>“The Paradise Syndrome”
For the second episode in a row, the pressures of command seem to be catching up to Captain Kirk. Last time out, it was a ruse to steal the Romulan cloaking device. This time out, Kirk suffers from “Tahiti syndrome” and goes native on a planet inhabited by transplanted Native Americans.
One of the few third season episodes to be filmed on location due to the budget cuts, “The Paradise Syndrome” has never been one of my favorite Trek episodes. The first time I saw it, I found myself bored by it and unlike other episodes that have grown on me over time, this is one that has, if anything, backslid in my estimation.
The Enterprise visits a nameless planet where a tribe of transplanted native Americans live and which is currently in the cross-hairs of a giant asteroid that is bearing down on the planet. Rather than completing their mission to stop the asteroid before it gets past the point of no return, Kirk, Spock and McCoy beams down to check the place out. This is the first of many questionable decisions the episode will require various characters to make in order to facilitate the plot, such as it is. The surface of the planet has some odd obelisk that the crew can’t figure out what it’s for. (Mayhaps this is why they beamed down…but again, we’re never really told that for sure).
Kirk wanders off from the landing party and when he calls the ship, the obelisk opens and he falls inside. He’s zapped and knocked unconscious leading to another moment when things get wonky. As the show comes back from the opening credits, Spock indicates that search parties have scoured the area looking for Kirk and it’s implied this has taken longer than the few minutes available to crew to high tail it out to said asteroid. I can sort of buy that Spock recalculated how long the point of no return was because he later pushes the Enterprise at warp nine to the asteroid, much to Scotty’s chagrin.
So, after not finding Kirk, we head out to stop the asteroid. Kirk wakes up, emerges from the obelisk just as two women from the tribe come by with a tribute. And they quickly add two plus two, get five and determine Kirk is a god. Kirk is suffering amnesia, heads back to the village and by using mouth to mouth resuscitation, saves the life of a boy who fell into the river. Kirk is immediately appointed the medicine chief, something that ticks off the previous medicine chief, Salish no end. It’s a high honor and was passed down from father to son. It also includes getting to marry the High Chief’s daughter Miramanee. Salish is not having a good day and is immediately resentful and suspicious of Kirk.
Salish will later attack Kirk in the woods, making him bleed and seemingly outing Kirk as not a god. Unfortunately, this seems to only be thrown in because we couldn’t think of another act break since Salish doesn’t make anything of it to anyone else. When it comes to adversaries or threats, Salish is a pretty weak one, only seeming to pop up at random moments to accuse Kirk of not being god, but not actually following through on the threats to prove it and discredit him. Maybe he doesn’t really love Miramanee as much as he says.
Which brings us to Miramanee, a woman who apparently hasn’t read the manual on Kirk romances. Sure, he’s lost his memory and is calling himself Kirok. Yes, he can remember how to create lamps and irrigation and he has strange dreams of the hut in the sky. But she should know that by kissing him, she’s gone by episode’s end. She makes the tragic mistake of falling hard for him, marrying him and conceiving a child with him. And that means that by episode’s end she must die. It’s a cruel fate, if it weren’t for the fact that it feels like the script has to push the reset button in the final moments. Miramanee dies after being stoned by the tribe….more on that later.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise ain’t having a lot of success stopping the asteroid. Several attempts fail and the engines are blown all to hell. So, we limp back to the planet and it takes months to get there. All the while Spock is consumed with understanding markings on the obelisk since it clearly holds the secret to stopping the asteroid.
Which it does. The native American group was put on this planet by the Preservers. Apparently it’s a nice place to visit, but every once in a while asteroids slam into it. Hence the Obelisk as some kind of defense system. The Medicine Chief knows how to get in, but ironically that knowledge has been lost since Salish’s dad was greedy and didn’t share that with him. It brings up the question of why would anyone want to seed a group of people on this planet if asteroids slam into in on a regular basis, given that there seem to be a lot of other potential candidates out there that aren’t regularly hit by asteroids. But if you do that, we don’t have an episode….
So, the asteroid is coming, Kirk is proven to be false and he and Miramanee are stoned. She bears a greater brunt of injury since Kirk comes out of it pretty much unscathed. McCoy and Spock beam down in time to save them, a quick mind meld restores Kirk’s memory and they find the way into the obelisk and deflect the asteroid.
And then, Miramanee dies.
Of course, the ship is still screwed with no warp engines and it seems the tribe is willing to let Kirk back in for a few quiet moments alone with Miramanee before she dies. But these aren’t addressed and frankly that’s not a bad thing. The episode thankfully ends. I know I’m supposed to be touched by the death of Miramanee, but I’m more relieved this episode is over…and not just for the reasons I discussed.
There’s always been the accusation against Shatner that he’s a bit of a ham as Kirk. There are episodes from the original series run that discredit that argument (“Enemy Within,” “City on the Edge of Forever”) and then there are episodes that back that accusation up. This is one of them. At one point, Shatner hams it up while pondering his love for Miramanee and that he’s found paradise that I almost wanted to turn off the episode. I’d repressed that portion of the episode from my mind. It’s right there with most of the Kirk as Kirok stuff.
What’s a shame is the portions on the Enterprise, while a bit on the cliched side, work fairly well. Scotty lamenting the engines, the argument between Spock and McCoy, the dire situation of not stopping the asteroid…it’s all fairly well done. Yes, it’s a collection of Trek’s greatest hits and it doesn’t quite reach the same depth that “The Tholian Web” will later this season, but I’d still rather see it than Kirok celebrating his love for Miramanee.