Star Trek: The Original Series episode 3 review

Our look at the Original Series in high definition moves on to Where No Man Has Gone Before...

Episode: 03Title: Where No Man Has Gone BeforeStar Date: 1312.4Writer: Samuel A. PeeplesFirst Shown: 22nd September 1966

Those who tuned into Star Trek in those earliest days must have got completely confused in the third week, because Where No Man Has Gone Before is Trek, Jim, but not exactly as we know it.

This was the second pilot episode that was commissioned and the one where Kirk was introduced to replace Captain Pike. This was actually the first episode that was shown by the BBC in the UK, so British audiences weren’t as confused as those in America by seeing this entirely out of sequence.

There are familiar aspects in this episode yet there are also, what Mr Spock might describe as ‘anomalies’ of unknown origin. The first that strikes you is the curiously coloured outfits that both Kirk and Spock wear, which are a really nasty green/yellow colour. Spock’s skin has a peculiar make-up tint, and many of the other familiar Trek characters are entirely missing in action from this adventure. Sulu and Scotty are here, but no Uhura.

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The most significant missing cast member is Doctor McCoy, who not only isn’t here but there is actually another actor playing an alternative ship’s doctor. Actually, for Trek aficionados, lots of little things are different, including details on the ship, the design of phasers, the layout of the bridge, and a dozen or so minor aspects.

But conversely there are plenty of signature Trek elements too. Most importantly, the characters of Kirk and Spock are both very close to their final forms, and the foundation of their relationship is perfectly formed. Spock seems marginally more emotional on occasion than he’s presented in later shows, but he’s still inherently the Vulcan science officer that we’ve come to love. Shatner is Kirk, exactly as we expect him to be from all his subsequent appearances.

Another curiosity of the story ordering is that this comes directly after Charlie X, a story that has a very similar plot. In this the Enterprise intercepts a flight recorder from a long lost USS Valiant. The device reveals that 200 years before, the Valiant was hit by a space storm, after which things went wrong on the ship before the Captain decided to self-destruct his vessel.

Typically, Kirk isn’t happy with those answers, and decides to get more by crossing a massive swirling barrier on the edge of our galaxy. In the Blu-ray revamped version this is very nicely presented as a massive pink cloud, a bit like the nebula in Wrath Of Khan but more translucent. When the ship hit this barrier much of the electrical equipment shorts out on the ship, and two crew members are injured. Actually, we’re told later that nine are dead, although they don’t get names or mentioned again.

Kirk is more concerned about his best friend, Gary Mitchell, who is one of those struck. He’s played by Gary Lockwood, who in the following year would go on to play Dr. Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey. He’s by far the best actor here, and eats up the transformation of Mitchell from cheeky friend of the captain to omnipotent demi-god.

While the stories are similar, the dynamic here is entirely different from Charlie X, because of the added component of Kirk and Mitchell’s friendship, where duty comes above the captain’s personal relationships. Ultimately, when they try to maroon Mitchell on the planet Delta Vega, it’s realised that the other person affected by the storm, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman), also now has telekinetic and physic powers.

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It’s the fight on Delta Vega that highlights why William Shatner got hired, which is his physicality in precisely these types of scenes. However, he’s not doing so well as Kirk until Dr. Dehner helps out, giving him his one opportunity to stop Mitchell.

The story has a small epilogue sequence where they record in the ship’s log that they both died “in performance of duty”, which presumably means that Star Fleet have so many fatalities that they’re not overly concerned about exactly how they die.

Of the three opening episodes this is probably the strongest from an action and drama basis, even if the style is strangely out of sync with the rest of season one.

Why they didn’t launch the show with this, I’ve no idea. On the Blu-ray box set this episode is singled out on the first disc as the one on which they provide a picture-in-picture overview. So you get interviews with those like Gary Lockwood who appeared in the show, and talk about things like the horrible silver contact lenses they made him wear, and those technically responsible for restoring the series.

Where No Man Has Gone Before is far from a perfect Trek story, but it was good enough to convince the network to order the first season and make Star Trek a reality, so it deserves some credit.

Next up is one of the more memorable outings of the first season, The Naked Time.

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