It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #11!
This week’s episode is “Miri” and while it has some odd moments, it’s still pretty good.
We open with, in what’s possibly the shortest cold open this show has had so far, the Enterprise finding an exact replica of Earth in space while tracking an Earth-type distress signal. How’s that for a hook?
A landing party of Kirk, Spock, Yeoman Rand, McCoy and two redshirts beam down and find themselves in an abandoned city. From the architecture, Spock guesses that this city is just like Earth in…the 1960s! McCoy then says, “Now, this is marvelous. The most horrible conglomeration of antique architecture I’ve ever seen.” This tells us 2 things about episode writer Adrian Spies: 1. He resented the show had a cheap budget for shooting on location. 2. He really hated the architecture. Oddly specific gripes, but OK!
Anyway, after being attacked by a strange deformed man who then dies right in front of them, the team hears noises coming from one of the buildings. They investigate, look in a closet and find Miri, a normal-looking girl who is completely terrified of them.
If Miri looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s played by Kim Darby, best known for playing Mattie Ross in the original True Grit. I’ll get back to her later.
Miri initially freaks out and refuses to tell them anything, but Kirk, being as nice and polite as possible, calms her down. She tells them how the “grups”–grownups–became ill and went insane and the “Onlies”–children–learned to hide from them. McCoy realizes that this world was decimated by a plague; Kirk manages to convince Miri to take them to an abandoned hospital where they learn more about the disease–specifically, that it started out as an attempt to slow down the aging process, aging cells 1 month every 100 years, but it only worked on children while making anyone past puberty go completely insane, become disfigured and die.
The landing party, minus Spock because he’s half-Vulcan, all become infected with the disease, which manifests in the form of really nasty scabs. Add that plus Miri developing a crush on Kirk and the rest of the Onlies led by Jahn (Michael Pollard) trying to sabotage them and things get interesting…
For a planet-focused episode, this is very strong, proving that Trek‘s appeal lies in its characters, not its specific space theme. Of the many kid actors in the episode, Darby and Pollard are easily the standouts. Darby manages to somehow pull off both being a relatable young girl and a completely alien, feral being at the same time. Pollard–who was actually 27 when this was made, but has a young face–is a creepy, captivating leader, using sheer charisma to get his point across and to help draw the viewer away from the weaknesses of the other kids..
Totally 12 years old, isn’t he?
The virus the crew contracts actually makes them behave irrationally, which results in some strong outbursts from Grace Whitney as Rand and especially DeForest Kelley. The scabs are crude-looking but they look nasty so they do their job.
Pretty nasty stuff.
This episode does have one big issue that I couldn’t ignore: the way Kirk behaves towards Miri. I get he’s trying to be friendly and, even considering that Miri is actually much older than she looks due to the disease, but their scenes together are just…off-putting. Seriously, watch this episode, get to one of Kirk’s last lines, then tell me you’re not a little skeeved out.
Otherwise, this episode’s OK. Spies makes the backstory of this virus believable and structures the mounting tensions very well. Vincent McEveety, directing yet again (according to Memory Alpha, he directed this episode in a wheelchair due to having broken a leg), helps deliver that tension, setting things up so that the opposing parties of the away team and the kids are seperated from each other for most of the episode, which makes it all the more powerful when they do confront each other. Give this one a watch.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.