Star Trek – Miri

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Given how large the Universe is, you have to marvel at the number of planets encountered by the Enterprise which look very similar to Earth. Miri‘s teaser goes one better as Kirk and co stumble across a planet which matches Earth perfectly (even down to the landmasses). But having established this intriguing mystery, the episode then promptly ignores it.  This is a slight irritation ….

After a run of studio-bound stories it’s nice to get out into the fresh air (even if it’s only as far as the studio backlot).  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Rand and a few anonymous red shirts beam down in answer to an automated distress signal.

Miri is an odd one as it manages to be both ridiculous and unsettling at the same time.  There’s something disturbing about the idea of a desolate town overrun by a horde of feral children (although as we’ll learn they’re not actually children – they just seem to be).

But there are also a fair number of scenes which are pretty ripe – such as the moment when Kirk phasers and kills a teenage girl. It should be horrific, but we’re left with a strong sense of the absurd (such as the way that the girl latches herself onto Kirk’s back as she fruitlessly attempts to attack him).

This episode is noteworthy for featuring the last major appearance of Janice Rand (she’d pop up briefly in the next episode before disappearing).  As touched upon before, Rand has been an incredibly undeveloped character – existing mainly to serve Kirk coffee, swoon over him or fight off unwelcome advances from various lustful males.

Miri is a late attempt to beef her character up and it works pretty well, which makes it all the more frustrating that she was already on the way out.  As Rand and the others succumb to a strange virus, she tells Kirk that “back on the ship, I used to try to get you to look at my legs. Captain, look at my legs”. At the moment they don’t look so good ….

Although this might be another scene where Janice is positioned as a decorative object first and foremost (it implies that she spends most of her time aboard the Enterprise desperately attempting to attract Kirk’s attention) it’s also quite plaintively delivered.

Shatner’s laying on the ham today. The conflict between the grown ups (“grups”) and Miri and the other children (“onlies”) gives Kirk the opportunity to step up and deliver an impassioned speech. And Shatner doesn’t disappoint, wringing every last drop of emotion out of it.

All right. I dare you, I double-dare you. Look at the blood on my face. Now look at your hands. Blood on your hands. Now who’s doing the hurting? Not the Grups, it’s you hurting, yelling, maybe killing, just like the Grups you remember and creatures you’re afraid of. You’re acting like them, and you’re going to be just .. like … them. Unless you let me help you. I’m a Grup, and I want to help you. I’m begging you, let me help you or there won’t be anything left at all. Please.

The fact that the children then meekly decide that Kirk has a point (which stands in sharp contrast to the havoc they earlier wreaked on the Enterprise crew) is another of those moments where it seems that the script needed a few more drafts to make the action seem a little less jerky and contrived.

Kirk’s relationship with Miri (Kim Darby) feels somewhat problematic today. Since Miri only looks about sixteen years old, the way that Kirk interacts with her (“you want to go some place with me?”) feels a little icky.

Although Kirk is shameless about manipulating Miri, it’s easy to see that he’s doing it with the best of intentions.  Even so, you can’t help but squirm a little as he ladles on the famous Kirk charm (telling Miri that she’s becoming a young woman, for example). Miri’s jealousy of Janice briefly sets up a rather odd, but entertaining, romantic triangle.

Although the BBC broadcast Miri in 1970, they then skipped it during the numerous re-runs which occurred during the next few decades (it didn’t receive another airing until the early 1990’s). Along with The Empath, Whom Gods Destroy and Plato’s Stepchildren, the four were deemed to be unsuitable for broadcast because they “dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease”.

Miri doesn’t really hold up to intense scrutiny but provided you’re prepared to go with the flow it does contain items of interest. Never a favourite, but there are worse ones out there.

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2 thoughts on “Star Trek – Miri

  1. There is an article on Trek in the UK in last month’s Infinity magazine, which mentions that Miri was withheld from repeat broadcasts because of complaints from parents about the scenes of the children attacking adults…

    I first watched Trek in1969 in black and white, and when I first saw the episodes in colour, I was struck by how vivid and bright the colours were – something which I also noticed in the first colour series of The Avengers. It is as though the programme makers were experimenting with the new medium, but it is not so noticeable with other colour programmes from the mid-60’s.

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    • I’ve read somewhere that NBC were very keen to make everything as colourful as possible. Star Trek certainly fits that bill, especially with episodes like ‘Shore Leave’ (which I’ve just seen). That’s one which positively beams with colour (or color!).

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