SCORE: (3/5 stars)
Not to be outdone by last week’s massacre of redshirts, Starfleet orders the Enterprise to survey a “paradise” planet full of poison-spitting flowers, explosive rocks, and improbably aimed lightning bolts. To let you know how dangerous the planet is, a redshirt is dead before the opening credits. After Spock takes a near-fatal barrage of poison spikes to the chest, Kirk tries to abandon the mission and have everyone beam up… but a power drain emanating from the planet’s surface is preventing the ship’s transporters from working, so they’re stuck down there as two more redshirts get obliterated. While this is all going on, they realize they’re being watched by someone in the underbrush. After Kirk slugs him, the man starts crying. It’s clear he’s not a threat. Kirk apologizes for his initial reaction, and begins to ask questions about their new contact.
He is Akuta, the eyes and ears of Vaal. Who is Vaal? Why, he’s the one who provides all for the people of this planet. He makes the fruit grow and the sun rise. Oh, you want to talk to Vaal? No, sorry, only Akuta gets to do that. Oh, sure, he can take you to him, but you won’t get to communicate. They are taken to Akuta’s village. To McCoy’s tricorder’s surprise, there’s not a single harmful bacteria or sign of ill health or aging among any of the villagers. The Vaalians are at least ten thousand years old, and in all that time, they have remained fully dependent upon Vaal for everything. They are an entirely stagnant culture. They don’t even know what children are. Vaal has forbidden “holding and touching” so they don’t know how to make ‘em. Kirk and crew are taken to Vaal, which is a giant snake head embedded in a rock face. Scans show it’s an advanced machine inside, and it draws power by “feeding” on the Vaalians, a process that doesn’t seem to harm them, but manages to generate enough power for the machine.
After a couple of Vaalians see Chekov getting his mack on with a sexy yeoman (hit that thing Moscow-style, you sly dog!), they decide to try this thing you call Earth kissing. Akuta catches them, and fears that these outsiders will corrupt their society. After communing with Vaal, he is given instruction to kill the Starfleet officers. They succeed on the last remaining redshirt in the party, but ten thousand years without violence renders them woefully unprepared for Starfleet combat training. Spock’s scans of Vaal reveal that it has almost no power reserves, and it must keep its strength by continually feeding off the Vaalians. With the villagers captive, they can simply keep them in a tent and starve Vaal out. Soon, the energy drain on the Enterprise weakens enough that Scotty’s able to fire phasers on Vaal. Now that the Vaalians are freed from their ten thousand years of religious devotion, they’ll have to learn how to fend for themselves, with a little help from Starfleet. Sure, it’s a violation of the Prime Directive, but that’s how Kirk rolls.
- The spread of the two phasers firing at Vaal is too wide as it comes from the phaser banks. It makes a noticeable V shape. By the time it hits the planet’s surface, hundreds of kilometers below, the beams should be spread far apart, instead of a mere 2-3 meter spread.
- Chekov: It makes me homesick. Just like Russia.
McCoy: More like the Garden of Eden, Ensign.
Chekov: Of course, Doctor. The Garden of Eden was just outside Moscow.
- Chekov: If you insist on worrying, worry about me. I’ve been wanting to get you in a place like this for a long time.
Kirk: Mister Chekov, Yeoman Landon. I know you find each other fascinating, but we’re not here to conduct a field experiment in human biology.
- Kirk: Garden of Eden, with land mines.
- Kirk: Just what do you think you were trying to do?
Spock: I surmised you were unaware of that plant so I—
Kirk: Stepped in front and took the thorns yourself.
Spock: I assure you, Captain, I had no intention of doing that.
- Kirk: Trying to get yourself killed, do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?
Spock: One hundred twenty-two thousand, two hundred—
Kirk: Never mind!
- Landon: Love is when two people are…
Akuta: Ah. Yes, the holding, the touching. Vaal has forbidden this.
McCoy: Well, there goes Paradise.
- Spock: Doctor, you insist on applying human standards to non-human cultures. I remind you that humans are only a tiny minority in this galaxy.
McCoy: There are certain absolutes, Mister Spock, and one of them is the right of humanoids to a free and unchained environment. The right to have conditions which permit growth.
Spock: Another is their right to choose a system which seems to work for them.
- Landon: But these people. I mean, if they don’t know anything about… what I mean is, they don’t seem to have any natural… I mean… how is it done?
Kirk: Mister Spock, you’re the science officer, why don’t you explain it to the young lady?
- Spock: The good doctor was concerned that the Vaalians achieve true human stature. I submit there is no cause for worry, they’ve taken the first step. They’ve learned to kill.
- Kirk: You’ll learn something about men and women, the way they’re supposed to be. Caring for each other, being happy with each other. Being good to each other. That’s what we call love. You’ll like that too, a lot. You and your children.
Sayana: What are children?
Kirk: Little ones? Look like you, they… just go on the way you’re going, you’ll find out.
- Spock: Captain, you are aware of the Biblical story of Genesis?
Kirk: Yes, of course I’m aware of it. Adam and Eve tasted the apple, and as a result were driven out of paradise.
Spock: Precisely, Captain. And in a manner of speaking, we have given the people of Vaal the apple, the knowledge of good and evil if you will, as a result of which they too have been driven out of paradise.
Kirk: Doctor, do I understand him correctly? Are you casting me in the role of Satan?
Spock: Not at all, Captain, I was simply—
Kirk: Is there anyone on this ship who even remotely looks like Satan?
Spock: [folds his arms] I am not aware of anyone who fits that description, Captain.
Kirk: No, Mister Spock, I didn’t think you did.