Written by Michael Richards, Arthur Heinemann, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by David Alexander
Episodes like this make canceling the series after this season seem like a mercy killing. It can be summed up with “what were they thinking?”
Of course, what they were thinking was this was the 1960’s and the older folks were attempting to make a statement about what was going on with those darn teenagers rebelling against the draft and the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, there’s not much redeeming about this episode. It’s poorly written and poorly executed. It’s no wonder writer D.C. Fontana wouldn’t put her name to it and used “Michael Richards” instead.
The Enterprise is in pursuit of a stolen space cruiser. The thieves are pushing the cruiser to the limit and the Enterprise manages to beam them over just before that ship explodes. One of those on board is the son of the Catullan Ambassador, and the Federation is currently in negotiations with them. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is ordered to handle the situation delicately.
The group is led by a charismatic yet militant leader, Dr. Severin (Skip Homeier). Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) gets through to them a little bit and learns they are seeking the mythological planet of Eden. They reject all that modern society has brought, and wish to live more naturally. In other words, space-hippies.
Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) recognizes one of the voices as someone he knew at Starfleet Academy. Irina (Mary Linda Rapelye) was once a scientist and has now has rejected all of that. The two have a conversation where she reveals that his sense of duty and “correctness” was what led her to leave him back on Earth.
Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) reveals that Doctor Severin is a carrier of a disease for which there is a vaccine but to keep from contracting it, one would need to have booster shots. He’s not sure of the status of the crew, never mind the group of people that follow Doctor Severin. This proves to be something of a distraction as the senior staff is more concerned with the virus and not paying attention to what’s happening on the ship.
It’s pretty improbably that by just acting “groovy” and playing some music that Dr. Severin and his followers could manage to take over the ship. Even allowing for a bit of indulgence, given that the Ambassador’s son is among those seized, it’s ridiculous to believe this is how fast discipline would be tossed out of the airlock and ignored. How many times has the series given viewers the same story where the Enterprise gets taken over with ease by people who have no training in operating a starship. It’s a plot point that gets beaten to death.
Even allowing for Irina being a past love of Chekov, there’s nothing interesting about Dr. Severin and his band. They are a caricature drawn by the adults of the 1960s, right down to the guy who seems to pick up a guitar. That they manage to get some sympathy and possibly some interest in their outlook on the universe from Mr. Spock is more bad writing. Yes, as a Vulcan he is something of a peacenik himself, but he also has a strong enough disciplined outlook that he would reject what they are doing early on.
There’s nothing that I can think of that would make The Way to Eden worth watching. It’s routinely listed as one of the bottom three episodes of the Original Series, and rightfully so.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Requiem for Methuselah
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Cloud Minders
I’ve never quite liked “The Way to Eden.” I don’t hate it; I’ll watch it (albeit reluctantly) if and when I’m revisiting Season Three of TOS on Blu-ray. I think my dislike is based on that I know D.C. Fontana originally wanted to introduce Dr. McCoy’s daughter Joanna and to create tension between Kirk and Bones due to the (mutual?) attraction between Joanna and the captain. However, Fred Freiberger decreed – out of nowhere – that McCoy wasn’t old enough to be a dad (?), so he had the episode rewritten into what it is now,
I thought the cast was cool, though. And I was tickled to see Charles Napier (Adam) grow up to play authority figures such as the sleazy CIA guy, Murdoch, in Rambo: First Blood Part II and the Army general in DS9’s “Little Green Men.”
Yeah, this one was really kind of weird. Not one of their better offerings and seeing DC Fontana’s name on there surprised me. She’s usually a lot better than this.
I don’t think D.C. Fontana was happy with the episode, either. It is not the story she wanted to tell, nor is the teleplay what she turned in to Fred Freiberger.