“Elaan of Troyius” was first shown on December 20, 1968, during the third and final season of Star Trek: The Original Series. The episode began life as a story outline by Alfred Brenner, who’d handed it in on April 18, 1966… during the show's debut season. Then called “Journey to Reolite," that idea would be joined by a Gene Roddenberry outline on December 5, 1966, called "Helen of Troyius." By March 8, 1968, the concepts bubbled and brewed into a John Meredith Lucas story outline that by May 8 had been revised by Fred Freiberger and given the title "Elaan of Troyius.”
The episode launched with a classic captain’s log.
"Captain's log, stardate 4372.5. On a top-secret diplomatic mission, the Enterprise has entered the Tellun star system. Maintaining communications blackout, we have taken aboard Petri, Ambassador from Troyius, the outer planet, and are now approaching the inner planet, Elas."
Waiting near the edges of the Federation-Klingon border on a frustratingly cloak-and-dagger mission, the Enterprise was directed by the Troyian ambassador to pick up the Dohlman, a distractingly beautiful woman named Elaas, who was the ruler of the planet Elas, and who was greatly feared by the Troyians.
It’s explained to Kirk that as Troyius and Elas both had the military capacity to destroy each other, a solution to peace was formulated which saw Elaan given away in an arranged marriage to the ruler of Troyius. Not trained in the more cultured ways of the Troyians, the request was that the journey be somewhat sedate, so as to give Elaan more time to learn the Troyian ways.
Soon after their voyage began, Kirk was called to Elaan’s quarters. He found her in a rage, throwing items around the room. Petri, the Troyian ambassador, was both reluctant and deflated, convinced that the Elas and Troyians could never concrete a firm relationship. Kirk suggested being firmer with Elaan.
Spock spotted a sensor cloud on his readings and deduced that it must be a ship, but before Kirk could assist, he was called to engineering, where Elaan was blithely interfering with ship systems and ignoring requests to stop. All she was concerned with was how to use the ship as a weapon.
Kirk, Spock and Sulu learned that the sensor ghost was indeed a Klingon vessel and then found Petri in Elaan’s room… with a dagger in his back.
It was explained that once men touched the skin of Elasian women their hearts were enslaved forever, and with Petri recovering in sickbay it was now down to Kirk to teach Elaan a more cultured manner of etiquette. She railed against him, and they argued, but eventually she acquiesced, agreeing to at least try to learn the Troyian ways. Kirk wiped away her tears and, having not been told about touching Elan women, soon they embraced and made love.
Meanwhile, one of Elaan’s guards killed an Enterprise engineer and attempted to contact the cloaked Klingon cruiser after tampering with the warp engines. Captured, he committed suicide before interrogation. Elaan explained that the guard was in love with her and was frustrated by the forthcoming ceremony.
The Klingon attack began. Sabotaged, the Enterprise could neither fire weapons in return nor go to warp, and it became apparent that the Klingons hoped to destroy the Enterprise without starting a war. In sickbay, Petri and Elaan spoke, and he begged her to wear a necklace of Troyian royal jewels. She accepted and appeared on the bridge in her wedding dress and the jewels, which turned out to be dilithium crystals, hence the Klingon interest in this system. The crystals were swiftly sent to Mr. Scott who replenished the ship’s damaged dilithium crystals in time for the Enterprise to defend itself against further attack, allowing them to fend off the now severely damaged Klingon warship.
Resolved to the marriage and a changed woman, Elaan gave her dagger to Kirk as a memento, and left with a broken heart. McCoy reported to the bridge claiming to have found an antidote to Kirk touching her tears and falling in love, but Spock explained that wasn’t necessary: "The Enterprise infected the captain long before the Dohlman did."
With Elaan actress France Nuyen believed to be the first Vietnamese actress to appear on American television, the debut appearance of Matt Jefferies’ D-7 class Klingon battle cruiser, the only episode in the franchise to have been written and directed by the same person (John Meredith Lucas) and more costume changes than an Elton John concert, “Elaan of Troyius” was an episode of firsts, but one that – as with many other Treks over the years – still has relevance in the modern day. As Petri and Kirk discussed:
"We cannot make peace with people we detest."
"Stop trying to kill each other. Then worry about being friendly."
Mark Newbold has been an avid Trek fan since the 1970's, when TOS was shown on UK TV, but it was the original cast movie series and TNG era that sealed the deal. Mark is a writer for Star Trek: The Official Magazine, is editor-in-Chief of Star Trek: The Neutral Zone and was a stage host at Destination Star Trek Germany in 2018. At heart, he's a Niner. Follow him on Twitter.