Episode: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Episode number: 2nd pilot, 3rd episode aired
Written by: Samuel A. Peeples, who also wrote an episode of The Animated Series, and apparently contributed story material to Wrath of Khan
Directed by: James Goldstone, who directed another episode of The Original Series and who paired Jerry Orbach with Robery DeNiro in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight
Captain’s Log: Viewing habits must have really been different in the 60s. Where No Man Has Gone Before was shot as the second pilot for Star Trek (the original pilot, The Cage, had Captain Christopher Pike in charge of the Enterprise. Elements of that episode would get re-used in a two-parter, The Menagerie), but it aired third, after The Man Trap and Charlie X. Viewers watching this episode as it aired would have seen Dr. McCoy suddenly replaced by a crankier, older man, a new set of people on the bridge, different outfits, and Mr. Spock relegated to third banana status.
The episode opens with Captain Kirk defaming Mr. Spock’s bloodline (we learn here that Spock is half human) while playing Three Dimensional Chess when a call comes in from the bridge – a small object has been found in space. We discover that it’s the huge black box recorder from another ship that had been out here at the edge of known space 200 years before, The SS Valiant. The Valiant had been doing just what the Enterprise is about to do – travel beyond the farthest edge of the galaxy and discover what lays beyond (spoiler: large expanses of emptiness, other galaxies). It turns out that something went terribly wrong for the Valiant, and before the ship was self-destructed (an act so severe Spock cannot bring himself to believe it, which is funny because later he’ll be totally unable to comprehend jokes and pranks and stuff), the captain got all uppity about ESP.
Undeterred by the fact that the only people to have tried this before died terribly, Captain Kirk nonchalantly orders his ship to go through the Galactic Barrier. Of course all hell breaks loose, killing 9 crew members and giving Kirk’s best buddy, Gary Mitchell, and the sexy psychologist who is bizarrely just chilling out on the bridge, Sally Kellerman (really, just before she became Hot Lips), glowing silver eyes and growing psychic powers.
As Gary Mitchell displays greater and greater power, the Enterprise limps away from the Barrier (unable to make it to the other side) without warp capability. They come to an apparently abandoned mining world where they can make repairs – and where Kirk can strand his old friend. Which sounds like a good idea until you realize the guy you’re trying to strand can read your mind and is becoming less and less human by the minute.
On the planet’s surface shit goes bad – Mitchell strangles his other pal, helmsman Lee Kelso, and armed with a phaser rifle Kirk goes to take out his buddy. Meanwhile Hot Lips has also been evolving; while Mitchell is becoming less and less connected to his humanity, Hot Lips seems still on the verge of being human, at least until Hawkeye humiliates her in front of the whole camp, which is surely what drives her into the arms of that asshole Frank Burns. Kirk breaks up their party (Mitchell made a magic garden for her!) and then gets his ass handed to him by Mitchell. Who you will recall has the powers of a god, so no surprise there.
Mitchell’s pretty theatrical as a god – he creates a grave and a tombstone for Kirk, and is about to lay him in it when Hot Lips realizes he has to be stopped. She battles Mitchell briefly, draining his power before she gets offed, giving Kirk just enough time to bury Mitchell inside the grave his friend intended for him.
Back on the Enterprise Spock says he’s actually pretty bummed out about the whole thing and Kirk waxes philosophical before everybody agrees to just forget about this whole shebang and get rid of that shitty old doctor.
Review: This is a pretty strong episode, one that ties up a lot of the stuff that makes Star Trek great. First off, there’s the idea of going where no man has gone before in action (well, excluding the crew of the Valiant. And whoever built that abandoned mining station. But they definitely go where only very few, maybe just a handful, of men have gone before). There’s the way that nobody seems to care that almost ten faceless crew died, but Kirk makes sure to give murderous Gary Mitchell a posthumous commendation. Then there’s the big cosmic science fiction stuff: Trek loves characters who are so powerful as to be almost gods, or at least wizards, if they grew long beards. And then there’s that great brawl at the end, where William Shatner’s obvious stunt double dukes it out with Gary Mitchell’s stunt double against a backdrop of big foam boulders. The fight is actually not bad – it’s energetic and filled with reversals and Kirk gets his shirt ripped. It’s funny and fun at the same time, and it’s part of the Trek mystique – you can appreciate it for ironic and straight reasons at the same time.
Kirkin’ Out: This is a pretty great Kirk episode. He gets to display the two halves of his personality – his overwrought speech making to avoid violence when he’s begging Hot Lips for help, and then his immediate willingness to blow the shit out of anything, even his best friend. He also gets to do a double judo chop.
Spockmarks: Spock’s in a weird flux in this episode, changing from the almost hyper, goofy character in the orginal pilot, The Cage to the Spock we all know. Part of that was the toning down of his appearance, including playing down his devilish eyebrows a bit. Spock does get to be a totally smug asshole at the beginning, though, when he and Kirk are playing Three Dimensional Chess: “Irritating? Ah, yes, one of your Earth emotions.” Fuck you, guy.
Redshirt: While Where No Man Has Gone Before sports the highest Enterprise body count of any Original Series episode – 12 dead! – no one we see die has a red shirt. 9 crew members die offscreen while trying to cross the Galactic Barrier, though, so maybe one of them was crimson.
Dilithium Bullshit: This whole episode is predicated on endless bullshit jabber, starting with the idea that not only is there some weird energy field around the borders of our galaxy but that going through it can make your goofy ass such a super psychic that you become almost a god. This is such a patently dumb conceit that Peter David wrote a novel where it’s revealed that Q from The Next Generation gave Mitchell and Hot Lips their powers, thus actually finding a solution even lamer than the original.
The ‘impulse packs’ also cause some trouble. They’re cracked or something, and if they go, the whole ‘impulse deck’ will blow up. As far as Danger Bullshit goes, this is pretty standard for the show, being vague and sort of believable. Still, what the fuck is an ‘impulse pack?’ Next time I have beer goggles and hit on an ugly girl, I’m going to point at my groin and blame my ‘impulse pack’ for making me do it.
Finally, and maybe this isn’t quite right for this section, is the idea that nobody has tried to get through the Galactic Barrier in centuries – but there’s some kind of mining colony so nearby that the Enterprise can get there on impulse power.
Staff of the Week: The late, lamented Lee Kelso. The ship’s original navigator, Lee was buddies with Gary Mitchell and Kirk, and if they just hadn’t tried to cross that damn Galactic Barrier maybe we’d be seeing Barry Pepper playing Young Kelso in the new Star Trek movie. Hey, wait… why isn’t Young Kelso in the new Star Trek movie anyway? He was navigator long before Chekov!
Gary Mitchell makes a tombstone for Captain Kirk that has his name as James R. Kirk, and that has a birth Stardate of 1277, which would apparently make him only a couple of years old. This tombstone has caused fans considerable headaches and pretty much spawned entire trilogies of novels. Star Trek fandom gets quite dark.
Kirk is established as a nerd in Starfleet Academy (“Hey, man, I remember you back at the Academy… a stack of books with legs! The first thing I heard from an upperclassman was, ‘Watch out for Lieutenant Kirk. In his class, you either think, or sink.’ – Gary Mitchell). It’s also established that he was involved with ‘a little blonde lab technician.’ This may be Carol Marcus, who appears in The Wrath of Khan as the mother of Kirk’s son, David.
Spock is not yet First Officer, but it’s sort of unclear who is. While Mitchell is definitely Helmsman, some speculate that he was also the First Officer. If that’s the case, his death gave Spock the opportunity to get promoted.
Dr. McCoy is apparently not on the ship at this time. Dr. Mark Piper, who looked back then like Phillip Baker Hall looks today, was the Chief Medical Officer. Sulu, meanwhile, is onboard, but he’s the head of astrosciences. It’s hard to tell if becoming navigator is a step up or a step down from that position.
Set Phasers to Quote: “”You fools! Soon I’ll squash you like insects!” ” – Gary Mitchell
Three and a half Positive Baby Clint Howards Out of Five