Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, January 13, 2014

Season 1, Episode 25 "This Side of Paradise"

"This Side of Paradise"
Production Number: 25
Air Order: 24
Stardate: 3417.3
Original Air Date: March 2, 1967

Our little Spock passed away this week. He was the underdog, the kitten with the worst eye deformities, and the one that gained the least amount of weight over the months. He was a fighter though, coming through his eye surgery like a champ, overcoming litter box aversion, and making friends with the resident house cat at the home where he and Kirk had been adopted. The thing is, sometimes when a whole slew of vets look at a kitten, none of them notices that he has a weakened heart that won't carry him through his first year. Sometimes you tell yourself that weak hearts happen, and that you helped three kittens, and that two have survived, and that he lived a good eight months after being abandoned in a field. And sometimes you sit in the corner and cry because your Rockety died, and that's really unfair. Do Auntie Archon a favor, friends: when you take your furry friends to the vet, ask them to listen to that friend's heart for a full minute rather than just 5 or 6 beats. Heart problems cannot always be detected in 5 or 6 beats, and I don't want more friends going down because of it.



*******



We open this week on the bridge, all dramatic music as the Enterprise approaches a green planet. They're looking for a colony of people who settled there three years earlier, but these people settled under the threat of berthold rays, a form of radiation known to break down living tissue within weeks. Kirk puts a landing party together and they beam down to the surface. The settlement they end up in features fences and barns.


Kirk remarks that it's sad that the colonists traveled a year from Earth and set this up, only to die.
"Naw, we're good," says a voice, and the away team turns in surprise as three guys welcome them to the colony. Dramatic music!

Kirk's Log 3417.3: "Those guys that were supposed to be dead are not dead... I hope phasers work on zombies..."
The head colonist Elias Sandoval offers them a tour, and when he walks away, the team speculates on the colony's Schrodinger-like existence. They decide that the colonists are alive, and Spock tells the away team that they're okay wandering around in the berthold rays for about a week before they'll all get sick and die. Remember that, kids. It's probably this week's Disable the Ship.


Sandoval takes them to his house. All of these sets look like they were re-purposed from Anne of Green Gables, and I again find myself wondering how heavily the stories for this show are affected by what pre-built sets were cheapest to rent. Sandoval tells the away team that their group of 150 people split into three colonies so that if one group got sick, the other two colonies would still be fine. Okay, props to them for being smart.
Sandoval is interrupted by a blonde girl who is introduced as Leila Kalomi, a botanist. Leila gets some Girl-O-Vision, but instead of the Pretty Girl stripper music, she gets some gentle flute-based music that indicates that she's a love interest instead. She admits that she and Spock have met before, 6 years earlier on Earth, but he clams up.


Sulu and a Blue Shirt go looking for things that don't fit - anything that might tell them how the colonists survived for three years when they shouldn't have survived for three weeks. They notice that the colony has no animals, even though the manifest says that they brought some.


Sandoval asks Leila about her fling with Spock . She says that she was in love with him years ago, but that she never knew how he felt. Then they discuss how Spock will now be living with them. Only, you know, they don't bother to tell him. I feel like Surprise Co-Habitation goes over just as well as Surprise Wedding, or Surprise Enema. People need notice, you know.
Bones is doing medical exams on the colonists, every one of which is in perfect health. He decides to look at the medical records of the colonists before they arrived on the planet. Spock calls to say that his tricorder is picking up only people and planets, no animals.



Sandoval takes Kirk out to the fields to show him their small farming plots, and tells him that the soil grows anything that they plant in it. Another Gold Shirt confirms it and says that the colony only grows enough to sustain itself.
Bones calls Kirk back to the house to tell him that Sandoval's medical records pre-colony registered some scar tissue and an appendectomy. But when he scanned Sandoval an hour ago, the scar tissue was gone, and the colonist had grown a new appendix.
Outside, Spock scans the crops. He tells Leila that it's weird that they have no insects or animals, but the plants grow. When he asks how the colonists have survived, she counters with questions about his feelings.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kirk tells Sandoval that the Enterprise has been ordered to evacuate the planet.
"We're good," says Sandoval.
"Um, those rays are going to kill you," points out Bones.
"Also, you have no animals," says Kirk.
"Meh," says Sandoval. "We don't want to leave."

Leila is leading Spock somewhere, saying that she will explain everything. She says not to worry, that this thing brings life, peace and love.
Now taking bets! Cult? Computer that runs the planet? Chip implantation? Mass hypnotism?
Spock guesses Xanax. He steps too close to a tall flower, and it sprays him with confetti. Happy Birthday!


Spock drops to his knees in pain, and when Leila goes to him, she tells him that she loves him. They kiss. It's weird.
Kirk's Log, supplemental: "We're supposed to evacuate. They don't wanna."
Sandoval and Kirk argue, and Sulu shows up with the other Blue. Kirk tells them to round up the colonists, and they notice that Spock and Gold Shirt DeSalle are missing.
Kirk pages Spock, who is lying on the grass with his head in Leila's lap. They're cloud-watching, and somehow, Spock has changed his clothes. He's now wearing a colony jumpsuit. He waxes rhapsodic about clouds and - I shit you not - rainbows, while Kirk tells him that they're going to evacuate.
"Nah, I don't wanna do that," says Spock, and he drops the comm in the grass so he and Leila can make out some more.


I'm imagining a writers' meeting, you guys.
Writer 1: I think we should do a Spock-centric episode. We've only done one so far, and I think there are some cool things in the Vulcan mindset and lifestyle that we could explore.
Writer 2: Ugh, boring. I say we make him do something completely out of character, like bang a girl.
Writer 3: Or get him high as a kite?
W2: Yeah, I like both of those. Let's do both.
W1: No, I really don't think those are good ideas. We set up Spock in a really specific way, so that he could vocalize the logical side of Kirk. Is this story going to be about Kirk no longer having Spock to rely on for logic?
W3: No, that's boring, too. We'll have Kirk work out shit on his own, but the juicy bits of the story are Spock banging a blonde and taking drugs. The rest is background noise.


Bones is concerned about Spock, who doesn't sound like himself. Kirk assigns Bones to the evac, and sets off to find Spock with Sulu and the Blue Shirt in tow. They use his comm as a homing device, and find him hanging from a tree, laughing.
"You didn't come when I called," says Kirk.
"I didn't feel like it," says Spock, who is smiling too much.
Kirk tells Sulu to arrest Spock, but instead, Spock and Leila lead the others to a patch of plants, which shoot confetti on Kirk, Sulu, and the Blue Shirt.


Kirk is unchanged, but Sulu and the Blue Shirt are instantly high.Why is Sulu so susceptible to this shit? First it was the illness that makes you act drunk. Then it was Landru. Now it's the Confetti Plant. Dude cannot catch a break.
Sadly, DeSalle brought Confetti Flowers to the evac site. Now everyone but Kirk is high. When Kirk approaches Bones, Bones has slipped into a Southern accent. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be funny, or character development. He's stated all along that he's a simple country doctor, so it kind of makes sense... I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt here.
More bad news, friends. Bones and DeSalle have been beaming the plants up, and the spores have been spreading through the ship via the ventilation system. Uhura Disabled the Ship by short-circuiting Communications. And Kirk beams up to find that the crew is lining up outside the transporter room so they can beam down and join the colony. Kirk is the only sober dude standing at the corner of Haight-Ashbury.


Kirk's Log 3417.5: "Everyone is high but me, and the crew has deserted the ship."
Kirk attempts to call Bones, to get him to analyze the effects that the plant has on the body, but the good doctor just chuckles and drawls that his tonsils have grown back. Then he talks about mint juleps.
Kirk bursts in on Spock and Sandoval having a tea party. McCoy has wandered off to make a mint julep. Spock has enough sense about him to tell Kirk that the plants drifted through space until they landed on Omicron Ceti III. They thrive on berthold rays, and then the confetti spores look for a human host. In return the spores provide the host with perfect health and peace.
Kirk gets angry and points out that the colony is stagnant, that without ambition man has no reason to better himself. I feel like this is really important, like it's the whole point of a Just Say No episode, but instead it's kind of two throw-away sentences before Kirk storms out to go back to the ship... while Spock talks about how wonderful it is to live in love on the planet.

Kirk's Log 3417.7: Kirk is trapped on the ship. He can't pilot it by himself, and he has no way to radio for help. He can only stay in orbit for a few months, and then I assume he'll fall into the atmosphere and hit the ground in a fireball.

He's sitting introspectively at the helm when a plant pops up and sprays confetti in his face. Now Kirk is high, too. He calls Spock.
"Yay!" says Spock. "Beam down!"
"Okay!" says Kirk, who runs off to pack his stuff.
While he's packing, Spock and Leila are probably making plans to open a business. Leila will make Confetti Plant edibles, and Spock will tend to their crop. ("This strain is called The Jolly Vulcan.") Then they'll sit around all day and watch the clouds and talk about how someday they'll hop a space cruiser and go to Amsterdam, even though they'll never go to Amsterdam because they spent all of their money on plant food.

Meanwhile, Kirk is annoyed that he has to leave his lady behind. It makes him feel angry enough to destroy his high, and he determines that the spores are ineffective against strong emotions.


It's always violence, Kirk. Can you please tell me why anger is always the answer with you?
He makes a supplemental log entry about how Spock's physical strength could kill him, but he has a plan and will have to risk it. He calls Spock and says he needs help moving some equipment, and Spock beams aboard, where he is met with insults about his heritage, questions about his loyalty, and accusations about being a living computer. Spock finally snaps, and there's a fight scene which includes obvious stunt doubles.


Spock's head clears, and Kirk explains why he started the fight. Then he says that he needs Spock's help to build a subsonic transmitter to save the crew, which creates my favorite line of this episode:
Spock: Striking a fellow officer is a court-martial offense.
Kirk: Well, if we're both in the brig, who's going to build the subsonic transmitter?

Leila uses Bones' comm to call Spock while he works on the transmitter. She's missed him in the thirty minutes he's been gone, and she wants to beam up, because she's never seen a starship before. Apparently, Leila apparated to Omicron Ceti III. Even being an emotion-eschewing Vulcan, Spock knows that it's not right to comm-message break-up, so he beams her aboard.
She's aware right away that he is his old self again, and she cries and says that she still loves him. Honestly, I don't ship this. I buy her emotions, but this possible previous relationship seems forced. Anyway, Leila's strong emotions break the spores' hold on her.


They turn on the transmitter, which broadcasts impulses over the comms. There's this brief, awesome fight between DeSalle and Sulu, and then our extra Blue and Gold Shirts get into it as well.


Bones is chewing a blade of grass and drinking his homemade julep. Sandoval approaches him about assigning him a new job, as they are all in perfect health, and do not require the services of a doctor. Bones gets pissed off and hits Sandoval, snapping them both out of it.
Sandoval looks around. "Fuck. We've been high for three years. We haven't done jack. Um, can we relocate, seeing as how we can't survive without the spores?"
The rest of the crew checks in, and they evacuate the colony. Back on the bridge, Kirk, Bones and Spock have a philosophical discussion about how humans have a hard time accepting "paradise", that they always lose interest in the concept eventually, and end up craving the struggle. Spock admits that for the first time in his life, he had been happy.
I'm shaking my head, Star Trek. Instead of celebrating the things that make Spock Spock, you tried to force him into a human mold... again. Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.


Plot holes and loose ends:
A lack of animals is mentioned like 5 times, but none of the colonists talks about it, except when Sandoval says that they're all vegetarians. Is it important that there are no animals, or not? If they died from berthold rays in the first few weeks because the spores can't use them as hosts, then say so.
What happened to the two other groups? Did the E take those people away as well? Did they die because they didn't live near plants? Did they decide to stay?
Why does Starfleet keep sending the Enterprise to check on dead people? This is at least the second episode where they are sent to investigate a missing group of people long after it's suspected that those people are dead.
Lastly, Kirk asks at the beginning of the episode why people would try to colonize a planet that was known to be exposed to bethold rays, making the life expectancy of the colonists three weeks. Seriously, why would you waste resources on this expedition, knowing that it meant your time there would only be three weeks?

*******

I forgot to buy new tea this week, so I fished through the cupboard until I located something that I hadn't had before, and uncovered a box of Bigelow English Teatime. This tea annoyed me before I brewed a cup.
Me: "This doesn't say what kind of tea it is. It just says "English". No mention of flavor palette or leaf-base at all."
Roomie: "It's English flavor."
Me: "That's not a flavor. That's geography."
At best, if you were going to assign countries a flavor based on what they made best, the US would probably be cheeseburger... and England would be fish and chips. Nobody makes fish and chips like England. I mean, they can't, because that's really the only food that England does right. Fish and chips, and tea. Only not this tea. Which is American, anyway.
I flipped over the box, looking for a description that didn't begin and end with "English". Not only did it not exist, but there was a typo on the back of all of the bag wrappers. So far, they had no flavor description, and a lazy copy-editor.
I brewed a cup. Clearly, the leaf-base was black. That's about all I can say for flavor. It's a black tea, and it's not Earl Grey. Also, it does not taste like fish and chips. The end.
If you're looking for a basic black tea that doesn't taste like fish and chips, here is the link:

http://www.bigelowtea.com/Catalog/Product/36/1/21/English+Teatime.aspx

It's not terrible. In fact, I'll probably drink it again. And they were kind enough to make a decaf version as well. But seriously, Bigelow. Descriptions, okay? Thanks.








5 comments:

  1. So THIS is the episode Fry was referring to in that Futurama episode where he was referring to all the Star Trek episodes.

    Now that I type that I realize it's meaningless. I don't care. I AM EXCITED ANYWAY

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    Replies
    1. I'll go ahead and give you one of Fry's "WHOO-HOO!"s

      Delete
  2. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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  3. I was sure you were wrong about Sandoval's people knowing about Berthold Rays.

    But this is the dialog:

    KIRK: Mister Spock, there were one hundred and fifty men, women, and children in that colony. What are the chances of survivors?
    SPOCK: Absolutely none, Captain. Berthold rays are such a recent discovery. We do not yet have full knowledge of their nature. It is known, however, that living animal tissue disintegrates under exposure. Sandoval's group could not have survived after three years.
    KIRK: Are you saying that those people built a future in a place knowing they might not survive?
    SPOCK: I am saying they knew there was a risk.
    KIRK: And what about us? Can we afford to send people to the planet's surface?
    SPOCK: The breakdown of tissue does not develop immediately. We can risk a limited exposure.

    from Star Trek Transcripts. http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/25.htm

    You were right. The colonists did know there was some danger, just not how bad it would be. And the adults brought along some children to share the risk.

    That really make sthe families on the Enterprise-D seem reasonable.

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  4. How did Kirk get back to the ship when there was nobody left to operate the transporter?

    ReplyDelete