Written by Margaret Armen, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Jud Taylor
I can remember a time when Star Trek reruns were on television every evening. That was the foundation for my love of science fiction. At the time, The Paradise Syndrome was one of my favorite episodes. I’m not quite sure what about it appealed to me now; I just remember always being happy when it was on.
Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) beam down to a planet that seems to have evolved remarkably similar to Earth in terms of the foliage and fauna. There is an alien obelisk in the landscape that is far beyond even their current technology. The planet is in the path of an asteroid, and the landing party must leave within 30 minutes if they are going to deflect it.
Not far from the obelisk, the landing party finds a settlement of what looks like Native Americans. Startled and intrigued by their presence, McCoy and Spock linger while observing them. Back at the obelisk, Captain Kirk engages his communicator and accidentally opens a trap door. He disappears into it, unseen by Spock and McCoy, then hit with some sort of electrical charge.
Unable to locate Captain Kirk, Spock must take the Enterprise to divert the asteroid. His intention is to come back after they have done that and search for the Captain.
Inside the obelisk, Kirk can’t remember who he is or how he got there. He finds his way out, just as the daughter of the Native chief is at the obelisk, their “Temple”. They believe he has been sent to them from the Temple to protect them.
It’s Against My My Programming To Impersonate A Diety– C3PO
There’s a lot to like here. The story does attempt to answer the question of why there are so many humans scattered around on various planets the Enterprise comes across while exploring. The idea that some advanced alien society plucked these Natives from Earth even while they were being wiped out by Europeans and resettled here makes for an interesting concept. Were other planets with parallel societies the result of the same treatment? That, of course, is never answered but it makes for a decent explanation. (The real explanation has more to do with the minutiae of budgets and technology.)
For the most part, though, this episode hinges on William Shatner. He does a wonderful job convincing us of Kirk (or Kirok as he calls himself among the Natives) knowing there is something more to him than what he remembers. I know the frustration of needing to find a particular word and knowing it’s in my head somewhere but I just can’t make that connection. Imagine having that with your whole life up until this point. You know it’s there, but just can’t make the connection to all of those memories. Shatner captures that in Kirk as he’s frustrated by what he can’t remember. He knows he’s not a god, but he’s also not sure of what exactly he is or what he’s been doing up until now.
There are moments of frustration, then Kirk “goes with the flow” as that includes a romance with Miramanee (Sabrina Scharf), the daughter of the chief who becomes his wife. Shatner and Scharf seem to share a good chemistry, and it’s a shame this wasn’t another woman they neglected to go back to when Kirk is in the Nexus in Star Trek: Generations as a time he thought his life was perfect.
Leonard Nimoy and DeForrest Kelley give great performances as well, keeping the home-fires burning on the Enterprise. When its attempt to divert the asteroid fails and incapacitates the ship so their return to the planet is only at a quarter of impulse power. During this time, the two bicker as usual, but McCoy also shows caring about Spock’s condition and insight into his character. It’s some great moments for both of these characters.
Towards the end, there are a number of moments that just don’t work. As the asteroid approaches and the Natives look to Kirok as their God to stop it, they react angrily at his inability to do just that. However, he has never declared himself a god throughout the story – they have pushed their own visions and desires onto him. From this moment on, though, the story just doesn’t seem to work. Kirk and Miramanee are attacked and the injuries just don’t seem to be so severe that McCoy wouldn’t have been able to save her. Kirk also manages to quickly piece together what happened and the three figure out the real purpose of the obelisk and manage to fix everything nice and tidy so the Natives can go back to living as they were. I know it had to end that way for the purpose of the story, but it just didn’t work for me.
I still enjoyed watching The Paradise Syndrome, though perhaps not with the same innocence of the younger me. It’s a decent story that attempts to explain several things in the universe of Star Trek. The acting is good and much of the story is compelling.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Enterprise Incident
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – And The Children Shall Lead