Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Paradise Syndrome"


Air date: 10/4/1968
Written by Margaret Armen
Directed by Jud Taylor

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An attempt to divert an asteroid from crashing into a populated planet brings Kirk and the landing party to investigate a planet of paradise where the planet's American Indian-like tribes live in simplistic peace. But when Kirk goes missing after falling into the trap door of a mysterious obelisk, Spock and the Enterprise are forced to leave him behind in order to divert the asteroid before it's too late. Kirk wakes up with amnesia, and upon climbing from the obelisk is taken in by the nearby tribe, where he falls in love with the beautiful Miramanee (Sabrina Scharf). Meanwhile, the story's subplot follows Spock's failed attempt to deflect the asteroid.

Both stories, which take place over a period of several months, are fairly palatable, but neither turns out to be captivating. Kirk's story benefits from the enlightening idea that, although he can't remember who he is, he realizes that being in love and living a simple life has made him "truly happy" for the first time in his life. Not of much interest, however, are Kirk's confrontations with a rival tribe member who, unlike the rest of the tribe, doubts Kirk is a god. Just why does Kirk subtly allow the others to think he is a god in the first place? Is he taking advantage of a situation? The story, unfortunately, never stops to ask what Kirk thinks about this aspect of his problem.

Meanwhile, the romance angle is sweet at first, but goes overboard into tiring sappiness. Miramanee's subsequent injury results in a melodramatic deathbed scene that I couldn't help but resist. Tragedies work better when they have a greater purpose for existing other than for the sake of closing lamentable dialog.

Previous episode: The Enterprise Incident
Next episode: And the Children Shall Lead

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11 comments on this review

Jake - Sat, Mar 22, 2008 - 8:54am (USA Central)
While I agree with Jammer's rating for "The Paradise Syndrome," I thought its final scene where Kirk says goodbye to Miramanee was quite moving.
It makes me wonder, though, would Kirk be a widower now, even though he wasn't exactly himself when he married her? The same could be asked about Picard in "The Inner Light."
Mark - Mon, Sep 23, 2013 - 12:22pm (USA Central)
I like the idea of allowing Kirk to live a different life, one that he could never have otherwise. Effectively the price he has paid is to give up his identity as a Starship Captain.

As for the execution well there are so many holes. The obelisk is very specific in what it does, and why even beam down to the planet if time is the essence - not to mention the non interference directive which would suggest let nature take its course.

I find the story on the planet once Kirk has lost his memory rather bland, though the McCoy/Spock dynamic works rather better.

The ultimate nonsense for me though was 'Kirk to Enterprise' triggering the obelisk to open. It seems like so much hogwash. these 'Providers' may have been powerful enough to transport the Indians there and into an environment that is familiar to them, but I cannot see how such a contrivance could possibly make any sense.

I give this 1 1/2 stars because so much of it is ultimately meaningless to me.
Rich - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
This was one of my favorite TOS third season episodes. I disagree with the review above. Keep in mind that Trek was on life support regarding production budget. It appears that much of those dollars were spent on this episode as I do not recall seeing live exterior footage in any remaining third season episodes.

The episode works for me in that god does arrive from heaven, at least from the perspective of the planet's inhabitants. To wit - the planet's inhabitants see Kirok as one of their own; only at the end is he deemed a false God who does not meet their self imposed expectation when he cannot activate the obelisk to save them.

When the landing party materializes we witness the locals flee in terror. Keep that in mind. The episode is brilliant. In the end, Miramanee does not accept that Kirok is anything other than the god who saved her people and dies believing as such. Kirk, not Kirok, expresses no emotion in relation to her passing, as he says, "if that's what you want." One of the best and memorable TOS episodes in my book.
Moonie - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 6:22am (USA Central)
And yet another episode where it is implied that humans, especially star ship captains, can only find true happiness in simple living. Argh. I can't stand it, it drives me crazy. It was the major problem I had with Insurrection. Or even Generations, with those awkward Nexus scenes.
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 7:48am (USA Central)
I've been working my way through TOS starting with the third season and ending with the first, simply because I've already seen many of the episodes and I'd prefer to end my run with the strongest season. With regards to commenting I probably only will whenever I feel I've got something to say that hasn't been already said by Jammer or anyone else, 2014 has been a busy year so far!

This was a really good episode despite the little hiccups in logic required to make it work. Each Star Trek incarnation has its own take on the concept of the captian coming to terms with a simplier life away from everything that used to matter to them and TOS did a remarkable job when it set the trend. I was gently moved by the ending and there was a certain vibrant visual beauly held throughout the show which perfectly complemented the story.

One last thing, I got the impression Kirk only went along with the notion of being a god because at that point he feels like he came from the sky and believed it might be true!
Nathan - Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - 9:59am (USA Central)
This is one of the episodes that I love to hate. Mainly the problem I have is the setup of the situation requires our heros to be incompetent and stupid. Star Fleet orders the Enterprise to deflect the asteroid. And as Spock points out in the episode the sooner you do that the easier it is. So what does Captain Jerk do? He goes to the planet first to sightsee. He then falls down a staircase and gets amnesia. Spock then promptly illogically wastes so much time searching for Kirk that he is late to the deflection point and cripples the ship. He could have left a landing party to search for Kirk and gone to deflect the asteroid and come back. Or took the oft repeated statement that you might have to die to protect the Prime Directive and left. Sucks to be you, Kirk.

And Scotty must have been recovering from a bad hangover because this is the one time the miracle worker can't fix the ship. He flat says he can't do anything short of a drydock. The show ends on that point and we never learn how they resolved it. I assume that Kirk had to call AAA for a tow. In real life if you cripple a multi-billion dollar military vessel then tend to end your career. Both Kirk and Spock should have been out of a job at the end of the episode. But hey this is Star Trek and we have a reset button.

And then there's the whole Kirk lets them think he is a God thing. I can kind of forgive him based on that he is coming down off of a bad memory beam high but not much. "Groovy Man this Memory Beam is better than LDS." Kirk's basic character is supposed to be better than that.

And all the Indians are stupid and badly stereotyped. But hey nice rack Miramanee!

And then there is the whole bit about Aliens planting Injuns on doomed planets. Lots of Class M planets around so they pick one with a bad asteroid problem?

The whole episode is Meh. 1 1/2 stars. Typical of the 3rd season.
Alex - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 4:53am (USA Central)
Like I'm sure is this case with others, this episode too reminds me of "Inner Life" and makes me wonder how much it influenced the great TNG episode. "Inner Light" did a much better job at creating an alternate life for the protagonist, and perhaps it has this "Paradise Syndrome" to thank for the concept.

The episode also contains a few gags, first when Spock uses two rocks to explain a rudimentary concept to McCoy, and then when Scotty throws his hands up in frustration when the beloved Enterprise engines burn out in the background.
mephyve - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 10:13pm (USA Central)
Ok this is like deja vu in reverse. I see the seeds sown for 'The Inner Light' and even moreso 'Thine Own Self'. Inner Light is my favorite Star Trek episode of all. Thine Own Self, which is not as revered, is almost a direct copy; Data loses his memory, makes some minor improvements to the society, then the villagers 'kill' him. The close similarities may be part of why Jammer only gave it two stars while this got an extra half.
Kirk was clearly confused. He knew things but didn't know how he knew them. Maybe he thought he might just be a god figure.
mephyve - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
Just thought about the initials of 'Thine Own Self', TOS. An inside joke maybe?
Inner Light improved on the concept, Thine Own Self just regurgitated it.
Stallion - Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - 2:12pm (USA Central)
This episode would had been a little better if it was uhura translating and figuring out the presever language with spock or chekov instead of having mccoy telling spock to go to bed. Would had been a good use for her character.

William B - Thu, Sep 4, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
I agree with the "The Inner Light" and "Thine Own Self" comparisons people are making here; this also has similarities to the last Paradise-named episode ("This Side of..."), although there it was the entire crew save Kirk who were about to give up their spacefaring lives and in this episode it's Kirk and Kirk alone. Obviously this episode is no classic like "The Inner Light." It's also, I think, not as important or iconic as "TSoP," even though Jammer rates them around the same -- "This Side of Paradise" is important for allowing us to see an alternate, happier version of Spock, admittedly drug-induced, but there it is. "Thine Own Self" I think is ultimately fairly disposable, but I still kind of like it better than this one, alas. That said, while this one leaves me a little cold, there is a method to the choices made here, I think.

With Spock in "TSoP," there was a real sense that this was a big deal for him; that this moment of peace and joy was something he had never before experienced, and maybe, once it was over, never would again. There is also the big dramatic, devastating plot element of Kirk having to force Spock out of his happiness in order to bring him back to reality, thus dooming his best friend. Spock, once he returns to "himself," makes the choice to leave this happiness behind, as well. There are, in other words, big choices. In contrast, Kirk is completely passive all episode long. He has a memory loss, and then is basically *given* a new life in which he has to do nothing but "be a god" and fall in love with the girl who is automatically betrothed to him. Then, once disaster strikes, he has to do something involving the obelisk, but he doesn't know what -- and his lack of preparation for this big event (partly because no one actually gave him the specifics that he was expected to have godlike powers to stop a calamity) dooms him, and he gets stoned and his wife gets stoned to death. Oops. In the interim, like Picard in "TIL" and Data in "TOS," Kirk does bring forth some modern tech ideas, but they have no impact on the plot, besides showing that Kirk does still have some ambition to do something besides roll around in open fields thinking about how great it is not to have to do anything but sit around and be worshiped for it.

Kirk pines at the episode's beginning for an escape from his responsibilities, and he gets it -- but notably, he doesn't "get" to be an ordinary guy, but he gets to be a god, without having to do anything. He is still the leader -- he's just now a leader based not on his actions or anything at all, but pure happenstance. There are, in a sense, two models of what a leader is contrasted here: the Starfleet model, and the "man-god" model. The man-god model has some advantages for the man-god: he gets worshiped, he gets fed and sheltered, he gets an attractive wife, and he doesn't have to do anything but accept. But the *moment* that he fails to achieve the impossible feat people demand of him, they turn on him viciously. In contrast, we have Spock standing in for the Starfleet model, which Kirk "normally" represents. Spock has to deal with *constant* backtalk and criticism from his officers, particularly McCoy. People demand Spock not only explain his every action to them, but explain it to them like they're children (is there a funnier moment this season than Spock having to pick up two rocks to explain to McCoy why it's important they stop an asteroid from blowing up the planet, and inching them closer to each other to drive the point home?). He makes logical decisions and they criticize him; he stops sleeping at all for weeks in order that he may work harder and harder on their one infinitesimal chance of saving themselves and Kirk and the planet, and he *also* gets criticized for this. However, in spite of the Enterprise crew's in general (and McCoy's in particular) constant contrariness, they fundamentally have Spock's back. It's a more...almost democratic model, in which, yes, Spock is in charge, but open discussion is allowed and even encouraged, and their willingness to see Spock as flawed also allows them to forgive him when he makes a mistake. Meanwhile, Spock recognizes that he has to work, and work hard, to earn their continued faith in them. The day is saved not by Kirk's utter passivity and comfort in his paradise where other people label him a god, but by Spock recognizing that thought and action and effort is required.

That's kind of a neat story -- an elegant use of the A and B plots to make a point about the futility of wishing for "paradise," because the "Tahiti syndrome" paradise is actually really the desire to be waited on, treated like a god, and not to have to do anything to earn it, not actually a fantasy of living in a pre-industrial civilization, or at least it seems to be in Kirk's case. That said, it is kind of boring; I don't feel very attached to Kirk's life here at all, nor is there enough variety in the Spock/Enterprise plot to make those themes pop (the way the leadership conflict story popped in, say, "The Galileo Seven"). There's also no explanation of how the Enterprise's total loss of warp engines gets resolved at the episode's end. And further, I would like the episode better if it didn't explicitly make it Native American analogues that Kirk falls in with, though. As...*types*, the Noble Savage Woman and the Angry Primitive Religious Zealots are offensive enough, but linked directly to Native Americans they simplify a complex set of peoples down. I think I'm gonna go with 2 stars for the whole endeavour.

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