Seasons of Seasons: Star Trek Season 1, “Miri” & “Dagger of the Mind”

Let’s talk about pacing. So far it’s been the least enjoyable aspect of Star Trek by a long shot, though I don’t exactly place the blame at the feet of Roddenberry or any of the creative team. I would imagine that virtually every hour-long program of its era had similar issues, but I’ve felt it during some of these episodes so far, and the most during both of these episodes. Every episode has been 50 minutes, and of course the show had to find ways to stretch the storylines to fit that requirement. But sometimes the show will occasionally hit patterns where it will repeat itself without much plot development to speak of.

Though I quite like Miri overall, the middle third doesn’t advance the story to increase the tension raised in the beginning. We’ve seen storylines and subplots that have been repeated in future works, but the plot of Miri has reared its head in the likes of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the comic series Eve, and a side quest in Fallout 3, to name a few. Granted, it’s a kind of riff on Lord of the Flies itself, but the aforementioned properties feel more greatly indebted to this episode. 

The Enterprise encounters an Earth-like planet, but quickly find its adult inhabitants in a kind of feral zombie state, attacking anyone they lay eyes on. They discover a group of children that have somehow survived for the past 300 years and quickly find that, once they reach adolescence, the disease sets in. Once they discover this is where the redundancy sets in. There are multiple scenes of Kirk, Bones, Spock, and Rand discussing the disease and what will eventually happen to them and the children, until the episode’s finale, which unfolds without too many hiccups.

Just last week, I praised the show for the way it presented itself as forward-thinking in its gendered roles. This week feels like a step back when Kirk makes some borderline icky romantic gestures to Miri – a pre-teen – in order to gain her trust. Thankfully the show doesn’t heavily underline these moments and focuses more on the plight of the crew and the planet’s inhabitants.

Dagger of the Mind has its own pacing issues, but it stems more from the lack of action than what plagued Miri. If the episode were released today, it would likely be classified as “Hard Sci-fi”, dealing with psychological issues rather than the alien diseases or ticking time bombs that the show has trafficked in before. After a rogue scientist from a penal colony sneaks aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and Dr. Noel (Marianna Hill) investigates the prison, only to find its leader Dr. Adams (James Gregory) is running cruel psychological experiments on the inmates. Dagger of the Mind introduces Spock’s Vulcan Mind Meld technique, and it’s an effective way for the show to deepen Spock’s character and the universe as a whole.

American’s perspective on mental institutions and psychological treatment had changed dramatically from how it was originally perceived when mistreatment of mental patients was at its peak in the first half of the 20th century. Star Trek may not have been the first piece of pop culture to shun mental health professionals, but it feels like a pointed barb at the establishment.

Whereas most installments throughout this season so far have dealt with similar issues in dual episodes, this week offered a mix bag thematically. And though Miri was a more viscerally exciting episode, it contained one of the more problematic moments of the season. Thankfully it had enough memorable elements to receive a passing grade. Dagger of the Mind is rewarding as a character-based episode but I’ll probably rewatch other episodes before it. 

Miri Grade: B-

Dagger of the Mind Grade: B

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