In the third episode of the first season of Star Trek, the crew locates a mysterious recording device which unleashes a frightening power onboard the Enterprise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Ah, so now I’ve seen the “pilot” episode! Well, technically, it’s the second pilot. Admittedly, it was jarring to watching this third since I’m following the airing order for Star Trek, but it would have been a jarring experience regardless. There are cast members here that probably won’t show up again (like Alden, Yeoman Smith, and Dr. Mark), the costuming was different, Spock’s make-up was very green, and yet? There are moments that serve as introductory points for someone watching the show for the first time. This is the earliest Stardate (I think???) in the show thus far, and it’s clear that they’re leaving the galaxy for the first time. I assume that’s the Milky Way Galaxy, obviously. Combine that with some of the mentions of Kirk’s time in the academy and with all the exposition surrounding Spock’s characterization, and it’s a good start.
It’s not my favorite start to Star Trek, and I’m thankful that I got to see “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X” prior to this. They were a lot more thrilling to me, and I think “Charlie X” is a better example of a human possessing superhuman powers than this one. Yeah, this one felt a bit too tonally similar to “Charlie X” for me, but I still liked it! “Where No Man Has Gone Before” suggests both an expansive history of space exploration and a limitless future, and it’s that idea that I was drawn to the most. Two centuries prior to the events in this episode, the SS Valiant was apparently blown up by one of the surviving crew members, all after the Valiant encountered some unknown event. The use of ESP here was more supernatural than I expected, but it works for the story that’s told. (It also makes me kind of excited to see what else the writers might use to tell stories.) It’s a common trope in science fiction: the infection! Though I hesitate to specifically name what happens to Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner as an infection, but the hallmarks are there. The Enterprise flies into some weird, purplish barrier, and multiple crew are hurt or killed in the lightning-like blast that emanates from it. This causes Mitchell and Dehner, who scored highly in ESP tests, to begin to mutate. So what does that make them? Are they still human? What happens when their ESP begins to grow exponentially? Is there a point where they can be saved or are they a lost cause?
“Where No Man Has Gone Before” does attempt to answer these questions, though it’s a bit clumsy at times. BUT TOTALLY CHARMING IN THE PROCESS. This wasn’t boring by any means, and watching William Shatner constantly overact is the greatest treat in the world. Plus, Gary Lockwood is just so good as Lt. Commander Mitchell, who becomes a self-proclaimed god over the course of a couple days. He plays the character with an outright arrogance that’s unsettling. It’s remarkable how quickly he inflates his own ego as he gains more and more powers. The main conflict then becomes the horrible moral conundrum that Captain Kirk faces: If he cannot stop Mitchell’s growth, then should he obey Spock’s logic and either kill his best friend or ABANDON HIM ON SOME REMOTE PLANET?
I’m always looking for character development and emotional motivation whenever I’m experiencing a new show or book for the first time, and this episode is no exception. This definitely establishes Spock as the unemotional source of intelligence that Kirk relies on, but it also shows us that Kirk is the kind of captain who will always care about the people under his charge. His reluctance to doom someone he taught at the academy is evidence of that. He holds out hope for Mitchell until he no longer can, which is right about the time when that HORRIFICALLY BRUTAL FIGHT HAPPENS. Holy shit, I DID NOT EXPECT THAT.
Anyway, you can see that behavior in Kirk’s interaction with Dehner, too. He tries to appeal to her sense of reason and her scholarship. He knows that deep down, there’s still some of her humanity left. I thought it was very clever of him to try to reach her by insisting that there had to be some part of her psychiatric training within her, because that’s ultimately what snaps her out of her own mutation, at least long enough for her to stop Mitchell from killing Kirk. She sacrificed her own life to save Kirk (and I’d even argue that she probably saved a lot more people from Mitchell, too). He honors both of them in the final moments of this episode, which I think contributes to our perception of him as a captain.
This is a good episode of the show, but it’s definitely awkward at times. The preceding episodes felt far more complete and better paced than this one, and WHERE IS UHURA. OR BONES. I admit to missing them here. But I did have fun making ridiculous commentary throughout! I AM AN ADULT I SWEAR.
The video for “Where No Man Has Gone Before” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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