Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Paradise Syndrome”

“The Paradise Syndrome”
Written by Margaret Armen
Directed by Jud Taylor
Season 3, Episode 3
Production episode 60043-58
Original air date: October 4, 1968
Stardate: 4842.6

Captain’s log. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to a verdant planet that has a lot of the same plant life as Earth, even though the size, shape, and age of the planet makes it very unlikely that it would evolve in any way parallel to Earth.

They encounter an obelisk, one that resists Spock’s tricorder scan, and one at odds with the lack of technological sophistication seen in the natives, who live in rudimentary structures. Looking more closely, Spock sees that they are a mix of Navajo, Mohegan, and Delaware tribes from Earth.

However, they have a job to do. They’re at this planet because an asteroid is on a collision course with the world, and the Enterprise must deflect it before it destroys the world and its population.

Kirk wants to check out the obelisk one last time, and winds up falling through a trapdoor into the inside of it and then get zapped by some kind of beam. When he wakes up, he’s lost his memory—he doesn’t recognize his communicator or phaser, and leaves them behind.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

Spock and McCoy search for as long as they can—Spock’s log also mentions search parties, though we see none of them, as that would require paying for more actors—and then beam back to the Enterprise in order to deflect the asteroid. McCoy doesn’t want to leave, and Spock explains why they have to leave when they do. At no point does anyone mention the possibility of keeping the search parties on the planet to look for Kirk while the Enterprise deflects the asteroid.

Kirk leaves the obelisk just as two women come with offerings for their gods. When Kirk emerges from it, they assume he is their god. One of the women, Miramanee, brings him to the tribal elder, Goro, and the medicine chief, Salish. There is a dark time coming, and prophecy speaks of a god who will come from the sky and save them. Salish is skeptical that Kirk is that god, and asks for proof.

Fate intervenes, then: Miramanee brings a boy who drowned to Salish. The medicine chief can’t save the boy, and Kirk may not remember who he is, but he does remember CPR. He saves the boy. Goro instructs Mirmanee to give Kirk Salish’s funky headband, as he is now the medicine chief. Based on the closeup of Salish’s angry stare right at the camera, he’s a mite peeved at this turn of events. I wonder if that will factor into the plot later…

The Enterprise has gone at full speed to the asteroid (to Scotty’s chagrin), and the ship’s deflectors are used to divert the asteroid—but it’s not enough. So Spock decides to pace the asteroid and use phasers to split the asteroid in twain.

As if Salish wasn’t ticked off enough, Miramanee informs Salish that she can no longer marry him, as the priestess must marry the medicine chief, and Kirk is that now. When Salish asks her point blank if she’d choose him if she actually had a choice in the matter, she doesn’t answer, and it’s unclear if she’s conflicted or trying not to hurt Salish’s feelings.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

The medicine chief is generally informed of the secret of the temple, but Salish’s father never told him before he died—probably because he thought his son was a dick. Miramanee also tells Kirk of the Wise Ones, who sound like the ones who brought the people here from Earth.

Chekov finds the weakest spot on the asteroid, and Sulu fires phasers until the engines burn out. Scotty is pretty much driven to tears at how badly his engines are being tasked. The asteroid is still on course for the planet, so Spock has Chekov set a course back there at maximum impulse. It will take two months to get there without warp drive, and Spock intends to spend those sixty days studying the obelisk.

Miramanee and Kirk set their joining day. However, Salish jumps Kirk, not quite ready to give up Miramanee yet. But Kirk wins the day anyhow, because he’s just that awesome, even though Salish is emboldened by the fact that he is able to cut Kirk and make him bleed.

Spock has been working himself to exhaustion for eight weeks. McCoy diagnoses him with such and orders him to bed, also assuring him that he did the right thing and he shouldn’t let guilt drive him to destroy himself. However, Spock gets up from bed as soon as McCoy leaves and goes back to work.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

Kirk is happier than he’s ever been, though he does occasionally have dreams of sailing through the sky. Miramanee also announces that she bears his child. We also get really cheesy voiceovers of Kirk waxing rhapsodic about how much he loves Miramanee, often accompanied by absurd gestures and doofy facial expressions.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

But Kirk doesn’t just rest on his laurels. He proposes a canal that will result in an increased harvest, and comes up with preservation methods that will allow them to store reserves in case of famine or bad weather.

The weather gets bad, and Miramanee thinks it is the first sign of the dark times, and Kirk must go into the temple and save them all. But he has no idea what he’s supposed to do to rouse the temple spirit.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

Kirk heads to the obelisk, imploring Goro to take care of Miramanee. Salish follows and watches with amusement as Kirk pounds, frustrated, on the obelisk, not knowing what to do. Salish returns to the village and convinces the people that Kirk is a false god. They run to the obelisk and start to stone him.

However, Spock has determined that the symbols on the obelisk are musical notes that form an alphabet. With the help of his Vulcan lyre, he has translated it. The obelisk was placed there by an ancient race known as the Preservers, who took about-to-be-extinct races and seeded them on other worlds.

Spock and McCoy beam down just as Kirk and Miramanee are being stoned. The people run away at the sight of the landing party. McCoy has Chapel beam down with a surgical kit. Spock uses a mind-meld to restore Kirk’s memory. Leaving McCoy and Chapel to care for Miramanee, Kirk and Spock are able to open the obelisk. Spock dopes out the controls, activates the deflector, and the planet is saved.

Unfortunately, McCoy is unable to save Miramanee or her unborn child. Miramanee’s last words are an expression of faith in her god husband, that she knew he would save them. Kirk doesn’t correct her (Spock did all the work, after all).

She dies in his arms.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Spock’s notion of splitting the asteroid in two is a spectacularly stupid one, as the only difference that will make is that two smaller asteroids will hit the planet instead of one big one. The damage would be the same, possibly worse. Having said that, I’m glad that the script at least understands interplanetary distances, that it would take two months for an asteroid to reach the planet after the point of no return for deflection.

Fascinating. Spock manages to decipher the obelisk all by himself, despite also being in charge of the ship. Because this ship with 400+ people on it whose mission statement is to seek out new life and new civilizations apparently doesn’t have a linguist on board.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy gets to do his usual thing of being stupid and irrational in order to let Spock explain things when he acts like a moron at the beginning with regard to the need to deflect the asteroid. But later, his speech to Spock about how he should rest and not feel guilty for making the same command decision that Kirk (or anyone) would have made in the same place is an excellent one, for all the good it does him.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu informs Spock when it’s 65 minutes until the asteroid will strike the planet. Spock doesn’t sound particularly happy about being reminded.

It’s a Russian invention. With Spock in charge of the ship, Chekov gets to play science officer.

Hailing frequencies open. Nichelle Nichols isn’t in this episode, but footage from “And the Children Shall Lead” is used for an Uhura reaction shot when they’re firing on the asteroid.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty pretty much spends the entire episode complaining. I also believe this is the first time he refers to his engines as his “bairns” as he laments their overuse.

Star Trek The Paradise Syndrome

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. While Kirk and Miramanee’s marriage is arranged and traditional, they nonetheless fall head over heels for each other, and also conceive a child.

Channel open. “Miramanee!”

Uttered by Kirk about sixty million times over the course of the episode.

Welcome aboard. Sabrina Scharf does the best she can as Miramanee, as do Richard Hale, Naomi Pollack, Peter Virgo Jr., and Lamont Laird as assorted Natives. Rudy Solari is simply dreadful as Salish. Recurring regulars George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Majel Barrett are all present and accounted for as well.

Trivial matters: The Preservers are first mentioned in this episode, another attempt to explain the proliferation of humanoids in the galaxy like Sargon’s people in “Return to Tomorrow,” as well as TNG‘s “The Chase.” The Preservers come up a lot in the tie-in fiction and games, including both FASA’s and Decipher’s role-playing games and Star Trek Online, as well as the comic book Star Trek Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment by D.C. Fontana, Derek Chester, & Gordon Purcell, the novel Preserver by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella Small World by David Mack.

This is the first of five episodes directed by former Directors Guild president Jud Taylor, which will make him the most prolific director of the season.

The story takes place over two months, making it the episode that has the longest single time span in the original series.

Just as the unsubtly stupid name of Sargon’s planet Arret was never spoken aloud to everyone’s relief in “Return to Tomorrow,” the unsubtly stupid name of this planet, “Amerind” (yes, really) was also never spoken aloud.

Among the many ways they saved money in the third season was to all but abandon location shooting. This is one of only two episodes this year that has any scenes outdoors (the other being a single street scene in “All Our Yesterdays”). The exteriors were filmed in Franklin Canyon Park, a popular location for filming. The lake seen in several shots is the same lake used for the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show.

To boldly go. “Behold, a god who bleeds!” I’d been dreading rewatching this episode for a number of reasons: 1) the Preservers are stupid, 2) the portrayal of Native culture is awful, and 3) it has some of William Shatner’s worst acting, aided and abetted by a doofy-ass voiceover. I didn’t expect the episode to have any surprises, but it had two major ones—a good one and a bad one.

The good one is that the episode totally convinced me that Kirk and Miramanee were in love. William Shatner and Sabrina Scharf have superb chemistry, completely selling me on this romance. And this despite the aforementioned doofy-ass voiceovers…

The bad one is that lost in all the hugger-mugger of racist stereotyping and bad acting (not just Shatner’s doofy-ass voiceovers and screaming “I AM KIROK!!!!” but also the embarrassingly bad performance of Rudy Solari, who keeps looking at indeterminate spots over the shoulder of the person he’s talking to and who is a two-bag actor—he needs the second bag in case he accidentally acts his way out of the first) is the fact that the script is actually dumber than a box of hammers.

For starters, why do Groucho, Chico, and Harpo take the time out to beam down to the planet when there’s only a half hour before the deflection point? What possible purpose does beaming down serve? Wouldn’t it make more sense to deflect the asteroid (for which you have a limited window) and then check out the natives? Also why does Spock waste time with a lengthy explanation of why they have to leave right now instead of, y’know, leaving right now?

When the Enterprise has to break orbit to deflect the asteroid, why do Spock and McCoy and the off-camera search parties have to all beam back? There are 400+ people on the ship, including an entire security detail who probably aren’t needed to deflect the asteroid. Why not leave them behind to find the captain?

Why does Spock have to translate the obelisk all by himself? Why can’t super-fancy 23rd century medical technology save Miramanee from having rocks thrown at her? (Because she has to die while pregnant so that Kirk isn’t seen to be abandoning his wife and child.)

And that’s not even getting into the racist hogwash. Kirk is amnesiac, but he can still perform CPR, come up with a canal network, create lamps out of pottery, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Meanwhile, the locals are so stupid that Miramanee is stumped when confronted with the notion of taking off Kirk’s shirt, and they go from zero to stone-the heretic as soon as a storm hits and Kirk can’t get into the obelisk. The setup of the Preservers saving a race from extinction is one that could shine a light on genocide, but instead we just get the standard white-folks-are-smart-Indians-are-savages horseshit.

 

Warp factor rating: 1

 

Next week:The Enterprise Incident

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library ComiCon in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania this coming Saturday the 21st of May. He’ll be selling and signing his books in the marketplace all day. Come on by!

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