Director: Ralph Senensky
Writer: D.C. Fontana
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Jill Ireland, Frank Overton, DeForest Kelley, Grant Woods, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Michael Barrier, Dick Scotter, and Eddie Paskey
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 3/2/1967
Production #: 6149-25
When the Enterprise crew travels to a presumably doomed colony on Omicron Ceti III, a landing party discovers that Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton) and his fellow colonists have survived and flourished under the planet’s deadly bombardment of berthold rays. As Kirk attempts to investigate the numerous incongruities in the Omicron settlement, a mysterious pod plant infects the captain and his subordinates with a euphoria-inducing spore. Now, for the first time in his life, Spock abandons his duty and pursues an affectionate relationship with another person.
While “The Naked Time” had already explored a similar premise involving loss of inhibitions, “This Side of Paradise” offers a more direct analysis on the benefits of productive as opposed to sedentary lifestyles as related to human drives. Leonard Nimoy fans will appreciate the late actor’s ability to portray Spock’s passionate qualities, whereas those who admire Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy should enjoy this episode for its aforementioned commentary.
Until this point in the series, the Star Trek writers merely alluded to Spock’s human half without fully realizing its true potential. However, the romance between Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) and Spock allows the latter individual to express his most intimate feelings and establish a deeper connection with the audience as a result. Likewise, Spock’s violent outburst against his captain should evoke an especially powerful response from viewers thanks to Nimoy’s nuanced acting. By placing the Vulcan science officer in a situation where positive and negative emotions overwhelm logical restraint, D.C. Fontana effectively brought to surface Spock’s latent humanity, yet never truly undermined his core personality in the process.
In a similar fashion to “The Naked Time,” “This Side of Paradise” presents a disturbing case for why order must always supersede anarchy if societal functionality is to be maintained. On a philosophical level, however, the latter entry delves much deeper by dispelling the flawed conceptions of paradise that permeate certain religious dogmas. As Kirk so brilliantly explains, the desire to overcome life’s challenges is an essential facet of the human condition, so an existence without conflict would hardly be worthwhile from either a practical or emotional perspective. Barring the influence of alien spores or other such incredible factors, people are unlikely to be satisfied leading purely leisurely lifestyles as Fontana’s narrative indicates through its thought-provoking subject matter.
Like many of the greatest Star Trek episodes, “This Side of Paradise” combines science fiction with humanistic philosophy in a most intelligent fashion. As mentioned earlier, fans of Spock’s development as a character will wish to view this installment for a first glimpse into the Vulcan science officer’s gentler side. Additionally, those who enjoy material inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers should appreciate “This Side of Paradise” for its surprisingly serious approach to “pod plants” and their mind-altering effects on humanoids.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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