Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Dale Sams, Jan 2, 2013.
True. i've found that even in the worst of episodes there's a several scenes in it that I enjoy.
Doubt it, the episode had a bad rep in the 70s. I've always thought that the people who hate it the most are the people who have an accurate recollection of hippies.
I personally think that the wincing discomfort we feel at the space hippies, works in the episode because the senior officers feel it too! It may not have been intended as such, but it works as a storytelling device. Also, theoretically they're a couple hundred years removed: they could be expected to fail at getting the details exactly right, if they are imitating 1960s hippies. And if they're not, then there's even less grounds for complaint about them.
Nope, I'm 44 - TOS was my first Trek. As others have stated, there's certainly some merit to be gleaned from the episode - but I was "down" on it from the off.
Agreed. In fact, one of the most forward-thinking lines ever written for Star Trek comes from Spock in this episode--and is often swept aside in blanket criticism of the episode:
Decades before the corporate/cultural shifts which made the modern day "Green Movement" a political mallot/entertainment business' "safe" cause (and not the fringe idea of the 60s), the bolded dialogue accurately predicted the rejection of the kind of Stepford-like artifical, politically "middle road" neighborhoods built around new corporate developments (for employee families which popped up like weeds on steroids over the past 20 years).
Such corporate communites all have the right amount of "culture" to make the inhabitants feel relevant and individualistic, yet communites of this kind appear to be clone factories--painted with the right "psychologically comforting" colors, lighting and all of the right, over-processed structure to keep all in a sort of air-conditioned, Apple/Starbucks/Virgin/multiplex-driven dreamland.
It is this very kind of community the Spock dialogue predicts, which--in my opinion--lifts "The Way to Eden" out of the "bad" catagory, only because that line was one of TOS' most potent, accurate predictions.
Prophecies are flexible in their interpretation, that much is true - but "planned communities" and "artful balancing" are green things, while a lifestyle of free personal expression is the opposite of green. As far as Spock's analysis goes, these people seem to be revolting against a measurably ecologically sound lifestyle in favor of carefree spending and ravaging of the nature, i.e. ripping fruit from the trees.
Planning as in corporate communities have little concern for the green-centric, free lifestyle, and emphasize materialism of thought and lifestyle.
Those professing a green lifestyle reject the pre-fab, materialism/clone mentality seen in such communities, which favor the fed message--the opposite of those expressing a free lifestlye, where SUVs, sports cars, plastic, obsession with gadgets (iPhones, etc.) are the opposite of the natural lifestyle.
Sevrin's group were green--rejecting the artificial (ex. today's corporate communities) the manufactured "perfection" of societies which ended up creating deadly disease--something else predicted in the episode. As McCoy put it:
Think about it: present day overuse (or abuse) of anti-bacterial chemicals (domoestinc and industrial) hasin part--led to the creation of so-called "superbugs" resistant to the lab-created remedies for said "bugs"--some life threatening. Those of the green lifestlyle wholly reject this sterile, plastic, out-of-the-box control of life for obvious reasons--a philosophy shared by Sevrin:
When I saw it as a kid, I couldn't stand it. I remember eagerly checking out the next re-run of Star Trek and being really dejected seeing "The Way To Eden" come on.
I couldn't stand the clothing styles of the 60's and 70's. "Right on, man", "Far out", "That's so now"... all of those sayings--just couldn't stand it. The goofy plastic drivel songs that were written and orchestrated. Those big fat ugly American cars made me cringe anytime I had to ride in one. I was a 90's kid born a couple of decades too soon. 1990 couldn't come fast enough.
But TWTE has great nostalgic appeal to me now. Yeah, it's not my favorite episode, but there are plenty of qualities about the show that are entertaining. TOS is becoming a museum piece. The very fact that it laid down the foundation for the most successful science fiction franchise to date gives it added appeal. There was a time in the void between TOS and TNG that I'd started to lose appreciation for TOS. It was "the same old thing"... but not anymore. Still, there remains a handful of TOS episodes I hate to watch. If I could scratch off "And The Children Shall Lead" and "Wolf In the Fold" from my DVD collection without damaging everything else, I'd probably do it.
Why is it Scotty can't fall for a woman without turning into big stupid doofus and that "Gamesters of Triskelion end music" playing? Kirk even makes a log entry about it. How embarassing.
Edit: I suppose I should explain the non-sequitor...I was sitting here thinking "Hey..'Wolf in the Fold' kind of does suck doesn't it?" Then one thing led to another.
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.
Good list, Atoz.
Other events of '69 used to make judgements about the negative effects of the counterculture:
July 2, 1969: Brian Jones, The Rolling Stones' founding member drowns in hs own swimming pool under still-debated circumstances and conflicting testimony. At the time, Jones was seen as the poster child of not only the decadence of and ultimate "self-destruction" of 60s rock musicians, but the entire youth/drug culture (ironic, in that he was getting off of hard drugs in the months before).
December, 1969: The Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont, California was "policed" by the criminal Hells' Angels gang. Before the muddy nightmare was over, many audiences were beaten, and one of the Angels stabbed a black man to death (caught on film in the documentary Gimmie Shelter). The victim was alleged to have rushed the stage with a gun by some, while others claim he was attacked for being with a white woman (the Angels were largely a racist gang, and even assualted Jefferson Airplane's lead singer Marty Balin).
In the aftermath of the Tate/LaBianca murders, many cited Altamont (the complete opposite of the vibes felt at Woodstock) as the oft-described "death of the sixties." Simple assessment to be sure, but much of your list, and the events I posted did not do a thing to shine a positive light on youth culture as the world moved toward the 1970s.
On that note, "The Way to Eden" walks a fine line of both condemning the extremes of the counterculture, while supporting Sevrin's desires for a technology/materialism-free society, as noted in the Spock dialogue. With Spock's understanding, audiences would at least need to wait a moment to consider the goals before damning Sevrin's group.
To follow up on the above comments as well as on my earlier one: The slapdash nature of the episode is the main reason for dilution of the impact of any meaningful speeches that the script had to offer. By the time "The Way to Eden" was produced, the end of production was coming up fast - this is, what, no more than four episodes earlier than "Turnabout Intruder"? - and no one cared about the story-editing, scene-to-scene continuity, etc., by then. (Or the people who did care had already left: The Gerrold 1973 book says explicitly that D.C. Fontana "quit when it [her episode "Joanna"] became 'The Way to Eden.' ")
The music, on the other hand, was very much non-slapdash and required some careful preparation by its very nature. Likewise the musical instrument design, the egg logo on the costumes, etc.
Oh, and another not-so-bad thing that happened in autumn 1969: the Vietnam Moratorium protests began.
Xlnt commentary, Trek God.
It would have been interesting if they'd cast somebody who comes across not so evil and "delinquent" as Skip Homeier. (much earlier in Homeier's career he played delinquent youths with regularity) They could have had Sevrin be more positive at first, then have his character change as the episode progressed, much like Roger Korby or Dr. Tristan Adams. The episode would be much better IMHO if Sevrin used Aux Control to release Anesthesia gas (as in Space Seed), then they can make their escape to the planet and eat their poisoned fruit. Just a thought.
Korby was a remarkable character, as he remains somewhat sympathetic and even defensible even up to his demise. He never came across as wholly evil.
~ Mr Atoz
Good list, Atoz.
Other events of '69 used to make judgements about the negative effects of the counterculture:
On that note, "The Way to Eden" walks a fine line of both condemning the extremes of the counterculture, while supporting Sevrin's desires for a technology/materialism-free society, as noted in the Spock dialogue. With Spock's understanding, audiences would at least need to wait a moment to consider the goals before damning Sevrin's group.[/QUOTE]
Seeing "corporate" planning in Spock's tirade is but one way to interpret it. But planning is key to being green, and it is impossible to be green without planning at a communal level. Free lifestyle can never be ecological.
This is a more current "surprising accuracy" about the tired old dialogue than its "prophetical" 1960s-70s interpretation.
Sure. But planned communities (not "such", but of other sort, which Spock may equally well be interpreted as having referred to) are the only way to a green lifestyle. Rejecting the artificial and the manufactured categorically, without thought, only leads to excesses and unsustainable exploitation of resources. So perhaps we should hear in Spock's words a deep damnation of Sevrin's ideals, equally abhorrent to our fellow Vulcan as the idea of the little caveman still living inside all of us.
In the very next phrase, Spock does deny he feels any sympathy towards the group... And has difficulty understanding their way of thinking, perhaps because it makes so little sense, to him and to the 21st century audience.
IMHO, everyone's overthinking. It was a bad episode then (yes, I'm that old) and it's a bad episode now. I sincerely think it's wonderful that some above have researched the year it was broadcast, but it would be more useful to look at how other TV shows at the time treated the youth movement/hippies/counter culture, etc. I recommend viewing the era's various Dragnet treatments.
I LOVE Dragnet '67. That 'blue boy episode'. Heh.
Citing what was going on around the time that "The Way To Eden" was written and produced is very relevant... and that's something you have to appreciate about ALL of TOS when looking at it. Sadly, as far as I can see from comments made on TBBS over the years, most people who trash TOS simply can't relate or appreciate those times... and thus they're locked into being blind about it, never to turn around and see TOS as something truly worthwhile.
For me, it's something of the opposite: in terms of 1960s TV entertainment, TOS has very little to offer to me, but in terms of an exotic alien environment with absurd customs and mores, it's a scifi experience nonpareil. And that's before you add the space monsters and rayguns!
Social commentary on issues that do not pertain to my own existence is pretty enjoyable to watch wholly out of context: in terms of tackling the problems of 1960s life, TOS is an embarrassingly feeble effort, but if I treat it as a dramatic effort to first create these odd problems and only then have our heroes address them, it becomes much more impressive. TOS didn't invent the hippie movement, but what if it had done that very thing, for purely dramatic purposes?
I'm a sucker for "Vic's" in DS9, too...
Rewatching the episode I found it (positively) amazing how open-minded Spock is towards Sevrin and his followers but then again, Spock was the prominent "alien" / outsider of the series, totally entitled (and expected) to cast a different opinion or point-of-view on certain issues than his fellow shipmates which also ensured this character's outstanding popularity.
Occasionally a victim of prejudice himself (McCoy in "The Ultimate Computer": "Finally the right computer came along" ), Spock was always good to battle ignorance: "Computers make excellent servants, but I have no desire to serve under them!"
Come to think of the worst episode I'll always find myself ending up with the first one aired, "The Man Trap". The series premise was to seek out new life, not to destroy it. Fortunately, the producers seem to have later realized what a terrible episode the first one aired had been and redeemed themselves with episodes like "The Devil in the Dark" (a paradigm shift) and Spock's ongoing concern for the destruction of sentient life forms.
Needless to say, that one of the most idotic decisions of CBS, IMHO, is the TOS(-R) presentation on Blu-ray disc in the airdate order (at least, presenting the episodes in the stardate order could have qualified as "imaginative").
We'd get a somewhat sexist opening episode in the stardate case, but on the other hand, TOS would go out with a real bang!
Speaking of stardates, "Girls" and "Dagger" form one of the few cases of potential overlap. "Miri" in between extends over the starting date of "Dagger", and seems to start only one stardate after "Girls". It's sort of fitting that the first two episodes both take place out in the sticks, but would an important penal colony also be in those distant reaches where Miri's anomalous planet has been hiding from human discovery until Kirk's visit?
It's an unfortunate case of non-serendipity, as all the other episodes actually work really well in stardate order, often much better than in airdate or even production order...
No. The Alternative Factor is really that bad.
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