Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: The Way to Eden

The Original Series, Season 3
"The Way to Eden"
Airdate: February 21, 1969
76 of 80 produced
75 of 80 aired
Click here to watch at


The Enterprise encounters a group of, and I swear I am not making this up, space hippies. They have stolen a ship and the Enterprise is sent to stop them. They are led by a once famous scientist, Dr. Sevrin. Among the group is an ambassador's son, complicating matters for how Kirk can treat this group, and a former Starfleet Academy student and former flame of Ensign Chekov's. They are seeking the mythical planet Eden, where they will live in harmony with nature, rejecting modern technology. But what secrets are Dr. Sevrin and his group of followers not telling the crew of the Enterprise and just how far will they go to find Eden?
Our mission: To groovily go where none have grooved before!


Kevin: If ever there were an episode to watch while under the influence...but I digress. The science fiction here is fairly weak, overall. They could have been looking for an uncharted island in the Pacific for the difference it made. There is of course the central theme of the quality of life in the face of modern technology, but that theme is pretty watered down, and given that it babbles from the mouths of some of the most annoying guest characters in franchise history, doesn't really end up getting a full exploration. I found the hippies to be really sanctimonious and self-righteous and it totally turned me off to their point of view. "You should do what you want and abandon modern technology, but first, you totally have to use your warp capable vessel to take us where we want to go free of charge and without regard to what you want to do." I seriously wonder if this was an intentional lampoon or even outright assault on the hippie culture of the late sixties. We have all the stereotypes here. The disillusioned scientist, the child of a high ranking socialite, and a college drop-out. You ever notice how the people rejecting modern conveniences and the evil concept of money have tons of it? You never really see impoverished people going "Yeah, this lack of plumbing is great. I feel so complete as a person."

Matthew: I feel like the hippie angle kind of faltered in two directions. Either they could have gone whole hog into their ideology, and made that ideology truly attractive to the crew, or they could have told the story of a small group of young people being led by a charismatic cult leader. Instead, this episode sort of split the difference between the two, and is the poorer for it. Instead of converting the crew with ideas, the hippies play music. And instead of really going into creepy territory as a cult, we get a kind of watered-down guru in Sevrin.

Kevin: This being said, there are a few great character moments. I found Spock's rapport with Adam to be pretty affecting. Bonding over the music was a nice touch and a nice reuse of the totally kick-ass Vulcan lyre prop. I think they had Spock getting a little too into it, but I liked the idea he would be intrigued by people surrendering to impulse and emotion. I thought Irina and Chekov had a few great scenes together as well. Maybe its the Russian accents at play here, but I totally bought into the idea of them meeting at college, having a tawdry, passionate affair and breaking up over her being too revolutionary for him.

Matthew: What I thought was cool about this "Chekov episode" is that it really deepened his character. Apparently, Koenig felt this was a flip-flop in characterization, but I think it is legitimate growth. The idea of Chekov as a young hipster who plays by his own rules doesn't fly. The characterization here makes a lot more sense. Face it, Starfleet personnel, you're all squares. No one who qualifies as a rebel goes to school for 4 straight years and works their way up the ladder by taking orders and memorizing rule books. This is brought into stark relief by his lost love, Irina. I liked how their separation wasn't described in detail with boring expository dialogue, but was left more to the viewer's imagination.

Kevin: The planet of Eden. Eeesh. So we have a mythical planet that the crew finds in mere hours of looking. I did like the touch that Chekov was looking for uncharted planets by looking for unexplained gravitational variances in know celestial bodies. That's how actual astronomers do it and it was a neat to see actual science at work. Making the overall problem with Eden even more annoying is that the hippies have no information on where it is or how its identified, making the crew finding it even more bizarre. The planet itself...made of acid. I can buy that actually. I would imagine a great deal of acid went into the production of this episode. I will add that Adam's death scene was nicely played by Nimoy.

Matthew: Yeah, there were many logic problems like the ones you mentioned. The alacrity with which they found Eden undercut the story. Why had it taken them so long to find it before? I also liked the science behind finding exo-planets. Sevrin's "insanity" was unconvincing. He seemed pretty rational to me in the conversation that Spock made his determination based on. Yet again, we have stupid security personnel who are required to be negligent in their duties (this time, apparently hypnotized by hippie music) in order for the plot to progress.

Kevin: One interesting, and eerily prescient, idea is that of a disease caused by technology. The way they introduce is a little ham-fisted here. Do the bacteria detect silicon chips and become evil or something? But the basic idea is not that far-fetched. Hospitals are increasingly dealing with diseases who virulence and resistance to drugs was caused by overuse of those drugs in the past. In the 60s, back when Dow Chemical's slogan was still "Better living through chemistry," it would was hard to imagine that over-reliance on medicine could cause a medical crisis. That could have been the focus of the episode and it would have both been more interesting, and served the point of discussing the problems of technology's impact on life.

Matthew:  Despite a lot of so-so concepts, there was some nice dialogue in this episode. I loved when Kirk said "One of those was in the academy?" He also says to Spock that "the cave is deep in our memory." This is a somewhat mysterious line. Is he referring to cave men, or something more like Plato's cave? I'd like to think the latter, in that humanity was in a child-like Eden at one point, but has graduated into a world of knowledge and possibility, fraught with peril though it may be.


Kevin: I found Sevrin to be just okay. We've seen far more impressive nut jobs in the show, but he gets the job done. Of the space hippies, Adam turns in the best performance for me. The moments with Spock talking about music managed to give his character a little depth. He's not just lazy or trying to project the carefully maintained aura of seeming not to care, but passionate. He's not running from something like the others, he's running to something he hopes is there.

Matthew: Turns out, the actor who played Adam, Charles Napier, also played Col. Denning in DS9's "Little Green Men." I liked him as well, and thought his singing was pretty good. Mary-Linda Rapelye was pretty good as Irina, despite a pretty bad Russian accent (when Koenig's accent is the good one, you know you're in trouble!)

Kevin: Kirk working on not punching someone was fun to watch. For a man who is used to either being obeyed or overtly challenged, this had to be a conundrum. The Romulans don't follow his orders, but the Romulans respect his position enough to try and kill him directly. These folks don't care one way or another, and Kirk is at a bit of a loss on how to handle that and it was fun to watch. Of the main cast, Spock probably has the best scenes this episode. His grief over Adam's death was done with just the right amount of restraint.

Matthew: Yeah, Shatner was enjoyable. Seeing him as strait-laced and insecure by contrast with "cool" hippies was one of the highlights of this episode's concept. Shatner did a good job with the material.

Production Values

Kevin: Where in the name of all that is sacred do they get the wigs? Cause they need to burn that place to the ground. The costume were fun, and as always, a little man candy never hurt anyone. Adam would have been far hotter in any other wig ever, rather than the one he was wearing. Sevrin's Tiburon ears didn't quite come together. We get a few examples later in the franchise and they clean up the look, but right now it looks like he has flesh-colored croissants glued to his head.

Matthew: Ugh. The costumes. Ugh. The little egg yolks with infinity symbols? Blah. The hippie frocks were uninspiring and kind of silly. The hair was stupid, as you said.

Kevin: Eden was pretty enough and they worked in some nice stock footage. The paint job on the fruit and the flowers was nice. Not seeing any actual Romulan ships was a bummer, but the last use of the shuttle was a nice touch.

Matthew: Technically, there were some problems with this episode. We get not just one, but two backwards kirk reaction shots. There was a very noticeable boom mic shadow in transporter room. The more real they try to make a soundstage planet, the worse it looks in my opinion. On the plus side, there were lots of extras in the 'jam' scene. Spock has the ceremonial bells from his aborted wedding in his quarters. The songs themselves, though they were perhaps tonally inappropriate for the show and took up way too much time, were relatively enjoyable. The auxiliary control room is a reuse of same from "The Doomsday Machine," which in turn was the original "Cage" bridge.


Kevin: This is not a 1. I almost hate to say that, but it's not. A few character moments and some decent planet design salvage this from a 1. The ham-fisted attempt at a discussion of technology written into the mouths of some really pretentious characters do cement it only slightly above that, however. Call me a Herbert if you will, but this episode is a 2.

Matthew: I'm torn. I've always hated this episode, considering it an egregious sore thumb on the whole of TOS proper. I feel like if I give it a 2, that is somehow validating it. But there are some redeeming facets, and it wasn't terribly boring. So is it a low 2 or a high 1? On our scale, we are trying to confine Ones to the bottom decile, and Twos to the bottom quartile. So I need to look at the body of our past ratings to decide. In the end, I decided that "Spock's Brain," which rated a 2, was the lowest possible end of the 2 scale. And this episode isn't as good. So I'm going with a "high" 1, making a total of 3.


  1. So, on your scale, there's no way to give a "0," right?

  2. The space hippies episode! Oh man, if you were going to rate episodes in terms of the damage they've done to Star Trek's overall reputation, this one would be a doozy. At least poor 'Spock's Brain' sounds kindof cool when you describe it to someone, and while zombie Spock is a visual hoot 'Way to Eden' is the go-to source of funny looking clips when people make Star Trek music videos.