Sunday, September 11, 2016

Star Trek: The Paradise Syndrome

Star Trek turned 50 years old just a few days ago, so (only a few days late) here's another look at an episode from the original series.
The Paradise Syndrome is a pretty decent episode, especially for season 3.

It begins with Kirk, Spock and McCoy on a very Earth-like planet. Kirk is surprised at the plant life, saying "It's unbelievable. Growth exactly like that of Earth on a planet half a galaxy away." He asks Spock about the odds of this and Spock replies that they are "Astronomical." Was that a pun? Probably not.  Spock continues, "The relative size, age and composition of this planet makes it highly improbable that it would evolve similarly to Earth in any way."
Okay, that is surprising, but even more surprising is that the planet is populated by Native Americans (though they called them American Indians, as it was the 60s you know). Spock impressively can even tell that they are a mix of the Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware Tribes. Strangely, the landing party seems to have been more surprised by the Earth-like plants than seeing the Native Americans.

There's also a curious obelisk that doesn't fit with the native's level of technology, but they'll have to check it out later as the Enterprise needs to go and stop an asteroid from crashing into this planet and causing an extinction-level event. It's a big one too--almost as large as Earth's moon.
Just before they beam up, Kirk falls into the obelisk and gets zapped into unconsciousness. Spock and McCoy didn't see what happened to him. McCoy wants to stay behind to hunt for Kirk, but Spock reminds them that they need to get moving if they are going to stop that asteroid.
Spock uses rocks to explain to McCoy how asteroids move in space. McCoy looks confused.

For some reason no one suggests leaving a landing party behind to hunt for Kirk while the rest take care of business. Instead, they beam up and head off to divert the big rock that is headed this way.
Spock really pushes the Enterprise to the limit, but the deflector beam doesn't move the asteroid enough. The result is that they limp ahead of the asteroid until they can muster another attempt with their phasers.
Meanwhile, Kirk awakens and emerges from the obelisk. He's lost all his memories but, because he was seen coming from the obelisk, is assumed to be a god. Kirk's godhood seems legit when successfully brings back a boy to life with something like CPR. They make him medicine man and, by tribal tradition, he gets to marry Miramanee, the hottie who first found him. This sits well with everyone, except Salish, who is the now former tribal medicine man.
The Enterprise fires phasers as the asteroid, as Spock wants to split it in half. Would that really help? Probably not. I'm guessing there's a big convex lens somewhere between the starship and the rock. Otherwise, how can those converging beams come together? Anyway, it doesn't work and the Enterprise ends up in even worse shape. As Scotty says, "That Vulcan won't be satisfied till these panels are a puddle of lead!"

Soon Salish's stunt double (left) challenges Kirk's stunt double (who looks nothing like Kirk) in a knife fight. The best line here comes from Salish: "Behold a god who bleeds."

In spite of this, Kirk, or should I say Kirok as he was known, is happy. He and Miramanee marry and she becomes pregnant. Yet everyone expects him to fulfill his destiny of saving them all. As the tribal elder asks, "Wise Ones who planted us here will send a god to save us, one who can rouse the temple spirit and make the sky grow quiet. Can you do this?" Um. Kirok really has no idea about this at all. At least we know now why there are Native Americans on this planet. The Wise Ones apparently lifted them from Earth some time ago.

When push comes to shove and it is clear that now is the time for action, Kirk can't do anything more than run to the temple/obelisk and shout "I am Kirok!" The people are unimpressed and immediately begin throwing rocks at him. Miramanee rushes to him and is pelted as well.

Thankfully, the Enterprise arrives just in time and Spock has figured out what the writing on the obelisk means.
Kirk gets his memories back, thanks to a timely mind meld. They rigger the asteroid deflection mechanism in the temple, but they are too late to save Miramanee and her unborn child.

All-in-all it is a fine episode. In spite of it being a Kirk-centered episode, there's good tension between Spock & McCoy and Scotty gets to rant from the engine room. Its all good.

It was an early episode in season 3, so it got its own musical score by Gerald Fried, which is very nice.

By the way, The Paradise Syndrome has a very good followup by Star Trek Continues. Their episode The White Iris is a very moving story that is worthy of your time.

Next up for me is an episode that many consider to be one of the finest in season three--The Enterprise Incident.

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