Miri (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

"It's Miri -- with an 'M.' Stop asking me about the weather and where the closest Arby's is. That's Siri, you dolt."

“It’s Miri — with an ‘M.’ Stop asking me about the weather and where the closest Arby’s is. That’s Siri, you dolt.”

Episode: Miri — Season 1, Episode 8 (1966)

Director: Vincent McEveety

Writer: Adrian Spies

The Enterprise receives a “planetary distress call” summoning them to a post-apocalyptic Earth-like planet. When I say “Earth-like,” I mean identical to 1960s Earth in nearly every detail.[1]  Upon beaming down, Kirk is attacked by some kind of shambling hobo while examining a broken tricycle, so of course the captain beats him to death. Real schoolyard stuff, too, with Spock pinning the guy’s arm back while Kirk knocks him in the head a few times. When the assailant turns out to have the mind of a grieving child it’s all pretty awkward.

They meet a young girl named Miri (Kim Darby), one of a handful of pre-adolescent “Onlies” who are the planet’s last inhabitants. Soon it becomes apparent that the landing party has contracted the same disease that has already killed-off the planet’s adults.[2]  After a conniving scamp named Jahn (Michael J. Pollard) steals their communicators, it is up to the landing party to find a cure for the disease on their own before it kills them.

The progress of the disease neatly enfolds a ’60s-era political consciousness of the schism between the young and the old. Until the onset of adolescence, the disease actually slows aging – the children of the planet display a centuries-old tribal conservatism in games and rituals repeated too many times. But once across the threshold into adulthood, the disease attacks the body and the mind, inducing aggression and accelerated decrepitude. “Miri” depicts a world where youth and maturity reflect a striking binary, and “Grups” destroy everything because they are incapable of behaving rationally.

The girl Miri is on the cusp of this transition, so of course Kirk takes full advantage. Soon she’s calling  him Jim in a simpering voice, cleaning off his desk, and getting jealous over his attentions to the bodacious Yeoman Rand. When the Onlies kidnap the Yeoman, it puts the captain in a real bind. He can’t punch the Onlies: they’re just kids. He tries to reason with them, but the children have learned long ago that adult logic is just a cypher for violence yet to happen – wisely they club him with a pipe wrench. The captain’s hole card is the fact that the food is running out, plus eventually every Onlie will grow up and go crazy. They give the communicators back, McCoy finds a cure, and Kirk promises to send “teachers and advisors” to help the kids out.[3]

This episode establishes the catty dynamics governing the Kirk-Spock-McCoy marriage. Change the soundtrack a little, and the harried lab work scenes turn into that very special “The Odd Couple” episode where Jack Tripper moves in. We’re supposed to believe that the disease and the time-limit tension are unbalancing them, but it’s pretty clear as they knock over each others’ test tubes that we’re watching three roomies finally getting a chance to air their grievances.

[1] We’ll lay aside the rank impossibility of this. I mean, what are the chances of a planet on the other side of the galaxy evolving geologically and biologically to be exactly like Earth? And yet, the original series would fall back on this device again and again and again.

[2] I’m hardly the first person to notice that the planet-hopping crew of the Enterprise doesn’t take many precautions in this regard.

[3] “Well, I could bring you up into my starship and transport you to a high-tech utopia to be adopted by loving parents, but instead I’ll leave you here in the ruins of your dead civilization ’til I get around to sending someone to advise you.”


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Filed under Childhood Memories, Star Trek Original Series

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