Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"Where No Man Has Gone Before"

***

Air date: 9/22/1966
Written by Samuel A. Peeples
Directed by James Goldstone

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When zapped by a mysterious energy field, Kirk's longtime friend and fellow shipmate, Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood), begins developing telekinesis and other astounding superhuman powers. Power corrupts, however, and Mitchell soon sees the Enterprise and its crew as being as far beneath him as any insect. With no choice but to attempt marooning Mitchell on a nearby planet, Kirk finds that he must battle one-on-one with a former friend who is now a powerful being.

The famous second pilot for NBC features an admirable mix of action scenes, choices for the captain, and a contemplation on what an individual may do if given powers beyond what he was meant to have. Interestingly, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) offers the sole voice of initial curiosity in embracing this superbeing when everyone else harbors fear. All in all it's not a great hour of Trek, but it's a good one.

Previous episode: Charlie X
Next episode: The Naked Time

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10 comments on this review

Jeffrey Bedard - Mon, Oct 1, 2012 - 8:36am (USA Central)
So TOS was given a second chance with mostly new characters and it really works. A bit more action packed than "The Cage" but there is still room for philosophical debate regarding the nature of a "god-like" man.

Considering the differences in make-up, costuming and set design it seems odd to this day that NBC chose to air this episode 3rd in the running order.

But we have some great dynamics here. At this point Kirk and Spock clearly are not friends and there is a more straight on professional relationship between them. We get to see Kirk beat Spock at chess for the first time (or second seeing as this aired after "Charlie X).

You get the sense of long friendship between Kirk and Mitchell, but it's unfortunate that Mitchell couldn't have been established in a few episodes to make his transformation and death a little more tragic.

We get to see the cold unfeeling logic from Spock when he tells Kirk to kill Mitchell NOW.

And Sally Kellerman gives a wonderful guest performance as Dr. Dehner. Her scenes with Mitchell have spark.

Include some nice visuals such as the Enterprise crossing the barrier and the planet sets for Delta Vega and we have a wonderful reintroduction to TREK.
Paul - Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - 10:59am (USA Central)
This was on last night and I'm amazed every time I watch it. It really holds up.

There are a few things that the creators hadn't figured out, like when Sulu talks about pennies and millionaires. And the technology is a little goofy -- like the records Spock reviews that clearly look like microfilm and the wires on Delta Vega.

But Kirk is essentially the Kirk we get to know over the years and while Spock is a little off, he's clearly coming together as a character. It's also interesting -- in a series often noted for red-shirt deaths -- that the second pilot kills off two members of the bridge crew, presumably two major characters in the missions we never saw. Scotty and Sulu are also pretty well defined (even if Sulu isn't yet at the helm).

I do think this episode and 'Space Seed' best show an optimism about man's ability to get to space quickly that turned out to be misplaced and had to be corrected as Star Trek continued through the '80s and '90s.

The Valiant apparently was a full-fledged space vessel 200 years before Kirk's 5-year mission, according to this episode. With chronology established later, we know that would put the Valiant's launch around 2064.

I think, at some point, the creators of Star Trek pushed back just exactly when things were taking place during Kirk's 5-year mission, probably to accommodate the lack of forward momentum of human space exploration after the 1960s. At a couple points -- including in this episode -- it appears that only 200 years have passed since the late 20th century, and not the 300 established later (the first year mentioned in Star Trek is in "The Neutral Zone" when Data tells the 20th-century humans that the current year is 2364). Mitchell says that a poem written in 1996 was one of the most passionate "in the past couple of centuries." Kirk, in "Space Seed", tells Khan that two centuries had passed since the late 1990s. Kirk also jokes in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" that if he were locked up for 200 years in 1960s Earth, that that would "be just about right."

Other than that, there aren't a lot of clues to exactly when TOS is taking place. But those details would put TOS somewhere in the latter half of the 22nd century -- not the latter half of the 23rd, as is now understood -- meaning the Valiant would have launched in the late 1990s or thereabouts. BTW, 'Enterprise' had to deal with this in the Augments trilogy, effectively moving Khan's rule on Earth into the 21st century, even though 'Space Seed' clearly puts all of that in the 1990s.

I think the creators made this decision before Star Trek II, which begins "In the 23rd century ... " and dealt with a storyline in 1982 where Khan's rule would have been around the corner. Kirk kind of confirms this in Star Trek IV when he tells Gillian that he's from the late 23rd century.

Whenever it happened, it was a fundamental change in Star Trek, and it kind of went unnoticed. The only thing that's comparable is the decision in early-VOY/mid-DS9 to change the nature of time travel, where effect no longer needs cause (this is most notable in 'Visonary' and 'Time and Again' -- but it pops up in 'First Contact').

Anyway, I've always wondered if the ST creators had discussions about this kind of stuff -- where they knew they were fundamentally altering an unspoken premise.
Koovan - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 11:04am (USA Central)
Interesting that this episode again emphasises the vulnerability of humans intrepid enough to undertake space travel. Members of the crew are clearly frightened when negotiating the force field that causes the change in Mitchell.

There is a lot of insight into Kirk, his role as an educator at Starfleet Academy is briefly mentioned as well as his loyalty and great capacity for enduring friendships. The conflict between his professional and personal selves is neatly portrayed with Spock seemingly suffering none of the human 'frailties' that act to prevent Mitchell from coping with the enormous changes that take place within him.

It is intriguing that we never discover what the nature of the phenomenon that effected him was and therefore whether there was an intent or if the area remained a threat to future shipping. The programme contains a lot of mystery and rather than consider that a limitation of the writing, as most teleplays now leave no uncertainty as to any aspect of their content, I find it refreshingly realistic.
William B - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 11:27am (USA Central)
This is the second pilot, and so the first produced episode featuring James Kirk (Gary Mitchell creates a gravestone which says “James R. Kirk,” which we can say out-of-universe is a character detail that is currently not settled, and in-universe evidence that Mitchell is not a great friend anyway) as well as the first (production) appearances of Scotty and Sulu. This is also where Spock’s character is more clearly established as the logical, rational sort, which wasn’t as clear in “The Cage” (where he seemed a little hotheaded). Probably its greatest contribution, though, is in setting the tone for the series’ take on exploration. It’s there in the title: this is the episode about “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where physically/geographically the ship leaves the galaxy. But really it’s about where no man has gone before morally and ethically.

Part of “exploring the unknown” means leaving behind civilization, and this is part of why Roddenberry could sell the show as a space western—one of the most common western themes is what happens at the edge of, or outside of, civilization. (This is also a huge part of what makes the even more explicit space-western Firefly so appealing, in spite of its short running time.) It’s also a main theme in works like Heart of Darkness, also about people going mad with power outside “civilization” (though in HoD’s case of course Kurtz has not left humanity behind, just his own people.) And what happens there is that people have powers they didn’t have before, which can lead eventually to the iconic western hero and villain—lone gunslingers with power over life and death. I think philosophically it makes sense to tackle this as one of the very first stories (and they tackle it again even very early on, in “Charlie X”), because one of the biggest dangers of going out into the unknown is discovering one is no longer bound by a large, bustling society, and that this brings with it a kind of power. It’s not literal power, the way Mitchell starts being able to control the world with his mind, but it is something like it, and I think that’s the metaphor behind Mitchell and Dehner (and a few high-ESP people on the previous human ship which passed by here) gaining all kinds of power the moment the ship leaves the galaxy.

While establishing how power corrupts, the episode emphasizes that human vulnerability is the key thing to maintain in order to remain sane and non-destructive. Mitchell regards Kyle with contempt because he is a “fool,” too stupid or incompetent to notice that he had put the ship in danger. He eventually regards Kirk as a fool, too, for not dispensing of Mitchell when he had the chance, because he can see, already, that Kirk’s compassion is a weakness. But when Mitchell is hurt, and his eyes go back to normal, he is able to have compassion again. On some level, definitely, it seems as if the powers are “affecting” him, and feeling pain makes the power lose its grip on him, or whatever; my feeling is that the way it works is that feeling pain reminds Mitchell of what it is like to be human, and allows him to feel a kinship with and compassion for the other humans that surround him, that fades once he is back to his godlike status. Being human means being susceptible to pain, and needing other humans somehow, and that is part of what allows us to connect to others. Along similar lines, while hyper-rational Spock berates Kirk for wasting so much time before putting an end to Mitchell, Kirk’s willingness to take a big risk on letting Mitchell live is part of what keeps Kirk admirable and compassionate. He goes to kill Mitchell only after it’s clear that there are no other options and Mitchell has already become a murderer, but he still hesitates—which hurts him, yes, but which is part of what gets through to Dehner that Mitchell needs to be stopped. This is a really good episode for Kirk, as a result, balancing the needs of his ship, his curiosity, and his compassion, while having him deal with a transformation of his close friend.

But I like that the episode does make clear that Mitchell is right about one thing. I think Mitchell would probably have gone mad with the power no matter what, but the fact that Spock is already talking about killing him before he’s done anything wrong is part of what pushes Mitchell into himself, makes him take up offense as the best defense. Mitchell goes off the deep end rather quickly, but it’s not like he’s wrong that he is in danger by the Enterprise crew. In a lot of ways, what happens to Mitchell is a failure on the part of both him and the Enterprise crew, especially Spock’s. (For a TNG comparison, is much closer to Worf than to Data here, though his pure rationality is driving it rather than any actual aggression.) And in a bigger sense it’s really nobody’s “fault,” because the kind of power that is given to Mitchell is a little beyond anything humans are able to deal with, which is part of why Kirk’s eventually recommending a commendation for Mitchell makes sense to me, as does the final exchange between him and Spock, where Spock himself admits to feeling for Mitchell. The message seems to me to be: it is dangerous out there, and the power that comes from freedom is going to be too much for some people to handle, but still, have compassion for them. This is all done in extreme SF exaggerations (Mitchell goes mad because he has absolute power and invulnerability dumped on him, which is not really the actual experience of anyone leaving civilization), but it’s a recognizably human story, well told.

I'd say 3.5 stars for me.
Cloudane - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 9:00pm (USA Central)
It begins. (I'm re-watching, in production order)

I'd forgotten how "Pilot"-y this was, albeit closer to the long term show than The Cage was.

I definitely preferred The Cage, but babes and topless fist fights were what sold shows to NBC in those days, and so it's a necessary part of the show's history. I've seen worse show pilots, I think.
Jamie Stearns - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
The confrontation between Kirk and Mitchell at the end of this episode is so similar to the final Dukat/Sisko scene in "What You Leave Behind" that I can't help but think the latter was a deliberate parallel.

Even the roles of Dehner and Winn in the final conflict were similar.
redshirt28 - Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
Always loved the "cage-like" look of this ep. Both pilots have that look of 50s scifi that I always found to have a certain mystique.

Also enjoyed how gary was portrayed as essentially turning into a Q but in a much more human and believable way. 3+ for me as well.
Paul - Mon, Apr 28, 2014 - 10:29am (USA Central)
This episode isn't perfect. But the continuity problems -- like Sulu talking about pennies -- can be shrugged off considering that this was the second pilot.

That said, it's amazing how much the characterization of Kirk, Sulu and Scotty match what we'd see for the next 30 years. Kirk, in particular, works well here. None of the other captains was as on target so early in a series. Picard, in particular, changed a lot after the first few episodes of TNG and Sisko's evolution -- while written into the story -- was pretty striking.

But if you watched Kirk in this episode compared with something in the second or third season, he's pretty much the same guy. Spock, of course, doesn't really hit his mark until the ninth or 10th episode.
Sarah M - Sat, Jul 19, 2014 - 11:15pm (USA Central)
Pilots are, by their very nature, clunky beasts. They have to introduce the primary characters, establish the feel of a world, and lay the groundwork for what a series will be going forward. They are almost always exposition heavy, and the stories they tell are often perfunctory table-setters, with more complicated and interesting storytelling left for the series to come.

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” doesn’t exactly rise above these limitations but, taking them into account, it does a pretty good job of setting up the “Star Trek” series. The review is spot on in that, while this isn’t a great episode, it’s a good one. The visual aesthetic of the ship is clear and builds the world of the Enterprise almost immediately, the special effects (such as the transporter) get a work-out to show off what they can do, and Captain Kirk and Spock come to life perfectly right from the start.

There are several touches here that I’m sorry didn’t survive into the series proper. Doctor Dehner is a stronger female character with a larger role in the plot than we’d see again for some time, if ever. The female crew members in general are costumed in slacks rather than short skirts, suggesting an atmosphere that actually had made some strides toward gender neutrality. The idea of the evolution of the human mind via ESP is intriguing, but is never really followed up on.

The decision to air this third in the series run rather than first is baffling, given all the changes that took place (most notably swapping out the ship MD for Doctor McCoy). It would’ve made a made better start than “Man Trap.” It may not be great Star Trek but, as a way to begin the voyage, it’s a strong push forward and very promising for what’s to come.
William - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 8:30pm (USA Central)
Regarding the airing of pilots and the order of stories:

I don't think the same kind of care and thought went into those decisions as they do today. These days, almost every dramatic show has some time of "soap opera" element where each new show builds on previous ones -- some do it more overtly than others.

With self-contained shows, it doesn't matter nearly as much.

All that said, I find the decision baffling too. I don't see a good reason not to show the pilot first.

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