Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 12

The Deadly Years

Aired Unknown Dec 08, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

out of 10
155 votes
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

    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.
  • 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..
  • Radiation poisoning caused rapid ageing of the command crew on the Enterprise.

    Although this is not one of the best Start Trek episodes ever made, it produces great performances from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as they rush towards a premature death. William Shatner, particularly, shows his acting ability, becoming more and more grouchy as he fights to retain control of the Enterprise. His continuing error in naming the planet ( he calls it Gamma Hydra 2 instead of Gamma Hydra 4) is well written and played out. Also Leonard Nimmoy’s quiet and measured performance of the aged Spock gives credence to the idea the Vulcans have a much longer life span than humans.

    Whilst it is possible to pick a number of holes in the storyline, a creditable performance from all concerned.
  • Interstellar Disease of the Week

    Admittedly, this storyline hadn't been seen since the first season, but it is still a familiar plot for STTOS. It's the old chestnut, the mysterious disease plot. In this Kirk and/or other members of the crew are infected with a strange alien ailment. McCoy, if not infected himself, can't do a thing for them. "dammit, Jim, I'm a *doctor* not a magician!" etc. Eventually, an unexpected cure is found (taking a shower in antimatter, kissing a beautiful blonde) and the Enterprise is safe once again.

    We've seen this plotline is other episodes like "This Side or Paradise" and "Operation: Annihilate".

    However, while it's easier to mock from the perspective of forty years later, in all fairness, we should remember that these stories were still far more sophisticated than other tv shows of the period, both science fiction and straight. At least this "disease of the month" STAR TREK episode is about the characters. Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and, to a lesser extent Spock, don't just become physically old, they act old as well. So bad does the disease become that Kirk is relieved of command because his memory deteriorates to the point where he keeps giving orders twice. If this had been LOST IN SPACE, Dr Smith (and probably the Robot, too) would have had grey hair but just acted exactly the same.

    That's what I love about STTOS - even the poorer episodes are better than other 1960s shows' best episodes ...
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