I’ll talk more about this when I get to “City on the Edge of Forever,” I’m sure, but I’ve found that TOS sometimes starts an episode seemingly heading in one direction, only to rapidly change course and end up somewhere wildly different. Case in point: “Miri,” an episode that, on first glance, appears to be about the mystery of a duplicate Earth, until TOS is like, nah, we don’t really feel like solving that particular storyline; how about we do Kirk vs The Lost Boys instead, with, like, a weird epidemic and some quasi-immortality thrown in?
It’s just another standard mission for the USS: Enterprise.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
The Enterprise receives a distress call from an identical copy of Earth, albeit one that’s been seemingly abandoned, natch. Kirk, Bones, Spock, Janice, and two randoms go investigate, where Bones is promptly attacked by a guy with a purplish and heavily deformed face. The man, quickly subdued, talks in a very childlike manner before kicking the bucket. Soon after, Kirk finds Miri, a young, frightened girl hiding in a closet.
Eventually, the crew discovers that a human colony existed here 300 years ago, but a disease afflicted all the grown-ups (or gr’ups, as they’re infuriatingly called), driving them mad, deforming their bodies, and eventually killing them. This same disease begins to affect Kirk and co., with the exception of Spock, because being half-Vulcan seems to be an advantage far, far more often than it is a disadvantage. Meanwhile, the children have lived on their own for centuries, aging very, very slowly. Once a child hits puberty, though, they get sick too, something that none of them have managed to put together in over 300 years. Miri, quite naturally, is just on the verge of puberty herself.
While the increasingly irate crew begins looking for a cure, The Lost Boys (also known as the Onlies) both a) steal the crew’s communicators, and b) kidnap Janice. As far as I can tell, the only motive in kidnapping Janice is Miri’s jealousy, as she has a crush on Kirk, one he knowingly plays on to get what he needs, which, ugh. Kirk eventually convinces the Onlies that they’ll all die if they can’t get this cure to work; meanwhile, Bones, too impatient to wait for confirmation from the ship, tests the cure out on himself. After a suitably dramatic moment, it’s established that he’s fine and everyone’s saved.
And then the Enterprise just takes off, leaving the kids behind on the planet . . . but it’s okay, cause, you know. Teachers and stuff are on the way. EVENTUALLY.
I suspect that, as a child, I would’ve liked this episode simply because it involved children, the way that I enjoyed Wesley Crusher and Alexander on TNG when I was five. (In my defense, Alexander doesn’t become insufferable until Deep Space Nine; Wesley, of course, is harder to argue, although I have to admit I still have a soft spot for the character. Peter David is probably largely at fault for this.)
As an adult, however, I have a lot of problems.
Here’s the thing about puberty: it doesn’t hit us all at once, it doesn’t hit us all in the same way, and it doesn’t hit us all at the same time. Let’s take Miri, for example. I have no idea how old I’m supposed to think Miri is before we learn about the whole semi-immortality twist. We just know she’s on the verge of womanhood, which . . . means almost nothing, actually. If we’re talking about stages of puberty–beginning to grow breasts, for example–well, yours truly can attest to how young that can start. According to some quick online research, 8-13 seems to be the average range for cis girls to start growing buds. If, on the other hand, we’re to assume that, in TOS, “becoming a woman” is synonymous with “having to deal with the joys of surprise bloody underwear in the morning,” then Miri is more likely supposed to be about 10-15, at least mentally. (12, apparently, is the average age for menstruation to begin.)
But while the brain is definitely not fully developed by 8, 10, or 15, like, kids are fast. Some don’t have any other choice; they have to be responsible in order to survive whatever bullshit life has thrown at them. And a bunch of kids who’ve been living alone on a planet for 300 years? I don’t care if their brains are maturing as slowly as their reproductive systems; they’re gonna have caught on to the fact that growing up means death. It’s not all brain size, after all; experience is a really big deal. Going by this episode, though, it’s like these kids haven’t managed to learn or grow in any way for the past 300 years. And I mean, that’s just silly.
See, TOS wants it both ways: these kids are all too young to understand what’s going to happen to them, but they’re apparently mature enough to have survived for 300 years without, oh, I don’t know, dying from some other disease? Murdering one another? Starving to death? (Kirk even brings up starvation at one point, all, what are you going to do when the food runs out, and I’m like, runs out? How in Christ’s name is there any food left?) These kids apparently do nothing but play games all day and, occasionally, hide from killer g’rups, but by the end of the episode, Kirk considers them so self-sufficient that he has no qualms about abandoning their asses on a deserted planet? I mean, seriously, what the fuck even is that?
And for fuck’s sake, TOS, learn how to end an episode without turning one of your MC’s into a total skeevy fucker. This exchange?
Janice: “Miri, she really loved you, you know.”
Kirk: “Yes. I never get involved with older women, yeoman.”
With a reminder that Miri might be about 12-years-old . . . GAH, what is this gross pedo nonsense masquerading as humor? No, Kirk. Just no.
I want this to be clear: I don’t feel sorry for anyone on the away team, not even a little bit. I know the biohazard suits worn in “The Naked Time” were the most laughably impractical pieces of protective gear in the history of film and television, but for Christ’s sake, now we’re just beaming down to this mysterious duplicate of the planet Earth without any kind of PPE? You people are all assholes and you deserve whatever happens to you. (Especially you, Kirk, AKA, Chief Asshat of the Week. Why are you even here? Why would you go on such an away mission in the first place? You are a terrible starship captain.)
Here’s something shocking: the two randoms I mentioned earlier, the Red Shirts? They don’t die! Honestly, they don’t much of anything, really, and I’m not sure why anyone bothered casting them at all, like, I don’t think they even get dialogue. Regardless, I kind of can’t help but cheer them on. Their survival is just so unlikely!
Hm. More vacation time for Sulu and Scotty, it seems.
Repeatedly, Bones and other members of the Enterprise crew insist on calling the cure a “vaccine,” even though those terms are not synonymous, and a vaccine isn’t going to do shit for our heroes at this point, but fine, fine, just wildly abuse commonly known medical terms, fine.
The guy who attacks Bones reminds me a lot of the guy from The Princess Bride whose memory gets jogged a little too hard. More importantly, I’m all here for Bones’s hilarious disapproval of shitty architecture. That can happen in every episode, so far as I’m concerned.
Until looking up various trivia, I had no idea that Janice Rand was only in eight episodes of TOS–I just assumed she was a reoccurring player throughout. I also didn’t know that she was sexually assaulted at the party for this very episode, or that she got fired from the show shortly thereafter. Which is just . . . gross and awful. I feel so terrible for Grace Lee Whitney.
Since we can’t do much about that, here’s something more cheerful: FASHION REPORT. There isn’t too much to report here, honestly, but I must make mention of Kirk’s shirt, which somehow gets ripped in such a way that by the end of the episode it almost looks like he’s wearing some kind of theatrical gold cape or poncho. It’s as ridiculous as it is fabulous.
Bones stabbing himself with the “vaccine” isn’t the best plan, but he’s not exactly in his right mind at the time, considering the disease hits the oldest people first. Meanwhile, once it’s clear that Bones is going to be fine, Spock shakes his head and says, “I will never understand the medical mind,” a dry witticism that would probably play better if three episodes ago he hadn’t also been the one who absolutely refused to wait for a dog’s autopsy, instead pushing Kirk to risk his life on nothing more than a flimsy theory built solely from Spock’s existential crisis.
Picking the Line of the Episode is rough this week. I’m partially inclined to give it to Spock, who points out that, though the disease won’t kill him directly, he won’t be able to go back to the ship because he’s a carrier. “And I do want to go back to the ship, Captain.” The delivery of that line is spot-on.
Still, I think I’m gonna have to give it to Bones on this one. When Kirk tells him and Spock that they’ll just have to recreate the experiments the scientists made 300 years ago, isolate the deadly virus, and develop a workable
vaccine cure, Bones, with a straight face, asks Kirk . . .
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“Is that all, Captain? We have five days, you know.”