Monday, November 26, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 24 (This Side of Paradise)

Most of us have dreamed of having no responsibilities.  What if life were one long weekend?  There was no need to clock in or report to anyone.  Even the hardest of workers must have thought it would be nice to have all reward and no work.  Such is the life on Omicron Ceti III.  A group of colonists was sent there with supplies, but weren’t heard from again.  It was later discovered that there was a deadly form of radiation on the planet, meaning that there’s no expectation that they’re still there.

When the Enterprise beams down, it’s soon discovered that the colonists are all alive, but that they’re happy and in perfect health.     The leader of the colony even seems to have grown a new appendix.   What’s stranger is that there’s no sign of their livestock.  The people are in good health, but they have no cattle.

It soon becomes apparent what’s happening.  A flower there produces spores which infect the host body.  The host becomes perfectly happy and content.  The body is also repaired to perfect health and protected from the deadly radiation.  A few members of the landing party are infected.  Then, almost the entire ship becomes infected.  Kirk is left alone on the bridge of an otherwise-empty ship.  He eventually discovers a cure and is able to reverse the effects in Spock.  Together, they reverse the effects in everyone on the planet.

It makes sense.  A stagnant society, like the one that Omicron Ceti III would have had, is exactly the kind that Kirk and crew have fought against in the past.  I have to wonder what would have become of that society had Kirk not snapped out of it at the last second.  Would the children have to be inoculated by the plants?  Would the people even have had children?  Raising one is no easy task.

I also wonder if the plants were ever studied.  Sure, taking the spores as is isn’t great.  However, the ship has found an effective panacea.  I would think someone at Starfleet Medical would be interested in that.  You also have a possible cure for mental issues.  It might be effective against depression or those with homicidal tendencies.  (To be fair, I don’t think it was stated that the plants weren’t studied.)

My one concern with the plot was that it seemed unnecessary to send an entire ship to the colony.  It was known beforehand that there was lethal radiation.  It was assumed that the colonists were dead.  There was no mystery as to what happened.  I’m not sure what warranted sending Starfleet’s flagship.

It also seems a little odd that the entire crew was susceptible.  The crew is majority human, but there are more than 400 people onboard.  I’d imagine that there were at least a few nonhuman crewmembers.  Their physiology should have presented a problem.  The fact that none of the livestock survived would speak to this.  (Speaking of 400 people, there was also no mention of building houses for anyone.  Was everyone going to share one room?)

It’s still a decent episode.  Many of the episodes from The Original Series had similar issues.  However, they seemed to be more about getting a message across rather than worrying about details.  Again, it was never explicitly stated that houses weren’t going to be built or that there wasn’t already enough room.

I have always wondered why paradise was so bad.  In the right context, Omicron Ceti III would have been great.  The planet would have made for the perfect retirement community.  As I said, it could have been great for medical treatments.  It seems a shame to just abandon the planet altogether.

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