Star Trek – The Deadly Years

★★★★1/2 December 8, 1967 Season 2 Episode 12

If you want to see where we are…and you missed a few…HERE is a list of the episodes in my index located at the top of my blog. 

This show was written by Gene Roddenberry and David P. Harmon

Another favorite of mine in the 2nd season. Some of the crew starts growing old…really quick. 

When an away team goes for a routine visit to a scientific outpost they are shocked to discover the personnel are dead or dying, apparently of old age, despite none of them being old.

Star Trek – The Deadly Years B

Back on the Enterprise, it isn’t long before members of the away team, with the exception of Chekov, start aging. At first, the signs are subtle; Kirk gives the same order twice and instructs Uhura to contact Star Fleet using a code that has already been cracked by the Romulans. It isn’t long before more obvious signs of aging show and if they don’t discover the cause and a remedy quickly most of the senior staff will be dead within days.

As time progresses Kirk’s ability to command comes into question and Commodore Stocker, who was being transported to a nearby star base, assumes command despite never serving on a starship before. This almost leads to disaster when he orders the Enterprise to head directly to the star base even though that course takes them through the Romulan neutral zone.

After that, the Romulans of course are after The Enterprise. With Kirk and Spock old…it doesn’t look like they will get out of this trouble with the Romulans. 

Here is a comparison of William Shatner…a Hollywood 80-year-old or so…and the real Shatner around 80-85 years old at the time of the picture. 

William Shatner old and old

From IMDB:

The cast wore oversized versions of their costumes as their characters aged in order to give the impression that they were shrinking.

William Shatner resisted looking too old as Captain Kirk aged. This is why at first the aging Kirk’s hairline is receding but later his hair is more full.

Having been born on July 16, 1882, Felix Locher (Robert Johnson) is the earliest born actor to appear in any “Star Trek” episode or film, at 85 years of age.

Kirk’s age (34) is established in this episode. William Shatner was 36.

Around this mid-season shoot, rumors started to circulate that Star Trek was going to be canceled. One of the show’s most ardent fans, Bjo Trimble, created a mailing list, urging everyone on it to write to the network pleading for the show’s survival. The ploy worked.

In “The World of Star Trek”, William Shatner relates that he endured an excruciating make-up session for this episode – all for nothing, because the shooting day was just about to end. The producers caught his exasperation in an infamous blooper, wherein he declares, “Robert H. Justman, I’m going home now, after spending three hours putting this [expletive deleted] make-up back on – and it’s your fault!”

Kirk reuses the scam involving the “corbomite” device, which he first described in Star Trek: The Corbomite Maneuver (1966). Although Chekov was not on the bridge on that occasion, he obviously heard the story from someone, as he and Sulu exchange knowing looks when Kirk mentions the word.

According to Walter Koenig, a close-up shot of his eyes was filmed as Chekov sees the dead body. Unfortunately, Koenig kept blinking during the shot and it took fifteen takes to get it right. However, the shot was deleted from the episode.

Lieutenant Uhura was originally supposed to be one of the landing party that starts to age but Gene Roddenberry refused to allow this on the grounds that it would make her unattractive. In Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead (1968), Uhura had a rapid-aging scene.

This is the first time McCoy is aged using makeup in order to look much older than he is. The second time is in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint (1987). Both versions look very similar.

Each crew member displays different symptoms of aging: Captain Kirk suffers from short-term memory loss and arthritis, Spock becomes hypersensitive to temperature changes, McCoy becomes more moody and irritable, Galway suffers from hearing loss, and Scotty finds that he is always tired.

Normally, make-up artist Fred B. Phillips would have been given a month to come up with the latex prosthetics to age his cast. Instead, he was given 10 days. Philips was able to get round the problem by drafting a whole troupe of make-up artists to assist him.

William Shatner reportedly threatened producer Robert H. Justman with bodily harm after enduring the three hour old-age makeup process for no reason. “Who’s afraid of such a wrinkled, feeble old coot!” scoffed Justman. Nevertheless, Justman kept his office door locked until shooting was finished.

When Spock questions Uhura during the competency hearing, he twice clearly refers to Uhura’s having signed her initials (note the plural) on a document. Lt. Uhura was never given a first name during the entire run of the series, which at the time lead some to believe she may have only had the single name “Uhura”. However, this episode established that, due to having more than one initial, she must also have had a name other than “Uhura”.

Dr. Wallace’s costume was made from drapes.

In the first scene, the landing party beams down to the planet surface in front of two buildings. The first one has a curved exterior with alternating raised light blue panels and sunken white panels with no “ribs”, but the second one has a similar curved exterior with “ribs” clearly protruding from the roof. This second building is a repurposing of the structure used as the home for Zefram Cochran in Star Trek: Metamorphosis (1967).

McCoy’s Southern dialect grows noticeably thicker as he ages.

The last shot of the episode is reused from Star Trek: Amok Time (1967). Note the wig there on Chekov, which he didn’t have on for the entire episode.

The proximity of the Gamma Hydra sector to the Romulan Neutral Zone is repeated in the opening scene of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), when the Enterprise supposedly violates the zone while patrolling near the sector. However, in the movie it’s the Klingons who attack.

If one goes by production order, this is the first episode in which Vulcans are mentioned to have a longer lifespan than humans. If one goes by airdate order, that title goes to Star Trek: Journey to Babel (1967).

The end credits include a make-up test shot of Bill Blackburn as a Tellarite.

Except for Checkov, the pronounced aging effects of each of the landing party are as follows: McCoy – Crankiness, somewhat difficulty enunciating words. Kirk – Memory loss, arthritis, stiffness. Scotty – Fatigue. (Duaring the competency hearing he just sits quietly and withdrawn.) Galway – Hearing loss, fast metabolism caused rapid aging and death. Spock – Sensitivity to cold, easily fatigued, failing eyesight, difficulty concentrating.

Areel Shaw’s line from Star Trek: Court Martial (1967) about how long it has been since she’s seen Kirk is recycled by Janet Wallace in this segment.

Kirk’s return to normal age was filmed differently from the version seen in the aired show. It was originally planned to have him take the antidote and, accompanied by a still-aged Spock, return to normal slowly on his way to the bridge. For unknown reasons, this scene was eliminated and just his lower body was filmed showing him writhing after the antidote was administered.


Rapid aging afflicts all six colonists on Gamma Hydra IV and five members of Kirk’s six-man landing party – all but Chekov. With the Neutral Zone so close, suspicion falls on the Romulans testing a new weapon, but is it? With time running out, answers are elusive. As Kirk’s memory progressively deteriorates, regulations necessitate a competency hearing no one wants – the outcome of which may eventually lead the Enterprise to its destruction with all aboard.


William Shatner … Captain James Tiberius ‘Jim’ Kirk
Leonard Nimoy … Mister Spock
DeForest Kelley … Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
James Doohan … Lieutenant Commander Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott
Nichelle Nichols … Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
George Takei … Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Majel Barrett … Nurse Christine Chapel
Charles Drake – Commodore Stocker
Carolyn Nelson – Yeoman Atkins
Sarah Marshall – Dr. Janet Wallace
Laura Wood – Elaine Johnson
Felix Maurice Locher – Robert Johnson
Beverly Washburn – Lt. Arlene Galway
Roger Holloway – Lt. Lemli
Eddie Paskey – Lt. Leslie
Frank Da Vinci – Lt. Brent


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Star Trek – The Deadly Years”

  1. Great pic of Kirk slumped over in his chair Max. I kinda do that as well at times as well. lol Amazing how crafty the writers were for that time to keep the storyline changing from show to show..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Jim for telling me. I have posted at least 3 videos from that episode and all of them were “age restricted” but I thought it would play if you clicked on it but no it shows block…I just posted another…hopefully this works for people today.
      Why age restrict a 50 year old TV show?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If the video wont play…refresh the page. It KEPT coming up with Age Restricted…over and over on a 50 year old TV show. But when you clicked on it to see it…it showed block. It’s a really good episode.


  2. I remember laughing at the beginning where they go into that place on the planet and those 2 old people come in and say their ages. It’s one of the tougher deadlines they have faced.

    Liked by 1 person

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