TOS 1.25: This Side of Paradise
Captain Kirk vs Blissed-Out Crewmen
Spock in Love
The Mission: To investigate the fate of the colony on Omicron Ceti III.
Planets visited: Omicron Ceti III, or Omicron for short, is an Earthlike planet with incredibly fertile soil, but no animal life. It is considered the perfect location for an agricultural colony, but for one problem: it is exposed to deadly Berthold radiation. Omicron Ceti, also called Mira, is a real star located over 400 light years from Earth.
Alien Life Forms: The trumpet plants, as I like to call them (because the soundtrack toots trumpets every time they attack), release spores that protect people from the Berthold rays and render them supremely healthy (even allowing an excised appendix to grow back). They also leave the victim/beneficiary super-chilled out and happy. Either the affected crew place the plants around the ship, or they’re sneaking around on their own efforts.
According to Spock, Berengaria 7 is home to dragons.
Captain James T: Resists the effects of the spores for a long time, eventually succumbing once he’s zapped on the bridge, the last crewman left on the ship. He manages to fight it using his own violent emotions, and fights Spock with fists, insults and a metal bar in order to get the same emotions out of him. Thuggy Kirk to the rescue again. This isn’t the first time Kirk has insulted Spock’s ancestry in order to provoke some kind of reaction, and it’s beginning to look like he has some buried issues with Vulcans. He decries the happy colony as stagnant and incapable of progress; we’ll see more of this attitude towards stable societies in the future.
Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: He’s a Vulcanian again. He maintains that a human could not pronounce his personal name. He had a past with Leila Kolomi, one of the colonists on the planet. Once exposed to the spores, he is wracked with pain, the spores affecting him rather differently to the humans. Once he recovers, he immediately declares his love for Leila, and seems genuinely happy. He is riled by Kirk’s insults and we see him become extremely violent, getting an indication of his strength. Nimoy plays his recovered state with a deep but suppressed sadness that is affecting to watch.
The Real McCoy: “It’s pure speculation, just an educated guess, I’d say that man is alive.” McCoy is amazing. He goes super-Southern when exposed to the spores, and calls Kirk Jimmy Boy. He likes mint juleps.
Trek Stars: Jill Ireland, who plays Leila, was a successful English actress in the sixties and seventies. She was married to David McCallum when this was filmed, and Charles Bronson later in life. She died from cancer, aged only 54.
Trivia: The plant props are said to have been originally used in ‘Specimen: Unknown,’ a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits, in which they represented a much more dangerous life form. There's not much to back this up, though, and while they're similar, they must have been heavily modified.
Verdict: Hmm. This is a pretty boring episode for the most part, although the scenes where Kirk stands alone on the desolate bridge are effective. No amount of dramatic music can liven this up. Thankfully, Nimoy gives an excellent performance which saves this episode from the doldrums. It’s hard to see what right Starfleet has in removing the colonists; they do seem happy after all, and no one is hurt.
TOS 1.26: The Devil in the Dark
Captain Kirk vs the Rock Monster
The Mission: Discover what is killing the miners on Janus VI.
Planets visited: Janus VI is a terrestrial planet with an unbreathable atmosphere. However, a mining colony has been established beneath the surface, with life support machines providing an oxygen-rich environment. The planet is incredibly rich in desirable minerals, including the (fictional) mineral purgium.
Future History: Purgium is essential for technology on “a thousand planets” for life support and other vital systems. It has been mined on Janus VI for fifty years. Silicon-based life has never been discovered before this episode (a silicon-based entity akin to a virus was discovered by the crew of Archer’s Enterprise in the episode “Observer Effect,” but a virus is arguably not a life form).
Future Fashion: The miners on Janus VI have made some bold clothing choices. It takes a real man to mine in lilac or canary yellow overalls and high-heeled boots.
Alien Life Forms: The Horta is a silicon-based life form that appears as a shaggy mound of rock and sludge, fringed with tendrils. Highly intelligent, the Horta burrows through, and feeds upon, the rock of its planet by secreting a highly corrosive substance; when threatened, it can use this substance to rapidly kill a human, leaving only fragments and scorch marks behind. Nonetheless, it seems to be perfectly safe for someone to touch the creature when it is not hostile. The Horta can only survive in an oxygen atmosphere for a short time. It is extremely resistant to phaser fire, but an intense blast sears off a chunk of its body, which remains moving while Kirk and Spock examine it.
Every fifty thousand years, all the Horta die, except for one, which lays thousands of spherical silicon eggs. This ‘mother’ Horta remains to care for its young, who become the next generation of Horta. Although naturally peaceful, the mother Horta began to kill once its eggs were threatened. At the end of this adventure, an understanding is reached by which the Horta are left alone to tunnel through the rocks, releasing minerals for the miners to collect.
Captain James T: To begin with, he is keen to hunt down and kill the Horta, likening it to a wounded animal. Only later when he faces it does he begin to see that it is an intelligent creature and that it is merely protecting its nest. He then protects the Horta against the miners, and suggests a collaboration between them.
Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: For only the second time, Spock performs a mind meld, this time with the Horta. Despite its completely alien nature, he is able to communicate with it, and is overcome with the pain and emotion it is feeling. It’s an intense performance from Nimoy. He finds the Horta to have a very logical mind, which “after close association with humans,” he “finds curiously refreshing.”
The Real McCoy: Poo-poos Spock’s suggestion of a silicon-based biology, but accepts it when faced with the creature. Initially refuses to believe he can treat the Horta’s wound - “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!” He eventually twigs that he can treat the wound with a concrete mix. “By golly Jim,” he says, “I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!”
Space Bilge: The episode starts with a ridiculously over-dramatic zoom-in on the planet with excessive musical accompaniment. How does the Horta rear up to attack? It seems restricted to shuffling along the ground the rest of the time. It’s also very clearly someone wriggling about under a blanket covered in rubber. How do the Horta have a name for themselves when they have no verbal language? Oh, and McCoy mixes up silicon and silicone.
Trivia: This is the only episode of the original series to begin with a scene on another planet with none of the main cast. More Outer Limits links: the Horta costume was adapted from one taken from an episode of The Outer Limits entitled “The Probe,” in which it portrayed a vastly enlarged cold germ!
Verdict: A fine episode with a strong central science fiction concept. The core trio all come across well here, each of them getting their moment in the spotlight, and the Horta makes for a memorable alien, in spite of the primitive costume. This is classic Star Trek.