The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Deadly Years

When Kirk and a landing party visit planet Gamma Hydra IV, they are disturbed to find that the relatively youthful scientists stationed there are all dying or dead of old age. And when the landing party returns to the ship, they too begin to age in both body and mind. With merely days to go before Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty all die of old age, can they find a cure before it’s too late? And just why was Chekov the only member of the landing party not to be affected?

As Star Trek episodes go, this is pretty standard fare – not particularly outstanding, but not especially bad either. So, strap in as we play another round of Star Trek bingo!

Star Trek Bingo – The Deadly Years Edition

  • A new type of radiation which can only be picked up by recalibrating the Enterprise sensors is the source of the mysterious condition.
  • There is an expendable member of the landing party who dies first of the condition. She is, however, not a redshirt.
  • The Enterprise plays host to yet another of Kirk’s blonde ex-lovers.
  • The Enterprise also plays host to a commodore who turns out to be completely incompetent and lack any kind of practical experience, yet manages to use regulations to temporarily gain control of the Enterprise. We’ll continue to look out for the elusive competent commodore or admiral in both TOS and TNG. Film Kirk doesn’t count, as he spent most of his time as admiral flouting regulations and taking unauthorised command of the Enterprise whenever he felt like it.
  • The cure to the condition is deceptively simple, but it takes ages for it to occur to the crew.

Away from the tropes, we do get some unique aspects to this episode. Kirk gets to act like a grouchy old man as he becomes increasingly forgetful and unable to do his job. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Chekov, who remains youthful and unaffected, and consequently is repeatedly dragged into sickbay to undergo tests and give samples of all kinds. Hey, Nurse Chapel, get your hands off that man’s groin!

Why am I not in charge of Starfleet?

  • We all know by now that no one bothers to take preventative measures when going on an away mission, and since the early episodes decontamination has largely been forgotten. But in this episode there’s also no concern whatsoever about the landing party’s condition being contagious in any way, even before they know what the cause is.
  • Kirk’s excuse for not going to Starbase 10 is essentially “I don’t feel like it”, when he could probably have placated Stocker with two very good reasons: firstly, if the condition was contagious, infecting everyone at the starbase would not be a good idea, and secondly, researching Gamma Hydra IV and the surrounding area (in this case, the mysterious radiation-spewing comet) might have been key to finding a cure.
  • In Balance of Terror, much was made of the fact that Starfleet must not enter the Neutral Zone, as it’s an act of war. And the events of Balance of Terror themselves must been disseminated to the top brass to let everyone know that the Romulans were active in the area in recent months. So for Stocker to plot a shortcut through the Neutral Zone just to get to his precious starbase a little quicker shows that he’s even more of a monumental idiot than the average idiot commodore.
  • Kirk was needed to command the ship, and Spock and McCoy to research a cure – but was there not some kind of suspended animation that Scotty and female lieutenant of the week could have been put in to slow down their ageing?

Other notes

  • I want to think a little more about the ageing sickness in this episode. So, exposure to this mysterious new radiation causes rapid ageing, presumably by both damaging active cells and preventing them from replacing themselves with fresh copies. The cure for this is adrenaline, which not only halts the deterioration, but immediately reverts someone back to their ‘proper’ biological age within mere minutes. How does this mechanism work? How can it work so quickly? It’s not even like it’s a miracle drug or regeneration process that we don’t know about here in the 21st century, it’s just a chemical that our bodies naturally produce anyway.
  • This is the second time Kirk pulls the corbomite trick, and the Romulans fall for it. I guess they might have just been being cautious, but they’d better get their intelligence on Starfleet in a decent place before they fall for such an obvious trick again.

Summary – The Deadly Years: Chekov’s been poked and prodded in places he didn’t even know he had.

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