Star Trek: This Side of Paradise

Spock: "For the first time in my life, I was happy."

At this point in the series, the producers had become aware that Leonard Nimoy had a serious following, much of which was female. So of course, it was time to start writing romantic situations around him. This may have been the best one, even if it did combine elements of "The Naked Time," "Shore Leave" and "What are Little Girls Made Of?"

Spock was so happy, dangling out of trees and snogging his girlfriend. When he succumbed to the spores, he told Leila, "I love you. I can love you," as if a barrier had gone down. His joy was lovely, and way too brief. Why has Spock chosen celibacy? Vulcans certainly do marry; his father even married a human woman. Why can't Spock? I think we can conclude that Spock won't love because he won't allow himself to show emotion. Spock has chosen to be more Vulcan than most Vulcans; it's his way of overcompensating for what he feels he lacks. If he weren't so appealing, maybe it wouldn't seem so bad, but he seems to be rejecting women all over the place.

Much of this episode was a sixties allegory of stoned hippies versus the Establishment, and the Establishment won. It was sort of sad. Okay, in the end, Sandoval was upset about all the time they lost and all he hadn't accomplished, I get that being stoned and living in a commune isn't for everyone. But I just don't buy that humanity isn't meant to be happy, that simplicity and contentment can never be ours. Probably true, but depressing.

I could definitely get behind Kirk's actions saving the colonists and crew from the dangerous plants. But the long stream of insults he threw at Spock to upset him made me uncomfortable. It was a lot nastier than programming himself to call Spock a half-breed. Bad Kirk. No biscuit.

Does this episode work? I'm not sure if it does for everyone, but it always did for me because of Leonard Nimoy's performance. "For the first time in my life, I was happy." Poor baby. You just want to hug him.

Ben says...

This episode reminds me of a joke about smoking marijuana. People say it will rob you of your ambition. This is totally untrue, as long as your ambition is to lie on the couch in your underwear, watch TV, and eat Cheetos. (Don't judge me.)

In that vein let me just say, dude, couldn't you just let Spock be happy? Seriously, Kirk stars in this episode as "The Man" who harshes everyone's buzz. Let's take a step back from the whole protestant ethic of self-denial and ask the question: what's wrong with being happy and relaxed on another planet? The colonists seemed to be doing pretty much what they were supposed to be doing, y'know, farming and... well... colonizing. The point seems to be that they should be unhappy while doing it. The universe is an ugly place and when Kirk goes all Mel Gibson on Spock he seems determined to prove it. Then because they are again unhappy, they invent an annoying ray to get everyone else back into the rat race. Really, an irritation machine because people are enjoying themselves too much (incidentally, little known fact, this is what inspired the whole ringtone industry). All I can say is: Dude!

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3417.3. Omicron Ceti 3. The nearest starbase is 27.

— After Spock was changed by the spores, his clothing magically changed, too. A blatant visual cue that Spock was Different.

— The spore plant on the bridge that got Kirk wasn't there a moment before. It probably crept over to Kirk. Did the spore plants have tiny little legs? Maybe planty pseudopods?

— Again with the ecosystem that had no animals or (I assume) insects. How can you have that?

— Sulu wondered for a moment if the colonists were zombies. That could have been an interesting way to go. Possibly not for a romantic episode, though.

— McCoy's southern accent got really thick. Possibly too thick. It was probably the bourbon.



— Jill Ireland (Leila Kalomi) did a lot of television, as well as several big movies with her husband, action star Charles Bronson. She died too young.

— How did they find out about the berthold rays after the fact, without going back to the planet and discovering the colonists were still alive? And hey, what about working something out with the spores in order to cure the terminally ill? It could work. Vacation on Omicron Ceti 3, and after a week or two, a ship in orbit could beam you up and piss you off. Works for me.

Quotes:

McCoy: "Pure speculation, just an educated guess, I'd say that man is alive."

Kirk: "We're evacuating all colonists to Starbase 27."
Spock: "No, I don't think so."
Kirk: "You don't think so, what?"
Spock: "I don't think so, sir."

Kirk: "I thought you said you might like him if he mellowed a little."
McCoy: "I didn't say that."
Kirk: "You said that."
McCoy: "Not exactly."

Kirk: "Where's McCoy?"
Spock: "He went off to create something called a mint julep. That's a drink, Jim."

Kirk: "All right, you mutinous, disloyal, computerized half-breed, we'll see about you deserting my ship."
Spock: "The term 'half-breed' is somewhat applicable, but 'computerized' is inaccurate. A machine can be computerized, not a man."
Kirk: "What makes you think you're a man? You're an overgrown jack rabbit, an elf with a hyperactive thyroid."
It occurred to me this time that Kirk was calling Spock both an animal and a machine. Isn't that contradictory?

Kirk: "What would you expect from a simpering, devil-eared freak whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia?"
Spock: "My mother was a teacher, my father an ambassador."
Another intriguing tidbit about Spock's parents. Makes you want to meet them, doesn't it?

Spock: "Striking a fellow officer is a court martial offense."
Kirk: "Well, if we're both in the brig, who's going to build the subsonic transmitter?"

Spock: "I am what I am, Leila. If there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them."

Leila: "You never told me if you have another name, Mister Spock."
Spock: "You couldn't pronounce it."

Three out of four mint juleps,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

GreenHornet said...

This is indeed a good one. I do remember, on first viewing, being a bit perturbed at the 'new' Spock; he seemed somehow dangerous and threatening when first encountered by Kirk. Why? Well, because he was so darned, you know... happy. Smiling! I mean, that just couldn't be good. So your trenchant observations about the allegorical nature, larger cultural references here hit home for me and my memory of those times and mores - as sadly reflected in my good little brainwashed soljer-boy mind. Darn those hippies!!

Speaking of which, and re: Ben's comment about mary jane robbing one of ambition... mmmmayhap, as such. But I recall a study back in my Psych Major days that was done more or less with intent to prove that a stoned assembly-line worker was a bad and slack worker (errr... slacker, I guess). I'm thinking Jamaica for location of the study but lordie it's been too many years. I do recall that the workers were provided with ganja-strong stuff and tested both uninfluenced -- normal pre-state -- as well as under the "woah dude, that's like, deep" mode.

Results? Stoned workers worked faster, better, happier. Low or no errors, faster production, much higher (sorry) job satisfaction. See, they could really get into the repetition and tasky nature of the thing, could sit for longer, didn't experience degraded functionality for that kind of work (mebbe not so for pilots and doctors, but, y'know), and LIKED WHAT THEY WERE DOING. ---So, upshot; Kirk made the wrong move and Spock the wrong choice, for real -- even when you don't factor in Jill Ireland (reason enough for THIS little prepubescent lad to stay planted, planetside!).

Other thoughts...

-Man, there's always something especially freaky about smart, attacking vegetation. Triffids, HPL's Colors Out of Space and Jordy Varrill's meteor 'stuff', body-snatchers of any version, dandelions in my yard... (shudder).

-This was probably (?) a purposeful callout to the Mutiny On The Bounty. Wherein I've also tended to side with the sailors who, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to stay on Tahiti with frisky women and tasty breadfuit. Or vice-versa. Come on now men: the British Empire isn't going to conquer itSELF you know!

-Oh, and heartbreakingly lovely last line for Spock and Leila. I think I cried -- darn that space pollen anyway! Star dust really does get in your eyes.

Anonymous said...

"-- McCoy's southern accent got really thick. Possibly too thick."

Speaking as a Southerner, there are certain professions in which it behooves a person to tone down the twang, no matter how ingrained. I imagine that a doctor, especially a military doctor, would be one of those occupations.
My theory is that McCoy was probably toning down the country bumpkin routine for his job, but now that he was all happy and carefree, he didn't feel the need to. Ya'll.

Kathy said...

Just a couple of things--

I always assumed that plant on the Bridge was the one that Kirk tossed away. Do we see where it landed? I always assumed that Kirk threw it far enough away from him so it landed on the other side of the helm console. Am I mistaken?

"McCoy's southern accent got really thick. Possibly too thick."

That's interesting and I agree. The first time I watched this episode, I wrote in a review of my own that McCoy really turned into the Southern Gen'man (no wonder he needed a mint julep.)

I like it. It's charming.

But I also find it very interesting that, if you watch DeForest Kelley's first movie "Fear in the Night," he doesn't have much of an accent. As a studio contract player, he almost completely eliminated his Southern drawl, only to find in his later career of westerns and in Star Trek, his natural accent came in mighty handy.

I just find it interesting that an actor who obviously worked hard to eliminate a Southern accent later is given the opportunity to go so Southern that them Yankees won't understand a word he's sayin'!

Kat

tinkapuss said...

It seemed obvious to me as a child and teenage girl that the change of clothing for Spock was less of a symbolic cue and more of a literal one that suggested he had just had sex. That's what I still think now.

tinkapuss said...

One question that never made sense to me: with all the crew on the planet, how did Kirk get back aboard the ship on his own? Also, I agree with the alluded to Establishment in this episode; happiness is not it's cracked up to be and is very probably not humanity's sole purpose (assuming we have one at all). Love the image of Kirk alone on his bridge; the last person left on that huge ship, with no McCoy, Scotty, or Spock there to help him. That lonely, abandoned figure symbolises all that Kirk is and all he really has to show for his ambition. It's tragically beautiful; he is the ultimate tragic hero.