So, to date Star Trek has shown us space gangsters, space Nazis, planets populated entirely by children, space serial killers, space commies fighting space Americans, space amoebas, doomsday machines, ultimate computers, space Romans, Greek gods, space witches, alternate realities, planets where the residents didn’t know what sex was, tribbles, godlike children, exiled eugenicists, and more than one planet run by a corrupted computer.
But “The Way to Eden” gives us the worst of all: space hippies.
This episode is, quite frankly, a mess. Originally based off a script by writer D.C. Fontana involving Dr. McCoy having a daughter who gets romantic with Kirk–something that sounds far more interesting to me–the story changed so much over time, even making the daughter character unrelated to McCoy and switching the romantic relationship from Kirk to Chekov.
OK, so far so good, but Fontana eventually asked the show use an alias of hers rather than her real name. What happened?
Well, we had the Enterprise intercept a stolen spacer cruiser. They manage to beam the thieves aboard just before the ship goes boom, and it’s a bunch of space hippies, including an ambassador’s son, a former classmate of Chekov’s, and some guy with ears funnier than Spock’s who is apparently a respected scientist. These people have a plan to get to the planet Eden where they can live without technology and be happy and so on and so forth. They call Kirk a “Herbert” and refuse to get a medical check-up until literally forced to do so.
So, really, these guys bug me. Mostly it’s because these guys aren’t so much hippies so much as they are what I’d wager a bunch of fortysomething writers thought hippies were. And while the portrayal isn’t entirely negative, they still feel artificial.
Take Dr. Sevrin, for example. Aside from some really funny ears, McCoy realizes Sevrin’s a carrier for a rare illness and the hippie leader needs to stay in quarantine. Does this man, a scientist Spock respects, accept this? Of course not! Furthermore, he and his associates assume they can just move to this planet they call Eden regardless of where it is.
It’s in Romulan space.
You guys think Kirk is a Herbert (a term for a petty bureaucrat or something), just see if the Romulans let people just move into their space without issue.
And why is Spock of all people the sympathetic point of contact for these people? I get that Spock sees them as rational people with a lot of intellectual achievements between them, but really? Spock? And when the hippies rock out in a lounge to distract the crew, Spock is the one who jams with them? Why not Chekov or Sulu or even Uhura, AKA the younger members of the crew? I get that Spock finds the fascinating, but really.
So, calls of “Herbert,” idealists who don’t listen, and a concert in the middle of the episode. What a bizarre episode.
Somehow these weirdos use a sonic device to take over the Enterprise and fly to Eden. Fortunately, the Romulans fail to notice all this. Also fortunately Sevrin doesn’t seem to infect anyone with his killer illness. But then Eden’s plant life secretes a strong acid that kills one space hippie, burns Chekov, and prompts Sevrin to suicide or something. Did he not think the apple he took a bite out of would kill him?
Look, an episode like this, I don’t quite know what to make of it. It just seems rather silly and inconsequential. It’s dated in ways that haven’t aged particularly well, and it probably didn’t work when it came out. It’s a pure relic of the 60s, moreso than even the one about the Vietnam War. The guest characters seem like morons who can somehow pull off a hijacking. And in the end, Kirk suggests that Eden might still be out there even if the hippies have to make it themselves.
So, I don’t really have anything else to say about this one. It’s just faintly ridiculous, and not in a good way.