|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.12 “The Deadly Years” – (Original air date: Friday, December 8, 1967)

TrekDeadlyYears

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Deadly Years.”

  • On this date in history, Operation Yellowstone begins in South Vietnam as the war rages on. This operation saw the deployment of the 2nd and 3rd divisions of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division in the Tay Ninh province. The operation would continue until Feburary 24, 1968, with 137 U.S. soldiers killed and 1,083 wounded.
  • Also, the Beatles released the Magical Mystery Tour double-EP in the UK.
  • Not to be outdone, the Rolling Stones released their only psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request on the same day. Of course it was compared to Sgt. Pepper’s. How could it not have been? As of the moment I’m typing these words, the only two tracks on the album that I’m really familiar with are “She’s a Rainbow,” which I always liked and is currently in heavy rotation in at least two television commercials in the US, and “2000 Man,” which was covered by KISS in the late 1970s, with Ace Frehley on lead vocals.
  • I really need to listen to the entire Stones album now, don’t I?
  • In the UK, the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” topped the charts, while The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” reigned in the US.
  • The third track on the Stones album is “In Another Land,” which is the only Stones release featuring bassist Bill Wyman on lead vocals. Wyman also wrote the song. It’s about a man who wakes from a dream immediately inside another dream. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this before. I’m certain Christopher Nolan has.
  • That was a reference to the movie Inception, if I was being too oblique.
  • On the previous Tuesday, December 5, 1967, Dr. Benjamin Spock was arrested in a New York City anti-war protest. I mention this because it’s topical (for this week in 1967), but also because I cringe every time “Dr. Spock” is mentioned as the chief science officer on board the USS Enterprise.
  • She’s a Rainbow” kicks off Side-2 on the original Stones LP. I still like the song. The song features Nicky Hopkins on piano, with strings arranged by none other than John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame.
  • The song “She Comes in Colors” was released by the group Love in December 1966, a year before “She’s a Rainbow” was released by the Stones. They may have borrowed the lyric, but there are no other similarities between the tracks.
  • On the following day, Saturday, December 9, 1967, the RMS Queen Mary arrived at its final home in Long Beach, California. It operated as a hotel and tourist attraction for almost two decades, but closed its doors to tourists in December 1992. I believe it’s still in Long Beach, and still closed, but I could be wrong.
  • Having finished listening to the Stones album, I can tack on this free review of Their Satanic Majesties Request: mostly garbage. I’m happy their psychedelic phase passed.
  • As the teaser begins in this episode, the USS Enterprise is on a routine supply run to the colony at Gamma Hydra IV. The landing party consists of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov. Oh, and Lt. Galway, who we’ve never seen before.
  • Things do not bode well for poor Miss Galway.
  • The leader of the colony, who spoke with Kirk before their arrival, is a man named Robert Johnson. He’s been seen talking to a demon at Gamma Hydra IV’s only crossroads.
  • When no one is there to meet the landing party as it beams down, Kirk has his team fan out and begin looking for colonists.
  • Chekov finds a mouldering corpse in one of the shelters. Bones verifies that the person died of advanced old age, which Spock says is impossible because no one in the colony is over age 30.
  • The stinger to the teaser is the arrival of Robert Johnson and his wife Elaine. They are 29 and 27-years-old, respectively. But, the two who meet up with our landing party are genuinely old.
  • By genuinely, I mean more mature actors are playing these roles, not two young actors in heavy makeup and prosthetics. We’ll get enough of that in just a bit.
  • As Act One begins, we start to delve into the mysterious aging of the colonists. Four of the six colonists on Gamma Hydra IV had already died of old age, and the remaining two—the Johnsons—are dying.
  • We have guest passengers in this episode as well. These include Commodore Stocker, another example of the “brass” hitching a ride to add some stress on the bridge. Also, another in our apparently endless supply of post-Janice-Rand female yeomans, Doris Atkins, who doesn’t appear in any future episodes. And, last but not least, another former flame of James T. Kirk, Dr. Janet Wallace.
  • It’s like we’re trying to shoehorn in every Star Trek trope that we’ve seen in the series so far. Stocker is in a hurry to reach Starbase 10. Commodores are always in a hurry, as I recall. Yeoman Atkins is just pretty, young and blond, the main qualifications for the position, with her hair in an up-do that’s not quite as ambitious as Rand’s used to be.
  • I’m not entirely certain what purpose Dr. Wallace serves in the episode, aside from providing more weirdly-dressed eye candy. True, she is a biologist, with a specialty in endocrinology, which is convenient for this episode. But, honestly, there’s nothing she does in the episode that McCoy or Nurse Chapel couldn’t have done. Except making goo-goo eyes at Kirk, I suppose.
  • Spock announces that a rogue comet passed by the planet some time back. He’s just reporting the news. He doesn’t know what effect it had on the planet, if any.
  • Ah. Rogue comet. I bet it made the colonists get old. That’s pretty roguish behavior, if you ask me.
  • In short order, Lt. Galway begins to experience hearing loss. Kirk begins to have some memory problems and arthritis pains in his shoulder. McCoy’s hair seems to have more gray in it.
  • Then, as we’re going into our act break, Scotty comes into sickbay. He has visibly aged, with gray hair and a lot of wrinkles. End of Act One.
  • As we get into Act Two, we discover that Chekov is the only landing party member not showing signs of aging. Everyone else is aging at a rate of approximately 30 years a day. Yikes!
  • McCoy is running tests on Chekov with hopes of finding a cure for the rest of the landing party. Even Spock admits he’s feeling signs of aging. This is where we find out that Vulcans age much more slowly than humans.
  • It turns out that Dr. Wallace’s late husband was 26 years older than she was, so she finds the aging J.T. Kirk pretty sexy. She’s a gray chaser.
  • Kirk begins to show signs of deterioration on the bridge. He gives orders that he immediately forgets, and he falls asleep in his captain’s seat. Commodore Stocker displays a lot of concerned expressions.
  • Spock determines—no surprises here—that the comet was indeed the cause of the aging phenomenon. The culprit: extremely low levels of radiation beneath the usual level of detection.
  • Kirk orders Uhura to use Code 2 to send an encrypted message to Starfleet because they are close to the Romulan Neutral Zone. Uhura has to remind Kirk that the Romulans have already de-coded Code 2. Kirk, who is losing his cool, tells her to use Code 3 then.
  • The Commodore wants Spock to take over as captain. Spock declines to do so, because he, too, is feeling the effects of aging. Then Stocker pulls rank and insists that Spock follow regulations and conduct a competency hearing about Kirk. Spock has no choice but to comply.
  • Another Trek trope: the trial in outer space.
  • Lt. Galway—who, in fact, wore a blue tunic, not a red one—dies of old age, even though she was the youngest member of the landing party. This is our stinger for the end of Act Two, a dramatic countdown reminder that time is running out for the cast members we expect to see every week.
  • In Act Three, the competency hearing is conducted and James T. is found to be no longer fit for command. Kirk is not happy with this decision.
  • Our parallel story arc is the search for the cure. The affected crewmembers have only days, perhaps hours to live.
  • The solution is a bit ludicrous in its simplicity. Chekov was scared after seeing the colonist corpse, so his adrenaline levels were elevated. This prevented his being affected by the low-level old-age comet radiation. So that’s our magic cure for this episode. Adrenaline.
  • They could have at least Trekked it up for the story. Call it cortiso-alpha-6, or something pseudo-sciencey. But, no . . . just adrenaline. The same thing that Rusty from Mask injected directly into Uma Thurman’s stopped heart in Pulp Fiction. She looked older after, I think.
  • Commodore Stocker, who has no field experience, plots a course directly through the NZ to Starbase 10, which, of course, leads to their getting attacked by the Romulans. Having no field experience and being just plain stupid are mutually exclusive states, I believe.  Stocker’s even going to surrender until he’s reminded by the eternally youthful Chekov that the Romulans have a take-no-prisoners philosophy. 
  • Thanks a lot, Commodore.
  • We’re still under attack at the beginning of Act Four, while Spock races the clock to create a serum since McCoy is now out of commission. Kirk takes the first dose, of course.
  • It’s a miracle! The aging process is instantly reversed. Kirk is able to take his rightful place on the bridge once again, instructing Uhura to send a message using Code 2 on purpose this time. The message, which the Romulans can decode of course, says he’s going to initiate a self-destruct using their newly installed corbomite device. The Romulans, possibly the galaxy’s worst poker players, fall for Kirk’s bluff and beat a hasty retreat.
  • Corbomite is a callback to a similar bluff executed in the appropriately titled Season 1 episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
  • Everything is right in the Trek world again, and we can let our guests off at Starbase 10, never to be seen again.

There’s a lot that I like about this episode. Characters artificially aging may not have been the tired trope it is now back in 1967, so I can give that a pass. It was an okay space-disease-of-the-week episode, with real deadly stakes in both the growing old plot and the ultimate Romulan conflict. We had a dramatic countdown in effect, and your standard mad dash for a cure sequence, and, ultimately, everything works out all right.

The makeup effects used to age the actors is okay. Practical aging effects almost always manage to look artificial. But, these probably look no worse than those in TNG decades later. In fact, the elderly Dr. McCoy at the beginning of “Encounter at Farpoint” looks a lot like McCoy in this episode.

This one didn’t make the 10-List, but it’s not terrible. Maybe a bit derivative of itself.

I gave this one 3-out-of-5 stars. I’d watch it again, just not any time soon.

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