Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 12

The Deadly Years

Aired Unknown Dec 08, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
155 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

A landing party, including the command staff, is infected with a disease that causes rapid aging and senility.

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  • Some of the crew of the Enterprise begin aging rapidly.

    With its look ahead at old age for Kirk and company, this high concept episode became more and more interesting as Star Trek refashioned itself into various forms and fans were able to see the actors (and the characters) age legitimately. But is it a good episode? Sort of.

    Despite not appearing on screen, makeup man Freddy Phillips is the real star, pulling off a miracle and turning the concept into a believable progression that happens before our eyes. Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley deserve credit as well, selling Phillips's work with subtle changes in their characters' mannerisms that become more pronounced as the episode moves along.

    But rapid aging is just a gimmick. Knowing it needs to be built upon a story, writer David Harmon attempts two different plots with mixed results. First, he throws in a passenger on the Enterprise who just happens to be an endocrinologist and also happens to be a drop dead gorgeous blonde with a fetish for elderly men. (Where can I find one of those?) And surprise, surprise, she has a history with Kirk, though they broke up so she could chase someone older (who has since died). Now, with Kirk prematurely turning grey, you can almost see her drooling as she reassesses his value. (Kirk: "What are you offering me, Jan? Love or a going away present?") As bizarre as it is to see her working with McCoy on a cure while eyeing up Kirk, the really weird thing is how this story all fizzles out and comes to nothing. Second, Harmon taps into the more natural idea of old age interfering with Kirk's ability to run the ship, a more successful plot element that forms the heart of the drama in the second half. (It's sort of the equivalent of an elderly grandfather not realizing he's losing the ability to safely drive). As the story works itself into a dark mirror of "Court Martial", the righteous indignation from that episode is replaced with a sense of pity here. Once again, Kirk must defend himself; only this time, he's in the wrong, and he's the last one to know it. (Unfortunately, the scene itself forces us to listen to characters describe sequences we just watched and gets a little tedious as a result).

    Throughout the whole episode, of course, the ending itself is a foregone conclusion. Yet Harmon deserves credit for bringing back a throwaway element from early in the script and turning it into a clever escape route for the finale. Are there better Star Trek episodes? Of course. But there are none more unique, and even casual Trekkers should see "Deadly Years" at least once.

    Remastered: With the focus on the makeup, the original episode doesn't have any fancy effects until the end; and those are taken from "Balance of Terror". That keeps it pretty simple for CBS Digital, which just has to upgrade a planet (originally an orange tinted version of the "Catspaw" planet), the ship, and a short battle sequence at the end.

  • The Enterprise crew gets old and searches the universe for Geritol (except for Chekov, who searches for a bowl of borscht)

    I can't watch this episode anymore. In fact it is the only one I refuse to watch. It is just so very disturbing to watch them age and I suppose in my younger days this show didn't bother me as much. The inquiry scene is totally foolish. They are trying to find a cure and take time out for this? Stocker couldn't be that stupid. I don't buy it. The landing party must have aged at least two years during that hearing.moreless
  • A decent treatment of aging in the major characters, unfortunately, the story and situation are pretty lacking in imagination.

    Weird radiation from a comet causes a colony to age at an accelerated rate, affecting the Enterprise landing party as well.

    I like the scripting of Kirk in this episode, his ascent into forgetting orders and refusing to accept it are nicely done. McCoy also slips into his "southern roots" for a second time (like "This Side of Paradise") and it's fun to see. The make-up is a little distressing - all the money spent on rubber facial appliances and over-powdered hair could have been better spent on just having the production crew concentrate on lines under the eyes and receeding hair lines.

    What bothers me the most is that there seems to be a true lack of structuring an overall story to hang the premise on. Stocker is the weakest of all the Starfleet "beaurocrats" who end up taking over command. The idea that the ship wanders into Romulan space is rather unbelievable even if a rank amateur took command. The re-use of the "corbomite" bluff is also unoriginal. Another drawback is that the remaining scientists on the planet seem unaware or unconcerned that they've aged 40 years. Of course, all people who suffer genetic damage to the somatic cells (such as those suffering from cancer) would wish that adrenaline was the answer to it all. A little more medical research could have made the script better.

    So, while I generally like the treatment of the aging dilemna here, the plot of this installment is flaccid and lacks credibility.moreless
  • Members of a landing party are infected with a disease that causes rapid aging and senility. A cure is desperately searched for, before the aging Kirk and others face an accelerated death. Well performed, but not outstanding...moreless

    I agree with a fellow reviewer that this episode is a rather typical "disease of the week" story. Although we had not seen such examples in the second season, the first season offered "The Naked Time", "This Side of Paradise" and "Operation -- Annihilate!", which all contain diseases which affect the Enterprise crew in various ways.

    The make-up of the rapidly aging crewmembers is very good, especially considering the budget and limitations of the era. Some come off better than others, but I particularly like the make-up job on Captain Kirk, and the very subtle aging of Mr. Spock, who slowly greys at the temples and has lines under his eyes.

    I find the concept of the plot very intriguing, but feel that it is stretched to cover a whole episode. The trial of Kirk lacks motivation, and seems very much thrown in just to help fill the running time.

    Likewise, the Romulan subplot lacks focus and urgency, and should have been played up much more.

    A nice touch is Kirk's bluff communication about Corbomite to 'scare off' the Romulans – a reference to events in the first season episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". Although the Original Series episodes were more stand alone than later spin-offs, little details like this add to the depth of the series.

    This story was done again of sorts in the second season 'Next Generation' episode "Unnatural Selection".

    All-in-all, this isn't a bad story, with an interesting affliction and some good performances, none more so than William Shatner as the rapidly aging, forgetful and cranky Kirk. But at the same time the plot is very stretched out, and it doesn't really stand out as one of the series greats.moreless
  • A good episode to begin with but like the old age it portrays it begins to suffer as time marches on...

    A lot has already been said about this ep so I'll add my two cents.

    To slightly misquote Spock; "The ending of this episode was highly illogical." I mean what a cop out ending - to combat their old age disease by use of a potent serium. Firstly, it would take more than 5 minutes for their skin tissue to regenerate and secondly they were geriatrics in the later movies and they seem to cope well enough then. Though in defence they were aging so rapidly that it was prob down to the radiation that was causing their minds to become inept.

    I think a better ending would have been if they realised that at the beginning the man lying on the table died before he could activate a machine that provided the cure and Chekov was saved because he activated it when he entered the room -this was shown by the lights briefly coming on around him. So all they had to do was return to the machine and everything would have been sorted until the next episode..moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Charles Drake

Charles Drake

Commodore George Stocker

Guest Star

Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall

Dr. Janet Wallace

Guest Star

Felix Locher

Felix Locher

Robert Johnson

Guest Star

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel/voice of Computer (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (15)

    • Reused footage from "Journey to Babel" is used in the final shot of Chekov on the bridge as it shows Walter Koenig with the wig he used in his earlier appearance from that episode instead of his longer hair in this one.

    • In the remastered version made available for syndication, Galway's death scene is cut. This generates some confusion at the end because McCoy only refers to himself, Kirk, Scotty, and Spock as needing the cure.

    • The six-man scientific expedition is later described as a "colony," but it's clearly not large enough to be one.

    • Spock talks about there being a vote to decide whether Kirk is competent. But Stocker just jumps ups and takes command, asserting his authority. Spock (and even McCoy) seem competent to vote, so why don't they have a vote? Alternatively, if they never planned to vote then why do they talk like they will?

    • Spock asks McCoy if there's something he can give him to alleviate the cold he's feeling because of the rapid aging. He said he has had to raise the temperature in his quarters to 125 degrees. Yet he isn't shivering, even though that would be the equivalent of it being 19 degrees for a normal person. And he doesn't think to just put a jacket on when McCoy can't help him.

    • Trivia: Kirk mentions that he's 34 years old in this episode.

    • Trivia: Kirk reuses his Corbomite bluff from first season episode "The Corbomite Maneuver."

    • Kirk said he was going to engineering, but he went to his quarters. On the other hand, it is possible he went to the wrong place due to his rapid aging.

    • It seems that the strength of the plasma decreased immensely because in "Balance of Terror", two shots could destroy an outpost.

    • When the Enterprise was shown from the left, the "NCC-1701" was reversed and the light on the port side was green instead of red.

    • The space sensor array wasn't spinning on the bridge like it usually does.

    • Kirk still has a mirror at chest height in his cabin (see "Journey to Babel").

    • Kirk switches back and forth between miles and kilometers in this episode (20,000 mile orbit, 200,000 kilometer range of destruction). Seems like switching things back and forth like that would be confusing.

    • The cure not only stops and reverses the aging process - it regrows hair of the proper color, smooths out skin, regenerates lost cells, etc.

    • The Romulan vessels fire plasma weapons (as seen in "Balance of Terror"), but when they hit the Enterprise they become photon torpedoes. (This is corrected in the re-mastered version.)

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Commodore Stocker: Lieutenant Uhura, let me know if we contact any Romulans.
      (the Enterprise takes a hit)
      Uhura: I think we just made contact, sir.

    • Kirk: Bones, I believe you're getting gray!
      McCoy: Well you take over my job and see what it does to you!

    • Commodore Stocker: Captain I just wanted you to know I did what I thought was best.
      Kirk: Noted. You should know, however, that there are very few things a Starbase can do that a starship can't.
      Commodore Stocker: If I may say, Captain, so I am now quite aware of what a starship can do--with the right man at the helm.

    • Commodore Stocker: (asssessing the apparent hopelessness of the Enterprise's situation while surrounded by the Romulans) Well then we have no choice but to surrender.
      Chekov: Sir, the Romulans do not take captives.

    • Spock: I have a question for the doctor. Doctor, the ship's temperature is increasingly uncomfortable for me. I've adjusted the environment in my quarters to 125 degrees, which is at least tolerable. However, I...
      McCoy: Well, I see I won't be making any house calls on you!
      Spock: I wondered if perhaps there was something which could lower my sensitivity to cold.
      McCoy: I'm not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor!
      Spock: Yes, as I've always suspected.

    • Wallace: The heart is not a logical organ.

    • Chekov: "Give us some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov, breathe deeply, Chekov! Blood samples, Chekov; marrow samples, Chekov; skin samples, Chekov." If, If, I live long enough, I'm going to run out of samples.
      Sulu: You'll live.
      Chekov: Oh yes I'll live, but I won't enjoy it.

  • NOTES (4)

    • Normally, makeup artist Fred Phillips would have been given a month in advance to prepare the molds and latex pieces that would be used to age some of the characters in this episode. However he was given a deadline of ten days to be ready for shooting. With the addition of eleven other makeup artists, he was able to complete the assignment on time by continuing work on the latex appliances while the episode was in production.

    • During the filming of this episode, rumors about the show's impending cancellation were being heard on the set. Thanks to Star Trek fan Bjo Trimble, who had obtained mailing lists for science fiction book sellers and the World Science Fiction Convention, and called for fans to write letters to the network in support of the show, the original series was renewed for another season.

    • On the weekend of November 18-19th, 2006 TVLand showed mini-marathons of Star Trek TOS episodes and Star Trek-related shows to note the aquisition of the series for their regular line-up. Showing the episodes out of original broadcast order, they aired this episode following the first season episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" presumably because both episodes mention the fictional explosive compound corbomite.

    • Desilu No: 5149-40.


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