What can you come away with from the episode Miri? An important life lesson as taught by Jim Kirk himself: NO BLAH BLAH BLAH!
I could end the review there, but what would be the fun in that? Kirk and crew are picking up a distress call from a planet too far out to have had Federation involvement. Oh, sorry, Space Control, apparently. Yes, the episode ends with Kirk mentioning that he’s contacted Space Control after leaving a planet full of (300 year old) children on their own. How does this guy ever get promoted!? Not just that! While on the planet, he hits on Miri who is a teenager in appearance and attitude regardless of her nearly being 300 years of age And suddenly I hear the song “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon” playing loudly in my head. Ok, if we’re fair, “Mr. Lovey Dovey” may think he’s making a young girl feel good, winning her confidence by telling her she’s very pretty, but it comes off a bit creepy. You know what else is creepy? The words “life prolongation”. And as if to remind the audience that those words shouldn’t go together, each member of the crew then repeats it. It’s horrible. Speaking of creepy, how much time has gone by since The Enemy Within where doppleganger Kirk tried to rape Janice? Clearly enough time that she is ok admitting that she always wanted Kirk to notice her legs. Thing is, how could you not?! Those dresses leave nothing to the imagination. Especially on the remastered footage! I would think, knowing about his “interesting side” (as Spock pointed out), she might never want to reveal that even if she once had wanted Kirk to notice those legs.
Looking at other elements of the story, it’s very telling that when McCoy experiments on himself with the “beaker full of death”, as he collapses he calls out to Spock! Yeah, ok, Spock was nearby but he could have tried to call out to Jim. The telling truth is that even though these two have amusing banter about humanity, they evidently like and respect one another. In other “Space Central” news, when the landing party arrives, 2 security guards are with them, but they take it upon themselves to run off for what, a smoke break? Where were they most of the time and were they infected by the plague? The little we see of them would suggest not.
But there are two things to examine in this episode that are real. Well, I say “real” meaning, something to think about. Kirk (after throwing one kid to the floor for blahblah-ing) makes a point: the “grups” (grownups) are not the ones causing pain; the children are. “You’re growing up to be what they were”, he says. Now that is interesting. Until a young person recognizes the danger of becoming that which they hate, a child will grow up to be his or her parents. How many families start with an abusive mom or dad and have the children turn out the same way, then their children hate it but end up being the same thing and the cycle never ends. It goes on and on, generation after generation. Someone, somewhere, has to make the realization: a change is needed. Kirk delivers that message, loud and clear. The children learn… until he leaves them on the planet all over again. Damn it, man!
The other thing that warrants thinking about: so far we’ve been in space with the crew since episode 1. We’ve never been to Earth. This planet resembles 1960s Earth that we know. I have seen this show dozens of times since my youth but it was the first time it ever hit me that the planet Kirk and company find in this story could in fact be our earth. Wherever they come from might not be the “real” Earth. We always assume they are from the same planet we are, being humans, earthlings. But why? None of what we see from them indicates our planet, while this episode does. Our egos could come up with a “life prolongation” program and try to create eternal childhood. Our world already has tricycles and signs written in English. Can we say the same for Kirk’s Earth? Maybe one day we will… but for now?
I’m probably just reading too much into it. I should remind myself: No blah blah blah! ML
The view from across the pond:
The title of the episode before this one is “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, which would perhaps have been a better title for this one, because Kirk seems to be keen to answer that question.
“Pretty name for a pretty young woman.”
Okaaaay. Of all the strange things that happen in Star Trek, I can’t say I would have ever guessed we would be seeing the captain of the Enterprise hitting on a child. We’ll be charitable and assume he’s trying to earn her trust by getting her to have a crush on him… or something.
“I like that name.”
“Good. I like yours too. I like you.”
“Do you really?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Okaaaaay. It seems he really does want to go where no man has gone before. Things are made a little less icky to watch by the fact that Kim Darby was actually about 18 at the time this was filmed, and when you see Kirk and Miri walking along together and see that there isn’t a lot of difference in their heights it does kind of betray the illusion of her age. She plays a child very convincingly, but that’s one tall girl who is supposed to be just on the verge of puberty. What really doesn’t work here is Michael J Pollard still trying to play a pre-pubescent child at the age of 27, which is so ridiculous it almost made me laugh out loud when he first appeared on the screen.
“She likes you Jim. She’s becoming a woman.”
Yeah, but that’s because he chatted her up. I can hear the Trek fans protesting as I write this: yes, but she’s actually older than him! But no, these are specifically still children, who have just stayed children for a very long time: “Children who never age.”
Speaking of which… that really doesn’t make any sense, does it. Whilst I can understand the potential science behind halting (well, slowing to a crawl) the ageing process in childhood, these would still be simply adults who look like children. There is more to adulthood than a number. It’s about life experience too. Nobody can live for hundreds of years and still have the mind of a child unless the brain is damaged, and that’s clearly not the case here.
There were other problems with the episode as well. I wasn’t keen on McCoy’s casual xenophobia (“it’s dead”) and you can’t just represent centuries of language change (which would happen) with one contraction of “grown ups” to “grups”. There was one of those magic sci-fi vaccines that remove sores and leave the skin unblemished, and the episode posed the question at the start of why another planet exists that looks exactly like Earth, and then promptly forgot about it. We keep repeating ideas between episodes that are too close together. Recently we had two different doubles of Kirk cropping up in quick succession, and now we have consecutive episodes examining the consequences of failed attempts to cheat death. The relationship between Kirk and Janice took a depressing turn away from the professional towards the googly-eyed, as if no woman can just do her job without falling for the charms of Jim (“back on the ship I used to try to get you to look at my legs”). That was at least used as an important plot point, because Miri wasn’t too pleased about Janice and her legs, leading to her betrayal of child predator Jim.
By the way, let’s not forget about our Trek Tally. Miri added to our tally of screaming women (well, she’s a woman to Jim), and then #8 was mad crusty woman Louise. We won’t try to count the screaming kids. When I saw two random red shirts beaming down with the four regulars I was expecting a couple of additions to our minor crewman deaths. I would like to say that it was refreshing that it didn’t happen, but to be honest I think the writer just forgot about them. They didn’t even seem to get the disease. They were little more than occasional background scenery, people functioning as props.
But there was also a lot to enjoy here. The depiction of death by crustiness and insanity was brave enough not to pull its punches, leading to a BBC ban that stayed in effect until the 90s. The first death of a crusty was actually a really emotional moment, with him speaking like the distressed child that he was in his mind:
“Somebody please fix.”
Honestly, I could cry at that line. Even at the moment of his death, the poor old man / child just wants to ride his tricycle, having just been beaten up by the mean grup (this is the episode where our brave hero beats up one child and hits on another).
The first ever location filming in Trek gave the episode a more professional appearance than the usual polystyrene rocks, and the oppressive sense of impending doom hanging over the whole episode was palpable. The seven day deadline was actually really clever, enough time to make the mental decline of Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Janice feel gradual and real, while retaining that ticking-clock sense of desperation. And McCoy becoming desperate enough to inject himself with an untested vaccination that might just have killed him was a powerful moment. In the end that’s probably the word that sums up this episode the best: powerful. Sadly, thanks to Jim’s shenanigans this week there’s also another: disturbing. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Star Trek: Dagger of the Mind