Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Way to Eden"

zero stars

Air date: 2/21/1969
Teleplay by Arthur Heinemann
Story by Michael Richards and Arthur Heinemann
Directed by David Alexander

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Way to Eden" is an example of trying to fit an elephant into a birdcage, and it comes off looking about as silly as a visualization of the said analogy. For starters, whoever came up with the idea of "23rd-century hippies in space" was stretching the idea of allegory beyond even Trek's abilities. (Does this strike only me as a Federation oxymoron?)

Maybe a new view of the Federation could've theoretically been revealed, but the episode is far too inept to come up with one. Instead, the "insanity" of Dr. Sevrin (Skip Homeier) becomes the driving force of the story's impenetrable plot involving the search for "Eden." And what about "Eden," anyway? Is it supposed to be a myth or a planet? The episode can't seem to decide. One wonders if the search becomes one for a charted planet that simply happens to be named "Eden."

Characterization is also way off: Chekov as a stolid, conservative, by-the-books Voice of Starfleet doesn't make any sense given his character, and Spock being absorbed by the hippie cause lacks dramatic payoff, instead seeming like an excuse to warrant his presence in several annoying musical numbers. Honestly, I'd rather watch "Spock's Brain" again, because at least it's dumb enough to laugh at. "Eden" is not particularly laughable. But it is rambling, unenlightening, misconceived, mischaracterized, pointless, and requires sheer endurance to sit through—comprised of yet another plot where a group attempts to commandeer the ship for its own purposes. It's like "And the Children Shall Lead" with older children; the meanings behind the hippiedom aren't considered for a moment, resulting in zero digestible substance.

Previous episode: Requiem for Methuselah
Next episode: The Cloud Minders

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21 comments on this review

Tue, May 12, 2009, 5:01am (UTC -5)
Myth or reality, season 3 was the worst season. It didn't lack quality episodes, but it did have by far the most phoned-in-turkeys. One of those I'd like to discuss here is "The Way to Eden". In a transparent attempt to be 'relevant' (a catch word of the day) they give us future hippies!

I'm going to disagree with Jammer here in that Chekov, though young, hip and brash relative to the other Enterprise officers would indeed come off as conservative compared to his anti-establishment, hippie ex-girlfriend. After all, he is still military. Also, Spock being somewhat sympathetic to their cause is also in character IMO. Besides, it allows him to walk in and jam albeit uninvited with the space hippies!

It's the message that irked me back when I saw it in its original run as a kid. Keep in my mind that one of the target demographics were middle aged, middle class people of the late 1960's. It's to these sensibilities that this (and many other) epsiodes were meant to appeal. Though it clung to a standard TOS theme echoed in so many episodes - humanity was not meant for paradise and if you find one, it's a false one - this one has an insidious edge to it.

The message to the youth was: Come back to us! Cut your hair, shave, change your clothes back to grey, put your bras back on and throw away your rock records! Your paradise (peace, love?) is a fallacy, and though it may appear beautiful it is dangerous and even deadly (drugs?) and your leaders or older mentors (Timothy Leary?) are actually insane and will only lead to you ruin! Hmm, exactly what parents of the late 60's wanted to hear.

Wed, Jul 1, 2009, 6:03am (UTC -5)
The "way to eden" is perhaps the only really "reactionary" episode in the history of star trek. whatever the faults of the youth movements in the '60s these were the people who ended the war in vietnam and fought for civil rights. They deserved a better treatment. And perhaps the "middle aged", "middle class" people were the demographic target (aren't they allways?) but they were not, in the end, the people who liked and supported star trek.
Sat, Aug 27, 2011, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
I extremely disagree with your rating on "The Way to Eden" - I thought it was one of the best episodes of the season. I also really liked the musical numbers.
"And what about "Eden," anyway? Is it supposed to be a myth or a planet?" - Well that was the point of the story: if the myth is just a myth or if it also reality.
"Chekov as a stolid, conservative, by-the-books Voice of Starfleet" He wasn't portayed like this at all, kissing and making out during work time.. His anger towards his ex girlfriend was obviously out of frustration about their break up. I also found Spock's fascination with the space hippies' quest plausible.
The episode had very funny moments like the flowers being full of acid and Scotties look during the sit-in and also quite beautiful metaphors like the sickness of the doctor which was caused by technology and which also circumvented him from returning to a simpler life - or the databanks with all the knowledge of the world which Chekov had and he still missed something: love.
I also disagree with another poster's notion that this episode has a reactive message. The space hippies (exept the crazy doctor) where all extremely sympathetic and likeable. In the end Kirk says, they did what they had to do and Spock encourages them not to give up their way of life and their search and added that he believed that they will someday succeed.
Jeffrey Bedard
Sat, May 19, 2012, 10:43am (UTC -5)
"The Way to Eden" is one of those frustrating episodes for me because if you rip away the silliness and the goofiness there is some great stuff here which is unfortunately not presented well.

I wish DC Fontana's original script could have been made. It would have been great to see Joanna McCoy. It's a shame she couldn't be included later on in TAS or in one of the films, but oh well.

This is a definite 1 star episode. But there are aspects of interest here.

1) I love the extra focus it gives on Chekov. While the "former love interest" subplot isn't new at least it gets Chekov away from the navigation station for a time and opens up his character more. I've heard that Koenig wasn't happy that Chekov was written as being rigid, but to me it makes sense. I don't think Chekov comes across as rigid. But Starfleet is a para-military organization based on the US Navy and Chekov would know that going in. I also like how the character of Irina provides a window to a part of TREK society we rarely see: those people who not only aren't in Starfleet, but who DON'T want to be in Starfleet.

2) Through the character of Doc Sevrin we have a slightly sympathetic villain. Until he contracted his disease Sevrin was probably a pretty nice guy. He most likely never had any desire to visit or live in a more primitive environment, but from the moment he found out he never could I'm sure that's when his transformation began. The concept of this disease is fascinating to me and had it been presented in a better story I think it would make for a great sci-fi concept. His scene with Spock allows us to see past the silly costume and make up and see a person who now loathes the very type of 23rd century environment so many TREK fans (myself included ) wish was real.

3) Tongo Rad is interesting because he seems like the type of spoiled son of a famous father. Being the son of an ambassador probably gave Rad license to do a lot of bad things and get away with it and we see it here in the fact that none of them get arrested for stealing a shuttle. Also, Rad doesn't appear to be upset (unlike Irina) with the idea that Sevrin's manipulation of the Enterprise's acoustics will kill the crew. It's a hint of a dark streak behind the facade of love and peace. I wish it had been developed more.

4) Adam is the one tragic character in all this. Unlike Irina (who seems to allow herself to be convinced by Sevrin that he won't really kill the crew) Adam appears to believe heart and soul in the idea of Eden and Sevrin's message. He befriends (to a degree) Spock and then fails to listen to Spock when Spock tries to convince him of Sevrin's true intentions. He hides behind his music. Once Sevrin starts tampering with controls what does Adam do? Start singing a song about the beauty of Eden. For him to be only one of Sevrin's followers to die makes sense. While we don't see the landing of Sevrin and his followers I can picture Adam being the first one to leave the shuttle and go running onto the field and grabbing that piece of poisonous fruit.

5) It's not touched upon much but I like how Kirk is seen to at least attempt to give Sevrin and his group a chance. His initial conversations with them are rather heated, but once Spock explains to Kirk what a Herbert is Kirk says "I'll try to be a little less rigid." And we get to see a bit of follow up with that. Kirk allows the jam sessions to be broadcast across the ship (I can't imagine Picard ever allowing such a thing). And when Scotty complains about the followers Kirk recalls doing a few reckless things in his youth. So he's at least trying, until of course the crew and ship are threatened.
And the final line of the episode is Kirk saying "We reach" to Spock. And he's not saying it in a patronizing or mocking tone. He's learned a bit from this experience.

"The Way to Eden" is definitely one of the worst TOS episodes which is a shame. Had they stripped away the space hippie theme and the protest songs, it's possible that some of these other themes could have been explored more fully and with a more interesting story. Oh well...
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 9:23pm (UTC -5)
In the 1960s, the counterculture movement (which shared some of Roddenberry's ideals, albeit not all), was omnipresent. Many shows wanted to have their own 'hippie' episode. Even "Get Smart" had "The Groovy Guru".

"Trek", mixing a moral play with sci-fi, making it experimental for the time, did clearly stretch things too far. I can handle a bunch of rogue malcontents being led by another, stealing a ship, et al, but the hippie allegory is way too direct.

Chekov is rewritten as a lapdog for Kirk, obeying every order like a good little tin soldier. This is at odds with his previous persona of being a loose cannon, campily championing Russia at every turn. Chekov as a serious character without the camp was great, but this episode altered his personality solely for the sake of the story. Stories are made for characters; not the other way around. Especially in a long-running show with established character types, even in the 1960s when each episode ending was its own 'reset button', meaning there was no real continuity to move forward with.

On the plus side, when the full TOS soundtrack comes out, the music from this story is the first I will be listening to. :)

I liked the inconsistency of Eden. It meant Spock had to do research and for Kirk to take a chance on such information. It sweetened the pot that the planet was, you guessed it, in the Neutral Zone, but given the pacing of the story there was no time to fill it with angry Romulan birds...

I also enjoyed Jeffrey's analysis above on the miscreants. While I disagree re: Chekov's newfound personality, I do like how he pointed out the side of people we don't see...

He nailed the point of Severin perfectly. The story itself is almost a scary precursor to AIDS in a way, and Severin himself is a proto-TNG villain (shades of gray; a villain having a sympathetic side is not easy to do, and TNG would often play with this sort of moralizing.) With Severin, as he said, there was potential for a good story, which failed to materialize.

I too wish the facade of love and peace was explored more; especially as that was one of the goals to this story and discussing the hippie movement. John Lennon was not identical to the songs he wrote for sure, and the counterculture participants were - arguably - too idealistic. Or, perhaps, high at the time. Real peace takes commitment and effort. Drugs are means to escape commitment and effort.

As such, Rad does make for an interesting - and dangerous character. Had this story, here we go, been a two-parter and given some gravitas, the creators could have really put out a strong story. Season 3 often put out very strong messages with strong contention-based concepts ("Battlefield", "Cloud Minders", "Plato's Stepchildren", etc), but "Eden" was a missed opportunity to really say something. Sadly, a certain affair at Kent State University a few years later would have - more loudly - end the counterculture and, perhaps, evolution as we know it...

Adam definitely comes across as a total acolyte, devoted to the cause. He hides behind his music and, man, does he have a good signing voice. But that's Charles Napier, a known character and voiceover actor. And even as a mixed bag of a story, the coherence of Adam being the total acolyte of this Severin cult figure and being the only one dying does pack a certain punch.

Picard, the one who fired a volley of photon torpedos over a planet just to inanely scare the entire inhabitants of the planet, wouldn't entertain any ideas.

While I adore the music, the ideas in this story could have been better if the story was not so strongly hippie-themed, without the padding of the music, some of these ideas could have been a little more effectively explored...

Still, it's not bad because it's mere rubbish, it's bad because the ideas could not be fully explored.
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, Jammer. You're way too hard on this one. It's better than "That Which Survives", "Mark of the Gideon" and the absolutely horrible "And the children Shall Lead." The worst of the third season are the boring episodes where the cast and creators apparently were mailing it in.

"The Way to Eden" is a misfire, but there's some good stuff in here. I actually liked Spock's part. It was in character. And I thought Checkov was overcompensating, more than anything.

I actually liked some of the ideas here -- the rebellion against the "sterilized worlds and controlled atmospheres." You're right that Sevrin's insanity cheapened the drama, but it didn't ruin it.

It was annoying that the Romulans all seemed to be on vacation.
Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 9:12pm (UTC -5)
This episode struck me as an analogous to the Jim Jones People's Temple movement. Lead by an insane rejector of civilized America, seeking utopia, and a mass suicide was preferable to life in the sanitized, civilized world. It's allegorical to all utopian movements, which are all doomed to failure because of the frailties and failings of man. Sevrin could easily be Jim Jones, Marshal Applewhite, or David Koresh.
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 2:16am (UTC -5)
The Romulans never showed up because they knew better than to get involved in this horrible pile of crap.

Still, two of the hippies die horribly at the end and the rest suffer severe burns, so the ep isn't a total loss.
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 7:57pm (UTC -5)
I was a teen in the late 60's when this episode aired. So I liked the premise of "The Way To Eden" Although it was a lot different from most of the rest of the series it had at least one good point, the dream of brotherhood still lives. The character of Adam to me represented The musical soul of his generation. I have always wondered if the song "Heading Out To Eden" was ever recorded in full. It would have been a good hit.
Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 12:29am (UTC -5)
I respectfully disagree, Jammer. I thought this episode was hilarious. I put it right up there with Sharknado as one of the campiest, most unintentionally hysterical things I have ever seen. Now I just need to watch it high! XD
Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 3:59pm (UTC -5)
I wouldn't call this episode "reactionary". Honestly, I feel it gave the hippies a fair shot at expressing their opinions. They were clearly illusioned, their views were allowed to be demonstrated. Even though I dislike hippie culture, I find that kind of tolerance pretty refreshing. Nowadays when someone expresses a negative view on television, they're automatically wrong no matter what. Crap, the most tolerant of the Treks is TOS.

I don't mind the music too much. While it does take up time that could have been used on the themes, it's funny as crap and fits in with the 60s. I bet if someone played this to someone of my parent's generation and said it was by the Mamas and the Papas, they would like it.

That being said, the hippies were annoying, the costumes were awkward, and it's entirely implausible to actually find Eden, as there are no characteristics given as to what Eden actually is. On the plus side, the most annoying hippie died, and I actually like the direction things took in the end. Though I find it highly implausible that a hippie would go so far as to steal a starship.
Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
I just can't get past the Enterprise getting easily taken over yet again. First there was Riley, Charlie X, Khan, the Kelvins, Commissioner Biel. At least that group had superpowers.
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was ok, actually. It certainly sparks interesting discussions/debates regarding the quest for "simplicity" and whether it is well- or ill-advised. (Simpler feels easier, but reality and nature are complex, requiring complex technologies and solutions to problems.)

To each their own. I'd have given this ep 2 stars.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 3:46am (UTC -5)
Interestingly I really enjoyed this episode, and much more than 15 years ago when I first watched it (one reason is the terrible German synchronization voice of Adam, the English is much better). Aside from the annoying music, these silly Herbert-shoutings, the forced Russian dialect of Irina and the once again insanity of the villain, I found it quit compelling - much more so than the similar fifth ST-movie. I especially liked Spock's role here. What was a bit
William B
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
Contra Jammer, I think this episode *is* nearly as funny as "Spock's Brain." I'd rather watch this a few more times than watch "And the Children Shall Lead," "That Which Survives," "The Alternative Factor" or "The Lights of Zetar," and probably more than "The Omega Glory" (though that one is almost as funny as this and "Spock's Brain" too). It's ridiculous throughout, with a few highlights for me being:

* the way Chekov basically flat-out tells Irina that it's possible to take over the whole ship from auxiliary control even with having no prior knowledge because the computer banks are so good, as if in casual flirting conversation
* "yayyyyyyyy brother yayyyyyyyyyy"
* the repeated shots of Sevrin smiling evilly!
* bizarre editing glitches, including several shots of Kirk which are mirrored! (you can see his insignia on the wrong side)
* great little moment: after Spock starts to suffer from the acoustic attack, and then it hits Kirk, while Spock and Kirk are stumbling around the camera widens to reveal that Scotty is already unconscious. Something about that just kills me.
* that redshirt on the bridge who can't help but toe-tap along to the music!
* Spock saying "His name was Adam" with a serious voice after Adam has died eating fruit to shove home the Biblical allusion, which...doesn't make any sense? (Like, the problem with the Garden of Eden was not that the fruits were poisoned.)
* Sevrin running out to eat a fruit himself like a madman.

Anyway, buried under layers of ridiculousness the episode does have something to say: hippies have an understandable and even admirable desire for a better world. Their counterculture trappings are maybe weird and silly, but Spock's admiration for them drives home that there are things about the movement that are worth preserving: their emphasis on peace and art is something that I think does make sense as something Spock would appreciate, although it's pretty weird that Spock doesn't at least mention that their total lack of self-discipline seems like a bad idea, considering how much Vulcans emphasize discipline as absolutely central. But anyway, the problem is that by believing that Eden is a place they can actually get to, they can fall prey to charismatic (or "charismatic" as in this episode) leaders who are either charlatans out to exploit them, or simply madmen who have lost touch with reality. And once they get to that "Eden," it's poisonous because, uh...well, okay, it's poisonous because it's very possible that when they get to the kind of society that their counterculture leaders insist they should try to make, it may have problems they hadn't anticipated. This is the most in-your-face way of showing that.

Anyway, the episode is held back by the hippies' really unconvincing lingo, which really sounds like old guys trying to either match or satirize hippiedom, though it may be that some of the counterculture's excesses are parody-proof. Whatever. The songs just go on forever. The ship is ridiculously easy to take over. That acoustic weapon seems like it might in fact be a weird metaphor that the hippies can knock out the squares with their awful sounds? No explanation is ever given for what Eden is supposed to be, and Chekov's explanation that they check for planets based on the orbits, positions etc. of other planets (inferring what other gravitational forces must exist) consist of an explanation of how to find new objects/planets in space, not how to find the specific "planet"/place/whatever which is "Eden." It's lazy, grating, painful, frustrating, and incredibly the "crazy charismatic leader spreads his peace by taking over the ship to bring it to paradise" was repeated for Star Trek V.

Probably 1/2 star.
William B
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Oh yeah, having just watched sfdebris' takedown of the episode, I have to agree that the hippies' switching from peacenik to murdering the entire crew is really awful, too.

I think Jammer's right on Chekov, I should also say. The whole subplot feels so out of place for Chekov's characterization, such as it is.
Fri, Mar 27, 2015, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Couldn't agree more, this episode was pure stupidity. The writers and producers must have just finished a pot-smoking session when they dreamed up this mess. Bad, bad, and more bad.
Tue, Nov 17, 2015, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
I disagree with the low ranking this recieves by most.
in fact I find this one of the best TOS episodes of them all.

I give it a solid 4.25 stars

*well the story is unique and plausible, and starts quite logical :
-group steals ship and runs away with it.
-normally that would involve space-police, not the pride of the army (what the enterprise is)
-however this is a political incident, so they might like to show force, to gain the upper hand in the negociations.
This is a totally logical story, and one of the few ones like it.
I usually hate TOS because like 95% of all episodes are "yet oneother earth" "kirk falls in love with a woman" and
"kirk outsmarts the computer" non of that here.

Than there is the issue TOS is FAR to focussed on sex, with the ridiculous dress-uniforms, kirk frigging around and such.
That makes me dislike TOS a lot. So when this apeared to be a hippy-episdo, I feared the worste of it.
But I was totally pleasantly surprised, this is one of the few TOS series without sexism, just a sensible talk between two people who deeply love eachother,
but know their love is impossible, a nd logically make the right call and go their seperate way.
A nice fresh breeze

What looses it halve a point though is how a buch of space-hippies are able to take controll of the ship so easely.
That it only looses halve a point is because they actually have this explained in the little talk between chekov and his ex.
Also they pointed out how they are geniusses, and not average joes, and they planned this muteny in much detail ahead.
Still I find it hard to figure that there would not be needed any passwords to transfer bridge-control, or to even get controll at all.
A comment like -dang we should have installed security codes- or checkov giving away his code, by having his ex distracting him and looking down on his fingers..
would have prevent this star loss.
(perhaps he did, as he takes blame in the last shot, but than he would have done so off-screen, as all he did say on screen is :
the computer fills in the blanks if you ask it what you want it to do and is in full control and you can controll the ship from here too)

And than there is the moral-plot of the story (all TOS are moral-story's and I am ok with that) :
*don't follow leaders blindly
*don't trow away wise teachings because they are brought by the wrong teachers (catholic priests come to mind)
*hold on to your idealism and dreams.
*adapt a little bit to society in order to change it.
Still stands strong today, good message.

There are a few dated-events though.
Giving the leader space-typhus, was not neccecairy for the story, even though it helped he was insane and a treath against his own preaching.
only to have him commit suicide some time later, when he discovers he is wrong.
such insane leaders that refused medical treatment, and suicide commiting when prooved wrong, was however quite common in the 60's, so I let this get away with that.

Than there is the computer locating eden.
Nowever is explained what defines for them eden, do they really believe they can find the place God kicked us out from?
Or do they just look for a pristine planet that fits their idea of eden, and they can live their desired way of life on.
This is not explained enough, and looses it quarter of a point.
That spock later sais eden is still out there at least admits that what they found was not eden, and their search-algoritm was wrong,
this in some small way fills in this hole, but I'd liked a little more information.

FInally there is the whole acid-point of the planet, and them hiding in fear inside of the shuttle.
acid burns on touch, but adams body lies wit bare chest on those plants without the acid having damed his skin?
And why are they hiding in fear inside the shuttle (for the acid?) but run out without problem when the enterprise crew arives?
(if they were hiding FOR that crew, what would be logical, they left them for dead after all, punishment is to be expected, why would they come out?)
I am sorry but I will have to pushing with halve a point deduction for these clear contractions to this story

It would have had 5 stars would those last plotholes fixed and the space-typhus part cut out..
but those were minor plotholes and some attempt was done to closing them.
making this one of the best and well-written TOS stories of them all.

Finally What gains it a bonus +0.5 stars are the nice songs in this episode, I really love them, and the atmosphere it makes.
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
Enjoyable, funny, chaotic, great music. But definitely not a Standard TOS. Beware of that both Kirk and especially Spock are very tolerant. Kirk do understand that he is not the right person to deal with this, he takes Spock's advice. The crew get a great time.

They (the establishment) though identifies the false prophet, they try to warn, but the followers does not listen. A theme valid also today.

In the end Kirk and Spock shows great understanding.

"let the sun shine in"

I believe this is a Episode I will re-watch soon.

Sun, Jul 10, 2016, 12:02am (UTC -5)
Spock Van Halen
Sun, Dec 4, 2016, 4:06am (UTC -5)
I figured I had to be in the minority here but several of the comments seem to agree. This episode has such a negative reputation I expected it to be awful, but shock & horror...... I really enjoyed it.

I thought it was an interesting look at the characters, and how they could well be viewed by outsiders who don't idolise our heroes. The look at counter-culture was respectful and I felt the views of the characters were on point. Chekov reminded me of Riker. Within the system he's a player, he's charming and loves the ladies - but to to those opposed to the ways of Starfleet he will defend the system, structure and ethos to the hilt.

It really helped that I dig on the music, man :-)

I enjoyed it far more than other Season 3 episodes that I found rather thin such as Troiyus, Children shall Lead, Zetar, Battlefield etc. I'd go so far as to say 3 stars.

I have to also say, I think Season 3 is a little undeserving of it's poor reputation - there are some really interesting ideas around here - Spectre, Enterprise Incident, Empath, World is Hollow, Wink, Gideon, this one, I've enjoyed them all. Only a couple more to go in this season. Looking forward to the last 4 :-)

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