Recaps, Star Trek

Star Trek Recaps: TOS, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

Images from trekcore.com

Welcome back! This time around I’m looking at “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is the second episode in a row with the “dude with psychic powers fucks shit up” theme.

So, just a few notes before we get into the episode proper: as I noted in my last post, this was actually the second pilot ordered by the network. So while it was the third episode aired, it was actually the second one filmed (after “The Cage”). So there are some differences here, notably in the uniforms. Like in “The Cage,” there is nary a miniskirt to be found, and Spock is wearing a gold uniform rather than a blue one. Also, McCoy is nowhere to be seen; instead the doctor in this episode is named Piper.

Now, on to the episode.

We open, as typical, with a captain’s log. It seems that the ship has located a distress signal from a ship that had disappeared almost 200 years ago. We then cut to Kirk and Spock playing chess. Spock tells the distracted captain that it’s his move, and Kirk says that the bridge should’ve called down by now regarding the mysterious distress signal.

Spock points out that he’ll have the captain checkmated on his next move, and Kirk tells him that he plays a very irritating game. Spock doesn’t seem to know what he means, but then realizes that it’s “one of your earth emotions.” Again, I love Spock’s subtle smart-assery.

This man clearly gives no fucks.

Kirk makes a move, and Spock looks perturbed. Kirk jokingly says, “Certain you don’t know what irritation is?” Spock responds that one of his ancestors married a human woman. You mean your dad, Spock? Though I suppose your dad would technically be an ancestor. Anyway, they get a call form a bridge officer named Kelso that the object they’ve been looking for is in tractor beam range, and it’s way too small to be a ship. Kirk orders Kelso to lock on and and the two head to the transporter room.

And we now get to see Scotty for the first time so far. He lets Kirk know that the object can be beamed aboard now, and Kirk puts through the order. This is what they find:

Tripod.

It is not, in fact, a garbage can on a tripod, but is rather a flight recorder from a very old starship. Spock points out that it’s all burned up, which indicates the ship it was on was likely destroyed. Kirk hopes the tapes are intact, and Scotty starts retrieving the information.

After the opening credits, we cut to Spock and Kirk heading into a turbolift. A man in a gold shirt (Gary Mitchell, a friend of Kirk’s) asks them to hold it. After Kirk asks him if he’s getting in shape, Mitchell responds that he figured they weren’t on the bridge yet, and notes that Kelso sounded nervous. He then asks if the two of them were able to finish their game. Spock responds that Kirk “played most illogically,” and that “his next move should have been the rook.”

On the bridge, Mitchell relieves a crewman named Alden, and takes his place. Kirk orders the viewscreen on, and for the pilot to neutralize warp and hold their position. In the meantime, Spock is analyzing the tapes from the recorder. Kirk addresses the crew on the intercom, and announces that the object is the recorder from the SS Valiant as Spock begins his analysis. Kirk goes on to announce that they hope to learn why the Valiant was there and how it was destroyed.

As he’s making the announcement, the department heads appear on the bridge. Mitchell points out that Kirk had wanted them on board before leaving the galaxy. At this point, he runs into a crewman (who I’m assuming is his yeoman), and addresses her as Jones. She corrects him and tells him her name’s Smith. It’s reminiscent of the scene where Pike bumps into Colt in “The Cage,” except Kirk’s not a dick about it.

Sulu in a blue shirt just seems wrong to me.

Sulu (who’s wearing a blue shirt in this episode and it’s freakin’ me out) reports that the astro sciences department is standing by. Scott does the same with engineering, and Piper with life sciences. He then introduces the captain to Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a psychiatrist who is one board to study how the Enterprise crew reacts to emergency conditions. Spock says he’s found some information in the recorder’s memory banks, and Dehner says she’d be interested to know how that crew reacted to whatever had destroyed their ship. Mitchell asks her, “Improving the breed, Doctor? Is that your line?” To which Dehner responds, “ I heard that’s more your specialty, Commander, line included.” I like her already.

Mitchell responds to this by turning to Kelso and basically calling her frigid. Charming. Anyway, at this point we learn what had happened to the Valiant: it had hit a magnetic storm which pushed it about half a light year out of the galaxy. They turned around to head back, and made it about to where the Enterprise is now. Spock notes that the tapes are pretty badly burned, but he manages to get that the ship had encountered some kind of unknown force, and that towards the end the crew of the Valiant were desperately searching for any information about extra sensory perception.

Kirk turns to Dehner and asks her what she knows about ESP; she states that she’s taken some tests and her ESP rating was fairly high. Kirk says that he asked what she knows about it, not how highly ranked she was, and she says that while ESP has always existed, “the esper capacity is always quite limited.” Spock reports at this point that the ship had been severely damaged, with seven crewmembers dead, before correcting himself: only six were killed, one recovered. Spock then hears something he can’t believe at first: the captain of the Valiant giving the order to destroy the ship.

Kirk goes towards the department heads and asks them for comments. Piper states that, at this point, all that they really know for sure is that the Valiant was destroyed. Kirk says that they should continue investigating, in case any other ships come this way.

Purple Space Thingy

They go forward, until they run into some weird purple space thing (that’s the technical term). Spock says that it’s some kind of force field, and Mitchell states that they’re coming up on it very fast. Spock orders Kelso to turn on the sensors and the deflectors, with odd results: the sensors are saying there’s nothing there, but the deflectors are saying that there is. Kelso points out they’re going to come into contact with it in 12 seconds, and this is when the shit hits the fan.

Consoles start blowing up, the engines end up being fried, and Mitchell and Dehner are hit with some kind of weird energy, after which they pass out. They manage to make it through, and Kirk orders damage reports. He goes to Dehner, who says she’s fine. She compares what happened to her to being hit with an electrical charge.

Piper comes over and says that Mitchell is alive, and seems to be in shock. Kirk goes over to Spock then reports that the main engines are dead, they’re on emergency power cells, and nine crewmembers are dead.

Kirk goes over to check on Mitchell, who says that he’s a bit weak but is all right. Then he turns around and we see that his eyes are now bright silver.

And really fucking creepy.

After the break, we see Kirk and Spock going through records of the crew, checking their esper ratings. Dehner comes to the bridge to deliver an autopsy report: the nine dead crewmembers all had a region of their brains burned out. Kirk asks her if she’s all right; she responds that she and Mitchell are fine, except for Mitchell’s fucked up eyes, and that they’re still trying to figure out why the others died. Spock says that they think they’ve already found one, and Kirk elaborates: Dehner, Mitchell, and the nine who died all had high degrees of ESP, with Mitchell’s being the highest. Dehner asks if they think there’s any danger, and Spock points out that the crew of the Valiant didn’t just spontaneously develop an obsession with ESP.  The two dicker on this for a little while, until Kirk steps in at this point wondering if there’s really any way to know for sure.

We then cut to the infirmary, where Mitchell is convalescing. He’s staring at a computer screen with words on it, then stops for a moment before turning it off. Kirk walks in and Mitchell greets him, saying he looks worried. Kirk responds that he’s been worried about Mitchell “since that night on Deneb IV.” Mitchell responds that there were fewer effects this time, except for his eyes, and that they “They kind of stare back at me when I’m shaving.”

Which is not surprising.

Kirk asks him if he feels different. Mitchell responds that, in a way at least, he feels better than he has in his life. Kirk asks him how, and Mitchell says that, for one, he’s “getting a chance to read some of that longhair stuff you like.” They reminisce about their Acadamy days for a while, with Mitchell jokingly saying that Kirk should be nicer to him. Kirk tells him that Dehner’s going to keep him under observation for a while, and Mitchell seems disappointed. Kirk says he should consider it a challenge, and Mitchell responds, “That doesn’t seem very friendly. Didn’t I say you’d better be good to me?” His voice gets a weird echo in the middle of that statement. Kirk, seemingly a bit freaked out, takes his leave, and Mitchell goes back to reading. Extremely quickly.

Back on the bridge, Spock is observing Mitchell. Kirk walks in and Spock reports that Mitchell’s reading even more quickly than before. Mitchell then stares at the monitor in a supremely creepy fashion.

See you in your nightmares!

We go back to sickbay, where Piper is finishing his examination of Mitchell. Piper comments on Mitchell’s unusual good health, saying that even healthy people tend to be off on at least one reading. He leaves, and Dehner is left alone with Mitchell. Dehner points out that she knows Mitchell doesn’t like her. Mitchell responds that he has nothing against her. and Dehner says, “Nor against the walking freezer unit?” referencing Mitchell’s earlier comments.  Mitchell, to his credit, apologizes, and Dehner says that “women professionals do tend to overcompensate.” She asks him how she feels, and Mitchell says that everyone seems to be worried that there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. He wonders what happens if he would change the dials, and the readings on the screen skyrocket. Dehner asks him how he did that; Mitchell responds he’s not sure. He thought of it happening and it happened. He then puts the dials down to zero and collapses onto the bed.

Dehner, understandably alarmed by this, tells him to stop it. He wakes up and laughs. and Dehner tells him he was dead for 22 seconds. Mitchell, half excited and half freaked out, wonders what’s happening to him.

They talk a bit about Mitchell’s new reading skills, and Dehner asks him if he retains anything. He says yes, and she puts him to the test. She shows him a tape before inserting it, and asks him what’s on page 387. He recites it perfectly, and it turns out to be a love poem. He asks her how she feels; she responds that nothing happened, she just fell. He asks her again, drawing her closer, and then Kelso walks in.

Totally appropriate behavior.

Mitchell, acting like he wasn’t just creeping on Dehner, says it’s all right and tells him to come in. Kelso enters and tells him that since he’s on his coffee break, he’d check in on Mitchell. The two have an awkward conversation for a while, until Mitchell asks how the repairs are going. Kelso responds that the main engines are out, and Mitchell says that he should check the starboard impulse packs since the leads are decayed. Kelso sarcastically says OK. Mitchell angrily responds that he’s not joking and if Kelso tries to activate them, the impulse deck will explode. Kelso nervously says he’ll get on it, and leave. Mitchell says that Kelso’s a fool, and Dehner asks how he knew about the damaged leads. Mitchell says he took the image from Kelso’s mind.

In the briefing room, where Kelso describes his interaction with Mitchell to the command crew. He says that Mitchell was 100% correct, though he has no idea how. Dehner walks in and apologizes for being late, saying that she was so interested in “observing” Mitchell that she lost track of time. So that’s what they’re calling it now. Spock says that the man she’s observing isn’t Gary Mitchell, and that they should be concerned about what he’s turning into.

Dehner tells Spock that even considering that Vulcans are supposed to be emotionless, talking about Mitchell like that isn’t cool. Kirk tells her that’s enough, and she tells him she understands his attitudes even less, since he’s one of Mitchell’s closes friends. Kirk responds that he has to consider the safety of his crew, even if he finds dealing with it unpleasant.

Spock asks Dehner if she’s noticed any evidence of Mitchell’s new abilities. She references the speed reading, and the whole thing with the dials. Scotty reports that about an hour earlier the ship’s controls started operating by themselves. Spock says that he could see Mitchell on the monitor smiling when it happened, “ship and crew were almost a toy for his amusement.”

Kirk asks Dehner if she’s seen him show abilities on that scale. Dehner responds that she may have seen some indications, and Kirk scolds her for not having told them. Dehner shoots back that no one’s been hurt, and that maybe his mutation is a good thing. I think it’s mostly because she wants a vitamin D injection from Mitchell, if you know what I mean.

She'd jump on that in a heartbeat.

The rest of the crew stare at her for a few seconds, before Sulu gives his analysis. He reports that Mitchell’s abilities are increasing geometrically,  and Spock says that pretty soon the crew will be not just useless to him, but annoying.

Kirk gets up and says that this is not something to be discussed with the rest of the crew. They leave, and Spock stays behind to tell Kirk that Mitchell’s powers won’t allow them to reach a starbase if they keep him on board. He gives Kirk two options: to maroon him on Delta Vega (a nearby planet with an unmanned lithium mining station and nothing else) or to kill Mitchell while he still can. Kirk is reluctant to do either option, until Spock pushes him to make a decision by pointing out that the captain of the Valiant waited too long. Kirk agrees to strand Mitchell.

After another captain’s log, we go back to sickbay, where Mitchell is lounging. Mitchell uses his power to retried a glass of water. Kirk, Spock, and Dehner walk in. Mitchell compares his new powers to a blind man suddenly being able to see, and that some people may think his powers make him a monster. Kirk asks him if he’s reading their thoughts, and Mitchell responds that in Kirk he mostly senses worry for the Enterprise’s safety. Kirk asks Mitchell what he’d do in his place, and he says he’d probably do what Spock’s thinking: kill him. Kirk tries to grab Mitchell, but he zaps both him and Spock.

Dehner tells him to stop, and Mitchell starts talking about how he knows what they’re planning nad he can’t let them do it. He has plans, and is waiting until they get to a planet they can use. Dehner asks the obvious question: use for what? Mitchell responds that soon he’ll be able to do anything, at which point Kirk and Spock pin him to the bed and Dehner sedates him.

I'm sure many a slashfic originated from this scene.

Spock and Kirk take him to the transporter room, where he starts to wake up and starts raving about how he’ll “squash you like insects” until Piper sedates him again. They beam down to the planet, where Kirk asks Kelso if they’ll be able to use the station’s resources to repair the Enterprise. Kelso says he thinks so, if they can avoid blowing themselves up. Spock and a couple of other crewman take Mitchell in, and Dehner asks if they’re the only people on the whole planet. Kirk responds with, “Nobody but us chickens, Doctor.” Was that a thing people actually said? I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase used in real life.

We cut to the engineering crew hard at work. Kirk enters and asks Kelso if the fuel bins can be detonated from that room. Kelso says he thinks he can rig up a self-destruct button one of the consoles. Spock then enters and tells Kirk that Mitchell’s regaining consciousness.

They head to where he’s being held: in a cell with a force field.  Dehner and Piper are also in the room, observing. Kirk orders that one medical officer should be on the planet at all times. Dehner volunteers to stay behind, saying she wants to try and talk to Mitchell. Piper heads out, and Mitchell starts talking to Kirk, reminding him of an incident where Mitchell had taken a poisoned dart meant for Kirk, and almost died as a result. At this point in the episode, Mitchell largely stops referring to Kirk as Jim; rather he starts calling him James.

Mitchell asks Kirk why he’s afraid of him, and Kirk points out the parts where Mitchell was trying to take over the ship and threatened to crush them like insects. Mitchell points out he was drugged for that last bit., Kirk says that Mitchell had earlier said they should kill him. Mitchell agrees that Spock was right and calls Kirk a fool for not seeing it. He goes on to say that humanity wouldn’t survive if a true race of espers was created before testing the force field.  Eventually he’s knocked backwards, and his eyes go back to normal. Spock points out that trying to go through the force field drained his strength, and that they can “handle” him now.

This doesn't last long.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long as his eyes immediately do silver again. Mitchell gets up and regards the gathered crew for a moment, before walking towards the field and saying that he’ll just keep getting stronger.

Back aboard the ship, Scotty reports that the parts used to repair the ship “fit like a glove.” We cut back to the planet where, through the communicator, Scotty asks if Spock received the phaser rifle that was requested. Kirk begins to say that he didn’t request one, but is cut off when Spock walks in with the mentioned phaser rifle. He just says affirmative, and closes the transmission. Spock reports that Mitchell tried the force field again, and his eyes changed back more quickly. Kirk asks Spock what makes him think Dehner’s wrong about Mitchell, and Spock responds that she feels and he doesn’t. That’s complete and utter horseshit, by the way.

Anyway, Spock continues. He says that he believes they’ll be lucky to repower the ship and get away before Mitchells kills them all.  Kelso enters to report that he’s finished the self-destruct button that Kirk requested. Kirk says that if Mitchell escapes and Kelso runs out of other options, he should hit that button.

After a captain’s log, we cut to the brig, where Mitchell is standing next to the force field and staring. Dehner, with a look on her face like she wants to jump him, says that he’s been standing there for hours.

She wants to ride him like a pony.

Kirk asks Piper to meet him and Spock in the control room, where they’ll all beam up together. Spock asks what to do if Mitchell escapes, and Kirk reminds him about Kelso’s button. Dehner announces that she’ll be staying behind with Mitchell.

In the control room, Kelso is reporting to Scotty that, despite the parts and fuel they took, the station seems to be running fine. During this conversation, a cable (controlled by Mitchell) comes up and hooks him around the neck, strangling him.

Back to the brig, Dehner and Kirk are arguing, with Kirk ordering her back on the ship and Dehner repeating the Mitchell’s not dangerous. Mitchell interrupts, telling Kirk he should have killed him when he had the chance and mocking Kirk’s compassion. He then proceeds to zap Kirk and Spock (knocking them unconscious) before handwaving away the force field and leading Dehner into the cell. As she looks into a mirror, we see that she now has silver eyes as well.

Because Mitchell just wasn't creepy enough.

Some time later, Piper comes across Kirk and Spock as Kirk wakes up. Piper gives him some kind of pill before saying that Mitchell got him to. He then reports that Kelso was strangled, but that Spock is still alive. He also reports that Dehner’s gone with Mitchell. Kirk asks Piper to not revive Spock until after he’s gone, since it’s his fault that Mitchell was able to get as far as he did (and we all know Spock’s going to give him the Vulcan equivalent of an I-told-you-so). Kirk ask Piper where they headed, and Piper tells him.  Kirk retrieves the phaser rifle, telling Piper that if Kirk’s not back within twelve hours he and Spock are to beam back to the ship, head to the nearest starbase, and recommend that the planet basically be nuked from orbit. Piper begins to protest, but Kirk tells him it’s an order and heads out.

Back with Mitchell and Dehner, the two are walking along the planet’s surface. Dehner says that it would take a miracle to survive on this planet, and Mitchell (with echo-voice) says that he’ll make one. He waves his hand, and the fakest looking oasis I’ve ever seen appears.

It's totally not made of plastic.

Dehner heads into it, looking at it with wonder, Mitchell not far behind. He laughs at his creation, and takes a drink while Dehner pulls and eats berries from a plant as Mitchell gloats. We cut briefly to Kirk not too far off, then back to Mitchell and Dehner. Mitchell looks around, and Dehner asks what’s wrong. Mitchell says that they have a visitor as Kirk takes a position nearby. Mitchell makes a rock fall nearby, startling him. Mitchell then tells Dehner that she’ll enjoy being a god, and makes a tree with fruit on it appear. They share one of the fruits, and Mitchell addresses Kirk directly, saying he’ll be near them soon. Dehner says that she can see Kirk in her mind as well, and Mitchell tells her to meet up with him, to see “how unimportant they are.”

Kirk runs into Dehner, and notices her fucked up eyes. Dehner says that it took a little longer to happen to her than to Mitchell, and Kirk asks for her to help him. Dehner says Mitchell’s doing the right thing. Kirk asks about humanity, and points out she’s still at leas partly human, otherwise they wouldn’t be having this conversation.  She says that her and Mitchell’s abilities would take the rest of the humanity millions of years to learn. Kirk asks what Mitchell will learn to do with his powers, and if he’ll be able to use them wisely. Dehner tells him to go back, and Kirk asks if she heard him joke about compassion earlier, and that a god needs compassion above all else. Dehner asks him what he knows about gods, and Kirk responds that, even with his new abilities, Mitchell is still a human with human frailties. Kirk reminds her that she’s a psychiatrist, and she knows all about the ugliness that people try to keep hidden. He asks for her prognosis on Mitchell, to which she responds by saying that Mitchell’s coming.

After Kirk asks Dehner to hold on to her humanity, Mitchell arrives and tells Dehner he’s disappointed in her. Kirk shoots him which, naturally, does jack shit to him.

It doesn't even seem to tickle.

Mitchell uses his powers to knock the rifle out of Kirk’s hands, telling him he’s “been contemplating the death of an old friend.” He looks up at a large rock, before noting Kirk deserves a decent burial, and using his powers to make an open grave (complete with headstone).

Mitchell starts using his powers  to loosen a rock from a nearby cliff. Dehner tells him to stop, and Mitchell says, “Morals are for men, not gods.” Kirk asks Dehner if she likes what she sees. Mitchell orders Kirk to pray to him, forcing Kirk to his knees. He says he’ll give Kirk one last chance, and Kirk once again asks Dehner if she likes this new view of Mitchell. Dehner then finally makes a choice: she attacks Mitchell. The two have a back and forth until they’re both spent.

Dehner, on the ground, tells him to hurry, since he’ll be at full strength again soon. Mitchell and Kirk scuffle for a while. Eventually Kirk manages pin Mitchell and looms over him with a rock, but hesitates and Mitchell’s powers recharge. He throws Kirk off and the two resume their fight, Mitchell picking up a rock. Kirk, however, manages to knock them both into the grave. He scrambles out, and while Mitchell is distracted, makes it to the phaser rifle and shoots the rocks above loose, crushing Mitchell beneath.

Kirk then goes over to Dehner. She’s in very bad shape, and apologizes for what happened, saying that Kirk can’t know what it’s like to almost be a god before dying. Kirk leans against a rock, and calls up to the Enterprise.

The only female character in the episode and she dies.

We then cut to the bridge where Kirk, with a bandaged hand, is recording a captain’s log. He notes in the log that both Dehner and Mitchell were killed in the line of duty. He then turns off the recorder and turns to Spock, saying that he wants them remembered that way, and that Mitchell didn’t ask for what happened to him. Spock says that he also felt for him, and Kirk says there may be hope for him yet.

So, final thoughts: I noted above that this episode was similar in theme to “Charlie X.” There are, however, some noted differences. First off, while Charlie was kind of irritating (though ultimately sympathetic), Mitchell is goddamn terrifying. Another difference between the two is that Charlie was an emotionally stunted teenager who couldn’t really use his powers wisely. Mitchell is a grown man who develops a full-on god complex. Also, why is it in sci-fi that when people gain psychic powers, they always go for the god complex? I want to see a story where someone gains psychic powers then immediately begins to use them for extremely mundane purposes.

There’s also the whole relationship between Mitchell and Kirk. Throughout their banter you get the impression that they were very close. It’s actually kind of heartbreaking to see Kirk’s reaction to Mitchell becoming something he no longer recognizes, and the dilemma he faces as a result.

Join me next time when I look at “The Naked Time.”

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