This “Side of Paradise” is an episode of The Original Series that really stuck with people. Perhaps it was the fact that Spock broke character, or that Kirk was the one who blocked everyone else from having a good time. Kirk always enjoyed himself.
The episode begins as the Enterprise enters orbit around the planet Omicron Ceti 3. Their mission was to see if the 150 settlers had somehow survived, as the planet was under bombardment from harmful Bertold rays. Spock said there was “absolutely” no way the settlers would be able to survive for the three years.
Kirk ordered a landing party to the surface to investigate. They arrived and walked around through what looked like an abandoned 20th Century farming village.
As the captain waxed on and on about their deaths, settlement leader Elias Sandoval and two others walked up and introduced themselves. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others were shocked.
McCoy, with sarcasm, noted that Sandoval was “alive.” Spock said they should not be. As Sandoval gave them a tour, a woman appeared. She immediately stared at Mr. Spock, and he looked at her as well. Her name was Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), and she was the botanist for the colony. She knew Spock six years back on Earth.
The same “love” theme that played during Shore Leave when Kirk saw his old flame, Ruth.
This time, Kirk gave Spock the shady eye when he noticed his first officer’s connection with Ms. Kalomi.
Sandoval explained the point of this colony was to return to a simple life of farming, with no electronics, machines, or weapons.
Later, the crew fanned out to try to figure out how Sandoval and his people were living so well even as the Bertold rays streamed down from the sky. Sulu noted that the barns had no equipment and animals.
The episode gave us a little bit of intrigue… as we saw Leila and Sandoval “schemed” for a moment when the crew was not in earshot. She guaranteed that the “Vulcanian” would stay with the settlers.
McCoy examined the settlers and said they were all “excellent.” Spock called to Kirk to report that there were no animals on the planet (besides the settlers). Sandoval gave Kirk a tour of the fields. He told the captain that the planet gives them all they need, thanks to the great dirt, moderate climate, and rains. He learned that the settlers grew only what they needed, and they had very little surplus.
Then, McCoy discovered that Sandoval had a whole bunch of injuries, including scar tissue, in his medical logs from before the trip to Omicron Ceti 3. But now, Sandoval had no evidence of the scar tissue or any other ailments. Kirk was perplexed.
In the fields with Leila, Spock had no place to run. She detailed that she loved him when they met on Earth, but he did not respond to her. She offered that if she told him the secret of how they survived on Omicron Ceti 3, then he would share his feelings with her.
“Emotions are alien to me,” said Spock. “I am a scientist.”
Leila said she did not believe that.
Meanwhile, Kirk got orders from Starfleet to evacuate the planet. He told Sandoval that all would beam aboard the Enterprise. Sandoval refused.
As they walked, Leila and Spock approached a large, odd-looking flower. As they got closer, the plant sprayed Spock in the face with gas and spores. The Vulcan struggled for a bit, but after a while, his attitude changed. Spock looked suddenly looked up (while the love theme played) and he was a whole different man… er, alien.
He told Leila that he loved her, and they kissed.
Soon, Kirk and Sandoval exchanged words. Sandoval said they would not be going anywhere, while Kirk said that he did have his orders. Kirk asked Sulu if he’d seen Spock or DeSalle. Sulu had not.
When Kirk tried to raise Spock via the communicator, the Vulcan was resting his head in Leila’s lap, examining the cloud formations. He was wearing the same suit as the rest of Sandoval’s people — which was the same thing he would wear in “Spock’s Brain.”
Anyhow, Spock finally responded to the captain’s calls with: “Yes, what do you want?” Kirk told him that Spock needed to report in immediately. Spock sassed his captain and dropped the communicator.
Kirk used the signal from Spock’s communicator to find his first officer. They found Spock hanging from a log, swinging and playing.
Meanwhile, DeSalle gave McCoy a flower. Yes, one of those flowers.
When Kirk walked over to the trees Spock was playing on, the Vulcan told him that he would not be leaving the planet. Kirk told Sulu that Spock was under arrest and he’d be under Sulu’s custody.
Spock agreed to be under arrest but diverted Kirk, Sulu, and a third crewman over to a mass of the flowers. When they reached the flowers, they immediately sprayed the trio. Sulu succumbed and smiled.
“I see it now! Of course, we can’t remove the colony,” said Sulu. “It’d be wrong!”
Kirk, who did not seem to be affected, grabbed Sulu by the shoulders. He told Sulu that he didn’t understand the plants, but he would work to get all of the colonists on the ship. Spock said that Kirk was going to be “difficult.”
Back at the meeting spot, McCoy met Kirk. The doctor arranged for at least 100 flowers to be beamed up, and he ordered the captain to “relax.” He also called Kirk, “Jim Boy.” Kirk was not happy and beamed up.
When Kirk arrived on the bridge, he gave Uhura an order, and she said that she could not follow his order. She damaged the ship’s communications systems, so Kirk could not reach out to Starfleet Command. She walked off. After she left, Kirk found a flower near her station.
He found a line of crewmembers waiting to beam down to the planet. He ordered them to go to their stations, and they refused. The crew started leaving the ship en masse. Kirk asked McCoy why this was happening or if there was anything that could be done, but the doctor said: “Who wants to counteract paradise, Jim Boy?”
On the planet, Kirk confronted Sandoval, who asked the captain to join them. Kirk scoffed but asked about the flowers. Spock said the flowers and their spores drifted through space until they found their way to Omicron Ceti 3. And these spores are what enable Sandoval’s people to survive, as they block the Bertold rays.
Thanks to the spores, the settlers have “no need or want,” said Sandoval. Spock said that Omicron Ceti 3 was a true Eden, with belonging and love. Kirk said that humans were not meant for this sort of thing.
“Man stagnates if he has no ambition or desire to be more than he is,” said Kirk. He went back to the Enterprise, which was completely abandoned. He figured that without the crew, the ship’s orbit would eventually decay and the Enterprise would burn up in Omicron Ceti 3’s atmosphere.
As Kirk remained on the bridge alone considering what to do, Uhura’s flower sprayed him in the face. His countenance changed at once, and he called Spock to tell him that he understood. Kirk told Spock and Leila that wanted to pack a few things from his quarters, and he’d meet them soon.
While he packed, Kirk got upset about the situation. He slammed his hand onto the transporter control console and yelled. He broke free from the spore’s relaxing effect. He then decided to get Spock to break free from the spore’s effects as well. He tricked Spock into beaming up.
When Spock arrived, Kirk began.
“All right you mutinous, disloyal, computerized, half-breed,” he said. “We’ll see about you deserting my ship!”
Spock did not agree with the term ‘computerized.’ Kirk continued to insult Spock again and again while holding a metal rod.
“What could you expect from a simpering, devil-eared freak, whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia?” Kirk asked. The insults continued.
Spock got a little upset and attacked, and after he’d beaten the captain, the spell of the spores wore off. Kirk explained how anger beat the spore’s powers. They agreed to put a signal into a transmitter, which would agitate the crew and settlers. They’d also break free from the spores.
After a while, Leila called up to Spock. She said she missed him and she wanted to see the Enterprise. Kirk asked if they should speak while she was under the influence of the spores. Spock beamed her aboard. When she hugged him, she knew that he was no longer “with them.”
He said that he could not. She sobbed. She said that she did not want to lose him again as she did six years ago. Spock said that he had a responsibility to the ship and the “man on the bridge.” Spock noted that he was living in a “self-made purgatory.”
She looked up after crying and realized that she was no longer under the influence of the spores. She said that she didn’t know if he had another name. He touched her face and said that he did, but it was unpronounceable.
Kirk and Spock started up the transmitter, and the settlers and crew started to fight and argue. Even McCoy and Sandoval argued over what McCoy should do when he’s no longer practicing medicine. They scuffled, and Sandoval realized that he wasted three years, but accomplished nothing. Sandoval said that he wanted to go to a new planet and start over after their visit to Starbase 21. Kirk agreed.
As they left Omicron Ceti 3, McCoy sighed and said this was “the second time man’s been thrown out of paradise.” Kirk disagreed, saying that they walked out on their own.
“Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise,” said Kirk. “Maybe we were meant to fight our way through. Struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums.”
Spock finally said for the first time in his life, he was happy.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
What a terrible ending! Spock was happy and found true love and left it to serve on a ship with an angry man? The crew and settlers lived in peace without fear of war, hunger, or sickness and in harmony… and Kirk ruined it. I realize that he had to for the show to continue.
But in my opinion, life on Omicron Ceti 3 wasn’t so bad. Who cares if they made no progress? They were happy. Not everyone needs to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life. Kirk should have just left them alone.
I felt terrible for poor Spock. He found love and had to leave it all.
Though I didn’t like the ending of this episode and wondered what sort of moral message it was sending as it was written — perhaps it was a veiled anti-Communist vibe or something, I thought this entry could have had implications to future Trek.
- On the Enterprise-D, the crew could have easily filtered out the flower’s spores to inoculate the settlers under the “spell.”
- Could these spores be related at all to the ones in use by the U.S.S. Discovery?
- What happened to Spock and Leila? Could they have gotten together sometime after this episode? Spock could have a blonde-haired son that could appear in Star Trek: Picard or some future series.
- Could the spores be weaponized by the Federation? They could come in handy against the Klingons or Borg.
- What was Spock’s other, unpronounceable name?
But it seems that later shows or writers ever pulled none of these plot strings. I could be wrong. Tell me in the comments!
RATING: 3 out of 5