After NBC rejected the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage”, Roddenberry got a second chance, and out of that came “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (there are reports that it was Lucille Ball who convinced the studio, which I really hope is true).
One of the first things I noticed is that the women are still wearing pants in this episode. I’d always thought that was nixed right after “The Cage” but apparently the Trek creators tried to get the concept of practical clothes for women through a second time.
But anyhow, here’s my episode review:
Kirk and Spock are playing 3D chess in very comfortable-looking turtlenecks when the Enterprise finds a recorder from a destroyed ship (the futuristic equivalent of the black box). When they try to feed the tapes into the recorder (yes – tapes were very cutting-edge in the 1960s), the recorder begins emitting a signal.
Kirk and Spock head to the bridge and run into Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, who is clearly a friend of Kirk’s, on the turbolift. Once on the bridge, Kirk orders the department heads to report.
Two of the five department heads are women. They are Yeoman Smith (whom Kirk calls “Jones” by mistake) and the new psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (2nd from left, in blue).
For the record, because there are obviously more cast changes after this ep, the male department heads we meet here are Scotty, Doctor Mark Piper, and Sulu, who’s in charge of astrophysics.
They figure out the recorder was from a ship that went missing 200 years ago. While everyone else is discussing the incident at hand, Mitchell tries to hit on Dehner and when she isn’t interested, calls her a “walking freezer unit.”
Spock figures out that before the other ship was destroyed, the crew accessed computer records on ESP in humans. Subsequently, the captain ordered a self-destruct. There’s an odd exchange between Kirk and Dehner at this point (odd because it’s decidedly non-humanist for early Trek), when she asserts: “It is a fact that some people can sense future happenings, read the backs of playing cards and so on…”
They continue ahead despite the ominous situation and soon run into some kind of anomaly. Suddenly consoles are exploding and a strange light zaps Dehner and Mitchell.
As soon as Spock steers them out of the danger zone, they find that Mitchell’s eyes are glowing silver and it is super creepy, but otherwise he seems cool.
Looking into it further, they find Dehner and Mitchell had some of the highest ESP scores on the ship.
Kirk goes to visit Mitchell in Sickbay and show more about their past friendship by reminiscing about girls at the Academy.
Mitchell: If I hadn’t aimed that little blonde lab technician at you
Kirk: You what? You planned that?
Mitchell: Well, you wanted me to think, didn’t you? I outlined her whole campaign for her.
Kirk: almost married her!
Kirk suggests he’ll send Dehner by to work with Mitchell and Mitchell continues the remarkable achievement of being more of a sexist jerk than his captain:
Mitchell: With almost a hundred women onboard, you can do better than that, friend Captain.
Kirk: Consider it a challenge.
Mitchell: That doesn’t seem very friendly.
Kirk finally leaves Mitchell, who goes back to reading on his remote-controlled space Kindle (actually a fairly cool early Trek invention).
Dehner comes by to visit him later and when she calls him on the “walking freezer unit” comment he apologizes and she ends up taking it back on herself, saying “women professionals do tend to overcompensate”. Even though he was hitting on her on the bridge during a red alert, she should’ve been nicer?
Soon enough he’s basically hitting on her again, and when Kelso comes in to check on Mitchell, Mitchell calls Dehner “our good looking lady doctor here.”
Turns out, this kind of silver-eyed man charm can turn even the hardest Trek lady heart to mush. She doesn’t report Mitchell’s new super abilities, which include making his life signs change at will, reading Kelso’s mind, and memorizing love poems. At the staff meeting she argues against Spock’s proposal that they strand Mitchell on the planet Delta Vega, where his powers won’t be able to hurt the Enterprise. Then Kirk takes her to task for not telling them more sooner about how fast Mitchell was changing:
Kirk: And you didn’t think it worth mentioning?
Dehner: No one’s been hurt, have they? Don’t you understand? A mutated superior man could also be a wonderful thing. The forerunner of a new and better kind of human being.
Unfortunately for Dehner, this is not the X-Men universe. Mitchell is only getting stronger and more maniacal. Kirk finally decides to take Spock’s advice and after much tranquilizing and struggling, Mitchell is confined to a holding cell on the planet.
As the rest of the crew prepare to leave, Dehner announces she’s going to stay behind. Mitchell uses his ESP to bust out of the cell and shock Kirk and Spock so he and Dehner – who’s now silver-eyed too – escape.
After the highly-unmemorable Doctor Piper revives Kirk, Kirk decides to go after the two mutant crewmembers.
It’s interesting that, like in “The Cage”, there’s an Adam and Eve allegory in this second pilot. Mitchell and Dehner, together, are beginning to construct a new world. Mitchell’s powers are now god-like and he begins creating water, food and plants around them.
But when Kirk finds them, Mitchell turns on him, mad with power. Kirk fights with Mitchell and tries to reason with Dehner. She eventually sees that Mitchell has become evil, and she uses her powers to zap him so Kirk can get him, eventually by hitting a bunch of boulders with his phaser so they tumble onto Mitchell and crush him. Dehner also dies, ostensibly because the zapping-thing took her energy, or something. Kirk orders they both be recorded as killed in the line of duty.
What we learned from this episode:
- Absolute power corrupts absolutely
- Kirk is as much a thinker as a charmer (though the balance arguably tips a bit toward the latter in future episodes)
- Women and their emotions, am I right?
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail