Star Trek: The Paradise Syndrome

Kirk: "It's like discovering Atlantis. Or Shangri-la."

Kirk got more than his fair share of romantic interests during the original run of Trek. "The Paradise Syndrome" isn't my favorite, or even my second favorite, but it's far from the worst. It had a somewhat similar flavor as "The City on the Edge of Forever" (a woman in a place and time completely removed from Kirk's life on the Enterprise) and a beautiful musical score. And I liked that they addressed Kirk's emotional state and stress level because in fact, a man with such exceptionally intense responsibilities might indeed long to get away from it all.

Where this episode falls down a bit is the sixties conviction that a primitive lifestyle was idyllic and trouble-free, conveniently forgetting that it was mostly a struggle for survival against starvation and disease that usually ended in a premature death. (Although famine is briefly mentioned when "Kirok" introduces the concepts of irrigation and preservation.) I've never been crazy about the "white person being worshiped as a god by a not-white primitive culture" plot, either. It was all well-intended, though, and Kirk never treated them in a condescending way, so I'll give them credit for that.

"Paradise Syndrome" is when a person feels dissatisfaction, despite having achieved all of their dreams and goals. Speaking of syndromes, what would have happened if Miramanee hadn't contracted Bonanza Syndrome? (That's where any guest character that gets seriously involved with a permanent character dies at the end of the episode.) I doubt Kirk would have just left her there to have his baby alone, and she would have had serious difficulty adapting to life on the Enterprise. Could have been interesting if it had been explored seriously. I'm betting it would have ended with a divorce and an interplanetary custody battle.


At any rate, the best part of the episode (for me, of course) was Spock's single-minded quest to decipher the symbols on the asteroid deflector, to the point of refusing to eat or sleep... although it's beyond the realm of any possible coincidence that the symbols turned out to be "Kirk to Enterprise." It's compounding improbability that Kirk fell into the asteroid deflector and immediately got hit by a beam that erased his memory. Wouldn't it have been more likely if he'd gotten hit by a beam that taught him how to use the asteroid deflector?

Ben says...

I was prepared to hate this episode on rewatch, but it's really not terrible. The whole thing tracks reasonably well, the scenes on the Enterprise were beautiful counterpoints to the scenes on the planet, and I think the romance between Dances with Wolves and Stands with a Fist, wait... between John Smith and Pocahontas... or was it Jake Sully and Neytiri? Oh well, it was one of those, I am sure. Anyway, the romance was pretty convincing.

The "Dances with Asteroids" episode embodies one of the most persistent fantasies in science fiction and maybe even Western civilization more generally. From Rousseau to Star Trek to Avatar, all in one poorly thought through mix of semi-primitive dialogue (and I am referring to all of these), we get to recapture some piece of ourselves which has been alienated by modern society. It's no mistake that it's a male fantasy. The woman is both "natural" but also reflects all the things we like in a modern woman. Miramanee is a case in point. Sabrina Scharf is another playboy bunny who later played a hottie commune member in Easy Rider, plus she was all dressed up as a native American flower child. She is the cynosure of all the things men of the 1960s thought were sexy, whether they were establishment types or far-out yippies. Far out, man.



Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 4842.6, Spock's log. The unnamed Earth-like planet of Miramanee and her people, whom McCoy said were a mix of Navajo, Mohican and Delaware.

— I really wish language had been addressed, since Kirk had no access to the universal translator. Were these aliens speaking English? Oh, well.

— The Enterprise stayed at impulse power in front of the asteroid for two months because Scott said the warp drive couldn't be repaired without a starbase. I wonder how long it took them to get to a starbase and effect repairs afterward?

— The Vulcan mind meld was referred to as the Vulcan mind fusion, and Kirk nearly turned Spock into Kirok. At least I'm assuming "fusion" and "meld" meant the same thing. If not, what was the difference?

— The "Preservers," whom Miramanee's people called "Wise Ones," rescued primitive cultures and reseeded them on other planets. This sort of thing has been mentioned before to explain the prevalence of humanoids.

Quotes:

Scott: "That Vulcan won't be satisfied 'til these panels are a puddle of lead!"

Scott: "My bairns. My pur bairns."

McCoy: "Well, Spock, you took your calculated risk in your calculated Vulcan way, and you lost! You lost for us, you lost for that planet, and you lost for Jim."

Kirk: "My wife. Is she all right?"
Spock: (looking blank) "Wife?"
Um, the semi-conscious woman lying right in front of you, perhaps?

Two out of four really large asteroids,

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

7 comments:

Jerry Modene said...

I'll have some thoughts about this episode as soon as I can, but I just realized, reading through my old copy of the Nitpicker's Guide, that up next will be "And The Children Shall Lead".

Be afraid. Be very afraid. ;)

Sarah Santitoro in Sunny California said...

This episode angers me. I saw its original script compared to the one they used... Originally, Kirk & Mirimani together decide that it is best for them to part ways. She wants to bring up their child in her world & knows that she cannot go with Kirk because she doesn't belong there. Likewise, Kirk would never be happy in her world, knowing his own identity now.
It was the beautiful, mature ending that America's women & young girls sorely needed. Granted, it had a mostly male audience, but they needed to hear it, too.

Overall, I truly love Star Trek & I greatly benefited from it as a young girl. (It didn't hurt that my dad looked a LOT like James Tiberius Kirk, either. After all, most every little girl dreams of marrying her dad!) I still fantasize about meeting Leonard Nimoy! I was once in the lift with him at the Getty Center, but I didn't want to invade his privacy by alerting everyone there of his presence. {sigh}

Thank you for giving me a space to fuss & whine a bit - this episode really gets to me & I wish more people knew its history.

Anonymous said...

I would have liked for Mirimani to survive..That would have been a much better message indeed. Otherwise this is a very standard story fairly well done. Spock not spotting the wife right in front of him was silly..but perphaps he didn't find it logical enough. Ah, the sixties.
Anna

Anonymous said...

Knowing Kirk wasn't married or engaged, Spock looking "blank" and asking "Wife?" is an eminently logical response - even if there's a whole harem lying there.

tinkapuss said...

I didn't realise how lovely this was! I have only seen it once before I think, but the romance IS convincing and. for once, the woman is 'real' (well, more 'real'than some of the ridiculous 23rd century professional women he hooks up with!)

My heart broke a little bit for Kirk when they kissed so warmly and he announced his happiness; you could feel his joy. You know it's not going to last but the baby makes you wish it would. Oh!!!

Two things I noticed: One was a continuity problem when the storm came up and she was telling him he must go to the temple - one moment Kirk was at least a foot away from her and the next he is holding her in his arms. Two was his sideburns. The oh-so-futuristic pointy sideburns had grown into nice, thick late 60s ones. I thought that was pretty funny.

Baby M said...

The "Dances with Asteroids" episode embodies one of the most persistent fantasies in science fiction and maybe even Western civilization more generally. From Rousseau to Star Trek to Avatar, all in one poorly thought through mix of semi-primitive dialogue (and I am referring to all of these), we get to recapture some piece of ourselves which has been alienated by modern society.

Two reactions:

1. The unstated premise of these sorts of "noble savage teaches lost wisdom to modern man" stories is that "progress" has somehow changed human nature. I would submit that human nature is basically immutable. There have been several attempts to build a society that can eliminate the perceived flaws in human nature and create a "new man." So far, every such attempt--The French Revolution, the U.S.S.R., National Socialism, Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, Cambodia, to name a few--has produced nothing but death and misery.

2. Life in primitive pre-industrial societies was nasty, brutish, and all too often short. The people who romanticize that sort of existence live in nice houses with running water and electricity--they might change their minds if they had to hunt buffalo to have something to eat, build fires to keep from freezing to death in winter, and watch their kids die from diseases because they have no vaccines and no antibiotics.

Outsider65 said...

A pretty episode, and the romance was sold really well. I felt the last scene, with Kirk sadly cradling his dead wife, should have lasted a few seconds longer and he should have been crying. Yes, he is our stoic starship captain, but this is his wife! He spent three months of bliss with this women and even after Spock forced him to be Kirk again (blah, I was really hoping it wouldn't work and they'd have to find another way), she was still one of his first concerns. No mention is made of the baby in those final scenes, did the writers forget, the scanners not detect it, or Kirk just not want to mention it to his crew? His new family dead, his happiness gone. Kirk probably left in worse mental state than when he beamed down. Also, I think this is the first time Spock's done a mind meld/fusion/whatever with him.

It was nice to see Kirk being, well, Not-Kirk, and I was actually sad when he immediately reverted back without seemingly any lasting effects from his experiences over those three months.

Kirk's marriage to the Enterprise really shows through here. He goes from happiest man alive who just wants to save his wife and new people to barking orders to keep his ship safe at the touch of a button (or should I say Vulcan?). He loves his ship, but as long as he's with her he can never settle down.

Spock and McCoy seem to be getting along better so far this season. Spock's also a lot better at being in command here than he was in previous seasons. He's almost Kirk-like here and other characters even comment on it. (Considering he's been with Starfleet for 18 years and the Enterprise for over 10, it's odd it took him this long to get good at it, though.) The crew were obedient even when they had to strand their captain, even when Spock's plans failed and broke their warp engines. There was no posturing in his dialogues with McCoy, he didn't get defensive when McCoy assessed he felt guilty and he actually proved a competent long-term leader. Character growth seems to be holding out so far, I'm crossing my fingers for future episodes.

I also kind of love that part of McCoy's job seems to be coming into whoever's in charge's quarters and yelling at them, no matter who's in charge. Shatner can be so over-the-top and Nimoy is so purposefully subdued, Kelley's rock solid performance brings a balance and adds so much to the show. To me I never see him as an actor, he's always the curmudgeonly but warm-hearted doctor, even in scripts where the other actors are visibly rolling their eyes. He always gives 100%, with conviction, even when this show doesn't deserve it.

R.I.P. warp engines, survived by faithful friend and father Montgomery Scott. You will be missed.