Star Trek 2.12: The Deadly Years

The Deadly YearsAh, “The Deadly Years“. I remember this one well because this was another of the Fotonovels that I had when I was a kid.

The story is basically that the senior crew members, plus the expendable Lieutenant Galway, succumb to a weird radiation sickness that causes them to age dramatically, just like the research colonists on Gamma Hydra IV, four of whom are dead before the opening credits roll. The final two die of extreme age, despite being 29 and 27. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Galway start aging when they return to the Enterprise from landing party duty on the planet. Only Chekov was in the landing party and remains unaffected, becoming the focus of endless medical tests to determine why he is immune and hopefully figure out a cure. This provides several brilliant moments of comedy relief:

Chekov: Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If – if I live long enough, I’m going to run out of samples!
Sulu: You’ll live.
Chekov: Oh, yes. I’ll live. But I won’t enjoy it.

McCoy: Now this isn’t going to hurt a bit.
Chekov: That’s what you said the last time.
McCoy: Did it hurt?
Chekov: Yes!

These are undoubtedly the highlights of the episode.

The two subplots involve yet another ex-girlfriend of Kirk’s, Dr Janet Wallace, and Commodore Stocker, who is keen to take up his command post at Starbase 10. Wallace is, coincidentally, an endocrinologist, who renders assistance to McCoy in studying the disease. Her presence on board is never explicitly explained, though you could assume she is being assigned to Starbase 10 with Stocker. Stocker comes across as very reasonable, wanting to do everything he can to assist Kirk. He recommends going to Starbase 10 where they have better equipped medical labs, but Kirk insists on staying near Gamma Hydra IV until they solve the problem. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to agree with Stocker on this one. They’re completely ignoring any principles of quarantine anyway, by allowing the obviously afflicted landing party to perform their normal duties and mingle freely with the crew, rather than confining them in sickbay.

The Wallace subplot is simply tedious, having seen very similar stuff before. She left because Kirk was wedded to the job of commanding a starship, she married some other guy, who is now dead, Kirk looks as sexy as ever, Wallace looks good with a soft focus filter, etc., etc., ho hum. The really annoying thing is that this plot is never actually resolved. The episode ends with Kirk cured and Wallace hanging around on board as they head to Starbase 10, and we never see any argument between them, or agreement to keep only their past and go their separate ways, or one last fling, or anything. The entire thing is just left dangling, and of course we never see Wallace again in any other episode.

The Stocker subplot is more interesting, as he becomes worried about Kirk’s obvious and growing memory lapses. He recommends to Spock that a competency hearing be called. I should point out that this is a perfectly reasonable thing for a flag officer to be concerned about – not merely a power grab by Stocker (something we have seen before by Commodore Decker in “The Doomsday Machine“). Kirk, despite his own assurances that he can still command effectively, fails the competency hearing miserably, with plenty of evidence of him repeating commands and forgetting that he signed “important orders”. We observed these incidents earlier in the episode, although the thing he forgot he signed then was quoted as a “fuel consumption report” – hardly the “important orders” Spock mentions in the hearing! Stocker wants Spock to assume command, but Spock declines, saying he is also affected and, despite his superior Vulcan lifespan, is also not fit to command. With Scotty also out of the question, this leaves Stocker as ranking officer to assume command, which he does somewhat reluctantly.

This goes bad, however, when his first order is to head directly to Starbase 10. Across the Romulan Neutral Zone. Even for a desk-bound non-starship Starfleet officer, this must rank as one of the most stupid and indefensible decisions ever. His heart is in the right place, but he’s just inept, which is displayed in due course when a fleet of ten Romulan Birds of Prey attack, and Stocker dithers, unable to give any sensible orders. Clearly he’s not trained for this sort of thing. Fortunately, by this time Kirk has trumped McCoy yet again by determining that Chekov’s immunity must have been caused by the adrenaline rush of being terrified by discovering an aged body on the planet. Wallace and Spock whip up an adrenaline-based formula, which Kirk demands be injected into him first, despite it being potentially fatal. Naturally, he recovers, and races to the bridge in time to bluff the Romulans by broadcasting a message in a broken code that the Enterprise is about to detonate its corbomite device (a recall to “The Corbomite Maneuver“). The Romulans flee, leaving the Enterprise to warp safely out of the Neutral Zone and on a safer course to Starbase 10, with Kirk gaining a cool and dramatic echo effect as he dramatically says, “Warp factor 8!”

The episode ends on a light note, with McCoy saying he’s removed anything breakable from Sickbay, so that when Spock undergoes the convulsions caused by the serum, he won’t smash anything. Fine, except now that the Enterprise has been caught red-handed in the Neutral Zone, isn’t that an act of war, and shouldn’t the Romulans be massing to attack the entire Federation now? The fact that they’ve just started all-out war with the Romulans is simply ignored. Convenient!

A few other notes: Nice shot of an aged Kirk napping in the captain’s chair. McCoy: “I’m not a magician, just an old country doctor!” McCoy gains a strong southern US accent as he ages. All up, a decent episode, marred by some ridiculously incompetent command decisions, both by Kirk and Stocker. The episode is saved and elevated to heights, however, by Chekov, who delivers some of the best and smoothest comedy relief of the series.

Tropes: Rapid Aging, The Immune, Russian Guy Suffers Most, Find The Cure, Plucky Comic Relief, Girl Of The Week, Reasonable Authority Figure, Gaussian Girl, Shirtless Scene, I Can Still Fight, Idiot Ball, Magic Antidote, Call Back, Power Echoes, Snap Back, I’m A Doctor, Not a Placeholder.
Body count: 4 research colonists pre-credits, colonists Richard Johnson and wife Elaine, Lt. Galway, all of old age.

One Response to “Star Trek 2.12: The Deadly Years”

  1. LookBeyond says:

    Presumably there is no war because the Romulans don’t want one. I mean yeah, they have Casus Belli if they want to take it up, or (and perhaps more in keeping with the cold war era Trek was filmed in) they have something to screw the Federation over with. ” Hmmm, mister federation ambassador, about this treaty regulating cloaking technology…”.

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