Written by Adrian Spies
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Season 1, Episode 11
Production episode 6149-12
Original air date: October 27, 1966
Captain’s log. The Enterprise picks up an Earth-style SOS from a planet that is a dead ringer for Earth. Kirk beams down along with Spock, McCoy, Rand, and two security guards. They find abandoned buildings and vehicles, but no life. They find a tricycle, and McCoy futzes with it—only to be attacked by a scab-covered creature. Kirk and Spock manage to subdue him, and then he starts crying because the tricycle is broken. The creature has a seizure and dies. McCoy’s readings indicate that his biochemistry is acting like he’s aged a century in a few minutes.
They hear noises in a building, so they investigate. They check a closet, where Kirk—while standing with a phaser surrounded by several other people with phasers—says to come out because they mean no harm. They find a young woman named Miri in the closet, crying, begging them not to hurt her.
Kirk, Rand, and McCoy care for Miri while Spock and the security guards check outside. Miri is scared to death of “grups,” and she assumes that the landing party are grups also. They started to get sick, and then they died—but the “onlies,” the children, are still alive.
Sure enough, Spock and the guards hear a bunch of kids taunting them, though they can’t locate them. He reports that to Kirk, who asks Miri where the doctors worked. She’ll show him, but she thinks that’s a bad place—and then she notices a lesion on Kirk’s hand. He’s getting the disease, and now Miri—who was just starting to like Kirk—is scared because he’ll get the disease and turn mean and attack everyone and then die.
Miri calms down and takes them to the hospital. The lesions start appearing on all the landing party—except for Spock. While McCoy examines tissue samples from the landing party, Kirk and Spock find records of a Life Prolongation Project, which apparently didn’t succeed as planned. Spock theorizes that the disease only hits at puberty. But the records they find are three hundred years old. Even if the disease only affects adults, where did the kids come from, and how have they been around for three hundred years?
Spock does further research: the Life Prolongation Project was intended to allow the locals to age one month every hundred years. Which means the children are hundreds of years old, and puberty—which they don’t reach for centuries—will kill them.
Then we look in on Jahn, who’s the ringleader of the surviving kids, who’ve been spying on the grups. Jahn believes they should take the boxes they talk into (the communicators). But then Miri takes Kirk to Jahn. But before anything can happen, a girl named Louise, covered in lesions, attacks Kirk. Kirk stuns her with his phaser, but she dies anyhow. Miri says Louise was only a little bit older than Miri herself.
They’re racing a clock. Each of them will get the disease and die within a week—except for Spock, but he’s a carrier, so he can’t return to the ship. Spock and McCoy continue to work, going through the files and trying to find a vaccine. The kids make noise to distract them, and all three leave the lab, leaving their communicators behind because they failed their saving roll versus dumbass and all decided not to keep them on their belts like they always do. Jahn comes in and takes them before sneaking out the window. That leaves them without the Enterprise‘s resources. To make matters worse, they’ve discovered that the onlies have just a few months’ worth of food reserves left. They’re going to starve to death before they can grow old enough to die of the disease.
After a few days, tempers start to fray. McCoy snaps at Kirk, Rand has a bit of a breakdown—and then McCoy manages to re-create the disease, which is the first step to creating the vaccine.
Miri sees Kirk comforting Rand, and starts to get jealous, so she goes to Jahn with a plan to kidnap Rand, so Kirk will come after her—which’ll mean two fewer grups. So they take Rand, just as McCoy and Spock isolate what they think is the vaccine. But they need the ship’s computers to verify the dosage, which means they need the communicators.
Kirk explains to Miri that she’s growing up, she’s turning into a woman. That’s why she’s become alienated from her friends, and also why she has a lesion. She’s going to die soon, too, unless they can create a vaccine.
Miri takes Kirk to Jahn and the others. Kirk tries to explain that they need the communicators, or there won’t be any games anymore. No grups, no onlies, no nothing. But the kids don’t believe him, and bonk-bonk him on the head. Eventually, though, Kirk wins them over.
Spock leaves McCoy alone in the lab to check on Kirk’s progress. A desperate McCoy decides to inject himself with the vaccine, hoping it’s the right dosage. Turns out, he got it right, as the lesions fade from his face.
The onlies are left behind, though teachers and instructors will be sent to take care of them.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The methods by which Spock enters information into the portable computer—getting figures by voice from the Enterprise, from computer banks that Kirk has to order to be “cleared” in order to be devoted to the task at hand—is hilariously primitive by today’s standards, even more so than usual.
Fascinating. Spock’s dry wit is in full force in this one, from his comment about how not being a red-blooded human is awesome because it means he doesn’t get the disease, to his making fun of McCoy’s microscope, to his nicely subtle “And I want to go back to the ship” after reminding Kirk that he’s a carrier and will have to be quarantined if they don’t find a cure. But we also get melodramatic Spock with his “beaker full of death” line…
I’m a doctor not an escalator. Unwilling to wait for Kirk to convince a bunch of lunatic children to give back their communicators and facing imminent death, McCoy decides to give himself the vaccine, hoping it’ll work, figuring he has nothing left to lose. It would’ve been so ironic if Kirk showed up with the communicators only to find McCoy dead because he got the dosage wrong…
Go put on a red shirt. The two security guards are never named, get no dialogue, and do absolutely nothing except stand around uselessly pointing their phasers. When McCoy’s attacked, it’s Kirk and Spock who do all the work of subduing the attacker (by punching him repeatedly, despite Spock having a perfectly good nerve pinch at his disposal), and the guards aren’t in evidence at all after they find the lab.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Miri, despite being more than three hundred years old, has an adolescent crush on Kirk. When Rand points this out to Kirk at the end, he dryly says that he never gets involved with older women. Miri’s advanced age somewhat mitigates the creepiness of Kirk flirting with her in the beginning, but not really. Oh, and Rand comments that she’s tried on several occasions to get Kirk to look at her legs, which is mostly adorable in that she thinks he hasn’t noticed them already (viz., “The Naked Time” and the line about beaches).
Channel open. “You two will have to re-create their thinking, so you can isolate that virus, and you’ll be able to develop a vaccine.”
“Is that all, Captain? We have five days, you know…”
Kirk giving Spock and McCoy their task, and McCoy snarking him off about it.
Welcome aboard. Recurring regulars DeForrest Kelley and Grace Lee Whitney play McCoy and Rand, while Jim Goodwin makes his third and final appearance as Farrell. Eddie Paskey and David Ross play the security guards.
Well-known child actors John Megna (best known as Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird), Keith Taylor (Harry on Leave it to Beaver), Kellie Flanagan (Candice Muir on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), and the magnificent Kim Darby (Mattie Ross in True Grit) all appear as onlies, Darby in the title role. Ed McCready appears for the second week in a row, this time as the boy creature who dies of the disease, while the then-27-year-old Michael J. Pollard plays Jahn, taking advantage of his baby-face to play young.
Several of the children are played by children of actors and crew: Jon and Scott Dweck, the sons of Grace Lee Whitney; Lisbeth Shatner, daughter of William; Steven McEveety, nephew of director Vincent; Darleen and Dawn Roddenberry, daughters of creator Gene; and Phil and Iona Morris, children of actor Greg Morris. Both Phil and Iona would go on to guest star on future incarnations of Trek, Phil as a cadet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, a Klingon and a Jem’Hadar on DS9, and an astronaut on Voyager, Iona as a bartender on Voyager.
Trivial matters: The script received an uncredited rewrite by Stephen W. Carabastos when Adrian Spies’s original script came up ten minutes short.
Vincent McEveety, directing two episodes in a row, had to direct this one from a wheelchair after breaking his leg in an accident in his home.
Grace Lee Whitney reported in her autobiography The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy that she was sexually assaulted at the end-of-the-week party for this episode, though she only identifies her attacker as “the Executive.” She would only make one more appearance before being fired from the show.
Whitney also said that Leonard Nimoy was approached about having his children appear on the show, but he declined, saying he wanted to keep them out of show business. Ironically, his son Adam would grow up to become a TV director (including a couple of episodes of TNG).
Judy Klass’s novel The Cry of the Onlies is a sequel to this episode. Her novel identified Miri’s planet as Juram V. In his adaptation of the episode for Star Trek 1, James Blish identified it as the fourth planet in the 70 Ophiucus system. The reason for the planet’s similarity to Earth is never explained in the episode, but regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett posited it as an actual parallel Earth from a different quantum reality that slipped into our universe in his Department of Temporal Investigations novel Forgotten History. Glenn Greenberg, Mike Collins, and Keith Williams did a sequel of their own in the third issue of their comic book miniseries Untold Voyages, in which Jahn goes after McCoy during the post-Motion Picture time frame.
To boldly go. “No more blah-blah-blah!” It’s really hard to get past the absurdity of the premise of this episode, with its duplicate Earth, down to the continental patterns and the “NO SMOKING” signs (written in English!). Trek will dip into this well again, and you know that it’s at least partly budgetary, to wit, using an existing backlot set rather than spend the money to build a new one. But at least episodes like “Patterns of Force” and “Spectre of the Gun” and “Bread and Circuses” and the like have a story reason for it. Not always a good story reason, mind you, but they made the effort.
“Miri” makes no such effort. There’s absolutely nothing in the plot that requires it to be an Earth duplicate, as evidenced by the fact that they pretty much stop commenting on it after McCoy makes his snotty comment about the architecture in Act 1. After that, it’s never referenced overtly, nor is it ever in any way relevant.
Worse, the climax happens off-screen. Kirk tries to convince the kids to give him back the communicators and free Rand, and he shows no signs of getting through to them whatsoever. Then we cut away to McCoy’s desperation injection, and then Spock finds him, and then Kirk shows up with the kids and the communicators, and they’re all friends, and we never see how Kirk managed this. I guess he just used his magical Kirk cooties or something… Plus the “love triangle” of Kirk, Miri, and Rand never quite coalesces, and has yucky overtones thanks to Kirk turning his charm on a teenager.
Having said that, the episode has its graces. The tension is very well played by the actors and by director McEveety, Kim Darby is magnificent as Miri, Michael J. Pollard is smarmily effective as, in essence, a cult leader for the kids, and the kids themselves manage a perfect blend of creepy, scary, and silly. The cry of “bonk-bonk on the head” is amusing right up until twenty kids pile onto Kirk and he emerges with blood seeping down the sides of his head.
Warp factor rating: 5
Next week: “The Conscience of the King”
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s short story collection Without a License is now on sale from Dark Quest Books. It includes nine stories from throughout his twenty-plus years of writing, plus brand-new tales in the Dragon Precinct and Cassie Zukav milieus. You can order the trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the author; the eBook edition will be on sale soon.