REVIEW: “The Paradise Syndrome” (“Star Trek: Remastered” edition)

Star Trek (Remastered): “The Paradise Syndrome”
Remastered Episode #22 (2/24/2007)
Original Episode #58 (10/4/1968)

The Film Frontier’s celebrity guest reviewer for this week’s episode of Star Trek: Remastered is . . . uh, me. Well, that’s true; I’m not actually a celebrity. And now that you mention it, I’m not a guest here either. Oh well, you’re stuck with me, so on with the review.

Some people turn their noses up at all third season episodes of the original Star Trek. I think that’s a huge mistake. There are three awful episodes in the third season. Most of the others are quite good, and some terrific. There were some unique adventures that season, including “The Paradise Syndrome.”

Star Trek fans seem to either love or hate this episode. Aside from a couple of cringe-worthy moments, this has been one of my favorites for years. I am, after all, a sucker for sad endings, and this has one of the saddest.

On their way to divert an asteroid the size of Earth’s moon, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to scope out a planet directly in its path. They find a large, pyramid-shaped obelisk, created with technology that may be greater than that of the Federation.

The first thing that is noticeably different about “The Paradise Syndrome” compared to many other episodes is that it’s actually shot on location, rather than confined to the sound stage. Though this means that the planet looks almost exactly like Earth, at least it serves to make the adventure seem more real. And they even include some story explanation later on as to why the planet looks like Earth, since it otherwise should have appeared quite different.

The inhabitants of the planet turn out to be Native Americans of Earth descent, a mixture of Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware tribes. Since the tribe does not have advanced technology, they could not have built the obelisk and the trio avoids contacting them. Kirk goes off alone to take one more look at the structure. As he calls the ship on his communicator, a trap door opens and he falls through. Grasping a computer console within to get up, Kirk accidentally unleashes a beam that wipes out his memory.

The beam also cues up a ham acting moment by William Shatner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Shatner’s and think his Star Trek performances are sadly underrated, but this particular scene isn’t one of his best.

When a search turns up nothing, the Enterprise is forced to depart without her captain in order to intercept the asteroid. Meanwhile, the beautiful Miramanee–tribal priestess–and one of her handmaidens have arrived at their temple, the obelisk.

From out of that temple walks Kirk. Both women immediately confirm what us Trekkies have all suspected for years, that Kirk is a god. The women bow down to recognize him as such, but Kirk still has no idea who he is, much less who they are.

They take him back to the tribe, where a special council is held. Salish, the Medicine Chief who is betrothed to Miramanee, doubts Kirk’s godhood. The session is interrupted when a young drowning victim is brought to the Medicine Chief, who pronounces him dead. Kirk intervenes and instinctively resuscitates the lad.

“Only a god can breathe life into the dead,” says the tribal elder. Salish is stripped of his Medicine Chief title, which is handed over to Kirk. With the title comes Miramanee, who also seems to have genuinely fallen in love with Kirk.

With Spock in command, the Enterprise arrives at the asteroid. The original episode also contained some of the best special effects of any season. The shot of the Enterprise shown from the aft as she moves in reverse within the path of the asteroid was beautiful. Even when I watch today, I still find it amazing given when it was accomplished. The effect was later re-used several episodes later in “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”

Since the upgrades air out of sequence, the remastered “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” actually aired a few weeks ago. The asteroid from that episode was not re-used in the remastered version of “The Paradise Syndrome,” though. One of the nice touches of the remastered episodes has indeed been the use of “unique” planets, asteroids, and guest ships each week rather than stock footage.

The shots here are nearly identical to the originals, which I think is a good call for this particular episode. It was already an incredible shot, so no need to mess around with it. One piece that is different and quite interesting is that the deflector beam is actually shown emanating from the Enterprise‘s navigational deflector dish. This is shown from the side and slightly behind, though, so you don’t get the full effect. Still, it’s a nice use of the dish.

When the deflector beam doesn’t work, Spock puts all of the Enterprise‘s power into phaser beams in an attempt to break the asteroid apart. This serves only to drain and damage the warp drive, much to Scotty’s chagrin.

The Enterprise limps back to the planet at impulse power. A trip that would have taken several hours at warp will now take 59 days. The asteroid follows about four hours behind for the entire trip. Spock spends the time studying a recording of markings on the obelisk. McCoy spends the time alternatively pestering Spock or worrying about Spock.

Back on the planet, the tribal elder asks Kirk what he would like to be called. Trying to remember his own name, he manages “Kirr..uh..k” which the elder interprets as “Kirok.” Yes, this is the episode that spawned the “I am Kirok!” riff used so often on Mystery Science Theater 3000. That’s two key MST3k-referenced episodes in a row.

Full of rage at losing both his title and Miramanee, Salish ambushes Kirok with a knife and cuts his hand. “Behold a god who bleeds!” mocks Salish. Kirok soon gets the upper hand but refuses to kill his attacker. That’s right, Kirk always attempts to avoid killing. That instinctive part of his nature is still there, too, despite the memory loss.

Kirok and Miramanee marry, while Salish gives Kirok a temporary pass on telling the others about the whole god who bleeds incident. Perhaps he didn’t want to admit to being beaten by Kirok, god or otherwise.

Kirok and Miramanee are deeply in love, and Kirok is more happy than he’s ever been in his life. He does, however, have haunting dreams of what Miramanee calls a “strange lodge which moves through the sky.” Kirok’s other instincts also prove to be intact and Miramanee is soon expecting their child.

Part of Kirok’s responsibility as god and Medicine Chief, though, is to protect the planet from an approaching storm (the asteroid) by use of the temple. Salish’s father died before teaching him the secrets of the temple but as a god, Kirok is expected to have this knowledge in order to save the tribe.

Watching third season episodes like “The Paradise Syndrome” often makes me wish that NBC had stuck with the series for at least another year or two. In some ways, the show was really starting to grow up when the plug was pulled.

Despite its flaws, this remains one of my favorite episodes. Do the effects upgrades improve it? Not really, but that’s no fault of the fine work presented here. It’s simply an emotion-driven episode, rather than an effects-driven one. And the emotions of “The Paradise Syndrome” need no upgrade.

Dramatic Content: 9 (out of 10)
Effects Upgrades: 7
Overall Experience: 9
Recommended: Yes