Episode #35: Paradise

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Episode #35: Paradise

Post  BoG on Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:11 pm

PARADISE (prod. #435; episode #15 of 2nd season) Directed by Corey Allen
written by Jeff King, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Jim Trombetta and James Crocker
As you might surmise, there's some dark contradiction involved in the title here.
This one tackles the almost too-complex-for-TV themes of planned community, group-think, cultism, leadership and control of the human animal. In a sense, it examines what it means to be a human being - what is it that makes us happy & content? (an earlier approximation of this was the TOS episode Return of the Archons).

In the plot, Sisko & O'Brien chance upon an idyllic planet which harbors a small community of castaways; the story goes that they were stranded there accidentally a decade ago and made do. There is some kind of field there that deactivates all technology, so Sisko & O'Brien are stuck there also, unable to beam back up to their runabout. The community & surroundings seem quite pleasant, even if it's the whole 'back-to-nature' deal, without the benefits of modern medicine.

It soon becomes apparent, however, that the leader of this 'unplanned' colony, Alixus, is nothing more than a benign dictator; she has definite ideas on what an ideal existence for humanity should be, having thought on this for many years and written many books, and has applied all her theories to this live experiment. Her main train of thought involves humans finding their 'core', which translates to life without technology. She's not always even benign, since punishment for certain transgressions involves placing the accused in a box, a form of torture. Sisko ends up in this box.

It's eventually revealed that Alixus has been less than honest with the other colonists - they didn't end up on this planet by accident. The rest of the colonists, however, are not as angry as they should be by this revelation. This has to do with a form of control - certain people practice this control while most others, perhaps designated as sheep, accede to a stronger personality. This is the cult of personality - Jim Jones and his followers (from the seventies) comes to mind. Alixus came across as really creepy by the conclusion (to me, at least) and perhaps psychotic. Otherwise, the return to nature aspect makes this a serious version of the TOS episode The Way to Eden or a darker version of This Side of Paradise and Star Trek Insurrection (1998).

All that said, I didn't much like the ending or quite understand it - perhaps this has to do with the limitations of series television. The leader and her son are the only ones to leave - maybe she planned to return, but Alixus is strangely serene here; she is leaving her life's work and seems carefree about it (or, psychotic). Not one of the other colonists decides to also depart; you'd think there would be a couple of these - just the odds - but they all seem still programmed like little androids into their decade-long existence, even with Alixus leaving. How will they continue without their leader? Who will be the new leader? They also seem strangely unconcerned about their guiding force leaving. The story also seems mired in absolutes by the conclusion: since the Federation is now aware of this 'lost' planet, I would think there would no longer be a need for 'all or nothing' decisions. Couldn't some colonists come & go as they please in the future? Instead, they all still behaved like they're still marooned there. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
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