Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Miri

Season 1
Episode 11: Miri
Filmed: August 1966
First Air Date:October 27, 1966 (8th episode aired)

Karen: I don't like 'Miri.' There. I've gotten that out of the way. It's not that it's bad, like 'And The Children Shall Lead' or anything like that. I can see it has redeeming qualities. But for me, personally, it grates. Like nails on a chalkboard, oh, it grates.

Karen: I think what gets to me is mainly the two chief guest actors, Kim Darby and Michael J. Pollard. Darby's Miri is a simpering woman-child who does little to make me feel like her planet is worth all the effort the Enterprise crew makes towards saving it. Pollard is quite simply obnoxious. I get that he's doing his shtick, but it's not something I find amusing. So - this coupled with what I find to be a weak premise -a planet ridiculously similar to 20th century Earth that has fallen victim to a biological experiment that wiped out all but the children -makes for a poor Trek for me. Plus, a lot of Yeoman Rand. Of course, your mileage may vary.Sorry about the poor video quality in the trailer.

Karen: Even though I personally don't care for this episode, it's worth noting that it was at this point that Gene Coon jumped aboard as a producer on Star Trek. Coon's influence cannot be underestimated. He provided a great deal of re-writing help with scripts, as well as story outlines and scripts himself. Although he would leave during the second season, he would continue to submit scripts under a pseudonym, Lee Cronin, during the third season. Coon was responsible for much of the geniality among the crew and outright humor that made its way into the series. Prior to Trek, Coon had worked on a number of shows, including The Wild, Wild West and had even come up with the initial concept for The Munsters, although he did not receive credit for it.

Gene Coon
Karen: Writer Marc Cushman details Coon's arrival and how he contributed to the script for 'Miri' in his book, These are the Voyages, Vol.1. The story, originally written by Adrian Spies, went through several rewrites, first by Spies, then by Gene Roddenberry and then-associate producer John D.F. Black. But Roddenberry still felt the script wasn't quite there. Coon came aboard on August 8th, 1966. After a quick course in Star Trekology, he went to work on the script over a weekend. While Coon left in most of the established story structure, he tightened up the dialog and made the situation more mysterious. In earlier drafts of the script, everything is explained to the Enterprise crew - the meaning of the terms 'grups' and 'onlies', even what happened on the planet and the nature of the disease. Coon reworked the script so that things were revealed slowly, with our intrepid cast figuring it out for themselves. It makes for a much better story, with less exposition, and the crew doesn't look like a bunch of dimwits.

Karen: Despite my dislike of it,  this IS a memorable episode, simply for all the weirdness with the kids in their 'Lord of the Flies' setting, and the unforgettable lines -"Tell 'em Jim, tell 'em Jim" and "Bonk bonk on the head" and such. Many people remember the show because of Miri's crush on Captain Kirk. Cushman quotes director Vince McEveety as describing Darby, who was just 18 at the time, as being "extremely strange. She had a neurotic and very, very bipolar kind of personality. She'd do a scene and I was happy with her performance - very happy, I thought she was wonderful in that respect -and then she'd go off and cry like a baby afterwards. I'd never know why and, after a while, I didn't care." Darby admitted in another interview that she had completely fallen for Shatner, so apparently Miri's crush was shared by the actress portraying her.Well, who could blame her for falling in love with the dashing Captain of the Enterprise?


Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, this is definitely one of those episodes I don't like very much, either, even though there appears to be some fondness for it among a number of fans and critics. Granted, some aspects of the story are intriguing, and some of those scenes with the children chanting are effective, and disturbing (although I always get a laugh when Kirk shouts "No blah, blah blah!!"). However, like you, Karen, I found both the Miri character and Pollard a little too annoying.

By the way, I saw a link to this the other day on my FB page and this seems like the perfect place to share it with everyone. Tell me you wouldn't have watched the hell out of something like that if it ever got made...

david_b said...

Edo, thanks much for the link. I saw that a few weeks ago, loved it. Very well done.

Yeaaah, this episode has some faults to it, a sort-of 'post-holocaust type planet'. Much like 'The Enemy Within' without shuttlecrafts, one easily wonders why environmental suits weren't beamed down to stop further contamination or something. But that would hinder the drama and weight of the situation, I know.

(Or as figured out elsewhere, you could beam back up and use your image from the transporter room 'pattern buffers' onboard the Enterprise and remove the virus that way.., yada, yada.)

It a dreary and somewhat depressing/raw episode, great for it's dramatics and seeing relationships receive further defining for our principle characters. Pollard was easily the most annoying, but he was a relatively new dramatic actor at that point and with agents vying for network guest star roles, we're treated to his then-new acting chops on full-display. I remember seeing his picture in vintage issues of Teen Beat in '68, although personally I never found him necessarily 'babe-magnet material'.

Frankly I remember Pollard screen time in this episode more for his 'presence' and close-ups rather than any actual acting in his scenes. Same sort of goes for Kim Darby. And thanks much for the interesting tidbit on Darby, Karen. Wasn't aware of that aspect.

I know Shatner's daughter (used as a child extra) had some interesting comments recalling how she felt being in scenes with her Dad.

All in all, not the worst of the 1st Season bunch (hello, The Alternative Factor...), but it could have been better.

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Garett said...

I think this is a very good episode, and that Darby and Pollard are fine in their roles. It has drama and suspense, with the mob of unpredictable kids and the attempts to solve the disease. Interesting story about Coons deepening the mystery of the episode-- definitely worked! Some memorable lines, and also imagery--there's a scene where they discover a tricycle in the street.

J.A. Morris said...

I generally agree with Karen, one interesting bit of trivia is that this episode was filmed on a sets from The Andy Griffith Show:

Pat Henry said...

Viewing it today, this episode is remarkable for its level of violence. Kirk is almost beaten to death by those kids in the schoolroom.

But it doesn't hold up too well on close examination. Kirk's kindly seduction of Miri is creepy, particularly because he seems to know exactly what he is doing here, manipulating a young girl's emotions and exploiting her rising affection for him. Shatner's acting choices are fairly greasy.

If the communicators are lost, so what? Shouldn't the Enterprise have some sort of procedure to check in on a landing party, a Plan B in case they don't hear back within a few hours? It seems they are down there for several days, and the bridge crew—evidently apprised of the situation—does noting to regain contact in all that time?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this one is pretty annoying. Kim Darby was a lot better in True Grit.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

I am not a fan of this episode; if it was the first episode I had seen of Star Trek I may not have ventured further. There was some good, bad, and ugly in the episode, but so far it is way down the list on my likeability scale for the series.

1) As was mentioned, the "Counter Earth" aspect was a little confusing in that it was never addressed. That seems like it would have been a miraculous find for a starship.
2) I found the 300 year old children also a bit of a misstep. Surely some of the children were at an age that they would continue to learn and discover and understand things. I can accept some savagery but their lack of knowledge about things seemed off. It was like all ability to reason evaporated.
3) Also the food running out soon seemed weird. Surely it would have run out much sooner or rotted in the 300 years prior or tthe children would have figured out some method of sustainability. Were they eating 300 year old twinkies?
4) None of the above was critical, but together it did not seem well thought out but rather a hodge podge of ideas.
5) I thought Michael Pollard was miscast. Surely he was post pubescent. Again it just seemed off.
6) I really disliked when the main characters all left their communicators in the lab and they were stolen. That was so plot contrived. But even more frustrating is what the heck happened to the guards' communicators as they were not even around when that happened?
7) And those guards also never mysteriously got sick either (or at least they never showed it). I thought for sure at least one of them would succumb.
8) I did like Spock's line about wanting to return to the ship.
9) I did like McCoy's collapse and the way it was filmed was dramatic.
10) I liked when Spock said that it was either an antidote or a bottle of DEATH ( or something like that).
11) I liked when Yeoman Rand tells Kirk that she always wanted him to look at her legs and NOW look at my legs! I found that rather real somehow in the depth of her fear.

Overall, it just seemed like an odd and unlikable episode. In general, I am not a fan of plots with children as creepy antagonists, and this one did not make the protagonists, particularly Kirk, look very good. The way he related to the girl and Rand did not seem right.

3.5 Phasers out of 10. Bonk bonk on the head...indeed.

Karen said...

J.A., thanks for that link. It is pretty funny to think about Kirk and Spock wandering around Mayberry, isn't it? But they had to use what they could get. It was part of Desilu's Culver City backlot. In fact, that's one of the reasons they did this 'parallel Earth' story. Besides 'City on the Edge of Forever', we would see it again in 'Return of the Archons'. Other parts of the backlot were used for other episodes, like 'Errand of Mercy.'

According to These are the Voyages, Michael J. Pollard was 27! years old at the time of filming. Yeah, considerably past puberty. Soon after he would go on to film Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. He got nominated for Best Supporting Actor...I haven't seen the film since I was a kid but I just find that hard to believe. A quick look at wikipedia says he also played Mister Mxyzptlk on the Superboy tv show, for what it's worth.

Oh well, next week it's 'Conscience of the King', which I really like!

B Smith said...

He was also in that first season episode of "Lost In Space" as the boy in the other dimension that can see through mirrors.

Just wanted to add to Martinex's 8th point - Leonard Nimoy really nailed Spock's personality with that line "..I can't go back to the ship...and I do want to go back (pause) Captain" followed by the slightest hint of a wry smile.

Humanbelly said...

Argh-- darned schedule-- man, I woulda been all OVER this discussion!

Extremely flawed episode that is saved, for me, by performances and moments. Me, I like Kim Darby. There's a teenage girl, right there-- sheesh, even moreso when you take the backstage drama into account.

Michael Pollard. . . hmm, also a small role in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming", I believe.


Ace Hamilton said...

MeTV did a promo that took advantage of the Mayberry connection. Check out the Trek/Andy Griffith mashup:

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