Friday, June 22, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 3 (Where No Man Has Gone Before)

The first season of Star Trek can be a little confusing.  There was a pilot episode that was made, but not used by the network.  It didn’t air until the 1980s, but was incorporated into a two--art episode.  A second pilot was made, but NBC decided to air two other episodes before it.  The episode that first aired was actually the sixth produced.  So, here we are, the third episode to air and it’s actually the second pilot episode.

Captain James T. Kirk (or James R. Kirk, if you prefer) is in command of the Enterprise.  They’ve found a flight recorder for a long-lost ship, the SS Valiant.  Parts are missing, but there are references to a magnetic storm and ESP.  Kirk attempts to take the ship across the galactic barrier to find out what happened, but much of the equipment is knocked out, as are Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner.

Dehner seems no worse for the wear, but Mitchell now has glowing silver eyes.   What’s alarming is that he’s beginning to develop powers like telekinesis and mind reading.  Spock points out that the most logical thing to do is to kill Mitchell while they still can.  Kirk decides to abandon Mitchell on a planet called Delta Vega.   Delta Vega has an automated mining facility for an ore they need, so they’ll have to stop there anyway.

Unfortunately, Dehner begins to change, too.  Kirk realizes that he has to kill Mitchell; it’s too dangerous to leave both of them on the planet where they might have children with superpowers.  (This leads to a fight scene where Mitchell creates a tombstone for one James R. Kirk, hence my earlier comment.)  Both Mitchell and Dehner die, removing any threat of god-like humans ruling the galaxy.

From what I understand, the order in which the episodes aired had to do with NBC preferring episodes with action.  Thus, episodes with good fight scenes got aired first.  The fact that we got two episodes with extremely powerful humans was probably secondary.  (For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be reviewing episodes based on the order in which they aired, as that seems to be the order both Netflix and IMDb have them in.)

The whole aspect of ESP seemed a little odd to me.  Both Dehner and Mitchell have high ratings, but that admittedly doesn’t count for much.  It doesn’t seem that humans have much ESP power compared to other races.  Vulcans would be revealed to be touch telepaths.  The Next Generation would introduce Betazoids and other telepathic species.  Despite all the hype, unaltered humans don’t seem to be capable of that much.

I’d ask why Spock wasn’t affected, but many of the details were still being worked out.  Spock says that one of his ancestors was human.  That ancestor was later revealed to be his mother.  He’s also shown having some emotion, which we’d later learn Vulcan society forbids.

I’ve also wondered where Star Trek got the idea for the galactic barrier.  It was also featured in at least one subsequent episode, so someone thought that there must be something at the Milky Way’s edge that would strongly affect ships.  I don’t know if there’s any actual science to support this or if it was just a nice plot device.  I’m kind of leaning towards the second one.  I’m not sure why such a thing should exist other than to add an element of danger.

I can forgive a lot of the details, as this was the second pilot.  Spock seems less emotional, although does show signs here.  He even admits to feeling for Mitchell.  I’m not sure why Kirk’s middle initial was changed, though.  It may have just been a mistake or maybe there’s some interesting story.

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