To boldly go where no man has gone before…
“Elaan of Troyus” and “The Paradise Syndrome,” the two episodes on this volume of Star Trek‘s original series, were produced in the period between the final episode of the show’s second season and the one that aired as the premiere of the third season. “Elaan” evokes a certain oft-imitated Shakespeare play, while “The Paradise Syndrome” is yet another “Earth culture transplanted to space” episode.
“Elaan of Troyus” find the Enterprise on a diplomatic mission to ferry the daughter of the ruling family of one planet to another, so she may wed their leader and bring peace to the two warring families. Elaan, the spoiled debutante, is accustomed to everyone bending to her every whim, and refuses to budge when an ambassador tries to train her in the ways of her new home. When she has the ambassador killed, Kirk must step in to help train the beautiful woman (like he really minded).
In “The Paradise Syndrome,” the Enterprise is sent to a planet to try to stop a giant asteroid from colliding with the planet. Why they didn’t send a team of rogue oil drillers is beyond me. On the planet, a massive earthquake separates Kirk from the rest of the away team. He has amnesia, but remembers enough about basic CPR to wow the Native American-like natives into thinking he is a god. Back on the Enterprise, Spock must try to deflect the asteroid while searching the planet for the captain.
In case you didn’t catch the similarities, “Elaan of Troyus” bears a passing resemblance to Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” or to its popular musical adaptation, “My Fair Lady.” Kirk isn’t quite Professor Henry Higgins, but his natural suave way with the ladies wins over the petulant princess. Further complicating the yarn are the Klingons, who have some sort of interest in seeing the two planets remain at war. The episode is strictly middle of the road Trek. It’s the filler episode on this disc, entertaining but forgettable.
Throughout the volumes that comprised the second season, I’ve complained about the alternate Earth episodes. Frankly, I think they were a cheat, a way of saving money on props and costuming while luring viewers in with milieus familiar from other TV shows. “The Paradise Syndrome” may be the episode that proves me wrong. It borrows from Native American culture, but only enough to build a society and it never draws attention to the similarities. In fact, it may be one of the most sensitive portrayals of Native Americans in mainstream entertainment until perhaps Dances With Wolves. Kirk’s amnesia gives the writers a chance to expand his character in ways that his personality or situation would not normally allow. It perhaps could have been the inspiration for similar moves in later series, like Capt. Picard’s transformation into Locutus on The Next Generation or Capt. Janeway’s alternate life in the “Workforce” two-parter on Voyager. It is interesting to see Kirk as a devoted, loving husband, and that he still cared for the woman once his memory was regained. It’s almost unfortunate that the writers hit the “reset button” by killing off his wife. It’s also interesting to note that this is one of the few episodes that spans an extended period, covering at least several months in the single hour.
You know the drill by now…standard disc specs paragraph to follow.
Each of the Star Trek episodes have been digitally remastered, and they look as good as a television show from the 1960s can hope to look. The image is sharp and detailed with excellent color fidelity and no bleeding. The only problems with the image are inherent to the source material. The picture overall is a little grainy, particularly noticeable in special effect model shots, and can have a few blips caused by dust on the negative. The audio has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Keeping with its mono roots, sound is mostly restricted to the center channel. Directional effects are used for starship fly-bys during the opening credits, and infrequently throughout the episodes. The purist in me would rather have seen the mono tracks cleaned up and utilized, rather than an unnecessary remix. The only extra is the “preview trailer” for each episode.