There aren’t many first season episodes of classic Star Trek that I actively dislike–to the point that I’ll rarely bother to watch them if I stumble across them in syndicated repeats or when I’m randomly selecting an episode or two to revisit.
“Miri” falls into the camp.
Returning to the episode for the first time in a long time, I’ll admit there were moments during the first fifteen minutes or so that I wondered why I bore such ill-will toward this voyage of the starship Enterprise. The the first commercial break rolled around and everything went straight to hell yet again.
“Miri” has a lot of potential, most of it squandered. In the teaser, the Enterprise rolls up to a planet that is an exact replica of Earth. It’s even got the same continental pattern to it, which in the original version looked like the globe used in most classrooms. The remastered version has a much nicer, rendered version of our planet which we see a few times from the view-screen. The Enterprise is responding to an SOS from the planet and we can’t waste much time examining the ramifications of the fact that–holy cow, we’ve just gone into orbit on a planet that is an exact duplicate of Earth!
Turns out the exact duplicate of Earth concept is there so that we can have the crew beam down to the Paramount backlot and run about for what remains of the story. Seems that the cause of this distress signal is the society here sought to prolong their lives, only it backfired. The adults all contract some disease and die within a week, but it does extend the life of the children. The children are perpetually young (they age at the rate of one year per month) and have created a Lord of the Flies like society in which everyone plays games, has foolies and is distrustful of “grups” (or grown-ups). There’s a good reason for the distrust since once you hit puberty, the hormones coursing through your system cause the virus to kill you.
So, it’s a race against time for the landing party to find a cure before everyone dies and goes crazy from the disease. To add to the complication, the pack of kids decide they’ll steal the landing parties communicators–something they’re totally successful at doing because instead of carrying them around with them, the crew leaves them in the lab and are lured outside by the children! So we may have a cure but we can’t call up to the ship to make sure it’s OK. Never mind that other episodes establish that landing parties have a regular rotation for checking in to the ship that should eliminate part of this problem. And never mind that we’ve got freakin’ tricorders that can and should be able to scan and find these kids fairly easily (at least based on what we’ve seen in other installments). See, the script requires that we have the crew do inherently stupid things in order to keep the plot going.
But we’ve got Miri, a young woman who befriends the landing party and has a crush on Kirk. Now maybe in the day and age of classic Trek, the idea of an older guy like Kirk flirting with a girl who will hundreds of years old is just going through puberty wasn’t quite as off-putting as it is today. (Thousands thinks the whole Edward/Bella thing is OK, even if he’s just an old pervert, hitting on the younger girl). Kirk clearly manipulates Miri by playing on her affection for him, getting her to take him to the children to get the communicators back and getting her to do simple jobs around the lab like sharpening pencils. It also sets off a jealous streak in Janice Rand, but she’s pretty gone from the series after this installment (at least in the original production order), so the less said about it the better.
Another issue arises once Kirk finds the children. He wanders in and speechifies to them about the situation, trying to use logic and one of the first big examples of Shatner-acting to persuade them to give back the communicators. Up to this point, the kids have been acting like a tamer version of Lord of the Flies, but a few passionate pleas from Kirk and they’re not only giving back the communicators, they’re agreeing that maybe having adults around and going to school would be a really, really good idea.
It’s all so frustrating on so many levels. Not just the pack of kids, but the whole squandering of a lot of really potentially interesting ideas here. The crew warps off without even questioning how a second Earth could evolve or why this would happen. At least later visits to planets that patterned themselves after Earth would try and give us some kind of explanation for how this happened, even if it ends up not making a lick of sense.
I tend to watch “Miri” about once a decade or so, each time hoping it will grow on me somehow. So that means I’m good for the next ten years on this one–or until they come up with a new, cooler format for me to purchase classic Trek on yet again!