An entryist coup for your subconscious

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Adam Riggio
    July 8, 2013 @ 10:04 am

    "Kirk overcomes the spores' evil temptations of love, happiness and tranquility through force of sheer aggressive manliness."

    The idea may be incredibly regressive and kind of depressing, but simply stating this is kind of funny. It almost reminds me of something I'd see on the Venture Bros. This is something that the blog won't have to tackle for a few decades, as this kind of trope awareness really filters into the culture. I think that's a key mistake of the decline of Star Trek through Voyager and Enterprise: taking it all so seriously. In 1967, yes, Kirk's actions in this episode would be taken seriously. But I think it's difficult for a modern audience not to see at least a hint of the hilarity in Kirk, even when Shatner himself is playing it more straight than usual.


  2. trekker709
    July 9, 2013 @ 1:54 am

    It’s disturbing that Fontana re-wrote the script to make Kirk’s battle-hero medals be the means of shaking off the spores’ effect – but better than what Memory Alpha says on Sohl’s idea for the antidote – ha!
    Spock’s poignant words at the end do make this episode one of the more distressing ones…if people saw stories like this as making a serious statement, it’s hard to see how Trek ever grew such a fanbase. Maybe part of the reason the Federation didn’t seem so reactionary, was that the crew wore football jerseys, cheerleader outfits and go-go boots, and hairstyles were anything but military.
    Wonder how the title relates to the Scott Fitzgerald book (or if it does).


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    July 9, 2013 @ 8:59 am

    For a modern viewer, no. But I think you touched on something when you said they still could have been taken seriously in 1967: Yes, I get up to a lot of temporal hijinks in this blog, but a core theme of the TOS section for me is piecing out what Star Trek actually was and how it got the reputation it did, and material like this is tough for me to explain away.

    As for the franchise decay during Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise…I must restrain myself from expressing my feelings on that matter for the time being. Let's just say for now I think a large part of that is not so much taking Trek too seriously as much as it was a failure to understand what made the series work in spite of itself and an anal fixation on completely the wrong things. Or perhaps a horrific, Lovecraftian understanding of what Trek actually was at heart.


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    July 9, 2013 @ 9:06 am

    "Maybe part of the reason the Federation didn’t seem so reactionary, was that the crew wore football jerseys, cheerleader outfits and go-go boots, and hairstyles were anything but military."

    I think that's the best summation of it I've heard yet. As I said back in "The Corbomite Maneuver": Appropriating the trappings of the Mod movement does not ally you with them, nor does it excuse hideously reactionary connotations.

    And football jerseys and cheerleader outfits…Yikes, I never thought of it like that, but you're right. Much as I'm quick to defend the concept of "jock" at times, that doesn't sit at all well with the show as it stands: That would mean Roddenberry sees Starfleet as a bunch of clean, preppy, good-old-boy American ivy leaguers.


  5. BerserkRL
    July 9, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

    Wonder how the title relates to the Scott Fitzgerald book

    The Rupert Brooke reference seems a better fit.


  6. trekker709
    July 12, 2013 @ 2:18 am

    thanks – that Tahiti poem was new to me—seems to affirm earthly love, beauty and pleasure as opposed to immortality. But wasn’t Brooke known mostly for romanticizing war and patriotic duty, which this episode sort of does also (Kirk’s line “we must march to the sound of drums”). So I guess Paradise is identified with rewards of afterlife, while Eden is the spore-enhanced life they leave behind.


  7. K. Jones
    July 23, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    I'm not entirely predisposed to hate this episode, if only for its more Pulpy aspects (Spock gets spored and slaps Kirk around) but it seems notable to me that the derision or final moralization about how the Red Commie Happiness Eden Spores are B-A-D is driven purely by Kirk himself, and Kirk alone, really.

    If the spores were representative of intimacy and emotional vulnerability, then Kirk defeating them using nothing but Aggressive Manliness is straight-up equating his manliness with an inability to be intimate or emotionally vulnerable with anybody. This behavior in Kirk is something in hindsight we see very clearly is a chronic problem of his. Kirk the celebrated womanizer lives in that dichotomy; he's celebrated for his conquests but he's also pitied – by all of us – because his one true love is his duty to his ship. He's a career-minded man incapable of getting close to anyone.

    You can read it, and they sort of present it as "Kirk can't be brainwashed by spores because his true love is the Enterprise!" but ultimately the spores are really more of a direct metaphor for marijuana or drug-of-the-day which affects your brain in such a way that the "Emotional" side of things gets the upper hand, and the "Logical" side doesn't. Everything in moderation; perhaps a low-dosage of spores in an environment that's not this planet, would be good for your mental well-being?

    Kirk's Rugged Manly Victory implies a stunted emotional maturity, and that sense of unease you get when you come away from the episode is one where you feel bad for Spock, but to reiterate; you ought to be feeling bad for Kirk, who might embrace his own inner dichotomy (what else can you do?) but also has to f**king live with it.


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