Star Trek: The Original Series

"This Side of Paradise"

2.5 stars

Air date: 3/2/1967
Teleplay by D.C. Fontana
Story by Nathan Butler and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Ralph Senensky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Beaming down to investigate the fate of a research colony that has failed to check in, the Enterprise crew discovers these researchers to be in a state of constant happiness, an effect caused by plant spores indigenous to the planet. Needless to say, Enterprise crew members are infected when the plants are brought aboard the ship, and before long Kirk finds he is the only person left who hasn't abandoned the Enterprise for "paradise."

Of course, the big story point of "This Side of Paradise" is that the spores allow Spock to experience full-fledged emotions and even briefly fall in love. Unfortunately, there isn't enough of an edge to the material. It's pretty bland. Nevertheless, it's probably worth the price of admission to see Spock hanging from a tree, and telling Kirk, "No, I don't think so," when ordered to beam up to the ship. And I must also admit the hilarity of watching Kirk push Spock over the edge into anger once he learns that negative emotions purge the spores. ("Your father is a computer!" has to be among the silliest yet more memorable lines in the TOS canon.)

Still, the best realization in this episode is when the effect of the spores is terminated, causing the research team leader to reflect on how the years have been wasted in a "paradise" that strove for no goals. Bottom line: entertaining, but pretty thin.

Previous episode: A Taste of Armageddon
Next episode: The Devil in the Dark

◄ Season Index

28 comments on this review

Wed, Jul 25, 2012, 1:19am (UTC -5)
I think the heart of this episode is with Kirk and Spock. Kirk's sense of duty is so strong that he frees himself from the effects of the spores--proving again that he has a will of iron. Spock never tries to fight the spores, but when Kirk frees him, he also knows and does his duty: "I have a responsibility, to this ship and to the man up on the bridge." Kirk seems glad to be himself again and off on the next adventure, but Spock is reserved, sad, and reflective. All he can say about all of it is, "For the first time in my life, I was happy."
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Agreed. Worth the clumsy fighting and lame romantic music for the poignant last words of Spock.
Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
At the end of the episode, Bones says the spores left their bodies perfect. They should have taken samples with them! They had the *cure* for every disease and injury and they let it slip through their fingers. Yes, it's a happy drug, I get it. But they found a reliable way of overcoming its effects. Plus, Starfleet could have studied the things and figured out a sterile way of achieving the effects. They could have easily taken precautions to avoid accidental exposure when bringing them aboard. Stoopid.
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't help but think that this was intended as a commentary on hippie counterculture and the use of recreational drugs.
Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
That was a very fun episode to watch! The solution was a bit hard to swallow but so many great Kirk/Spock scenes. Spock hanging from the tree, Kirk speechless. Their dialogue after the fight. Priceless.

Not the most convincing plot (and resolution) but who cares.
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
For me the funniest thing in this episode was how the spores somehow gave Dr. McCoy a southern drawl. That seemed weird and out of place, given no one else changed their accents. It wasn't even just an accent: suddenly Bones was off making Mint Julips. Who the heck directed Kelley to turn into a plantation owner, when for everyone else the spores just made them relaxed and happy?
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this episode is the first where Spock's race is referred to as "Vulcan" instead of "Vulcanian".

In retrospect: "Vulcanian" makes more sense, since they are from the planet Vulcan. But I guess they thought Vulcan sounded better.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
Drug culture references indeed.

Spock hanging from the tree did this in for me.

1.237 stars for me.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
I love the way DeForrest Kelly says 'Ennerpriiiise' when calling the ship. Used it as a ringtone for awhile.
Trek fan
Fri, Nov 4, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
For me, this episode is comparable to "All Our Yesterdays" in Season 3, but the Spock romance is far more developed and believable here in Season 1, whereas the latter ep feels more like a "reset button" relationship with very little screen time between Kirk's witchcraft dilemma. The tearful scene with his girlfriend at the end of "This Side of Paradise" and the haunting final line hit all the right notes for me; the farewell at the end of "Yesterdays" feels more like episode of the week stuff. So I'm not sure why Jammer gave "Paradise" 2 1/2 stars and "Yesterdays" 3 stars. For me, the Spock romance and Spock-Kirk dynamic (even the lightweight fight scene at the end) in "Paradise" easily makes it a 3 or 3 1/2 star episode. And the treatment of drugs/counter-culture, topical for the time the episode was made, captures more nuance than any later Trek treatment of this topic that I've seen. For me, this one is a classic, moving and surprisingly fun.
Sun, Nov 20, 2016, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
This episode is a favorite of mine and reflects to talent if writer D.C. Fontana. The one thing I would like to mention: McCoy did not "develop" his southern drawl - the spores emphasized it. In addition to being happy, his was relaxed, which brought out his accent more. The mint julep references are hilarious.

As for taking the plant spores to cure all diseases - the plants traveled they space to that planet, because they needed the radiation to survive. Not only that, the plants are most likely seen as too dangerous to investigate further. If anyoneone wants to go back to the planet with a well-prepared research crew, so be it.
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Spock: "I've never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question."

I'm sorry, but that was pure gold. Made my episode.
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
A decent episode which touches on a couple of themes - the happy drug culture and how man needs to be challenged, Kirk's love for his ship is the most powerful drug, and an insight into Spock's loneliness - his line at the end is poignant.
What is odd is how Kirk isn't initially infected after catching up on Spock hanging from a tree (one of the classic moments in all of Trek). He must have been in some emotionally elevated state -- he eventually succumbs on the ship after spending some reflective time alone on it.
Bit of a stretch to me how quickly humans come under its spell and why they didn't beam down to the planet in protective suits given the deadly radiation.
But definitely Kirk and Spock's various interactions are gold. Some filler moments in this one which kept it at a slow pace overall.
Not a bad episode overall, 2.5/4 stars for me.
Tue, May 23, 2017, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
What’s so bad about feeling good? The colonists had purpose enough to farm and cultivate food to live. Their health improved to a perfect condition. And they now knew the cure for it. (I would like to know what happened to the animals they’d brought with them. The answer given to that question was evasive.) It seems like the planet possibly could be developed for a recovery facility, under certain conditions. And it was good seeing Jill Ireland again.
Corey R
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: Linda - They did explain it. The radiation killed the animals (which is why they were farming) - they only lived because of the spores. Although it begs the question how a plant can tell the difference between a sentient being or an animal (else wouldn't there not be enough spores if the animals could trigger the plant too?), but what-ever.
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Yes, you’re right, Corey. Spock explained that radiation killed the animals, but that the spores thrived on human bodies. I'm not exactly sure how that would work but obviously it did.
Trek fan
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
Just rewatched "This Side of Paradise" in air date order as I plunge through TOS boxed set. I would re-rate this one, upping my original review to 3 1/2 or 4 stars. There's just so much good stuff going on here, but it's really an example of what TOS often does best: A marginally interesting Sci-FI setup allows us to enjoy a great character episode, looking at very human themes.

Like Kirk later on this season in "City on the Edge of Forever," Spock must choose duty over love in this episode -- a theme that recurs throughout the TOS stories all the way to their last film together. This Enterprise crew serves a higher purpose of space exploration for the sake of human development, honoring their own happiness and yet always willing to put the mission above their personal desires when necessary, and this episode presents this message in especially strong fashion by focusing on Spock. The confirmation here that Spock has emotions but suppresses them consciously adds a new layer to his character and to the series, developing our understanding of him perhaps more strongly than any other story -- this is the kind of key character moment that really lays the groundwork for the emotional resonance of his sacrifice in Wrath of Khan: Despite his insistence on the logic of "the needs of the many," we sense that's just a cover for how he really feels, making his death that much more poignant. And I was reminded in rewatching "Paradise" this time, in Kirk goading him to fight, of the teasing Spock underwent as a child -- narrated by his mother Amanda in "Journey to Babel" and later portrayed onscreen in "Yesteryear" (TAS) and the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot film. The "dog-faced boy" comment and other insults of Kirk, although superficially silly, clearly hit Spock on a deep level here and you can sense that he's fed up with being teased as a "freak" by everyone from his childhood companions to McCoy and the other human crew of Enterprise. Really striking stuff.

So all in all, while it's easy to underrate this episode as a bit of fluff, I really found it much deeper than it first appears on rewatching. It's easy to take for granted what we learn about Spock here, but I'm not sure any other "Spock story" in the Trek franchise tells us as much about his inner self as this one. Perhaps this episode best makes sense if you care more about the characters than about the morality play and science-tech aspects of Star Trek -- and that's a hallmark of what TOS does best.
Peter G.
Fri, Oct 6, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -5)
The most beautiful thing about this episode is the plot. It's about a scientific research station that has discovered literal paradise, and goes on to show how bad that is! The is a point-blank statement about the Federation itself, and won't be addressed in this manner again until well into DS9. The statement being made is that the Federation *is not* a pleasure-based dystopia where everyone lies around enjoying themselves and doesn't do anything. That's the first thing I think about when I contemplate future technologies like food synthesizers, transporters, and eventually the holodeck: I imagine people living lives of hedonism and struggling to have a reason to do anything. This episode shows us that the Federation is fundamentally about *work*, about furthering the development of the human species (all species really, but we only hear of human progress for the most part), and about exploring and building communities. Paradise may feel good to the colonists when the crew meets them, but once the power of the spores fades they realize what a waste of time their paradise was, how much of a hollow experience it was. Of all episodes in the entire canon, this one is probably the most on-point about what Trek is really about.
Tue, Oct 10, 2017, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Trekfan said: "Just rewatched "This Side of Paradise" in air date order as I plunge through TOS boxed set. I would re-rate this one, upping my original review to 3 1/2 or 4 stars."

Hey Trekfan, I guess we're rewatching TOS at the same time. Like you, I'm finding myself raising my opinion of most episodes, including this one.

Incidentally, I see this episode as a comment on the communes, counter culture and drug-using cults of the 1960s. In this regard I think the episode takes cheap shots, and I disagree with its message, which bashes the suppression of human desires in favor for simplicity (desires only beget more desires; they cannot be quenched, leading to all kinds of neuroses, both on an individual level, and on a socio-econo-systemic level).

And yet the broad, awww-shucks tone of the episode somehow worked for me, as did all those surreal shots of futuristic spacemen roaming primitive farms. Spock's emotional longings, contrasted with Kirk's egomaniacal desire to fight off the effect of the spores, also felt a bit touching.
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 7:28am (UTC -5)
Why didn't Kirk take a shuttlecraft to the closest Starbase and get help? It would have been safer to call McCoy up to the ship. Who beamed Kirk up that final time?
Fri, Aug 17, 2018, 10:56am (UTC -5)
I feel like guest actors on TOS were much more polished than guest actors in the 90s.
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure McCoy and Spock have ever been more delightful. They were both like one big mint julep.
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 7:48pm (UTC -5)

"the plants traveled [through] space to that planet"

Yes, I remember that. Why does the reviewer seem to go out of his way to say that the plants were indigenous to the planet?
Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 9:38pm (UTC -5)
I liked this one. It was fun. And Jill Ireland - I'd forgotten how luminous she was.

Nice character development for Spock, as we glimpse what lies beneath his icy exterior.

I had to wonder: where were the kids? They'd been there 3 years, all enveloped in their love for one another . . . but no kids. And we see from the Spock-Leila interaction that the spores don't interfere with sexual attraction.

I noticed this because everyone seemed to lack a sense of purpose, nothing really challenged them, everyone was so happy and easy going, and nothing ever happened to truly upset them. And a couple of babies would have turned all that on its head right away.

Even exposed to the spores (any babies would have died within a couple of weeks otherwise), babies would remain excessively needy creatures, and therefore remain sources of purpose, challenge, and frustration (enough to neutralize those spores in seconds!).

I definitely agree with the shows message that true happiness is only deeply experienced when sadness is also a possibility, and that human beings require challenging occasions in order to rise to them.

Lots of fun moments. Above average and memorable (I say that because I actually remembered this one - but maybe that's because I was once in a birthday skit for a Trekkie friend, called "The Other Side of Paradise." I played Nurse Chapel. It was 1977, I think.)
Sun, Apr 14, 2019, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
Very good episode ,forget the hard to swallow solution at the end .Its interesting to note that a year later a movie called 'whats so bad about feeling good' came out starring george peppard and mary tyler moore,which has pretty much the same story line.
Mon, Jun 24, 2019, 11:18am (UTC -5)
All in all, a nice little story. In the original draft for the script, the spores were supposed to be a benevolent group conscious, and being possessed by the conscious would put someone in a state of bliss. I still think there are cues from that script in here -- everyone affected seems to act in coordination to possess others to maintain some sort of symbiotic relationship with the planet.

I like how people were slowly converted one by one, which led to some memorable interactions with the straight man (Kirk) and the euphoric crew he encountered.

Of particular note was Spock's dramatic shift from being very order-orientated to letting down his guard and feeling happy with a woman he could finally share that with. There seems to be a number of messages we could take from this episode - about freedom leading to happiness, but that freedom without purpose is empty. Yet -- I'm not sure the story really sticks to any focused message on the subject.

The Kirk-Spock fight makes this worth the price of admission. 2.5 seems about right.
Sleeper Agent
Fri, Dec 6, 2019, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Trent (Tue, Oct 10, 2017)

Summarizes my feelings for this episode quite eloquently.


P.S. Drugs are bad, mmkay.
Sleeper Agent
Sat, Dec 7, 2019, 3:52am (UTC -5)
Oh, and in classic Star Trek fashion the planet they visited looked astonishingly a lot like a typical american country side.

Submit a comment

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2020 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.