This notion, that aliens could replicate fiction in real life based simply on telepathy, has occurred throughout the Star Trek canon. And, of course, the idea of something that you are thinking about appearing in physical form to mess with you exists throughout all of science fiction, even Ghostbusters. But possibly three classic episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series perfected this notion, at least when it comes to aliens.
In two episodes of the original series, we saw what happens when aliens make important decisions based on human books. In “Shore Leave”, telepathic scanners create bespoke robots that direct the crew’s imaginations, which is why in the opening moments of this episode, Bones sees Alice and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. It’s an iconic moment, but just like “The Elysian Kingdom,” this episode also had one of the crew members, Yeoman Barrows, dressing up as a princess when a fairytale dress suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
The essential difference between “Shore Leave” and “The Elysian Kingdom” is perhaps a tale of two princess dresses. In Wheelbarrows “Shore Leave” choose change out of the Starfleet uniform and put on the princess dress and hat. But, in “The Elysian Kingdom”, La’an simply becomes “Princess Thalia”. The same goes for Uhura’s “Queen Neve” and the rest of the team being possessed by an alien consciousness and then acting as characters, in disguise, from the book that M’Benga reads to Rukiya.
The idea of a spatial consciousness sending out telepathic signals is, of course, nothing new to Star Trek. Hemmer likens this notion to the idea of a “Boltzmann brain,” a philosophical notion of consciousness springing up out of nowhere. But the alien mind that lives in the Jonisian Nebula in “The Elysian Kingdom” is not V’Ger from star trek the movie. And that other difference is what makes this episode so enjoyable overall.
“A Piece of the Action”
in the hilarious COUGH episode “A Piece of the Action”, the aliens living in Sigma Iotia II base their entire culture on the teachings of a specific book; a history book called Chicago mobsters of the 1920s. While the Iotians basically appear human and lack telepathic powers, or the ability to instantly create disguises out of thin air, they are, as Spock puts it, “highly imitative.” The idea that aliens would mimic human book scenes to the point of permanent cosplay is not only hilarious, but also creates a perfect excuse for weird anachronisms.
“A Piece of the Action” shows what star trek can do with hyperbole in an episode like no other. The completism of “The Elysian Kingdom” takes a similar approach. The alien doesn’t just make some decisions based on a book. He does each choice based on this book (with a little help from Rukiya’s imagination).