Written by Adrian Spies and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Even a great science fiction show can get it way wrong sometimes. Great stories can have moments that make you go “Huh?” and affect your enjoyment of the episode. It’s much easier to believe the stories as a child when suspending disbelief didn’t even have to be thought about. In fact, this was one of my favorite episodes when I was younger.
When the Enterprise picks up a distress signal that is reminiscent of an old signal from Earth, they investigate and find a planet remarkably similar to Earth in the 1960’s, right down to the layout of the continents. A landing party beams down in the area the distress signal is originating from. They find a layout similar to a small city or mid-size town that appears abandoned and deteriorated. There are even automobiles in a deteriorated condition!
Suddenly, as Dr. McCoy (portrayed by DeForest Kelley) is spinning a wheel on an abandoned tricycle, he is attacked. What attacks him appears to be a distorted human of sorts with the mind of a child. This being soon has some sort of seizure and dies before them.
The landing party hears noises around them and attempt to locate the source. They find a teenage girl huddled in a closet, frightened out of her mind. She tells the story of a plague which only seemed to affect the “grups” or grown-ups and left the children behind to fend for themselves.
Captain Kirk (portrayed by William Shatner) develops a rapport with the girl who identifies herself as Miri (portrayed by Kim Darby). He convinces her to show them the place where the doctors were who worked on the plague. Just then a lesion appears on his hand – he is already infected with the plague!
At the laboratory, they learn the scientists were experimenting with how to prolong life when something went horribly wrong. They also read the records and learn that aging was slowed in the children, but as they age into puberty it rapidly accelerates and they die. Miri is more than 300 years old!
The other surviving children are suspicious of the new arrivals, however. They make a plan to steal the communicators. Miri has developed something of a crush on Kirk and sees Yeoman Rand (portrayed by Grace Lee Whitney) as a rival for his affections, causing her to side with the children against the landing party.
Dr. McCoy: Jim, we’ve absolutely got to have those communicators! Without them, we don’t have the computers. Without the computers, we don’t have a chance!
So if they were that important, why the heck did you leave every single one of them behind when you went running out of the building? Wouldn’t someone on the Enterprise be smart enough to figure out something was wrong and beam down communicators to their location? Oh, and how did the Enterprise manage to coincidentally show up just as the food supply was about to run out to begin with?
That is just the beginning of the plot-holes in Miri. Even back in the 1960’s, someone should have realized just how impossible it would be to go cavorting about the galaxy and happen to run into a planet that was an exact duplicate of our own. If you believe in God and a higher power, I suppose the case could be made that God put it there for some reason. Since Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry identified himself as a pantheist, or, at times, an atheist, it’s highly unlikely that the case was being made for a higher power that somehow created the universe and an exact duplicate of our planet. This part of the story would have worked much better as a parallel universe type of situation.
This entire storyline wasn’t needed for what’s good about Miri. It could have been left out and just had a planet where this plague occurred and the cities deteriorated, leaving behind the children. There wasn’t a need for an exact duplicate of Earth, except for the shock factor which originally grabbed audiences before the first commercial.
That aside, Miri is an excellent early episode of the series. It has always been one of my favorites, and one I always looked forward to seeing on re-runs. The acting is excellent. Kim Darby holds her own opposite William Shatner. She’s got the young girl on the cusp of womanhood down pat, while at the same time making it believable that she’s been running around this abandoned town for 300 years. There are moments I felt a little squeamish, as if Kirk is using her affection for him so the landing party can get her to help them when no one else will.
The pacing is pretty good, although some parts felt like they were added to fill in the storyline for the sake of time. As there is a race against time to find a cure for the disease (the writers seemed to have a problem with the differences between a “vaccine” and a “cure”) it felt like the tension was really there. If nothing else, by bringing in the guest cast who would also be affected it created a situation where we didn’t know if they would survive or if the cure would be effective on them.
Michael J. Pollard is another of the guest stars, as the oldest of the children along with Miri. He’s as annoying as all get-out, but I think most children who were allowed to be children for 300 years with little to no guidance would be pretty much on the same track. He thinks he knows everything and is so smart, but in reality he’s killing them all and inciting the others to believe in him over the “grups”.
Despite the shortcomings, I still love watching Miri. The duplicate Earth could have been jettisoned and it would have remained just as strong. It’s got some pretty decent acting and the pace of the landing party solving the dilemma they face is excellent.