9.25.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 78: The Paradise Syndrome


Like Robert in the movie Free Enterprise, I am familiar with the Alvarez hypothesis primarily thanks to:

October 4th, 1968
Title: (2.25) It's actually referred to as "The Tahiti Syndrome" both in the real world and in the script itself. I wonder why it was changed? I like "The Tahiti Syndrome" better. (Would men of the 23rd century know this term? More on this in Interior Logistics.) Either title clues us in on what to expect: false gods and dangerous assumptions coming our way.

Theme: (8.5) Hardly unique in TOS for deconstructing conventional ideas of Paradise  - some might say this is all the Enterprise ever did - but its choice of delivery for this theme (I Am Ki-rok!) adds a Death of Captain Cook element.


An extremely abridged version of the version of Cook's death taught to schoolchildren before the 1970s went something like this: Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands and was believed to be a god by the islanders. They gave him everything he asked for - fresh food, water, timber - but when he left and returned to replace the main mast of his ship, the islanders grew restless. A misunderstanding on the beach at Kealakekua Bay (where the monument below is located) led to his murder.

Captain Clerke, who took over command of the voyage after Cook's death, died himself a few months later in Kamchatka, where another obelisk (later) was erected.
If you're starting to see an obelisk theme develop, here, move to the head of the class.
Depending on whether you learned the British, the American or the Hawaiian version of the story, Cook's men either left the island after a fruitless attempt to recover the Captain's body (which was torn from limb to limb) or stormed ashore to exact their revenge, burning huts and killing indiscriminately. The pages of the voyage's official log  that dealt with the events surrounding Cook's death were torn out before it was turned over to the Admiralty.

Most contemporary scholarship dismisses the idea that the Hawaiians believed Cook to be a god (and, rightly or wrongly, is probably closer to Bernardi's take on things.) But "The Paradise Syndrome" plays off the version above. Incidentally, the original title for the story was "The Paleface."


I'm less interested in the Dances with Wolves trope, though, than I am with in the unfolding of Captain Kirk's oddest (and longest - the episode takes place over several months) adventure.

Consider the delightful progression of weirdness as compared to other episodes. Or just the last few months of your own life.

Kirk, Spock, and Bones discover a mysterious obelisk and a faraway race of American Indians on a planet threatened by an asteroid. Weird in and of itself, but no big whup: discovering Nazis, Romans, Greek gods, Abraham Lincoln, and Yankees and Communists throughout the galaxy is second nature to the Enterprise by this point. Kirk then falls into the obelisk and gets his memory wiped by the strange console inside.


(His memory of lamps and irrigation is unaffected.)

As the Enterprise leaves to go deal with the asteroid, Kirk is discovered by the locals, who assume from his emerging from the obelisk and his knowledge of strange CPR techniques that he is their new medicine man, a gift from the gods.

Kirk rolls with it, though he is troubled by dreams of "the strange lodge that moves through the sky."
Meanwhile, Spock and the gang try and divert the asteroid but discover they can't. 

Well. Here we are again.
Convenient over-exertion of the engines gives Kirk - who now goes by the name of Ki-rok - plenty of time to frolic with his new wife and grow out his sideburns:

A voiceover tells us he's so happy-y-y-y. The storms gather, and the natives demand Ki-rok use the power of the temple to protect them. At this point, the volume surges to 11 and beyond.

He is Ki-rok! He has come! He is Ki-ro-ookkk...!!
Die! Die! Die!
"Miramanee!"
Spock and Bones arrive in the nick of time, and everyone runs off, presumably to hide out the storm wherever it is they would have hid, Kirok or no Kirok.
Oh but we're not done being weird yet:

Spock's mind-meld precipitates Nimoy and Shatner chanting "I... am... Ki-rok..." in unison.
 

The obelisk is activated, and it shoots a beam that deflects the asteroid and planet saved. And then the tender - if totally unsurprising - ending. Injuries sustained in the stoning claim the life of both Miramanee and her and Kirk's unborn child.


It’s ridiculous, it hits every cliché, it’s not at all like “The Inner Light” (one might even suspect something like "The Inner Light" was an apology for this episode) and yes, Miramanee is ridiculously posed to stoke the flames of the teenage loins.


And yet, it retains a touch of tender innocence and profound loss. We know a little bit more about Captain Kirk as a result of this episode. It and "City" do more to illuminate his darker depths than "Operation: Annihilate," even. As Jud Crandall says, "The soil of a man's heart is stonier; a man grows what he can... and he tends it" (Or, with regard to the effect Kirk's marriage might have had on the series, "Sometimes, dead is better.")

Script: (7)


"His mind. He is an extremely dynamic individual."
- Spock, after breaking his mind meld with Kirk

That's worth at least 5 of the 7 points awarded, right there.

The concept of the Preservers isn't explicitly revisited in TNG's "The Chase," but it's certainly alluded to. DC Fontana's Year Four tidies up the idea (and ties it into the Organians and Metrons) appealingly.

Visual Design: (2)

I was really surprised to discover the obelisk was built especially for this episode. I thought it might be some real-world monument akin to those Soviet-occupation-era sculptures dotting the landscape of the former Yugoslavia.

 

The lake featured in this episode is the Franklin Reservoir, most famous as the fishing hole in the opening credits for The Andy Griffith Show. (Another AG cross-over! See "City on the Edge of Forever.")

Not many outdoor locations in Season 3, so all of this

     

lends a uniqueness to this late-innings affair. The costumes aren't particularly unique, but they're effective enough. Ditto for the effects.

Later re-used for Yonada in "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky."
Stunt Double Knife Fight.
Kirk and the Gang: (45) Look. At least 35 of the points awarded are for "I Am Ki-rok." Outside of "KHAAAAAN!" this is easily the most memorable Shatner moment. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the 20th century altogether. The rest of the cast can only gape in astonishment at Shatner's antics.

 
 
Not counting Kirk-doubles or doppelgangers, this may be the only time Shatner performs his patented double-shoulder grab move on himself.  He does come close in "Return to Tomorrow."

 
He gets a few in with Miramanee. Naturally.

I cannot overstate this: "I Am Ki-rok" is an asteroid deflector of its own. There is simply no credible way to dismiss this episode with something like this in it. (I wish academics like Bernardi would grok once and for all how embarrassing failure to recognize this is.) The rest of the episode could be Spock talking to a hand-puppet in his room, and you'd still have to include it on a short list of Essential TOS. Ki-rok demands it.


Guest: (4)
Sabrina Scharf plays Miramanee. Later she'd play one of the tripping girls in the cemetery in Easy Rider.

And she had a memorable two-parter in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.


Rudy Solari (Salish) 


starred in a couple of The Outer Limits episodes, including one of my all-time favorites, The Invisible Enemy.”


Interior Logistics: (1) Okay, not the most impressive episode for this category.

- Star Trek, right up to and including Into Darkness, is a little inconsistent with how it deals with helping out primitive cultures from natural catastrophes. I guess the thinking is it's okay to save worlds from asteroid collisions or volcanic explosions or supernovas so long as they don't make their presence known?


- Would people of the 23rd century know the term "The Tahiti Syndrome?" 


Probably. Plenty of old-timey expressions are still used in 2013, and it's no stranger than Spock identifying among the alien "Indians" a "mix of Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware." And as a friend of mine said to me the other day, "once you accept the fact that people of the future roam the galaxy in buccaneer outfits, everything else should be easy enough to swallow."

- Opening the communicator and saying "Kirk to Enterprise" opens up the temple, huh? That is something.


- I never notice stuff like this, but Phil Farrand makes a big deal of how the dilithium has been moved from the wall panels where Lazarus grabbed it in "The Alternative Factor" to a new, better shielded home.

I prefer to think it was specifically Lazarus' theft of the crystals that prompted this re-design. (Incidentally, I love the look on Scotty's face, above.)
There's plenty more we could list in this category, but I will play again the "I Am Ki-rok" card. Moving on.

Memorability: (15) Shatner relays in his Star Trek Memories how out of all TOS episodes, this is the only one he actually remembers people talking about the week after it aired. Mostly teenage boys, for some reason.

Gravity defying bras: another legacy of The Preservers, perhaps.
"BEHOLD A GOD WHO BLEEDS!!" was the outgoing message on my old answering machine for quite awhile.
And verily I say unto you, again and again:

 

They don't make 'em like they used to.

Total Points Awarded: 84.75

4 comments:

  1. Boy, there are some priceless screencaps here. I'll be finishing "Doctor Sleep" today, and I can only hope that that image of Kirk hugging himself stays buried in my mind, and doesn't come floating to the surface every twenty minutes or so; otherwise, it's going to be a long day. And I suspect it's going to be a long day. But rewarding, on multiple fronts.

    I don't quite have the love for Shatnerianisms that you have, but I have to admit that I do enjoy this episode. I probably shouldn't. I am, however, a sucker for a love story, and the love story here is kind of weirdly appealing. This may mean that I myself have Tahiti Syndrome in some form, and if so, I guess I'm okay with that. Apart from the Kirok side of things, though, the Spock/McCoy scenes are pretty great. I wonder if there's ever been a novel written that tries to explain what all they got up do during that long interim.

    I found myself thinking of "From Hell" while looking at the screencaps of the obelisk. I'd love for a 24th century "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" to happen for any number of reasons, but I'd especially love to see Moore somehow take this episode and run with it.

    Final thought: I know the episode isn't considered to be all that revered, but it's a bit of a shame that it was never followed up on in the movies in any way. Good lord, this episode represents a long period of Kirk's life; wouldn't that have had some sort of major impact on him? How much better would "Generations" be if the Nexus had dumped him into a simulation of what his life with Miramanee could have been like?

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    1. I didn't think it was possible, but I have a brand new reason to resent Generations! Yes, that should have happened. Without reservation.

      Can't wait to dig into Doctor Sleep. I'm hoping it gets delivered today, although it's scheduled to arrive tomorrow, so I'll probably have to wait...

      Glad you enjoyed. Putting those screencaps together made me very happy.

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    2. Come to think of it, why didn't Picard go into his Inner Light fantasy in Generations? How much cooler would that have been to see?

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    3. In Picard's case, I can rationalize it thus: Picard is wicked-smart, and intellectually he knows that what he experienced in that episode was not his own life, but someone else's. So over time, he was gradually able to disassociate himself from the experience.

      What happened to Kirk, on the other hand, undeniably happened to HIM.

      I can see why the writers wanted to avoid mentioning the episode. But failing that, shouldn't he have been with Edith Keeler? I love parts of "Generations," but mostly, it is just an enormous failure.

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