Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Original Series, Season 1: Miri

The Original Series, Season One
Airdate: October 27, 1966
12 of 80 produced
8 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise enters orbit around an exact replica of Earth – except this Earth has suffered a biological catastrophe. All adults on this world have been killed by a disease, while all the children have been frozen into a centuries long infantile state, only to die as they enter puberty. Can the away team make peace with the planet’s children, and find a cure for the disease, before it’s too late?

Miri realizes that "sharpening Kirk's pencil" wasn't quite what she had hoped...


Matthew: The one big problem in an otherwise very fine episode is the “duplicate earth” conceit. I’m almost willing to accept that species might evolve similarly on similar planets – but the entire world map? Apparently “Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development” applies to plate tectonics as well as biology.

Kevin: I kept waiting for an explanation as to why it's an exact duplicate of Earth but never got one. It also didn't serve the plot. "M-Class" would have been sufficient to set up the plot.

Matthew: Otherwise, this episode is pretty good. We have the good sci-fi concept of genetic engineering gone awry, as life-prolonging experiments end up killing all the adults on this world, while prolonging the childhoods of all the children. Some nice, creepy touches mark the portrayal of a society of children, including their own slang, Lord of the Flies-style social groups, and the visual of children perpetrating violence against adults.

The ending is a little bit too pat, with the “insta-cure” fading of the blemishes on the Enterprise crew members. I appreciate that you have to show things quickly in episodic television, but something more realistic might have been nice – just the edges fading or something, and then bandages later. Then we get the prototypical “we contacted space central for teachers and advisers” trope, as Starfleet engages in 1960’s style nation building.

Kevin: I also agree the premise was really strong. It was a novel and somewhat haunting take on the post-apocalypse fiction that was popular at the time. The "blood on your hands" scene could have easily gone right off the rails with some scenery chewing by Shatner and non-acting by the children, but happily, it all came together. Maybe the fact that two of Shatner's daughters were in the group of children made him rein himself in.


Matthew: We are treated to a very good performance by Kim Darby as Miri. She had been acting for two years before this, and she plays Miri at 17 here. She plays the role with a very nice mix of admiration and crushing on Kirk, but conflict, jealousy and mistrust as well.

Kevin: I am always concerned when children are the focal point of an episode. Child actors tend to be terrible and they usually drag an episode down with them. Here, they did a really good job. I am glad they cast Miri as slightly older and it allowed them to cast a more experienced actress, and it paid off. Both her attraction and anger at Kirk are believable.

Matthew: Shatner also excels, giving us a nuanced portrayal of Kirk, with both annoyance, compassion, and a desire to make lives better shining through. He uses his Kirk magic on Miri to get the results he desires, a consistent application of Kirk’s sexual magnetism, always in service of the mission.

Kevin: I particularly enjoyed the exchange between Kirk and Rand when she finds she has contracted the disease. "I was always trying to get you to look at my legs," was actually kind of heartbreaking. I liked that they discussed the attraction, and in this context, as it raised Rand's character from mere eye candy, to a real person with an attraction to a coworker. Over time, Star Trek is very good at efficiently adding depth to secondary characters and it is really part of what makes Star Trek's tapestry so rich.

Production Values

Matthew: Although this is clearly on a Paramount backlot set, I found the set designs very effective. Childlike drawings cover the blackboards, cobwebs abound, and broken tricycles offer a creepy image of post apocalyptic horror. The make-up for the symptomatic blemishes was also good, appearing like a cross between leprosy and radiation sickness.

Kevin: Agreed.


Matthew: This is a solid 4 in my book. A strong sci-fi premise has a few flaws in writing, but all of the actors do a good job of bringing it to life and investing it with emotion. It wouldn’t be making a top ten list for me, but it is certainly in the upper echelon of TOS episodes, and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit in this viewing.

Kevin: I will also give it a four. It hits all the bumpers on our criteria. I want to give it a special award of some kind for getting so many convincing performances out of so many children. It's not a feat they will easily repeat. That gives us a total of 8 out of 10. A very strong outing, all told.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the planet that looked exactly like earth detracted from the story. I, too, kept waiting for the explanation (even the second time I watched it). I can accept aliens looking like humans; I just wish they had tried for a slightly alien-looking universe. It seemed like something had been in the plot and then dropped.

    Miri was a surprisingly sympathetic and likable character.

    I think when you watch episodes like this you can really see that TOS isn't all 60s camp. It's got a lot of depth.