Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This Side of Paradise

From Wikipedia:

"This Side of Paradise" is a first-season episode #24, production #25, of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was first broadcast on March 2, 1967 and was repeated on August 10, 1967. The episode was written by D.C. Fontana and Nathan Butler, and directed by Ralph Senensky.

Overview: The Enterprise visits a planet, where the inhabitants are under the control of strange plant life.


This is not an episode to which I've returned over the years. I've sort of categorized it away, based on my memories of watching it as a child, as one of those goofy and unsuccessful episodes, with particularly bad acting, and an uninteresting story. But I watched it again recently on broadcast television here in NOLA, for the first time in many years, and it turns out that I was only half right.

I mean sure, Doctor McCoy's old-country-doctor routine is played to the hilt, verging on comedy. Actually, he is pretty funny in this one. The fights Enterprise crew members get into toward the end of the episode are laughable, too. And the colony leader is one of those iron-jawed, stiff-lipped sci fi actors so common in 1950s schlock B movies. Kirk has some pretty silly dialogue.

But to judge "This Side of Paradise" only in those terms is to do a grave injustice to the fantastic chemistry shared between Leonard Nimoy and future Charles Bronson wife Jill Ireland. The "strange plant life" noted in the Wikipedia excerpt above removes Spock's Vulcan ability to suppress his emotions, and he falls in love, and it's really fucking beautiful. And doomed, too, because we all know that things will be back to normal by the end of the episode: there's some incredible pathos here, amid all the unintentional science fiction comedy. Really, Nimoy is a fantastic actor, and this one's all about Spock, as penetrating and cool, in it's own way, as the second season Vulcan fest "Amok Time," or "Journey to Babel," which delves into the science officer's relationship with his father.

When you get down to it, "This Side of Paradise" is something of a Star Trek tragicomedy: you can watch it both ironically and seriously at the same time.

Go check it out.

"Right next to the dog faced boy!"