Monday, May 25, 2009

Star Trek--"This Side of Paradise"

So what is Trek’s position on drug use? Harlan Ellison remains angry today a plot point about drug use was cut out of “The City on the Edge of Forever” in favor of McCoy’s delirium serving as the story’s catalyst. Twenty years later, TNG took another stance against drug use when Picard decided to end the drug trade between a supplier planet and another planet of addicts. But before both of those, we have “This Side of Paradise‘ which just might imply smoking pot is not all that bad.

Considering the title of this blog, which is mostly a bitter joke on my blind eye. But still a reference to one of my favorites, The Odyssey, it would be intellectually dishonest to not draw parallels between this episode’s story and the Lotus Eaters. The lotus eaters were a Northern African people who used to eat a plant which induced apathetic, peaceful sleep. Heavy winds blew Odysseus and his men to their home. The men took part in munching on the plants and promptly lost all interest in the journey home. Odysseus had to round them up to get them back on the ship.

With the added science fiction element of the plant spores protecting the colonists from radiation, that is the basic plot of “This side of Paradise.” the entire crew, save for Kirk, are infected by spores from silly looking plants and it is suddenly the Summer of Love two months early and dozens of light years from San Francisco. As usual, kirk is immune because his duty to the Enterprise supercedes all other urges. It isup to him to rescue the crew.

This is not a kirk-centric episode, however. Spock steals the show as he falls in love with a girl for the first time. We get to see Spock’s inner turmoil over his half human/half Vulcan status. Kirk is actually the square in this one, as he not only ruins everyone’s buzz, but does so in the harshest manner possible. He has to make Spock angry in order to snap him out of his high. He does so by making all sorts of hateful remarks about Spock being a green blooded half-breed. Spock may be a fictional alien, but I still could not help wincing at the sequence. You have to figure there is some truth to the feelings Kirk is expressing, if not from him, then by the human population in general.

Regardless, once spock has recovered, he and Kirk use some mumbo jumbo sonic waves to anger everyone on the planet to snap them out of their haze. It works, but everyone is bummed. The hint fro most of the returning crew is they are bummed to no longer have their peaceful apathy. Spock is a little more bitter. His time under the spores’ influence was the only time he has ever been happy.

Tell me you do not believe the Lotus eater parallels are just plausible deniability for a pot legalization screed? Everyone who breathed in the spores was happy, amorous, and at peace. Kirk serves as the authority figure--the fuzz, if you will--who uses violence to bring the turned on, tuned in, and dropped out crewmembers back to reality. Timothy leary had just coined that phrase in September of 1966. It would have been well caught on among the California counter culture by the time this script was being written in 1967. It is difficult to deny the writer might have sneaked one in on us.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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