Jammer's Review

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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14 comments on this review

Mal - Tue, May 12, 2009 - 5:01am (USA Central)
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.

karatasiospa - Wed, Jul 1, 2009 - 6:03am (USA Central)
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.
Mario - Sat, Aug 27, 2011 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
"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...
DPC - Sat, Dec 8, 2012 - 9:23pm (USA Central)
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.
Paul - Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - 5:15pm (USA Central)
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.
Tom - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
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.
Brundledan - Fri, Jun 7, 2013 - 2:16am (USA Central)
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.
David - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 7:57pm (USA Central)
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.
Adara - Sat, Dec 7, 2013 - 12:29am (USA Central)
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
Nonya - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 3:59pm (USA Central)
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.
Josh - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 4:46pm (USA Central)
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.
dgalvan - Mon, Jun 9, 2014 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
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.
Markus - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 3:46am (USA Central)
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

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