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By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at July 15, 2005 - 5:49 PM GMT

See Also: 'Miri' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise receives a distress call from a parallel Earth, but upon beaming down the landing party discovers a city where all the adults have died and the children hide in decrepit buildings. Kirk finds a girl, Miri, hiding in a closet and discovers from her that all the "grups" died after becoming violent; he also discovers that he and the other members of the landing party are infected with the same contagious pathogen. While Spock and McCoy go through the research notes of long-dead doctors, discovering a life prolongation project gone horribly awry, Kirk and Janice Rand try to contact the children, who have lived for hundreds of years in terror of the agony and death that arrives with adolescence. One of the older boys plots to get rid of the Enterprise crewmembers by stealing their communicators and keeping them from contacting the ship, but Miri discovers that she is developing the disease and works with Kirk to find them. While they are gone, McCoy tests his experimental vaccine on himself, successfully curing the disease and allowing the others to convince the children to trust them. The crew leaves behind a medical team and a promise of teachers, farmers and other "grups" to come help rebuild.

Analysis: In classic horror stories and films, attempts to reverse death or live forever always come to horrible ends - people suffer so grotesquely that dying seems far less scary than its alternative. "Miri" is a cautionary tale about such an effort, but it's also a lovely character story and contains one of the better-developed female guest stars to interact with James T. Kirk. Miri may be jealous of Kirk's attentions to Rand, but she can't realize how lucky she is to be too young to serve as a love interest. Though she receives intimations of Kirk's charming machinations when he uses her attention to gain information or access to the other children, Miri is in some ways treated as more of an equal than most of the women Kirk encounters during dangerous missions, and it's impressive how much he perceives about her preadolescent psychology.

It's striking how much more complex Miri seems than Rand, whose screaming, crying, mothering the children and trying to get Kirk to look at her legs seem painfully clichéd by contrast. This woman is a professional on a starship, yet her reaction to the probability of decay and death is to lament her lost beauty while Kirk is agonizing over his crew and McCoy and Spock are struggling with the medical conundrum of the disease. Kirk displays little personal emotional reaction to learning that he will probably die within a week: his concern is focused outward on his ship and crew, making certain that no additional personnel risk contact with the disease and facing the additional horror of the discovery that all the children on the planet will starve if they are unable to cure the disease and contact "Space Central" (as it is called in this episode) to assist. Spock, who never becomes infected and taunts McCoy about the advantages of having green blood, is concerned not about death but being abandoned on the planet: he tells Kirk quite plaintively that he wants to return to the ship, and he is the first to notice when their communicators disappear.

Kirk states his opinion that children have an innate longing for adults to teach them right from wrong, for which there isn't a lot of evidence in the episode; John, the oldest surviving boy among the "Onlies", is bossy and disinterested, while Miri's interest in Kirk stems from a more selfish motive than the desire to be taught by him. The violent possessiveness of a dying adolescent at the beginning of the episode, clinging to a tricycle that clearly hasn't worked for years and clearly was too small for him for years before that, is unnerving not because the Enterprise crew is ever in danger from him but because it is all too easy to imagine what the older Onlies might have done to the younger ones. The boy who plays schoolteacher and leads the others in beating Kirk demonstrates both a penchant and skill for violence learned not from the long-absent Grups, but probably from experience among peers. And Miri never answers the question she proposes to put to Rand about who takes care of the littlest Onlies when they're sick or injured.

"Miri" does a lovely, subtle job exploring the fantasy/horror of childhood without any adults. On the surface, it's all "foolies", as the Onlies call fun and games. But all the toys are rusting and broken and none of the 300-year-old children quite remembers the rules of Teacher or Policeman beyond the possibility of "bonk, bonk on the head" for misbehaving. Despite their attempts to hurt the invading Grups, these appear to be fairly kind children who support the youngest and weakest rather than leaving them to suffer, but there are also relatively few of them in the city, and one suspects that their dreamlike elongated youth with no boring education and no strict adult guidelines must have a much darker side than the episode depicts. The details of the horrors when the Grups from the planet became ill are vague, but from Miri's terrified reaction to the landing party, one presumes that they were brutal. Who buried the adults, and what happened to the nursing infants and unsupervised toddlers? I don't even want to imagine the history of this Neverland - as Kirk tells Rand, the dream is not very pretty.

But of course, adolescence is the true nightmare on this duplicate Earth, sending children into a degenerative state that causes pain, physical distortion, madness and death. Going through puberty without any adults around must be confusing enough: the moment the landing party arrives and she realizes that they aren't going to hurt her, Miri instantly gravitates toward them even though she is given petty tasks to do like sharpening pencils and she can't read the complex notes they must decipher to try to cure the disease. Kirk understands her feelings before she does herself and must be the one to break the news, not only that she is becoming a woman, but that that process will kill her if she doesn't help them reverse the legacy her parents and their peers left behind. "I don't care," she says defiantly, insisting that the ravages of growing up only happen sometimes until Kirk makes her look at the blemishes on her skin. The power of this scene is undercut later when Shatner tries to explain the same situation to a gang of taunting kids - "No blah blah blah!" he shouts in one of the episode's painfully comic moments, double-daring the Onlies to return the black boxes they use to talk to the ship. Yet Shatner is quite effective laying out the scenario to follow: "If you don't help us there won't be any games anymore. There won't be anything. No Grups, no Onlies. Nobody left. Forever." The fact that the kids smirk doesn't detract from the chill.

McCoy has a very powerful moment injecting himself with the antidote that Spock has said might be "a beaker full of death." It's hard to know, with only hours left, whether he makes this choice because he is beginning to go mad, because he is terrified of death or because he sincerely believes that he has found the cure and this is the only way to prove it to Spock, thus saving Kirk and the others, but it's a brave and dramatic gesture that earns him a rare expression of admiration from Spock, veiled beneath the comment that he will never understand the medical mind. The trio has some fine moments in "Miri" particularly as the situation deteriorates, with Kirk ranting about his crew, McCoy ranting about how Kirk isn't a doctor and Spock trying to impose logic on the extremely tense situation. McCoy and Spock work particularly well together in the crisis, even finishing one another's sentences while they speculate on how the disease came to be and how it works. There are some funny first-season quirks - a parallel Earth that has the same continents with no explanation of how it came to be, the absence of the Federation as a resource - plus one of McCoy's earliest "He's dead, Jim," moments and a tag in which Kirk makes a joke about older women. As Miri says, you can't play a game without rules, and the early structures that made Star Trek unforgettable are already coalescing here.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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