Thursday, May 13, 2010

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep3: Where No Man Has Gone Before

A classic Star Trek image.

It's incredibly difficult to pin down an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series to just one image. There is so much about the show that has been forever etched in my memory banks.

"The network told me to get rid of Number One, the woman first lieutenant, and also to get rid of 'that martian fellow'... meaning, of course, Spock.  I knew I couldn't keep both, so I gave the stoicism of the female officer to Spock, and married the actress who played Number One.  Thank God it wasn't the other way around.  I mean Leonard's cute, but..." -Gene Roddenberry recounting his decision to remove Majel Barret as Number One following the first pilot, The Cage, and standing by the character of Spock against NBC disapproval in William Shatner's Memories [1993] for his second pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before-

How about those new computer effects?
It was actually the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before that won the day and landed ROddenberry the green light for the series that was Star Trek.  Following the immaculate first pilot, The Cage, NBC rejected the $686,000 classic dubbing it too cerebral in favor of something more "action"-packed.  Where No Man Has Gone Before actually does a splendid job of balancing te beam of both the physical action with the intellectual aspects of Roddenberry's vision.  His lovely girlfriend, Majel Barrett, was removed as Number One, while Spock was retained despite fighting the executives every step of the way.  Thank God and Roddenberry for Spock too, because Roddenberry was right.  He was a required as a dramatic component to the series.  Furthermore, as a young man and today, there is something rather calming, patient, soothing about the intellectual leader that is Spock that manages to place the relative chaos of my own life into some kind of decompressed evelope of tranqulity.  I'll take that.

Science fiction, pure and simple. Terrific characters. Amazing costumes. Honestly, I think I could watch these guys walk around the ship with those classic gold, blue and red starfleet uniforms doing absolutely nothing and I would be a happy man for 50 minutes. Star Trek even when it wasn't great was often very good. When it was bad... was it ever bad? There aren't many lemons in the bunch across three seasons, but I continue my journey of rediscovery revisiting Star Trek The Original Series with a new vigor in the form of the HD DVD effects-enhanced remasters. The Blu-Ray format will be forthcoming. I'll let you know when I've made the official switch. I quite expect HD DVD to be comparable to Blu-Ray.
Hanging with the crew of the Enterprise is like hanging with family. It is a joyful experience even when the odds are bleak. I got your back Jim, Spock, Bones and Scotty. Hand me a tricorder and a phaser and let's do this. These are people that make you feel at home. There are so many reasons to love this show and so many that illustrate why it was so beloved.
Captain's Log. Stardate 1312.4
William Shatner may be the greatest science fiction narrator to have ever lived. Shatner possesses a voice that is note perfect throughout the series. The Enterprise locks on to a device and Scotty makes his first appearance to date beaming it aboard the ship. The device beamed aboard places the ship on alert. The call letters are from a ship dubbed the S.S. Valiant missing for over two centuries. Seeing both Kirk and Spock walk along together in their yellow sweater shirts is so cool. They are such bad asses. I'm glad I can use this High Definition DVD [HD DVD] player at least a few times before putting it out to pasture. The detail, including the caked-on make-up for Spock, is tremendous. We are entering this wonderful series with one of its finest presentations to date. Behold Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode 3, Where No Man Has Gone Before.
Where No Man Has Gone Before features Actor Gary Lockwood [2001: A Space Odyssey] as Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman [the original Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan from the film MASH (1970)] as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. The Valiant experienced a magnetic space storm. Spock is probing the device information. ESP [Extra Sensory Perception] or Espers is integral to the story. Spock believes the captain of the Valiant may have given orders to destroy his own ship.
The Enterprise enters into a giant electrical cloud wreaking havoc on the ship. Dehner and Mitchell are zapped by the force within the storm. Their space warp ability is affected and unavailable. Many questions plague the crew. Dehner and Mitchell both register with high ESP ratings. Both Dehner and Mitchell feel fine with the exception of Mitchell's eyes which have now changed into balls of glowing light.
Kirk visits Mitchell in medlab and Mitchell knows he enters without even having to look toward the door. Mitchell feels better and stronger than ever. There is an almost antagonistic repoire between the two men. Mitchell would like to go back on duty. Kirk wants him to be kept under observation by Dehner. As Kirk exits, Mitchell tells Kirk cryptically, "Didn't I say you'd better be good to me?" Mitchell begins mentally reading and storing ship data accessing its library at a feverish pace.
There is a creepy, quiet quality to this entry of Star Trek, not unlike some others. It made me think about yet another reason why we all loved the show so much. There is always that sinister use of quietude. While the sound effects, every one of them, are perfectly placed and used sparingly with absolutely classic music, sometimes the show's use of silence is eerily penetrating and this episode is a great example of that.
Dehner visits Mitchell and she notes his earlier reference to her as a walking "freezer unit." Mitchell messes with the medlab readings monitor and he is capable of mentally moving the arrows. He fakes his death and Dehner rushes to his side. He awakens and Dehner begins quizzing his intellectual capacity. There's a reason Kellerman was "Hot Lips" because she is very, very hot with very, hot lips. Lt. Lee Kelso [Paul Carr] visits his shipmate Mitchell in medlab where things get heated as he directs Lee to look into trouble areas on the ship because of course Mitchell is clearly an omniscient being.

Sally Kellerman is a striking female specimen.
At a crew meeting, Kelso informs Kirk that Mitchell's description of a burned out ship component was exactly as he described it when he found it. Dehner is extremely defensive of Mitchell. Spock points out Mitchell is no longer the Commander they once knew. He is changing and Spock is quite matter-of-fact concerning Mitchell's mutation. Dehner is clearly enamored with the concept of a superior human being. Kirk is less than pleased with these developments. Spock knows Mitchell will become too powerful to control and believes the crew will inevitably become an annoyance to him. Sulu is in a blue shirt and Scotty in brown. The colors are truly vibrant in these new Star Trek remasters. The sets are simple, sterile but truly absorbing.

I loved Sulu's math as he described Mitchell's growing powers. "Mitchell's ability is increasing geometrically. That is like having a penny, doubling it every day, in a month you'll be a millionaire." Um, that's some penny Sulu. You might have enough to buy a candy bar after a month, but millionaire is a bit of a stretch my friend.

Spock tells Kirk, "In a month he'll have as much in common with us as as we'd have with a ship full of white mice." These nalogies are just terrific. Spock recommends two options. Recommendation 1: Repair the Enterprise at Delta Vega and essentially abandon Mitchell there. Recommendation 2: Kill Gary Mitchell "while you still can" [then make repairs]. The stoic Spock makes the right call. Kirk sets course for Delta Vega, but with reservation and human emotion as his guide. Kelso must repair the ship using the rich mineral resources and crystals from Delta Vega. Kirk must find a way to transport a man to the planet below that he has known as a friend for fifteen years and "maroon him there." The One To Be Pitied pokes fun at Shatner here, but this is what we love about him. His deadly serious dramatic turns are as delicious as they come.

Mitchell can now deliver himself something to drink with a mere thought. It must have hurt to have those foil-like lenses in his eyes or at least uncomfortable. Science fiction in the '60s and '70s loved putting physical objects on actor's eyeballs. Mitchell reads Spock's thoughts and is fully aware some would like to see him dead. Kirk makes a play for Mitchell as does Spock, but he zaps them back with volts of power. Kirk and Spock subdue Mitchell while Dehner administers a sedative. Spock, Kirk, Dehner, Doctor Piper beam down to the planet below with Mitchell [Bones missed this particular intended pilot entry].
Strangely, the planet is lifeless despite being populated with an entire city. The advanced technology would suggest otherwise. Where has this civilization gone? It is now desolate. [Having watched the episode again it is noted that Kirk refers to the planet as fully automated]. Mitchell is placed in a containment cell. There's not a soul on the planet. "Nobody but us chickens" says Kirk. The show is so effective in its simplicity. Matte paintings open the series up illustrating grand places to a splendid effect. The cell is blue where Mitchell resides, while the corridor to the room is adorned in brown. Set design is always simple, but stunning in its classic beauty.
Mitchell reminds his friend Kirk how he once took a poisoned dart to save his life. Kirk knows this, but is also aware that Mitchell is now a different man. "Mr. Spock is right and you're a fool if you don't see it," referring to Kirk possibly doing away with him. The forcefield to the room drains Mitchell's powers, but for a mere fleeting moment. "I just keep getting stronger" he insists confidently.

Scotty informs all is in working order.

I love that little moment between Spock and Kirk. The button would destroy Delta Vega. Dehner indicates she will stay behind with Mitchell. Mitchell utilizes his mind to kill Kelso. Mitchell has grown so powerful he shuts down the force field and embraces Dehner who now has the same foil eyes. Kirk gives the doctor orders to take Spock back to the Enterprise. Kirk is going after Mitchell. The orders are to leave the orbit if they do not hear from him in 12 hours and strike the planet with a lethal dose of concentrated neutron radiation. Sounds all kinds of ugly there.

It's all very Adam & Eve.
Mitchell creates a garden, fruit, plants, running water with a simple thought and a swoosh of his hand. Kirk is after them, but they know he is there. Mitchell tells Dehner to go to him and talk to him and see "how unimportant they are." They now believe themselves to be gods. Kirk fires upon Mitchell, but it has no effect. "I've been contemplating the death of an old friend." Mitchell has created a grave for Kirk. The stone registers James R. Kirk rather than the proper James T. Kirk.
Dehner begins having reservations regarding these new found powers and Mitchell's treatment of Kirk and turns on Mitchell. She decides to fight Mitchell. The two electrify one another. They are both weak. She tells Kirk he hasn't much time and Mitchell beats the tar out of him. It becomes a good, old-fashioned bare knuckle brawl. Kirk nearly crushes his head with a rock, but Mitchell's strength returns. Kirk fires a weapon into the styrofoam stone and it crumbles down upon the grave, which Mitchell intended for Kirk, but has fallen into. Dehner too passes on. Once again, Roddenberry and the creative team give us yet another insightful tale about what it means to be human, to have compassion, to be mortal. It's the first daliance into the idea of gods and humans.

With some of the minor change-ups in casting one could easily feel out of sorts. All of this is easily explainable. This third episode of ST: TOS, Season One, Where No Man Has Gone Before, was originally filmed to be the series' second pilot. It served to introduce Captain James T. Kirk as the replacement for Captain Pike. We get a host of oddities from uniform colors to missing crew members. Scotty and Sulu are on board, yet there is no Bones or Uhura. Roddenberry was clearly still finding his way.

Where No Man Has Gone Before
: B
Writer: Samuel A. Peeples
Director: James Goldstone

Dead Crewman: 3 [Kelso, Dehner & Mitchell]
Dead Crewman Total To Date: 7

Babe Alert: 2
Babe Alert Total To Date: 4

Special Guest: Gary Lockwood [1937-present]. American born. Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell. His greatest role would come in 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] by Director Stanley Kubrick.

Special Guest: Paul Carr (1934-2006). American born. Carr had a pretty varied career in sci-fi. While not wearing a red shirt, Carr was the first yellow shirt to go in this second filmed pilot episode. Carr also appeared in Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea [1964], The Bionic Woman [1975] and Buck Rogers In The 21st Century [1981]. He provided voiceover in anime for Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Sadly, Paul Carr passed away of cancer.

Babe Alert: Sally Kellerman (1937-present). American born. She is well known for her role in MASH (1970) as Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn. She turned down reprising the role for the TV Series that followed. She also appeared in two episodes of The Outer Limits [1963-1964] including The Human Factor and The Bellero Shield. Her film career has been varied and she appeared opposite Rodney Dangerfield in Back To School [1986].

Babe Alert: Andrea Dromm [1941-present]. American born. Yeoman Smith. She is clearly Commander Mitchell's girl in this one before it all goes bad for him as they hold hands on the bridge in the early minutes of the entry. Not much to report other than she was a hot babe.


Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Another wicked good review of another classic Star Trek episode, Sci-Fi Fanatic! Where No Man Has Gone Before has always kind of wigged me out. Before the age of Trek fandom and the age Internet information, I never could figure out why Spock looked so different in this episode and seemed to show a little more emotion as well. After finding out many years later that this was shot as the second pilot episode of Star Trek, it all made sense. However, I do wonder why NBC tried to pass this off as a "in continuity" episode, rather than making it a back-story fix-up episode, as was done with the first pilot episode in the 10th and 11th aired episodes: The Menagerie parts 1 and 2.

Despite the continuity gaffs, this episode holds up to the test of time. Although Gary Lockwood and Sally Kellerman are fine actors, I always felt that too much time was spent on their character's growing alienation from the rest of the crew and not enough time on Kirk and Spock's reaction to their dilemma. It doesn't help that Doctor McCoy is missing from this episode, as he is usually the emotional barometer for the Enterprise crew and the moral compass for Kirk and Spock to look towards. I'd forgotten about Sulu's "penny doubling" analogy to Mitchell's growing powers. Obviously writer Samuel A. Peeples was no math wiz and your comment of "Um, that's some penny Sulu" sums up the absurdity of the mistake with cutting wit. Where No Man Has Gone Before is not even close to being one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, but it does hold up better as true science fiction than many of the classic Trek stories. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on The Naked Time, Sci-Fi Fanatic.

SFF said...

Thanks so much Doc!
YEah, the penny analogy kills me, but that small moment aside, it's a really nice piece of science fiction.

your contributions here in the comments add additional insight. Thanks.

As for Bones, so right, he is noticeably absent and such an integral part of the magic that was Star Trek. His omission is certainly palpable.

The continuity issue is an interesting one. Perhaps they simply took the viewing audience for granted back in the 1960s. It's certainly possible.

Once again, some terrific thoughts. Thank you.

BigNick0 said...

The penny analogy is perfect, actually. But it may have been mis-communicated by Sulu.

The idea is you start with a penny; each day you double the amount of money you have from the previous day.

day 1: .01
day 2: .02
day 3: .04
day 5: .08

On day 30, you have: $5,368,709.12

Sorry, I botched my first try at posting this comment.

Anyway.. Nice episode review. Always loved this one.

SFF said...

Ha! That's rich alright. Thanks Nick for stopping by.

John Kenneth Muir said...

This is a great review of an episode that has always been one of my favorites. I'm not sure why, but I really dig the big, clunky (transparent) communicators, the clunky phaser rifle and all the other "retro" technology (like the gooseneck viewer on Kirk's chair). Somehow, this episode (when viewed in context of Star Trek as a whole series) makes the show seem real; like the universe of Kirk, Spock boasts a real history, with real improvements in technology and updates in fashion (uniforms, etc.). For lack of a word, it feels like true "future history."

As usual, you do an absolutely superb of job selecting images that express the nature of the show, and discussing why the episode is special. I remember, I had the Photonovel of this episode as a kid (before VHS episode releases...) and I pored over every page digging the Trek tech.


John Kenneth Muir

SFF said...

Thank you John and thanks for highlighting the visual architecture of the series which I may not have paid close enough attention.

The visual delights are always simple but stunning, and like any self-respecting science fiction fan, you point to one of the many facets of the series that make it wonderful and such a joy for revisitation after revisitation.

All the best.