The latest in a (more or less) weekly series of reviews throughout 2010, on randomly-selected episodes of the original Star Trek series, and presented in a “live blog” format as I rewatch the episode. Why? Well…why not?
“The Way to Eden”
original airdate: February 21, 1969
Summary: The Enterprise picks up a shipload of hippies looking for a planet called “Eden,” and hijinks ensue. Oh, and this is the one with Spock trying to fit in with the cool kids. Yeah, that always works.
The Enterprise is chasing after a
Tholian ship funky alien ship. Mr. Spock informs Captain Kirk that it’s most definitely the Aurora, a stolen space cruiser. When Kirk tries to contact the ship to talk to whoever’s aboard, the ship veers off and goes “Bandit, Reynolds-style!” Properly stunned at the balls on these people, Kirk orders a pursuit course and the use of tractor beams to capture the wayward vessel. The little ship is fighting and it looks like it’s gonna get blow’d up real good, but Kirk’s got Scotty waiting in the transporter room (does that dude ever hang out anywhere else?).
The Aurora’s engines are continuing to overheat, and why Kirk doesn’t order the damned tractor beam cut is anybody’s guess. Scotty manages to beam the six passengers off before the ship blows up, and the next thing you know, our favorite chief engineer is checking out a group of Laugh-In backup dancers—three dudes and three chicks—all of whom appear to be making the universal gesture for “The burgers they’re serving in the cafeteria are this big! Why the fuck aren’t we in line?”
We come to find out that one of the six hippies is the son of an important ambassador. Kirk’s been ordered to handle him with delicacy because there are some tense treaty negotiations going on between the Federation and this dude’s planet. Translation? Kirk’s not allowed to beat the kid’s ass for stealing a ship and causing all this drama. Damn. Kirk orders Scotty to move the group to the briefing room, but one of the chicks gives the captain the business when she proclaims, “We’re not in the mood, Herbert!” She speaks with a Russian accent…or…at least, a Russian accent Walter Koenig might recognize, as Chekov’s ears certainly perk up and he realizes he knows the voice.
Kirk and Spock head down to the transporter room to find the hippies chanting “No go!” over and over again like they’re waiting in line for a portable shitter at a Tea Party rally. The captain asks which one of these fuckheads is “Tongo Rad,” and this emo-looking dick with purple hair and the key to Fred Flintstone’s closet stands up. Kirk tells him that if it wasn’t for Daddy that he’d be bouncing this flake off the walls, but Tongo isn’t all that impressed. When he tells Spock to get them to sickbay for a checkup, Spock instead gives the group the “Big-fucking Hamburger!” sign and starts talking to them with a string of New Age mumbo jumbo that seems to work. The dude in charge announces that he and his followers have given the finger to modern society, and that they now seek the planet “Eden.” Kirk tells him that the planet’s a myth, and that he’s got orders to make sure the group’s cared for as they’re ferried back to a starbase. Head Hippie asks for transport to Eden, but Kirk’s not budging, and that earns him a chorus of “Herbert!” from the gang. In most un-Kirk like fashion, he puts Spock in charge and leaves. What a pansy!
By the way, get a load of the ears on Head Hippie. You just know that dude took all kinds of shit in grade school.
Kirk is barely back on the bridge when Chekov tells him he thinks he knows one of the women, who apparently attended Starfleet Academy with him for a time. Kirk, naturally, is dumbstruck by that idea, but allows Chekov to go meet with her. Spock returns to the bridge, and reveals that the group’s leader is Dr. Sevrin, a once-respected engineer…at least until he went batshit insane and started his own cult. Much to Kirk’s surprise, Spock is curious about them, as they, like he, are outcasts from their own worlds.
In sickbay, the hippies are amusing themselves by engaging in a bit of filk-singing, and I let this part roll while I refreshed my drink. Twice. And THEY’RE STILL FUCKING SINGING!
:: Ahem. ::
Chekov shows up, and lo and behold! One of the hippies is his friend from the Academy, Irina Galliulin. Irina gave up a promising career as a scientist in order to wait for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius (or whatever), but she’s happy that Chekov’s happy doing what he’s doing (What does he do, anyway?). There’s some of the usual back-n-forth about who left who and why and your mix tapes got mixed in with mine and all that other stuff that makes me wish I’d just brought the whole bottle of vodka down from the kitchen. Hang on….
Irina leaves, and Chekov hears a disturbance out in the hall. The hippies are going at it with a couple of security redshirts outside sickbay. Kirk arrives and McCoy tells him that after giving Sevrin a checkup, he’s found the doctor is a carrier from some kind of weird-ass virus brought about by living in the oh-so comfortable, modern technomarvel universe of the 23rd century. He’s the Typhoid Mary of the Clean Living Society, and he might just have infected the entire Enterprise crew. Thanks, dick.
Elsewhere, one of the hippie chicks is putting the moves on Sulu (Yeah, she didn’t get that memo.), when Kirk tells the group that Sevrin’s been quarantined and will be released when he’s been deemed “medically safe.” This prompts the gang to start singing again while shaking their groove thangs. Thankfully, this lasts only a few seconds before the scene switches with no small amount of mercy back to the bridge, where Kirk asks Spock to attempt a dialogue with the hippies, since he of all people seems to have a rapport with them. Meanwhile, Kirk’s big plan seems to be hiding on the bridge and pouting, bemoaning the fact that none…none…of the hippie chicks seems the least bit interested in him.
It’s the girdle, Jimmy T. I tried to tell you, but do you listen? Noooooooo….
As Kirk contemplates booting Sevrin and his followers out the nearest airlock, Spock chats up Sevrin, offering an attempt to determine whether Eden actually exists, where it might be, yadda yadda yadda. Sevrin’s having none of it, growing more pissed off by the second as he describes how the oh-so perfect world of modern technology is responsible for poisoning his body. He’s convinced that “the primitives” of Eden are all that can save him, even though the virus he carries likely will kill them. After a moment, he calms the hell down, and he and Spock reach an understanding: Sevrin will talk to his people and tell them to ratchet down their bullshit. Oh, he’s so totally sincere, don’t you think?
Spock seems to think so, even though he tells Kirk that Sevrin’s pretty much a total wackadoodle.
For a time, anyway, it seems that the hippies are behaving himself, and in short order one of the dudes, Adam, visits Spock in his quarters and sees Spock’s totally bitchin’ harp-like thingamajig. After letting the dude pluck at it for a second, Spock takes it back and shows young hippie how string music is made, yo. Adam is righteously impressed, and asks Spock to sit in on a jam session. Spock agrees, at which point I considered putting the DVD on pause and running out into traffic.
Elsewhere, Irina visits Chekov, who’s assisting Spock’s research efforts from auxiliary control. Chekov tells her all about the room, and how it can take over for pretty much any system on the ship should the bridge or some other vital section be damaged. Yeah, that’s not gonna come back to bite him in the ass, is it? Anyway, she’s come to apologize to him, doesn’t want him mad at her, blah blah blah. Before I can slice open a vein, Chekov changes the subject to what he’s doing: Helping Spock find Eden. There’s some more back and forth with her telling him how he should reject technology, and before I could get back from getting a fresh drink, they’re kissing. What? I backed up, and all I can figure is that she hypnotized him. Oh, and those weren’t the droids he was looking for. Moving along….
But wait! The hippies really are up to no good! Tongo Rad’s got Sulu wrapped around his finger (“Oh, myyyyyyy.”), Adam’s got Spock’s number, and of course Irina shows up with the info about auxiliary control. The time to launch the sooper sekrit takeover plan is at hand! Hah HAH! What’s the plan? Swing as many of the crew to their side as possible. “Just go out and be friendly. You know how to be friendly, right?”
The scene fades out and back in, and OH MY GOD, THEY’RE SINGING AGAIN!!!!!
I’m talkin’ ‘bout you. I’m talkin’ ‘bout me. Long time back when the galaxy was new. Man found out what he had to do. He found he had to eat and he found he had to drink and a long time later he found he had to think.”
Mommy, make it stop.
But, no. It doesn’t stop. It goes on. And on.
And on some more.
Then, Spock shows up, harp-like thingamajig in hand. “Dude, I dig your groovy notes. Can I hang with you hip cats?”
Someone reading this, I’m begging you: Shoot me. Or, send me a copy of that “Great Vegetable Rebellion” episode from Lost In Space. Whichever is less painful.
For reasons surpassing understanding, the jam session is being broadcast all over the ship, including the brig where Sevrin is being held. Apparently, the jams are so happenin’ that nobody notices when Tongo Rad slips away long enough to knock out Sevrin’s guard and free the good doctor. The troublesome twosome makes their way to…and you knew this was coming…auxiliary control and despite a total rejection of computers and other modern technology manage to take control of the Enterprise. I guess having access to Starship Operations for Dummies from the library computer came in handy, eh?
Sulu reports that the bridge controls are no longer in…uh…control. From auxiliary control! How the hell did that happen? Sevrin announces over the intercom that he’s runnin’ the show, see, and he wants to go to Eden, see, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, well then he’ll show everybody who’s in charge and blow up the ship. That’ll show you! In no time at all, the ship’s new course takes them through the Neutral Zone and into Romulan space, which is always the precursor to something cool happening, right? Soon, sensors detect a habitable planet. It’s
Sha Ka Ree Qui’Tu Vorta Vor Eden! Knowing that Kirk will attempt to regain control of the ship before it reaches the planet, Sevrin starts working on a bit of engineering voodoo to incapacitate the crew, all while being serenaded to the singular, sultry stylings of Adam, your next American Idol!
It’s nights like this that make me wish my tinnitus was worse than it already is.
Outside the auxiliary control room, Scotty is using a phaser to cut through the door while Kirk and Spock watch. Sevrin activates his secret weapon, and ultrasonic signal designed to render everyone outside the room unconscious. Spock is hit first, but seconds later people all over the ship fall victim to the signal, dropping like flies. They’re out cold so—unlike me—they’re spared the next bout of singing being broadcast over the intercom.
With the Enterprise in orbit over Eden, Kirk, Scotty, and Spock somehow wake up even though the ultrasonic is still going strong, and Kirk disables the signal. What a guy. Kirk finds out that auxiliary control still has command of the ship systems, and a shuttlecraft is missing. Spock finds it on the planet, and reports that other than whoever’s aboard the shuttle, there appears to be no other life down there. Why Sevrin and company didn’t use the transporter, I have no idea. Worried that the Romulans will show up at any minute and plant their boots up his ass, Kirk beams down with Spock, McCoy and Chekov in a bid to catch Sevrin and his followers by surprise. They spread out, and Chekov wastes no time getting into trouble. He’s touched one of the local flowers, you see, and his hand erupts with burn blisters. McCoy runs a scan and determines that all of the nearby plant life is full of acid. Some distance away, Spock finds Adam, lying dead in the grass, a partially-eaten apple lying near his hand. The fruit is deadly.
Man, this planet sucks donkey balls, doesn’t it?
The landing party finds the shuttlecraft in a nearby clearing, and Kirk opens the door to see Sevrin and the others huddled inside, each suffering from burns and other wounds inflicted by the planet. Kirk tries to talk Sevrin into going back to the ship, but since he’s completely off his nut, none of us should be surprised when he runs to a nearby tree, grabs one of its apples, and takes a big ol’ bite. See ya, Doc. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.
The Enterprise has traveled to a starbase to drop off the surviving members of Sevrin’s group. Before saying goodbye to Irina, Chekov tries to man up to Kirk and take his licks for being totally p-whipped by Irina, but Kirk knows that “Turnabout Intruder” is still waiting in the wings and he’s determined that nobody be allowed to escape becoming trapped in that piece of shit episode.
On that, at least, we reach. Yay, brother.
Oh, dear holy God.
Don’t get me wrong. “And the Children Shall Lead,” is still the original series episode I hate the most, but “The Way to Eden” is certainly right there in the Top 5. It’s slow, it’s talky, it’s boring, and it’s…stupid.
The only way the plot moves forward is for everyone at some key point to act like total morons. Chekov telling Irina about how auxiliary control works, Spock trusting Sevrin to behave even though he knows the doctor is a toy and four apple slices short of a Happy Meal, and however many idiot crewmembers it took to be stupid long enough for members of Sevrin’s gang to move into position to overpower security people and take over critical systems. How many times does the ship have to get taken over by visiting rabble-rousers before somebody thinks to put a lock on the doors to the important shit?
Actor Skip Homeier makes his second appearance in a Star Trek episode, the first being his portrayal of Melakon in the second season’s “Patterns of Force.” I’m guessing that given a choice between wearing a Nazi uniform or Sevrin’s ears, Mr. Homeier would rather have guest-starred on Mission: Impossible. Actor Charles Napier is the young follower Adam, and he waited damn-near thirty years before he returned to Trek, playing the part of cigar-chomping General Rex Denning in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Little Green Men.” I tend to remember him as Murdoch, the skeevy CIA dickwad in Rambo: First Blood Part II.
I can’t be too harsh on actress Deborah Downey, who plays one of Sevrin’s hippie chicks, because I met her several years ago at a small Star Trek convention in Cincinnati and she was a total sweetheart. Check it, Herberts:
Sharp-eyed viewers will spot a few budget-saving tricks employed in this episode. The scene of the small pond on the Eden planet is the same establishing shot seen in “Shore Leave.” One shot of the planet set where the landing party beams down is actually taken from “The Apple.” When the ultrasonic is employed to take out the Enterprise crew, a couple of shots of people collapsing, including McCoy and Chapel in sickbay, are re-uses of footage from “Spock’s Brain.” As I mentioned way up at the beginning of this thing, the Aurora spacecraft is actually the Tholian ship model from “The Tholian Web,” augmented with a pair of nacelles from an AMT U.S.S. Enterprise model kit. Still don’t know why Sevrin elected to steal a shuttlecraft rather than use the transporters, but at least it gives us a chance to see the full-sized Galileo mock-up. However, its presence here seems only to highlight how cramped, small, and fake the planet set looks and feels.
“The Way to Eden” is very, very forgettable. Unfortunately, it’s now burned into my retina, and the songs are still rattling around in my head, their words and notes seemingly at home with the perpetual ringing in my ears.