Star Trek TOS: Kirk Confirms It’s Hell to Get Old

Star Trek TOS: Kirk Confirms It’s Hell to Get Old - The Deadly Years
Star Trek TOS: The Deadly Years

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 2, Episode 12

The Deadly Years

Kirk’s extended group landed on Gamma Hydra IV for a look around and the resupplying of the colony. Immediately, Chekov discovered a decaying body, which royally freaked him out. Must not have those in Russia. 

Other old weird folks showed up, explaining to Kirk they were aged in their late 20s. Based on their elderly looks, something was wildly awry. Kirk noted six of the people on the colony were dead, dying, or aging rapidly. 

The sick were transported back to Enterprise, and the oddities of the colony were discussed. Dr. Janet Wallace was in attendance, and she was noteworthy for two reasons. a) She was a woman in a position of power as a doctor, on-brand for Star Trek. b) She was an old fling of Kirk’s, evidenced by the two reminiscing on what could have been

Suddenly, Kirk began losing his memory, a first such malady of its kind for the captain. He also favored his back. Whatever beset the citizens of Gamma Hydra IV — was engulfing Kirk and his crew. 

Image Courtest of Greg Lavers on YouTube:

Then, McCoy diagnosed Kirk with arthritis, so this was serious. Feces hit the fan when Scott showed up in a scene looking older than Betty White. It was not a Kirk thing; it was a crew-wide ordeal. Everyone’s appearance trended southward for age after the Scott bombshell. Kirk even walked with Bob Dole-like cradle of his right arm. 

Among the physical prognosis of everyone, the crew was concerned about the inevitable pathway to senility. Reduced mental faculties and Star Trek emphatically do not mix. On top of it all, the crew members — Kirk, especially — seemed unusually cranky, not unlike the “old man” stereotype. And if it wasn’t cranky, it was certainly stubborn as hell. 

In the backdrop, Commodore Stocker approached Spock, revealing his desire for the Vulcan to take command instead of Kirk. Spocky flatly declined. But the Commodore drove a hard bargain, seemingly threatening Spock with a court order showdown for Kirk. 

The hearing indeed took place, and Kirk was quickly losing his mind. Witnesses testified, some defended Kirk, others hinted at his demise — this was a full-scale trial on Enterprise.  

Spock, with grey-hair wings like Paulie in The Sopranos, gradually came to the realization Kirk was unfit to lead — an excruciating epiphany to experience regarding a friend, especially one in power. The threat of the Romulans was ever-present, forcing Commodore Stocker to take command of the ship — even though he was a novice choice for the endeavor. 

The Romulans attacked while Kirk was thoroughly old and grey. Spock’s Paulie wings spread to the rest of his hair. Somehow, Spock and Dr. Wallace concocted an adrenaline serum that would either cure or kill Kirk. The captain opted for the shot as he could not bear the Romulans attack on his vessel in his geriatric, shriveled state. 

Dramatically, Kirk returned to the front of the ship back in prime condition. He outran the Romulans, the solution apparently necessary for the circumstance. 

There was no real ideological parable in The Deadly Years other than this: It’s hell to get old. 

Themes: Ageism 

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).