Finding a planet almost identical to Earth is pretty amazing, but when the Enterprise encounters such a world, it is clear that something is amiss. In the remains of a derelict, centuries-old city, only a handful of children remain, for on this world, all the adults have died of a mysterious plague. And, as adults themselves, it isn’t long before the landing party also contracts the disease.
Now, obviously on my Enterprise, important senior officers wouldn’t be allowed to beam down to alien planets unprotected in the first place, but since Starfleet insists on doing things this way, it’s no wonder that the crew are always getting sick. Luckily, the combined genius of McCoy and Spock is usually enough to save the day, and for once no redshirts were harmed in the making of this episode.
Of course, finding a planet which just happens to be identical to 1960s Earth is a budget-saving cop out, and one that requires even more suspension of disbelief than usual. I’d rather they’d gone for “very similar” to Earth rather than pointing out that it was identical – I would have mostly let it slide, given that we encounter planets based on the Roman Empire, the Nazis and the Mafia in later episodes (although that last one is a bit different as they based their entire society on an Earth book about the mob).
Anyway, on this Earth, history played out a bit differently – scientists tried to make a virus that would bestow near immortality on the populace, only for to kill all the adults and leave the children behind. For three hundred years, these survivors have been on a slow march towards puberty – and when they hit it, they too contract the disease, go insane and then die. It seems that the virus must retard mental development too, for rather than being the “adult in a child’s body” beloved of vampire tales, these are very much children still, enjoying games and hating adults. At the time of the Enterprise’s arrival, their food supply is about to run out, but whatever it is, it is amazing that it lasted so long – unless one of the other things the scientists of this planet discovered were amazing food preservation techniques. I could imagine the children learning to hunt feral animals, and also to forage for edible plant-life, but it’s more implied that they are living off a finite food store.
Whilst most of the children are an irritating gang plucked straight from Lord of the Flies, it is the titular Miri who we spend the most time with. Miri is on the cusp of puberty herself, and is keen to help the away team after becoming rather taken with Captain Kirk – is there no planet he can go to where a woman won’t fall in love with him? Things turn sour when she sees Kirk comforting a distraught Janice, and she returns to her fellow children with a plan to sabotage the away team’s research into a cure. Luckily, even children can be swayed by one of Kirk’s Impassioned Speeches, whilst McCoy’s willingness to test a potentially fatal vaccine ensures that, ultimately, no one from the Enterprise has to die.
Enterprise Procedure – when will they ever learn?
- Even though the communicators are vital for contacting the ship, the away team leaves them unguarded long enough for the children to steal them. Come to think of it – the Enterprise knew exactly where the away team was. Even though they couldn’t beam down any more people, they could have surely beamed down a few more communicators after the away team stopped checking in?
- Kirk is willing enough to use a phaser (set to stun) to defend himself partway through the episode, but at the start he opts for simply repeatedly punching his attacker. I guess he might have worried that the first attacker would have taken Kirk’s phaser from him whilst they were struggling at close-range, which is why all phasers should be keyed to only activate when they register the handprint of an authorised user.
- This is just a point of procedure rather than a criticism – the children are left behind at the end, but Kirk does say that “Space Central” (no Starfleet Command as yet) is sending out people to help them rebuild. Presumably, once cured, these children will start growing up at a normal rate.
Summary – Miri: Puberty is painful, but it isn’t usually fatal.
Before I sign off, a quick note about “Mudd’s Women” – in my blog post, I forgot to mention that Kirk explicitly offers money in exchange for the lithium crystals. So money is still a thing in the 23rd century, just not the 24th.