Boldly Going: Where No Man Has Gone Before

17 Oct

So, the title of this column pays off just four episodes in. It’s all downhill from here.

Today’s installment, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” is the second pilot created for Star Trek after studio execs shot down “The Cage.” There are some obvious differences between this pilot and the show proper (an episode like “The Man Trap,” for example); Kirk and Spock both wear different uniforms (greenish mock turtlenecks) and Spock has both a yellow-green tint to his skin and a more pronounced set of “otherness” just to really drive the fact home that’s not from Earth. We get to meet Scotty for the first time (Sulu is also present, but no Uhura or McCoy). But other than minor changes like these, there’s actually not much that’s been changed from the original rejected pilot “The Cage”; supposedly, what changed the minds of the NBC execs was that “Where No Man” ends in a fistfight. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At this point, I’ll stop talking about when episodes were produced versus when they aired. While I’m sure there will continue to be discrepancies, I don’t think it will be all that significant now that we’re basically up to speed. Sound good?

Stardate: 1312.4

Original Air Date: September 22, 1966

The Story: The crew of the Enterprise (now commanded by Captain James T. Kirk in this second pilot) comes across the remnants of a destroyed ship called The Valiant. In examining the recordings of the Valiant‘s final minutes, the crew learns that the ship was researching E.S.P. before being caught up in some sort of space storm. Determined to discover what happened to the Valiant, Kirk guides the Enterprise to the  edge of the galaxy where it too encounters a strange space “storm.” As the ship passes through it, two members of the Enterprisecrew — Lt. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) — are knocked unconscious. When they awaken, both demonstrate incredibly heightened E.S.P. abilities (Mitchell’s develop first, and much more quickly).

Before long, it becomes clear that Lt. Mitchell is evolving into something incredibly powerful and inhuman; he is, in a matter of speaking, becoming a god. Spock advises Kirk that Mitchell must be taken off the Enterprise, so Kirk plans to maroon the lieutenant on a nearby desolate planet. Quickly growing wise to the plan, Mitchell kills a crew member and escapes the ship with Dr. Dehner. Kirk gives chase, climaxing in a battle with Mitchell; appealing to the remaining humanity in Dr. Dehner, Kirk enlists her help in stopping Mitchell. She is killed in the process, but Kirk ultimately defeats Mitchell and buries him in the ground. In detailing the events in the captain’s log, Kirk records that Mitchell and Dehner died in the line of duty. They will not be remembered as monsters.

Reflections from a First Timer: As much as I enjoyed “The Cage” and thought it to be a worthy pilot to Star Trek, I liked “Where No Man Has Gone Before” a lot more. Not only does it put William Shatner in the captain’s chair (the best and most important correction), but also manages to introduce some neat sci-fi ideas and maintain much of moral ambiguity I liked in “The Cage.” Why it wasn’t chosen to air first I don’t know, but it could have been; I give the series major credit for just dropping us into the story without having to dole out loads of exposition. I’ve got a feeling that if Star Trek were to be made today, the series would begin with Kirk and the crew launching from Earth (the 2009 film actually does this, as if to prove my point) — we’d have to know how it all began. Instead, the show just picks up in the middle of the Enterprise‘s expedition, filling us in with small character details and giving each of them a sense of history. That’s evident in the scenes with Kirk and Mitchell in which they reminisce and joke about the past, despite the fact that they’re growing further apart (both friendship and species-wise) by the second.

Speaking of Mitchell’s fate, that’s another thing I really appreciated about “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Not only are the “villains” actually human (at first, anyway), but they’re also victims of fate and circumstance — they become “villains” by accident. It raises questions similar to those brought up in “The Man Trap”; at one point can you divorce the person you knew from the person he or she has become? Can you blame someone for acting according to his or her nature? Interesting, too, that it takes very little time for the crew of the Enterprise to come to fear the newly-gained powers of Mitchell and Dr. Dehner; it’s  somewhat cynical — but ultimately realistic and kind of courageous — for the series to recognize those aspects of humanity that we perhaps shouldn’t be too proud of. I know I’m looking at it with the perspective of history, but Star Trek really does seem to be way ahead of its time.

Oh, and guess what else “Where No Man Has Gone Before” teaches us? That Sally Kellerman used to be a fox. I just wish I could hear her voice without thinking of salad dressing.

Enterprise Casualties: Three, but one and a half of them were bad guys.

Badass Kirk Moment: Kirk puts Spock in checkmate. CHECKMATE. Against a Vulcan! No one beats Jimmy T. Also, he buries a dude alive. That’s pretty badass.

4 Responses to “Boldly Going: Where No Man Has Gone Before”

  1. Carl W. October 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Hey Patrick,

    Just managed to stumble on this blog somehow, maybe from your podcast for Star Trek, but anyway, I think it’s a neat idea. I’ve actually been a big fan of almost all things Trek since a young age (blame my mother), so it’s interesting to hear a fresh perspective.

    I also think that “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is quite a good episode, even if some of the characterizations aren’t quite right yet (that whole scene where Spock lectures Kirk about how “all he knows is logic” just sounds odd to me). There are some really nice subtle things going on, like how Mitchell’s hair gets grayer as the episode goes on. I guess it’s stressful being godlike.

    The first season is definitely the best overall, though season 2 has some really good episodes as well. Season 3 has maybe one or two but also some MAJOR clunkers.

    Going back to the Star Trek podcast: did you ever watch The Motion Picture, or are you saving that one for after the show? I’m curious to know what you thought of it. Keep up the great work!

  2. PATRICK BROMLEY November 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Hey, Carl –
    Thanks for finding me! This blog is still pretty under-the-radar.

    I love “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” in some ways even because of the rough edges. The fact that the show is still working out its characterizations means it hasn’t yet settled into predictable patterns and formula, which keeps things interesting. It’s true that some of the early days of Spock aren’t really the Spock we eventually came to know and love, but it’s fun watching Nimoy and Roddenberry figure all of that out.

    I haven’t watched The Motion Picture yet; it’s still the only Star Trek movie I’ve never seen. Hoping to get to it soon, assuming I can finish Season Three in the coming weeks. Of course, then I have to watch The Animated Series, too, so maybe it will be longer than I thought. I’m so curious to see it, though, because it’s so controversial even among diehard Star Trek fans.

    I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment!

  3. Carl W. November 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Wow..I didn’t realize you were going to go through the Animated Series as well. I watched a couple of episodes recently (thank you, Netflix Instant!), and it was a rather disappointing experience. I grew up watching them on reruns, and they were really the first exposure I had to episodic Trek (I don’t think TOS was on in my town then, and Next Generation was still a few years away). I guess when you’re 6, you can overlook things like poor plot (or sometimes direct lifts from the original series) and really shoddy animation. Maybe it’s that Goonies phenomenon you’ve talked about on your show…

  4. Nick February 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I think it’s great you are doing the Trek universe in order, the way it should be. I will definitely be curious to hear your opinion on the original film. I enjoyed all of the TOS films, even the odd numbered ones. I think the original motion picture was a great first attempt but Wrath of Kahn really nailed it and I’m sure allowed the other films to be made.

    As for the second pilot, I love this episode. The theme are very prevalent and in the Star Trek Universe the character of Lt. Mitchell is actually brought up again throughout various book series. The Cage came first but this one enabled the show.

    You are so right. Swapping Kirk for Pike was needed and I’m so very happy Roddenberry fought the studio to keep the Spock character. I couldn’t see the original Enterprise without him.

    Some fun trivia:

    -In this episode it’s not James T. Kirk. It’s James R. Kirk! You can see this on the tombstone that Mitchell shows Kirk when they battle. Later Roddenberry stated it was a typo!

    -While this episode was #3 in the American viewing order, it was actually #1 in Britain!

    -Futurama spoofed this episode… kind of. They had an episode called “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” and featured a future where Star Trek was outlawed due to it becoming a hard core religion. It was one of the few times the core of the original surviving cast got together to do something fun. At one point the Planet Express ship even had nacelles!

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