If that's the only way you can get gratification, I'll arrange to have the whole room filled from floor to ceiling with breakable objects."

Ambassador Petri: "Captain, when I am near them, I do not want peace! I want to kill them!"
And this guy makes a living as an ambassador? He might need a few more classes in the basics of diplomacy.

Kirk: "Stop being so diplomatic. She respects strength. Go in strong."
Then again...

Elaan: "Engines are for mechanics and menials."
Exactly what Scott needed to hear.

Elaan: "We have granted your crew the permission not to kneel in our presence. What else do you want?"

Ambassador Petri: "I should have known better than to talk to her unarmed."

Kirk: "Mister Spock, the women on your planet are logical. That's the only planet in this galaxy that can make that claim." One word: T'Pring.

Two and a half out of four green chickens,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

8 comments:

celticmarc said...

Oh myyyyyyy

Pffttt, never thought of Helen of Troy either LOL Sometimes, it is so obvious and in our faces that we totally miss it...

Ohhh myyyy


That was a looooong time ago.

Oh my

This is bringing lots of memories.

Oh my

This is quite different from polar bears and a crazy Island in the South Pacific....

Oh my

It is probably because of a show like this and its offsprings that we could better appreciate a show about polar bears and a crazy Island in the South Pacific

Billie Doux said...

Celticmarc, you're right, of course. There would be no Lost without shows like Star Trek.

Dan was just now watching the Next Gen episode about Scotty and the Dyson sphere, and Scotty actually mentions that *his* Enterprise didn't have luxurious guest quarters and they had to put the Dohlman into crew quarters. Funny coincidence, that.

Johan said...

Loved that episode.

KANE: This is the food replicator, and your computer terminal.
SCOTT: Good Lord, man, where have you put me?
KANE: These are standard guest quarters, sir. I can try and find something bigger if you want.
SCOTT: Bigger? In my day, even an Admiral wouldn't have had such quarters on a starship. You know, I remember a time we had to transport the Dohlman of Elaas. You never heard anyone whine and complain so much about quarters as she did.


I do wonder if the klingon captain was one of Kirks KLingon enemies.

Juliette said...

I've been meaning to watch this one for ages - I think it's the only Classicsy TOS I haven't covered yet. But I rewatched Plato's Stephchildren the other day, which wasn't encouraging...!

tricksterson said...

T'Pring was logical. In fact IMHGO, she was the only truly logical Vulcan in the entire franchise.

Billie Doux said...

tricksterson, I see no logic whatsoever in preferring Stonn over Spock. :)

Mark said...

@Billie: That was what made Spock so much better than any of the other Vulcans introduced on any of the Star Trek series... his dry wit. While debating logically, he manages to dis both Stonn (your quote) and T'Pring ("after a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting").

This episode had my favorite quote, or at least the way Doohan gave it: "Maneuver? Aye. We can wallow like a garbage scow against a warp-driven starship."

tinkapuss said...

Another one I have only seen once before and I do not remember it. Interesting Taming of the Shrew connection but she was magnificent, wasn't she? But then, so was Katherine.