In the eighth episode of the first season of Star Trek, the crew discovers a double of planet Earth full of INCREDIBLY TERRIFYING CHILDREN. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Yeah, NOPE. Creepy children always mess me up, and this episode tackles this concept HEAD ON, and it’s alternately delightful and the worst. And by “the worst,” I mean, “nightmare-inducing.”
Until the so-so resolution, this is a surprising and thrilling episode, one that tricks us into thinking that we’re about to explore a doppelgänger version of planet Earth, only to then focus on what it means to be a child in a world without any adults whatsoever. “Miri” does this by sticking the crew on this Earth double and having Kirk immediately attacked by something that looks like a zombie, but speaks as if they’re a child. It’s jarring, it’s disturbing, and THIS IS THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THIS EPISODE. From here, there’s a lot of impressive worldbuilding for the society left over after all the adults died off. Part of that is explored through the mystery of the infection that the crew suffers from, and part of that is explored through Miri, the young girl who the crew makes contact with.
Oh god, EVERYTHING HERE IS SO UNSETTLING. Kim Darby, who played Miri here, gives one hell of a performance as a kid who has been conditioned to believe that all grown-ups (called “grups” in this world) are antagonists. And for good reason! Upon reaching puberty, a person on this version of Earth is suddenly susceptible to a vicious virus that turns said person into a violent shell of what they used to be. There were so many little behaviors and nervous habits that Miri displayed in her initial scenes that contributed to my understanding of what her life was like. She shrunk away from all the adults; she could not fathom anyone not knowing how the world worked; she constantly sought validation once she realized she could trust the adults; and she had to frame all of her initial interactions with the crew as if they were a game. Given what we later see of Jahn, who acted as the leader of the surviving children, it made sense that these kids had to turn everything into a game.
There are just so many horrifying implications in “Miri” that made me want to turn into a puddle once I thought about them. Spock and Bones figure out that in an attempt to perfect a way to give humans longevity, they discovered a virus that did just that, but only for the children. The children outlasted the adults, and then proceeded to age a month FOR EVERY ONE HUNDRED YEARS. So these children have been living on this planet with bodies that are physically children FOR THREE HUNDRED YEARS. THIS IS SO TERRIFYING TO ME, Y’ALL. I can’t get over this. It explains how they became so stubborn. It explains their almost ritualistic behavior. And then there are all these hints that they’re going to run out of food and supplies and could you even imagine? A bunch of children fighting to survive. It puts Lord of the Flies to shame, y’all.
I understood that the very point of this episode was to make us uncomfortable, and that includes the relationship between Miri and Kirk. I would have preferred a more obvious condemnation of said relationship, as Kirk appeared to purposely exploit Miri’s crush on him in order to win over the other children. Yes, she might be hundreds of years old, but is she mentally that old? Her body isn’t. (Seriously, if you want an incredible exploration of this concept and want to read the best book about vampires ever written, check out Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. It’s incredible.) If the threat of puberty and adulthood was a literal threat to these kids, then I get why Miri was the physical manifestation of that threat. Still, it was a little too weird at times, but I admit that this whole episode is intentionally a bizarre thing to experience.
Then there’s the kids. They’re campy at times, but I couldn’t help but feel terrified by them. The writers took the idea of freedom from authority and ran with it. The kids consider everything a game, and they revel in their own freedom to do anything they desire. Couple that with their memory of what adults can do to them, and you’ve got a justification for their attempts to sabotage the Enterprise crew at every term. I mean, I’m sure it was weird for them to see Miri with the adults because… well, I imagine that was a pretty rare sight, you know? I think Miri was torn between loyalties, too, since she appreciated that these adults were genuinely nice to her. But was that enough? She became jealous of Yeoman Rand after Rand confesses her sadness over her impending death. (THIS SUBPLOT IS KILLING ME, FOR THE RECORD. Clearly, Rand and Kirk are head-over-heels for one another, but the DUTY that their job REQUIRES is preventing them from LOVE. I am already done. This is ruining me.) Plus, she had to cope with the horrors of catching the virus as well!
There’s lots of bickering here, though it’s not nearly as funny and entertaining as usual, since the crew is doing all this yelling WHILE DYING. The effects of the virus reach critical mass when Bones injects himself with the untested vaccine while Kirk goes to confront all the children. It’s not my favorite resolution of this show so far, mostly because it felt like it fizzled out. With so much build-up – including Kirk’s impassioned speech after getting the shit kicked out of him BY KIDS – this episode just kind of… ends? It’s not terrible, but it’s not nearly as strong as everything else. I suppose the idea of appealing to the moral side of children is a little unbelievable, but I understood why it happened. Captain Kirk had to convince them that they were turning into what they were always afraid of!
All things said, this was a super creepy story that was filmed beautifully. I loved that this didn’t occur on the normal set, y’all. Everything was so bright and out in the open! It was a fantastic change for the show, and I’m eager to see what else Star Trek will do to mix things up.
The video for “Miri” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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