Star Trek: The Original Series (1968) – The Empath and Elaan of Troyius

Captain’s log: stardate 5121.5

The Empath is an interesting episode, written by Joyce Muskat and with an original airdate of 6 December, 1968, this one uses a bit of minimalist set design to give it an almost surreal feel.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) find themselves trapped in an alien laboratory. They are not, however, the only subjects being experimented on, even tortured. They meet an empath, a mute woman that McCoy names Gem (Kathryn Hays). Gem is able to take their pain away from them, but it costs her dearly.

When their captors, the Vians, tell Kirk he must make a choice of one of them to die, McCoy volunteers, injecting both of his friends to knock them out. It is only then that they discover the real reason for the experiments, torture and captivity, well, after McCoy is brutally tortured. That is an image I’ve always remembered.

Much like a lot of the third season episodes, apparently, I don’t know this one as well as others, and I’ve only seen it a few times. That certainly makes it fresher for me that some of the ones I know and love, so it’s fun to view the episode with almost new eyes, as I remember the bare bones of it, but only that.

The trio are tricked, betrayed, tortured, as the Vians attempt to understand the things that make us human, and drive us, or at least that is what they claim as they put our heroes through the wringer.

And each and every time, Gem works to heal them at great personal cost.

Kirk and Spock put their brains to figure out what is really going on, while McCoy is on the verge of death.

I remember even as a child that despite the fact that McCoy was dying, he was a main character in the show, so he would be fine by the end of the episode, it just bothered me to see him in the condition the Vians put him in.

But, it’s all to test Gem, and the idea of self-sacrifice.

The ideas at work in the episode and the reveal of the Vians’ actual plan are actually pretty cool, I like them, and once it’s revealed, then we know how the rest of the story must play out.

As the episode comes to a close Gem proves herself, as do our trio, and then the Vians make a final decision as the landing party is returned to the Enterprise.

This ends up being a bit of a quiet, thoughtful episode.


Captain’s log: stardate 4372.5

Elaan of Troyius was written by John Meredyth Lucas and had it’s first airing on 20 December, 1968.

The Enterprise is on a courier mission, transporting a demanding warrior princess, Elaan (France Nuyen) to the Troyians, for a political marriage that will bring an end to the interplanetary war that is destroying both worlds.

For some reason, it falls to Kirk to teach her polite behaviour and manners, all of which will serve her in her new role, but he falls victim to her tears, which are a biochemical love potion, making her almost impossible to resist.

Adding to the problems are the fact that the Enterprise may be shadowed by another ship (look out for Klingons!), intent on stopping the peace process as well as sabotage aboard the Federation flagship, someone within Elaan’s own party who is working with the Klingons.

Kirk seems to take all of Elaan’s behaviour in bemused stride, until he’s affected by her tears.

And I was the same way watching this episode. Rather bemused. There’s a layer of 60s sexism smothered on this episode, Elaan is a spoiled brat, and yet her entire race is supposed to be composed of warriors. There could have been a happier balance in the creation of her character, a strong female leader with an arrogant streak instead of this whiny creation. She doesn’t come across as a a strong leader.

Also the discussion of a woman belonging to a man, is rather sexist and out of date as well, especially with when the events of the series are supposed to take place. It’s unfortunate that despite some promising ideas, this one, for me seems one of the most dated of the series.

Happily, a way to cure Kirk is found, they are able to outwit the Klingons allowing for a mostly happy ending for all parties involved. Mostly.

Next week, the Human Adventure continues…



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