|Show||Star Trek: The Original Series|
|Air Date||October 27, 1966|
|Written By||Adrian Spies|
The Enterprise finds itself on an exact replica of Earth, after responding to a distress call there. If that wasn’t weird and unlikely enough, the entire adult population of the planet (or just that tiny, Mayberry-esque town, so far as we know) has been wiped out by a deadly disease. The only ones left are the children, and their society has gone very Lord of the Flies.
Kirk and his landing party consisting of Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney in her penultimate episode), along with redshirts Galloway and Fields, discover that they, too, are now infected with this same disease, so it’s only a matter of time before they, too, die horribly. As if this isn’t enough, they have to contend with a group of Onlies (kids) led by Jahn (Michael J. Pollard) and Miri (Kim Darby), who are afraid that these “grups” (grownups) will bring them all down with their disease. Miri is smitten with Kirk, causing an awkward love triangle between herself, Kirk, and Rand, but his priorities are bigger than that, and he gives a big speech about how the kids need to let his people do their work, or else they’ll all die.
Kirk and company manage to find the cure for the disease, which may be as deadly as the disease itself (spoilers: it’s not!), and leave the children with a medical team who will care for them.
Let’s Dig Deeper
“Miri” is like Lord of the Flies meets “Charlie X” minus the superpowers, except we don’t get to see the deterioration of the society and we’re not really told anything about the kids. The best part is Kim Darby, best known for playing Mattie Ross in True Grit (1969) alongside John Wayne. She’s really good here, despite her crush on Captain Kirk (though who can blame her, really? It’s William Shatner!), which just makes things awkward, compounded by the fact that he utilized that crush to get the answers the crew needs.
The true tragedy of what’s going on down on the planet surface is seen immediately as the landing party beams down. They marvel at the Mayberry like town square they have beamed into, walking through the ruins of an old civilization remarkably like their own. Then suddenly, a horribly disfigured man with the mind of a child rushes out and attacks Dr. McCoy. Only four minutes into the episode, and we are given the result of what will happen to the crew if they don’t find a vaccine for the disease with which they find themselves afflicted. My hat goes off to the writer here for quickly giving us the stakes, without any exposition. It works remarkably well. All the adorable kids we will see from this point on are doomed to the fate of this grotesque figure.
Immediately following the scene, the landing party find itself in an old abandoned house and they stumble upon Miri, hiding in a closet, tears streaming down her face, and begging them not to hurt her. This is a fast reminder that Kim Darby is actually a pretty good actress; she instantly endears herself to us. What’s more, this hints at the deeper theme here: this episode is an exploration of the relationships between adolescents and adults. She’s terrified of the adults, because every adult she’s ever met has contracted the disease, gone crazy, and died. Miri distrusts Kirk and company straight away, telling them that “I remember the things you Grups did, burning, yelling, hurting people.” She’s never met an adult that hasn’t either died or tried to kill her because of the disease they contract shortly after puberty. Very literally, the children die right along with their childhoods.
The source of the disease turns out to be a life prolongation study done in a lab centuries before. This is classic sci-fi. The thing that they tried to conquer ends up being their own doom.
SPOCK: According to their life prolongation plan, what they thought they were accomplishing, a person would age only one month for every one hundred years of real time.
RAND: One hundred years and only one month?
SPOCK: Exactly, Yeoman. Evidently, through some miscalculation, this virus annihilated the entire adult population in a very short period, leaving only the children.
RAND: But that means these children
SPOCK: Could very well be immensely old.
Somehow, while exploring ways to extend lifespans, the scientists unleashed a disease upon their planet, attacking any adult. This sort of irony has preoccupied science fiction for decades.
When I say that it’s very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, I’m not kidding. It’s maybe got even more Children of the Corn in its DNA, or rather the roots of it, as it predates the Stephen King story by nearly a decade. This episode features kids who have taken over the planet. They are doing their best to foil Captain Kirk and his crew. As Spock and the security guards explore the town, they’re pursued by lots of small noises, kids playing with them in an eerie manner. It’s actually rather creepy, as the feral kids taunting Spock and the guards with, “Nah nah nah nah naah,” throwing pebbles, creaking windows. This is a world run by children, with rules that only children could set.
Random Thoughts on Miri
William Shatner and Grace Lee Whitney’s kids are both in this episode. He’s holding his daughter toward the end and her kids steal her communicator. It’s adorable and precious.
Memorable Quotes from Star Trek
“Bonk! Bonk! On the head! Bonk! Bonk!”
–This has become a Trekkie mantra of sorts, often for something stupid, and just as often for an episode trying to tell us what to think a little too strongly.
We’re getting knee-deep in prime Star Trek: The Original Series territory now. With maybe one or two exceptions, the rest of seasons one and two are stellar (pun intended). So, yes. Keep on watching, friends!
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