Trekback Tuesday: Retro review of This Side of Paradise

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 It is mid march as I type these words, and most students (whether they be small children,or those of higher education) are most likely finding themselves in the middle of that one-week vacation from the riggers of education, known otherwise as Spring Break. I myself have taken a week off work, and am spending spring break with my two small children.

It occurred to me, that while aboard a starship there may not be a spring break per say, there are definitely instances where the crew found opportunities to act and behave as one might while on spring break.

Several episodes suggest themselves as possibly lining up with the theme of spring break, but the first that comes to mind is from the original series, and a fan favorite, “This Side of Paradise." As it happens, the original air date of this episode is rather close to when spring break typically occurs, for it first aired on March 2, 1967.

The beginning of the episode sees the crew of the Enterprise, investigating a colony on the planet Omicron Ceti.

Rather then discovering a long dead colony, Kirk and crew find a colony that is survived for the last three years, and what is all the more strange, seems to all be in perfect health physically and emotionally. It is not long before it is discovered that the colony’s perfect health and complete peace of mind is due to a plant that expels spores that are responsible for the perfect health of the colonists, protection from the harmful radiation as well as their peaceful and untroubled demeanors.

Spock is soon infected by the spores, as is the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.

Kirk finally discovers that strong emotions such as violent anger can counteract the effect of the spores.

He uses this knowledge to free Spock of the spores effects by antagonizing him into a fight. Once Spock is freed, Kirk and Spock are able to invoke strong emotions among the Enterprise crew and the colonists, freeing them of the effects of the spores.

This has always been one of my favorite episodes of the original series for multiple reasons.

It has a strong story that highlights the strength and power of emotion and asks rather poignant questions in ways only Trek can, such as is man truly made to struggle as Kirk suggests near the end of the episode?

It seems like nearly any episode that has Spock behaving like a human rather then a Vulcan is usually one of the more popular episodes of the series, and This Side of Paradise is one of the best examples of that. All in this one episode, the great Leonard Nimoy shows sides of Spock rarely seen, including falling in love, disregarding Kirk’s direct orders, engaging in a physical confrontation with Kirk, and looking at clouds. These moments that show Spock’s humanity are some of the best moments in all of Trek.

 This episode has been praised by multiple websites as being one of the best episodes of the original series and, indeed, one of the best episodes in the entirety of Trek canon. This might be a loose interpretation on my part, but I still find this episode applicable even today.

Not to get on a social soap box, but there are aspects of our current society that allow for people to live in stagnation, to never work towards a goal, or try to better themselves or their situation, to simply just exist. I believe this episode highlights why while that maybe easier and more comfortable, it is not what humans should strive for. Kirk says this himself in his final monologe of the episode, when he asks Bones if “perhaps man was meant to struggle."

Not only is “This Side of Paradise” entertaining, humorous, and filled with strong performances from its main cast, but like so many episodes of Trek, it very subtly sneaks in social commentary that is still relevant to this day