“Elaan of Troyius” is a mess. From start to finish this episode has no idea what it wants to be. And it swings wildly from one extreme to the next trying to accomplish several goals all at once. At its heart, there is a story of forbidden love and the conflict between love and duty. On that level, the episode is worthwhile. But the concept is buried under over-acting, a wayward, confused plot and an all-round poor production.
In this episode, the Enterprise plays host to two factions trying to settle an inter-planetary war. To do so, the people Elas are offering the Dohlman – a woman, by the name of Elaan, to be the bride of the leader of Troyius. (Helen of Troy, get it?) She turns out to be the epitome of “the brat” – making demands on everybody, refusing to be polite, and essentially throwing a perpetual temper tantrum. The performance is so completely over-the-top that it’s entirely embarrassing and ridiculous.
Furthermore, it’s completely forgotten near the midway point of the episode when Kirk is suddenly “poisoned” by Elaan’s tears which are a kind of love potion. At that moment, not only does Kirk fall madly in love with her, but she also completely forgoes her bratty nature. This, despite the fact that the entire episode, up to this point, was centered on Kirk’s attempts to “teach” her manners as gruffly and as manly as possible. (Incidentally, what does it say about the episode that a woman is portrayed poorly unless she is either compliant or in love?)
Despite its rather clumsy origins, the love story is where the episode has its greatest value. Kirk must struggle between his overwhelming emotions for Elaan and his duties and obligations to Starfleet and the Enterprise (Elaan, too, struggles with her affections and her eventual obligation to be married to the leader of Troyius). This deeply conflicted plot is very compelling and is rather poignant. Unfortunately, this, too, isn’t handled particularly well. In the end, Kirk let’s go of his feelings all too easily – and the emotional and psychological ramifications of doing so are wholly ignored.
Furthermore, this is all merely one element of a plot involving a Klingon saboteur who destroys the dilithium crystals on board the Enterprise (when are they going to properly secure the Engine Room on these ships, anyway?). It’s an obvious and repetitive plot. The space battle maneuverings have a taste of what we will later see in the films, but because they’re shoehorned into this episode, they fall rather flat.
As does the episode as a whole. Indeed, “Elaan of Troyius” just cannot get out of its own way. The scattershot approach to the plot leaves too many possibilities unexplored and underdeveloped.