I'm a fan of Star Trek. I always have been. The movies and spinoffs like Next Generation and the recent Brave New Worlds are fine, but there's something pure and classic about the old 1960s series which has always been my favorite. I owned the complete archives of the old series on DVD long before they were readily available on streaming. Not long ago I re-watched one of my favorite episodes, which is called "The Way to Eden." Many Star Trek fans would be surprised to hear that this is one of my favorites, as it's one of the least-liked and most-derided of the old series. Appearing late in the third season, when the production quality of the show was declining precipitously, "The Way to Eden" has a pretty limp script, phone-it-in acting and hilariously ludicrous costumes. For a series that came up with such groundbreaking stuff like "Amok Time" or "The City on the Edge of Forever," "The Way to Eden" simply doesn't measure up. Yet I still love it as one of my favorites, because it, more than most other Star Trek episodes, has some very interesting things to say about the time in which it was made.
"The Way to Eden" concerns a small group of space travelers who have stolen a spaceship and, as the episode opens, are being pursued by the Federation starship Enterprise. As their ship blows up (its engines were failing) Captain Kirk orders the six passengers beamed aboard. They turn out to be a bizarre group of what can only be described as space hippies, led by an alien with outrageous latex ears, Dr. Severin (Skip Homeier). Dr. Severin tells Kirk and Spock that he and his group are searching the galaxy for a planet called Eden, believed by most to be mythical, where the group--who has rejected the values of Federation society--will live in an idyllic paradise among "savages," presumably Eden's indigenous peoples. Unfortunately Severin is a carrier of an incurable disease, and Kirk refuses to help them. The hippies won't take no for an answer, however, and hijack the Enterprise to bring it to Eden. When they find it, stealing a shuttlecraft to land on it, they discover a beautiful but dangerous world where all the vegetation is filled with deadly acid. Even knowing this, Severin, who is insane, chomps an apple and falls dead. The others ultimately leave with the Enterprise crew.