Boldly Going: What Are Little Girls Made Of?/Miri

27 Feb

It’s the New Year now, and one of my resolutions is to be better about keeping up with Star Trek and Boldly Going. Seeing as I’m not even halfway through the first of three seasons of the first of five series (just typing it out that way is enough to give me a panic attack), I’ve got my work cut out for me and need to get moving on this project if I’m going to finish by the time my son is in high school (not that that’s really the goal). I’m hoping to get at least a column up each week, though even that may be more ambitious than I realize right now.

I will say this: watching the two most recent episodes of TOS, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Miri,” I felt really happy. As I get older, fewer and fewer things make me happy. Maybe I’m getting more jaded (if that’s possible) or maybe I’m losing my patience with things or maybe the more I see the more things lose their novelty. Whatever the reason, I can almost count on two hands the things that make me genuinely happy (yes, my wife and son are number one), and even some of those have been lost. Comic books have become prohibitively expensive. Thanks to Adult Onset Juvenile Diabetes, I can’t drink Pepsi anymore. There’s two things that have bitten the dust.  But watching Star Trek, I realized that it made me happy and I became really thankful for discovering this 40+ year old sci-fi show, late as I may be to the party. I’m happy being in that world. I’m happy being on board The Enterprise. I’m happy watching Star Trek, and even realizing that fact makes me happy.

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

Stardate: 2712.4

Original Air Date: October 20, 1966

The Story: Believe it or not, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” begins with the crew of the Enterprise looking for a scientist expedition that’s either lost or stranded on some distant planet called Exo III. Crazy! Here, though, there’s actually an added twist: one of the missing scientists is the fiancé of nurse Christine Chapel, the temporary assistant to Dr. McCoy (which helps explain why we’ve never met here before). The whole reason she’s on board the Enterprise in the first place is to find her long lost lover, Dr. Roger Korby, who’s the bees knees when it comes to archeological medicine.

Kirk, Chapel and two security guards (redshirts = cannon fodder) beam down to a bizarre series of caves. The two guards are quickly dispatched by the giant, bald-headed alien looking guy called Ruk (Ted Cassidy, better known as Lurch on The Addams Family), who turns out to be an android created by the original inhabitants of Exo III, called only “The Old Ones.” Kirk and Chapel find Korby, who has been using the machinery left behind by The Old Ones to create a race of androids (with the help of Ruk), including a super robo-fox named Andrea. Korby imprisons Kirk and creates an android duplicate, who is beamed back to The Enterprise. Luckily, Kirk — ever the quick thinker — made certain that his last thoughts (which would be copied by Android Kirk) are to call Spock a half-breed, thus clueing the Vulcan in to the idea that this Kirk is an imposter. The plan works, and Spock forms a team to follow Android Kirk back down to Exo III to look for his captain.

Though Korby’s plan is to create a race of androids that’s far more perfect than mankind, Kirk is quick to point out the flaws in his logic and demonstrates that even the androids can be swayed and confused: he convinces Ruk that Korby will eventually destory him, causing him to rebel and ultimately be destroyed by Korby’s phaser. Kirk seduces robofox Andrea, opening her to the possibility of love. Confused, she destroys the Android Kirk when he rebuffs her advances.. When Korby is revealed to be an android himself, Chapel is repelled and Korby destroys both himself and Andrea.

Spock and crew arrive for a too-late rescue, and everyone returns to the Enterprise, where Chapel decides to finish out her tour despite having found and lost her fiancé.

Reflections from a First Timer: While I don’t totally understand the relevance of the title (it works in only the most tenuous way), “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” is a fairly cool episode — which, interestingly enough, was written by Psycho author Robert Bloch. Once again, Star Trekis asking the question “what does it mean to be human?”, and the answers aren’t as simplistic as you might expect. Sure, I missed the dynamic of Kirk with Spock and McCoy, but the episode offers another h3 solo showcase for Shatner. He gets to play some of his best notes: he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s wise, he’s compassionate, he’s a stud. He gets to beat up Lurch (the episode belongs in the annals of pop culture history if only for the Kirk vs. Lurch smackdown) and to be turned into an android. It’s a character show and a performance show without ever turning into the kind of over-the-top silliness of “The Enemy Within.”

Something I’m seeing come up time and again is that there haven’t been any truly evil villains on Star Trek thus far; from the aliens of “The Cage” to bad Kirk in “The Enemy Within,” there’s always a heavy streak of understandable sympathy that runs through the series’ antagonists. Roger Korby is in the same vein; his endgame is questionable (replacing humanity with androids), but his intentions are almost valid and noble. All he wants to do is create a world free of conflict and violence, where everyone is the best possible version of him or herself and logic dictates everything. Of course that reasoning is flawed, as Kirk is quick to point out using logic with Ruk. For a show that’s essentially always optimistic, it’s uncharacteristically dark that Kirk’s argument logically dicatates that violence is inevitable; by surrendering control to Korby, Ruk is insuring the same violent fate met at the hands of the Old Ones. And while comparisons to WWII Nazi Germany are always a dicey proposition, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between Korby’s “perfect race” of (essentially) slaves with Hitler’s supermen. Korby isn’t looking to rule but at the same time has set himself up to be the ruler.

If I have one major gripe with “Girls,” it’s that the character of Nurse Chapel isn’t really necessary; her relationship with Korby does little to either a) actually advance the plot or b) underline the episode’s major themes. If her inclusion is to make the case that the new android Korby is inhuman and impossible to love, why, then, is a case also made that the androids have the capability to develop emotions? Love ultimately screws up Andrea’s circuits, but by experiencing those feelings she shows the potential for something resembling humanity. Plus, did you see her? If I’m Kirk, I’m making another one of those.

Enterprise Casualties: Two. Crewmen Matthews and Rayburn aren’t long for the world once they land on Exo III.

Badass Kirk Moment: Hard to choose; is it the tuck and roll during a fight? Is it calling Spock a “half-breed?” No. It’s being such a pimp that he’s able to seduce a robot and make her fall in love with him against her programming. Only Jimmy T. could work that.

“Miri”

Stardate: 2713.5

Original Air Date: October 27, 1966

The Story: Following a distress call, the crew of the Enterprisediscovers a planet that resembles modern-day (meaning the 1960s) Earth in almost every way possible, except that it’s been almost totally abandoned. Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Yeoman Janice Rand beam down and are soon attacked by what appears to be a mutated human with tremendous strength. Before the crew can subdue or fire upon the mutant, he has what appears to be a seizure and dies.

The crew comes upon a scared young girl named Miri (Kim “It’s Got Raisins In It…You Like Raisins” Darby), who fears the “grups” (grownups) from the Enterprise. She tells Kirk that the adults hurt all the children before getting sick and dyingn, and that she and a few other children are the only ones left — the “onlies.” Before long, the crew members begin noticing grotesque blue splotches on their skin — the same kind that affected the mutant that first attacked them. Miri explains that all adults contract the disease and die from it; once it starts, you’ve only got seven days before it consumes you entirely. It’s a side effect of an experiment to prolong life that resulted in keeping the kids young for centuries; Miri, it turns out, is 300 years old. Once the children reach puberty, however, they become affected with the disease and die.

While Kirk and company search for a cure against a ticking clock, the other kids in the city (led by a young Michael J. Pollard, who has apparently been odd for his entire life) steal the ship’s communicators. Miri, who has developed a crush on Kirk, sees him comforting a newly-afflicted Janice Rand and gets jealous, agreeing to go along with the other kids’ pranks. They kidnap Rand, leading Kirk to rescue her and plead with the onlies to help him find a cure for the disease. As they get older, he explains, they’ll get sick, too (Miri is already showing signs), and there will eventually be no one to care for the only children that survive. Eventually, McCoy injects himself with a serum that beats the disease and the crew is saved.

Back aboard the Enterprise, Kirk orders that teachers and truant officers be deployed to the planet to take care of the children.

Reflections from a First Timer: “Miri” is the kind of Star Trek episode that challenges what I expect from the show. It’s not one of my favorite episodes, but I think that has to do with the fact that it doesn’t really resemble the episodes I’ve liked best; that doesn’t make it bad, just different — and, seeing as I’m still in the early stages of my experiment, “different” is still a big adjustment for me. The notion of a city run by children is hardly a new once as far as sci-fi is concerned, but that’s not really what “Miri” is about. The episode is much more interested in questions of mortality: to what lengths will we go to stave off aging and, inevitably, death? For the “onlies,” growing up is a nightmare: you become a hideous, violent monster that quickly dies (which, let’s face it, is only a slight exaggeration of reality). The Enterprise crew doesn’t even have the luxury of trying not to age — their goal is simply to survive after the next seven days. Funny how much more immediate death is when you’re already grown up.

I like the relationship between Kirk and Miri, and Shatner does a good job of walking the line between fatherly sweetness and slightly creepy older-guy flirting; he lets Miri know she’s got a shot while cluing us into the fact that it’s all a put-on. It’s another small way we see Kirk’s compassion without him ever having to be a martyr. I can only imagine a much worse version of Star Trek in which Kirk’s compassion is constantly coming at a price, but not here. It’s simply part of what makes him a great leader.

Enterprise Casualties: None.

Badass Kirk Moment: “I never get involved with older women.”

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9 Responses to “Boldly Going: What Are Little Girls Made Of?/Miri”

  1. Darren February 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I think both of these episodes are solid Star Trek fare.

    I’m surprised at your indifference to Chapel in What are Little Girls Made Of. Certainly she was pivotal to the way events transpired since she protected Kirk from Ruk and fueled Korby’s final emotional (or lack thereof) breakdown. I think it’s one of the series’ best uses of any secondary character. My only gripe is that she gets over Korby’s death too quickly when taken in the greater light of the series and her subsequent infatuation with Spock.

    So glad you appreciated Miri. I think it may be the series’ most underrated episode, often unfairly regarded as a turkey. I really like Shatner’s performance in this one. There is a very palatable sense of tension that grows throughout the episode taking Shatner from a charismatic and sensitive leader to a frantic and desparate man. I think Kirk’s badass moment of the episode is when he pulls the kid from To Kill a Mockingbird off of the desk because when push comes to shove Kirk takes off the kid gloves.

    It always bothers me when viewers mistake Kirk’s demeanour toward Miri as something unseemly. He is manipulating her, yes, but not maliciously or because of any perverted desires. I think he’s just a man who knows how to talk to children and when to treat them like adults.

    And to beat Nick to the punch, some of the cast members own children appear in the episode. The little girl that Kirk carries toward the end is one of Shatner’s daughters.

  2. Nick February 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    What Are Little Girls Made Of?

    Excellent reviews as always. I found one particular insight very interesting: “… there’s always a heavy streak of understandable sympathy that runs through the series’ antagonists.”

    I think this is true of most of human, at least western, literature and culture for centuries. We try to humanize negativity in order to understand it… or at least mitigate its potency.

    Public executions were very popular in ages past and aside from the viewing of something gruesome it was an opportunity for a community to understand the humanity of the villain. Prior to any execution the convict was given a chance to confess and be penitent. It was this confession that allows the populace to start either healing from a tragedy or at least make sense of it. This was then followed by what most considered justice.

    In popular literature Shakespeare is a perfect example. To some degree the antagonist of each work has some form of explanation… or is at least understood to be a victim of some kind of circumstance. In Titus Andronicus the antagonist has his family threatened for example. We hate his deeds but his actions are human in a way we can all understand. Truthfully the only Shakespeare antagonist without this spark of conscience was Lago from Othello.

    In terms of Star Trek, I think Roddenberry, like any human, recognizes this inherent need so we get villains with at least a modicum of basic human decency somewhere inside them.

    I’ve always enjoyed this episode. I agree that Nurse Chapel does nothing to move the plot along. She is a bit of an appendix here but at the same time it’s Majel Roddenberry and I’ve always enjoyed her acting so it’s forgivable to me. It’s also hard not to think about Lurch as… well… Lurch here. He is so distinctive in both size and looks that he can be nothing else in my mind. I thought Kirk was great fun in this episode. It’s not in my top 10 but it’s enjoyable nevertheless!

    My contribution to the footnotes:

    -Crewman Matthews, aka Red Shirt #1 was, in fact, the very first red shirt to die in the Star Trek Series!!! No one can everr take that away from him. Patrick, I think you need to have a Crewman Matthews appreciation day. 🙂

    -This is a fun one. This episode has some glaring continuity errors because in order to save productions costs they uses shots and scenes from “The Man Trap” for basic things. The most obvious example is Kirk grabs a “Command Pack” and then walks to the transporter sans “Command Pack.” Guess which scene is actually Kirk flashing back to the time he walked to the transporter in “The Man Trap”

    Miri

    This episode has always been so-so for me. I think Patrick and Darren are both right. Kirk walks that fine line but does not cross it with the young girl. He is manipulating her but for appropriate reasons.

    What I’ve come to expect from the series is that Kirk will do something major to a society then either expect them to fend for themselves once their God is dead, or destroyed, or whatever. You get that sense here as well. They cured the aging plague so their work is done! He orders the planet to have truant officers come and get the children but I’ve always wondered if Starfleet has truant officers just hanging out waiting for a planet wide emergency call about millions of uncared for children.

    I have to imagine that most Starfleet captains would call up Starfleet and ask for orders or at least discuss the options. Not that Starfleet would have much choice in a situation like this (Nuke it from orbit just doesn’t seem to apply here though parents of teenage children may disagree with me).

    I also get that James T. Kirk waits for no man. He’s a shoot from the hip type leader but I’d hate to be the guy that follows up after him. They allude to this in DS9 with the temporal investigators which was rather amusing for deadpan humor.

    Oh and thanks for the info Darren! I’m happy to see others share and contribute trivia about episodes. I’m a total trivia geek when it comes to my first TV/Movie love. 🙂

    Some fun facts:

    -Patrick I need to correct you on something here again. Sorry man. We have no idea if Michael J Pollard was odd as a child because when played the 13-14 year old kid in this episode he was already like 27-28 years old! I’m not kidding!

    -What most people also don’t know is that this planet is also the post-apocalyptic version of Mayberry. The main street and shots were all filmed on the set for downtown Mayberry, of Andy Griffith fame, and all they did was add trash and dirty it up a bit. You easily see the courthouse and drugstore and I’m sure other things as well from the show but I haven’t seen Andy Griffith in years.

    Keep em coming!

    • Darren February 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      Regarding Kirk’s methods:

      I think it’s perfectly plausible that Starships are operating outside of a range where communication with Starfleet during a crisis is practical. In that case, Starfleet would have to trust their Starship Captains to make appropriate decisions base on their familiarity with Starfleet Directives and overall training. It should also be expected that other ships containing specialists will need to be dispatched based on the recommendations of their Starship Captains. So I’ve never had any issue with the way Kirk conducts himself in Miri.

      But there are definitely other examples that support your point. Kirk breaks the rules based on his own values time and time again. I wouldn’t describe Star Trek as subversive or anti-establishment but I think it did possess a certain amount of disdain for bureaucracy.

      • Nick February 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

        Darren,

        I agree with you. The whole point of having a captain of a ship is so that someone, who is hopefully trained, qualified and wise enough, can make the tough decisions and represent their nation, planet or federation to the best of their abilities.

        Kirk is in command. And when things are tense he should be able to make quick and accurate orders.

        In a situation like Miri, though, there is no eminent danger to be had. Once the plague has been cured and the crew is back aboard the Enterprise he has time to assess and figure out what the best thing to do is. Maybe Starfleet or the Federation doesn’t have a phalanx of baby sitters available and wants to send in a transport vessel to remove the kids.

        I guess Kirk’s truant officer order could be overturned. I just find it odd.

        Granted he is a loaner but you get the impression that Kirk IS the Federation and not part of something bigger than himself. On occasion you do but I think a good captain knows when to take charge and knows when to be a team player.

        His Prime Directive violations alone are enough to have him court martialed from now until Voyager finds her way home. It makes him fun and entertaining and worthy of a “Bad ass moments” section but it makes feeling the spirit of the Federation a bit tough.

        Don’t get me wrong. I love Kirk. I grew up with TNG and Picard is a much less of a rouge while still maintaining that air of confidence and captaincy. But I hold a special place in my heart for Kirk. His cockiness is intoxicating. He knows he’s a badass and loves it.

        🙂

  3. Darren February 29, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    I think the bulk of the problem is that the writers were not terribly interested themselves in the aftermath of the scenarios they develop. “Episode’s over. Let’s wrap it up with a joke and roll credits.” I never took the truant officer line as anything more than a joke and that he was acutally only suggesting that Starfleet send educators and nutritionalists. Was he ordering Starfleet to do this or advising? I don’t recall.

    I grew up with Kirk and he was everything I thought that a man should be. As an adult I still feel mostly the same way. And I don’t see him as a cocky badass. Certainly Kirk will resort to badassery to achieve his desired outcome but in general he is a responsible authority figure who uses his own moral compass and the invaluable advice of his two closest confidantes to guide his decision making. When faced with a dilemma he can weigh it over as much as Hamlet. He makes mistakes, has insecurities, and can admit when he was wrong.

    I agree that there should have been inquiries made into Kirk’s various violations of the Prime Directive. I don’t think the writers knew exactly how to use that particular plot device. Was it introduced because they thought it was a genuinely good policy or because they wanted another bureaucratic roadblock for Kirk to plow through? I think the former but that they found it too restricting and watered it down. TNG, I think, does a better job of utilitizing it as a story element.

    • Nick February 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

      “I think the bulk of the problem is that the writers were not terribly interested themselves in the aftermath of the scenarios they develop. “Episode’s over. Let’s wrap it up with a joke and roll credits.” ”

      Yes Yes Yes. Darren, I couldn’t agree more. Roddenberry’s vision was essentially that each episode was self-contained. Rarely do we see 2 part episodes in TOS and even in TNG it’s only on the season breaks with very few notable exceptions.

      Kirk did say he was ordering truant officers to the planet.

      I guess I shouldn’t gripe. I’ve always found TOS unpolished compared to the other franchises. Not because it was created much further in the past but because Roddenberry and crew were trying to hammer out an entire universe of races and creatures. Think of everything they created and how much it has spawned. It’s rather unreal when you think about it. The lore started here and has been refined and refined again over time.

      Roddenberry’s vision of the future is to be admired even if the delivery gets off track at times. There is still prejudice in the universe in the mid 23rd century but Star Trek is still a noble vision.

      I also agree with you in that Kirk is generally a responsible person. He has to be. It’s obvious he cares for his crew despite the oh so many red shirt deaths. But at times I’m not really sure about his moral compass on grander issues. He has unilaterally acted to change the course of entire civilizations, killed gods (talk to Landru or Vaal about that) and generally questioned the workings of damn near everyone he comes in contact with.

      I’m not saying I disagree with all of his choices but the implication is that he directly contradicts what he was put in charge to do; represent the Federation and not interfere with civilizations that are not warp capable.

      When does his moral compass supersede the collective conscience of billions of Federations citizens? He is the captain. He does have to make decisions in tense times but at what point does he cross the line?

      • Darren March 1, 2012 at 5:11 am #

        Its very clear that Kirk does think he’s doing the right thing in destroying Vaal and Landru and he rationalizes that it is not a violation of the Prime Directive because the gods that he is destroying are quashing the societies’ abilities to progress.

        I think this has to be a reflection of Roddenberry’s feelings towards religion. It’s a bit intolerant in my view especially when Roddenberry has earned a reputation as being progressive for his depiction of a multicultural future society.

        I never cared much for The Apple but the most recent time I watched it (3 or 4 years ago) it played out much more interestingly to me because I found myself not at all siding with Kirk’s decisions. It made it a better episode than watching it as the producers intended.

        So I agree that Kirk crosses the line, but I think it makes for a better character.

        Yeah, TOS is less polished than the other series for a variety of reasons. They were making it up as they went along and it was sort of just a job. Nobody making it at the time thought it was going to be dissected by fans 50 years later. The people making the other series knew they were part of a legacy and really put the effort in to make it more cohesive. But even without the polish TOS is the most rewatchable for me.

  4. Heath Holland March 2, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    What Are Little Girls Made Of is one of my favorite Trek episodes. I don’t know any of these all that well and have only seen most of them a few times, but that one stands out in my mind clearly. I love it. I love the Lurch fight, I think the android chick is super cute, I love Kirk’s manly awesomeness…it’s so good.

    Also, to reply to your comments about there not being any truly evil villains so far, they didn’t need them. What could be more evil than the human heart….the evil within us all? The darkness lurking inside ourselves….

    I have no idea what that means, I read it on a fortune cookie (it’s not even a fortune!). It sounds good though, doesn’t it?

  5. Darren July 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Patrick, is this blog dead? Did I JM Vargas it to death?

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