|Posted on January 18, 2012 at 6:35 AM|
Eighth Star Trek pick: “Miri.”
Today it’s my turn to talk about our blog-chain theme of “Quest,” which fits today’s planned discussion of “Miri.” Not only is it one of my favorite episodes, but my ex-wife liked it too, despite that she generally didn’t share my interest in Trek.
The quest in “Miri” is twofold: the people’s life-prolongation project, in which they had sought eternal life through science alone; and the Enterprise crew’s quest to heal themselves from the disease which resulted. For the first group, death finished the quest before they reached their goal. The second group works with on-board computers to avoid repeating their fate.
It begins when the starship Enterprise traces a distress call to an exact duplicate of Earth. I find this aspect unbelievable, considering the wide variety God placed in all of His creation. Either way, however, this has nothing to do with the plot, so I’ll let it pass.
Captain Kirk beams down with Spock, McCoy, Yeoman Janice Rand, and two security guards, only to find themselves in what appears to be a ghost town similar to Times Square in New York. Broken chairs and crates and other debris are scattered everywhere, and a child’s tricycle lies half-buried with its front tire lying loose atop it. When they examine the trike, suddenly a warty figure attacks, crying, “Mine! Mine!” Kirk fights him off, and the creature dies while sobbing and clutching the frame.
“It’s incredible,” says McCoy, examining him with his tricorder. “Its metabolic rate … it’s impossibly high as if it’s burning up, almost as if it aged a century in just the past few minutes.”
But, that’s not all. Running feet indicate more life in the streets, and the childish taunt “nyah yah yah-yah yah-yah” mocks them from various directions. Though the crew scatters to find the children, they’re very elusive—all but one. A frightened preteen girl named Miri.
Under questioning, Miri reluctantly explains how monstrously the “grups” had treated the “onlies”—meaning adults and children, respectively. She assumes their questions are a “foolie,” but says she can’t play along without knowing the rules.
Miri remembers when grups were “hurting, yelling, burning” their kids in rage. “That’s when they started to get sick in the before time. We hid, then they were gone.” From this McCoy determines the adults must’ve died in a plague. But I wonder: Did the children then bury them all? If so, it must’ve been quite traumatic for them.
It’s not until they get Miri to show them a laboratory that they learn why.
The scientists had been trying to lengthen their own lives, only to release a deadly virus that killed off all adults. That was about 300 years ago, and the children had aged so slowly that they still live after so long a time. Which means the effort did work—to a degree.
This is the main reason I like this episode. Here we have a people who had tried to play God, when the length of our lives should be His alone to determine. I also like the appearance of children, whatever their reason for being there, for at the time it was rare for a sci-fi show to include them—aside from Lost in Space. Of course, The Next Generation and further incarnations did a lot more in this area, and so have other programs and books outside of Trek.
In my book Savage Worlds, nine-year-old Baqi Izeni is among the native Sutarian family who becomes interested in space travel. By the sequel Pirates from Gnorlon, he’s ten and plays a major part in a daring rescue from the pirating tribe. Despite common provincial wisdom, I think it’s a great idea to include children—which is another reason I made my crew nonmilitary.
Anyway, back to “Miri.” When her fellow onlies realize she’s keeping company with grups, their recognized leader Jahn is upset. “They’re dangerous, they’re grups. Don’t you understand?”
Another reason the Enterprise landing party has to look into the plague is, it’s started to affect them with blue blisters on small areas of their skin. Only Spock fails to contract it, for his blood is based on copper rather than iron. Their goals are further thwarted when Miri spots Kirk comforting Janice Rand over her blisters; Miri’s childish heart sees Janice as a rival. Consequently, she has one onlie steal their communicators so they can’t contact the ship anymore.
That’s how it is with quests. The more the heroes work to solve their own problem, the higher the stakes are raised and the more obstacles they must overcome. When Kirk decides to go to the children to demand their communicators back, he runs into further barriers.
One boy is fond of banging a hammer, saying, “Bonk-bonk on the head!” As Kirk tries to explain why he needs the devices, the children chant “blah-blah-blah” repeatedly. They are unruly and disrespectful, and if it weren’t for Kirk showing them his blisters, they might not have believed him at all.
Also, Miri starts to show the blemishes as well. As Spock explains: “They contract the disease as soon as they enter puberty and their metabolism changes. The notes [I’ve been studying] indicate that it doesn’t become acute for a month or so. I estimate she has perhaps five or six weeks left.”
One additional wrinkle, however, sounds contrived to me. The available food is running out, but I find it too remarkable that after 300 years of surviving on their own, the children did not run out before. Or at least encounter spoiled food after the first few months.
We are also on a quest. A quest for Eternal Life. For us Christians, our destination is a done deal, thanks to our faith in Jesus Christ. But along the way, we must rub elbows with adult children whose morality is abysmal and whose brutality surpasses reason. People who turn a deaf ear to our witness with their own version of “blah-blah-blah”; and “bonk-bonk on the head” from the cruelest of them.
As I watch the onlies play Teacher and other adults in charge, I wonder how much of this is exaggerated. I also wonder how much of this came before the plague hit, and how much came after. Like Isabella in Next Generation’s “Imaginary Friend,” they could have interpreted adult authority as an infringement on their freedom. Nevertheless, they regard Jahn and Miri as their leaders, so the innate need for authority still exists. And Miri shows respect for Kirk’s authority as well, though preteen infatuation is clearly part of it.
When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep kids away from their Master, Jesus mildly rebuked them: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).
In their innocence, children are natural receptors for God’s Word. I’ve known kids who found Jesus as their Savior at age six, and I’ve heard of others as young as four. The younger a person begins his quest, the more fulfilled he becomes later in life, even as worldly patterns of thinking seem to threaten his faith. To block their thirst for knowing God is a lousy idea, to say the least.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:42). Here Jesus is not recommending a punishment, but emphasizing how serious misleading His lambs is.
But to His disciples, Jesus tenderly said, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). No age limit is required.