Sunday, September 21, 2014

Star Trek: The Deadly Years

It is time for another episode of Star Trek, my 40th.
In The Deadly Years we get to watch four regulars, and one extra, rapidly age and head toward death. We also get to learn that Chekov is self-centered and compassionless; and that Kirk is to become a nasty, bitter old man. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
It begins with a landing party beaming down to Gamma Hydra IV. They're on a mission to re-supply an experimental colony there. Maybe they were going to actually beam down the supplies later.
As they look for the missing colonists Chekov freaks out when he discovers a dead body, Alvin, who has clearly died of old age.
Spock was about to explain that no one in the colony could possibly have died of old age when they are interrupted by the shocking appearance of Elaine and Robert, who are supposedly aged 27 and 29.  And we roll the opening credits.
Joining the regulars in this episode are Commodore Stocker and Dr. Janet Wallace, an expert in endocrinology. Kirk and Wallace used to be romantically involved and now that her husband has passed away. . .  Alas, their conversation gets interrupted by a call from the bridge.
Kirk, with his shirt off, establishing a baseline for what is to come.
It has become clear that the entire landing party, save Chekov, has the same ailment that afflicted the colonists. There's no discussion as whether or not it is communicable to anyone else, so no one is worried about a full-scale outbreak on the ship.
Later, Dr. Wallace on her way to the biochemistry lab, lingers in the corridor waiting for Kirk. I guess she's not really feeling the urgency of the situation. Kirk quickly switches the conversation to her late husband, asking her how much older he was than her. Clearly Kirk is implying that she likes older men and that he is now an older man. She answers and then says, "I don't want to talk about him. I want to talk about us." Kirk finally counters with, "What are you offering me, Jan? Love, or a going away present?" It comes off as pretty creepy to me.
Commodore Stocker wants the Enterprise to head off to Starbase 10, under the assumption that the base has better medical facilities. Instead, Kirk and the others are aging before his eyes. Soon we see Kirk being forgetful, snoozing on the bridge and growing cranky.

Speaking of cranky . . . . .
"Give us some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov. Marrow sample, Chekov. Skin sample, Chekov. If I live long enough, I'm going to run out of samples."
There's pretty much no humor in this episode and the one attempt at it, with Chekov complaining, leaves me cold. Always the compassionate man, Chekov--who does not have the disease--is pretty annoyed that he is being heavily studied by McCoy to figure out why he hasn't gotten sick. Maybe he should be thankful that he wont be dead in a few days, or perhaps he could show some concern for those who will be. Nah.
What the heck is that thing? Someone in the prop department really likes aluminum foil.

Stocker convenes a competency hearing for Kirk, who is found to be no longer fit for command.
When Spock gives Kirk the news that he has been relieved and that Stocker is in command, Kirk doesn't take it well. "You traitorous, disloyal... You stab me in the back the first chance you get? Spock, get out. I never want to have to look at you again." I know that command is everything to Kirk, but those are really harsh words and you can tell that Spock is hurt by them. He and Spock have shared so much and Kirk just tosses it all out the window. There should have been an apology scene at the end of the episode.
Stocker takes command and orders the ship to head to Starbase 10 via the shortest route --across the Romulan Neutral Zone. What could go wrong?
Say, remember when Chekov was all scared at seeing the dead body in the beginning of the episode? His adrenalin rush apparently saved him from some radiation being given off by a comet (not that comets really give off radiation). That sparks some ideas back in sickbay and people are finally trying to come up with a cure. It's a good thing too, as the Romulans are here, the effects from Balance of Terror are being recycled, and Stocker sucks at command.

A cure is found in the nick of time and it not only stops the aging, but it brings people back to where they were before they had the sickness. How cool is that?
Kirk returns to save the day, invoking Corbomite in the process.

For the actors, this must have been a difficult shoot, as they had to spend long hours in the makeup chair. I put together some collages showing their transformations.

James Doohan also had his share of make up too, but Scotty pretty much doesn't do anything in this episode, so there aren't as many closeups of him to choose from.

All-in-all, The Deadly Years isn't terrible, but it isn't really good Trek either. There's a nice line from Stocker at the end to remind us how great Kirk is (when he isn't an old man shouting for Spock to get off his lawn),  "I am now quite aware of what a starship can do with the right man at the helm. " But the end is about the only cool thing here. 

There was no music composed for this episode, but there's a bunch of it in the next one I'll be blogging about, I, Mudd

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