Kirk takes down a landing party (Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Galway) to Gamma Hydra IV to check up on a scientific expedition. Nobody comes out to greet them and Kirk notes that when he spoke to the expedition leader, Mr. Johnson, the man seemed vague and distracted. They search through the buildings and Chekov finds the corpse of an extremely old man. He runs out and brings the others, and McCoy determines that the man died of natural causes. Two old people come in, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, and they confirm that they’re 29 and 27 years old.
Everyone beams back up to the ship after confirming that the remaining expedition members are all dead of old age as well. McCoy can’t do anything for the Johnson couple, who are suffering from advanced senility. Kirk calls a meeting and asks Commodore Stocker and Dr. Janet Wallace to attend. Both are heading for Starbase 10, Stocker to take command and Wallace to work as an endocrinologist. They can’t figure out the cause of the aging although they suspect the Romulans may be involved due to the planet’s proximity to the Neutral Zone. After the meeting it becomes clear that Kirk and Wallace had a relationship but she broke it off and married a fellow scientist.
Conducting further scans, Spock locates a comet that recently passed by the planet. Meanwhile, Stocker wants them to get underway to Starbase 10. Kirk goes to his quarters after giving Sulu a duplicate command. In Sickbay, Galway reports a hearing problem, while Kirk has shoulder pains and goes to Sickbay as well. McCoy confirms that the Johnsons have died, then determines that the captain has an advanced case of arthritis. Scotty comes in… and has aged over a decade.
All of the landing party is showing signs of advanced age except for Chekov, who appears immune. Spock has a longer life span but warns that he is also suffering symptoms of advanced age. They go back to their quarters and Wallace expresses her sympathy to the captain, but he notes that her husband is now dead and was an older man as well. On the bridge, Kirk forgets signing off on a fuel consumption report, disregards Stocker’s request to go to Starbase 10, and dozes off on the bridge. Finally, Spock determines that the planet passed through the comet’s tail. Kirk notifies Starfleet… using a code the Romulans have broke. McCoy confirms Spock’s analysis and works to reverse the problem. Meanwhile, Stocker approaches Spock and suggests that the Vulcan take command, since the captain is losing it. Spock points out that he is similarly affected and Stocker asks Spock to call a competency hearing for the captain. Meanwhile, Galway, who is aging faster due to metabolic differences, dies of old age.
Spock reviews Kirk’s memory lapses at the competency hearing and even McCoy is forced to testify against him. Stocker takes command even though he has no command experience. The Commodore then orders them across the Neutral Zone to get help for the aging crew, overriding Spock’s objections.
Spock goes to give Kirk the news and the captain snaps at him and Dr. Wallace, then finds out that Stocker is in command. They go to Sickbay and figure out that Chekov panicked on the planet, and the adrenaline may have immunized him against the radiation. McCoy remembers how they used adrenaline as an early cure for radiation and they attempt to make an antidote. Meanwhile, ten Romulan ships intercept the Enterprise
and open fire. Stocker has no idea how to handle things.
Spock finishes making the antidote but warns that it’s crude and untested, and could kill as easily as cure. Kirk orders them to give him the antidote first, since they’ll all die anyway if he doesn’t get to the bridge. He takes the shot and starts thrashing in agony. On the bridge, Stocker is helpless as the Romulans move in for the kill… until Kirk arrives on the bridge, back to his normal age. Taking command, he has Uhura open a frequency to Starfleet using the previous broken code. However, he then sends a message notifying his superiors he’ll be blowing up the ship. The Romulans retreat long enough for the Enterprise
to leave at maximum warp. Stocker apologizes and McCoy cures himself and Scotty, then prepares an extra strong dose for Spock… and removes all the breakables from Sickbay. Share this article with your friends