(airdate: September 22, 1966)
Writer: Samuel A. Peeples
Director: James Gladstone
Gary Mitchell: Gary Lockwood
Lt. Cmdr. Scott: James Doohan
Lee Kelso: Paul Carr
Elizabeth Dehner: Sally Kellerman
Alden: Lloyd Haynes
Dr. Mark Piper: Paul Fix
Captain's Log: The Enterprise encounters a record log from the S.S. Valiant, an Earth ship lost two hundred years earlier. While investigating the cause of the Valiant's destruction, the Enterprise encounters an energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy that nearly destroys the ship and afflicts Gary Mitchell with a strange condition, granting him unusual mental powers such as telekinesis. Kirk becomes increasingly concerned with Mitchell's growing arrogance, and plans to maroon him on the nearby uninhabited planet Delta Vega. Mitchell becomes more and more powerful, and he eventually breaks free of the cell Kirk has him in. Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner is also acquiring powers, and so Mitchell takes her along. Kirk tries to kill Mitchell, but he's unsuccessful; calling on the remnants of her humanity, Kirk convinces Dehner to attack Mitchell, stopping him long enough to give Kirk the opportunity to bury Mitchell under a ton of rock - but at the cost of her life.
Whoops!: [Generally speaking, it doesn't really matter whether you choose to order Star Trek's episodes by production or by airdate, as there's not a lot of continuity to worry about from episode to episode. "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is the exception to this, however; despite having aired as the third episode, there's simply no way to consider this as anything other than the first of the Kirk stories - it's just too different from the surrounding episodes in terms of style and cast. So we're not going to spend any time wondering what happened to McCoy, or why everyone's in tan instead of red, or where the clear old-style communicators came from, and we'll just focus on the usual inconsistencies.]
The visual representation of the galactic barrier makes it seem like going above or below it is a viable option, yet the Enterprise chooses to go straight through it. Gary Mitchell's speed-reading seems to consist of looking at the same three pages over and over again at high speed. (But at least it appears to actually be Spinoza.) And how is it he's able to stand on his own in the transporter room after being sedated by Dr. Piper? The tombstone Mitchell makes for Kirk reads "James R Kirk", not "James T Kirk", while the first stardate on it also seems odd. [We'll examine this in greater detail in the Library Computer section.] It's also a bit surprising, given Mitchell's exponentially growing powers and all the things we've seen him do, that trapping him in a grave under a large rock would be enough to stop him.
It's only a problem in hindsight, but given what we later learn about Spock and the mental abilities of both him and Vulcans in general, why isn't he affected by the galactic barrier the way Mitchell and the others are? [Vulcans have special mental blocks in place that shield them from the effects of the barrier.]
All right, fine, here are a couple oddities related to this being a pilot episode: Spock is about halfway through his transformation from "The Cage" Spock to regular series Spock, with notable flashes of emotion during his opening scenes with Kirk, even as he claims he doesn't have them. (And he's still doing the weird "shouting orders in an oddly exaggerated tone of voice" thing that he was doing in "The Cage".) Similarly, there's no narration from Kirk ("Space, the final frontier...") during the opening credits.
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: This episode features the highest crew bodycount of the original series: nine crewmembers are killed offscreen as a result of the barrier, while Lt. Kelso is strangled by a cable controlled by Gary Mitchell. Elizabeth Dehner dies while trying to stop Mitchell from killing Kirk, while Mitchell himself ends up buried (crushed?) under a ton of rock in a grave intended for Kirk.
Library Computer: [Again, assuming this is the first of the Kirk stories...]
The Enterprise bridge looks much the same as in the rest of the series (as opposed to in "The Cage"), but the color scheme is a bit more muted, and some of the technology looks a bit more primitive - the viewscreen and the helm console both look less sophisticated. [That said, Gary Mitchell makes a swiping motion to acknowledge Kirk's order to "address intercraft", which looks remarkably these days like manipulating a touchscreen.] It also appears that the positions of helmsman and navigator are swapped relative to the regular series. There's also one of the gooseneck monitors from "The Cage" attached to the side of the captain chair. The Enterprise's current mission is to probe out of the galaxy, although the galactic barrier puts a stop to that. Some things we see here that don't come up much in the main series include the ability for the bridge to visually monitor patients in sickbay and a different design for the briefing room, with a large circular dish above the table. There are also large video screens being used to communicate between parts of the ship, rather than the simple intercom system used subsequently. This episode also features the first mention of a "tractor beam", brought up in relation to the Valiant's data recorder (although they use the transporter to actually bring it aboard).
The uniforms here are unique to this episode; they closely resemble the uniforms in "The Cage", but nevertheless they're a little different. The color scheme here is a muted gold [apparently actually a lime green color, but the studio lights washed them out; the remastered version corrects this color somewhat], a tan that looks very similar to the gold [so you can see why they switched colors later on], and a pale blue. Also as in "The Cage", the insignia inside the assignment patches still haven't settled down to match a color - and, curiously, they seem to be different from both the pilot and the regular series (for example, the medical staff appear to all be wearing the spiral symbol instead of the more typical double-circle). The rank bands on the cuffs are still either one solid band or no band - with the exception of Kirk, who has two solid bands. The female crewmembers are still wearing pants with a slightly different tunic (larger collar and it zips up the back) instead of short dresses. We also see some jumpsuits, including an olive green version, while Mitchell is wearing a special hospital outfit while in sickbay, which looks like a modified jumpsuit, with the sleeves cut off and a slightly different symbol on the left breast [it looks like a caduceus surrounded by a laurel branch]. The equipment seen here is much like as in "The Cage": the communicators are the same transparent style, and they're still using laser pistols (although they've added the bits that have been previously seen in "The Man Trap" et seq.). A new addition is a phaser rifle, which has three large copper-colored cylinders stacked in a pyramidal shape that lead to a blocky gray handle and a long silver barrel with a dish at the end; the cylinders can rotate 90 degrees. [This is probably some sort of "armed"/"disarmed" feature.]
The S.S. Valiant was an Earth ship which was lost over two hundred years ago. It was destroyed, but they were able to eject their ship recorder - a cylindrical object, about 1 meter in diameter and roughly a meter high - beforehand; the recorder became badly scarred and pitted over the years, but while the tapes were burned out, its memory banks remained intact. According to the data inside, the Valiant was pushed off course by a magnetic storm (as their impulse engines weren't strong enough to resist) which sent them out of the galaxy. About half a light year beyond the edge, they encountered a force which forced them back. This force killed six of them and changed a seventh into something involving extrasensory perception. The captain of the Valiant ultimately decided to issue an order to self-destruct.
The force the Valiant encountered was an energy barrier surrounding the galaxy. Largely pink in color with some purple elements, it registered on deflectors but not on sensors [despite being, y'know, visible], with negative readings for density, energy, and radiation. When the Enterprise tried to pass through the barrier, the ship was badly damaged, and some force killed nine people by burning out a part of their brains. These nine all had high ESP ratings. This force also affected two other crewmembers with very high ESP ratings: Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell, and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Instead of killing them, however, it activated powers in their minds, granting them increased mental abilities as well as new ones such as telekinesis and the capacity to create matter from seemingly nothing. These abilities seemed linked to a high rating in extrasensory perception. As time passed these powers increased, seemingly bringing with them an increased sense of arrogance and superiority. A side effect of this force was that it turned the affected individual's eyes completely silver.
Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell was a helmsman aboard the USS Enterprise. He had dark brown hair and (prior to his transformation) brown eyes, and wore a tan tunic with a double circle insignia. Mitchell was born in the city of Eldman, in a place whose name began with "New", on [stardate] 1087.7, and he still lived there, on a street numbered 8149. He was 23 years old and his height was 5 feet 9 inches. He had an esper rating of 091, an aperception quotient of 20/104, a Duke-Heidelburg quotient of 261, and a general knowledge quotient of 679532-112; these were all considered well above average and in some cases exceptionally high - and in fact his rating was the highest of any crewmember on the Enterprise. According to his records, Mitchell had consistently shown a predilection for ESP, with a better-than-average success rate in children's guessing games and an interest in magician's tricks. In addition, he also had a family history of ESP going back six generations along his maternal bloodline, with ancestors who had dabbled in metaphysical studies and one woman who was interested in spiritual readings. Mitchell was the first to manifest powers after being affected at the barrier, despite being hit harder than Dr. Dehner and thus initially incapacitated, and according to Sulu his powers were growing geometrically. Abilities Mitchell exhibited after being affected at the barrier included a keen sense of control of his own autonomic reflexes, speed reading and retention, telekinesis, mind-reading, shooting lightning from his fingers, immunity to phaser rifle blasts, and the creation of plants and running water. He was capable of being sedated [meaning he didn't have full control over his physical processes], and the shock of a forcefield initially weakened him (changing his eyes back to normal), but after a moment he regained his powers and was eventually able to ignore the forcefield. He was killed on Delta Vega when Dr. Dehner drained his power sufficiently to allow Kirk to literally bury him under a ton of rock.
Mitchell had been friends with Kirk basically since he joined the service; as a freshman, he'd been warned about the difficulty of Lieutenant Kirk's class ("in his class, you either think or sink"), but he pointed a "little blonde lab technician" in his direction that apparently loosened up Kirk; Kirk, however, didn't know Mitchell had arranged for Kirk to meet her (nor that he had told her exactly how to approach Kirk) until their conversation in sickbay after the events at the barrier - much to Kirk's chagrin, as he "almost married her". [This is sometimes retconned by fans to be a reference to Dr. Carol Marcus from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but there's no actual evidence for this.] Kirk and Mitchell became firm friends after this, with Kirk requesting Mitchell serve under him after Kirk earned his first command. During a mission on Dimorus, he took a poisoned dart thrown by a rodent-like creature that was meant for Kirk and almost died as a result. At one point they went to Deneb IV, where Mitchell became involved with a woman who apparently activated some of his latent ESP abilities, albeit in a different way from the barrier. ("She was nova, that one," Mitchell says to Kirk. "Not nearly as many after-effects this time, except for the eyes.") According to his record, Mitchell showed a marked ability to communicate telepathically with the natives of Deneb IV. He liked Kaferian apples.
Dr. Elizabeth Dehner was a psychologist recently assigned to the Enterprise; she came aboard when the ship stopped at the Aldebaran colony. Her assignment was to study crew reaction in emergency conditions. She was 5 foot 2 inches and slender (with a weight of 116 [pounds]), with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was born on [stardate] 1089.5 in the city of Delman, and she listed her permanent address in Delman, on a street numbered 1489. Delman itself was located in a state beginning with the letters "Newst". Her father was named Gerald Dehner, and according to her records she was 21 years old. She was dressed in a blue tunic with a spiral insignia. Dehner had one of the highest ESP ratings on the ship: according to her records, she had an esper rating of 089, an aperception quotient of 20/100, a Duke-Heidelburg quotient of 256, and a general knowledge quotient of 654895-109; these ratings were all considered better than average. Both her maternal and paternal bloodlines had evidence of ESP-related abilities, but it only went back further than three generations in one case. Dehner was aware of her ESP abilities, and in fact they were the reason she decided to become a psychiatrist. Dehner was publishing a thesis (with the College of Medical Sciences of the Tri-Planetary Academy) involving tests and studies of esper-oriented beings, and this thesis was the reason she was on the Aldebaran Colony. According to her, espers are simply people with flashes of insight who can do things like predict the future a bit and read the backs of playing cards, but that the esper capacity is ultimately quite limited in humans and thus not dangerous. [Spock counters with reports of people who could start fires and see through solid objects, but he doesn't provide any evidence for his claims.] Dehner also acquired ESP powers from the barrier, but hers manifested much later than Mitchell's. She was able to hold on to her humanity long enough to drain some of Mitchell's strength, allowing Kirk to kill him, but the strain (and Mitchell's counterattacks) killed her.
Kirk is still the captain. He's dressed in a lime-gold tunic with a starburst insignia. He used to be an instructor at the Academy with a reputation for being a demanding instructor with an interest in books rather than people (although that appears to have subsequently changed). He's close friends with Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell, and he enjoys playing three-dimensional chess with Spock. He lists both Mitchell and Dehner as having given their lives in the performance of their duty, despite Mitchell's actions, as Mitchell hadn't asked to be mutated. According to the tombstone Mitchell creates for him, his middle initial is R and he was born circa stardate 1277.1. [The "R" is one of Star Trek's more famous "mistakes", although as the first episode made with Kirk it's not technically a mistake - but it would subsequently be declared as one by the production staff. It's worth noting that the "R" was in Peeples' script and made it through without comment, so this may actually be an example of a decision that was changed soon afterwards (in time for "Mudd's Women", which gives the initial as "T") rather than a genuine mistake. (Unhelpfully, none of the memos from the relevant period printed in Herb Solow and Robert Justman's book Inside Star Trek provide a middle initial for Kirk - and neither does the NBC sales brochure prepared from this pilot.)
[It may also be worth noting that the first stardate listed on Kirk's tombstone doesn't line up with the other two on-screen birth stardates, which are both in the late 1080s and refer to crewmembers younger than Kirk. Fans have attempted to bend over backwards to account for why this first stardate is so much more recent than the other two by declaring that it refers to something other than Kirk's birth, despite the standard conventions of grave markers, but given the problem with this and the middle initial it's probably easier to assume that Mitchell just did a bad job making a tombstone for Kirk.]
Spock is dressed in a lime-gold tunic with a starburst insignia. One of his ancestors married a human female [his father, in fact, as we'll learn next week in "The Naked Time"]; thus, he has emotions such as irritation, even if he attempts not to display them. [That said, there are more hints of smiles and such in this second pilot that will disappear when they go to series.] Consequently, his actions are governed by logic rather than feelings. He plays three-dimensional chess with Kirk and doesn't always win.
Dr. Mark Piper was a medical officer aboard the Enterprise [presumably the chief medical officer, although this isn't actually stated], as well as the head of the Life Sciences department. He was an older man, with greying brown hair and brown eyes, and he was dressed in a blue tunic with a spiral insignia.
Lt. Lee Kelso was a navigator aboard the Enterprise. He had blonde hair and brown eyes, and was dressed in a tan tunic with a double-circle insignia. He had some technical skill, as he was part of the team repairing the Enterprise after the barrier (although he missed that the points on the starboard impulse packs were almost completely decayed and needed Mitchell to point it out), and he was told to rewire a console on Delta Vega with a switch that would set off a reaction in the fuel tanks that would destroy the lithium cracking station on the surface. He was strangled by a thick cable being telekinetically controlled by Mitchell.
Sulu is here the head of the Astro Sciences department. He's wearing a blue tunic with a spiral insignia. He seems well versed in mathematics. [The aforementioned sales brochure describes Sulu as a physicist. Physics, math, botany, helmsman, Science department...Sulu may be the most rounded member of the entire bridge crew.]
Alden was a communications officer on the Enterprise. [Well, maybe; he's sitting in what we think of as the communications station on the bridge, but we don't see him do anything communications-like. The sales brochure lists him as Communications Officer, though, so this isn't completely unfounded.] He had short hair and brown eyes, and was dressed in a blue tunic with a starburst insignia. Alden could also man the helm. [Alden is by production the first African-American in a notable role on the show (as "The Cage" didn't feature any black actors).]
Scott is the head of the Engineering department. He's in his 40s, with black hair and brown eyes. He had a Scottish accent. He's dressed in a tan tunic with a double-circle insignia. [Later episodes will establish that he's a lieutenant commander, typically wearing a red operations tunic. Despite being the third episode broadcast, this is in fact Scotty's first on-screen appearance (though he does have a one-line voiceover in "The Man Trap").]
Yeoman Smith is a young woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. She's wearing a lime-gold tunic with a spiral insignia. She stands around the bridge, presumably in case Kirk needs her for something.
Delta Vega is a brownish-white planet [class M?], slightly smaller than Earth and rather desolate, a few light days away from the galactic barrier. It's home to a lithium cracking station which supplies crystal and minerals to other planets. This station is a large complex, with huge tanks and lots of scaffolding and rigging and such (it basically looks like a large industrial processing facility). Although it has facilities for human habitation, the station is completely automated; consequently, no one lives on Delta Vega, and even the ore ships that pick up the processed resources only stop by every twenty years. The station may be owned by a company named "Galactic Mining". [There's a sign on the outside of the facility that reads "Galactic Mining, Delta-Vega [sic] Station".]
"My love has wings, slender, feathered things, with grace in upswept curve and tapered tip" are lines from "The Nightingale Woman", which was written by Phineas Tarbolde on the Canopius planet in 1996. Mitchell describes it as one of the most passionate love sonnets of the past couple centuries. [Now seems like a good time to discuss when Star Trek takes place. For a long time, it's left fairly nebulous; Roddenberry didn't want a specific future for his show, which is why they created stardates instead, to leave things deliberately ambiguous. But with that said, here's what we know: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" notes that the S.S. Valiant was lost at the galactic barrier two hundred years earlier, while the poem "The Nightingale Woman", written in 1996, is one of the most passionate love sonnets of the "past couple of centuries". "Miri" states that the Earth-like planet developed to a level akin to the 1960s before stagnating for 300 years - and since "Miri" is meant to be a metaphor for Earth, it's not crazy to think that this means that three hundred years have passed since the 1960s on "our" Earth as well. "The Squire of Gothos" has Trelane dressed as an early 19th-century gentleman because he's 900 years out, which suggests the late 27th/early 28th century. "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" has a 20th-century Air Force lieutenant colonel threaten to put Kirk in jail for 200 years, which Kirk remarks is "just about right". Khan in "Space Seed" went into space in the late 20th century, which was roughly two centuries ago. In "Requiem for Methuselah", Flint was born in 3834 BC and is 6000 years old, thus making the year roughly 2166. "The Savage Curtain" has Scott remark that Lincoln died "three centuries ago" - once again implying the 2100s. The thing to note here is that while there's no clear agreement, a consensus does seem to form. Unfortunately, that consensus seems to be for the 22nd century.
[However, by the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, things shift a bit: V'Ger is said to have been built three hundred years ago. And Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan provides an unequivocal timeframe: the movie opens with the caption "In the 23rd century...", and thus the original series' time has been fixed ever since. (In fact, we can narrow it down further, but not until Star Trek: The Next Generation - see TNG's first season closer "The Neutral Zone" for more.)]
Final Analysis: "Our subject is not Gary Mitchell. Our concern is rather what he is mutating into." This episode has a very "pilot-y" feel to it, with pieces of exposition given over to establishing series conceits like Spock's lack of emotion and a plot that sometimes doesn't feel like it quite gels with the rest of the series, with its focus on ESP and a more isolated Enterprise. That said, it's well told and full of incident (just what the NBC suits wanted), and Gary Lockwood does an excellent job as Gary Mitchell. Still, it's a bit of an oddity, and that feeling is only exacerbated by its position as third in the broadcast season - one wonders what the first-run audience made of the visual differences and the slight changes in emphasis.
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Page originally created: November 30, 2016
Page last updated: January 25, 2018