Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Paradise"

***

Air date: 2/14/1994
Teleplay by Jeff King and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Story by Jim Trombetta and James Crocker
Directed by Corey Allen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When Sisko and O'Brien beam down to a planet, they find a human colony that has been stranded 10 years with no means of escape. The colonists have been forced to abandon all forms of technology, none of which work due to bizarre interference in the atmosphere. In what turns out to be more than a coincidence, the colony leader, Alixus (Gail Strickland), is a naturalist extremist who has always resented the effects technology has had on mankind ("We have become fat and lazy," she notes tellingly). She considers her technology-free community a shining achievement—never mind that many of her followers have died as a result of living in such an extreme environment without modern medicine or supplies.

"Paradise's" intent seems to be allegory—making a statement about cult leadership and how strong opinions and followings can oppose the general consensus. But the social commentary is heavy-handed and only marginally effective; some of Alixus' long-winded speeches—particularly the one at the finale—ring false because they feel completely scripted. And considering how unlikable Alixus ultimately comes off, it's hard to see her as much more than a villain, albeit with a sincere motive.

Still, on that level, "Paradise" works quite well. Alixus and Sisko almost instantly fall into conflict. She's set on absorbing Sisko and O'Brien into her community, adamant on quickly and completely forcing them into her way of life. Her methodology of torture in the face of any threat to the community's well-being—the simple and appropriate "hot box"—prove she will do anything for her ideals. Like it or not, Alixus is a villain, although a three dimensional one surrounded by some intelligent issues. Sisko's adamant opposition and strength in the face of such a situation is commendable, and both Brooks and Meaney deliver solid performances. I have some problems with the colonists' over-simplified reactions to finding out Alixus planned both their marooning and the deletion of technology, but the grey-area polemics make the Sisko/Alixus hero/villain conflict that much more interesting.

Previous episode: Whispers
Next episode: Shadowplay

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31 comments on this review

Alvin - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 10:24pm (USA Central)
I am in the process of re-watching all of DS9. I had never seen this one before.

It was awful. Just ludicrous. Worst kind of bottle show. 24th century Federation citizens playing Lord of the Flies. The colonists come off as dolts, no regard for consequences, willful torture of Starfleet officers by Federation citizens, I can go on and on.

Best forgotten, this one. I am strongly resisting the urge to go on and on about it.
John - Tue, May 29, 2012 - 10:22am (USA Central)
Why couldn't she have just found followers that wanted to live out her tech free experiment? The lack of free will is her great crime and yet the episode seems happy to pretty much ignore that and in the process make the followers seem even more dumb than they already do.
Paul York - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 8:32am (USA Central)
This is an episode that raised some good questions, but it is true that the woman's speeches were a bit overdone. She had a good point regarding the negative effects of technology and the benefits of a simpler way of life, but the means she utilized to achieve her utopian goals were unethical (torture, kidnapping, causing negligent death). This character should have been better written, to make it even more grey -- such as a colony that wilfully went with her, not one that was coerced and lied to. ST has exhibited a tension in many of the episode between the hi-tech sets (one kind of utopia) and the low-tech village rural village life surrounded by greenery (another utopian ideal). Too infrequently do we see the dystopian future in ST, except in the case of the Borg or those characters that ship radiation around or hi-tech weapons of mass destruction. But the Federation seems mercifully exempt from all this ... which is somewhat of a dream, compared to the real results of faith in technology. So ST raised a good issue, but oversimplified it, by making the leader of the group a criminal Luddite and cult leader, rather than showing a thoughtful community voluntarily eschewing technology -- both its detrimental and beneficial elements, for the sake of another way of life on a new planet. In Children of Time we see a better approximation of this kind of community.
DS9er - Sun, Sep 30, 2012 - 5:35pm (USA Central)
What is particularly bad about this episode is the fact they had some Starfleet engineers with them onboard. Even if they discover they can't operate electronic devices, they sure should at least have a steam machine, small forge, some optical instruments and many other devices functional by the time Sisko and O'Brien arrived.
flixx - Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
I would have liked it and found it more believable were the colonists had flayed Alixus and her son alive at the end
flixx - Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
On reflection I hated this episode's ending almost as much as the end of 'The Village' (made 10 years later but the DS9 version in 'Paradise' was better).
Sience - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
This episode essentially plays with a common presumption of humanity - that "simpler times" and the past are more preferable to the present. In essence, what people are referring to as a poor execution of the supposed premise is probably a lot closer to the truth (albeit with the community being largely idiots from this viewpoint). Our past is filled with moral obscenities (torture, suppression of free will and thought), and it is the opinion of many present day scholars that - despite the human inclination to long for "simpler times" - we were more often than not a lot worse off as we look back to previous states of our society. In a sense, you could take it that Sisko and O'Brien represent what we have discovered of the reality of this common delusion, and the community are a manifestation of it - reverting to the "simpler time" they long for with all of the suffering intact. And what's worse, being thankful for it, in a twisted Stockholm syndrome type of dynamic.

That's the only way I can possibly relate to this episode without thinking of it as being an utter failure - since that's all any other premise seems to give.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 4:43pm (USA Central)

A poor episode all around. The female leader of the tribe is extremely annoying and the premise is not that believable.

3/10
kmfrob - Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - 5:38am (USA Central)
I really hate this kind of puritanical garbage. I know the story showed the leader in an unsympathetic light, and I know other people on here have said how heavy handed the storytelling is, but even if both of those things had been remedied I still don't think I could put up with this insistence that there is some kind of 18th century idyllic life to which we should ultimately aspire to.

Life back then was extremely tough, even for those with relative wealth, so the idea that 400 years in the future there are still sections of humanity that would willfully place themselves in such a life style is incredulous to me. I thought we had evolved to be beyond such ridiculousness.
Jack - Sat, Dec 28, 2013 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
This is one of those colonies where you cheer for the Jem'Hadar as they obliterate it.
K'Elvis - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
It was an OK episode, but the ending weakened it. Star Trek, for all it's futurism, unjustifiably glorifies the low-tech past. Subsistence farming is a struggle to stay alive, and people starved in winter, when the rain didn't come, when the hail storms ruined the crop, when locusts ate the crop, etc. Today, the problem is more too much food than starvation.

This episode is slightly refreshing in that it shows the downside of a low-tech lifestyle: for one, people died of things that would be easily treatable today. Brutal repression is a legacy of the past - the stocks are not just a cute gimmick at renaissance festivals. It's still has too glowing a view of a low-tech lifestyle.

It's the end that undermines it. I have no problem with the colonists wishing to stay, it's been their home for a decade. But to even THINK about turning that machine back on is wrong. Turning that machine back on meant sentencing people to die unnecessarily. It was not plausible that one person could speak for the whole group and say they are staying. Some might want to stay, others would want to leave. Star Trek too often tries to cover both sides, even when there isn't two sides. Their leader was wrong to hijack them to this planet, and wrong to use this device to deny them the freedom to use technology. To turn the device back on is to do the same wrong that their leader was guilty of.

By all means, stay on the colony, but accept Federation aid, and allow people the freedom to decide if they want to use technology or not.
Jons - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
I liked the slow understanding you get that the leader isn't innocent. But that's about it.

From that very moment on everything falls apart because it makes no sense anymore. The leader isn't likeable enough to be a real cult leader. The fact NO ONE decides to leave at the end is unbelievable. And it didn't seem that heavy-handed to me actually the contrary - the episode never knows what it wants to say: It tries to be a glorification of naturalists (as hypocritical as that movement is since apparently pottery and clothing aren't considered technology...) but it's of course ludicrous inside a show that's about 24th century spacefaring civilisations... So it ends up being nothing at all.
Lynn - Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
I have to say that this is my first time through DS9, and some episodes keep me more interested then others. I always enjoy a back to basics episode, which is what caught my attention with Paradise.

That being said, I have to agree with many of the statements above. It was an okay episode until the end. Sure, cult leaders forcing their morals on humanity is a common source for material, but some things just don't add up once you get to the root of it all.

After finding out that the leader basically marooned them and forced them to live in an existence, which has been admitted was not outrightly accepted to begin with, i find it very hard to believe that a) one man would be allowed to speak for the group and b) that no one would jump right up and be like "take me with you". Realistically, we are talking ten years here, it is not a completely different generation. These people lived in the futuristic society, grew up in the futuristic society, had stakes in it as well. No one has family they want to get back in touch with, no lovers, husbands, children? The ending was just wrapped up way t neatly with a little bow on it to seem plausible, even in a Star Trek universe.

Not to droll on, but one thing about this episode struck me. The very end when everyone walks away and the two children stand a stare at one of two things. Either the box, which is interesting, or the place that they just transported from. Interesting, but I wonder what is running through those children's mind. The children who out of everyone, have known no other existence.
Dirge - Sun, Feb 9, 2014 - 8:42pm (USA Central)
This episode always makes me mad because it should have fallen apart so much earlier than it did. Why didn't Sisko and O'Brien just refuse to stay in the community so they would not have to abide by the rules. Why didn't they say Cassandra's writing was a waste of time as much as their search for a way home. There were many ways they could have seen through the plot in the village much earlier, but that would have ruined the episode.
Thomas - Sat, Mar 1, 2014 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode until the very last scene, where Joseph decided to stay on the planet and no one disagreed with him. Basically, that gave the villain, even though she was brought to a Federation court, a moral victory, which provides this episode with an oddly strange message for a Science-Fiction show...

Furthermore, I don't think that's a believable ending. Most of the colonists aren't that young that they would have forgotten their past lives, with families and friends. Granted, being on a colonization ship they couldn't expect to meet them once a week, however using Star Trek technology, it would very well be possible to communicate with them, even over these large distances (had Alixus not wrecked their ship). It seems highly unlikely to me that no one at all wants to get in touch with their former acquaintances.

So, basically a good episode which was ruined by its ending.
Moonie - Mon, Apr 7, 2014 - 4:03am (USA Central)
And yet another episode wherein Star Trek glorifies the simple life.

I can't find the words to express how much I hate those kind of episodes. I really wish this stupid idea, that primitive simple life is in some way superior, could finally be erased from human consciousness. Oh how I wish I could send all those delusional idiots back in time to the 1600s or 1700s or even just the 1920s...

At least it wasn't as bad as Insurrection or This side of Paradise.

gata4 - Thu, May 1, 2014 - 7:17am (USA Central)
The writers must have had One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in their minds - Alixus is a Nurse Ratched-scale villain practically from the outset, lording it over a ridiculously docile bunch of Starfleet personnel. Her unmasking at the end was badly staged and written, the lack of emotional response from the other colonists laughable, and the prospect of turning the device on again to preserve their "idyllic" tough life ludicrous.
NCC-1701-Z - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
Pretty good episode but the ending was weak. I just don't buy that the colonists would have stayed "for the community". A better ending would have had most of the colonists turn against Alixus and leave, while Sisko leaves Alixus and a few of her fanatics on the planet. The ending was too sympathetic to Alixus for my liking.

Perhaps technology has corrupted us in some ways (just look at how many people make fools of themselves on social media, and the obesity rate, among other examples), but it has freed us to do more worthwhile things and make incredible discoveries. In the end, who's better off, the person who spends all day plowing the field by hand, or the person who uses a tractor with time to spare, in turn freeing himself/herself and others to use their talents in other areas (writing books, searching for disease cures, etc) to the benefit of all humanity?

Side note: If it had been Kirk instead of Sisko, I imagine he would have phasered that device outright, rather than leaving it so it could be reactivated. (Then followed up with some over-the-top speech about freedom to choose and whatnot.)
Dave in NC - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 9:41pm (USA Central)
Watching this for the first time as I type this.

Sisko and O'Brien are meeting the community for the first time and I have a few questions:

1) All of these people speak in a stilted manner. They've been out of touch with Starfleet for ten years. Their language can't have morphed that quickly.

2) The female colonist asking about fashions back home was cringe-worthy. The actress's delivery of that was absolutely horrible, but it was so badly written I don't know if any actress (even a good one) could have sold that line.
Dave in NC - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 9:44pm (USA Central)
The second scene with Alixus and it's already obvious where this episode is going. Someone should have slipped a Xanax in her tea before they started shooting . . . talk about scenery chewing!
Dave in NC - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 10:15pm (USA Central)
About halfway through and I'm noticing a Trek trend. What is it with the numerous forgotten human colonies and their bizarre philosophies? Every Trek series seems to do at least one of these episodes per season.

****

All right, so Alixis turned out to be a (overacted) maniacal zealot who was willing to have children die just so she could have her little pet Utopia. Denying water to people, playing who's-got-the-bigger-wang with Sisko, giving grandiose speeches, b;lowing up ships . . . the parallels with organized religion and Communism are obvious. It seemed like the episode was on a trajectory toward critiquing the cult mindset, the seductive promise of idyllic perfection through societal control.

The final scene, however, is completely ludicrous and undoes everything the episode worked toward. None of these people want to go back to Starfleet? No one has family or friends to meet? No one has a career they want to revive? No one's pissed that they were lied to for a decade by a psychopath? No one wants the machines back on after the big reveal?!?! Whatever.

I can't imagine thirty people would just stand there while she revealed she basically murdered their friends and family. (Also, how bitchy of her to say that one dude would probably be in prison).

I hate to say it, but the message seems to be that Alixis got what she wanted by manipulating these people and making the choices for them. Religion itself is not at fault if the preacher leads the flock astray? If that's the message they were shooting for, it is a total cop out.

It's too bad this is probably the last DS9 I haven't seen. Sad to "go out" on a low note.


Robert - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 9:57am (USA Central)
@Dave - It wasn't a stellar episode, but I thought the ending worked. I think the point was that she had made a really cult. I always find the ending creepy.

It's a rare episode where the villain wins!
Dave in NC - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 11:51am (USA Central)
@ Robert.

You've got a point there. I hated that smug, superior "victory smile" on Alixis's face when she beamed up and I was surprised that episode ended on that note.

But still, it's not too much to ask for some believability in the way these kind of shows are written.

The person who wrote this obviously was trying to make some kind of moral point. However, the plot requires too many coincidences intended to keep the viewers in the dark, and it is these creaky expositions and artificial-drama reveals that sink this so low I'm still puzzled about what this was all supposed to mean.

My hope for the next Trek is that it makes the characters a little more like real people, more of a documentary style and less of that "staged" feel. I'm not Betazoid, but sometimes I can sense the craft services table just off screen.

If this had been written from that kind of a perspective it definitely would have been a better episode: for the actors, for the writers and for the viewers.
Dave in NC - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
I'm laughing at myself because I thought I was done and another gaping plot hole occurred to me:

If Alixis is going to be "tried for her crimes", then isn't it possible Starfleet would want some witnesses at her trial?
Robert - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
She did try to destroy a runabout. Go to a US base and try to blow up a tank, lock an officer in a box and fire a bow and arrow at another officer. I think she's looking at life in prison purely based off her crimes in this one episode :)

I DO agree with you that there were too many coincidences and the guest actors weren't that convincing on the whole.

But I really think you were meant to believe that these people spent 10 years drinking the cool-aid, having Stockholm Syndrome, cult induction, etc. I SERIOUSLY hope the Federation sends an entire ship full of counselors to talk to these people before letting them decide to stay there forever making babies with the weird anti-tech box turned on.
Paul M. - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 6:15pm (USA Central)
Dave in NC said:
"The female colonist asking about fashions back home was cringe-worthy."

Time for some trivia! That actress also played the young ensign in need of some reassurance, courtesy of Geordi, in TNG's Arsenal of Freedom in Season 1.
Dave in NC - Thu, May 29, 2014 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
@ Paul M.

Haha, I never knew that! It makes sense, though, because she wasn't very good in that episode either.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 1, 2014 - 12:25pm (USA Central)
What a piece of crap this one was.

This woman is a kidnapper, , thief, power hungry, egotistical, self-centered BITCH!! I can't believe that someone didn't jump her when they found out they'd been misled. Obrien should have failed to protect her and she should have died at the hands of the colonists.

All for HER philosophy? (slaps head)

Someone earlier suggested that this episode should have depicted a colony where they volunteered to go. Then you don't need the secrecy? ... or I guess they WANT the secrecy and keep Sisko and Obrien so they won't reveal the colonies location etc. Probably a better way to get the point across in this episode, you know, about that bad technology and all.... that technology that ENABLED queeny to conduct her grand experiment.

The WORST part about this episode is how Alixus (Gail Strickland) speaks. Her throaty voice inflections drove me nuts! God... I only watched this episode this time through DS9 because I'm writing these reviews. Always a skipper for me.

1 of 4 stars...
Ian G - Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - 8:47am (USA Central)
I liked how this episode explores the dark side of leadership based on rigid political ideology. However the whole thing derails in the final scenes when the colonists aren't mad at Alixus and consider staying/turning the machine back on. It's ridiculous, she stripped them of their free will and condemned many of them to death. Her speech at the end is some ham fisted effort by the writers to try to show her as multifaceted, when the entire episode had built her up to be a pure villain.
Josh - Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - 7:05pm (USA Central)
I certainly agree that it seemed unrealistic that none of the colonists decided to leave in the end. But... while Alixus is certainly the "leader" of her community, I don't think we should take from that that she rules alone.

I do find Gail Strickland's presence here unintentionally funny, since I cannot separate her from her Seinfeld character as the publishing exec who implied that Elaine had "no grace".
Domi - Sat, Aug 16, 2014 - 7:23pm (USA Central)
I was waiting for Sisko to shout at Alixus something about there being four lights.

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