Eden was a slap in the face to counterculture, consciousness, and even environmental movements. Raw, polarizing, embarrassing -- an attack of sorts on "hippie-guru leaders".
The airdate was Feb 21, 1969. Less than one month later, Charles Manson had his first encounter with Sharon Tate. They could have named the episode "Mirror, Mirror".
A brief timeline of 1969 ~
Jan 30 1969: The Beatles' last live performance.
Feb 5: due to massive student protests, Gov Reagan declares a state of "extreme emergency" on UC Campuses and sends in the national guard
Feb 11: Montreal: 200 students smash computers with axes & set computer center on fire during sit-in
Feb 21: airdate Way to Eden
Mar 2: Jim Morrison arrested
March: Chicago eight indicted
June: Brown University: two-thirds of graduating class turn their backs on Henry Kissinger's address
August 9: Sharon Tate and LaBiancas found murdered (by the Manson "family")
Aug 17 1969: Woodstock Festival
Oh, and also, the first men landed on the moon July 20, 1969.
So as you've stated, Way To Eden was trying to work out or at least acknowledge a huge schism in American culture at that time. The synthococcusnovae is the fascinating premise at the core of the episode. Sevrin: "Only the primitives can cleanse me. Only their way of living is right." I love it when the word "cleanse" is used in the context of a utopian vision. ~ Such as "The memory of the body will be cleansed."
But the musical numbers were so blunderous, and the costumes and dialogue so heavy-handed, that it definitely was detrimental to the episode's message, which by the way was -- "Don't drop out. Join the Navy or Air Force instead."
When the episode first aired, I was 12 yrs old.