Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Deadly Years

The Original Series, Season 2
"The Deadly Years"
Airdate: December 8, 1967
41 of 80 produced
41 of 80 aired
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The Enterprise finds a team of scientists, none of whom are older that 40, dead or dying of old age. The mystery becomes even more urgent when almost all the senior officers of the Enterprise are struck with whatever affliction killed the scientists. Captain Kirk is locked a both a race against time and his increasingly unreliable mental and physical faculties. Will he win?

Or will he need a space prescription for Tri-Viagrizine?


Kevin: This is a pretty good science fiction concept at its core. Rapid aging is pretty damn scary, and given that this is not TNG's "Unnatural Selection," we haven't done it yet. In the plus column I thought the charting of the progression of the disease was pretty well done, in and of itself. The affected crewmen's faculties abandon them one at a time, and their sense of helplessness is chilling. I particularly liked the way Galway was allowed to be vain about her transformation. It gave some realism to the story.

Matthew: This story could have gone to so many more interesting places. Why didn't the whole crew contract the disease? That would have been much cooler and more frightening. I realize this would have inflated the makeup budget, although it probably could have been achieved by simply casting old extras. Instead, we get a bit of a rehash of previous plotlines which is less interesting...

Kevin: In the minus column, we have secondary characters whose presence and motivations are somewhat unclear. Why is Commodore Stocker trying so hard to get to Starbase 10 on time, to the point he is putting the lives of some of Starfleet's most valued officers at risk? Also, how do you get to be a Commodore with no field experience? And he seems awfully into following the rules regarding competency, but violated the neutral zone with relative ease.

Matthew: This is a great point and I agree entirely. The Commodore and the old flame could have been cut entirely, and it would have been a tighter story all around. I guess they felt it would be too similar to "The Naked Time" if they didn't change the plot up a bit. Unfortunately, they way they changed it was by adding used parts from other episodes, namely "Court Martial," "Shore Leave," and "The Galileo Seven."

Kevin: Doctor Wallace suffers from a similar lack of clear motivation. Indeed, she even lacks a clear reason to be on the Enterprise. Her dress at the conference indicates she is a civilian, but no reason for her presence is mentioned. I also didn't like tacking on another ex-flame. I understand Kirk not being celibate, but he can't have a love of his life in every port.

Matthew: I agree on the straining of credulity. But I liked their scenes, generally. I also liked that she was a little older, not a totally smoking-hot 22 year old actress. Come to think of it, pretty much like Ruth in "Shore Leave, and Areel Shaw in "Court Martial."

Kevin: I also found the whole hearing thing odd. In the past, flag officers have summarily dismissed Kirk or Spock from the big chair, and the scene really caused some pacing problems. Shatner milked it for a few good moments showing his breakdown.

Matthew: I liked the hearing, actually. Of the spare appendages to the plot, this was the best done. I'm always up for some classic Shatnerian ham and cheese. I thought the resolution of the plot was lacking. Having "adrenaline" be the solution for the aging disease was pretty much like having "Water" as the fix for "The Naked Time." Either this is really lazy or really sixties cheesy. Neither is a good thing. The best part of the writing for me was Kirk's recovery at the end of the show and his use of Code 2 to trick the Romulans. The Commodore confirms how just how cool Kirk is with his fawning man-crush at the conclusion.


Kevin: The acting here was pretty solid all around. My one complaint is that Kirk has done "my faculties are fleeing me" before in "Enemy Within" and he did it with much more depth I felt. He seemed to go right to whiny old man a little quickly, but I suppose it works for the specific form of his deterioration. Nimoy and McCoy bring their usual A games.

Matthew: I agree that he went to the physical old man mannerisms a bit quickly (there seemed to be only three stages, young, the first stage, and total codger). But Shatner was a pretty great codger, emotionally speaking. I really believed his fear, his annoyance, his shame.

Kevin: As I discussed above, I found Dr. Wallace presence somewhat out of nowhere, but I did find the scenes pretty well done, in and of themselves. The conversation about getting the star telegram from Kirk after her husband died was well done all around.

Matthew: I'd like to single out Beverly Washburn as Lt. Galway. Not because the performance was great, but because I found her really cute, and her story is actually somewhat interesting. She had a really long career as a child actress, starting in 1950 at age 7. She appeared in "Old Yeller" and practically every TV show of the fifties and early sixties. Her career slowed down significantly as she transitioned to adult roles.

Production Values

Kevin: If the episode has one pitfall, it would be the make-up. Aging make-up has a long and troubled history in this show. This certainly wasn't as bad as say Admiral Jameson in "Too Short a Season," but Lieutenant Galway looked like she got attacked by a latex monster. Spock's was probably done the best because they did the least, just graying him at the temples. Kirk's make-up wasn't too bad, but the wig looked awful and overly stiff.

Matthew: Personally, I liked the make-up, at least the initial make-up. I think, for its day, it was pretty good - and I'm watching it in HD. The final stages, especially on McCoy and Galway, were off target for me. Plus, Galway's costumes became progressively weirder - what was up with her yellow shawl and slippers? Weird.

Kevin: I did like the set for Gamma Hydra. Lots of buildings, lots of rooms helped make it seem like an actual, functional place.

Matthew: Gamma Hydra was one of those sets where less was more. I liked it, and the buildings definitely seemed like "modular futuristic shelters." The remastered effects in the final battle are great, showing three Romulan ships and plenty of neat disruptor fire.


Kevin: I am going to give this a 3. The story is certainly solid science fiction at its core, and individual performances really do a good job of driving it home. The attempt to add a layer of drama with the commodore and competency hearing combined with some distracting make-up jobs keep this in average territory for me.

Matthew: It pains me, but this one just missed a 3 from me. The storyline rehashes were grating, the makeup was hit and miss, and the performances, while pretty good from the principals, as you mentioned, were uneven enough from the superfluous extras to have me checking my watch a bit. This is not an episode that I'd single out for repeat viewing. It's filler. Not "Apple" filler, but filler nonetheless. So with a 2 from me, that brings our combined total to a 5.

Kevin: Mmmm....Apple filler.

Sorry...I couldn't resist.


  1. I find it interesting that through the intervention of plastic surgery (allegedly), that William Shatner looks nothing like his aged makeup today.

  2. Oh, I think the Shat has very likely had a face lift.

    As far as the makeup goes, things are more advanced now. But it's hard to make someone look older with any additive medium. Without serious weight gain, aging usually takes things away from faces, as opposed to adding things. For an example, compare Deforrest Kelly TOS to STVI.