Star Trek: The Original Series episode 24 review

Mark checks out This Side Of Paradise from Star Trek's maiden season...

Star Trek TOS 24

Episode: 24Title: This Side Of ParadiseStar Date: 3417.3-3417.7Writer: D.C. Fontana and Nathan Butler (Jerry Sohl)First Shown: 2nd March 1967

As original series stories go, the background to this adventure is probably more interesting than the narrative, which follows the somewhat well worn route of turning up at a planet where all seems well, only to discover a darker secret.

The Federation is concerned about a colony on Omicron Ceti III, not only because the system is constantly showered with deadly Berthold rays, but also because they’ve not heard from them in some time.

However, when they do arrive, they’re amazed to discover that all the people on the outpost are entirely fit and well – how can this be?

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The answer lies in some innocuous looking flowers which when approached dispense spores that work symbiotically with the host creature to provide protection from the radiation and perfect health. But they also have the side-effect that they render all those affected to reject their duties for a simpler existence.

An added complication to all this is that Mr Spock meets Leila Kalomi there, a woman he previously dated on Earth. She takes him to the flowers and soon the emotional side of his personality is dominant. In fact, it’s exactly that reversal, with Spock emotional and Kirk being the opposite of his normal nature, that turns a relatively basic premise more interesting.

The progress of the spores through the Enterprise crew is accelerated by the transporting of plants up to the ship, and even their appearance on the bridge, where Kirk is eventually overcome by them.

Strangely for Trek, the resolution comes not in a brilliant piece of logic or imaginative strategic thinking but entirely by accident. While trying to leave the ship, Kirk has a problem with the transporter which results in him feeling extreme emotion, which kills the spores in him. Realising what’s happened, he asks Spock to join him onboard to help complete their evacuation of the ship. When Spock arrives, Kirk uses all manner of verbal abuse to goad Spock into an emotional response, resulting in a fight between them. Given how much stronger Spock is than Kirk, this was a calculated gamble that the spores would die before Spock killed his friend and captain.

Leila beams onboard to discover that Spock is no longer under the control of the spores, and asks him to return to the planet with her so they can be together. The answer is ‘no’, although Spock manages to give her a hug in recompense.

Spores eliminated and outpost people all onboard, the Enterprise leaves Omicron Ceti III, and Spock makes an uncharacteristic remark about being happy for the first time in his life. The end.

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It’s a bit perfunctory, but entertaining enough. But where it gets a little more interesting is some of the back story to this piece. The original rough draft for this story was created by Jerry Sohl, who previously penned The Corbomite Maneuver.

In this version, it’s Sulu that had the relationship with Leila, and falls in love again under the spores influence.

For whatever reason, D C Fontana then decided to rewrite it, and Jerry wasn’t remotely happy with what she did with it. So he asked they use the pseudonym ‘Nathan Butler’ on the credits, and not his real name. Clearly there was some bad blood here as Sohl never wrote anything more for Star Trek.

The other curiosity here is the appearance of Jill Ireland as Leila, who had previously been working on The Man From Uncle with her husband David McCallum. But at the point she arrived at this production, she was dating her next husband Charles Bronson, who visited her during the making of this episode.

The remastered version is relatively untouched, other than some nice radiation enhanced shots of the planet with the Enterprise in orbit.

In my next review the immortal line, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer”, gets an outing, when Doctor McCoy encounters The Devil In The Dark.

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