The Enterprise has just detected an Earth-style distress signal but they’re hundreds of light-years from Earth. The guys work intensely, hunched over their consoles. Yeoman Janice Rand stands in the background with her portable tricorder over shoulder. If her job is just to stand there while shit’s going down, what does she do on slow days? I hope she has really comfy shoes.
Another weird thing about Rand, and actually many of the women on the show, is that whenever you see a close-up of their faces they’re lit to be softer, with highlight on the eyes and shadow at the top and bottom of the screen. We see this when she gets her first line in this episode: “Earth!” she exclaims as the planet they’ve encountered fills the viewscreen.
Post-opening credits a six-person team beams down, including Rand. She has left her tricorder behind, which seems counter-intuitive. The other folks are Kirk, Spock, Bones and two red-shirts. Spock estimates the new Earth is at around the year 1960, but it’s basically a ghost town.
The team poke through a debris pile and Spock is examining a broken tricycle when a crazed, dust and dirt-covered man with a purple, swollen and disfigured face runs out and lunges at him, yelling: “Mine! Mine!” Kirk roughs him up a little and the man collapses and starts crying because the tricycle is broken. After what’s basically an intense temper tantrum, he collapses again and Bones rules he’s dead.
But! Bones’ medical tricorder is going crazy. This guy’s metabolic rate was going so fast in the past few minutes that it was like he “aged a century in just the past few minutes.” They hear creaking from a nearby house and run in to search it. They find a young woman hiding in a closet and she begs them not to hurt her. Even though she looks to be in her teens, she talks like a child, telling them a story about the “grumps” (Rand figures she means grown-ups) getting sick and bad things happening.
They need more info, so Kirk busts out the charm and asks her what her name is.
“Miri,” she replies.
“Miri. A pretty name,” he says, “For a pretty young woman.”
“Pretty?” she repeats.
Anyway, Kirk charms Miri a bit more and touches her on the chin. She jumps back, noticing a purple spot that has appeared on his hand. “It’s starting!” she exclaims and they figure out she means the disease that killed the “grumps”.
They find an old doctor’s office and McCoy takes tissue samples from the Enterprise crew to study. Kirk says they can’t go back to the Enterprise because they can’t risk contaminating anyone else. Spock is the only one not yet impacted by the purple splotchies.
The team figures out the illness is a virus caused by an attempt to slow the population’s aging. During this conversation the question comes up about why Miri is staying with them. Kirk is quick to reply: “I think children have an instinctive need for adults. They want to be told right and wrong.”
“There may be other emotions at work in this case, Captain,” says Spock.
“She likes you, Jim,” says McCoy.
“She’s becoming a woman,” agrees Spock.
To think, at the beginning of this show, I thought I’d found the only woman on a foreign planet that Kirk wouldn’t think about in that way.
McCoy and Spock determine that the virus makes the kids on the planet die when they hit puberty. Cue dramatic glances at Miri.
Later, Kirk keeps Miri busy sharpening pencils for him. Kirk’s hand is getting worse and McCoy has figured out all the horrible symptoms the human crew members will start experiencing soon.
“We have seven days,” says Spock, ominously. If I wasn’t watching it on Netflix I would be biting my nails during this commercial break.
They spend the next few days frantically trying to research a cure. A few days in, tempers are running high. Kirk yells at Bones and shoves Rand, who drops a glass lab flask and runs out. When Kirk follows her he finds her crying and puts a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m so upset,” she says. She whirls around and pulls down the neck of her dress to reveal a large purple splotch. She doesn’t see Miri peering around the doorframe.
“I used to try to get you to look at my legs,” Rand says (and she was literally standing beside his chair doing nothing all shift so all he had to do was turn his head once).
“Look at my legs,” she sobs, and a grim Kirk looks down to where she is covering more purple splotches on her thigh. Kirk hugs her and tries to console her, but then McCoy calls them inside, saying they have a chance at a cure.
Miri is so desperate for Kirk not to leave and hook up with Rand (whose hair is still perfectly coiffed days later), that she leaves and recruits the rest of the kids into a plot to steal the communicators, kidnap Rand and “bonk [Kirk] on the head”. Even with dramatic music, a chorus of kids chanting “bonk, bonk!” is less than compelling.
Miri and Kirk have to have an inevitable confrontation. Kirk demands to know where Rand is. Miri won’t say. Kirk is getting desperate and he takes Miri’s face in his hands and explains that she is becoming “a young woman” and therefore dying.
In the kids’ clubhouse, Janice Rand is tied to a chair, in true Damsel in Distress fashion. And here comes Kirk to the rescue, with the help of Miri. To get Rand back and talk to the ship, Kirk needs to reason with a room full of kids trying to be as annoying as possible.
In another ending I did not see coming McCoy tests his potentially super-toxic medicine on himself and it works!
They go back to the Enterprise and leave the kids behind. Kirk points out it’s not irresponsible because they’re 300 years old. I point out that one of the oldest and theoretically most responsible of them had coordinated a kidnapping and put everyone’s lives in danger over a crush.
On the bridge, Rand leans over Kirk’s chair and notes that Miri really loved him. Kirk smiles softly.
“Yes,” he says, then pauses before continuing, “ I never get involved with older women, Yeoman.”
And the episode is over but the ick factor lingers.
What we learned from this episode:
- The best way to get a girl to cooperate is to tell her she’s pretty
- Don’t get between a girl and her totally inappropriate crush
- If you are a man: your female coworker probably secretly has the hots for you
- Kids are the worst
Bechdel-Wallace Test Result: