Since I have CBS All Access and all this time on my hands, I decided to start doing reviews of Star Trek: TOS. But fearing that we might actually get a lift from this lockdown in less than 79 days (80 if I started with The Cage) I’m not going to go through the whole series. The Hollywood Reporter did a list of the top twenty episodes back in 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of Trek, and that list seems as good as any. So here goes….
(First a disclaimer, I don’t want to step on Winged Potatoes shoes. He had done ST: TOS reviews periodically over the last several years with the last one being about a year ago I believe. I’m going to try and make this a little different – the 20 best episodes in 20 days with different focuses and we can all watch along if we have CBS AA.)
“Space, The final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Season 1, Episode 3
Original air date: September 22, 1966
While readying to leave the galaxy, the Enterprise finds the flight recorder from the U.S.S. Valient, a ship thought lost 200 years ago. The recorder tells of a magnetic storm that almost destroyed the ship, followed by investigation into Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) and eventually the self-destruction of the ship at the hands of its Captain.
Undaunted, the Enterprise makes its way past the edge of the galaxy. Running into the same magnetic storm the ship experiences critical damage to its engines and nine deaths. During this chaos Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell, a close friend of Captain Kirk, and Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner who is on the bridge for some reason, are knocked unconscious. When he awakens Mitchell’s, eyes are reflective and he’s taken to sick bay.
Over the course of the next few hours it becomes apparent that Mitchell has obtained telekinetic and psychic powers from whatever happened to him in the storm. Science officer Mr. Spock is convinced this is exactly what happened on the Valient and Mitchell’s ever-growing powers pull him further and further from humanity, endangering the ship. Kirk is hesitant to harm his friend, but ultimately agrees to strand him on a nearby mining planet where the Enterprise must go to re-energize its engines. All along Dr. Dehner assures Kirk that Mitchell is not harmful and his ultimate humanity is intact.
Reading their minds and learning of their plan, Mitchell uses his abilities to try and overpower Kirk and Spock – but they manage to sedate him and get him to the planet. With Mitchell locked in a holding cell the Enterprise is repaired. But his growing powers allow Mitchell to kill the officer tasked with blowing up the mining facility should he escape, incapacitate Spock and Kirk and make off with Dr. Dehner who now has the same reflective eyes.
Once awake, Kirk orders everyone else to the ship and confronts Mitchell and Dehner alone. Kirk points out to Dehner how Mitchell’s powers have corrupted him and that ultimately only one of them can survive – there can’t be two gods. Dehner and Mitchell take turns firing power rays at each other, weakening Mitchell long enough that Kirk can overpower and kill him. Dehner apparently dies from using so much energy on Mitchell. Kirk is sad.
Known to Fans As:
The second pilot. While it aired as the third episode of the first season Where No Man Has Gone Before was filmed as the second chance pilot after The Cage was rejected.
Notable Guest Stars:
Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Kellerman has had a long career most recently playing Mark Maron’s mother in his IFC show, Maron. She’s best known as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” O’Houlihan (yes, they shortened the name in the TV show) in the 1970 movie M*A*S*H.
Gary Lockwood as Lt. Cmd. Gary Mitchell. Lockwood also had a long career guest starring in almost every major T.V. drama in the 70’s and 80’s, but is best known as Dr. Frank Poole from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He’s the astronaut who is not Dave, and is ejected from the Discovery One by Hal a very naughty AI.
Paul Fix as Doctor Piper. Fix was a well-known character actor in Hollywood, mostly in Westerns, starting in the mid-1920s. Over the course of his career he had parts in some all-time classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, Giant and Red River.
As this was a pilot and filmed almost a year before the next episode there where many changes made to the show in between: Changes in casting (there is no McCoy or Uhura in this episode, Sulu is a physicist not a Helmsman and Scotty is something other than Chief Engineer.) Changes in Uniforms. Changes in set design. But based on Stardate this adventure takes place before the rest of our episodes so that can be easily excused away; there are some small errors however that affect the overall Trek Universe. Spock mentions one of his ancestors married a human woman, while this is technically correct, we find out of course that ancestor is his father and he’s half human. On the headstone Mitchell makes for Kirk before their final confrontation his name is James R. Kirk rather than T and the stardate of his birth is different from canon. The mission is to leave the galaxy. In future Trek it’s only possible to reach the Alpha and Beta quadrants through conventional Warp Drive and any adventures further out require a worm hole or some kind of supernatural force (like Q for example.)
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: None
Damn it Jim: None, no McCoy at all
Kirk’s Shirt Off: Partially, it rips during his fight with Mitchell and his upper left chest and shoulder are exposed.
Aged the Best:
A simple human getting god-like powers remains a go to story. HG Wells wrote a short story called The Man Who Could Work Miracles in 1898 and there have been multiple examples since, even in Trek itself. In a first season TNG episode Hide and Q, Riker is given the power of the Q and is talked out of keeping it by Picard. From Watchmen to Dark Phoenix this trope is still put to use in popular culture with some examples working out better than others.
Aged the Worst:
I have a feeling this will be repeated over and over again in these recaps – the treatment of women. Yeoman Smith, a pretty and very young blond woman is on the bridge early in the episode for no apparent reason other than to look pretty and seek comfort from Mitchell as the ship gets tossed and turned. (There is a rumor Gene Roddenberry put her in this episode and gave her one line because he was trying to sleep with her -that doesn’t age very well either.) Kirk and Mitchell chat about women like a couple of Frat bros. etc.
Overall Grade: Solid B, there’s some good stuff here and watching it blind in 1966 I think I would have been intrigued. Having seen all these before and it being so different from the other episodes makes it hard to judge objectively.