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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old August 10 2010, 06:42 AM   #1
Destructor
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I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

I've been watching the remastered TOS episodes on Blu-ray, catching up with some old favourites and seeing some eps I have somehow missed in the past. This weekend was a treat as I watched 'A Taste of Armageddon', which I remember affecting me very powerfully as a child, and still remained great. Also saw 'Devil in the Dark', which I've seen a few times and it was as good as ever.

However the real surprise was 'This Side of Paradise'. I think I had seen the start of this one but turned it off when everyone started getting all 'loved up', thinking it was just a planet-based reprise of 'The Naked Time'. How wrong I was! Rewatching it this weekend, I really was quite stunned by how much I loved this episode, and how deeply it affected me. I think it might actually be one of my favourite episodes so far. Reasons I loved it:

* The allegory could be read many ways. This is central to good Trek I think. Did the spores represent drug use? Communism? Laziness? Love? Contentment? All of the above. I read this on multiple levels.

* It wasn't judgmental. Although Kirk is eventually proven to be 'right', I thought the episode was extremely even-handed about how it treated the people under the spore's influence. They were happy. The episode never disputed this, or tried to inject some kind of evil influence- they were just happy, content. I think there was even a point where one of the colonists said: "What do you have to offer on the other side?" to Kirk, and he had no answer! Very impressive, very Trekkian. There was a very real dichotomy in action, between happiness/inaction and discontent/action, and it was deeply explored, not just tossed off the cuff. A really intriguing premise that I really loved.

* Kirk's rant at Spock to make him angry. Classic stuff! Not only highly amusing but also somewhat profound, that Kirk has to hurt his best friend to bring him back. And then! When Spock realizes he has to be just as cruel to to Leila, and Kirk offers to do it for him, and he declines, realizing he must do it himself. Wonderful, subtle acting on all parts.

* Kirk's really sad log entry where he describes himself as 'marooned' on his own ship. This really affected me to see Kirk so powerless- it's a rare state of events on Trek.

I think when I was younger I would have hated this episode, but now I see it as Trek doing what it does best- telling powerful stories through analogy. I must admit I wasn't particularly surprised when I read some online views that didn't exactly rate it as a classic, but I actually do think it should be up there with the best of Trek. This was a wonderful discovery to me, I've been watching Trek for 20 years at least, I've seen every TNG, DS9 and VOY at least twice, some episodes many more times than that. To find a new episode that really hit home like that, well, it was, and is, a real joy that I'm actually really excited about- I feel like I have touched a little bit of that fervor that must have driven fans to keep talking about Trek and keeping it alive after it ended in the 60's. With episodes like this, how could they not?
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Old August 10 2010, 06:48 AM   #2
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Further thoughts: Did anyone pick up on the parallels between this episode and:

A. Star Trek Insurrection
B. Star Trek (2009)


The links with Insurrection seem clear- a group of colonists settle on a planet that repairs their bodies, keeps them healthy, and they return to an agrarian lifestyle that has little to no technology. Interesting that in the 60s Kirk thought this was an abomination to be stopped and yet Picard thought it was totes awesome and risked his career to protect that lifestyle. I thought there were more ideas in TSoP's 50 mins than there were in Insurrection's 95, and would have rather seen a feature-length TNG reworking of the concept than what we got. Still and all, do you think Michael Piller may have actually been influenced by his own memories of this episode when writing the Insurrection script?

As for Star Trek, I couldn't help but think of it during the scene where Kirk is trying to make Spock angry. I thought it was for a much better reason in this episode than in the film, but it did strike me as being very similar. As the authors of the new Trek have repeatedly stated that they want 'echoes' from TOS in their own timeline, I wonder if this was intended to be one of those echoes.
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Old August 10 2010, 07:09 AM   #3
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Also: Is this or is this not the best insult ever?

All right, you mutinous, disloyal, computerized, half-breed, we'll see about you deserting my ship! What makes you think you're a man? You're an overgrown jackrabbit, an elf with a hyperactive thyroid!

Of course you don't understand. You don't have the brains to understand. All you have is printed circuits! What can you expect from a simpering, devil-eared freak whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia?

Your father was a computer like his son! An ambassador from a planet of traitors! A Vulcan never lived who had an ounce of integrity. You're a traitor from a race of traitors. Disloyal to the core, rotten like the rest of your subhuman race, and you've got the gall to make love to that girl.

Does she know what she's getting, Spock? A carcass full of memory banks who should be squatting in a mushroom
instead of passing himself off as a man? You belong in a circus, Spock, not a starship... right next to the dog-faced boy!
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Old August 10 2010, 12:21 PM   #4
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Very similar in tone to how NuKirk goaded NuSpock in IX. The difference is that Kirk was attempting to get Spock out from the influence of the spores. In IX he took advanage of the situation in order to take command from him. But I can see how this episode was used as a template.
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Old August 11 2010, 06:49 PM   #5
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Yes this is a very moving episode. It's important that it's Spock, the outsider, who comes under the influence of the spores and finally belongs. I guess it's relatable because we all have felt like outsiders at one time or another.

The "I can LOVE you" scene is quite powerful. A common misconception is that Vulcans have no emotions. In fact, as this scene shows, they often have very deep emotions, but they have learned over the course of centuries to be very effective in suppressing them. We can relate to that,too, cuz we've all had to swallow our feelings from time to time. Vulcans do it ALL the time.

Jill Ireland is great in the final scene with Spock in the transporter room, and Nimoy's performance shows real emotion when he delivers the "You couldn't pronounce it." line. That always slays me.

It's not clear in this episode whether or not Kirk has done the right thing by terminating the relationship between the colonists and the spores. It is left for the viewer to decide, which I appreciate.

There are no simple answers in this story. This episode respects the viewers enough to allow them to make up their own minds, and that is one of the reasons "This Side of Paradise" should be considered among the best of Trek.

Last edited by THX1138; August 11 2010 at 07:56 PM.
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Old August 11 2010, 10:06 PM   #6
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

I've always loved This Side of Paradise. It's not just another 'crew acting strange because of a space disease/whatever of the week' episode, as some people seem to think, it has a lot of depth and many layers. The ending is great because it's ambiguous and helps the episode avoid preachiness. Spock's last line is one of the best and most moving endings to a Trek episode, IMO. This is rare for TOS, which would fall too often into the trap of cliche endings with everyone laughing on the bridge or the trio exchanging quips set to the humorous background music, especially in seasons 2 and 3.

THX1138 wrote: View Post
Yes this is a very moving episode. It's important that it's Spock, the outsider, who comes under the influence of the spores and finally belongs. I guess it's relatable because we all have felt like outsiders at one time or another.

The "I can LOVE you" scene is quite powerful. A common misconception is that Vulcans have no emotions. In fact, as this scene shows, they often have very deep emotions, but they have learned over the course of centuries to be very effective in suppressing them. We can relate to that,too, cuz we've all had to swallow our feelings from time to time. Vulcans do it ALL the time.

Jill Ireland is great in the final scene with Spock in the transporter room, and Nimoy's performance shows real emotion when he delivers the "You couldn't pronounce it." line. That always slays me.

It's not clear in this episode whether or not Kirk has done the right thing by terminating the relationship between the colonists and the spores. It is left for the viewer to decide, which I appreciate.

There are no simple answers in this story. This episode respects the viewers enough to allow them to make up their own minds, and that is one of the reasons "This Side of Paradise" should be considered among the best of Trek.
I was always deeply moved by this episode, and I have to admit I cried my eyes out when I first saw it. Spores did not make Spock "fall in love", as some people seem to think (they did not work that way - they didn't have an amorous effect on anyone else on the planet); what they did was make Spock content and at peace with himself, for the first time in his life. I think he had had feelings for Leila before, but he only was able to get in touch with them and release them when the spores removed his internal conflict. Since he was so emotionally repressed, he didn't think he was able to show any feelings; and when you can't express your feelings in the ways that people around you do (Spock was living surrounded by Humans at the time, and for years after wards), you may end up believing that you really don't have those emotions. (Not to mention that Spock probably wanted to believe that since he was so desperate to be a "real" Vulcan, apparently not quite aware that full Vulcans, in fact, such as his father, had strong emotions as well.)
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Old August 11 2010, 11:28 PM   #7
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

I'm a big fan of this one too, although the plot is ridiculous.
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Old August 12 2010, 10:53 AM   #8
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Dennis wrote: View Post
I'm a big fan of this one too, although the plot is ridiculous.
Well, of course, if you expect Trek to have a shred of scientific believability, the whole thing with the spores makes no sense... same thing goes for The Enemy Within, All Our Yesterdays, and so on... Fortunately, I never expected Trek to have anything to do with real science.
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Old August 12 2010, 12:39 PM   #9
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Forget the science - the story logic and plausibility is pretty bad. It's not the colonists who seem to be too drugged up to notice what's going on in front of them or take assertive action.

Kirk pissing Spock off was so classic, though, that they riffed on it in Abrams's Trek movie - one of my favorite moments of that one, too.
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Old August 12 2010, 01:04 PM   #10
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Way back in our misspent youth, we used to make Mad Libs out of Trek dialog, leaving out certain words to be filled in by the Mad Libbing. The one I remember from this ep is our version of Kirk's rant at Spock:

"You're father was a hamster, and your mother smelled of elderberries!!"

For 30 years now my wife and I chant that at each other when the mood strikes, and we can't watch that epsiode without satying it over the actual dialog.
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Old August 12 2010, 06:10 PM   #11
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

One thing I respected about the episode is, and maybe this is straneg to say, the plants were not treated as evil...they just were what they were. They weren't an alien trying to conquer the galaxy, they were fauna that happened to spray a spore that had a certain effect on the body. I liked that.
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Old August 12 2010, 09:22 PM   #12
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

Nick M wrote: View Post
One thing I respected about the episode is, and maybe this is straneg to say, the plants were not treated as evil...they just were what they were. They weren't an alien trying to conquer the galaxy, they were fauna that happened to spray a spore that had a certain effect on the body. I liked that.
Good point, I never thought of that.

However, I am not a fan of this episode, mainly because of the Spock love story. If you boil down television to its basis form, it is to entertain and I wasn't entertained.
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Old August 12 2010, 09:46 PM   #13
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

The thing that kills me is that this plant is the most amazing medical discovery in human history and not only does no one at any point think that's important, we never hear of it again.

McCoy says, explicitly, that the curative effects of the spores last after the supposed stupor is eliminated. Ending it is simple and straightforward. Anyone who believes that we don't enthusiastically embrace far more toxic and dangerous substances in order to improve and extend our lives now is wholly unaware of what the practice of medicine consists of.
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Old August 12 2010, 09:48 PM   #14
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

THX1138 wrote: View Post
. . . It's not clear in this episode whether or not Kirk has done the right thing by terminating the relationship between the colonists and the spores. It is left for the viewer to decide, which I appreciate.
Kirk had no choice. He had to counteract the influence of the spores because it was the only way to get his crew back. If the colonists had wanted to continue their existence on Omicron Ceti III, protected from deadly radiation but made passive and idle by the spores, all they had to do was take another hit off the spore plants and they'd be just as they were before.

It may have been Kirk's action that forced the colonists to look at themselves and realize they'd accomplished nothing, but ultimately, leaving “paradise” was their own free choice. That's what makes TSOP superior to the many other Trek episodes in which Kirk and Co. find themselves trapped and have to meddle in some planet's society in order to escape -- a story format that became a formula and then a cliché.
Dennis wrote: View Post
The thing that kills me is that this plant is the most amazing medical discovery in human history and not only does no one at any point think that's important, we never hear of it again.
Kind of like kironide, the fantastic substance that gave the Platonians psychokinetic powers. Or the water on Scalos that accelerates people to like 500 times normal speed. Or those love-potion tears of Troyian women . . .

Of course, it's possible that the Federation prohibited the cultivation and use of the Omicron Ceti III spores, in spite of their amazing healing properties, because the risks were thought to outweigh the benefits. It wouldn't be the first time a plant with proven medicinal value has been banned for stupid reasons.

Last edited by scotpens; August 13 2010 at 04:32 AM.
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Old August 13 2010, 12:41 PM   #15
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Re: I *loved* 'This Side of Paradise'

To be sure, it wouldn't be difficult to postulate that the plants only grow their wonder spores when subjected to this exotic sort of deadly radiation. Now, if it can be reproduced by a merely city-sized installation without health risk to anybody but the employees (who can then get spored), fine. If nothing short of a suitably rigged star or a rare spatial anomaly (or a captured and tortured Calamarain) can produce the Berthold rays, then it's a hairier issue...

Memory Alpha rambles about the spore plants being destroyed by Kirk, meaning the well of health would have dried up. Episode dialogue or visuals suggest nothing of the sort, though: all Kirk did was shake the colonists out of their stupor. Yes, he then said they could not stay "because they needed the spores for survival". But the spores would still be there - the colonists wanted to stay without being drugged to unproductive bliss, and this they could not do, as Kirk rightly pointed out.

(Memory Alpha also claims that earlier colonies on Omicron III were wiped out, but that sounds baseless as well. It appears to be based on Sandoval's line: "We were determined not to suffer the fate of expeditions that went before us." But this referred to his distributing of the colonists to three settlements as an anti-pandemic step: he was speaking of the dangers facing agricultural colonies in general, not of the fate of Omicron III expeditions specifically.)

At the end of the episode, Berthold rays still remain a seriously menacing bogeyman. Federation science doesn't know exactly how they work; all that McCoy can ascertain is that Sandoval's colony survived them for three years thanks to the spores, and got a health boost on the side. It wouldn't be impossible or even unlikely that UFP science would soon thereafter find out that Berthold rays were even worse than they thought, that Sandoval would die horribly in a few more years, and that there was no way to utilize the spores without getting a dose of Berthold-induced death on the side.

Now, it's easy to see why kironide or Scalosian water would not become commonplace medicines: their potential for wearing the body down would be obvious, for no evident medical gain. But it's also more or less inevitable that the substances would see military applications; our only excuse for not seeing them in use again might be that our starship crews are the wrong sort of heroes, heroes who don't serve in the Divine Infiltration Division that runs through an enemy installation in a matter of seconds and smites opposition with telekinesis.

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