Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Star Trek: The Way to Eden

Episode: "The Way to Eden"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 20
Original Air Date: February 21, 1969
via Wikipedia
In "The Way to Eden," Star Trek takes on the counter culture of the late 1960s.  The Enterprise crew encounters Dr. Sevrin, a Timothy Leary-esque figure, and his band of followers.  The space hippies are on a quest for Eden: a planet of beauty and tranquility, upon which to build an idyllic society.

This episode is much maligned by critics, though I have no issue with the basic premise.  Many Star Trek stories are laden with social commentary and the counter culture was certainly fair game.  Unfortunately, there are songs - truly awful songs.  Guest stars Charles Napier (Adam) and Deborah Downey (Mavig) co-wrote several folk-songish numbers for the show with sappy, we-all-love-each-other-and-we're-gonna-be-so-groovy lyrics.  I've been keeping a rolling eye out for a rock bottom point in Trek's final season and I believe I have found it in these songs.

Getting back to the story, one of the travelers, Irina (Mary Linda Rapelye), is an old flame of Chekov's from the Academy.  It's worth noting that two of the past three episodes have involved a love interest for someone other than Captain Kirk.  Anyway, the two young exes rehash the differences both personal and political that pulled their lives in different directions.  Many, including actor Walter Koenig, have criticized the relationship as being out of character for the playboy Chekov but it was the part of the episode I enjoyed the most.  Friends and lovers grow up together.  If not for a few life choices, they might have shared a path but it didn't work out.  For quite a lot of us, that's the tale of young adulthood.

But that doesn't make up for the songs...

*****
via Wikipedia
Skip Homeier (Dr. Sevrin) was born October 5, 1930 in Chicago.  Homeier was the rare child actor who transitioned to a successful, though unspectacular, adult career.  He made his film debut at the age of 14 in Tomorrow, the World! as a member of the Hitler Youth transplanted to the United States after the deaths of his parents.  He had already performed the role on stage to great acclaim. 

Most of his work has been in television, mostly guest appearances but there were regular roles on Dan Raven and The Interns.  "The Way to Eden" was actually his second Trek episode.  He'd also played Melakon in "Patterns of Force." 

Homeier has been married to his wife, Della Sharman, since 1963.

17 comments:

  1. Maybe the songs were meant to be terrible?

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    1. A true overall critique of the era?

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    2. It's an interesting idea, but I don't think so. The crew is mesmerized by the music. Spock even joins in for a jam session on his Vulcan harp. So, unless they're poking fun at the crew, too...

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    3. It could still be true. I mean, hippies gathered around campfires singing horrible songs... And people would just join in because it was about the communal experience rather than the horrible music.

      So what Tony said.

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    4. Maybe. One definitely does not get the impression that Roddenberry was a fan of Leary and his followers. He was certainly anti-war and anti-racism, yet unimpressed by the hippies.

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  2. Do you ever wonder if the writers and costumers got together and said something like, "Okay, I need a blue themed episode..."

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    1. That would be an interesting thing to watch for, predominant colors in each episode. This one's most definitely blue.

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  3. I remember this one.
    One of the few that the man was as, if not more scantly clad than the woman. I kept waiting for the outfit to slip down and expose the family jewels.
    I lived through the 60's and these song were horrific. But maybe they were suppose to be ?
    Love the blond cheer leader to the right.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. And so we now know, the Theiss Titilation Theory applies to the guys, too!

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  4. "I'm talkin bout you!" Yeah the songs are bad but they're heart was in the right place.

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    1. Yes, Trek's heart is nearly always in the right place.

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  5. Headin' out to Eden.... oooohhh, brother. :-)

    When I first saw this as a kid in the early 70s, I wondered if there was a connection between "Doctor Sevrin" and "Doc Severinsen."

    A few people have hinted at the possibility of intentional badness, and I'm wondering if I agree. The writers must have been older than the barefoot boomers out there making trouble, and I can sense more than a touch of scorn. Roddenberry's wide-eyed optimism didn't always carry the day. The bit at the end with the acidic flora, specifically, might have been some perverse wish fulfillment...?

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    1. Maybe. I found Adam's death at the end quite sad, Sevrin's less so.

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  6. I watched this when it aired and thought it painfully hokey. However, it provided the theme for an excellent film made some years later: "STAR TREK V, The Final Frontier". So, even though I can't bring myself to rewatch the tv version, the film is one of my favorites.

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    1. Paradise being too good to be true is a recurring theme for Trek. Isn't there an Eagles song along similar lines? "Call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye."

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  7. Based on the image alone, this looks like a great episode.

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    1. Great would be quite a stretch. It has its moments.

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