Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Paradise Syndrome

This appears to be the full episode of The Paradise Syndrome (Stardate 4842.6 for ST buffs), one of a handful to deal expressly with American historical themes.  The episode finds Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy on a distant planet that bears a remarkable resemblance to earth.  They come across an obelisk, where Kirk falls through a hatch into an inner chamber, and has his memory cleansed.  He soon finds himself treated as a deity among the native villagers. The episode plays on a number of white man-meets-native themes, although the stereotypes that are presented have irritated a few critics over the years.  Here's a link to Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future which offers criticism of the series.

You might recognize Sabrina Scharf, who played Kirk's love interest in this episode.  She had quite a number of small parts in movies and television episodes in the 60s and 70s, including Easy Rider


  1. As innovative as the series was, it did succumb to certain conventions. At the end of the tale, the Native Noble Savage dies while the White Master survives (Melville's Moby Dick? Jack London's The Heathen?*) In a racially mixed relationship, it was dark woman - white man. The reverse was unthinkable and unpresentable at that time on TV.

    But this episode brings up something I have long believed to be true - that of genetic memory (white supremacists such as Jack London referred to it as racial memory but for a different purpose than is used conventionally). Kirk lost his memory but has intuitive ideas as to where he belongs. This helps him survive the terrible challenges he is facing. Jack London would have said it was his White superiority that enabled this. Indeed, critics of the TV series pointed that shortfall back then. As for me, I think I pointed this out a while ago about having a lifelong fascination by the name "Segovia" ~ then, many years later having discovered that my ancestors were from that province in Spain! Such things do exist. But this proves more than anything else that we are all human and really are alike. Therefore, there is no reason to promote segregation. Quite the contrary, peace and integration are the true ideals of humanity. And that's what Star Trek really was all about.

    * --- this tale is generally unknown or under appreciated. I recommend you read it at your convenience.

  2. It wasn't one of the better episodes, but I enjoyed that atmosphere. I think there is only so much you can do within 45 mins. I don't think it was so much "white superiority" on display as it was the indomnitable Capt. Kirk, who always got the best of every situation.

    I never could warm up to Shatner then or now. I really liked Capt. Pike in the pilot and later how they treated the pilot episode in the two-part Menagerie.

  3. STAR TREK, ''The Menagerie":

    Critics at that time agreed it was one of the greatest episodes in TV history. I have seen it about 10 times and am still quite moved by the sentiments expressed in it. In fact, I just might watch it again!

    Canadian Bill Shatner was perhaps the most popular actor on TV in those years. But I agree Jeffrey Hunter was an outstanding actor and did a great job of portraying Capt Pike. So sad he died at such a young age. For all he accomplished, he probably would have done even greater work than he did.

  4. Can't help but revisit Jethro Tull once again - like Roddenberry, he wrote about his visions about a world of peace. One song with this theme was "Living In The Past":

    "We'll go walking out
    while others shout of WAR'S DISASTER.
    Oh, we won't give in,
    let's go living in the past.

    Now there's revolution, but they don't know
    what they're fighting.''

    While others fight, we'll live in the past.

    And we dream on and on ...

  5. Star Trek's most famous or infamous interracial kiss:

    While some didn't like it, both Bill Shatner and Nichelle Nichols said their fans strongly approved of it.

  6. Star Trek's Prime Directive:

    ''As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely.

    Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.''

    Obviously, this was a message to those politicians who supported the Vietnam war and wanted to expand it.

  7. I think the directive more reflects a sense of American exceptionalism expanded into the cosmos. I don't know if Roddenberry intended this tongue and cheek or if he was serious, but it is quite something to assume interference would necessarily include superior knowledge, stength or technology, given that Starfleet was often coming at odds with aliens as strong or stronger than them, i.e. the Klingons.

    Seems to me the Klingons were a manifestation of all the bully boys over the years including Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia.

    Nevertheless, Starfleet often found itself imposing on other planets, usually inadvertently. This episode a case in point. But, that's what drama is all about.