Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Deadly Years"

2 stars

Air date: 12/8/1967
Written by David P. Harmon
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While investigating a colony along the Romulan neutral zone, a strange disease infects Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, and Lt. Galway (Gee, who's gonna die?), causing them to rapidly age. Now the race is on to find a cure before the aforementioned crew members all grow old and die.

Despite some great makeup effects to make the characters look old, and some standout performances to go along with it, "The Deadly Years" suffers from a total lack of direction and urgency. The episode's main thrust becomes an analysis on Kirk's unwillingness to give up command of his ship when his mental capacity is challenged. But why on Earth, with time to solve the problem so scarce, would Spock allow Commodore Stocker (George Drake) to conduct a competency hearing for Kirk when Spock could simply assume command as an alternative? This competency hearing idea is a sorely misguided attempt at providing "courtroom drama" a la "Court Martial," forcing us to sit through an interminable scene where Kirk is proven incapable of commanding the Enterprise, as characters rehash examples that we witnessed in earlier scenes.

Meanwhile, the race to find a cure is curiously suspended until the hearing is over. This subsequently puts Stocker, the most inept commander of all time, in charge of the Enterprise, which he quickly and ineptly pilots into the middle of a Romulan attack. After Bones comes up with a cure (with an all-too-obvious realization), Kirk saves the day in a nice command sequence. But just how is it curing the disease also reverses the permanent effects of aging?

Previous episode: Friday's Child
Next episode: Obsession

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55 comments on this post

Cyaptain Kyirk
Tue, Jan 19, 2010, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
Well I must commend you on making such an effort.
Your website is great! Good work!
But 22 years old is still not, in my humble opinion, "grown up" enough to see all the things that ST has to offer, or the full range of issues it addresses.
For example, your review of "The Deadly Years" completely seems to miss the episode's point on the tragedy of aging, and losing one's abilities and faculties; being helpless and vulnerable, and having to depend on others who may be younger, but not necessarily wiser, experienced or caring, etc.
Mike Meares
Mon, Jul 11, 2011, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
Three stars for Wplf in the Fold, but only two stars for The Deadly Years? If WIYF is 3 stars then TDY is 3 and a half!

The Deadly Years still is a great story. I agree with some of Jammer's criticisms, but not the thurst of it. The story was about Kirk giving up command because of his age and ablility. And it was a good one.

Jammer even says why didn't Spock just take command instead of the competency hearing? In fact, Commodore Stocker ask Spock to do just that and Spock refuses! Why? As Spock says, " I remind you, sir, that I too have contracted the same affliction? " Spock could not take over for Kirk when he was afflicted as the Captain. This wasn't logical for Spock to take command under those conditions. The competency hearing was neccessary.

Just as our older Americans refuse and fight to give up their driving liciense because of their failing health, so Kirk fought to keep control of his command. I thought it was a very strong statement.

Were there weaknesses to the story? Sure! Another love interest for Kirk, which I felt was totally unneccessary for the story. The pain Kirk felt when he thought Spock betray him would have been stronger without the ex-girlfriend thrown in.

But all in all a very good episode.
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 11:00am (UTC -6)
Three big problems:

1) Kirk and McCoy are very annoying as old people.

2) The love interest for Kirk is extraneous.

3) Why no fallout from the Romulans after this episode? Didn't Stocker, in essence, declare war?
Sun, Mar 3, 2013, 10:18am (UTC -6)
The love interest was not only unnecessary it was just plain mysterious. At no point did they explain why she on the ship in the first place. Of course we know the cure to the aging disease is inevitable, but we still get to see the clever way Kirk bluffs his way out of the hopeless Kobiyashi Maru-like mess Commodore Stocker places the Enterprise. My nitpick issue is that again the writers show how little they understand rank. Commodore Stocker outranked Capt Kirk but kept calling him sir.
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
The reason I see for the love interest was to provide contrast. Without it the story would just be enterprise old folks home. She also represented kirks youth and vibrancy, something that was still there inside him yet you couldnt see it.

Of course stocker represents any of us who has had a boss that knows much less than we do. Familiar?

I always enjoyed this ep very much. 3.5 stars.
William B
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 11:40am (UTC -6)
I used to think this episode was terrible, but it did grow on me on this past viewing. I'm not an old man, but I have a slightly better conception of the way work is important to a person's self-image than in my teen years, and so the pain of Kirk having to come face to face with his inability to do his job resonates with me a little more strongly. My grandmother's deterioration and death over the last few years also provide an emotional context I was intellectually aware of but hadn't experienced, so, that primed me to see the episode better.

In general, I'm not sure if this is a great idea. The TOS movies dealt with aging in something like real-time, starting with TWOK, to great effect; TNG used TOS characters to comment on aging quite well, in "Relics" and especially "Sarek." The artificiality of the extreme aging is necessary for plot purposes, but on some level we "know" throughout the episode that this will all be undone at the episode's end, and the extreme time constraints on finding a cure, etc., make the time spent on the captaincy hearing in-universe, and on us having to sit through so many iterations of Kirk giving an order twice and then the fact of him having given said order twice being reported back to us seems like a waste of a large portion of the episode. I think there is just no way they should have wasted time with that captaincy hearing -- McCoy should have relieved Kirk of command for medical reasons and they could have installed Sulu or Uhura or whoever in command, telling Stocker that if Stocker wishes to take command they will have a formal hearing but otherwise the ranking line officer would take over. It is possible that this would not have worked, and Stocker would have insisted on following through on the hearing like an idiot, and maybe Kirk would have refused to accept McCoy's medical command because McCoy himself is unfit or some such, but that no one seems to consider just telling Kirk that he's medically unfit until a cure is found, and telling Kirk and Stocker that the focus should be on finding a cure rather than whiling away the day at a hearing, seems wrong to me.

Still, in spite of the artificiality, there is something real in this: aging doesn't normally happen over the course of a day, but it may seem that way to people to whom it's happening, and one of the tragedies of dementia is that it becomes difficult for the person to be able to recognize and remember the signs of their own deterioration.

As redshirt28 says, I think the presence of the endocrinologist was to show what Kirk was gradually losing -- the youth and vibrancy of his past, personified. That she *apparently* has a habit of pity-marrying much older men means that even if Kirk can connect to her, it will still make him feel alienated.

I mean, I dunno, talking about this episode makes it sound better than while I was watching it. I think the flaws Jammer mentions are pretty devastating in terms of the episode's overall functioning, at least for me. Still, when it works it kinda sorta works. High end of 2 stars.
Thu, Sep 29, 2016, 4:47am (UTC -6)
Found it disturbing that old age is automatically associated with dementia. Uncomfortable watching . . .
Fri, May 19, 2017, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was a poignant episode - the aging was well acted. Kirk's aging reminded me of how Brando talked in the Godfather Part I. His mannerisms as an old man were great.
I agree with Cyaptain Kyirk's comments and must say Jammer's review and rating are off the mark.
The pacing is a bit slow at times and going over Kirk's incompetence in the hearing could have been sped up - but the counter-argument is to show (albeit in an exaggerated way) the challenges of dealing with the elderly.
The issue I have is Stocker taking command and going straight into the Neutral Zone. He should know better.
Kirks' corbomite maneuver is clever but shouldn't the ship have suffered heavy damage and had the warp engines affected? Instead they're able to reach warp 8 immediately.
Also - sort of like in "Operation -- Annihilate" - the crew miss the obvious for the cure until it's almost too late. Chekov's adrenalin ramping up because of his fright and the light from the Denevan sun killing the parasites - both should have been obvious.
But these are relatively minor nitpicks in what is a good episode. For me 3 stars out of 4.
Mon, May 22, 2017, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
I think 2.0 stars is a little low. I'd say 2.5 stars. Bottom line, this is an entertaining episode. However, there are some problems with it.

Everything in this episode indicates Commodore Stocker is a stickler for regulations. So why, toward the end of the episode, does he ignore the very important regulation "Stay out of the neutral zone"? As Rahul correctly points out, "he should know better".

Also, isn't rather insulting to Sulu that no one fights for him to be placed in command. (I once read that Nichelle Nichols said that Uhura was 4th in command, but everything I've seen in every episode indicates that Sulu is the 4th highest ranking officer.) We have, on several occasions, previously seen Sula in command of the bridge. (Two that come to mind right away are "The Man Trap", and "Errand of Mercy"). Granted, when Sulu previously had the con, it was usually for a brief period of time with a higher ranking officer close by (Spock and Kirk on the planet surface, Scotty down in engineering). Still, Sulu probably has more Starship bridge command experience than Commodore Stocker. (I say "probably" because we don't Commodore Stocker's exact history. However, Kirk refers to him as a "chair bound paper pusher" who's "never had a field command". This would indicate that Stocker does not have much actual field experience. )

In fairness to Stocker, I don't feel you can dislike him. He did what he thought was right (except for his decision to enter the Neutral Zone).
Roger W Norris
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
It's always interesting to look at old episodes from the standpoint of the present. But the obvious question is: how did Stocker get to be a Commodore (and one of the few around)? We know now that everyone in Starfleet has to go to the Academy, as far as I know. So Stocker would have gone through the security training, and possibly the Kobayashi Maru test. He may not have been in battle, but he should have known what Starfleet protocols are about conflict with their adversaries. He didn't, but he was still promoted.
By the way, is the appearance of Kirk in this episode what the 85 year old Shatner really looks like?
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
Roger - you seriously haven't seen what Shatner looks like the last 20 years? Bloated carcass comes to mind.
Trek fan
Sat, Oct 28, 2017, 7:30pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek does old age as only Star Trek can do, bringing home the fears and anxieties it entails by infecting our most virile young characters with a rapid aging disease. Good stuff to watch the crew grapple with the diminishment of aging in their own ways, but the subplots are also fairly engaging, and it's great to see the Romulans return albeit as something of an incidental threat. I give "Deadly Years" 3 or maybe even (on a REALLY good day) 3 1/2 stars.

The aging seems to hit Kirk hardest, as his youthful bravado and glibness are checked by a disease that threatens to wrest away his sense of command, hitting him where he's most vulnerable. Scotty just seems sad; Spock seems distracted as he struggles to hang onto his logic and McCoy just acts slightly more crotchety than usual as he strives to stay focused on a cure. It's really Kirk who ages most distressingly here, embarrassing himself by repeating things and feeling a loss of potency around the lady guest star. Kirk's clear dependence on his job for a sense of identity and his stubborn refusal to accept his growing limitations are both poignant (on one hand he's fighting to stay alive and potent) and saddening to watch; the show gets a bit "real" here in playing off Shatner's own ego to show up Kirk's limits.

The guest doctor and commodore are clearly just passengers, as the Enterprise is wont to carry. There's a line about the doctor assisting McCoy with research. It's refreshing to see the commodore presented realistically: Stocker wears red here, the color that most base commanders (see "Court Martial") wear in TOS, and it's an administrative/security branch of the service.

So Commodore Stocker is not a command officer wearing gold (like "Menagerie" guy, Bob Wesley, and Matt Decker) and it's consistent that such a person would not be trained to command a flagship. The man is an administrator/base commander, not a ship captain. Only in TNG do we start getting the "perfect human being" syndrome where every Starfleet officer seems trained in every single thing on the ship: Crusher can take command, Troi can run the helm, etc. Excuse me, but even the future isn't so perfect. When Commodore Stocker takes over the Enterprise in "Deadly Years," it's more by necessity of rank than anything else, since the top command officers -- Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy -- are out of operation and the young lieutenants seem unable to command.

Other stuff I like: Chekov's griping about the checkups, the "Corbomite Maneuver" callback (although it's a bit pat), the doomed science division lieutenant from the landing party seeing herself in the mirror, and the menacing Romulan armada attack where the Romulans remain true to sneaky form by refusing visual or audio communications. It's good to see the Romulans again even if we never see them onscreen; they pack a stronger punch at this point in the series than the Klingons, who were strong in "Errand" and a bit weaker in "Friday's Child." In any event, "Balance of Terror" was probably a better debut for the Romulans than the Klingons in "Errand," and I always thought the Romulans were a little cooler/more complex in TOS than the Klingons.

I will admit the competency hearing goes on a bit too long without advancing the plot or characters very strongly; there's not much drama here since so little seems to be at stake. I'm not sure this scene really "interrupts" the search for a cure and puts the crew at risk as some people suggest. Nurse Chapel and the medical staff are undoubtedly still working on it during the hearing. But it's a bit anti-dramatic and the show only really picks up some energy when Stocker takes over and totally freezes up as the Romulan armada starts blasting the hell out of the NCC-1701: It's a moment when we really wonder how the heck they are going to get out of it. There's just a bit of saggy pacing to endure before we get to this more exciting climax.
Trek fan
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
Okay, I have to take back one thing from my last post: There's no way I can give "Deadly Years" 3 1/2 stars even on a good day. The pacing is just too leaden when everything stops for the competency hearing; the whole thing feels like filler. While I sometimes think 2 1/2 stars for this one, it's probably best for me to stick with a low 3 stars for it, representing how I most often feel about it. I do like the examination of aging and mortality through the lens of Our Heroes, but a realistic episode like TNG's "Relics" or even the final TAS episode with Captain Robert April and his wife do a better job of looking at these diminishment issues. Unlike "Relics," where Scotty proves that wisdom makes old people more useful than we think, "Deadly Years" lands on "old people are useless" and leaves us there by having YOUNG Kirk return to save the day at the end. And despite the clever bit with Kirk appearing to make a mistake in broadcasting over code two, it's not a very satisfying way to end on the whole question of elder rights and value. Here in "Deadly Years," we mostly get superficial entertainments in watching Kirk-McCoy-Spock deteriorate into crotechy old men without any redemptive purpose on the ship. And Kirk's dilemma of losing his ability to command his beloved ship -- while reinforcing a theme that will recur all the way up to his speech to Picard in "Generations" about never giving up the cpatain's chair -- suffers a bit as we watch him humiliate himself in the competency hearing to no purpose. While it's good to see Kirk vulnerable, "Deadly Years" does very little with it, and it's an average-to-good entry rather than a great episode.
Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 4:02pm (UTC -6)
good premise wasted by being slow and pointless
Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 4:10pm (UTC -6)
one positive thing: the make up used to make the ill crew members look old were quite good
Ozal Ventura
Fri, Feb 9, 2018, 10:59am (UTC -6)
One HUGE problem with this episode: The characters behaved like they had a month, not a day or two, to figure everything out
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 10:36pm (UTC -6)
Spock declining command on the grounds that he had the same affliction as Kirk was silly, because Vulcans have twice the lifespan humans do, and there was nothing in the dialogue that indicated that the disease was progressing at twice the rate it was in humans, as evidenced by Lieutenant Galway shriveling up completely before the end of Act II. Even if you split the difference on Spock's life expectancy given his human half - which isn't how genetics works - Spock was still in possession of all his mental faculties and had no reason not to take command at least through the resolution of the immediate crisis. Certainly Commodore Stocker commanded the ship as if he'd been lobotomized. Exit question: Did Kirk have Irrumodic Syndrome (24th century Altzheimers)? Because if he did, Starfleet Medical must have lost McCoy's cure for it by a century later.
Joe Menta
Tue, Jul 17, 2018, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
I would have had Kirk voluntarily relieve himself of command before anyone else even suggested it, as he knew he was rapidly declining in ability. That would have freed him up to seek a cure along with the others affected. It would have also prevented the leaden hearing scene. In the end, though, a watchable episode.
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 5:13am (UTC -6)
William Shatner looks like a bloated carcass? "Alex" you want to come back here when you're 87 and show us all what you look like? Assuming you're not dead by then.
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 4:06pm (UTC -6)
So, aged Kirk couldnt recall whether he gave the same order twice or not, yet he remembers details of Chekov fright when discovered the dead man. Rolls eyes...

As for the cure, Kirk and the good doctor got their young faces back very fast. Is the aging process reversible? Well, VOY did it better then with “Threshold”...
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
Snot rocket thank you for that comment. I get so tired of the nasty comments about Bill Shatner.
Sat, May 4, 2019, 8:41am (UTC -6)
Eh, standard fare. Sorta slow moving.

Duriing the hearing, we learn Kirk is about 65 physically, which, especially in a century which features people living longer and amazing medical advances, just isn't old enough for the doddering portrayal. Barring illness (and there's no mention of one) Kirk should still be quite vigorous and able to command.

On the comments above: Shatner did age badly, but it's hard to stay in shape as you get older. He's a regular human being, not Kirk the magnificent. He's made it to 87, so bully for him.

Points for an interesting premise, partly realized.
Jason R.
Mon, May 13, 2019, 8:30am (UTC -6)
This episode is far worse on rewatch then I remembered. Possibly one of the worst TOS episodes of all time. Jammer's 2 star rating is being exceedingly generous.

First we have to sit through boring scenes of Kirk exhibiting memory loss on the bridge. Over and over. He gives the same order twice to Sulu, then the wrong code to Uhura, then wants to sign the same paper he already signed for some Yeoman - and each time it is this long drawn out reaction of shock like everyone is so surprised - yes we get it, he's losing his memory, enough!

Then if that isn't enough, we have to hear about the same events just ten minutes later in some cockamamee court proceeding Spock conjures up at the instigation of the Commodore guy where Sulu, Uhura and Yeoman who cares are called as witnesses. Really? McCoy just established that they have days if not *hours* to live and their top priority is to go to court and have a hearing? As McCoy is testifying all I can think is: you have what? a day to live? Don't you think there is something more productive you could do with your time such as, say, working on a cure!!

Kirk's behaviour is just ludicrous. He knows he is dying of old age. He knows he is going senile. It has been explained to him. He just witnessed it first hand with the colonists and later with that ensign who dropped dead of old age after going completely senile. This isn't like with Sarek where there was a shred of plausible deniability and some doubt as to what was happening. Kirk is a proud guy, but even with his mind deteriorating is he completely insane by this point?Recall a similar situation in Night Terrors where Picard makes the entirely rational choice to hand over command to Data. Done and done. Would a court proceeding have improved that episode?

Then in one of the weirdest craziest tone shifts in memory (rivalled only by the second half of From Dusk Till Dawn) suddenly the Enterprise is in the Neutral Zone fighting a fleet of Romulum Warbirds! Holy smokes! Did the Commodore pick today as the day to stroll into the neutral zone to get into a space battle? I thought he was intent on returning to the starbase to get help for Kirk and the others. But it's just BAM we're in the neutral zone fighting Romulans. How did we get there? Why? I know I know - the commodore is "green" so by that I guess they mean laughably negligent to the point of strolling into Romulan space and starting an interstellar war for no particular reason on a whim. Yeah he's a green horn alright.

Then Kirk takes a potion and in 90 seconds he goes from senile old man to perfect condition? Just BAM he's on the bridge saving the day. There's the Trek cliche of the magic concoction that rapidly reverses what should be permanent damage and then there's GTFO.

You know I have watched alot of mediocre to terrible TOS episodes over the years like The Children Shall Lead or The Omega Glory but this episode really surprised me. It is just bonkers. If you haven't seen it recently, trust me your memory doesn't do justice to how bad it is.
Baron Samedi
Mon, May 13, 2019, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R. I completely agree and always found it odd that this episode even had a lukewarm reception among fans, when nothing that happens in it makes even the most minimal amount of sense. Even as a little kid, I always found this episode completely ludicrous on every level. The slow and repetitive execution stops it from even being goofy/campy fun.
Mon, May 13, 2019, 5:40pm (UTC -6)
@Baron Samedi and @Jason R.

Have to completely disagree with your thinking this is one of the worst TOS episodes of all time -- it's not even close and I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned as such. As I said in my initial comment, I think Jammer's rating is harsh at 2 stars and I see it as a 3-star (7/10) episode.

While it has its flaws, TOS shows that it can do a good job of focusing on a human condition like aging / Alzheimer's. That much is done effectively in showing how Kirk struggles with being duty-bound as a starship captain yet losing his faculties and bearing the embarrassment, seeing younger officers concerned about him etc. Kirk put on one of his better performances in showing his stubborn nature. The episode does evoke a feeling of sympathy for Kirk.

The slow pacing is a drag on the episode but I think that also is an experience in dealing with the elderly. But I would say TNG's "Sarek" is a better episode for shining a light on the human condition of aging and losing one's sense of usefulness.

As for the miracle Trek medical cure, we've seen this on numerous episodes across all the series. That's part of the suspension of disbelief of Trek -- almost as accepted as warp speed and transporters.

Some of the earlier comments also point to what makes this a pretty good episode.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 1:49am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

@Jason R.

I really must agree with most of your comments. My thought is (without reviewing the comments again), how could that fellow be a Commodore, above a Captain, having never commanded a ship? Did he get that commission by being a good "supplies" commander, over time? A "chair-bound paper-pusher"?

Then he dis-regards the comments of the junior officers about traveling across the neutral zone. Is there a bulge in it they cannot go around? Or are they on the other side so, so far away that they have to cut across it to save time and they'll wave hello to Romulus and Remus along the way? Even an idiot would have known to take the fastest safe passage that doesn't break the treaty.

On the other hand, when I was 12, and Checkov finds the body, I was hooked/stunned. And we had ships shooting? Oh my gosh! I still have a soft spot for this episode, but not as soft as it used to be. Even then, I wondered how the Commodore could be so... stupid. He'd have been "retired" as soon as they got back to the Starbase....

Enjoy the day Everyone... RT
Jason R.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 5:45am (UTC -6)
Rahul I get what they were going for in this episode but the *execution* is botched to an almost hilarious degree. Unlike other bad TOS episodes, which are conceptually ludicrous (The Omega Glory, Patterns of Force) or just silly (Onward to Eden) this one kind of disintegrates and fails even on its own outlandish terms. Every scene is wrong. Entire threads make no sense.

We have Kirk's old flame hanging around the whole time having these awkward conversations that go nowhere. At one point Kirk asks her about her husband who she says is 20 yrs older than her and then he makes this strange comment and I could swear he was implying that his old age (from radiation sickness!!) might be attractive to her because she likes older guys?!

You have Scotty just doing nothing standing there looking like the script just forgot about him.

You have this deer in the headlights performance by the Commodore who treats Kirk with respect, even reverence, yet for some unstated reason gets treated with disdain by Kirk in return. I guess Kirk just really hates Commodores.
Peter G.
Tue, May 14, 2019, 1:43pm (UTC -6)
"I guess Kirk just really hates Commodores."

Unless I'm mistaken, the issue is generally that Kirk is upset anytime someone other than him is given authority on a mission that should rightly be under his command. I'd have to watch this one again, but it's probably the case that Kirk is especially irked at someone without field command experience having any significant authority on his bridge. I'm just guessing, though. TOS does have a bit of a trend of unqualified people trying to edge Kirk out of his command, and him having to fight for it. One thing we do get out of all of these battles for his command (along with episodes like Patterns of Force and Whom Gods Destroy) is the awesome power involved in being a Starship Captain, and how much responsibility needs to go along with it. Anyone at all being anywhere near the Captain's chair who doesn't belong there is a real blight in TOS, and this point is generally lost or forgotten by the subequent series, which seem to take it for granted that people won't abuse a position like Kirk's.
Sarjenka's Brother
Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 7:52pm (UTC -6)
I must have a must higher tolerance for rapid-aging stories than the average "Trek" fan. I really liked the Next Gen rapid-aging story in season 2, and it's mostly panned.

I enjoyed this one as well, and it sure resonates with the almost 57-year-old me a lot more than the 12-year-old me.

Poor Lt. Galway. She's was treated like an afterthought. I don't know why, but her death always stuck with me as a particular sad one, and last night's viewing didn't change that.

That line about what a stupid place to put a mirror -- that's a great moment.

I had forgotten about the entire Romulan angle. Glad they had it in there.
Fri, Jul 5, 2019, 4:09pm (UTC -6)
This doesn't deserve even two stars. What a mess.

The focus should be on the aging problem, but instead we have a random love interest, a courtroom drama, an incompetent commodore, and a gratuitous and easily avoided encounter with Romulans.

How on earth do they have a flag officer, a commodore — who outranks captains — yet has never commanded a ship? If he outranks Kirk, why do they need a competency hearing for him to get command? And surely _someone_ would tell him "hey maybe flying into Romulan territory isn't the greatest idea you've ever had"?

Meanwhile, the solution to the aging problem ends up being _stupidly_ simple — which is good, because they have all of about five minutes to solve it amidst all that mess.

This a complete mishmash of concepts thrown together with awful pacing and no concern for common sense. Just give command to Sulu and get back to work, you nitwits.
Wed, Apr 15, 2020, 8:44am (UTC -6)
I really don’t understand why modern age makeup is so laden down with rubber prosthetics. This style of makeup is much more low key and allows the actors to sell it rather than the effects. They should go back to this simple method.
Jay Marks
Sun, May 3, 2020, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
I totally get what they were trying to do with this episode. It was supposed to be a commentary on aging and relevancy. But the problem that made it 100% impossible to pull off is that they had only an hour to do it. So their solution? Have a disease that causes hyper-rapid aging. But that created an undercurrent in the episode that was no longer about ageism in society but rather about an alien disease and the race to counteract it.....getting old was just a symptom. So the competency hearing -- and even Galway's remark as she passed the mirror -- seemed forced and contrived. You contracted a weird alien disease! Find the cure, just like every other alien virus that ever afflicted the crew.

Having said that, this is Star Trek. The rockbed of almost every episode is always some sort of social commentary. Some hit. Some miss. This one landed somewhere in the middle. And I agree with what almost everyone said about its shortcomings.

Great acting by the those that aged. They did it exactly as I would have expected their characters to grow old. And how could you not love Kirk charging onto the bridge to save the day? Hokey for sure, but it was a nice payoff. Stocker spoke for every TOS fan at the end.
Wed, Jun 24, 2020, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
IM 27!
Tue, Jul 14, 2020, 10:19am (UTC -6)
Spock should have relieved Kirk. Simple as that.
Thu, Sep 24, 2020, 10:34pm (UTC -6)
Random realizations:

When I watched this episode on H & I tonight, I found myself thinking about how the make-up artists succeeded best with making the aged McCoy look like DeForest Kelley really did end up looking in his old age. Everybody else, nowhere near.

Then I found myself saddened at the realization that three of the five performers are gone.

I'll say that the two who remain, William Shatner and Beverly Washburn (Lieutenant Galway), have aged pretty well.

I also found that Beverly Washburn's Wikipedia page was just taken down TODAY.

And I also found myself thinking that the Baby Boomers and the Millennials have in common an engrained belief that the world is rightly theirs. Other age groups are just in the way, and should get OUT of their way. (As a Gen X, I'm sandwiched between them.)
Fri, Sep 25, 2020, 12:25am (UTC -6)
I'm a Millenial and as far as I'm concerned, the Boomers can have the world. The X-ers might feel disenfranchised but for myself and the other Millenials I know you tend to look around and wonder what the fuss is all about and what everyone is fighting over. Regardless, I think the world will be a very different place once the Boomers are gone.
Fri, Dec 18, 2020, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
I agree with @Rahul that Jammer's rating is a bit harsh.

@Jammers gives DS9's "Distant Voices" (where Bashir gets to act like an old man) 2 1/2 stars. This episode of TOS is easily better.

What I thought was hilarious was that they are not at all subtle about what it means for Kirk to get his mojo back. Once they inject him with the serum, we are treated to multiple shots of Kirk's writhing crotch.

And then once the serum takes effect and Kirk presumably has a boner, they switch to showing us his ex's reaction shots, and they let her describe what is happening:

JAN: The aging process has stopped. His bodily functions are getting stronger.

And Jan basically has her O-face on when she sees Kirk's "bodily functions" returning!

Even nurse chapel can't seem to take her eyes of it.

Anyway, take one star away for the pointless "hearing" and give this sucker three stars.

Any episode that ends with Kirk getting down with a married woman is one for the history books ("What are you offering me, Jan? Love, or a going away present?")
Sat, Apr 10, 2021, 2:15am (UTC -6)
I always rather enjoyed this episode. Seeing it again does highlight the flaws though:

- the unnecessary love interest that adds nothing to the story
- a Commodore wearing a red shirt and subservient to a Captain?
- the competency hearing lasting too long
-Kirk’s accusing Spock of treachery
- the ridiculous fast effect of the serum

All that said though, it’s still a good episode to watch - the ageing effects were, I thought, pretty well done; the story proceeded fairly well; there was some good deliberation about the effects of losing one’s faculties; the slower Vulcan ageing of Spock... in all I think it deserves 2.5 stars.
Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 1:41am (UTC -6)
On this day, October 13, 2021, James T. Kirk (AKA William Shatner) , at the age of 90 years young, went boldly on a mission to the final frontier aboard a New Shepard space ship.

I’m sure that not a few of the scientists, engineers, and visionaries who made the flight possible were inspired by Star Trek. This flight is a fitting tribute to that inspiration. It is also a source of satisfaction and hope for the older Trekkies among us. It certainly is for this original broadcast fan.
Sun, Mar 6, 2022, 2:44pm (UTC -6)
The main thing that bugs me about these Star Trek aging episodes is their hair and how it magically turns gray and then gets its color back when they are cured. Hair is dead, it can't change colors. I get it, they want them to look old for the audience and it would look silly if they were old and wrinkled and had lush brown hair but still, I've never liked DNA magic. Also how quickly Kirk became young again, it's silly and I'm pretty sure the incredible stress on the body from aging that rapidly would kill them long before they actually got "old".
Tue, May 24, 2022, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
everything in this episode was good, except the episode itself haha
matt h
Sat, Nov 26, 2022, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
@ Joe Menta--

I read this bit too quickly and thought it would have made a good visual for a slow paced episode and maybe showed rather than told the aging problem well.
"I would have had Kirk voluntarily relieve himself .."
Proud Capitalist Pig
Sat, Dec 17, 2022, 6:09pm (UTC -6)
“The Deadly Years”

Okay folks, pop quiz time!

Who said this, just this past week?

“You think I don’t know how fucking old I am?”

A.) Donald Trump
B.) Joe Biden
C.) William Shatner
D.) Maxine Waters

The answer, of course, is B -- Current President of the United States Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

An aide leaked to the press that bumbling buffoon Biden dropped F-bombs everywhere while venting to his staff about the constant media attacks against him in regards to his advanced age. And you can see everyone’s point. He mistook his son Beau for dying in Iraq instead of dying of cancer, shook Emmanuel Macron’s hand for 42 seconds, forgot that a Congresswoman had died, has proven to be the second-worst president we’ve ever had (Andrew Johnson being Numero Uno), and yet insists that he’s fit as a fiddle, competent, and sick and tired of media stories, pundits and citizens always mentioning how old he is.

You see, Biden, 80, is just the latest in a long line of people who become frustrated when people point out to them that perhaps they ought to hang up their coats for good because they’re too old to do the jobs they love. In “The Deadly Years,” James T. Kirk reacts the same way during his competency hearing and it’s perhaps the only real poignant scene in the entire episode--it’s devastating to have your faculties and your life’s work slip away from you because of advanced age, no matter how forcefully you may try to deny it or prove otherwise.

As we all know, Hollywood hates the elderly. You can have a personal meltdown, you can do stints in rehab, you can get mired in scandal--just don’t grow old, for the love of God. Why, just listen to the musical cues in “The Deadly Years.” When we first see the Johnsons, the music dramatically says, “EEEWWW, OLD PEOPLE!” At other various points, it also declares, “LOOK, SCOTTY’S OLD!” “KIRK IS MAKING MISTAKES BECAUSE LOOK AT HIM, HE’S SENILE!” “OH MY GOD, IT’S GALWAY, AND SHE’S SO OLD SHE’S DEAD!” (The music was particularly amusing in this episode, almost becoming a sarcastic commentator.)

But while Hollywood may hate old people, it loves stereotypes and tropes. So my wife and I decided to have a little fun once we learned that this episode was going to treat old age as a *nasty affliction* and an *illness.* That requires symptoms, and that means, bring on the old-people stereotypes [South Park satirized the deployment of old-age tropes expertly in its episodes “Gray Dawn” and “Cash 4 Gold,” by the way].

Naturally, we created our own drinking game. We came up with seven surefire stereotypes about elderly people. Every time “The Deadly Years” used one for effect, we would take a shot:

1. Old people are hard of hearing, so you always have to speak louder and shout at them. -- Check! DRINK!

2. Old people are always shaking, stumbling, and riddled with arthritis and palsy. -- Check! DRINK!

3. Old people can’t drive for shit. -- PASS. This turns out to not be applicable, as Sulu wasn’t in the landing party.

4. Old people are always repeating themselves, because they can’t remember what they said ten seconds ago. -- Check! DRINK!

5. Old people are always tired and talking about naptime. -- Check! DRINK!

6. Old people are always reminiscing about the past, rambling on with long drawn-out stories that no one asked to hear. -- PASS. I paid close attention to McCoy for this point, but even he's in the clear.

7. Old people sometimes admit defeat by saying “Ehhh, I Can't Remember.” -- Check! DRINK. [Kirk didn’t flat out say, “I can’t remember,” I admit, but this point was key evidence in his hearing.]

Needless to say, this episode made us properly giddy.

That hapless idiotic commodore proves to be an even bigger mess than the old, senile Kirk. “The Deadly Years” seems to be saying here that while old age makes you incompetent, so does being a moron. “Not being old” should never be the only criteria for being selected for leadership.

“The Deadly Years” is a plodding mess, but at least we get some decent lines, William Shatner and DeForest Kelley are sublime, and the makeup actually isn’t half bad.

Speak Freely:

Kirk -- “Bones, I believe you’re getting gray.”
McCoy -- “You take over my job and see what happens to you.”

My Grade: C
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 8:05am (UTC -6)
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon,
Turns Ashes - or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face,
Lighting a little hour or two - is gone.
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 10:00am (UTC -6)
Mr. Capitalist Pig -- you certainly are full of passionate intensity. It's a shame you cannot hear yourself. The centre would certainly appreciate it.
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 11:13am (UTC -6)
@Proud Capitalist Pig -- "The Deadly Years" - a good name for authoritarian Biden regime's time in power
Proud Capitalist Pig
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
@ Darmok -- Just reacting to the times, Darmok.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 8:12pm (UTC -6)
@ Rahul -- Indeed! Apt, my friend.
Mon, Dec 19, 2022, 1:42am (UTC -6)
Proud Capitalist Pig -- truly you embody it. Education and all.
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 7:58pm (UTC -6)
So Spock walks into sickbay with a beaker full of antidote. He hands it to Nurse Chapel who sets it on a table. What does Dr. Wallace inject Kirk with?

And why did the Romulans pause their attack while Kirk dictated his message to Starfleet Command?
Thu, Mar 16, 2023, 11:35pm (UTC -6)
This s an absolutely brilliant episode that simply did not have the time frame to make enough sense. It should have been a two-parter. But is, as it stands, a fan favorite and an instant classic. Period.

TWO stars is ridiculous.

Three at best would do it true justice. It's science fiction, Jammer.. It's not always supposed to make sense.
Mr. Jimmy
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
3.5 stars, easy. Great episode. Period.
Wed, Jul 5, 2023, 9:09am (UTC -6)
I’m surprised at some of the comments above about Stocker, particularly given the era we all live in. I mean, in the 21st century it’s pretty clear that prestigious title and competence are not concepts that go hand in hand. Just perusing some of our political options as of late(Bush II, Hillary, Trump, to name a few) it’s pretty obvious that cronyism, nepotism, fame, base self promotion, and wealth are held at a higher premium than ability and intelligence. I’m guessing Commodore “what’s a neutral zone?” Stocker is one of those guys who managed to fail his way upwards, probably due to his family donating a series of park benches to starfleet headquarters or something asinine, resulting in him being fast tracked into a cushy desk job that he was woefully unqualified for. Stocker’s idiocy might be one of the most realistic things TOS has ever depicted.

As for the episode, the core idea is a decent one. It’s pretty gutsy to tackle the unpleasant challenges of aging, both for the aged and those who care for them. But the pacing of the episode is all wrong. The court room drama breaks up the show’s forward momentum, and allows tedium to sneak into the mix. I’m also not a big fan of the negative character beat Kirk is subjected to, his stubbornness makes him look like a fool. Kirk temporarily gives up command all the time, I’m not sure why a severe case of radiation poisoning would be any different than getting stabbed in the back by an andorian or getting trapped on the surface of a planet with a bunch of eight foot tall, drapery clad meatheads. And Kirk showing no signs of aging effects only a few minutes after taking the cure strains even the most dedicated suspension of disbelief.
The make up was quite effective, as was the acting. I got a kick out of Kirk storming the bridge to save the day with a clever ruse, and the corbomite call back was a cute bit of continuity. But overall this episode just doesn’t feel like it stuck the landing.

2/4 stupidly placed mirrors.
Thu, Oct 5, 2023, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
Incredibly stupid episode. It feels like the only people who think this deserves more than 1.5 stars are old codgers that focused too heavily on the "social commentary about oldness" nonsense, which is hilarious and not at all subtle, because of all the stereotypes listed by Capitalist Pig above. Basically everything that happened in this episode was dumb.
Chekov didn't get old and he was scared for 2 seconds at the start of the episode and they therefore concluded that the cure to the magic oldness radiation is adrenaline. Uh huh.
1 star, but only for Kirk storming onto the bridge and taking command awesome-ly.
Thu, Oct 5, 2023, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
And if you want my opinion on what a good, smart episode is: "A Taste of Armageddon". Almost flawless, with a very original premise, and I never found myself saying "this character's action is stupid and makes no sense" and "this is ridiculous" like in so many bad TOS episodes.

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