I’ll tell you right away: I really enjoyed Miri, the eighth episode of the first season of TOS. It has glimpses of The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price (released in 1964, two years before Star Trek began), of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (that would be released two years after Miri came out), and even ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (released ten years later). Yet, it’s also an episode that starts from point A and arrives at point B passing through X, F and J in random order, forgetting to provide a lot of explanations in the process. Let me explain.
During its five-year mission to seek new forms of life and new civilizations, the USS Enterprise comes across a planet that… is identical to Earth! Same continents, same oceans, all the same! An explosive beginning, an introduction that managed to make me extremely curious about the episode. What science fiction plot will explain the existence of a second Earth? The answer is simple: none. In fact, this idea is used only to set the episode in a kind of post-atomic Earth in which a catastrophe killed almost everybody in the Sixties. Too bad. Kirk goes down to the planet in a village in the United States (surprise surprise) with Spock, McCoy, yeoman Rand (treated so badly in The enemy within) and two red shirts (which, spoiler alert, don’t die! Incredible!) and immediately our heroes come across a poor creature dying in front of them due to an incredibly fast aging process: years and years in a few seconds.
What’s happening on this planet? Thanks to the meeting with Miri (Kim Darby), an adolescent who immediately falls in love with the handsome captain, our heroes slowly discover that the only living beings are children and teenagers who, due to a laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong, grow old very slowly and as soon as they enter puberty they die within a few days by the reverse process (the children call these doomed creatures grups, some kind of grouwn-ups, I guess). And even the landing party is infected! So all of a sudden there’s a race against time to find an antidote (McCoy calls it a vaccine, but since it’s a cure for an ongoing disease, it seems more accurate to call it an antidote), complicated by a group of children led by a thirty years old man (Michael J. Pollard, who according to the creators of the show looked like a teen: no, he didn’t, he looked like a thirty years old man, of course) that sabotages the crew operations. Of course, at the end McCoy is successful and eventually the USS Enterprise goes away with the intention of sending doctors and teachers to the planet to revive civilization (it seems that the First Directive wasn’t taken too seriously at the time).
In all this, there’s Rand who confesses her love to Kirk (saying that she always wanted him to look at her legs!), Kirk who develops a beautiful father-daughter relationship with Miri and who manages to treat well the rest of the children despite their initial hostility, McCoy who saves the day and demonstrates his courage by testing the antidote on himself, and Spock interacting in an interesting way with the aforementioned McCoy. But at the same time there are also a lot of things that don’t work, like the fact that for 300 years children have survived without producing any food, or the lack of explanation behind the mystery of the second Earth. But the episode undoubtedly has its own charm, its own atmosphere, and it gives a nice sense of adventure, mystery, and even terror. An episode, I think, that I won’t forget so easily. Ciao!
PS: but what about the Earth duplicate? Was it done to prove that things could go very badly here with humanity continuously experimenting for scientific and military purposes (the Cold War was on when this episode came out)? Who knows…