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

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40 comments on this post

Strider
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."
duhknees
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Agreed. Worth the clumsy fighting and lame romantic music for the poignant last words of Spock.
charles_nelson_reilly
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.
Alex
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.
Moonie
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.
dgalvan
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?
dgalvan
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.
redshirt28
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.
Garrison
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.
LiliEoze
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.
Quincy
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.
Rahul
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.
Linda
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.
Linda
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.
Trent
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.
Tanner
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?
Minrak
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.
JD
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.
navamske
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
@LiliEoze

"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?
Springy
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.)
hifijohn
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.
Chrome
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.

III of IV

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.
Mal
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
This Side of Paradise

Star Trek season 1 episode 24


"I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

- Spock


3 1/2 stars (out of 4)


Would you be happy in paradise? If all your problems were solved, if there was nothing left to do? Would you join the waltz, or would you dance to the beat of a different tune?

These are the universal themes explored in “This Side of Paradise”. When the crew come upon a group of settlers living in plant-spore induced bliss on a poison planet, every crew member is infected. Bones goes to make a mint julep ("That's a drink, Jim.”). Spock is able to love an old flame ("I have little to say about it, Captain, except that for the first time in my life I was happy.”).

Kirk wants nothing to do with.

A few Star Trek episodes suffer from severe cases of fourth act syndrome. They have amazing set ups, but drag out the climax to the point of utter boredom. “Arena” is a prime example - amazing set up, really grabs you. But the fight on the planet is tedious to the point of breakdown.

“This Side of Paradise”, by contrast, takes a very pedestrian premise, with silly looking props as white-powder spraying plants, and elevates it with the most profound exploration of the human condition.

There is an old poem ("Poetry, Captain. Non-regulation”) that speaks to me (and who else can poetry speak to?),

"How sweet is mortal Sovranty!"—think some:
Others—"How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

Each person must answer that question for themselves. There are some who live only for the paradise to come. Do they risk missing out on life? Others revel in the pleasures of this world. Are they just drowning themselves in hollow stimulants (@Alex)? Or as @Trek fan hints, maybe the greatest allure of Paradise is the freedom to be yourself. Spock is free to climb a tree. McCoy no longer has to pass as a northerner, and can enjoy is natural lilt (@LiliEoze).

Are you, you, if you are free to just be?

Each person must make his own choice. As Spock says, each person must chose his own purgatory.

Kirk makes his decision. I keep going back to that line from Milton that Khan and Kirk both embraced in “Space Seed”. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. Kirk had an almost allergic reaction to paradise (@Trent). He’s a man that’s here to work. That’s why he signed up for service (@Peter G.).

Once the colonists snap out of their blissful stupor, they feel exactly the same way.

ELIAS: I think we'd like to get some work done. The work we started out to do.

https://youtu.be/gJV-O1e10z8
Shrantastic
Sun, Dec 6, 2020, 11:44pm (UTC -5)
I rate this at least 3 out of 4 stars. As others have said, I think the key to this is Kirk's drive, sense of purpose, duty, and loyalty to his and the ship's mission. Pleasure is natural and good but if that and "drifting" is the extent of a person's focus, I think they stagnate and their full potential goes unfulfilled.

It makes me think of the current debate about socialism (the colonists) versus capitalism (Kirk), group experience versus individualistic pioneering and achievement. Of course, in the real world there are aspects of each that naturally overlap. All those on the Enterprise had a group experience, though they were also part of the mission, with Kirk and others leading it. Some may feel more affinity for, or see logic in, the group experience, and that's good, because we're all part of that in some ways. Others (like myself) find themselves more motivated to focus on forward-moving action and vision, and personal achievement. That's how I see it anyway.

The final scene with Spock and Leila in the Transporter Room is very moving and one of Nimoy's best in TOS, in my opinion--Nimoy had just the right balance of emotion or softness, and control. I read on the Trek memory-alpha fandom site that, in the original draft, it was Sulu who was supposed to fall in love with Leila. But making it Spock and Leila obviously makes it more dramatic.
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 7, 2020, 1:40am (UTC -5)
@ Shrantastic,

While I agree that this is a very good episode, I disagree that the analogy of capitalism vs socialism fits as a parallel. Those two systems are fundamentally two different ways to organize trade and government oversight, and on an individual liberties level a question of how much one's actions should have to abide by a rule-set that is enforced for the good of all. Socialism, love it or hate it, is not about a kum ba ya group feeling of euphoria. In fact detractors of socialism tend to view it as the opposite - the greatest way to squash pleasure in life. When comparing these two systems, if anything capitalism is closest to fitting the analogy you're pointing at - that each person does whatever they want without an overriding series of rules and regulations pushing them in a particular direction. To the extent that this episode is about enforced discipline versus doing what feels good, the colonist are the capitalists (finding their own version of happiness as they see it) versus the Enterprise crew who have to follow set protocols and keep cohesive for a single purpose, which is socialistic (relative to the colonists). And in fact some detractors of Gene's vision specifically point toward Trek as being a socialist utopia, and therefore making no sense in practical terms.

I think in your post you were looking for a way to compare the individual work ethic with the feeling that the individual is lost in the group. I suppose this could better apply to certain types of people than to entire economic systems. For instance I guess you could argue that the arch-Republican type in the U.S. with the "bootstrap" mentality are red-blooded individualists like Kirk, whereas some people on the left-wing side think in group terms and don't value individual prerogative as much. If this is what you meant I guess maybe there is something of that in this episode, although I don't think it's fair on the one hand to think of the colonist as being left-wing (socialists as you put it) in the sense that left-wing people are just hedonists, nor I suppose is it fair to suggest that Kirk and his crew are "may the best man win" individualists, since we know that on Trek the ethos is to look out for each other self-sacrificially.

Generally I think the episode is posing the question of whether there is in fact something better and more precious than perpetual harmony and bliss. TOS seems on multiple occasions to answer that question with a resounding yes, which is interesting enough on its own. That it paints the colonists in this particular episode as having no fault in their system (no Vaal, no Landru, no secret chink in the armor) means that the show is claiming that there can never be, under any circumstances, a reason to give up toil in favor of euphoria. It is a repudiation of the Garden of Eden itself, with the claim that there is something better for us, however difficult it is. That's a pretty big claim, and I think it goes beyond left vs right and beyond politics.
Benedict P Mercadante
Sun, Jan 24, 2021, 6:35am (UTC -5)
Of that era, this was one of the better episodes. Without going into all the classic personality differentials of the cast, or the science (really, most all these episodes take great leaps faith....; ) But, as a massage I do believe this makes certain where the foot comes down, and it is squarely in the camp of mainstream western patriarchal society, proving once again Star Trek was anything but counter culture. It's not that it ever pretended to be, but many have some misconception as that the message expanded beyond where our society was at that time, of which I was well aware of, I remember as a mid teen, scratching my head as I watched episodes like this, and people around me thinking that it represented the sense of freedom, and individuality, etc etc. Of course, if you think about it for a moment, it's not really any different than all the other 'messages' we were fed growing up in that era, preparing for our next 'adventure'...conflict, as it turns out. The only difference with Star Trek and the usual schlock we were fed, is that Star Trek took a moment to analyze the differences, where as during that time differences were generally hit with a hammer. Not to say that the juxtaposition was not relevant, it was and remains so, but it was Kirks line near the end, where he turned to the absolute of , para phrased...'....do we stroll throw the fields to the sounds of a lute, or strive, claw (etc) to the sound of a beating drum....' That message , was clear as a bell, and it coincides with the gaining strength of the anti-war movement and all the rest, that unfolded before my young unjaded eye.
Seb
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 6:52am (UTC -5)
What a terrible resolution on Kirk's part. Where Picard at least would have made a grand speech about why that particular Paradise may not be right, Kirk just had the role of a conservative trying to prevent alternative ways of life not because they are arguably wrong but because it must be as it always has been, life must be a struggle and where would we get if were just happy with what we had instead of always trying to change our circumstances.

He could have argued about free will but no. He argued we are not meant to just be and be happy.
And while they constantly make fun of half human Spock, the one time Spock discovers his ability to feel and for happiness, he is ready to take it away from him without a moment of thought and no reflection or discussion on it after the fact either. So we got happy Spock vs Spock "I have a duty to that man" - don't see why I should vote for the ladder if that is the extend of it.

Less than the deed as such it is tus in thoughtlessness with which Kirk defends that which is right because it always has been so is sad.
Same the colonist leader. Damn, 3 years we did nothing but farming and living happily. What a waste of time when we could have terraformed this planet, changed the environment, build super structures and turned the place into one of interplanetary commerce.
OUCH.


After 30 years of Trek fan ship I finally took it on to watch TOS in full (never cared much for it in spite of trying). And while I find the omnipresent music and sound effects surprisingly stimulating, I cannot understand how people chose Kirk over Picard or TOS over any other series.
I can understand if you liked it growing up. But looked at with a present day view it offers nothing more than shallow old style scifi entertainment. The few episodes where ethical/philosophical questions are raised it hardly scratched their surface.
Kirk was a commander and fighter but not an engineer, scientist, philosopher and mentor like Picard. He was chauvinistic, often acted rightout dumb/naively. TOS explored seemingly out of self interest, it's not as if they learned much from it. TNG has the same type of alien (planet) problem posing episodes as TOS but on top some of them take a relatively deep look at ethics and society for a 45 minutes episode. I have not come across a single TOS episode that is more than pure entertainment and skips over all the deeper questions that should come up when you meet alien cultures and have to question your own.

The whole TNG crew is well more trained, versatile and (most of them) have more characteristics than even the main characters of TOS. (the movies aside maybe).
Pure nostalgia aside, what does TOS have to offer than TNG does not and does much better on top? (and why wouldn't it, after all it is the newer show that ran several years longer)
Rahul
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 9:31am (UTC -5)
Not really sure Seb's comment is worth a response (seems like borderline trolling to me). I love both TOS and TNG a great deal but if I was to evaluate them objectively and unemotionally, there's no question in my mind that TOS is clearly superior.

TOS had some of the best sci-fi writers of its day and the stories have more staying power and speak to various aspects of the human condition, geopolitics etc. generally better than TNG did. There are very few truly terrible TOS episodes, which is remarkable given how quickly they had to crank them out and how low the budget was. My big issue with TNG is that there were so many terrible episodes, but fortunately there were enough of great ones too, otherwise it would not have started a TV sci-fi boom in the early 90s.

I really have to say that the writing and acting (main cast and especially guest actors) for TOS is also generally far superior to that of TNG and that's what really makes, on average, watching a TOS episode a better experience for me than a TNG one. The TOS music goes a long way toward the overall experience, and that is another thing TNG failed to pick up on (barring a small handful of episodes with good soundtracks). It's a bit tougher to have a fair comparison for character development since TNG had twice the number of episodes and TOS really focused on the Big 3 and maybe Scotty a bit.

There have been plenty of Kirk vs. Picard comparisons over the years. I can't say which one is better or whatever, but we have to acknowledge that they are fundamentally different not just because of the era in which the characters are created. That being said, I think Spock is the single best character in all of Trek and one that the other series have tried to emulate (Data on TNG, the doctor on VOY, etc.)

I think TNG's success, despite all its weaknesses (poor actors, a lot of poor writing, taking 2 seasons to really create an identity, and then largely coasting thru Seasons 6&7) really comes from maybe 2 dozen terrific episodes. I think the masses of TV viewers were starved for quality in the early 90s and TNG did enough to hit a home run.
Bob (a different one)
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 11:56am (UTC -5)
The point of the episode is that artificially induced happiness isn't real happiness. It's the moral of the lotus eaters.

Imagine a country where a government pumped its citizens full of tranquilizers from the day of their birth. The citizens would be perfectly content and would probably resent anyone who tried to cut off their supply of drugs. Does that mean that the government is morally right to do such a thing?

"Happiness" is a nice goal, but it can come in many forms. Some people are happy creating art, some want to be successful in business, some people want a family etc. The flowers only give you the FEELING of happiness without any sense of (or desire for) accomplishment.



I prefer TNG to TOS, but TOS was the only show that really captured what it means to be human:

People aren't perfect, but they should try to do better.
There are no short cuts to happiness.
Technology is a tool, not something to worship.
The freedom to choose between good and evil is essential to being human.
In the real world you have to make tough moral decisions in the hope that you are contributing to the greater good.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
One detail worth noting is that the episode isn't *only* addressing whether a person choosing lazy bliss is making just as good a choice as someone choosing struggle and effort. That would be a related but somewhat different conversation. In this episode what happens is the crew are infected, and never make a conscious choice about what's best for them. The lazy happiness is literally contagious, and the way it's shown they have absolutely no choice in the matter. Even Spock, who otherwise makes logical decisions about all things, finds himself switched immediately when exposed to the spores. So while it's not blatant mind control, it comes very close to be an existential danger to the crew.

Now the episode obviously is also talking about bliss versus struggle in general, and Kirk's decision at the end that he prefers struggle is right on point with that. He alone seems to be in the position to see both sides and chooses. His choice also involves making that choice for his crew, however since arguably they weren't ever given a choice in the first place this seems entirely proper to me.

Another thing to consider is that if we want to go more metaphorical and less literal, there is an issue here about immediate gratification being like a drug you won't ever be able to turn off once you start. It's like the pleasure button, and you would go crazy if that button went away for even a minute once you're hooked. Many people would choose that even knowing what it means. Maybe even most would choose it eventually. So there is even a moral question about whether it should be seen as a public danger that something even exists that can enslave users immediately and permanently. There is a good argument to be made that this could threaten entire civilizations. It is not unreasonable to me that a civilization might even take steps to ban or destroy any tech (or in this case spores) that effectively remove your free will and replace it with constant pleasure. It's drugs times a million. So even if the spores are not malevolent in themselves, they still seem to be to be extremely dangerous.
Rahul
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
TOS was pretty adamant that humans should not be controlled and that humans need to explore, work to earn their rewards etc. That's a classic sci-fi theme.

In none of the situations is humanity actually making a choice to be controlled to achieve "happiness" and I think it's instructive that Kirk & co. provide that outside viewpoint to assess the problem and remedy it. The viewer can take whatever he/she wants from that theme.

In this episode, it's the spores that delude humans into thinking they are happy. But Kirk & co. establish a pretty consistent track record of playing liberator -- "The Return of the Archons" where they free a society from Landru's computer control; "The Apple" where they free people from the god-machine Vaal; "Dagger of the Mind" where they free patients from Dr. Adams' mind manipulation; "Who Mourns for Adonais?" has Kirk telling Apollo that humans of this era can no longer be shepherds -- they've grown beyond that; in "Errand of Mercy" they see an arrested culture and want to help it advance (aside from the strategic importance of Organia) until they find out the Organians are super-beings.

TOS would tell you humans can't exist in captivity ("The Cage" / "The Menagerie").

So I think this episode is just one iteration/flavor of a consistent TOS theme.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 3:25pm (UTC -5)
@ Rahul,

The one caveat I would put in front of all that is in most of those cases the happiness is fake; either an illusion, naive lack of knowing anything better, or outright false happiness such as in Return of the Archons where they are really boiling underneath the surface and are not at peace at all. But I do somewhat think that in This Side of Paradise they are uniquely showing us an environment where they experience real bliss, and not an unintelligent one. The crew can still think, it's just that they are 100% hooked on the spore juice and love it. Unlike the other episodes with a similar theme, here it would appear that even without an evil computer controlling them, a fake happiness or a sanitized peace (like in A Taste of Armageddon) here they have the real deal, and it's up to the Captain to decide if even the real deal is acceptable when the consequence is that humanity will advance no further in any way after this, forever. It's a question of freedom, yes, but also a question of whether people should be allowed to freely choose to give away their freedom. Kirk seems to be saying "you will be free whether you like it or not!" It's a pretty strong position to take, and much less of a no-brainer than releasing people from some stupid computer system.
Tidd
Tue, Mar 23, 2021, 3:33am (UTC -5)
I like this episode very much. It’s true that there isn’t a great deal of tension and edge-of-the-seat drama, but it was surely worth it to see Spock fall in love and hang from a tree! Not to mention McCoy’s Southern drawl (DeForest Kelly was a Southerner?).

There’s some interesting dialogue at the end about Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Spock’s remark about being “happy for the only time in his life “ was truly poignant. Using major sci-fi writers pays off in such moments and elevates Trek above ‘ commonplace TV’.

One major flaw: I understand about using the transporter to beam down alone — there must be a timer switch mechanism. But how on earth did Kirk beam back to an empty ship? Someone would have been needed to operate the transporter.
Tidd
Tue, Mar 23, 2021, 3:42am (UTC -5)
I wonder if this episode was really a comment on the ubiquitous 60s use of tranquillisers and antidepressants? That such solutions are ultimately artificial, and worse, they get you hooked and dependent?

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