Saturday, June 27, 2009

Star Trek--"The Paradise Syndrome"

I noted there were very few gems among the third season rocks. “The Paradise Syndrome” qualifies as one of the them. It is an obvious attempt to recapture the mood of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever.” while I will grant you it plays second fiddle to its inspiration, it is still a moving episode and the best kirk-centric installment of the third season.

Kirk, spock, and McCoy beam down to a primitive planet to discover a displaced Native American tribe. There was no compelling reason the natives could not have juat been human-like, but I am willing to overlook that oddity. They discover a strange obelisk in which Kirk accidentally becomes intrapped. Spock and McCoy search for him briefly, for whatever reason not assuming he is in the obelisk, but quickly depart. The Enterprise’s main priority is to stop an asteroid from destroying the helpless planet. They have to tend to that immediately.

Kirk has partially lost his memory. He ingratiates himself into the tribe by performing CPR on a drowned boy everyone assumed was dead. The tribe consider Kirk a god because of his actions. Kirk eventually marries and impregnates a woman named Miramanee. The two have a happy life together until Kirk fails to stop a storm. In anger, the tribe stones the both of them. Spock and Mccoy intervene after failing to stop the asteroid and revive Kirk. A mindmeld restores his memory. But Miramanee’s wounds are fatal. She dies in kirk’s arms just after he figures out how to deflect the asteroid with the obelisk.

I noteda couple plot holes above that could have ruined the episode. For some, they probably did. But I thought ‘The Paradise Syndrome” was good enough and unique enough among TOS to overlook its flaws. It is one of the few third season episodes with any heart to it whatsoever.

There were some interesting revelations about kirk here. First, you got the hint he was a world weary sort, tired of the responsibilities of being a captain and wanting something simpler out of life. Yet he still winds up acting much like himself even when he has lost his own identity. Second, it is demonstrated yet again he can only love a woman when the Enterprise is not foremost on his mind. The ship is a harsh mistress. Finally, it is reinforced his ship is the only thing he can love. He loses everyone and everything else. Note how he realizes this by Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when he says he has always known he will die alone.

‘The Paradise Syndrome’” pains Kirk as a tragic figure. It burens even more so as in the next episode, he is right back to status quo. But both he and the audience know what is really going on in his heart. It is tough to watch from here on out.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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