Originally the spores were supposed to be a hive mind intelligence, telepathically linked to one another. Their health giving properties were so extreme that they could even revive the dead, and the cure was to drink alcohol - Kirk deinfected Spock by literally pouring alcohol down his throat. The twist was that the spores were entirely benign, intending no harm to anybody.
The shot of the empty bridge set was reused in TNG's "Relics" as the holodeck recreation of the Enterprise 1701.
The colony is led by a man named Elias Sandoval, and includes Leila Kalomi, a botanist Spock knew some years ago. Leila was in love with Spock and always hoped that he might come to love her in return, but was disappointed when his predominantly Vulcan nature led him to deny any such feelings.
As McCoy checks the colonists out he is amazed to find that every single one of them is in absolutely perfect health. Remarkable enough in a large group of people, the change has apparently even erased any trace of previous ailments or injuries. Sandoval claims this is simply a result of their healthy lifestyle and diet, but it is clear that something strange is going on. The Enterprise crew also notice that there is a total lack of any animals life on the planet, and that the colonists don't actually seem to have done much work on the colony in all the time they have been there.
Leila tells Spock there is a great secret on the planet, and promises to show it to him. She leads him to a nearby plant which blasts him with spores. Instantly his emotional barriers disintegrate, and he immediately confesses his love to Leila. Spock leads Sulu and Kelowitz to the flowers to be infected too, and the landing party is quickly overcome. McCoy even beams specimens of the plants up to the ship to spread the infection. In each case the spores give the infected person a feeling of utter peace and tranquility and completely cure any physical injury or ailment, even the effect of berthold rays. However, with their minds completely at peace the infected have no drive, no ambition. The colony is undeveloped because they have spent almost all their time there simply idling. Kirk argues that humanity should not live in such a state, seeing it as simple stagnation, but nobody will listen to him. He returns to the ship to find that the crew have sabotaged it to prevent him from communicating with Starfleet, and almost everybody has beamed down.
Left alone on the bridge and powerless to do anything, Kirk begins to make a log entry when a plant on the bridge finally manages to infect him. He calls Spock to let him know he is on their side now and goes to beam down... but at the last moment he shakes the effect of the spores off and returns to normal. He realises that the prospect of losing the Enterprise for good sent him into an emotional storm and that this cleared the spores from his body. Sensing a weapon of sorts, Kirk calls Spock and convinces him to come up to the ship. He taunts Spock with insults, including racial bigotry. Spock becomes agitated and finally snaps, attacking and almost killing Kirk before he suddenly calms, having restored his emotional blocks as the spores lose their grip. Spock is able to create a subsonic sound transmitter that will provoke the crew below into increasing anger, prompting fights and breaking the control of the spores. Leila beams to the ship, desperate to convince Spock to rejoin her below, but he is immovable in following his duty. The distressed Leila breaks down and cries, and her grief breaks the spores control over her in turn.
The transmitter works, and the crew are soon back to normal. Sandoval comes to realise that their time on the planet has been wasted, and swears to leave and begin over on another world. As Kirk and McCoy reflect on their 'expulsion from paradise' Spock notes that, for the first time in his life, he was truly happy here.
And the resolution... the spores just go away if you get really emotional? That's kind of silly. Also silly is that Kirk is the only person on the whole ship who got so emotional that he was able to get clear. Nobody else felt that way about abandoning their lives?
On the upside, it's very sweet to see Spock in love. And it's very poignant to see him have to rebuff Leila later on. But seriously, we've already done the "Spock loses control of his emotions" once in "The Naked Time". Did we need to go here again?
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