Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, December 8, 2014

Season 3, Episode 58 "The Paradise Syndrome"

"The Paradise Syndrome"
Production Order: 58
Air Order: 58
Stardate:  4842.6
Original Air Date: October 4, 1968

Roomie's brother, Captain Tightpants, is Captain of his school's wrestling team, and I was dragged along to a match. I have determined two things about this experience:
1) No one on the wrestling team has ever skipped leg day. EVER.
2) Wrestling matches are infinitely better when listening to the Pon Farr music emitting from         Roomie's cell phone.



*******

We start out well this week. Our first shot is of some misty pine trees, and the camera pulls back to reveal a beautiful rolling lake, then pans across to the bank the camera man is standing on, and off to the side so that our trio can beam down into the landscape. This is great. I love it when they opt to film outside rather than trying to create some alien landscape on a sound stage. Southern California, where the studios were located, has many varied landscapes, and quite a few of them are really lovely. I'm also willing to bet that it didn't cost much at all to film in these locations. (Don't quote me on that, though. I'm not a location scout and have no idea how much it costs to film outside versus how much it costs to build everything from scratch. I'm only guessing here.)


Kirk and Bones walk around exclaiming about how idyllic everything is while Spock typically scans stuff. Kirk asks Spock what the odds are of finding a planet that's just like Earth. Gee Kirk, I'm pretty sure you happen upon one every three weeks or so. Spock gives the correct answer of the odds being astronomically against finding a planet with the exact same set-up, effectively admitting that quite a few of these episodes employ crappy science.
Our intrepid trio comes through some trees to find a giant concrete dais with a metal obelisk on top. It's actually pretty cool, sort of a patina green with some yellow spray-painted on it, and some mysterious raised markings on a band around the bottom. Take a good, long look at this structure and enjoy it, because I'm pretty sure that most of the budget for this episode was spent on this thing. The left-over money was spent on seed beads.

Bonus tidbit: this thing was built on the same spot of the same lake
 where Ron Howard tossed a rock into the water as Opie on the
Andy Griffith show.

Spock scans the obelisk and declares that any race that built this structure is either equal to their own or smarter than they are. There's a brief discussion about an asteroid, and we learn that our boys have come down to check out the life-forms here, and that they are going to attempt to keep an asteroid from hitting the planet and wiping out everything on the surface. Spock says they have to get out of there in 30 minutes or less so that they have enough time to break down the asteroid. Kirk wants to get a gander at the locals, but they have to be careful about the Prime Directive.
Mindful of the PD, the trio then stands across the lake from a village of the locals, right in plain sight of them. Good job, you guys.
Bones marvels at how the locals are just like "American Indians", and Spock states that they appear to be a mixture of Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware Indians, all "peaceful tribes." Ummm.... the Navajo were warrior tribes, and the Mohicans are fictional. Try again, Vulcan.
The boys determine that these people could not have built the obelisk because they're too simple. They reach this conclusion by giving a two-minute glance in the direction of the village, from across a small body of water. Apparently, living simply means that you are not smart enough to build anything complicated. Bones suggests that maybe they should warn the inhabitants of the impending asteroid collision, but he is shot down, because it would "only confuse and frighten them."
There are times when I want to line these guys up like The Three Stooges and administer one long slap to them.


Kirk muses on how the setting is lovely, and how these people probably don't have any kinds of problems or pressures (um, asteroid and impending doom?), and Bones laughingly tells him that he has what was known in the twentieth century as "Tahiti Syndrome," which is what a person with a lot of responsibilities sometimes gets when they encounter a simpler way of life. For those of you following along at home, there's no such fucking thing. I double-checked, because at first I thought it might be referring to the painter Gauguin, who walked away from his family in France and settled himself in Tahiti to paint, infantilize the culture, take a new teen bride every few years when the previous one hit 20 or so and became "too old", and introduced syphilis to the island. If that's what Bones is referring to, I totally believe that Kirk has that.
Kirk says he wants one last look at the obelisk before they leave, and he hops up on the dais by himself. Then without really doing anything, he flips open his comm and says "Kirk to Enterprise." He is answered by Scotty, who says "Yes, sir", then a trap door on the dais opens, and Kirk falls down inside the base. Hauling himself up on some blinking equipment, he presses some buttons by accident and is shot with some kind of lightning bolt. He passes out on the equipment.


Captain's Log 4842.6, as given by Spock: "Kirk is missing. We looked for him, but we can't find him, so we have to leave. This shit always happens. You can't take that guy anywhere."
Bones is all enraged that Spock wants to leave to take care of the asteroid, and then come back later to look for Kirk. The good doctor argues that Kirk may be hurt or dying, and leaving would only ensure that things get worse for Kirk. This kind of makes sense. Spock argues that if they take care of the asteroid, then it won't hit the planet, killing everything on it, and they can look for Kirk without the threat of the giant space rock hanging over their heads. This makes sense also. Bones points out that the asteroid isn't due to hit the planet for another two months, and Spock argues that every moment they waste not wasting the asteroid, the worse the angle becomes between the rock and the planet, and the harder it will be to destroy. He illustrates his point using rocks he found on the ground, and says that in the time they have been arguing, the asteroid has moved from "here to here," and he moves his rock way too much for the illustration to be correct. God, just fucking leave already. It isn't anybody's fault but Kirk's that he wandered off and got lost again. Not only does he keep insisting that he go on all of the away missions, he keeps getting himself kidnapped. Bones and Spock should put one of those toddler leashes on him. Only this is Star Trek, so it should have tractor beam capabilities as well.


Bones and Spock finally leave. Kirk wakes up in the underground chamber, and stumbles around. A voice-over from his head lets us know that he can't remember who he is, and while his phaser and comm look familiar, he doesn't know why. (Quick aside here - you beamed down to a Prime Directive planet to get a look at the locals, but have no intention of interacting with them. Why the hell did you bring a weapon?) He manages to climb out of the chamber, and emerges in front of the obelisk, running into two girls who are wearing stereotypical Native American Halloween costumes.


No, just kidding. This is them:


Just like every depiction of Thanksgiving ever. Lots of fawn-colored animal skin, fringes, and beadwork. The girls drop to their knees when they see Kirk in front of the obelisk, and the girl with the loose hair gets up on the dais with him and says that they are his people and they've been waiting for him. They seem in awe of him. The music played in the background is a flute and some drums and rattles. This is one of the most stereotypically awful things I have ever seen. If somebody uses the phrase "heap big", I'm going to punch someone.

Captain's Log 4843.6, still Spock: "We spent a couple of extra minutes looking for that fool Kirk, so now we have to bust ass to get to the best point to break up the asteroid. Scotty is being super-bitchy to me because we're doing warp nine and his precious engines are being pushed to their limits, but if he wants somebody to complain to, he can call Kirk."

In the village, Kirk is meeting with some tribal elders. They tell him that the loose-haired girl, the priestess Miramanee, says he "appeared" to her and her friend at the "temple," and that his coming was foretold. It seems that these people have experienced some stuff that was prophesied, like a darkening of the sky at times, and that bad shit is going to happen. They think he's a god. He says that he did come from the temple, but he also remembers coming from the sky.


Miramanee comes in with someone else and a wet, unconscious boy. She said the kid was fishing or something and fell in the lake. He was dragged out, but isn't breathing. Salish, the guy with the medallion headband, checks the kid out. He says the kid is dead. Kirk performs some bad-form CPR on the kid, who then wakes up. Miramanee takes the medicine badge off of Salish and puts it on Kirk while the tribal elder guy says that only a god can breathe life into a person. Kirk can't remember how he knows CPR. Salish, who already doubts that Kirk is a god, is now pissed because Kirk has his shiny badge.



The Enterprise has reached the asteroid and begins firing on it. There's some filler where Scotty bitches to Spock about power levels. Actually, it's a lot of filler. Basically, they fire on the asteroid, and it doesn't do anything and we waste five minutes or so because this crappy B-plot doesn't have enough content to fill the spaces between the horribly racist A-plot scenes. Lacking the energy and resources to blast the thing out of the sky, Spock decides to park the E in front of the asteroid and hang out there until they do have the power to get rid of it. 
"What if we don't destroy it in time to save Jim?" asks Bones.
"We have to take that risk," says Spock.
Okay, wait. You had to push the engines at warp nine to reach the damn thing. Clearly, this asteroid is way the fuck out there. How long is it going to take to build up power to break up the thing? You told Bones back on the planet that the asteroid would not hit for another two months. Which is it? Is the thing way the hell out in space, or is it bearing down on the planet? Bad science, Star Trek. No biscuit.


Salish catches Miramanee coming up from the lake with stuff for Kirk. He asks her why she's not getting things ready for their up-coming wedding, and she says that she's friendzoned him, and that he needs to pick another girl to get with. Apparently, it's tradition that the priestess marries the medicine chief, but Salish is no longer the medicine chief. It's Kirk now, so she'll marry him instead. Salish asks, "If you had the choice, would you pick me?"
She gives him a pitying look and walks away.


Miramanee takes food to Kirk, who is hollowing out a gourd. He asks about The Wise Ones, and she says that the Wise Ones brought them there from far away and they taught a medicine chief how to use the obelisk when the sky darkens. Salish's father was supposed to teach Salish, but he died before the information was passed on. Miramanee thinks Kirk should take a bath, and keeps trying to figure out how to get his shirt off. Two more girls come in with food and the old tribal chief.
"Hey, hi. So, the people want to know what your name is," he says.
"Um, sounds like Kir...?" says Kirk.
"Oh, Kirok," says the chief.
"I don't remember who I am, but this is the first time I've been happy," says Kirk.
"Okaaaay," says the chief, leaving.


We get a quick scene on the E, where Chekov has calculated the weakest spot on the asteroid, and they try breaking it up again. Scotty is annoyed. Nothing happens, and the engines spark.

Kirk is now wearing the fawn-colored fringe Halloween costume, and he looks like the whitest guy ever. Miramanee says that she is ready to get married, and says she wants to do it tomorrow. He agrees. They make out.


Nothing says "Native American" like lime green, purple,
and orange abstract geometric patterns mixed with fringe.


Back the E, Spock is sitting in his quarters staring at a picture of the obelisk while Scotty complains over the comm system how horrible it is being the chief engineer on the Enterprise. He says that it's gonna take way longer to fix the ship's blown engines because they're sitting out in the middle of nowhere and can't impulse it back to a starbase for repairs.
"Suck it up," replies Spock.
Bones starts yelling at him about how his risk didn't pay off. Spock comms over to Chekov and tells him to head back to the planet on impulse power. It'll take 59.3 days to get there, and the asteroid will be four hours behind them the whole way. So I guess we're back to thinking that the asteroid is two months out.


Kirk is getting ready for his wedding. He is the whitest fucking guy ever, on this planet or any other.


He runs into Salish on his way through the woods to meet Miramanee. Salish is pretty pissed that Kirk stole his woman, but what's new? They fight, and Salish slashes Kirk's palm with a knife. Kirk reveals the red paint on his palm. Salish rejoices, because why would a god bleed? Anyway, they wrestle some and Kirk wins, Because Kirk Wins.


Kirk gets married. There are rattles and a cloak with feathers. Someone shakes a dreamcatcher like a tambourine, because it's more fun to guess what sacred objects are for rather than actually asking about them. The whole scene takes five seconds or so.

We jump back to the E, and 58 have days have passed. Spock has been trying to decipher the markings on the obelisk the whole time. Bones is annoyed with him because he's stressed out over effing up the E, and not being able to figure out the obelisk. The doctor wants him to get rest. Spock goes in to lie down on the bed, but only stays there long enough for Bones to leave, then he gets up and goes back to the obelisk footage.


We then get an extended scene of shirtless Kirk and Miramanee running through the forest laughing while soft music plays. He catches her, they make out, and he says that if it weren't for the dreams, he would be perfectly happy.
"I thought you no longer had the dreams about the strange lodge that moves through the sky," she says.
*sigh* Really, Star Trek? "The strange lodge that moves through the sky"?
"I don't deserve this happiness," he says, but I'm too distracted by the bug crawling all over The Shat's forehead to pay much attention to his Hamletting.
"I have a gift for you," smiles Miramanee. Ugh, I bet she's pregnant.
She goes to some bushes by the lake and brings back a papoose. Yep. Kirk has knocked up another. At least we can be assured that at some time over the last two months, he has probably bought her dinner. His voice-overs about how happy he is are annoying as hell. We get it. This place is great. Your wife is awesome. You're over the fucking moon about everything. But there's only 15 more minutes left of this episode, so if this isn't a two-parter, we only have that much time in which to get rid of the wife and the kid, cuz you're sure as hell not bringing them along when you leave.


Next, Kirk is showing Miramanee his plans to build a canal from the lake to the lodge. Okay, scroll up to that screen shot of the village. See how the lodge and all of those tipis are right on the banks of the lake? Yeah. Pay more attention, Star Trek. 
Miramanee thinks Kirk is some brilliant engineer because of this canal thing, and because he turned a gourd into a lamp, which "turns the night into day."
The wind kicks up suddenly, and Miramanee tells Kirk that it is time to go to the temple so that he can work his mojo and make the blue flame come out and save them all. She says the others will be at the temple waiting for him to fix this.
"I don't know how to fix it," he admits.
"WTF? You're a god," she says.
The old man and Salish burst in and tell him to go to the temple.
"We should go to the caves," he suggests, "to wait out the storm there."
"WTF?" they demand. "Get your ass to the temple!"
Kirk asks Salish to watch Miramanee while he's gone, and Salish looks at her like he'd like to watch her... strip down.


Kirk goes to the obelisk and pounds on the metal, trying to figure out how to get in. He screams ineffectively into the wind that he is Kirok, and he has come, but of course nothing happens. Salish, in the bushes, enjoys a bit of schadenfreude.

Upstairs, Bones enters Spock's quarters to find the Vulcan hanging out with his lyre. Apparently, the markings on the obelisk are musical notes, and the whole thing was left there by a "super-race" known as The Preservers, who would swoop through the galaxy, saving primitive races from extinction, and put them on planets where they could thrive. Then they would leave these deflector dishes like the obelisk, and give a few bits of instruction on how to use them when they sky turned dark or whatever. Now the obelisk is not working, and we know from Kirk's earlier adventure inside the thing that he must have fucked up all the shit.


Downstairs, the natives run up to the obelisk and begin stoning Kirk. Seriously, this is where the phrase, "Well, that escalated quickly" came from. He's been there five seconds. Miramanee runs up and tries to protect him, but she's immediately down for the count. Everyone is yelling about how he's a false god. Spock and Bones beam down and come running around the back of the obelisk, and the natives run for their lives from two strangers. These people do nothing but react. "Stone him! You're a false god! Oh, no! People we don't know! Run away!"


Spock and Bones go to Kirk and Miramanee, and Bones comms for Christine to beam down and help them. Miramanee tells Spock that they were being stoned because Kirk wouldn't go into the temple to fix everything. Spock performs a mind-meld to give Kirk his memory back, and Kirk tells him that the temple is filled with scientific equipment. Sulu comms in to say that they have 65 minutes left.
Spock tells Kirk that the symbols on the obelisk are musical notes, and that he must have gotten in by saying or playing the correct notes in the right order. 
Kirk opens Spock's comm and says, "Kirk to Enterprise."
Scotty responds, "Aye, Captain," and the trapdoor slides open.
Yeah, it just happens to be the way he says "Kirk to Enterprise." Calculate the odds on that for me, Spock.
Kirk and Spock go downstairs and Spock presses the right button. A blue beam shoots from the top of the obelisk and drives the asteroid away.


Kirk rushes back to his love hut, where Miramanee is laid out while Bones scans her. He pulls Kirk aside and says that she has bad internal injuries and won't live much longer. Of course she won't. How is Kirk supposed to slut it up around the galaxy with a wife and baby? This is how you get rid of them: "bad internal injuries."
Miramanee tells Kirk that they will live long happy lives and she will have a bunch of boys for him, and that she loves him. They kiss. She says that each kiss is like the first, and then she dies. Much like with Elaan last week, my reaction to Kirk being parted from Miramanee is "meh." They tried harder this week to make me believe it than they did last week, but I still never reached that point where I got upset that she died. 
I've been trying to figure out why Edith Keeler's death at the end of season one hit me so hard, and why Miramanee's has had no effect. I have a theory: firstly, that Edith Keeler was her own woman is important. She had plans and a life before she met Kirk, and that didn't stop after she started seeing him. She was smart and well-rounded as a character, and Kirk seemed surprised that he liked her. He didn't assume that she would fall for his bullshit Quagmire moves, and she didn't fall for them, anyway. Miramanee's relationship with Kirk seemed cliche from the start. She had plans before him, yes, but that changed when she met him. She married him instead of Salish. She changed her whole life to revolve around him. We don't know who Miramanee was prior to meeting Kirk, so we don't know how much of her remained after meeting him.
It also doesn't help that they ran out of time and began running the credits over the end of the scene where Kirk is mourning the death of his wife.




This blog entry was hard to write, mostly because this episode was so terrible. It's not terrible in a "ooh-boy-lots-to-make-fun-of" way, but in that sad "I'm so disappointed in you" way that you dread getting from your mother when you've fucked things up in the worst way possible. It's that disappointment that makes you feel shittier than anything. 
And maybe I feel this way because things in my little corner of the galaxy have not been fun of late, and I've been mainlining Next Gen as a source of comfort, which throws into high relief the differences between TOS and its descendants. I feel like Next Gen is the sort of show that Gene Rod would have made if CBS had given him a budget that would purchase more than a postage stamp. I know that's not completely the case, as TOS kind of represents the cocky young kid that everyone is at 20, and Next Gen is the older, wiser 35-year-old, and one must exist before the other can. But the stories on Next Gen tend to be better thought-out. The characters are more developed and feel less like cardboard cut-outs. It's tough to go from what I consider to be a better-made sci-fi show back to its predecessor, and not even get one of the good episodes of TOS as consolation. 
It seems to me that the really good episodes of TOS make the bad ones look that much worse. (In the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", Fry describes TOS as "79 episodes, about 30 good ones," which is fairly accurate.) Thus my "I'm so disappointed in you" Mom Face after my first viewing of this episode. It's not a lack of budget for fancy sets or cool special effects, because frankly, Star Trek has produced some great stuff despite that lousy budget. It's knowing that they've done some great stuff, but that they also made this. It's the disappointment of wasted potential, that this episode could have been good, but wasn't. The story was awful. The costumes were cliche. I moved between the emotions of bored and appalled equally. 
By the late sixties, the idea of the Native American had moved from the "cowboys and indians" image of the fifties to one of a more mysterious, romanticized spiritual nature, though they seem to have dropped all of the different tribes into one blender and hit puree, pouring out one cliched kind of native that doesn't work anywhere and is just a mish-mash of half-truths. I suppose that's par for the course, though: Hollywood has done such a lousy job of portraying First Nations people that it's hard to think of any project that doesn't get it at least a little wrong. Actually, you want to watch something that accurately depicts native life? Watch "Smoke Signals," which is an entirely Native American production. It's equal parts hilarious and poignant. Avoid Star Trek's interpretation like the plague. I never did figure out if these were supposed to be Native American transplanted from Earth, or just an alien race that closely resembled them, but it doesn't matter, because either way it felt half-assed and insulting.
 If CBS had been handed this episode instead of "The Cage", Star Trek would never have been green-lighted in the first place. Does that mean that every episode of this show must be Cage-caliber? Of course not. But at least aspire to be that good, and you'll come closer to hitting the mark more often.
*sigh*
I'm so disappointed in you, Star Trek.






Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 1
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 0
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths thus far: 45

Just Kirk's wife this time.

*******

I had hot chocolate this week instead of tea, mostly because I wanted a drink that I could legitimately put marshmallows in, but it turns out that the cupboard was bare. *sad trombone* We had a few packets of Trader Joe's hot cocoa, which turned out to be pretty good. I made it with milk because we had some, and because why would you bother to make it with water when you have milk (or milk equivalent if you're not down with lactose)? My only issue with hot chocolate mix is that it never seems to mix all the way, and you get tiny clumps of powder that don't break up. Also, that layer of chocolate at the bottom of the cup when you're done. I suppose that I could sift the powder prior to mixing, but who the hell does that? It's 2014, dammit. My powdered drink should mix properly with a spoon. Oh, well. It's a minor issue, so who cares?

Sadly, it does not appear that you can order stuff from TJ's online.




She who controls the heated fleece blanket controls the universe.



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