I remember watching this episode as a kid and my dad walking in and seeing Michael J. Pollard in the episode. He then declares that Pollard stole every scene he appeared in in Bonnie and Clyde, an opinion I today don’t necessarily share but wouldn’t dispute much either.
Of course, I told that same personal anecdote when I wrote up Bonnie and Clyde last year, so the circle is now complete.
The Enterprise is flying around when they get a distress signal from what appears to be an Earth-like planet. I don’t mean it’s the standard “Class M” sort of place that is environmentally friendly to humans. I mean the place basically is another Earth, right down to the continents. That said, the planet seems to be deserted, so Captain Kirk decides to beam down to the planet’s surface near where the distress signal was coming from. And because it is always a good idea to send your most senior officers to a dangerous, unknown location, Kirk goes down with Spock, McCoy, Yeoman Rand, and two random security officers. They materialize in a place that looks like a deserted ghost town, long out of repair, and the only life they find is a large man, covered in discolorations, who attacks McCoy when the good doctor stops to inspect a broken tricycle before suddenly dying.
By the by, I do love it when the Enterprise visits a planet that’s a lot like Earth for one reason or another. You just know it was done to save the network money with costuming and set design.
It isn’t too long before the away team finds a young girl named Miri (actress Kim Darby was 19 in 1966), who we are told is on the cusp of womanhood. She isn’t the only inhabitant of this town (and, I suppose, planet), but she is the only one the away team can find. Spock and the security guards hear some taunting, but the source is long gone by the time they get a look around. It seems the town’s sole inhabitants are children. Where are the adults?
Well, there’s a problem there, and it isn’t that this episode may have inspired Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. The adults all died off when an experiment to increase the resident’s lifespan went wrong, causing a disease that killed anyone past puberty. As for the children, their lifespans were increased dramatically as the aging process slowed down considerably, aging only one month for every century they live. So, yes, every soul on the planet including Miri is over 300 years old.
As it is, Miri is the only really friendly kid in town. The others, led by a boy named Jahn (Pollard, age 27 in 1966), don’t trust the “grups” as they call them because all language deteriorates over time apparently. These kids remember the violence of the “before time” and would rather run amok without authority figures. And what a crowd of kids they got. Besides Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird, there are a bunch of sons and daughters of different cast and crewmembers and a young Phil Morris.
Now, whatever killed the adults on this planet apparently has infected most of the away team. Spock is immune, but as a carrier, he can’t go back to the ship lest he infect the rest of the crew and Kirk has forbidden anyone to beam down to help. They do get some equipment, and Dr. McCoy does get to work with the Enterprise computer as back-up. But the general distrust of the “onlies”means that they will do small things to sabotage McCoy’s efforts, and the lot of them (aside from Spock) will be dead in a week if McCoy can’t find a cure.
What does all this have to do with Miri? Well, she’s got a little thing for Kirk, and when she sees Kirk go off to comfort Rand when the Yeoman freaks out that the weird rash has spread to her sexy parts, Miri helps Jahn and the others. When Kirk points out she also has the disease, she helps Kirk. And Kirk does his best to convince the kids to help, pointing out that they are acting like grups themselves when they turn to violence, how the older ones won’t be able to help the little ones if they all die, how everyone gets the disease once they grow up no matter how long it takes, and how apparently the 300 years worth of canned goods are almost gone and the kids will starve to death in six months regardless.
It’s a nice, symbolic way to show a transition, I suppose. Miri is halfway between adulthood and childhood. She’s not really like the other onlies anymore. Sure, it may be predictable that she’d get a crush on Kirk, but it isn’t a completely terrible reaction either. Spock and McCoy are busy, the two security guys don’t even seem to have names, and this is 1966, so you know she wasn’t going to have a crush on Rand. It allows Kirk to monlogue as he does so often and somehow convince the kids that it is in their best interest to help McCoy develop a vaccine. Since Jahn swiped the communicators, McCoy can’t use the Enterprise to determine if his cure will fix him or poison him. And…the cure works.
Which means McCoy didn’t need Kirk to get help from the kids after all…
Seriously, that is what this episode says. McCoy found the cure on his own (OK, Spock helped).
But then, the episode is called “Miri,” so this is her story, or at least her story as she goes all googily eyes over Kirk like so many women have before her. And this is only episode eight…
Maybe someone call fall for McCoy next time. That guy deserves it after that thing with the salt vampire.