(airdate: October 27, 1966)
Writer: Adrian Spies
Director: Vincent McEveety
Miri: Kim Darby
Jahn: Michael J. Pollard
Lt. John Farrell: Jim Goodwin
Captain's Log: The Enterprise encounters an Earth-style distress signal from a planet that is seemingly identical to Earth. Beaming down, Kirk and the landing party encounter a post-apocalyptic landscape resembling Earth in the mid-1900s, inhabited only by children. One of the children, Miri, explains that the adults (or as she calls them, the "Grups") all died from a plague, leaving the children ("Onlies") behind. The landing party have contracted this plague, and they only have a week to cure it. McCoy and Spock determine that the Grups were experimenting with life prolongation and that they were partially successful; the Onlies are therefore all around 300 years old. However, the plague was accidentally created as well, attacking anyone who has entered puberty; thus, all the Onlies, despite their increased lifespan, will eventually die from it. Despite the efforts of the other Onlies to hinder the landing party's progress to find a cure (as they are mistrustful of any Grups), McCoy develops one and cures the plague, saving the lives of everyone.
Whoops!: There's a strange moment where Spock starts pointing out that the microscope McCoy is using is incredibly primitive, with something approaching glee (or as close to glee as Spock gets).
Why does Kirk tell Spock, who's currently sitting at the science station, to go to warp factor 1 instead of the helmsman? And why does Spock acknowledge the order?
Classic Lines: Kirk, after Rand says that eternal childhood is "almost like a dream": "I wouldn't examine that dream too closely, yeoman. It might not turn out to be very pretty."
Alien Love: Miri develops a crush on Captain Kirk, and is jealous of his affection for Yeoman Rand.
Library Computer: The homeworld of the Onlies [no specific name is given] is the third planet in its solar system - which is hundreds of light-years away from Earth - and looks to be identical to Earth, with all its continents and oceans the same as there. It's spheroid-shaped, with a circumference of 24,874 miles, a mass of 6x1021 tons, a mean density of 5.517, and an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. [These measurements are all reasonably close to the actual measurements of Earth.] The planet appears to have reached a level of civilization equivalent to that of Earth approximately 1960 [according to Spock; it looks more like the late '40s/early '50s, to be honest], but that was 300 years ago and no progress has happened since then. The area where the landing party beams down looks like it's been abandoned for a long time. An Earth-style distress signal was being broadcast from the planet. [No in-universe explanation is given as to why this planet so closely resembles Earth.]
The planet is inhabited by Onlies: children who are nevertheless at least 300 years old. They still have the minds of children, and are interested in playing games ("Foolies") and distrustful of any grownups ("Grups"), due to the events that led to the deaths of all the adults. Although it's not explicit, they appear to be led by an older boy, Jahn, and while they listen to an older girl, Miri, she's not in command. [Based on Spock's analysis of the life prolongation experiments,] their metabolic rate is 72% [of normal], and their production of nucleic acids is 33% of normal. This means that they age roughly a month every hundred years. After the plague is dealt with, a medical team is left behind to take care of the Onlies, while Space Central [Starfleet Command] will send teachers, advisers, and others to help the Onlies.
Their slow rate of aging is due to a scientific life prolongation experiment being conducted by the Grups 300 years ago. They were attempting to create a new series of viruses intended to prolong the life of human cells by a huge amount, and while they were partially successful [as evidenced by the Onlies], they inadvertently created a plague that attacked anyone who had reached puberty. The initial symptoms were blue splotches on the body that slowly spread to eventually cover the entire body, intense fever, severe pain in the extremities, fuzziness of vision, and increased irritability. Eventually the victim goes mad and their metabolic rate skyrockets, essentially aging a century in just a matter of minutes and ultimately killing the victim. The virus itself is tubular, with extreme multiplicability, and it has an affinity for nucleic acids. The older you are the faster the disease works on you; the landing party have roughly seven days before the disease is fatal, while someone just entering puberty like Miri has about five or six weeks left. The plague does not affect Spock, although he notes he is still a carrier. Dr. McCoy is able to successfully develop a cure to the plague.
There are no colonies or [Federation] vessels out near the Onlies' homeworld.
The collars of the Starfleet uniforms have a concealed zip on the wearer's left side that can be undone if necessary.
Dr. McCoy uses a biocomputer - a tabletop black box with a slanted front, fitted with buttons and lights - and a portable electronic microscope to analyze the plague, although he needs to use the Enterprise's computer banks in conjunction with his equipment.
Kirk is seen recording a Captain's Log on a tricorder.
Final Analysis: "A child entering puberty on this planet means a death sentence." The set design and dressing really add to the post-apocalyptic feel of the episode, making the scenario more compelling as a result. Choosing to set this on essentially an alternate Earth adds to the impact, and the sight of grubby children in ruined buildings is a striking one. The actual plotline itself isn't the most exciting thing, but the visuals and the performances (particularly Kim Darby, who has to carry a lot of the show) make up for any potential drawbacks. A bit of a slow burn, but a good one.
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Page originally created: March 12, 2016
Page last updated: August 6, 2018