Star Trek: The Original Series
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While exploring the farthest reaches of the galaxy, the Enterprise breaks beyond the Galactic Barrier that surrounds the galaxy. However, while passing through the barrier, two crew members, Lt. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman), are struck by some sort of strange energy field. While Dehner seems unaffected, Mitchell soon begins exhibiting signs of ESP (which here also means telekinesis and mind control), escalating quickly to godlike abilities. Captain Kirk realizes that Mitchell and Dehner’s powers might develop to a point that may endanger the crew, so he plans to maroon his best friend on a planet. Soon after this, Dehner begins to develop similar skills. However, Mitchell realizes Kirk’s plan, and Kirk must choose between leaving his friend on the planet or killing him – if he can.
Let’s Dig Deeper into Where No Man Has Gone Before
The actual second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was the fourth episode to air, because it was too cerebral (which also applied to “The Cage,” the original, unaired pilot). This is jarring to the modern viewer (and I’m talking about me in the 1990s, watching them on VHS). It always confused me when I tried to watch in order – it’s got the same design aesthetic as “The Cage,” different uniforms (no redshirts!), Spock is a bit less smiley but still with distinct emotions, and McCoy isn’t present. If this had been made today, they’d have done reshoots or inserts with DeForest Kelley, for continuity’s sake. But let’s not worry about continuity until The Next Generation, or Deep Space Nine…
In my review of “Charlie X,” I highlighted the human-with-godlike-powers story as a trope Star Trek will deal with for decades to come. They come at this from two different angles within two stories. In “Charlie X,” there’s a teenage boy who has godlike powers and he just terrorizes the crew while just trying to become more human. Then, the problem is just taken away from Kirk and company.
Here, something else is at work. We see a much more raw version of human nature, and Kirk puts a fine point on it, calling out Mitchell’s descent away from humanity as “absolute power corrupting absolutely.” While Charlie tries to grow toward his humanity (though he fails) Mitchell quickly calls himself a god, shunning human morality and claiming that “Morals are for men, not gods.” He has risen above all such puny restrictions, demanding that Kirk prays to him. Who has need of principles when might can make right?
James T. Kirk (or James R. Kirk here) is at his best when he’s matching wits with a super-intelligent life form (or computer, as we’ll see). He tries to convince Mitchell and Dehner to give up their powers, hoping to reason with them, and it works – almost.
The redemption of Dr. Dehner steals the show; Sally Kellerman is just a winning actress. Kirk finally reaches Dehner whose powers develop later in the game, meaning her humanity hasn’t drained away as quickly as Gary’s, despite his best efforts. This means that Kirk is still able to appeal to her ethos, calling upon what’s left of her humanity to help stop the power-mad Mitchell. It’s a testament to a real, raw understanding of human nature’s flaws that Roddenberry sees Mitchell descend so quickly upon gaining near-unlimited powers, and yet there’s still hope.
Random Thoughts on Star Trek
I truly wish we could have seen more of Gary Mitchell and Kirk together. Especially because this was released out of production order. It would have been so cool to have him around for two episodes, then killed off. The gravity would have just been felt so much more keenly. Despite my hopes and dreams, I love the two of them together. In just a few scenes, we feel their history. Moreover, their interactions and reminiscences in sickbay provide one of my favorite easter eggs. Gary says that, in the Academy, he “aimed that little blonde lab technician” at Kirk, who replies, “You planned that? I almost married her!” To me, this is clearly Carol Marcus, without a doubt. Canon, for sure.
I’d also love to see Dr. Elizabeth Dehner roaming the halls, of the Enterprise, psychoanalyzing like a proto-Deanna Troi. She’d have a field day with the dysfunctional relationship between McCoy and Spock.
Memorable Quotes from Where No Man Has Gone Before
“Have I ever mentioned you play a very irritating game of chess, Mister Spock?”
“Irritating? Ah, yes. One of your Earth emotions.”
– Kirk and Spock’s banter, intact from the very first.
“What do you know about gods?”
“Then let’s talk about Humans! About our frailties!”
– Dehner and Kirk
Keep Watching Star Trek?
Guys. Come on. I’m not going to abandon this with 76 more episodes to go, especially after this momentous entry! Dive right in with me!
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Star Trek TOS S1E3: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
- A timeless tale of the corruption of absolute power, handled well.
- This sets up the template for what Star Trek will become.
- It's rather dark, but not oppressively so.
- No McCoy.
- Still a little wobbly in regards to the sets and costuming and continuity.