A few nights ago, I watched John Cusack and Savage Steve Holland’s ‘Better Off Dead’. Which has nothing to do with Trek, but I’m getting there. As often happens with that movie, the some of the actors lingered in mind. Especially John Cusack’s mom, played by Kim Darby.
“It’s got raisins in it... You LIKE raisins!” Remember her now?
However, as I’ll do when I see someone as interesting as Miss Darby here, I’ll look up her IMDB page to see where else I’ve seen her, and why she looks familiar. Well, Miss Darby here was in the arms of William Shatner in the classic Star Trek episode ‘Miri’, wherein she played the titular character. (See? I got around to it.)
YOW. Now see? It’s very, very easy for Kirk to be as distracted as he is by Miri here. You Trekkies out there will remember this one as the episode where the Enterprise finds a planet where only kids have survived a biological war. They’re extremely long-lived, and look like and act like kids pretty much all the time. But when they start becoming biologically adult like Miri here, they come down with the plague that killed all the adults and die soon after.
Kirk and company come down with it immediately. And here’s a little added bonus for you, fellas. It’s not just going to kill you. It’s going to drive you homicidally insane first. And just to add to the ick factor, the sores you’re going to get look like you’re erupting with blue corn smut.
So yeah. Pretty distracting, right? We can see how Kirk & Company kinda had their hands full. Murderous kids lead by a jealous and bloodthirsty Michael J. Pollard. (“BONK EM ON THE HEAD! BONK-BONK!”) Deadly Plagues. Armfulls of Kim Darby in her prime. We get it. They had enough to think about. Which would explain why they utterly failed in their mission as explorers and scientists.
“Wait, what?”, you say. “What’d they mess up? What aren’t you telling me?”
What I left out is the bit that the episode glosses over entirely. This planet that they find the kids and the plague on? It’s an exact duplicate of the planet Earth. S’right folks. Same orbit. One AU from the g-type star it’s orbiting around. Same albedo and axial tilt. Same size, mass and density. Same topography and continental drift. Same apparent evolution of humanoid life-forms. Same-ish architecture from its humanoid inhabitants... almost as if it were an agglomeration of film sets on some studio backlot...
IT’S THE FREAKING EARTH. AND WE NEVER HEAR ABOUT IT AGAIN.
Given the ridiculously incalculable odds of an identical planet earth forming and evolving identical dominant life-forms, you’d think Starfleet and the Federation would be all over this. This is geo-engineering like you might get with the Magratheans in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“No. Sorry. Wasn’t us.” said Slartibartfast. “That was in an entirely different space-time continuum from our own. Marked by pastel women and ever-present moralizing.”
In any case, the odds were so against this, I’m thinking the people back at Starfleet, as well as on Vulcan or any scientific research center would be absolutely terrified by the implications. It would be conclusive proof, I’d think that either Sol III was a created planet with a transplanted human race upon it, or that Ophiuchus IV was. The big question here is who or what did it. And why?
“What? What you lookin’ at me for? You best be lookin’ someplace else, monkeyboy!”
This is a question the original series entirely fails to address. A starfleet medical team is sent there to look into the longevity plague, but after that, it’s never touched on again. Ever. Not that I can find anyway... If this were written today, I can see writers like J.M. Straczynski making it a big reveal under top Starfleet security. “Gentlemen... here we have conclusive proof that either our planet was manufactured and our race transplanted from elsewhere... or this planet and its dominant species were copies from ours. Either way. Someone’s out here making copies of planets. And I want you to find out who or what is responsible.”
Well... later on, the author James Blish came along and did novelizations of all the classic episodes in collected volumes. He apparently noticed this too and tried to do something about it.
From: Memory Alpha
In his original script, Spies offers no explanation for the existence of a parallel Earth, and its presence has no bearing on the development or outcome of the finished episode. In his first volume of Star Trek episode adaptations, James Blish supplies a backstory that is vastly different to that of the “identical Earth” premise depicted in the television episode. Blish wrote that Miri’s planet is the fourth planet orbiting the star 70 Ophiuchus, and is a beautiful Earth-like planet having one large and two smaller continents connected by islands. Ophiuchus IV (or Ophiuchus 4 – Blish never names the planet) is located between twelve and fifteen light years from Earth and had been the first planet outside Earth’s solar system to be colonized, in this case by refugees from the so-called “Cold Peace” in the early 2100s, about 500 (!!!) years before the events depicted in the television episode. These colonists were isolationists who violently repulsed the first attempt to contact them by a later expedition from Earth, and so no further contact was attempted. As it turned out, the Ophiuchus system was in a “backwater” part of the galaxy that subsequent years of Earth-based space exploration passed by, and so the belligerent colony was easily ignored and almost forgotten. Around 300 years before the events shown in “Miri”, scientists on Ophiuchus IV developed the experimental life-prolongation project that resulted in the deaths of every adult on the planet. Yet despite their close proximity, the distress signal sent by the colony didn’t reach Earth because Ophiuchus IV stood between Earth and the center of the Milky Way, whose radiation created interstellar static that drowned out the SOS signal the colony had directed towards Earth.
No. Nonono. Sorry. I appreciate what you did here Mr. Blish. But this all happened off screen. What we saw on TV was that the Enterprise found a duplicate of earth. No blah-blah.
Star Trek is guilty of swinging for the rafters like this and dropping the ball afterward a couple of infamous times. Another particularly egregious offender would be ‘I, Mudd’. In this one, The Enterprise is hijacked to Galor IV by an Android called Norman. And when they get there, they find that Harry Mudd has arranged for the theft while being in charge of a planet full of sexy gynoids.
“Is there anything any of you require to please you?” said Alice 144. I CAN THINK OF SEVERAL THINGS, ALICE!
On this planet, every whim can be catered to. Life can be prolonged for thousands of years. And they’re from the galaxy of Andromeda. That’s right. These things are probably in possession of a functional intergalactic caliber star-drive.
So naturally Kirk and company focus on Mudd.
Other offenders might be the Shore Leave planet, where anything you can think of is provided to you. From gynoids in skimpy foofy dresses, to near death experiences, to bullies. Why isn’t Starfleet sending its most brilliant minds there to wish for answers to engineering problems and questions of high scientific merit? Of course... The Guardian of Forever, however, gets a pass. It’s sentient, and isn’t putting up with our crap.
“NO GALLIFREYANS EITHER! ESPECIALLY NOT THAT ONE!”