Star Trek 1.8: Miri

MiriI wasn’t looking forward to this one, as in my memory it was a rather poor episode. However watching it again I was pleasantly surprised to find it more interesting and dramatically compelling than I’d remembered.

The first point of interest is that Uhura isn’t present at her usual station. Communications are attended by Lieutenant Farrell. Immediately after this we see the strangest thing of the entire episode – the Enterprise has followed an “old style SOS” signal and found a planet that looks identical to Earth! Or at least, identical to a globe of the Earth without any clouds on it. The special effects for the Earth planet are really pretty lousy. Presumably because the show was made in 1966 and either they honestly didn’t know what the Earth looked like from space, or the budget was too low to allow the generation of some sort of model with clouds.

Now this really is a huge mystery. What in blazes is a planet that looks identical to Earth doing hundreds of light years away from the one we know and love? The pre-credits sequence ends on this tantalising mystery. We have the reasonable expectation that this mystery will be addressed and somehow resolved during the episode. However, the story has a landing party beam down and encounter another completely different mystery, and solve that instead, leaving the question of why the planet looks like Earth not only unanswered but also not even referred to again after the first 5 minutes! This is incredibly frustrating, and also entirely unnecessary. The episode would have worked just as well (in fact much better) if the planet had just been a random alien world. It’s really a puzzle why they chose to set up such a huge mystery and then abandon it.

Or maybe not. Because the landing party apparently beams down into the Universal Studios backlot. It looks like an abandoned town from the American midwest. In fact Memory Alpha mentions that it was the slightly modified set of the Andy Griffith Show! Anyway, they look around and a ragged man attacks them. Kirk uses this as an opportunity to punch the guy through the face not once, not twice, but three times, with Spock holding the victim so Kirk can line up the punches. Presumably Kirk instructed Spock not to use the Vulcan nerve pinch when he clearly had the perfect opportunity to do so, just so he could get in some punching practice. McCoy declares the man dead, then adds that he has an “incredibly high metabolic rate”. That’s pretty good – most dead people have no metabolism at all!

We eventually get into the main plot, which is that there’s a plague on the planet that (a) slows aging to a rate of 1 month every 100 years, and (b) kills everyone at or past puberty. (It was a deliberate attempt at life prolongation that went horribly wrong.) The result is a planet of 300-year-old children with no adults. I’d expect this to devolve into Lord of the Flies pretty quickly, but somehow the kids have managed to survive and stay carefree for 300 years, although now their food supply is about to run out within 6 months – it’s lucky Kirk and co. came along when they did!

The titular Miri is a girl on the brink of her life-ending hormonal changes, who develops a crush on Kirk. This elicits the jealousy reaction from Yeoman Rand, who for some reason is part of the landing party. This is actually her feature episode, really, as she gets more screen and plot time in this episode than any other, and it develops her unrequited love for Kirk substantially. Alas, this is also one of the last episodes she appears in, because as actress Grace Lee Whitney revealed in her autobiography, someone on the production team (she declines to name who) sexually assaulted her after the filming was complete, causing her to devolve into alcohol and drugs, and quickly get fired from the show. 1960s social justice truly sucked. (She did return to the franchise for small roles in several of the movies, after sorting her life out.)

In a major piece of plot-induced stupidity, the entire landing party are lured from their makeshift medical lab by taunting from the hostile children, and leave all their communicators behind so they can get stolen. This means they can’t verify McCoy’s vaccine on the ship’s computer, and he has to take the risk of injecting himself with it in the best traditions of TV drama medical trials. Of course it works and the day is saved. The best line of the episode is the closer, when back on the Enterprise Rand tells Kirk that Miri really loved him. Kirk replies, “I never get involved with older women, Yeoman.” Boom-tish! A great end to an episode with a couple of major flaws, but entertaining and dramatic enough not to be a total loss.

Body Count: 1 unnamed old man, and Louise, one of the children succumbing to the disease at puberty.
Tropes: Space Romans, Gone Horribly Wrong, The Plague, Only Fatal To Adults, There Are No Adults, Teenage Wasteland, No Immortal Inertia, Kids Versus Adults, Really Seven Hundred Years Old, Unresolved Sexual Tension, Plot-Induced Stupidity, Technicolour Science, Professor Guinea Pig, What Happened To The Mouse?
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

One Response to “Star Trek 1.8: Miri”

  1. RSW666 says:

    In “Shore Leave” S01E15 Kirk resurrects his former love “Ruth” who appears to be several years older than Kirk is (33 in 2266). It has been theorized that Ruth took a young Kirk’s virginity or perhaps they were involved during his time a Starfleet Academy. If so then he was into older women at some time.

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