As I mentioned in an earlier piece, even though I’ve loved Star Trek just about my whole life, but I’d never actually dived into The Original Series. It remains the only series I have not seen in its entirety. So I started doing just that.
I’ll be periodically posting how I feel about coming to TOS from the perspective of a longtime fan who just never got around to see where it all came from. I did “Charlie X” last week. This time, it’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Then I’ll list a few episodes that I have seen of other series that remind me of this one. Ones that are either better or worse (in my humble opinion).
This week’s episode is “Where No Man Has Gone Before. “Though not being too familiar with TOS episodes this one is pretty famous. I had seen it before, and even before I saw it the first time I was familiar with the episode. The original pilot episode, The Cage, was rejected by CBS on account of it being absolute garbage. So Lucile Ball had to convince the network brass to let Gene Roddenberry take another stab at it. This was the second pilot. What I don’t get is that if the execs thought the original pilot was too cerebral and lacking action why would anyone think that this episode would be greeted any differently? It has a lot of the same problems. It’s definitely better than The Cage, but not by leaps and bounds. So anyway here goes.
The crew of the Enterprise is headed towards a distress signal of an old ship that’s been missing for centuries. So that means this ship, the Valiant, decided to head out of the galaxy hundreds of years before anyone else possibly could and just never mentioned it to anyone. Regardless, looks like it didn’t go well or we wouldn’t be hearing a distress signal. Kirk and Spock are passing the time with a good new-fashioned game of space chess. Spock is being a douche about it, and pretending that acting logically means pretending to not know what the word “irritating” means.
They find the distress signal and turns out it’s not from the ship itself, but from its space black box. They investigate and turns out the Valiant’s black box is full of clumsy foreshadowing. There’s a bunch of gobbledygook about ESP and that the captain ordered his own ship destroyed. That leaves us to wonder if anyone on the Enterprise will have something happen to them to give them ESP abilities. Luckily we only have to wait about 45 seconds. They go through an energy barrier and it knocks out Gary Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Kirk wakes up Gary, but now he’s got blinged out eyes, and the heavy-handed score lets us know that this is not a particularly good thing.
Turns out with glitter eyes comes glitter power. Like making your medical instruments make you look either very healthy or very unhealthy. Also, you can kill yourself? I can see being able to kill yourself, but if you’re dead how is it you will yourself undead? You are dead. You don’t need glitter eyes to see how much sense that doesn’t make. Did he set a timer maybe? I don’t know. Mitchell makes a big stink of knowing it was Kirk who entered the room like he’s showing off his new powers. Like the ability to know who has entered a room after they’ve already entered it is all that impressive. He can also read fast now. So the ominous music seems a little drastic in relation to the powers he’s shown so far.
The next 12 minutes pretty much suck. They’re just walking around saying what we all know. The dude has abilities. He’s getting powerful. He hasn’t really done anything yet, but Spock is pretty sure they’d be right in murdering him. They decide to split the difference and instead maroon him on a deserted planet while they’re fetching some power packs. Dr. Dehner seems like she digs the new superior race of glitter men.
They lock him in a force field cage. He kills a dude and gets out. Kirk evacuates everyone but himself and for the second time in two weeks, he decides he should fight a being with godlike powers. I have trouble believing that he would’ve survived this far into his command. The fight doesn’t go well. On account of Mitchell now being god and Kirk just having his boyish charm. Mitchell informs Kirk that he’s a god now and then really gives him the business in a fistfight. Dr. Dehner realizes that she doesn’t want to start a new race of super beings with Mitchell so they use their powers to turn each other purple a few times. This weakens Mitchell enough to wear Kirk can fist fight god. Yeah. Eventually, Kirk realizes that the only way to defeat a god is by burying him in rocks and that’s about it. Dr. Dehner apologizes for being turned into a superior being who doesn’t want to be murdered for evolving too quickly and then for some reason she just kind of dies.
No. Not particularly. It seemed okay at first. I went in not being too familiar with TOS episodes, and I went in hating Kirk but loving Spock. Kirk is growing on me and Spock is kind of getting on my nerves as a character. Only four episodes in so that’ll probably change. Shatner has a level of charm that makes him easy to like so far. Spock, on the other hand, has acted like a horse’s ass. Mitchell gets his glitter powers and immediately Spock thinks they should kill him. You’re a scientist on a mission of discovery and your immediate reaction to a never before witnessed phenomenon is to murder it in cold blood. Jesus, dude. Plus, everyone knows that Vulcans possess some level of telepathy so why is he going bananas at the thought of someone with ESP abilities?
I read that the actor who played Mitchell had a problem with the contacts that made his eyes look all glittery, and it shows. He looks like he’s in so much pain. I can’t imagine that they spent all that much money on those contacts where they just had to stick with them. It’s also not like the effects look that awesome where they needed it. It looks like awful. And his dumb eyes look like they’re about to rot out of his head.
The worst part about this episode though is watching it knowing that it was supposed to be the second pilot. In that way, it does not even work a little bit. There are no introductions. I know exposition can be clumsy in pilot episodes, but all you get is Spock not knowing what “irritating” means because he’s a logical alien with a small vocabulary. Other than that we learn almost nothing about who any of these people are or why they’re out in space aside from just trekking for the sake of trekking.
“Hide and Q”: I don’t know why’d you want to watch a worse episode, but if you are so inclined I’d check out the TNG episode “Hide and Q.” It’s a first season stinker. In it, Riker is given godlike powers by Q. It’s a really terrible episode. The only thing that makes “Hide and Q” better than “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is that when Riker gets his Q powers nobody pulls a Spock and starts plotting his murder.
A member of the crew getting powers isn’t something that happens all too frequently from what I can recall, and when it’s done it’s usually not a great episode. The one I can think of that I really enjoyed was a second season episode of Voyager titled “Cold Fire.” It’s a rare Kes centered episode, and even rarer in that it’s a Kes centered episode that doesn’t suck. I always thought that Jenifer Lien’s Kes got a raw deal. She was given nothing but crap for three seasons and then fired because the writers gave her character nothing.
In it, Kes meets some other members of her race and they help her tap into her telepathic and telekinetic abilities which quickly get out of her control. A lot of similarities to “Where No Man Has Gone Before” but so much better. Kes gets new abilities, and even though Tuvok almost gets killed by her new found abilities he treats it like you’d expect a Vulcan would. He’s cautious but finds it fascinating. Also as Kes is getting stronger and stronger she seems genuinely pumped and kind of scared by her new powers and what she’s becoming. Mitchell seems like the mostly bored by the fact that he now has amazing powers.
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I wrote this initially for my own site. If you want to read a slightly longer version with saltier language and more typos, check here. Is there a series you’ve never gotten all the way through? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. So that’s it for this week. Next week is The Naked Now, otherwise known as the shirtless Sulu sword episode.