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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.

9 Comments

  1. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2013 @ 4:22 am

    I first saw this episode at the age of 11 with a fever of 103. In that context, it wasn't half bad. I had fond memories of it keeping my mind off the fact I had never been so sick.

    Rewatching it to keep up with you was…sobering.

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  2. Adam Riggio
    October 7, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    I know I usually have long, involved, and complicated comments. But today, I have only a reaction, and it's brief at that.

    A little while ago, I happened to catch a rerun of The Paradise Syndrome on my country's sci-fi television channel, Space. I watched it over lunch. No other episode of television has led me to say, "What the fuck is this shit?" quite so frequently.

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  3. Josh Marsfelder
    October 7, 2013 @ 10:31 am

    It's all right, everyone. I had a hard time coming up with things to say about this one too. It's just…bad. At least the next disaster has a lot to complain about.

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  4. K. Jones
    October 7, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

    Some part of me has always been most angry not at the middling writing, the cast giving up on trying to polish it, the overt racism, the sexism, the lack of story logic, poor pacing, bad dialogue, every other thing – at this point I just hate the fact that even when portraying headache-inducingly bad American Indians, they didn't actually cast any.

    White people browned up to be "Space Exotic" is one level of bad, sure … but white people browned up to play an actual human culture? It stings worse somehow.

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  5. Flex
    October 8, 2013 @ 5:22 am

    This one is a serious bummer, to say the least. I'm actually compelled to really, really want the voice-over happy, soap opera style of storytelling to work. It borders on compelling how much time passes in this episode – more than any other episode, no? – and the idea of Kirk getting stranded and settling down with a wife and kid is so tantalizing it almost hurts.

    But, alas, it is all undone by everything we actually see in the episode. Particularly the hideous, wretched racism that actually makes this essentially unwatchable.

    It's interesting that Elaan is supposedly the one that was aimed at women, since this one seems like the obvious attempt to do a real romance in Trek (which is what the women want, natch). But it's all so offensively bad that it doesn't really matter in the end.

    At a time when the show is in a major identity crisis, I think this episode sort of shades at a way the show could have reinvented itself once again. But what ends up happening is more or less confirming that the show has fallen apart and, except for a few final gasps, what we're watching at this point is a decaying zombie

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    October 8, 2013 @ 9:08 am

    Oh, absolutely. The show's been offensively reactionary many times in the past, but it's crossed a line by applying this same level of blase insensitivity to an actual, real-world group of people.

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  7. Josh Marsfelder
    October 8, 2013 @ 9:15 am

    Indeed, I do believe this is the episode that takes place over the longest span of time in the history of the show, not that you'd notice that as it's mentioned once in an easy-to-miss throwaway line.

    Of course, Armen is in fact female, so one would think she would be somewhat more attuned to what Star Trek's female fans might have wanted from the show. Unfortunately, it seems like her overwhelmingly crap tendencies as a writer sort of cancelled that out.

    Interestingly enough coming up next we do in fact have an episode that's extremely female-friendly, or at least that was originally written that way. It's by the person you'd probably expect.

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  8. K. Jones
    October 8, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    I'm fairly excited for the next one. A cursory glance at the Production Order listings makes it pretty clear that phenomena like the latter half run of top episodes in Season 2 never happened again; after this slight four episode slog, with only "Spectre" to introduce anything interesting, Star Trek begins vacillating a little. Not quite good-bad-good-bad, but certainly dramatically veering from one to the other, with no "runs" of good or bad. We'll address it with rewatches of course, but to my memory the whole rest of Season 3 maintains that metronome quality. (Like a countdown clock to cancel-town.)

    The next is my very favorite Original Crew episode, and a story that deserved its own "Wrath of Khan" re-visitation, and never got it.

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  9. Josh Marsfelder
    October 8, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    What's interesting about that to me is this is exactly how the show used to operate: The latter John Meredyth Lucas run was almost more of a fluke than anything else. A metronome approach to quality isn't anything we really ought to be terribly shocked by at this point.

    Why, then, exactly, season three becomes seen as an aberration when in many way's it's merely Star Trek falling back into old bad habits is an intriguing question. This too I pick up over the next few entries.

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