Saturday, December 22, 2012

Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Star Trek's second pilot episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before can be summarized with the following quote:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." - John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1887

The pilot, which follows The Cage, has only one returning cast member - Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. The episode introduces the character of Captain Kirk. Mr. Sulu and Scotty also make their first appearance.

Dr. McCoy is yet to appear in the show even though Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry cast a doctor in each of the two pilot episodes. The Cage featured Dr. Boyce who was very nicely played by John Hoyt. Where No Man Has Gone Before features the lifeless Dr. Piper (played by Paul Fix).
Sulu, Scotty, and the lifeless Dr. Piper
It is amazing that Dr. Piper is given so little to do here, especially since there is major medical trauma to a major character. Ultimately all of Trekdom is probably better off that almost all of the medical stuff was given to guest star Sally Kellerman who did a fine job playing psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Since she does not survive the episode it paves the way for Dr. McCoy to come on as a regular when the series is launched.

Which brings us to the plot. The Enterprise recovers a badly damaged recorder from the S.S. Valiant, a ship that went missing almost 200 years ago. Spock reveals that the Valiant was swept off course and out of the galaxy. The ship encountered an unknown force. Its crew was desperately seeking information on ESP before the captain gave an order to destroy the ship.

 Kirk decides that other ships will be heading this way someday so the Enterprise should head out of the galaxy. Strangely enough (at least by actual science) the Milky Way has some sort of energy barrier on its outer edge. Sure enough they encounter the same phenomenon. Helmsman Gary Mitchell and Dr. Dehner are zapped by the effect and Mitchell is transformed and developing new powers.

The Enterprise is badly damaged and makes for the planet Delta Vega which has an automated lithium cracking facility. There they hope to maroon Mitchell before he grows too powerful to cope with.

Here is a passage of dialog from on Delta Vega that helps to define Spock for the audience as an emotionless alien being:
Kirk: Doctor Dehner feels he [Mitchell] isn't that dangerous. What makes you right and a trained psychiatrist wrong? 
Spock: Because she feels. I don't. All I know is logic. In my opinion we'll be lucky if we can repair this ship and get away in time.
It is just one of a few exchanges in the episode that brings out Spock and what he is all about.
Before there were Red Shirts, there was Lt. Kelso
The Enterprise is repaired but before they can flee Mitchell uses kills powers to kill Lt. Kelso and escapes. Mitchell brings Dehner along and gives powers to her as well.

Kirk pursues Mitchell and in for the first time (don't worry, folks it wont be the last) unleashes an argument about humanity, wisdom, etc. in an attempt to convince Dr. Dehner to help him.
Kirk: What will Mitchell learn in getting there? Will he know what to do with his power? Will he acquire the wisdom?
Dehner: Please go back while you still can.
Kirk: Did you hear him joke about compassion? Above all else, a god needs compassion.
Dehner: What do you know about gods?
Kirk: Then let's talk about humans, about our frailties. As powerful as he gets, he'll have all that inside him.
Dehner: Go back.
Kirk: You were a psychiatrist once. You know the ugly, savage things we all keep buried, that none of us dare expose. But he'll dare. Who's to stop him? He doesn't need to care. Be a psychiatrist for one minute longer. What do you see happening to him? What's your prognosis, Doctor?
Mitchell returns and Dehner turns on him. Que the Force lightning:

The episode works and lays the foundation of a lot of Trek to come. We get a basic understanding of both Kirk (see dialog above) and Spock and fine performances all around from the players who matter.

Alexander Courage scored this episode. The music for the episode, along with all the music for the original series, is available on the massive 15-CD release by La-La Land Records. There's nearly 28 minutes of music for this episode. You can get a preview of one track, "Power Mad/Situation Grave/Epilog", from this episode here. His music here give a sense of emptiness and longing for deep space as well as solid action cues for the, well, action. It is a great score - working well both in the episode and standing on its own on the CD.

As the second pilot to Star Trek, Where No Man Has Gone Before, successfully launch of what ultimately became a huge SF franchise in TV, movies, novels and more. If you haven't watched it in a while, go back and re-discover this early episode of Trek. 

Next up here on Visible Suns will be The Corbomite Maneuver.

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