The Deadly Years
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|"The Deadly Years"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
Captain Kirk suffers from rapid aging.
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Joseph Pevney|
|Written by||David P. Harmon|
|Featured music||Sol Kaplan
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||December 8, 1967|
"The Deadly Years" is a second season episode of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek, first broadcast December 8, 1967, and repeated on August 16, 1968. It is episode #41, production #40, written by David P. Harmon, and directed by Joseph Pevney.
This episode explores the question of whether advancing age is a relevant reason to remove someone from a position of authority. It is shown that, while one's physical abilities may be hindered by aging, the mental faculties are often as sharp as they ever were; indeed, the experience of age often more than makes up for mental acuity.
In this episode, strange radiation exposes the command crew of the Enterprise to the effects of rapid aging.
On stardate 3478.2, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, ferrying Commodore Stocker to his new command at Starbase 10, makes a stop at the planet Gamma Hydra IV, to resupply the research station there. A landing party consisting of Captain Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott, navigator Ensign Chekov, and Lieutenant Arlene Galway beams down to the facility.
Once there, they find the station completely empty, and no personnel are seen. This is bizarre since Kirk spoke to the station's leader, Robert Johnson, an hour earlier. Exploring further, Ensign Chekov discovers the body of a man who apparently has died of old age, and panics.
Suddenly Johnson appears with his wife Elaine. Both are actually in their late 20s, yet appear to have aged 50 more years. (Johnson was played by 85-year-old Felix Locher, making him the oldest actor ever to appear on Star Trek.) The landing team beams back to the Enterprise with Johnson and his wife. There are still no clues to what is going on, as the two soon die in sickbay. Dr. McCoy rules their cause of death as "extreme old age".
Commodore Stocker wants some answers. Kirk has Mr. Spock and civilian scientist Dr. Janet Wallace (an old flame of Kirk's) assist in the investigation. The only theory Spock can give at this time is a strange comet-like object passed by Gamma Hydra IV quite recently. It may have somehow caused the rapid aging effect, but how is not certain.
Soon the landing party begins to experience the rapid aging effect. Scotty turns up in sickbay with white hair, and claiming to feel unwell. Kirk begins to have memory loss and arthritis symptoms in his hands. His hair is turning grey and wrinkles are forming on his face. In fact, by McCoy's estimate, he's aging at the rate of 30 years per day. McCoy also has white hair and facial wrinkles. Soon almost all of the landing party, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Lt. Galway are all showing signs of rapid aging. Ensign Chekov, however, remains unaffected. Lt. Galway ages more rapidly than the other members of the landing party, on account of her metabolism, and soon dies. By now they have learned that the comet-like object gave off radiation that apparently caused the effect, but standard radiation sickness treatments using the drug hyronalin prove useless.
As Kirk continues to age, he becomes increasingly forgetful, prompting Commodore Stocker to order Spock to commence a competency hearing in order to rule him unfit for command. With Spock also afflicted, and himself being the only flag officer on hand, Stocker takes over the ship. Stocker has no deep space training, but he believes he can command the ship nevertheless. He orders a fast, direct course to Starbase 10, ignoring the warnings that his short-cut will take the ship right through the Romulan neutral zone.
Meanwhile, Kirk, McCoy and Spock try to figure out why Chekov has not been affected. McCoy is forced to use Chekov as a guinea pig test subject, which Chekov doesn't particularly enjoy. Remembering that Chekov had displayed extreme fear during the unexpected discovery of the dead body, McCoy surmises that Chekov's increased adrenaline levels at the time may have protected him in some way. He recalls research that showed adrenin was a promising treatment for radiation sickness, but the research was abandoned when hyronalin was discovered. Mr. Spock and Dr. Wallace, assisted by Nurse Chapel, begin work on an adrenin-based drug to treat the landing party's symptoms.
In the meantime, several Romulan ships detect the Enterprise's intrusion and immediately attack, quickly surrounding the Enterprise. Commodore Stocker tries to contact the Romulans and explain his reason for trespassing in the Neutral Zone, but they ignore him. Stocker, because of his non-experience with commanding a starship, is paralyzed with indecision and even considers surrendering, but is reminded that Romulans take no prisoners.
With the Enterprise's shields rapidly failing, Spock announces that the drug is ready, although it may kill instead of cure. Kirk insists on taking the first injection so that he can resume command before the ship is destroyed. The drug successfully reverses the aging effect, and Kirk races to the bridge and relieves Stocker.
Kirk bluffs the Romulans by sending a fake message to Starfleet Command (intentionally using "Code 2", which was recently broken by the Romulans) announcing that the Enterprise will self-destruct using the Corbomite Device, which will destroy the Enterprise and any ship within a 200,000 kilometer diameter. The ruse works and the Romulans back off. Kirk then orders an immediate retreat at Warp 8 back to Federation space. With the help of the new drug, the rest of the landing party are reverted to their physically normal ages.
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