Original Air Date: October 27, 1966
Stardate: 2713.5 (2266)
Writer: Adrian Spies
Director: Vincent McEveety
“Eternal childhood, filled with play, no responsibilities.
It’s almost like a dream.”
In the far reaches of space hundreds of lightyears from Earth, the Enterprise receives an Earth-styled “S.O.S.” distress signal emanating from a nearby planet, the third planet in a solar system that seems to be an exact copy of Earth in every respect. To investigate, Capt. Kirk leads a small landing party to the surface of this strange yet familiar planet. The landing party consists of Spock, Yeoman Rand, Dr. McCoy and a few “red-shirt” crewman. The investigation reveals a planet in total decay. They beam down to find an old shantytown appearing as Earth might have looked in the early 1900s (Spock suggests the equivalent Earth-date would be 1960).
Suddenly, a rapidly aging creature leaps out of the shadows to attack Kirk and then it promptly dies –Bones notes that it’s almost as if the creature has aged a century in the last minute. Next, they encounter a group of children who are fearful of adult “grups” (or “grown-ups”) and refer to themselves as “onlies” (or the ‘only ones left’) –in particular the crew meets a girl named Miri (played by 19 year-old Kim Darby, best known for her role in True Grit). Soon, all the landing party members except Spock begin to develop blue lesions on their hands –Spock notes there are certain advantages to not being a red-blooded human. Miri explains that the “grups” also contracted this disease many years prior. The disease starts with lesions before leading to fits of madness and ultimately death. These “onlie” children have in fact been alive for centuries, aging about one month every century. The older the victim, the more rapidly the disease develops (especially after puberty). Soon this disease is revealed to be a plague which was accidentally unleashed during a life-prolongation experiment conducted several centuries prior. However, it killed all the adults on this planet. Spock and Dr. McCoy quickly begin developing a rudimentary vaccine (Dr. McCoy’s bio-computer and microscope are beamed down from the Enterprise to the planet’s surface).
The distress signal the Enterprise initially received appears to have been a mere automated message, perhaps initiated by one of the “grups” in the “before time.” Meanwhile, Miri develops a crush on Kirk and orchestrates a kidnapping of Yeoman Rand out of jealousy. To complicate matters, food is running scarce (they are a mere 7 days of food left) and tempers are growing short. The children begin playing tricks on the Enterprise crew by attacking them and stealing valuable equipment. Miraculously, Bones manages to develop a successful vaccine which saves the day –and not a moment too soon. He injects himself and collapses but the blue-colored skin blemishes begin to fade just at the moment Kirk manages to reason with the children and persuade them to work together. In the end, the Enterprise successfully vaccinates everyone against the disease, leaving a medical crew behind with the 300 year-old children. Kirk contacts “Space Central” which pledges to send teachers and advisors (and also presumably Truant Officers) to care for the children. Kirk reiterates that he is content not to be involved in Miri’s apparent infatuation with him. He never gets involved with older women, he quips in a sly remark delivered to Yeoman Rand. Kirk smirks as he instructs Spock to guide the Enterprise forward at Warp Factor One.
“Miri” is an odd episode, not my favorite in the Star Trek universe. What was an exact replica of Earth doing many hundreds of lightyears away? Who actually initiated the distress signal? How have the children survived lo these many centuries when all they seem willing to do is play games? Many unanswered questions remain. In some ways, “Miri” shares a certain kinship with “The Naked Time” in that both episodes are concerned with an unknown disease causing strange side effects, and notably both situations are resolved by the development of vaccines. Rather than simply allowing the children to continue unabated on this planet, Kirk determines they must be saved. Rather than being forced into a difficult decision that balances the needs of the many with the needs of the few, this episode reaffirms the pro-establishment narrative that the Federation is purely beneficent. There are also some amusing thematic crossovers with Lord of the Flies and Peter Pan as a lone planet is populated by children who are essentially eternal until they hit puberty. However their unruly childishness is in desperate need of order, perhaps of the kind provided by the Federation and its scientific salvation. The future of science remains hopeful, optimistic in this episode, even if some of the various threads explored in “Miri” seem to be a bit unsatisfying or at least unresolved.
Star Trek Trivia:
- “Miri” is the only Star Trek episode title with solely a proper name. It was also curiously italicized onscreen, the only episode to be displayed in this way.
- The planetary exteriors in this episode were shot on the same backlot set used for another popular Desilu series The Andy Griffith Show, a location which had originally been known as the RKO Forty Acres backlot in Culver City.
- Leonard Nimoy was asked if his children would appear in this episode but he refused. Later his son became a television director, directing episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. William Shatner’s daughter appears in this episode along with Gene Roddenberry’s daughters and Grace Lee Whitney’s son (among other cast and staff members children). Two of the other children who appear in this episode were the children of Greg Morris who went on to star in Mission Impossible. Both children later starred in future iterations of Star Trek. Director Stephen McEveety’s nephew also appeared as one of the children in this episode.
- This is one of the few episodes of Star Trek in which no Enterprise characters are killed despite the presence of several “red-shirts.”
- During a Friday night filming of this episode, Grace Lee Whitney who played Yeoman Janice Rand was sexually assaulted by an unknown member of the staff whom she only ever referred as “The Executive” in her autobiography. She was fired soon after, fueling years of depression and alcoholism. Her main source of support through this time was Leonard Nimoy. Years later, DeForest Kelley tracked down Grace Lee Whitney while she was in line to collect unemployment. She was then brought back on board for the franchise’s transition into major motion pictures, and she also began attending fan conventions from the 1980s until her death in 2015. Her tragic story sheds light on the horrible circumstances women in television and movies often faced.
- Close watchers of the show have spotted a “No Smoking” sign in the background of the science lab, leading some to speculate whether or not the true mission here centuries earlier was for the prolongation of life (i.e. smoking offers the opposite of life-prolongation).
- When James Blish wrote the novelization of this episode, he changed the planet to a long-lost human colony which lost contact with Earth many years ago, rather than an identical copy of Earth. He was likely working from early drafts of the script.
- Due to complaints regarding its subject matter, this episode was censored on the BBC and in China. In syndication, several scenes were removed.
- Grace Lee Whitney named this episode as one of her three favorite Star Trek episodes because her children appear in it (her children also appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Leonard Nimoy also ranked it highly, but William Shatner apparently thought it was dull and confusing.
- Fred B. Phillips created the blue “scabs” which appear on the Enterprise crew.
- This episode features the first appearance of Dr. McCoy’s biocomputer.