SCORE: (3/5 stars)
Visiting a scientific outpost near the Romulan Neutral Zone staffed by people all under the age of thirty, the crew of the Enterprise is surprised to find only old and dying people on the surface. Worse, these aging seniors identify as the very same young staff. McCoy can’t make heads or tails of it, but they’re aging at a rate of 30 years a day—and it gets worse. All the away team except for Chekov immediately begin showing signs of aging themselves. Grey hair, arthritis, and worse—senility.
Commodore Stocker, a paper-pushing flag officer, is on board waiting for transport to a starbase, but his transit is delayed while the ship remains in orbit while they attempt to figure out what’s causing the aging and reverse it. But Kirk is proving erratic and forgetful. He’s repeating orders, forgetting the name of the planet they’re orbiting, and worse, ordering Uhura to send messages to Starfleet using an encryption that the Romulans have cracked. And this close to the Neutral Zone, they are most definitely listening. Stocker demands that Spock convene a competency hearing to determine if Kirk is still fit for command.
The hearing is long and takes time away from actually solving the problem, but is ultimately necessary—testimony from nearly every department reveals how forgetful and neglectful Kirk has been the last few days. Stocker wants Spock to take command, but Spock is also under the effects of the rapid aging, and declares he’s not competent to take command. Thus it falls to Stocker, who’s never seen a day of action in his life. His first command aboard a starship? The single most intelligent order ever given by anyone ever: FLY THROUGH THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Dude really wants to get to his starbase.
Predictably, the ship is under attack almost immediately. You had ONE JOB, Stocker. Anyway, as he has no field experience, he has no clue what to do to handle the assault from the many Romulan ships. Kirk is in sickbay, insisting that he be allowed to go to the bridge and save the ship, but is overruled by McCoy. They try to figure out exactly what was different about Chekov that makes him immune from the aging, which they pinpointed as low-level radiation from a nearby comet. They determine that it was the adrenaline rush Chekov had from screaming like a five-year-old upon finding a dead body, and get to work concocting an adrenaline-based antidote.
Wasting no time testing it, Kirk subjects himself to the initial batch, which will either kill him or cure him. (I wonder which it will be!) Cured and rejuvenated, Kirk rushes to the rescue on the bridge, where he pulls out his famous corbomite bluff and gets the Romulans to back way the hell back, while they warp out safe and sound. Everyone is cured (except the one crewmember who died so you’d know that it was serious enough to kill crewmembers who weren’t in every episode), and the Commodore finally makes it to his starbase, relieved that Kirk is back in action.
A completely unnecessary side story involves an old flame of Kirk’s. They went their separate ways because they had very different career paths and she met a nice older man to marry, but he died so she wants to bump uglies with Kirk who’s also now quite older than her. It’s never explained what she’s doing on the starship and as far as I can tell she was thrown in by studio mandate because with all the ugly old people, they wanted someone pretty. It distracted from the main plot and could be excised entirely.
- Why would the medical staff, whose primary goal is curing the rapid aging, waste so much precious time sitting in the competency hearing aside from when they were called to give testimony?
- Kirk: Bones, I believe you’re getting gray.
McCoy: You take over my job and see what happens to you.
- Chekov: Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If… if I live long enough, I’m going to run out of samples!
- McCoy: I’m not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor.
- McCoy: Now this isn’t going to hurt a bit.
Chekov: That’s what you said the last time.
McCoy: Did it hurt?