Original Airdate: October 27, 1966
The Enterprise receives a distress call - an old Earth SOS call - from a planet, and the crew traces it back to its source. Once there, they find a planet exactly like Earth in almost every way. They beam down to check it out and find themselves in a tableau of extreme (and extremely picturesque) urban decay. (Seriously, I'd love to be the crew photographer anyway, but never more so than right now. The old signs! The corner hotel! Did Walker Evans dress the set that day?) Spock says that the architecture and development puts the culture there at about 1960, but he thinks that some sort of deterioration has been going on for centuries and might explain why there are no signs of life; he adds that the distress signal was probably automated.
Bones opines that this is the most horrible conglomeration of antique architecture he's ever seen. You can stuff it, McCoy.
A redshirt walks past a building and after he passes, a door slowly shuts.
Jim finds a rusty tricycle in a pile of dirt and hands it to Spock, who gets an amusing "WTF" look as he hands it, in turn, over to McCoy. McCoy sets it down and then gets a very sad look as he realizes that this is some long gone kid's trike.
"MINE!" somebody yells, and from one of the abandoned buildings, a disfigured man dressed in rags runs out and attacks Bones. He fights him off and Jim subdues him. As the man cries about his tricycle being broken, Jim tries to comfort him.
The man goes into a seizure and dies; his metabolism is wildly accelerated, like he's burning himself up. As Bones explains all this, there's a noise nearby. Jim gets the landing party to follow him and they canvass the area.
They break into an old house and hear noises coming from the closet. Jim opens the door to find a young girl, filthy and crying; she repeats "no, no please don't hurt me." He pulls her out, and Rand sits her down, trying to calm her.
Jim sends Spock out with the redshirts to see what they can see. From inside one of the buildings, we see a hand rub mud away from a window; through the circle of clean that creates, we see Spock approach and look in.
Miri is talking to Jim, Bones and Rand; she calls them "grups" and says they're responsible for the chaos. When Jim asks what went on, she tells him that they should know, as they are grups. She thinks they're playing a game (a "foolie") with her but she can't play because she doesn't know the rules. Janice puts together that "grups" means "grownups;" "onlies" evidently means "children," as in, presumably, "only children left."
They piece together that there are at least some children left alive but the adults got sick, did "the awful things" and died. Bones thinks a plague would explain a lot. He and Rand get up and look around the house while Jim stays behind and talks to Miri. This scene ... 40 years ago, I'm sure it came off as perfectly innocent and was supposed to get across nothing more than his being sweet and encouraging when he tells her that she's a very pretty young woman. Unfortunately, things have changed since then, and also, something about Shatner's tone is just a bit off somehow. It isn't icky ... it's just amusingly horndoggy.
Spock and the redshirts (that would make a decent band name) are walking down an alley when they hear noises. They hear children chanting "nyaa nyaa nyaa" and are pelted with debris but the children are still unseen. Creepy. Spock goes back and reports it, and Bones points out that the thing which attacked them was no child.
Jim sweet-talks an initially reluctant Miri into showing them where the hospital was so they can find records of what happened. There's a sweet/icky moment where he tells her he likes her and she gets all bashful; he touches her chin and then we see this icky scab-looking thing on his hand.
She panics and says that's how it starts, that now he'll get angry and yell and hurt people and get sick and die just like the others.
At the lab/hospital/emergency transponder station (no, really) McCoy is looking through a microscope, muttering about a zooful full of bacteria and calling the ship to beam down some real medical supplies, while Jim tells the communications officer (not Uhura this week - the skinny gentleman who, a few weeks back, gave Magda his communicator) not to beam anyone else down to help them.
They all have the scabs now, except Spock. Bones thinks the little bugs, or whatever they are, don't like green blood.
In a scene that probably shouldn't seem as anachronistic as it does, they find the cause of the disease - a (spectacularly) failed life-prolongation project intended to age a person only a month in a century's time - in a sheaf of papers. After this discovery, they quickly start putting things together; the disease claiming the adults, the children being hundreds of years old, their contracting it as part of the glandular changes of puberty.
We also see that Miri is developing quite a crush on Jim and will happily do as he asks, including take him to where the other children are so he can explain to them the danger they're in.
In a dilapidated storefront, a group of filthy children in playclothes, masks, and wigs can't understand why Miri is spending so much time with the grups. They have figured out though, that the grups in question talk into little boxes to other grups and maybe if they took those little boxes away, they'd have an advantage.
Miri leads Jim into the kids' headquarters, but the kids have hidden. Jim hears a noise and turns, aiming his phaser. A disfigured girl runs out at him, and in a truly nerve-wracking moment, all the kids run out and scatter, screaming. She jumps on his back and he throws her off and phasers her. He is surprised to see her die from it, as he had it on stun. Miri says her name was Louise, and she was only a little older than Miri. Making the connection, she cringes against him, afraid.
Back in the labroom, she's sharpening pencils, hoping for Jim's approval, and Spock is putting some numbers together. He's found a journal from a researcher and can predict exactly how long they have. He doesn't say, but he does hint that the older the victim, the faster the progress. Bones looks a little disturbed. He also says that he gives Miri about 5 or 6 weeks at most.
He also reminds therm that while he may be symptom-free, he is a carrier, and can never go back to the ship unless they find a cure. At that moment, there's a message from the ship - Spock's hypothesis is confirmed; 170 hours until they succumb. They have only one week to live unless they can find a cure.
Bones thinks he's found some clues in that sheaf of paper - they were attempting to create a series of new diseases, a chain reaction of viruses that would extend the life of the human cell, and that's how they screwed the pooch. I know nothing of the world of medicine, but that sounds stupid.
The children start chanting again from somewhere nearby, and the three of them go running off to look for them ... allowing Jahn, the eldest of the kids, to slip into the room, steal the communicators, and slip back out. He just makes it back out of there before Kirk, Spock, and McCoy run back in and realize what's missing. Now they're incredibly screwed, because without the communicators, they have no access to the ship's computers and are unlikely to brainstorm a cure on their own.
Jim narrates another Captain's Log. Theme: Bitching. He details the short tempers, fruitless research, dwindling food supply, and spreading disease. When he's done, he and Bones yell at each other, and he shoves past Janice, knocking a glass bottle out of her hands and to the floor. As it shatters, she gets an evil look (and from that look, I'm guessing her particular issue is the lack of food. I've made that face myself while dealing with low blood sugar) and screams "NO!!" Then she stomps out and Jim follows her. Miri follows him.
In the hall, Janice is crying and shows Jim the large scabs on her clavicle, thigh and wrist. He pulls her to him and pats her on the back comfortingly, telling her that they're all frightened. Miri watches with a look of resignation, then walks away.
Bones yells, I"ve found something!" and they go running in. He's isolated the exact disease, and gets to work with a renewed vigor.
Miri has slipped quietly back to the playroom with the other kids, and seeing Jim comforting Janice has hurt her and made her bitter. She lays out a plan to kidnap Janice by playing on her concern for the youngest children and telling her that one of them has hurt himself; then Jim will come looking for Janice, and without the two of them, they can't succeed in finding a cure. Then they'll die and leave the onlies alone. At least, I think that's the logic. The children start banging on the floor and chanting "Bonk Bonk" which is short for "bonk bonk on the head grup!" which is crazy person talk for "we intend to take a hammer to the craniums of Yeoman Rand and Captain Kirk."
Spock and Bones have the cure (that was fast!) but what's the dosage? Jim grabs Miri and yells about Janice's whereabouts, but she says she doesn't know. Spock tells him that Janice isn't the only missing thing he needs to find pronto - the communicators are necessary too. Without them they have no way of knowing if the possible cure in their hands is instead "a beakerful of death."
Jim pulls Miri aside and insists that she tell what she knows, and she refuses. He informs her that all the onlies get it as they grow up, and in denial, she says only some do. He insists that no, it's all, and that she's next. He forces her to stop squirming away and look at her arm, where one of the scabs has formed. She shrieks and cries and he pulls her close and hugs her hard.
In the playroom, the kids are playing "school" ("study study study or bonk bonk ya bad kid!") Yes. Bonk Bonk indeed. Janice is tied to a chair and Jahn insinuates that they might kill her when Miri enters and stands in the door tentatively. Jahn asks her what's wrong and tells her to come in. She opens the door wider and Jim steps in. Janice's eyes widen and as a lone horn plays the intro to the Star Trek theme, you can see her thinking "my hero!"
Jahn is angry she brought Jim there, and the kids chant endlessly over anything he tries to say. He finally gets them to shut up and listen long enough that he can start to explain but then Jahn gives the signal and a kid behind Jim advances with a bludgeon in hand. Janice warns him and he easily disarms the kid. They chant and advance as he finishes explaining, and then one of the nasty little monsters whacks him solidly on the collarbone several times with a wrench. Miri finally protests, but she's drowned out.
Jim fights the kids off, and emerges from the dogpile, bloody. He tells the kids that they've already become the monsters they're afraid of becoming, and that things will only get worse if they don't let him help.
Spock and Bones wait impatiently for Jim to get back with the communicators. The cure is already in a hypospray, but they can do nothing with it yet. McCoy is increasingly irritated and snappish. Spock says bickering is pointless and goes off to check on Jim. Bones is tired of waiting and the minute Spock is out the door, he injects himself.
He screams for Spock and passes out. Spock hears and comes running back with the redshirt to whom he was talking. He ascertains that McCoy isn't yet dead just as Jim enters the room, talking to someone on the ship, and all the children following him. They have only 3 hours left.
Jim is upset to see McCoy like this, but notices that the scabs are fading. McCoy, impatient crazy man that he is, has bested the disease.
Once again aboard the Enterprise, there's some exposition about the fate of the children involving a medcial team having stayed behind, and teams of teachers and advisors on their way there to help the kids. Janice tells Jim, "Miri ... she really loved you, you know." He looks unhappy as he acknowledges that, then jokes that he never gets involved with older women.
And life goes on aboard the Enterprise.
Best Line of the Episode
Jim: "NO BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!"
Midcentury Design Moment
None ... unless you count the "no smoking" sign hanging in the lab.
HA HA HA
The entire set dressing of "20th century urban decay" qualifies from my point of view.
It's Worse Than That, He's Dead Jim
McCoy: "He's dead." (Disfigured man at the beginning.)
Special Guest Star
It is my great sorrow to have to inform you that Jahn, the ringleader, is played by Michael J. Pollard. I'm not sure what it is about him that grates on my nerves the most; his cartoony voice, his PlayDoh face, his twitchy, cutesy mannerisms, or his self-consciously elfin mien. Interestingly, he's playing an adolescent here - and quite believably - at the age of 27. Which means that, shockingly, he's 69 this year.
Also, of course, Miri is played by Kim Darby, who you might remember from True Grit or Better Off Dead (Cusack's character's mom), or any one of a million tv appearances.